Courage in the Face of Cool

I love Blanche Gunderson. Blanche Gunderson is my hero.

If you don’t know Blanche, put “New in Town” on your Netflix queue, pop it into your DVD player, sit back and prepare to be schooled in living your faith.

Blanche lives in New Ulm, Minnesota. She’s the office manager for a floundering factory. She wears themed sweatshirts, “crafts” in her kitchen with friends on Saturdays while her husband watches the Vikings game and drags Jesus into regular conversation. She’s plain, unassuming and someone “cool” people overlook, underestimate and take for granted.

When she meets the slick, city-girl (Rene Zelwegger) sent from corporate to save the Minnesota “hicks”, she asks her during their first car ride if she’s found Jesus.

“I didn’t know He was lost!” Rene retorts, laughing at her own smug, clever sophistication.

Blanche is undeterred. She’s not cool but she’s smart and she’s not lost. By the end of the movie, she’s not only shown the corporate queen what honesty, compassion and faithfulness look like, it’s Blanche’s humble tapioca recipe (lovingly created for her dieting husband) that saves Renee’s chic behind.

That movie made Blanche Gunderson my hero.

I grew up in the sixties, born into Camelot. The desire to be cool was filtered into my formula. Andy Griffith and the Beaver were my parent’s memories – I was Taxi, Barney Miller and NYPD Blue. I was That Girl. I was John Belushi and it was always Saturday Night Live.

When I arrived at church, the party started. My generation threw out matching hats, kid gloves and suits on Sunday. We were blue jeans in the pew and guitars on the altar. We had Godspell and we made Jesus a superstar with serious electric riffs and a Broadway score. We didn’t knock on doors, no way, my people pioneered friendship evangelism – how cool does that sound?

Now, though, I’ve met Blanche Gunderson and I’m a changed woman.

Because for Blanche, Jesus holds all the cards on cool. She’s just a woman in love with a great God. She shares the truth easily because she knows it’s the truth and because she’s not trying to guard her own image. She’s undaunted in the face of the cool kid. She’s unafraid in the face of someone with better hair, lower body fat and bigger dreams. She sees through the perfect make-up and clever comebacks and speaks directly to the hungry soul who needs Jesus (and a big bowl of tapioca). She knows the judgment coming back at her. She’s not oblivious to the put-downs and condescension but she’s bold in the Lord and keeps coming with love, home-made cards and dessert pudding. She’s a champion for Christ.

I know she’s a fictional character in a Hollywood movie but someone out there wrote Blanche into being so someone inspired her. I have a few Blanche’s in my world and now I aspire to be one, too.

I’ve been courting cool all my life but Blanche showed me the error of my ways. There’s only one in-crowd I’m aiming to join and they’re all Jesus lovers and unashamed to bring Him up in regular conversation like sports and headlines and the latest movie.

In Mark chapter 8, Jesus says this: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Blanche Gunderson has given me the courage to be uncool and I am spurred on to work Jesus into more daily conversations. Why shouldn’t I? I think about Him more than sports (even football), headlines and the latest movies.

How about you? Are you ready to renounce cool? It’s a harder calling than you’d think it should be. Try it this week.

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    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    I think I am “uncool” most of the time, but I have become quite secure in that spot. We all need to be the person GOD created us to be and be comfortable in that person. So many of us tried living our lives being cool, fitting in, etc. It just doesn’t work or it didn’t for me.
    Great post!
    Blessings and hugs, andrea

  2. Sarah says:

    Hey Lori- Jon and I saw that movie recently and thought it was great. Blanche was bold and unashamed in her approach to others regarding the gospel, or anything for that matter. However, I did not see her as the uncool character. She was the honest, hardworking, loving, caring, mother, friend and wife. She was on the “hero” level for me too. (to a degree) You too are cool in the way you write and live to inspire others with the word of God. As Christians, we should seek to flip secularism on it’s head- The Word of God tells us how to be loving, honest, hardworking, wise, kind and yes, even cool. I do not think that we have Popular culture is not cool, sin is not cool. As Christians in a fallen world we should not seek to renounce cool, we should redefine it. The world belongs to God and we are his and his truth is the coolest truth any of us could even know.

  3. Good for you, Andrea! You keep going with who you are and what you do!

  4. Very cool comment, Sarah! I love your facebook comments about homeschooling your kids. Brings back wonderful memories. Redefine cool! I love that. I think I’ll make that my new signature – Lori Stanley Roeleveld, redefining cool.

  5. Jackie says:

    Lori, I have to see that movie now! This post pretty much describes exactly where I’m at right now…courting cool…I like the idea of redefining cool and being comfortable with who I am and with my relationship to God…unashamedly so! Thanks, once again, for your insights!


  6. I wish there was a fast forward button to “comfortable in one’s own skin”, don’t you. I’ll be praying for your efforts, Jackie. Don’t give up.

  7. Cheri says:

    Lori!!!! I love it! I want to join the redefining cool club. I spent so much of my younger years trying to be “cool,” and then many of my later years looking down on those who were, because I felt rejected… neither approach is pleasing to my Father!

    I added New in Town to my Netflix queue, and I’m getting ready to take my first class!


  8. We should definitely start a “redefining cool club”. This seems to have hit a chord with many of us who group up with the Fonz – could there be a connection?

  9. Cheri says:

    Hmmmm…………. could be!

  10. Heather says:

    As someone who grew up post-Fonz, I hope we don’t swing all the way back on the pendulum to the way it was pre-60s. All of you are right – the answer isn’t in being anti-cool, but in redefining cool. We can never, ever throw out the baby with the bath water, but examine everything according to the light of Scripture. I believe we must learn how to communicate the eternal, unchanging Truth with the contemporary generation. And there’s a lot of room for various approaches without compromising.

  11. Cheri says:

    Heather said: “I believe we must learn how to communicate the eternal, unchanging Truth with the contemporary generation. And there’s a lot of room for various approaches without compromising.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    The most important thing is that we share the truth and not be intimidated into silence by perceived rejection.


    PS – Sorry, Lori. I’m not trying to take over your blog. I just wanted to let Heather know I thought she made a great point. =)

  12. I love this movie! And Blanche is truly someone I’d love to sit down and eat tapioca with. (It took me about a week to stop using a Minnesota accent after watching that movie!)I, too, loved how she stood up for who she was and what she believed no matter what. Great post, Lori!

  13. Rock on, Cheri! Excellent advice!

  14. Love that perspective, Heather! As you can see from this site, I’m not opposed to interacting with current culture. 🙂

  15. I’ve been craving tapioca since I saw the movie, Jen! Thanks for your comment.

  16. Heather says:

    I was going to use your blog as an example of interacting with the culture, Lori! But I couldn’t think of how to put it into words in a short fashion. Keep going, sister!

  17. Thank you, Heather. Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll keep going.