Wednesday, October 26, 2016

REFORMATION ROMANCE: Mistress of the Pig Market, Part 3, by Douglas Bond

LUTHER IN LOVE coming 2017

REFORMATION ROMANCE: Mistress of the Pig Market, Part 3, by Douglas Bond (Part 1, Part 2)

After Martin Luther’s marriage in June, 1525, it would be more than “pigtails on the pillow” that would change for Luther. Theirs was nothing like a modern-world, grindingly protracted engagement; it was happening on the fly. “While I was thinking of other things,” wrote Luther, inviting a friend, “God has suddenly brought me to marriage with Katherine." After a two-week betrothal! To his cohort in the nuns’ escape, Leonard Kopp, he wrote, "I am going to get married. God likes to work miracles and to make a fool of the world. You must come to the wedding." Some accounts attach a postscript demanding that Kopp bring a keg of Torgau beer, and it better be good.

When the hoopla settled down, and the guests had all gone home, Luther, now a husband, was confronted with the real business of being married. And the school of character would immediately expose many of his relational weaknesses. For starters, he had become, almost overnight, the celebrity preacher and writer of his day. With his popularity came mounds of fan mail along with a legion of other responsibilities.

I could use two secretaries,” wrote Luther to a friend. “I do almost nothing during the day but write letters. I am a conventual preacher, reader at meals, parochial preacher, director of studies, overseer of eleven monasteries, superintendent of the fish pond at Litzkau, referee of the squabble at Torgau, lecturer on Paul, collector of material for a commentary on the Psalms, and then, as I said, I am overwhelmed with letters. I rarely have full time for the canonical hours and for saying mass, not to mention my own temptations with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. You see how lazy I am.”

Add to all that, husband to Katie, and soon to be father of her children. His new bride came to the marriage as an adoring admirer of the man who had been the instrument of her spiritual emancipation. She had even contributed a letter to the pile of fan mail. Imagine the twinges of remorse, however, as she came to the realization that the theological giant from afar was an intensely earthy man up close and personal. Forget his hygiene challenges. Luther was given to moodiness and depression, suffered from insomnia, had rumbling bowel disorders, and worked best when he was in a full rowling rage. “I find nothing that promotes work better than angry fervor. For when I wish to compose, write, pray and preach well, I must be angry. It refreshes my entire system, my mind is sharpened, and all unpleasant thoughts and depression fade away.”

We have names for this. Imagine a husband with such anger issues. Meanwhile, Katharina had the household to look after—without rotisserie chickens from Costco. Their cloister home would eventually be filled with six of their own children, an aunt and several nieces, four adopted children, as well as a number of student borders. And “my lord Katie,” as Luther came affectionately to call her, had to feed them all.  With wonder in his tone, he extolled his wife to a friend, “She plants our fields, pastures and sells cows...” He went on to explain that this included slaughtering their pigs, chickens, even the cows, making sausages, cheese, and even brewing her own special beer, custom crafted to be gentle on her husband’s bowels. What is more, their son Paul who would become a physician, swore by his mother’s mastery of natural cures for every ailment, even massage.

When did the woman sleep? On top of all, Luther had given her a challenge to read through the whole Bible. “I have promised her fifty gulden if she finishes by Easter. She is hard at it and is at the end of the fifth book of Moses.” Her copy of the Bible when she first took it up must have fallen open on Proverbs 31.

These were two busy people, both of whom together accomplished a great deal. From giddy first love, they grew into true marriage love, seen in many specific ways, including the titles with which Luther referred to his wife. “To my beloved wife, Katherine, Mrs. Doctor Luther, mistress of the pig market, lady of Zulsdorf, and whatsoever other titles may befit thy Grace.”
While Luther was rediscovering and proclaiming the doctrine of grace—justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—he was also rediscovering the sanctity of all of life and all walks of life. Perhaps it was Katie’s wholehearted application of herself to married life that helped Luther see that pig farmer or preacher, in God’s economy, both were sacred vocations to be done by his grace and for his glory alone.
But will Martin Luther, when God gives them children, help Katie with the diapers?
Part 4 REFORMATION ROMANCE: Let the Neighbors Laugh, Part 4, coming later this Reformation-tide 
Douglas Bond is author of a number of successful books, with LUTHER IN LOVE, forthcoming Winter, 2017, a biographical novel on Martin and Katharina Luther. Bond speaks at churches and conferences, and leads Church history tours, including the LUTHER 500 TOUR, June 15-25, 2017.

INKBLOTS, Small Apprentices Under the Supreme Master

Solzhenitsyn wrote what he knew
Inkblots--cool autumn evening, maple leaves carpeting the ground, and three women and three men this evening, several regulars absent--and missed. We tried not to have too much fun.

I warmed over some of my address from last weekend's Fiction Festival on Solzhenitsyn. "It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven" (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). I want, more and more, to see myself as a small apprentice, giddy with delight to serve the Supreme Master Artist.
It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.
Read more at:
It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.
Read more at:
It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.
Read more at:

Sophia led off on her first fiction story since high school. She warned us it was gritty but purposefully so, to show the beauty that change and transformation bring. There is tension and ugliness in the altercation between the husband and wife. I feel it. Sounds, car horn. Delilah undergoing a crushing comeuppance. Opening chapter, then backstory. What are the senses she uses? Descriptive narration is a bit too heavy but could be spread out more, integrated into the dialogue and the rising action, even adding it as descriptors to your attributions. Great reentry into fiction writing.

We talked about swearing in our writing. Should Christian writers ever have characters swear in their writing? Solzhenitsyn uses pretty coarse language in One Day, but then we should never justify doing something using an anecdote in place of hard evidence. I try to be guided by how the Bible depicts evil in speech and action. Do you think Cain swore at Abel as he was killing him, or Peter as he betrayed the Lord, or the coarse Roman soldiers driving the nails in Christ's hands? How does the Bible show me this? Never in a gratuitous fashion, never in a way that titillates, never in a way that glorifies the violence, or the cursing, or the betrayal. I don't want any word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph I ever write to serve as a stumbling block to readers, that nudges open the gateway and provides a conduit to sinning. For me, I don't want to write anything that sets me up to be fitted for new neck wear.

We discussed the tendency to put everything but the kitchen sink in our stories, a bad idea. John reads a later chapter of Saving Grace. Just like we used to... It's been a long time since we had a talk like this... Is this the best way to say this? Actually including the words in the dialogue is a set up for sentimentalism. It can feel sappy, inauthentic. We all know the feeling that comes over us when we hear it, a feeling that makes us want to divert our eyes, avoid eye contact with others in the room, that disjointed lurching inside of us that says, "Something is not working here."

How to fix it? Have her think this, not speak it. Saying it feels contrived. Her thinking it will seem perfectly natural. Grace has found Jesus and hopes that her boyfriend will too. Her lovely green eyes shone... Who is seeing this? When you move from your protagonist to someone seeing her eyes you derail the reader from the point of view you want him to see the world from. Next we are hit with a stunning revelation. Her mother had suffered the violation of a monster and aborted the child conceived by that violation. You have to change the name so that it does not violate the privacy of someone. Alisa said that you can use hard events from the past to inform the present, but here the mom's backstory overpowers Grace's story. Astute observation. I agree (though I don't think I could have put it that well). The mom's emotions are too raw for her to mentor her daughter. Sophia suggests that the mother be more veiled in her revelation with Grace filling in the gaps as she listens. Have the mom be more mature in her revelation. 

Alisa shared a bit of what is going on with the final editing and revision work on Swiftwater, her 1930s historical fiction novel, slated to release early 2017. There comes a point where it begins to feel over worked, too many cooks in the kitchen, to use a worn out metaphor, and how do you know if the editors are trustworthy? I always try to ask myself what is the kernel here? There must be some issue that needs my final attention in revision. Sorting out exactly what it is can be a challenge. We also talked about how there is no single author who does everything perfectly or even well. We need critics who go beyond simply stroking us for our strengths. Inkblots can helps us discover our strengths and hone them, and it can help us discover where the lead breaks on our pencil, our clunks, our default weaknesses that must be overcome.

Same pose as Solzhenitsyn...
On that note, I read two chapters from LUTHER IN LOVE, where I switch from first to third person, intentionally, when Katharina (first person) sets her pen to her memoir in third person. Why am I doing this? The climactic episode of the book is when the third person account meets Katie and Luther in their marriage. Up to that point in Luther's life she wasn't there. From then on it will continue from her primary point of view. Thanks Sophia for suggesting that Katharina needs more fleshing out in chapter 16. I will work on that.

I invite you to follow the sketches of Luther and Katharina's life I am writing in a series of blog posts around Reformation week called REFORMATION ROMANCE.

Next 'Blots meeting, November 8

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

REFORMATION ROMANCE: Pigtails On The Pillow, Part 2, by Douglas Bond

Lucas Cranach the Elder's paintings of Luther and Katharina

REFORMATION ROMANCE: Pigtails On The Pillow, Part 2, by Douglas Bond (Read Part 1 here)

Romance-challenged Luther was resolved to marry Katharina von Bora but seemingly without consulting her. What was she thinking of all this? Given up to the cloister when she was five (some accounts have her as young as three), Katharina had not even been around men for the majority of her twenty-six years. And forty-two-year-old Luther, well, he had been a celibate Catholic priest for over twenty years, a priest who had only heard the confession of two woman in that entire time. A marriage between two people so utterly inexperienced in even carrying on a conversation with the opposite sex was a matrimonial train wreck waiting to happen.

If ever a couple needed extensive premarital counseling it was Martin and Katharina. As far as anyone knows, however, they didn’t even have one session with their pastor (Luther was their pastor). Neither did they go out on a date: no pizza, no movie, no concert together. Where’s the romance, you may ask? Frankly, there wasn’t one, not by our standards. But then ought the standards of postmodernity to weigh in on anything, leastwise, matters of love, marriage, and sexual relations? Unlike the expectations of our enlightened world, Luther and Katie would have to do their falling in love in the years long after the last piece of cake was gone—or bratwurst, or stein was emptied.

“First love is drunken,” said Luther, “but when the intoxication wears off, then comes true marriage love.” If the Reformation was a revolution in theology—the recovery of the gospel was, after all, a recovery of true marriage love, Christ’s love for his bride the church—Luther’s marriage was about to be, for him, a revolution in everything. Including hygiene.

“Before I was married,” recalled Luther, “the bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat. But I worked so hard and was so weary I tumbled in without noticing it.” Imagine poor Katharina on their wedding night, Luther’s greasy, hulking form outlined on the bed sheets. And their first home together? It was not some cute furnished apartment overlooking Central Park. Katharina was stepping into yet another cloister, the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg, gifted to Luther by his patron Frederick the Elector of Saxony, a massive, drafty, medieval structure that had been purpose built for and entirely inhabited by males. At the risk of seeming intolerant, these were not just any males; they were German males, barbarian roughs in the opinion of the rest of refined Renaissance Europe. To add insult to injury, Luther’s colleague Carlstadt, fleeing the peasant’s revolt, came pounding on their door seeking refuge—on their wedding night!

Little wonder that Luther called marriage “the school of character.” No doubt, it was to be a lifetime tutorial that worked both ways. While Katharina had her work cut out for her living with a giant of a man like Luther, marriage would require still more radical adjustments for Luther. “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage,” he wrote. “One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.”

What joys and trials did Martin and Katharina face in their early years of marriage together? Read Mistress of the Pig Market (Part 3) coming later this Reformation Week.

Douglas Bond is author of a number of successful books, including forthcoming (Winter, 2017) LUTHER IN LOVE, a biographical novel on Martin and Katharina Luther. Bond who is available to speak at your church or conference, also leads Church history tours, including the LUTHER 500 TOUR, June 15-25, 2017.