Month: August 2015

Josh Duggar and Into the Woods

Last week, the Internet exploded with the scandal of Josh Duggar (and thousands of others) using the affair-seeking site Ashley Madison.

Also last week, I listened to the soundtrack of Into the Woods for the first time. (And then about twelve more times between the Broadway and movie versions, because I go in loops like that. Don’t judge my listening habits.) So a fairy-tale sendup musical, strangely, became a frame for thinking about adultery, Christians falling from grace, and how our culture decides what’s right and what’s wrong.

IntoTheWoods

Like most fairy tales (ask basically any Inkling ever—I’ve read essays/chapters by Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton on this), Into the Woods makes some clear statements about morality, ones that I found super interesting given the media attention to the Duggar scandal.

One clear villain among all the gray characters of the show is the Wolf. When Red reminds him that her mother informed her to follow the path and never stray, he smoothly affirms the advice…sort of. “Just so, little girl, any path. So many worth exploring! Just one would be so boring!”

Of course, we all know that didn’t end well. (more…)

Stop Being Useful

“How can I be useful?”

I heard myself ask that, again, for the third time in one night as a guest at my friends’ house, and it made me pause.

Kind of a funny way to ask if I can chop vegetables or set the table. Then again, this from someone who says, “If I were a trash can, where would I be?” instead of directly asking the location of an item. So I shrugged it off.

But then it happened again the next night, while helping our youth pastor move. I plowed through my wages of pizza and chips and said, “Okay, let’s get started! I hate standing around. I want to be useful!” And after hurrying to grab the biggest boxes I could possibly find that were still in the domain of things-I-can-lift, I volunteered to clean the bathrooms, as has been my tradition since…a really long time.

Toilet

As I scrubbed tile with a toothbrush, I thought wondered why this was. Kind of strange, since I’m mildly germaphobic and don’t particularly enjoy cleaning. When did I start this?

Probably my junior year of high school, on a mission trip. I remembered volunteering in the pause where everyone awkwardly looked at the floor waiting for someone else to take the task so they could “organize the gym storage room” which really meant “get into a dodgeball war with each other then play basketball.” And everyone thanked me and I knew I had made the right choice.

Every work project, every time I help someone move, I always take the Windex and Clorox wipes and go straight for the bathrooms. Save the gloves for someone else, someone not quite as strong as I am. I have a toilet to scrub. (more…)

To My Parents on Their Anniversary

Sometimes, as I look through photos of my friends’ proposals/rings on Facebook, I realize I don’t know your engagement story. I feel a little guilty—isn’t this something all daughters should know, should have asked their mom for time and time again? Maybe.

I can’t think it was a huge production. I’d have heard about it, probably, if it involved skydiving or a Caribbean cruise or a mob of friends dancing and lipsyncing to whatever love song was popular way back then. (Sorry. I’ll stop those jokes right now.) Knowing the two of you, it was probably a simple thing, just a romantic setting and “Will you marry me?” and “Yes.”

Wedding3

You didn’t want a party for your thirtieth anniversary today. I feel a little guilty, though I’m not complaining. Planning is not my strength, so it would’ve been mostly Erika doing that anyway. Probably, I would have just contributed enthusiastic moral support (I’m good at that). Maybe decorations.

I could have made a speech, I guess, and hoped the guests would be interested and not wishing I’d hurry up so they can go eat cake and those little pastel mints.

What would I say, though? The amount I know about your courtship, engagement, and wedding is really limited. Why did I never ask? (more…)

My Take on Go Set a Watchman

“This is well-written, but it comes across as a little bitter.”

That’s what my English teacher wrote on the first draft of an essay I had turned in, and I was annoyed.

The assignment was to write something based on either logos (convincing someone of your point through logic) pathos (making someone feel a particular emotion) or ethos (vaguely defined as changing someone’s mind about ethics or defending the rightness or wrongness of something).

My teacher said ethos was the hardest one to pull off effectively. A Hallmark commercial or a corny romance can make you cry or sigh. Anyone who can think and explain their thinking can create a good logical argument. But causing a reader to nod in agreement about something as touchy as morality…well, that was apparently tricky. He said we could try it, but he didn’t recommend it.

Guess which one seventeen-year-old Amy chose?

Yep. Ethos. (I was/am a bit of a showoff, and also incredibly stubborn.) (more…)

What You Do Matters

“To the early church, Apollos was the big deal,” the speaker at the writing conference said. “He was eloquent articulate and powerful—everything Paul wasn’t. He spoke to large crowds who held on to his every word.

“But hardly anyone remembers Apollos today, and we don’t know the contents of the sermons he preached. But everyone knows the apostle Paul, and generations have read, studied, and memorized his letters. That’s the power of the written word. It lasts long after spoken words have faded. In the end, Paul’s legacy was greater than Apollos’.”

And when I was supposed to be nodding and amen-ing, instead, I wrote in the margin of my notes, “Something’s not right here.”

I understand the intended point. The speaker was just trying to point out that the gift of writing can be incredibly valuable, even if you can’t always see the results directly.

It's like we need some kind of stamp of significance on our lives.

It’s like we need some kind of stamp of significance on our lives.

But here’s the thing: of the Bible verses that mention Apollos, more than half of them are Paul telling believers not to compare Paul and Apollos. The Corinthian church was elevating Apollos and his gifts, but we can go to the opposite extreme and make the exact same mistake.

And it matters. It matters because it comes from a lie we tell ourselves all the time: “For me to be important, I have to make you less important.”

Have you heard it before? Have you said it yourself? Because, oh, I have. Feeling defensive when someone talks about the value of a ministry I’m not a part of, hearing an insult in others’ words where none was intended, needing to justify who I am and minimizing others in the process. It’s quietly tempting.

If you’ve been there, can I talk to you for a moment? (more…)