Month: March 2015

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act Two, Scene One

(The fourth script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)


Act Two, Scene One

(JOSEPHINE is standing onstage, going through a stack of mail, when MICHELLE rushes on.)

MICHELLE: Josephine! We need to talk.

JOSEPHINE: Well, good morning to you too, Michelle. How are you? Is your family well? Did you have a relaxing Sabbath?

MICHELLE: Good morning, well, yes, and yes. Satisfied?

JOSEPHINE: Barely. I take it that you didn’t come to me for fashion advice, which, as usual, you desperately need.

MICHELLE: I’m a religious scholar, Josephine. What I look like on the outside doesn’t matter.

JOSEPHINE: You Pharisees and your complete lack of vanity. This is why I only serve on the Sanhedrin. God blessed me with a bank account and a sense of style, and I intend to use it.

MICHELLE: I need your advice. It’s serious.

JOSEPHINE: I can be serious, I suppose. Just this once.

MICHELLE: Did you hear the new teacher at Levi’s party last week?

JOSEPHINE: You mean Jesus? Yes, I did. He certainly knows how to tell a story. That one about the banquet and the guests…I was laughing along with everyone else when he told the ridiculous excuses they gave for not going. I came up with better ones for losing my homework in elementary school!

MICHELLE: Didn’t you realize the teacher was talking about us? The people of Israel, rejecting God’s invitation, causing him to look elsewhere.

JOSEPHINE: Of course I did. Everyone there could have guessed that. But it’s just a story, Michelle.

MICHELLE: Is it? You don’t think he’s the slightest bit dangerous? (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act One, Scene Three

(The third script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)


Act One, Scene Three

(JESUS and his disciples walk across the stage. PETE and a few others are picking bits of grain and eating them.)

PETE: So Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” And I say, “What, Lot’s wife wasn’t enough?” Get it? (He is the only one laughing.)

JONATHAN: I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Are we there yet, Jesus?

JESUS: We’ll get there when we get there.

PETE: I’m starving. Nothing around here to eat but this grain. Worse than granola. Not that I’m blaming anyone…Jonathan.

JONATHAN: What, so I forgot lunch this one time. It won’t happen again.

MADDIE: Don’t look now, but I think someone’s following us.

PETE: Leave it to the tax collector to be checking over her shoulder.

JESUS: They don’t happen to be those Pharisees we saw yesterday, do they?

JONATHAN (Glancing back): Yep. Good guess. You’d think you were omniscient or something.

JESUS: I don’t think I’d need omniscience for that one, Jonathan. (He keeps walking.)

JONATHAN: So…shouldn’t we talk to them? See what they’re up to?

PETE: Yeah, maybe they have some real food. (Burps, then turns.) Hey! We know you’re there! Come on out, already!

(LEVI, MICHELLE, and SIMONE stride forward, NICHOLAS follows a bit sheepishly.)

LEVI: Look here, Jesus! Why are your disciples working on the Sabbath?

PETE: Wait a minute…we’re walking beside a grain field. You’re walking beside a grain field. If we’re working, aren’t you working too?

MADDIE: Maybe telling bad jokes classifies as work.

PETE: Real funny. (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act One, Scene Two

(The second script in a series leading up to Easter. To start at the beginning, go here.)


Act One, Scene Two

(MADDIE, JUDE, JONATHAN, and PETE are seated around a table, playing euchre. NICHOLAS enters right, walking slowly and nervously.)

NICHOLAS: All right, Nicholas, you’re going to march up to them and demand an audience with the teacher. No. That’s silly. No need to be rude. You’re going to march up to them and request an audience with the teacher. Yes. That’s it. Just one foot in front of the other, head up, and…

JUDE: Who’s there? (NICHOLAS jumps, startled, then coughs to cover it up.)

NICHOLAS: Good day! I mean…good night. I mean…greetings! To all of you…disciples.

PETE (As he gets closer): Well, well, look who’s here.

NICHOLAS: Nicholas, member of the Sanhedrin, actually. I…I have a business card! (Gives it.)

PETE (Crumples it): We know you who are. Question is, what’s a Pharisee like you doing in a place like this?

JONATHAN: Spying for your pals, is that it?

NICHOLAS: No, not exactly. (Gathering his courage.) And I’m not quite sure it’s really any of your business.

JONATHAN (Closing in with PETE): We don’t like spies.

NICHOLAS: You know, maybe I’ll just come by another night… (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act One, Scene One

I’ve often wondered how I would react if I’d been alive when Jesus lived. After much thought, I decided that my reaction would be pretty similar to that of a less-than-appreciated group in the New Testament: the Pharisees. Yep, that’s me, I thought as I read their stories: thoughtful, hard-working, judgmental, and pretty darn proud of being so good. Because of this, I’ve always had a little more sympathy for the religious leaders who killed Jesus than most people I know.

I’m not asking you to like these guys. After all, they’re the villains of the story of Jesus’ death.

Or are they?

What if the real villains of the story are…all of us? All of us and the sin that Jesus died for, whatever form that sin takes. And maybe, like me, reading an adapted version of their story, you’ll discover that you have more in common with our Pharisee friends than you thought.

Let’s remember Jesus’ death and resurrection in a different way, from a new perspective. This is the first of eight scenes from Holy Week featuring some of those thoughtful, hard-working, and judgmental folks who were looking for a very different sort of Messiah than the one who showed up. I hope you enjoy them.

holyweek (more…)

My Life is Perfect and Other Outright Lies

Sometimes, in college, for a study break, I would go through Disney princess coloring books and edit the captions to make them a satire commentary on the princess industry.

What can I say? Everyone needs a hobby.

I’d go through and comment on the tiny waists (I’m talking to you, Jasmine), the inane taglines (“Cinderella loves to sing from her heart!”) and the sculptures of hair that flare in the breeze at just the right point in the song (musically coordinated hair—can anyone tell me where to get product that does this?), replacing them with realistic and slightly ridiculous captions of my own.


With a few notable exceptions. Props to Frozen for this one.

I recently saw a Christian women’s magazine recently that could use a similar captioning. You know the type. Better Homes and Gardens, but with Bible verses. The houses are perfectly neat, with a sampling of color-coordinated books and a scented candle the only clutter in sight. The parties are so elaborate that you’re sure said hostess must have a full-time staff to help fold the complicated paper origami decorations and artfully arrange the appetizer tray. The women are demurely pretty, with elegant clothes maybe a few well-placed smile lines on creamy complexions, no sign of sagging or little-kid stains in sight.


We like things to be beautiful, from airbrushed model photos to Pinterest recipes so perfectly laid out and photographed that you can only dream of getting your own cupcake to look that way.

But do we really want those things? If our lives seem neatly arranged and perfectly put together, will that make us happy? (more…)

Why I Am Jonah


I am sitting at the airport, eating my meal voucher bagel and hoping none of the Bible professors around me realize that I am the reason our flight was canceled.

They are an easygoing crowd, clad in collared shirts and tweed, chatting about the Trinity while waiting in line, joking with the airline employee rescheduling them. But I wouldn’t put it past them to draw lots (or boarding passes) to determine who is responsible for a flight cancellation on a cloudless spring Sunday. I don’t want them to find out that I am Jonah. (Because unlike your typical Delta airlines crowd, they would actually get that reference.)

Not that I’m running from God. I’m pretty sure he’s okay with me going back home after visiting family. Minneapolis is not, in fact, Tarshish, and I was not told to go to Ninevah.

But have you ever been sure that a particular plot twist is intended entirety to teach you a lesson? That you are the one whose particular character flaw is inconveniencing an entire group of people? That if someone could just threw you out of the South Bend airport, the mysteriously disappeared plane will arrive on the runway. (I am not suggesting they wait and throw me out of the plane in flight. Like, what would God do, have me swallowed by an albatross?)

Background: I had a choice between a 2 pm flight and a 7 am flight. And I chose the earlier one, getting up at 3 am Central time so I would make it to church. And I was pretty darn proud of that. Look at me, rearranging my life around God’s people! I am so spiritual and sacrificial! And even though I don’t drink coffee, I won’t fall asleep during the sermon because I am Just. That. Good. I will take detailed notes without the aid of caffeination and not be cranky at all and find some way to casually mention my deliberate flight plans so people know just how committed I am.

And here I sit, reminded by an unexplained flight delay that A. I am a really prideful person and B. I am not the one in control.

It gives me a flashback to that chapel during my sophomore year of college when they announced all of the mission trip teams so everyone could pray for them. I sat there in anticipation. My team’s picture would flash up on the huge screen, and everyone would know that I was giving up my time to serve orphans and stuff. And they would know that I was so spiritual and sacrificial. My hair even looked good in that team picture, and when does that happen? It was, clearly, an act of God, as a thank you for all the awesome things I was going to accomplish for him over spring break. Which everyone would know about soon, once they got to our slide.

As the other teams appeared on the screen, one by one, I recognized how completely misguided and self-centered in that was. And I prayed, “God, help me to see you instead of myself.”

Then our team’s slide appeared on the screen…with a big black box in place of the picture. We were all completely anonymous. No one knew about me or my sacrifice. No admired me or praised me. No one saw me at all. And that’s just the way it should be.

The tech team never did figure out what happened to our team picture, but I know. A reverse miracle, I call it, one of malfunction instead of healing that put me firmly in my place, as a small extra in the story of what God is doing.

They still don’t know what happened to our plane either. The term they’re using is “mix-up.” Most of the Bible profs coming back from their conference are fine with the wait. “It rains on the just and the unjust,” one says, shrugging.

Yes, yes it does. On the plus side, the storm could have been much worse.

Just ask Jonah’s ship-mates. Sorry, fellow passengers. This self-centered prophet needed to learn a lesson…again.

Bible Characters I Want To Play Board Games With

Because yesterday I wrote a long, serious post, today I present you with my dream match-ups for playing some of my favorite board games with people from the Bible. (You mean you don’t think about things like this? What a boring life you must lead.)

And before you ask, I’m doing my best to pick people who would actually be good at the game in question. There is no point in playing a board game unless it’s going to be a challenge. Anyone who thinks otherwise…go play a rousing round of Candy Land.


Monopoly: First, let’s admit that after the first two hours, there’s really no way to make this game fun. Because of this, I choose to play against Job, who would shame me with his patience. (Also—and I fully acknowledge that this is terrible—it would be interesting to see if halfway through the game he lost all of his possessions through a freakish series of events that look like incredibly bad luck.)


Balderdash or Malarky: The names of these games are key: you basically invent definitions to words or answers to strange questions and try to make them sound like the truth. Our friendly Egyptian midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who seem pretty talented at pulling complete lies that seem reasonably plausible out of thin air, seem to be good choices on this one. Possibly also Sarah, with her experience pretending to be Abraham’s sister as well as her what-me?-I’m-not-laughing line. (Anyone who has the guts to lie to angels is going to do well with these games.)


Risk: My generals of choice would be Deborah and Joshua. Tactically-minded, good at making treaties but not breaking them (at least not often), and probably pretty competitive. If we want things to get really crazy, we’ll invite Saul and David’s generals, Joab and Abner, to the party. (Sidenote: am I the only one who was always really confused as to whose side they were on?) (more…)