Saturday, October 31, 2009

Diet of Worms: not just another weight loss plan

It's Hallowe'en.

Tonight, American children will dress up as princesses and pirates and knock on neighbors' doors for candy.

It's also Reformation Day.

On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther dressed as a monk (although he wasn't technically dressing up, since he was, in fact, a monk) and knocked on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Using a hammer and a nail.

Luther wasn't asking for sweets, but for reform. He was calling the Pope out. He had seen too much corruption in the church of his day, so he posted a list of 95 statements of contention on the door. Those statements came to be known as The 95 Theses,* and they caused quite a stir.

(That may be the biggest understatement I've ever made.)

Ever since I learned about the Hallowe'en/Reformation Day connection several years ago, I've wanted to dress up as Martin Luther and go trick-or-treating through the neighborhood.

It'd be a simple costume: brown robe, sandals, rope belt... hammer, nail, parchment...

But I realize it would be one of those jokes that's only funny to me.

Plus, it would take years to grow my hair out.


If you haven't seen the movie Luther, I'd highly recommend it. Here's a short clip to whet your appetite:

*The 95 Theses Rap gives a more contemporary (though probably less accurate) look at the Reformation.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Excuse me, do you validate?

There's a really cute video on YouTube called Validation. It's the story of a parking garage attendant whose mission in life is to make people smile by offering them words of encouragement. It's an uplifting little film that really makes you think about how powerful your words are.

But looking for validation in the eyes of other people is ultimately a hollow pursuit.

I've finally figured out that when I look for validation from other people, I'm really looking for validation from myself.

It turns out that's a bottomless pit.

Insecurity looking for validation is a greedy child on Christmas morning, surrounded by toys and torn wrapping paper, asking "Isn't there any more?"

Recent events have convinced me that this whole search-for-validation thing leads to every manner of trouble. Affairs. Addictions. Overspending. Eating disorders. Job struggles. Relationship struggles.

I'm seeing how connected these issues are to the insecurity-fueled drive to find worth in the eyes of another person, thinking once that person tells me I'm OK, then I'll be OK.

In his blog Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff wrote about seeing the beginnings of this in his 6-year-old daughter. She had been called a cruel name at school, and in her retelling of the event, Jon sensed the question "Is it true?" hanging in the air:
That’s a tough question and I wish it was one that we all left in childhood.

But it’s not, is it?

If I’m being honest, I ask myself “Is it true?” sometimes when I get a negative comment on this site or a hateful email. Someone tells me I’m a horrible writer or a horrible Christian or a horrible anything, and I start to wonder, “Is it true?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Has someone ever told you that you were fat? Or untalented? Or unqualified? Or hopeless? Did a divorce try to tell you that you were broken, a job loss tell you that you were worthless or a parent that you were less than the child they hoped for?

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “Is it true?”

We all do at some point and the challenge is that we often try to find the answer to that question in the wrong place....

Maybe you go to a memory, and try to relive a time in your life when you felt popular or loved.

Maybe you ask a new car or a new pair of shoes or a new anything your question.

Am I old? Is that true sports car?

Am I ugly? Is that true new outfit?

Am I dumb? Is that true new laptop?

And we ask and ask and ask, but regardless of the answer, regardless of if our loved ones provide a temporary salve to a question that hinges on our true identity, something gnaws at us.

The only thing I think we can do in that moment is ask the only one who really knows the answer to the question, “Is it true?” And that’s God.

He, unlike your friend, unlike your boss, unlike that shiny new toy you purchased to try to beat back the feelings of inadequacy, He knit you in the womb. He knows you like no other and He loves answering questions like, “Is it true?” and “Who am I?”
So my sense of my own worth needs to come from the One who made me, who loves me more than anyone else can, who died in my place, who drew me to Himself.

Validation from anywhere else is counterfeit.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy (new)birth-day to me

If a time-traveler had visited me in 1980 and told me how I'd be spending this day, I would have laughed until milk (or possibly something more intoxicating) came out my nose.

Twenty-nine years ago today, I put my faith in Christ.

Today, I'm doing two things I couldn't have predicted prior to that day: in the morning, I'll be at the pro-life organization where I volunteer; in the afternoon, I'll be helping serve an appreciation lunch to the staff of my church and their spouses.

I didn't plan to spend my "faith anniversary" this way — it just happened.

But I can't think of a better way to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Of David Letterman and relationship ethics

Author and seminary prof Mike Wittmer wrote an excellent post about the David Letterman debacle. In it, he questions the genuineness of Letterman's repentance, since the comedian continues to mine the situation's comic potential.

In making this point, Wittmer posits that Letterman "used his position of power to receive sexual favors from some of his female employees. Obviously they are not pure either, but Dave is more culpable because he held by far the most power in their relationship."

One of his commenters questions this assumption of Letterman's culpability: "How do you know that Letterman used power as leverage in these relationships? How are these women who used sex exploitatively more vulnerable than men? ...I can’t connect all the dots between our facts, conjectures and judgments."

I understand the commenter's concern regarding our assumptions of power and exploitation and vulnerability. After all, haven't women spent the last forty years proving we are powerful? Who's to say the female staffers weren't, in fact, taking advantage of Dave?

Maybe another perspective will help "connect the dots."

Take Letterman's fame and gender out of the equation — he is a boss. As boss, he was in a position of power over these women even if they consented. Regardless of whether job threats are ever actually uttered, a boss is in a position of power over his employees. That's why sexual harassment laws exist: to protect the more vulnerable (the employee) from the more powerful (the boss).

Although a similar argument could be made regarding the relative social (and physical) power of the two sexes, the fact that Letterman is male and the staffers are female is not the main issue here. The main issue, I would say, is that he took advantage of his position. As their boss, he is already one step above them on the power ladder.

Now, add his fame and his gender back into the equation, and the power gap widens. Letterman is at least three steps above his staffers on that ladder, towering over them in terms of relative power. Are they really in a position to decline his advances?

In the counseling profession, ethical codes expressly prohibit counselor/client sexual relationships. Like sexual harassment laws, ethical codes protect the more vulnerable (the client) from the more powerful (the counselor). The associations responsible for these codes (ACA, APA, AAMFT) emphasize this point because they understand the power gap between the counselor and client.

Even secular governing bodies understand the potential in human nature for the powerful to exploit the vulnerable.

Jesus understood it too:
Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:1-2

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Carry each other

My friend Miriam recently helped launch a ministry and posted this introductory video:

We'd like to encourage you to find ways to help the women and children of broken families. Support can come in many forms — but what really matters is your willingness to give of yourself. For more information please visit our website at

Carry Each Other
Aaron Niequist

Life is not meant to live, on shoulders and shins —
All alone. It’s too heavy to hold.
We need the arms of a friend, again and again —
To be strong, and walk with us ahead.

Love is not meant to live, on tongues and on lips —
All alone, we need to let our love show
In how we give and we hope, and make His way known —
Redemption’s calling!

If we are a temple — then I am a stone
If we are a body — then I am a bone
If we are community — then I’m not alone
I’m not alone, and you’re not alone,
We’re not alone...
We've gotta carry each other!

God has made us to be a new family —
Of His blood, for eternity.
From every nation and name, the call is the same —
Love and unity!