The Case Against Chewing Gum

This weekend, thousands of smiling angels and worried lambs and not a few crabby shepherds will take part in their church’s annual Christmas pageant. Little Mary will hold a Cabbage Patch Jesus that appears to be smothering, and a handful of Wise Men will take private pride in being one of the three chosen ones while outwardly mumbling in nothing short of lackluster tones, “We’ve seen His star in the East and havecometoworshipHim.”

Parents, I am asking you not to wreck this year’s Christmas pageant by letting your children into church with chewing gum.

There. I said it. It’s out there. There’s no going back.

Just say no to Wrigley’s.

Chicklets.

Dentyne.

Extra.

Orbit.

All of them. Don’t let your children go up in front of church with gum. That’s all there is to it.

When I was a little girl on Christmas Eve–wearing an itchy, homemade dress that matched my older sisters’ dresses–and climbing out of our blue Dodge minivan to head up the stairs to our country church in small town Iowa, my dad always had one reminder: “Spit out your gum.”

One Christmas he even said, as I walked toward the door, “If I see gum in your mouth up there . . .”

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I mean, don’t we look like we are just DYING to go to the Christmas Eve pageant? No. Seriously. I think my sisters are legitimately dying. Just to be clear, I am the adorable cherub on the right. 

Lest my dad sound like the Grinch, he really just had expectations of us.

Like, that we wouldn’t be gnawing on rubbery gum in the middle of what should be at least a somewhat pious event: the retelling of our SAVIOR’S BIRTH.

That people wouldn’t be so in shock over how loudly we could pop our jaws chewing gum that they’d forget the Bible truths they were hearing.

That the focus wouldn’t be on us looking like my Great Pyrenees when she’s chowing down on a hunk of fat jammed in her jowls, but that we would instead be reverent in God’s house.

His words stuck. No pun intended.

It happened the year that I was Head Angel Number 1. I had a long recitation. I even got to make it while standing on a step ladder (as I weren’t tall enough already). And to make matters even cooler, a gold star with twinkling lights zipped in on an invisible wire in the middle of my dramatic recounting and perched behind my noggin.

I felt like a pretty big deal.

There I was, sitting in the pew, singing along, waiting for my teacher to give our row the signal to go up front. She motioned. I stood. I froze. I HAD GUM IN MY MOUTH. If I took one more step, I was certain my dad would see me, walk to the front of the church and physically remove me–and my wad of gum–from the premises. (And I actually semi believe he would have. Hi, Dad. Also, I love you.)

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Dad and I on a more recent Christmas Eve–gumless . . . but not wine-less. 

I had two options: I had to swallow that stick of gum or find a way to tuck it under my tongue for the duration of my Broadway-esque moment.

So I did neither. And if anybody wants to go look under the third or fourth pew on the north side of the church, you’ll probably find a wad of chewing gum still safely lodged there.

It’s totally mine.

Here’s the bigger picture: Christmas pageants can very easily turn into the equivalents of ballet recitals and FFA shows, which is to say that the focus can quickly change from Christ incarnating Himself to little Adriane spouting off memorized lines with white lights flashing behind her frizzy hair.

We don’t need, on top of that, the focus to be on our children chomping on gum like they are cows chewing their cud.

And I have seen a fair amount of cud-chewing in my day, people, let me tell you.

Remember that line from Miss Congeniality, when she’s eating a steak, and her coach says to her, “I’m sorry, what was the question? I was distracted by the halfmasticated cow rolling around in your wide-open trap.”

Our children cannot be Miss Congeniality.

This Christmas Eve, let’s agree to opt for mints. Leave the bubblegum at home . . . for your kiddos and for you.

And instead, let’s let the focus be–not on son’s shepherd’s staff and the way he’s poking his sheep in the kneecaps . . . even if it the sheep IS his little brother–but on Jesus.

The Trident can wait.

 

 

Seeking Editor for The Lutheran Witness

I started two weeks before the 2010 convention.

Because there’s nothing like getting tossed into the deep end when you’re 25, still trying to figure out what it means to be an editor and discerning how best to write in a succinct but helpful way.

I had turned the job as editor of The Lutheran Witness down once, convinced I didn’t want to leave my happy little life at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. But the Lord’s ways, it turns out, are rarely ours.

After the convention, the opportunities continued to grow: serving on restructuring committees, writing for Reporter, assisting with President Harrison’s testimony before Congress, delving into social media.

From there it was working as associate executive director for Strategic Communication, covering international theological conferences, assisting with Free to Be Faithful efforts, finding media trainers, starting up a new academic journal, ghost writing, speaking at events, managing convention newsrooms, and, all the while, trying to urge The Lutheran Witness forward as the teaching tool it was originally created to be–in print and online and everywhere in between.

And now it’s someone else’s turn.

It’s time to pass the editorial red pen–ok, FoxIt Reader’s PDF editing functions–on to a new editor.

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Is it you?

People often think being an editor means finding misplaced commas or locating typos. And there is some of that.

But being an editor mostly means you know how to think broadly and yet also in focus. It means keeping your eye first and foremost on the well-being of the reader while finding and forming content that teaches and delights in a palatable way, in ways the audience will understand.

It means not talking above the reader or beneath him. It means keeping him engaged while not going so far over his head as to lose him. It means a bit of humor now and then. It means making sure that what’s written flows easily from A to B to C and ends back at A again. And it means having a thick skin when snarky letters to the editor flood your inbox.

Because they do flood.

For this role, it also means being Lutheran–the kind of Lutheran that desires to remind readers today of the historic things of the faith. It means believing that what the Church has taught and confessed is right and true and that it’s worth sharing and discussing regardless of what the world has to say. It means a bit of correcting when misconceptions arise and a lot of bringing people to the center when the culture and other denominations want them to veer to the left or the right.

Might that person be you?

 

Godly wife and mom

When my husband and I leave the hospital with our second baby next spring, after I’ve served as editor for seven years, I’m confident there will be a new editor at the helm. And I’m equally sure he or she will do a bang-up job.

As for me, I’ll be at home: taking care of my husband and my babies.

My parents taught my sisters and me that the most noble job a woman can have is to be a godly wife and mother. It’s what I’ve prayed to be since I was a little girl.

And while I’ve been able to edit from home for the past several years, it’s best for our family for me to turn my attention away from split infinitives and storyboards to my family and home . . . without meetings or distractions.

It’s time. I love my husband. I waited 29 years to meet him, after all, and I find no greater contentment than seeing to it that my children are well-catechized . . . and fed.

Because we do like to eat like farmers, after all.

 

Thank you

In the meantime, thank you.

Thank you for reading The Lutheran Witness. Thank you for writing letters. Thank you for reposting articles you find helpful on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for finding me at conferences and symposias and conventions to tell me how much you appreciate the magazine.

Thank you for being Lutheran. Thank you for loving to learn. Thank you for desiring the holy things of God–primarily in the Divine Service and also in your prayers and devotions and denominational magazines.

And thank you for being patient with me.

Like the time I missed that there was no “l” in the word “public.”

{What was that about editors not just finding typos?}

I have failed often, learned much and been humbled in front of lots and lots of readers.

Lots and lots of readers.

As editor, I have made new friends across the world, attempted lamely to fill big shoes and experienced more than I would thought imaginable the first day I set foot in the International Center.

For all of that, for your kindness, for your love of life and Lutheranism,

thank you.

 

The Word Remains

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As an editor, one of my big complaints about writing today is that . . . it stinks. People don’t care about grammar. Their sentences run on and on and on and on.

And on.

They stick, not to two or three key points, but attempt to cram 18 ideas into a 350-word piece. They write for themselves and not for the edification or understanding of the reader.

But not Wilhelm Lohe.

Not the man whose writings on the Church Year and the life of the Christian comprise The Word Remains.

His writing style

In this translated piece published by Emmanuel Press, Lohe writes for the person in the pew, the one worn down by work and life, by sin and fear, by death and general exhaustion.

And maybe even presidential elections.

That’s the sign of a good writer, after all: one who can share truth in an understandable way regardless of time or circumstances.

He brings the comfort of Christmas, of Epiphany, of the Reformation — all Christ, of course — to life.

He also touches briefly on a variety of other topics that affect the person holding the book both then and today, outlining everything from worship to work in short, clear blurbs.

This combination of longer Church Year pieces and succinct Christian life issues offers a comforting read . . . and not just once or quickly.

The introduction to The Word Remains hints at this before you’ve even gotten to the meat of the book. And after you turn the last page, you’ll realize the it was right.

There are two kinds of reading: lingering reading and consuming reading. . . . The former, the careful and contemplative reading, which satisfies itself in just a few pages per day, is what we ought to take up again, apply and practice. This is how we get back to Wilhelm Lohe, and this is how his writings should be read.

As you turn the pages of Lohe’s work, renewed by his encouraging words that return you again and again to Christ and His mercy, you’ll linger, not because the introduction tells you to, but because you can’t help but be comforted by doing so.

 

Clingy Faith

Lohe offered more than just his writing to the 19th-century church: his work with deaconesses and motherhouses, his insight on worship and mission.

And in The Word Remains, he gives us still more today.

Ever the pastor, he encourages us to “Trust His word. Do not stray from it. All else may be lost to you; all else may go as it will. His promise will never fail you.”

He reminds us that “The Word remains to the end. Let us look to the Word, be united in the Word!”

He heartens us that “God’s Word is revealed faithfulness and mercy.”

On every page, in every paragraph, with every sentence, Lohe–“briefly and reverently” as he would say–sets aside all our worries and sadnesses and stresses. And in their place, he comforts with the words and truths of the Triune God who overflows with compassion and mercy.

 

The Word Remains . . . and hopefully so will Lohe

It’s not a long read–only 140 pages–but it is one you’ll peruse again and again as sin, death and the devil throw their worst your way.

You won’t pick it up again just because the writing is good or because your needs are at the forefront.

You’ll underline and bookmark pages because Lohe’s purpose and writing are clear throughout, reminding you with every word that “All the saints, whom the Lord wins and eternally saves, win and are won; and for us also, after hard tribulations, comes the joy of eternal success. Therefore let us not grow weary!”

As a Christmas present or a treat-yourself read, allow yourself to, as the introduction says, read it  “lingeringly and with listening hearts,” because as Lohe knew and as you do too, The Word Remains.

 

 

{Read more about the book here: The Word Remains. And order some Christmas cards too while you’re at it!}