Friday, August 12, 2011

Headin' out.

Hey all!

This is an administrative sort of post. My Fixed Heart is moving! The new website is All the content is the same ... if you want to keep catching it, though, you'll want to head over there and resubscribe.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Bible talk.

So today I read Psalm 137, which is a song of mourning from captivity in Babylon. In the NIV, it goes like this.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"

How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forever forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
"Tear it down," they cried,
"tear it down to its foundations!"

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us --
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Here's what struck me. "How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?" Is that sentiment right or wrong?

On the one hand, Paul says "Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice." (Php 4:4 ESV) Even when you find yourself in a foreign land, separated from all you know, and you feel like you're separated even from God. God is still good. Rejoice.

On the other hand - can you really blame these people? If there's anything worth lamenting, isn't this? It's not wrong to mourn. It's not wrong to acknowledge our humanity, and as humans we despair.

Maybe, though, it's significant that Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Don't rejoice in your circumstances, because maybe they're not so great and even if they are - don't expect them to stay that way. But you know what does stay? What never changes or fades or clouds over?

And for that I rejoice.

How about you guys? Find yourself rejoicing in Him and not your life? How has that changed you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

1001 Reasons, Part Six

This month's theme: books.

95. Okay, this one's a-duh: THE BIBLE. I could write a lot about why ... or you could just go read Psalm 119 ... which says it better than I could.

96. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. They make you think about our sins differently, and a new angle is almost always a good way to look at something. I also love that it reads either like a novel, or like a series of devotions.

97. Speaking of devotions, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers is pretty fantastic. Specifically, this quote has always stuck with me: "At the bar of common sense, Jesus Christ's statements may seem mad, but bring them to the bar of faith and you begin to see with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God."

98. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell is one of my all-time favorite stories, period. My favorite thing about it is this: what Rhett loves about Scarlett is her passion, her fire. But it's this very trait that makes her so immature and incapable of loving him in return - really loving him, I mean - and being grateful for him. When she finally grew up enough to love him, she had already ruined it. And here’s the kicker. Had Scarlett been mature enough to see Rhett from the beginning, to recognize everything she had when she had it, Rhett couldn’t have loved her. She wouldn’t have been the reckless, passionate soul she was, and that was what Rhett loved so about her. They were meant to be together, but they never could be.

99. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are several of the most engrossing novels I've ever read.

100. Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand is a hard read, but worth every moment.

101. Anything in the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle. They're definitely better than modern mysteries.

Maybe I'll do this again. I love books. I could come up with a lot more. :D

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Unmarried Wife (an introduction)

I’m going to tell you a story; how I met, married, and then fell in love with a renegade and traitor named Martin Luther.

In the years since entering convent school at the age of five, one thing had always been perfectly clear to me: salvation was not a free gift. It was one a person could earn. Only an insane god would permit fallen, corrupt children into His kingdom without first requiring certain sacrifices and services.

Luther disagreed: “The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty,” he had said, in Heidelberg.

In the fall of 1517 he’d drafted his Theses – ninety-five complaints against the Church’s practice of indulgences. For a fee – small or large – a person could buy forgiveness. We were taught that indulgences could only remit a portion of the suffering a person would endure in Purgatory, but Luther argued that the practice, which was wrong to start, was abused by money-hungry church leaders, and the laity was misled and hurt.

The Ninety-Five Theses were my first exposure to Luther. Fronika and Margaret Zeschau, my fellow Sisters at Marienthron, had an Uncle Wolfgang who was friends with the radical. Not long after the Theses were posted on the door of a church in Wittenberg, causing uproar in the little town, he sent his nieces a letter. The girls had been keeping their sympathies for the reform movement quiet, but this was too much. Now they made their beliefs known to everyone at the convent – except for my father’s sister Margareta, our stern Abbess, who would have punished them severely for speaking against the Church. They whispered their discontent to willing ears as they went about their chores; they kept regular correspondence with their uncle; they went so far as to talk quietly about it to Leonard Koppe, a merchant who brought Marienthron its fish.

At first Fronika and Margaret faced disagreement ranging from humor to outright dislike. Most of the Sisters thought perhaps it was a phase, a little rebellion; a few, including my dearest friend Beth, were concerned; one or two held their noses high and ignored the girls, paying them only enough attention to case a resentful stare their way. But not a soul had the daring or guile to let Aunt Margareta take note.

I had another aunt at Marienthron: Magdalena, my mother’s sister. She had the same effect on me as Aunt Margareta did – strict obedience, that is – but by way of an entirely opposite method. Lena was an addictively sweet woman, always ready with a compliment and never demanding any sort of behavior. But all of us Sisters, myself especially, did everything she asked, took her words as scripture. To us, she was a prophetess. And for the first time in my life, I found my filial and religious duty to Margareta contradicting my heartfelt duty to Lena. The convent positively trembled when it came to light that Lena had written to Luther.

One afternoon she and I worked together in the infirmary, rolling and putting away cleaned bandages. The three patients nearest us – all old, weak women – were sleeping. “Lena,” I said, though we weren’t supposed to be speaking. “Please tell me this letter to Luther is a rumor.”

Her reaction was so slight, anyone but me would have missed it; her eyes flicked up and scanned the room, to ascertain the privacy I had already made sure of.

“Why would I say that?” she asked, barely whispering.

A smokestack burned in my chest.

“Please, I’m begging you – don’t write to him anymore. It’s not safe.”

She waved her hand, at her waist. “The only danger I face is a stern talk from the Abbess.”

“She’ll have you beaten.”

“No, she won’t. She loves me.”

“She wouldn’t if she knew what you were doing.”

Lena stared me down.

"You’re interested, aren’t you?”

“Of course not,” I said, but Lena’s smirk said she understood. “I’m certainly curious,” I amended. “I don’t face a beating, though.”

Lena turned back to the bandages. “Ihr Luther is a wise man,” she said thoughtfully. “He believes that to submit oneself to a certain law – for example, enforced silence – can be holy and honorable. But to submit others to those same laws, laws not imposed by scripture, without their agreement – well, that’s dishonest. It makes those who obey look as though they believe something which they may or may not.”

I dropped my voice further.

“You’re talking about Marienthron, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am.”

“But there’s no reason to even discuss it. You’ve already made your vows.”

Ihr Luther suggested we leave anyway.”

“Magdalena!” My shocked whisper was audible, and a patient sewing in her bed nearby looked up. I was careful when I spoke again. “You could be caught and killed.”

“Which makes a beating from Margareta sound much less terrifying, doesn’t it?”

I stammered.

“I only want to serve the Lord,” Lena said, seeing that I wasn’t going to speak. “I believe I can do that better elsewhere. Katharine, I want to sing to Him for the pure joy of singing, not because the Abbess says to. I want to talk with others about how much I love the Lord. I want to read my Bible in German.”

“It will be lonely without you.”

“That’s certainly true,” she said. “Since several other girls are coming with me.”

“What? Who?”

“Katharine, you know I can’t tell you that.”

Fear clenched my throat, and my voice dropped even lower. “Beth?”

She didn’t answer, but in so doing she told me the truth. I was going to lose my best friend.


“I don’t even know that.”

I paused. “You expect me to go with you, don’t you?” I asked, scared of her response. She raised her eyes to mine.

“I expect you to do whatever it is you would do if you were not afraid,” she said.


In the first hours of Easter Sunday, 1523, Koppe smuggled me and eleven other nuns out of Marienthron, the convent I’d called home since I’d been a child.

As soon as she could be sure everyone was asleep, Aunt Lena sneaked all the girls into the refectory, in groups of three. There we sat, silently, for hours, trying to keep awake, not speaking a word. Beth and I clutched each other’s hands, our breathing synchronized. Before the sun was up, Koppe arrived and we listened as he told the women in the kitchen – in a remarkably loud voice – that his delivery of fish had been unloaded and he would be leaving now.

It was obviously a cue, since Aunt Lena, crouching, moved for the door. Again in threes, we sneaked around the base of the building and met Koppe at his wagon. With an apologetic grimace on his face, he showed us into reeking empty fish barrels. “I’m sorry,” he murmured to each of us, securing the lids.

At the gate to the convent, I could hear Koppe saying goodbye to the warden, who would have watched the gate while he was here doing his business. Since he was an old, trusted friend at Marienthron, there would be no need to accompany Koppe throughout the visit. It was a sweet departure, escaping right under that greedy old man’s nose.

I knew it would be a long, uncomfortable journey, squatting in the stink of fish without a blanket to ease the jostling. But thankfully a large forest lay north of the convent, and so we were able, after a little while, to come out of the barrels and sit together, huddled for warmth.

“I guess I can explain to you the plan,” Koppe said as we came out, stiff and sore. “We’ll be taking you to Torgau tonight, a few hours’ journey. We’ll stay there for the day and tomorrow any one of you who isn’t going home to family will come with me to Wittenberg to meet Luther.” A little shock came over me – meeting Luther! – but it was a long road ahead still.

We tried to pass the time in conversation, but after years of enforced silence at Marienthron, we found it uncomfortable to speak freely or to laugh. We weren’t sure how to go about prayer without a leader. We might have sung, if we had known any hymns in German. Singing lyrics we couldn’t understand seemed to violate the integrity of what we’d just done.

I don’t know how long it had been when Else von Kanitz gasped, a soft little noise, and stared into the woods. A few of us, myself included, saw her fearful eyes and followed them.

Not quite where she’d looked, but nearby: a sudden movement, a man. After a second, another one, further back, only visible to one who was looking. And, now that we were silent, voices. In the dark, far away.

Had the warden indeed sent men this far simply to retrieve and punish twelve pitiful women?
For a few moments, we all sat, stunned and fearful, before Koppe noticed the silence. He looked over his shoulder and, seeing our stares, smiled.

“Don’t worry, Sisters,” he said. “Those are rebels, just like you, now, I suppose. They hid here to organize rebellion against Duke George and all the other lords. It’s hard to keep thinking of required labor at Marienthron as divine. It’s actually good news for you. You have a lot of enemies in the world – it’s true – but those voices, they’re on your side.”

Credit where credit is due:
Katharina von Bora: A Reformation Life by Rudolph K. and Marilynn Morris Markwald
Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, 2nd ed.,by Timothy F. Lull
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton

Saturday, June 25, 2011

1001 Reasons, Part Five

This list’s thankfulness theme is a person, and everything about her for which I am thankful. Her name was Christine. On June 13, 2008, she went home to her Father. She was 63 years old and had been fighting an unknown lung disease for two years.

81. She ran a daycare for years, as long as I knew her, entirely alone. She babysat an average of, what? 10? kids every day. All day. Alone. Into her fifties. And they were always well behaved. It was never chaos. Which is even more remarkable when you take note of the fact that I was one of those kids.

82. When I was little she middle-named me more than my mom did. “Brittany Ann!”

83. She made absolutely the best macaroni, homemade, ever.

84. She woke up every Christmas morning at five a.m. to make breakfast for all of us. And I mean a smorgasbord. Pastries, coffee, juice, cinnamon rolls, eggs, bacon, all of it. She had to, for all of us. There was never less than eleven people at Christmas.

85. She took me to a flea market when I was five on our way back from Disneyland the first time. She’d just bought me a teaset that morning. A miniature one, really cute. For my barbies. But then I saw those blue and pink ones – a full-sized teapot and sugar bowl set. Porcelain. Ribbons and gold and a picture of flowers on the front. Now I think they’re the most god-awful decorations ever made, but she only bought them for me because I promised not to break them. It’s been almost eighteen years and I’m not going to get rid of them now, not after I managed to keep them in one piece for so long. I made her proud.

86. She used to promise me little presents for little accomplishments. I managed to keep my room reasonably clean for a week and I got that Barbie I wanted so bad. I got a B in math and she bought me the jewelry box that was on my shelf for such a long time.

87. When I was in kindergarten she came to pick me up after school and I was really excited. I ran and jumped into her arms. And I was all ready to go home with her. But then I remembered how if anyone other than Mom, Dad, or Christy came to pick me up, I was supposed to ask them the password. And so I asked. And she told me – “bowling ball.” She was just testing me to make sure I would remember that little trick. She gave me a piece of gum as a reward.

88. At my wedding she dressed all in green. She called beforehand to be sure that her outfit matched the color scheme.

89. Whenever we went to visit her in Reedsport I’d watch for that big pole on the hill that meant we were just a few minutes away from the house, and then I’d yell, “We’re in Reedsport!”

90. That last year at Christmas, I made her something special. I stitched a pillow with her wedding monogram on it. I really expected it to pass up whatever she got me, not that I cared. But she completely outdid herself this year. She only got me two presents, a record low as far as numbers were concerned. But the first was a wall ornament made of metal callas. How did she even know I love callas so much? I only had a couple of them at the wedding and she’d never been to my house to see all the calla decorations. I asked her and she just said she knew. She picked up on it somewhere. The second gift was a ring my grandpa gave to her thirty years ago. It’s her trademark style – several little diamonds and dark sapphires in a huge setting. Honestly, I never liked her taste in jewelry. And yet this ring is so beautiful. She said she wants it to stay in our family. If I have a daughter, I’m supposed to give it to her. Which I will. If there isn’t a baby girl in my future, then my son will get it and give it to his wife or daughter.

91. You know, it’s ironic. Biologically, she’s not my grandma. My dad adopted me. Legally, she’s my grandma. But she would have had every right – especially when she met me, before I was legally a Wolfe, to say, “That’s not my granddaughter. I don’t have a granddaughter. My son married a woman who already had a child. If anything, she’s my stepgranddaughter.” But she immediately accepted me, and so did everyone else in that family. It never occurred to me until I was late into my teens – “Hey, you know what? I share no genetic link at all with these people.” Weird.

92. After my parents divorced, my mom moved to Reedsport to be near her. Her former in-law. It was a big deal in pop culture when Jennifer Aniston stayed in touch with Brad Pitt’s mom after the divorce, remember? Well what if Jennifer Aniston had kids, and moved closer to Brad Pitt’s mom so she could babysit? That’s what my mom and my grandma did. And my grandma babysat, every day, starting at just about five a.m. And picked us up after school and kept us so that my mom could work. My dad wasn’t even okay with my mom’s new career, and my grandma kept us kids to accommodate it.

93. When she was dying, my grandpa said this, not knowing I was listening:
“I told God,
‘Lord, this is so hard.’
And He told me,
‘I know. I had to do it to My Son.’
So I replied,
‘But it was easier for You, God, because You were planning on resurrecting Him.’
God said:
‘You don’t think I’ll do the same for your wife?’”

94. She doesn’t know – or maybe she does – but she named me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Little Things (excerpt)

Stacie was ten years old to the day when she lost her Mama. Cole was putting her to sleep, because Mama was out dancing with Dan, her new boyfriend.
“I like him,” she said.
“Dan? Why?” Cole asked.
“He got me a birthday present.” She held out the wooden boy and girl dolls he’d carved for her.
“That doesn’t make him your dad.”
“I know it doesn’t,” Stacie said, hurt. “I love Vince the most.” It was true, too: Vince was a constant, even if the only constant thing about him was inconsistency. But Mama’s boyfriends were always exciting. Gerald was a fisherman, and he’d taught Stacie about poles and types of fish and how to refresh the salt in a rubber bait by massaging it in her palms. Rex was an artist – he drew pictures of Stacie and let her splash them with watercolors to give to Mama for Mother’s Day. Dan was a woodworker, and he made her presents, and that was nice, too.
“Good night,” Cole said, and Stacie knew he didn’t want to talk anymore.
A few minutes later she was awake; the sky had turned dark very fast and there was a gentle rapping at the door. Cole was climbing out of bed, and she realized it hadn’t been a few minutes at all, but a few hours. She sat up.
“What’s that, Cole?” she muttered, rubbing her eyes.
“Stay there,” he said.
Stacie leaned back into her pillow and petted her stuffed bear, Jimmy, a gift from Vince. But as soon as Cole made it out of the room, she slid out of her bed and padded over to the bedroom door. Clutching Jimmy to her chest, she stuck her nose in between the slightly open door and the wall and she eavesdropped, even though Mama had told her not to.
“Who is it?” Cole asked loudly, without opening the door.
There was a short, muffled answer. Stacie thought she heard the word ‘police.’
“What are you doing here, then? We’re not doing anything wrong,” Cole answered, on edge as always. Stacie thought maybe if it was the police, he should let them in. Maybe they were here to protect them from something. Maybe there was a burglar running around outside. In fact, maybe he had a gun pointed at the policeman and he needed to come inside for cover. Anxious, she stepped into the hallway. The policeman was answering, and she still couldn’t understand what he said, but she heard the door creaking open and breathed a sigh of relief for him.
“What do you want?” Cole snapped.
“Can I please come in, son?” Stacie tiptoed closer so she could see the policeman.
Cole sighed obnoxiously so he wouldn’t think he was welcome – he did that a lot – and pushed the door aside to make room.
“Thanks.” Stacie thought he glanced over to where she was, just barely visible, and she breathed in softly as she tried to hide a little better.
“My name is Officer Dixon. What’s yours?”
“Well, it’s good to meet you, Cole. Is anyone else here?” he asked.
“My sister is sleeping.”
“Okay. I want to ask you some questions, if that’s alright.”
Cole didn’t answer. Officer Dixon didn’t seem to mind.
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“And her last name?”
“Do you know where she is?”
Cole answered fast: “She went out with her boyfriend Dan. She was supposed to be home sooner than this. She’s always home on time, though. I’m sure she has a good reason. Mama takes good care of us.”
“I’m sure she does, Son,” Officer Dixon answered. “That’s not why I’m here, although I like to see a boy so devoted to his mother.” He breathed in hard. “Do you mind if we wake up your sister now?”
Stacie started, pattered back to her bed as fast as she could go, and closed her eyes. When Cole came in a few moments later, she stretched as though she’d been asleep, but she didn’t think he bought it. She followed him to the living room, hanging her head.
“This is Officer Dixon,” Cole said, gesturing.
“Very nice to meet you,” the officer said. “What’s your name?”
“Stacie.” Her voice was small next to the policeman’s.
“Well, Stacie. Cole.” Stacie could hear his breath mingling with his words as he paused. “This is the worst part of my job. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your mother was in a car accident tonight. Both she and her boyfriend were killed.”
Stacie felt as though she’d been punched in the head.
“What?” Cole was shouting. He stood up. “You’re lying to us!” he said. “My mama is coming home! She’s just late, that’s all!”
Stacie was still trying to get her head back on straight. She shook it.
“Don’t you listen to him, Stacie Mae,” Cole went on. “Don’t you hear a word of it!”
Officer Dixon looked like he might cry. Stacie wondered if he had known her mama.
Cole got louder. “You’re trying to take us from Mama! You’re just making this up so we’ll go with you! I won’t go!” He folded himself up into a creaky old recliner, as if trying to latch himself to the house. Stacie wondered why he was doing it; she thought he just looked easier to pick up and carry out, a parcel of a person. He was silent now, except for heavy breathing.
“It’s my birthday,” Stacie said. Officer Dixon pressed his lips together.
“What’s your dad’s name?”
“Vince,” she answered, glad that they would get to see him. He’d make her feel better.
“We don’t have a dad,” Cole corrected, sitting upright. “Vince is just a friend of ours. Stacie is confused.” He shot her the same look he did the time she told Mama that his best friend Matt had smoked a cigarette.
Officer Dixon narrowed his eyes. “What’s Vince’s last name?”
Stacie felt her pulse in her throat, throbbing. “I don’t remember,” she said.
“You can check our birth certificates,” Cole pressed. “It’s just Mama.”
Stacie watched the floor, ashamed of her mistake. Her head began to pound.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

1001 Reasons, Part Four

This months's thankfulness theme: things anyone can be thankful for, not just me - except that the truth is that people all over the world don't have a lot of these things. Some of them, thankfully, every living person has.

64. Safe, clean drinking water.
65. The ability to see (This is something I've never ever taken for granted, because I've always been scared that I'll eventually lose mine. My vision has deteriorated steadily for 12 years now.)
66. The fact that you're breathing.
67. Someone loves you.
68. Warmth and blankets.
69. The internet.
70. People who are wiser than us.
71. People we can bless with our own wisdom.
72. Prayer.
73. At the risk of sounding kind of harsh, considering recent events, thank your lucky stars that your house wasn't just leveled by an earthquake or a tsunami - or, for that matter, a tornado, flood, hurricane, or terrorists.
74. Good health.
75. The ability to think.
76. Walking.
77. Hearing.
78. Hugging.
79. The sun.
80. Your second chance. There's always a second chance, this side of death.