Month: April 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird Superpowers

Most superhero origin stories start in warehouses with mysteriously bubbling vats of toxic waste, or laboratories containing strange-looking gadgets, or occasionally on other planets which are sometimes exploding.

Mine starts in English class. My sophomore year of high school, we read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and I loved it. I loved the quotes, I loved the story, and I loved Atticus Finch most of all.

One of my favorite alternate book titles of all time.

One of my favorite alternate book titles of all time.

So, I did what any ordinary, painfully nerdy, and utterly unremarkable fifteen-year-old would do: I asked God for Atticus Finch’s superpowers. Seriously. I prayed for three things from the book. Here’s the list, and my reasons behind wanting them.

The Ability to Feel

The part of the novel that stuck with me the most, is after the trial, when *spoiler* Atticus loses the case and Dill, Scout’s friend, bursts into tears at the injustice of it all. At that point, another character says, “Things haven’t caught up with that one’s instinct yet. Let him get a little older and he won’t get sick and cry. Maybe things’ll strike him as being—not quite right, say, but he won’t cry, not when he gets a few years on him.”

And he’s right. As we become adults, we become numb to suffering and injustice, dulled by cynicism, a stream of negative headlines, and a shortage of hope that things can be different. We can no longer mourn for strangers. To some degree that’s healthy, because if we tried to bear the burdens of the entire world, they would crush us.

Unless we ask for a little more strength. And I remember thinking, at fifteen, I don’t want things to catch up to me, not like that. I don’t want to lose the ability to get sick and cry.

I’m still not saying the answer to the question “Who, then, is my neighbor?” is every single person in distress. I went through a time when that absolutely paralyzed me. No, the parable of the good Samaritan is pretty clear on the point that your neighbor is the person God brings into your path and tells you to help. (more…)

The Blog Post That Isn’t

Have you—yes, you, the person reading this—ever posted something on Facebook just to make others think of you in a certain way? Taken a picture of you looking good or doing something awesome just to impress someone? Said something borderline mean just to be funny, modified your real opinion just to fit in, refused to admit you were wrong just to show that person, that one particular person who is so self-important, that you are just as good as they are?

ME

Or, maybe a better question: has there been a day when you haven’t done one of these things?

It’s been a while for me, even here on this blog. I’d like to say that I always write on it for the right reasons, but most of the time (all of the time?) our motivations are mixed. On my good days, I write on this blog because I want to start good conversations, because I love it, and because I know God has given me the gift of communicating, and I want to use that to his glory.

On my bad days, my fear of a life that goes unwitnessed means that I turn to the Internet with my thoughts and stories and feelings in order to feel validated and secure. I let my good desire to be loved turn into an endless cycle that feeds on the affirmation of others and yet is never quite satisfied. I want you to like what I say, and to like me, and to like me so much that….

That what? That I matter, I guess. That I am doing something great for God. That I can finally feel like I’ve earned your approval, and maybe his too. (more…)

The Man Who Built Disney World

My biggest disappointment with my recent vacation to Disney World was that a statue was missing, a nice, bronze bench normally found on Main Street USA. I searched all over for it before marching to City Hall to inquire, only to find that in peak busy seasons, they move some of the benches, including the one with this particular statue.

Now, okay, it should be said that I’m not a ridiculously sentimental Disney fan. I will not get in line to get a picture taken with a person pretending to be an animated character, and I will most certainly not pay money for overpriced souvenirs. But I have this one weakness: the statue of Roy Disney.

This is what it did look like.

This is what it would have looked like had it been out.

Strange, I know. Walt Disney’s the big name. Most people don’t even know about Walt’s older brother, the financial mind behind the early movies and Disney World. I didn’t either until I read Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer (which you should all read ASAP especially if you are a writer, a dreamer, or a human). In it, Phil talks about the relationship between Walt and Roy Disney. “Roy didn’t work for Walt, and Walt didn’t work for Roy, but they clearly understood their roles. Walt dreamed up wild ideas, and Roy tried to make them happen. If the idea didn’t seem fundable or viable to Roy, Walt would usually honor Roy’s opinion, though not without long and sometimes heated discussion….If either brother had walked away, the company would have failed.”

“The key to the Walt Disney Company was the partnership of Walt and Roy. The key to the partnership of Walt and Roy was mutual submission, based in genuine love for each other. Walt knew he couldn’t do what Roy could do, and Roy knew he couldn’t do what Walt could do. So they submitted to each other’s area of expertize and worked together.”

Phil goes on to say that as Christians, particularly if we have an idea for a ministry, we should be seeking out the opposite type of person from what we are, looking for others to balance out our gifts and see our flaws and love us anyway.

I am clearly a Walt. There is no question here. I have a million ideas at once, many of them weird. Social norms confine me, planning stresses me out, and I just want to create stuff and love people and let the rest work itself out. You know, little details like taxes and future goals and balanced checkbooks and balanced diets and balanced schedules and paperwork of all kinds. It’s a pretty extreme case of Walt. (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act Three, Scene Three

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

holyweek

Act Three, Scene Three

 

(MICHELLE is sweeping her porch, staring out at the street, when PETE runs on, clearly distracted by something. He nearly runs into her.)

PETE: Sorry about that. Gotta go!

MICHELLE: You again. Shouldn’t you be hiding with the rest of your friends until you can sneak out of Jerusalem?

PETE: Oh, we won’t be hiding now. Not after he showed up.

MICHELLE: He?

PETE: Guess you wouldn’t have heard. Of course not. How would you have?

MICHELLE: Trying to draw out the suspense. Well, it won’t work. Not on me. (Long pause, sighs.) All right, fine. What haven’t I heard?

PETE: I found a better ending. (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act Three, Scene Two

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

holyweek

Act Three, Scene Two

(NICHOLAS, JOSEPHINE, and MICHELLE are sitting in a room together. NICHOLAS is halfheartedly looking through a large book, JOSEPHINE is pacing, MICHELLE is just staring.)

NICHOLAS: Well.

MICHELLE: Well.

JOSEPHINE: You can just say it, Michelle. You were right after all.

MICHELLE: Right about what?

JOSEPHINE: Not becoming a follower of Jesus. He was a fraud, like all the others.

MICHELLE: I wish I’d been wrong.

JOSEPHINE: And I wish I had listened to you. The body I buried—bloodied and torn…he was human, Michelle, just like any of us.

NICHOLAS: He was, after all, a good teacher, Josephine. The way he talked about God. God who loved us…

JOSEPHINE: I don’t appreciate being lied to, Nicholas. I don’t appreciate being…died on. Abandoned. Left clinging to a few stories about a banquet and a Father…

NICHOLAS: They were such beautiful stories, though.

JOSEPHINE: Stories are just lies, Nicholas. Let’s not kid ourselves. Not anymore.

NICHOLAS: I just can’t understand it. I was so sure he was the one.

JOSEPHINE: You carried his dead body, Nicholas. Saviors don’t die. Haven’t you read the Scriptures?

NICHOLAS: Of course I’ve read the Scriptures! I’ve memorized most of them! (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act Three, Scene One

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

holyweek

Act Three, Scene One

 

(JOSEPHINE and NICHOLAS are seated facing the audience. NICHOLAS has his head in his hands. JOSEPHINE is staring blankly. A table with books is nearby.)

NICHOLAS: We have broken the Law. We, the Pharisees, have betrayed what we loved most.

JOSEPHINE (Wearily): What else could we do? They were all watching.

NICHOLAS: An illegal trial, late at night. False witnesses. Destroying the temple…refusing to pay taxes to Caesar…revolt and rebellion…he never said any of those things!

JOSEPHINE: But why, Nicholas? Why didn’t he defend himself? I would have said something, would have spoken up—if he had. But he never did.

NICHOLAS: We have broken the Law. No, no, it’s worse than that.

JOSEPHINE: I never knew there was something worse for Pharisee than breaking the Law.

NICHOLAS: We have broken him. I…have betrayed what I loved most. He was my teacher, Josephine. He was my friend. (They sit in silence, until ANNA and JEREMIAH enter.) (more…)

Holy Week with the Pharisees, Act Two, Scene Three

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

holyweek

Act Two, Scene Three

(SIMONE, ANNA, LEVI, MICHELLE, NICHOLAS, and JEREMIAH are having a little conference, when JOSEPHINE enters, whistling to herself.)

SIMONE: It’s risky, that’s the problem. We can’t just— (Stops when he sees JOSEPHINE.) Well, if it isn’t Josephine, the little heiress from Arimathea. Come down from your manor to join us?

JOSEPHINE: Surprisingly, I don’t sit around checking my bank account all day. Now, what do we have here? Some private sub-committee of the Sanhedrin I wasn’t appointed to?

JEREMIAH: We’re discussing a certain important matter of great…importance.

JOSEPHINE: What a coincidence. I happen to love discussing important matters of great importance. (Sit down, makes herself comfortable.) Anyone want to explain?

SIMONE: Lazarus from Bethany—you’ve heard of him, haven’t you?—has been parading around, telling the tale of how he (Air quotes) “rose from the dead.” Lots of people are believing in Jesus because of him. So…we’ve decided to kill him.

JOSEPHINE: Sorry, let me rephrase. Does anyone want to explain in a way that doesn’t sound like complete and utter stupidity?

JEREMIAH (Raises his hand): Oh, oh, I’ve got it. How many Pharisees does it take to kill a guy who already died?

MICHELLE: Seventy-nine. One to suggest the idea, seven to argue about it, and an entire Sanhedrin to figure how it should be done and what words to use to make it seem less like murder.

LEVI: How about these words: “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.” That’s in the Scriptures, if you’ve forgotten.

JOSEPHINE: There you go. Maybe we don’t need the Sanhedrin after all. Maybe we just need you. (more…)