A Barnacle of a Conscience: “Go Set a Watchman,” Josh Duggar, Tullian Tchividjian, and Crashing Pedestals

*Warning: Plot spoilers to “Go Set a Watchman” are contained in this post.

When I heard the earth shattering literary news that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was publishing a second book, I was ecstatic. (If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird go read it RIGHT NOW.) One of my favorite books, a timeless classic, has a sequel after fifty five years. Then came the disclaimers. Atticus Finch’s reputation tarnished? Was it really Harper Lee’s second book? Or her first book, once rejected, gaining new life not to mention generating a new fortune? Despite the controversy, or perhaps spurred on because of it, I had to read it. I finished it last week and have been contemplating this post since then. For me, the timing of this book was quite coincidental. And poignant.

Atticus Finch is my favorite literary character of all time, brilliantly crafted by Harper Lee, and forever synonymous with Gregory Peck in my mind. (Atticus looks like Gregory Peck. Period. Watch the old movie. Peck personifies Atticus to perfection.) In “Go Set a Watchman,” the new book, Jean Louise, his daughter, discovers he is a segregationist and is utterly crushed.

At some point in our lives, we all have encountered a person that enabled us to grow far beyond our own capabilities. A parent, a speaker, a celebrity, someone that inspired us and pushed us past our shortcomings. One of mine was Tullian Tchividjian. A pastor and speaker, I heard him give a message entitled, “Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything.” That message was incredible. I feel that it accelerated my spiritual growth in many ways. I recently heard the news that Tchividjian admitted to an extramarital affair and resigned. I was utterly crushed.

For some, Josh Duggar was that person. Seeming to have so many things right, the family appeared to all have it together, be brilliant witnesses for Christianity, and an example to imitate. When the allegations of infidelity and the seeking out of impurity arose, many hoped it would be denied and proved wrong. The admittance caused many to be utterly crushed.

What do these stories have in common? A hero toppling from a pedestal. Why does it destroy us so deeply? “Go Set a Watchman” helped me understand myself in a way I had not yet realized. Coincidental timing. Or some would say Providential.

First, I empathized completely with Jean Louise’s attack on her father. An excerpt:  “I believed in you. I looked up to you, Atticus, like I never looked up to anybody else in my life and never will again. If you had only given me some hint, if you had only broken your word with me a couple of times, if you had been bad-tempered or impatient with me – if you had been a lesser man, maybe I could have taken what I saw you doing. If once or twice you’d let me catch you doing something vile, then I would have understood yesterday. Then I’d have said that’s just His Way, that’s My Old Man, because I’d have been prepared along the line – “ (Pg 249-250)

Why is it that heroes have to be so darn heroic before we see them crash? Why can’t we see a chink in their armor before the whole kit and caboodle comes crashing down, because as it turns out the inside was completely rotted away? We have all felt Jean Louise’s pronouncement, “You’ve cheated me in a way that’s inexpressible, but don’t let it worry you, because the joke is entirely on me. You’re the only person I think I’ve ever fully trusted and now I’m done for.” (pg 252)

Striking a chord, however, was Jean Louise’s uncle’s words to her when she returned home determined to leave and never come back. Here is where I saw myself, the weaknesses of the human race, and why scandal scares us more than anything else. “…now you, Miss, born with your own conscience, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle onto your father’s. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings – I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ‘em like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting the answers from him, assuming your answers would always be his answers… When you happened along and saw him doing something that seemed to you to be the very antithesis of his conscience – your conscience – you literally could not stand it. It made you physically ill. Life became hell on earth for you.” (pg. 265)

Is it not true? We want to believe our heroes are faultless. We want those that helped us grow and pushed us beyond our own selfishness and weakness, to be perfect. We hate to see them fail. It leaves us terrified, wondering if our own foundation might have cracks where we thought it sturdiest. It creates the feeling that the rug has be pulled out from under our feet. Can we recover?

Yes. You see, the fault is ours. We long to attach our conscience to another like a barnacle. So we do. We want to believe people will never let us down. But they do. Foolishly, instead of realizing what we are doing, we instead pick up our barnacle of a conscience and attach it to the next hero we run into. And so the process repeats over and over again. This is human nature. But it is human nature because our consciences are created to be attached as a barnacle, just not to a fellow, earth dwelling human. It is meant to be attached to Jesus Christ, Who “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He will never fail you. It might hurt a little as your other heroes return to humanity, as Jean Louise “…welcomed him [Atticus] silently to the human race, the stab of discovery made her tremble a little.” (pg 278) But with Jesus Christ, we can rest assured the pedestal will not crash, the reputation will not be tarnished, this Hero will never falter. Attach your barnacle of a conscience to Him. And be at peace.


A Test

A while ago, as in year or two, I forgot to renew my domain name. It expired and I was going to be charges a ridiculous amount for a late fee. So I decided to go back to the .wordpress.com instead. But then it seemed I was locked out of my blog permanently! So this is a test to see if I can post again. Because I want to. And should.

Road to Niagara: Day 1 – Driving and BBQ

Today we set off on yet another epic family adventure. Our destination is Niagara Falls. But the beauty of our way of travelling is that with no schedule, we stop wherever we please and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Today we left home at roughly 8:30 and are now neatly settled into The Inn of Sault St Marie. Mostly all we did was drive. Lunch at Culver’s. Sleeping and reading in the car. I read aloud a bit. But then for dinner we stopped a local establishment. It served delicious and bountiful barbecue.

IMG_0824 IMG_0826 IMG_0828 IMG_0829Complete with a Triumph motorcycle, vintage Coke decor, and tasty barbecue, it was a lovely experience. The tasty sauce with pepper chunks just large enough to plug the squeeze bottle, then explosively shooting out sauce everywhere, just added laughter to our dining pleasure. And now, we sleep. Ready for the impressive bridge and entering Canada. (There was discussion about those of us (i.e. me) that forgot about needing passports and being grateful to Mother for always remembering important details. Taking a bus home as everyone else went on to Niagara would have been depressing….) TTFN!



Comedy of Errors: Legend of Menards

I was out running errands on Saturday when Dad called asking if I were near Menards. Turns out I was right next door. He is remodeling the basement bathroom and had some things he needed. Calling him once I got inside, the adventure began. Neither of us had any idea how crazy things would get.

                First on the list was fiberglass insulation. Despite the many different kinds I managed to find the right one with Dad talking me through it on my cell phone. Unfortunately, the moment I put the insulation in my cart, my phone died. It had been low on battery. I know insulation was not the only thing on the list, but I had no idea what the others were. So I walked up to the contractor’s desk, explained the situation, and asked to use their phone. Graciously they complied.

                Talking to Dad I made my list: Durabond 120 setting drywall compound, regular drying drywall compound, and cornerbead, 5 inside corners, 1 outside corner. Armed with my list, I asked the kind contractor desk man to point me towards drywall compound and set off. When I arrived in the correct area I began my search. Much to my dismay, there was no Durabond 120, only 210, 90, and 45. Nothing said “regular drywall compound” and all the cornerbead had extra words, “offset,” “superwide,” “bullnose.” Sighing, I headed off to find help. Quickly discovering two Menards employees, I asked for advice.

                I started with the Durabond quandary. They checked to see if the carried any 120, nope. Neither knew if I should go with the higher or lower number. One said he would go ask at the contractor’s desk. When he returned, he recommended the 90. I proceeded to ask him which was the “regular” drywall compound. He pointed it out. It came in 12 or 50 pound containers. I had no idea which Dad wanted. I finally found the inside cornerbead and put it in my cart. But I realized I had too many questions to just leave. So I trekked back towards the contractor’s desk, precariously balancing 8 foot cornerbead in my cart.

                The second man I asked to use the phone was kind as well. I called Dad, Durabond 90 would be fine, he wanted the 50 pound box of regular, and no, offset outside cornerbead would not work. Plus, I needed #6, 1 ¼” drywall screws. When I finally hung up, the contractor desk man offered to walk me through the rest of my list. Gratefully I accepted. Retrieving my box of drywall compound while he searched for the correct outside cornerbead, we prepared to set off for screws. Noticing my lack of skill with 8 foot cornerbead, he offered/requested/demanded I let him carry it for me.

                Upon finding the screws, he escorted me up to the registers, and left me there. As luck would have it, my one piece of outside cornerbead had no barcode. It took three people and ten minutes to figure it out. As the worked on this delay, I suddenly considered yet another quandary. I had driven my car and bought 8 foot cornerbead, where was I going to put it? Finally on my way out the door, I had no solution.

                Obviously it wouldn’t fit in my trunk. Maybe the backseat? Nope. Hmmm… I laid the cornerbead on top of my car and returned my cart, thinking all the while. Should I buy a ratchet strap and strap it on top? I had a blanket in the back to make sure nothing scratched. Should I call Dad again and tell him he had to come after all because I couldn’t get it home? Then I realized it just might fit diagonally from the front passenger seat to the rear corner. It just barely worked. And I went home, chuckling as I drove. What an experience! Quite hilarious. And I had prevailed! 

Of Workouts and Mittens

Have you ever chosen to do something really hard? No one asked you to, no one even suggested it would be a good idea. You just did it. Doesn’t it feel amazing?! I’ve done two things recently that turned out quite rewarding indeed.

                First, I did my Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD for thirty days straight. No days off. Period. It was not fun. It was a real pain at times. But I had a goal and I reached it. I cannot say I lost a lot of weight, or look perfectly toned because of it. Because I don’t. But it was still amazing. I did it for two reasons. 1) I am awful at taking the time to exercise and thought it would be good self discipline. 2) Any time I make myself do something I absolutely hate I am strengthening my spirit and not giving into my flesh. Training my self that I can’t always have what I want the moment I want it has to be a better exercise than just physical.

                If you ask me how my workout habits are now that I completed my thirty days, it is quite embarrassing. I seem to function best when I have an almost unattainable goal. It’s like a dare, so I do it with everything in me! But when I try to do things in moderation, I easily explain away the reasons to do it. That, combined with a second part time job and two more writing classes to teach, has made my workout habits all but nonexistent. But I’ll try to keep on it… a little.

                My second great accomplishment of the last month and a half was knitting a pair of complicated mittens. I found the pattern on Pinterest (of course). It was all on a grid diagram with no written instructions. Taking it as another sort of dare, I knitted them, figuring out the instructions as best I could. I finished the first mitten and was almost shocked at my own success. Then I finished the SECOND mitten. That’s the problem with mittens you know, once you finish one you have a whole other one to make. Although I have recently discovered that I didn’t understand the grid instructions as well as I thought and there was a much easier way to complete them than I did, I am quite happy with them. And now wear them everywhere.


                Motivating ones self to do things that you don’t really want to do is not easy. Especially when it is you telling yourself, without outside accountability, like writing this blog. (That was a sort of apology if you missed it…) But it is incredibly rewarding. You suddenly feel proud of something you accomplished in your spare time. Try it. Set yourself some goals. They might have nothing to do with exercising or knitting, but there has to be something you have been wanting to do, but haven’t made time for. You might be surprised how much you enjoy it and are pleased with the result.

Well Oiled

The other day I was sewing. While this is one of my favorite pastimes, I have not spent much time doing it lately. Life has been full. Not overwhelming or stressful, just full. And I am not complaining. It felt good to sew again. Sewing with me was my mom, she on her machine and me on mine. Finally, she mentioned that my machine was making hideous noises. I was flabbergasted. It was one of those frog in the boiling water things for me. Although the machine was slowly growing louder and grinding a bit, it happened so gradually I hadn’t noticed. But I rose to the challenge.

                Flipping through my manual, I found the section on “Cleaning and Oiling” and followed all the directions. Yet, that was only for the lower section, bobbin and such. In the midst of my quest to restore my machine to quiet efficiency, I found a tube of machine oil. It sounded to me like most of the noise was coming from the upper machinery. Fiddling around I popped open the latches and there it was, the belly of the beast. Gears and levers, pistons and crankshafts, well, maybe not. That makes it sound like an engine. But it was rather impressive. I was giddy. Beginning to oil every moving part I saw, I was a kid in a candy shop.

Smart enough to use some restraint I made sure only small drops of oil were doing the lubricating. The last thing I needed was a perfectly running machine that leaves oil spots on my fabric. Softly pressing on the foot pedal after plugging it back in, I heard nothing. Okay, it was not that silent. But I heard a beautiful humming, the gentle purr of a well oiled machine.

Sounds rather silly, but I was proud of my work. Oiling machines is not something I have experience in. Although I have decided it is rewarding enough to make into a career. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear someone announce machine oiler as an occupation. Must not be a huge market for it. Too bad. I think I would have been good at it. In the meantime I will enjoy my humming machine and perhaps remember to repeat the process before it squeaks and grinds enough to drive my fellow seamstresses crazy. Who knew maintaining machinery could be so fun, or feel so rewarding?

Tapping Made Possible

I have never taken dance lessons. Ever. As every other little girl, I did dream of becoming a ballerina, but in the same way that I dreamed of becoming a princess. Never lacking extra curricular activities, I took art lessons, piano, voice, that sort of thing. But never got around to dance.

For Christmas, I got tap shoes. You may be thinking that someone had just run out of ideas and thought at least tap shoes were something I didn’t already have. You would be utterly and completely mistaken. Truthfully, tap is something I have always wanted to do and a desire that has failed to fade as the ballerina dream has. (I do still dream of the princess thing, but that is beside the point.) So instead of a desperate Christmas shopper, my shoes came from one that knew me well enough to know two things. First, I have always wanted to tap dance. Secondly, I love gifts that remind me how well someone knows me. Warm fuzzies galore.

Why tap? Have you ever watched an old Gene Kelly film? Singing in the Rain is probably my all time favorite. But Brigadoon, An American in Paris, or Bing Crosby in White Christmas are all great options. I love watching them. And the greatest parts are the tap routines. Very favorite tap routine ever: White Christmas, Choreography scene with Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen. It starts with this odd choreographed part, everyone dressed in deep purple doing fluid movements. Suddenly, seemingly dropped from the sky, Vera-Ellen comes down in a hot pink dress (yes the pink adds to the favorite-ness of it) and beings tapping her toe. I had no idea a person could tap their toe that fast. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZgqwB-Hxew) It makes me want to tap. This is where my love of tap comes from.

Aside from just being tap shoes, my tap shoes are perfect tap shoes. They are Capezio, which I am told were the shoes to have a few years back. For the it girls you know. Black patent leather, which I can see my reflection in. I am partial to patent leather. They have a bit of a heel and ribbon tie, look like Debbie Reynolds may have walked off the Singing in the Rain set and handed them to me. (see  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB2yiIoEtXw)

So know I just have to learn to tap. But I am terribly excited. The shoes just keep calling me from my closet… “Oh, Jeanie. Jeanie. Aren’t we pretty? Don’t you want to learn to use us? Don’t we look great on your feet?” I think they might even have a bit of magic in them. But that is coming from a twenty-something that still wants to be a princess. So take it with a grain of salt. But one thing is for sure. Some people actually know you; they even care about your sometimes silly little whims.