Monday, March 28, 2005

The Unexpected Poetry of Prose

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not much for poetry. My favorite "poet" is Ogden Nash ("Doggerel!" my father exclaimed jocularly when I confessed this fact), and recently, when I forced myself to read Tennyson's "Enoch Arden," I was nearly lulled into comatosity. I sometimes think that people only write poetry when they lack the musical ability to write songs or the structural discipline to write short stories or novels or essays. Yes, some poets work within other genres, but please note that those poets are usually best known for their accomplishments in those other (more enjoyable) genres (e.g. Shakespeare, Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery). There are some poems that have stirred my soul (I'm not a complete philistine, you know), but, in general, my assessment of poetry is, "Those who can, write. Those who cannot, compose poetry."

Sometimes, though, I run across something in the prosy line that just reads to me like what poetry should be - beautiful ebb and flow of words with solid, rock-hard sense running underneath like a current - ideas presented so uniquely and mellifluously that the form they take transcends the subject and becomes art. This is the poetry to which I am drawn - poetry of meaningful communication and not just a bunch of flowery claptrap. One such piece is an open letter I found on the website of Libertarians for Life ( It is not surprising to find that these words were penned by a musician, since they are alive with music. I am posting them here (with all due credit to the source) for your reading pleasure.

An Open Letter to Eddie Vedder
When is a woman not a woman?
Therein lies the only clear refutation of a woman’s rights.
A woman’s rights —
seems a mere tautology, a redundant catch phrase.
Are not rights self evident?
Intrinsic assumptions of the inalienable?
So, when is a woman not a woman,
a right not a right?
When she doesn’t exist.
When does a woman become a woman?
Is it when her first ballot has been cast?
Or when she graduates from her class?
Is it when she makes a wish on her sweet sixteenth?
Would I be amiss if it were her first kiss?
Is it when she’s diagnosed by the boy next door?
Or as ambiguous as the cutting of the cord?
Is it the time it takes to travel the distance through the canal?
Or when she’s kicking and becomes viable?
Is it when her sex is discovered by a sonogram?
Or after eight weeks when the changes in her body will be mainly in dimension?
Is it when her brain waves are detected after 40 days?
Or is it around three weeks when her primitive heart beats?
Can there be only one true line of demarcation?
One finite measurable point in time that differentiates
life from non-life?
Womanhood from non-womanhood?
Rights from no right?
Is it the moment of conception —
that point when all of the above is set in motion?
That precise moment when
"a separate human individual, with her own genetic code,
needing only food, water, and oxygen, comes into existence"?
It is at that point,
"like the infant, the child, the adolescent,
that the conceptus is a being who is becoming,
not a becoming striving toward being.
She is not a potential life,
she is a life with great potential".
She is not the mother,
she is an other —
a somebody other than the mother.
A woman,
however beautiful, however complex when fully grown,
begins life as a single cell, a zygote —
that stage in human development through which we all pass.
She fulfills "the four criteria necessary to all life —
metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.
Her genetic makeup is established at conception,
determining to a great extent
her own individual, physical characteristics":
her eyes, her hair, her skin color, bone structure, her gender.
So let us not be confused,
"she did not come from a zygote — she once was a zygote.
She did not come from an embryo, she once was an embryo.
She did not come from a fetus, she once was a fetus".
She did not come from a little girl — she once was a little girl.
When is a woman not a woman?
The answer is absolute, non-negotiable.
To argue against would be to ignore the innate,
the fact of the matter.
The answer can never be a matter of opinion or choice.
This is not a metaphysical contention.
This is biology 101.
The answer is scientifically self-evident —
as inherent as the inalienable.
the ability to pursue happiness
is contingent upon liberty —
her liberty,
and her freedom is solely dependent upon
the mother of all human rights...
the right of life.

Gary Cherone
(June 1999)
[Quotations by Francis J. Beckwith]
Copyright ©1999, Gary Cherone
Credit for source must be given to Rock for Life.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Angriest Pro-Lifer - An Appreciation of Jill Stanek

A little while ago, shortly after writing my post Choose? Life, I e-mailed it to Dave Andrusko of NRLC, a man I respect so heartily for his commitment everyday to shining the light of truth on the darkness of abortion (and other disregardings of the sanctity of life). He was kind enough to e-mail me back that he appreciated my thoughtfulness on the issue of the phrase "choose life," but that the goal was to be gently non-judgmental when confronting prospective aborting women. And that is all well and good, and I can understand his point of view and the way that the NRLC attempts to walk the fine line between effective communication of the horror of abortion and not offending the very people they most want to reach. The NRLC is a wonderful tool for pro-lifers who need resources to fight the genteel fight in the nicest possible way - you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, bless those who curse you, love your enemies, etc.

BUT, sometimes I just get so angry! So very angry with those who willfully destroy life at its most vulnerable stages. I don't want to play Ms. Nice Person; I want to take the gloves off and call those child murderers what they are. I get tired of having endless sympathy for women who abort. I get tired of the new pro-life trend of seeing them as victims as much as the children they hired hit men to kill. I get tired of pro-lifers letting the other side dictate the terms from which any discussion originates. I get so angry I shake. Sometimes, while just sitting there, minding my own business, it hits me that in America today, women are allowed to kill at will their children, and that fact never ceases to stun me, to knock the very breath out of me. It is so opposite of everything that this country was founded upon, and yet it is treated with such a sense of blase. So, when a mood like this overwhelms me, and I simply cannot bear it any longer, I take pleasure in the writings of Jill Stanek - the angriest pro-lifer of all.

Ms. Stanek is wonderful. Her writings are sharp, prickly, full of the moral indignation with which I so fully empathize. She is merciless when it comes to exposing the real bankruptcy of the pro-abortion death-mongers. She pulls no pinpricks, let alone punches. Every aspect of what the reality of legal, on-demand abortion has been in our deluded country is ruthlessly (and often quite wittily - as humorously as possible when the topic is infanticide) examined, and every shadow of our national abortion shame has a flood-light shone upon it. She writes movingly, heart-wrenchingly, concisely, convincingly, and with such refreshing anger and candor. I admire her so greatly. Her writings are such an outlet for my turbulent emotions - she gives a voice to my heart's cries of anguish.

Visit her site and read her columns at

I do not think that anger in this instance is misplaced. Jesus Himself had appropriate anger - He was angered by all affronts to His Father and religious hypocrisy, and I'll bet He's very much angered by all the people out there playing God today by deciding that they are the ultimate arbiters of life. Of course, Jesus will offer grace and forgiveness to abortionists and women who have had abortions, just as He offers grace and forgiveness to all truly repentant sinners. I do think that God wants us to experience our anger and then make steps toward resolving it, though. Be angry and do not sin: do no let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27). So, it is right for me to feel this anger, to let it strengthen my resolve to do all I can to end this atrocity, then to let it go. Ms. Stanek's writings are just such the catalyst I need to vent my darker frustrations, and the NRLC is just the support frame I need to re-arm positively for the battle ahead. God is so gracious to give me and other pro-lifers these tools.

Please, Lord Jesus, forgive our country.

Plus Ca Change, Plus Ce La Meme Chose...

The following column, written by George Will, appeared April 2, 1982. Read it and, alas, weep.

The Killing Will Not Stop
The baby was born in Bloomington, Ind., the sort of academic community where medical facilities are more apt to be excellent than moral judgments are. Like one of every 700 or so babies, this one had Down's syndrome, a genetic defect involving varying degrees of retardation and, sometimes, serious physical defects.

The baby needed serious but feasible surgery to enable food to reach its stomach. The parents refused the surgery, and presumably refused to yield custody to any of the couples eager to become the baby's guardians. The parents chose to starve their baby to death. Their lawyer concocted an Orwellian euphemism for this refusal of potentially life-saving treatment—"Treatment to do nothing." It is an old story: language must be mutilated when a perfumed rationalization of an act is incompatible with a straightforward description of the act.

Indiana courts, accommodating the law to the Zeitgeist, refused to order surgery, and thus sanctioned the homicide. Common sense and common usage require use of the word "homicide." The law usually encompasses homicides by negligence. The Indiana killing was worse. It was the result of premeditated, aggressive, tenacious action, in the hospital and in courts.

Such homicides can no longer be considered aberrations, or culturally incongruous. They are part of a social program to serve the convenience of adults by authorizing adults to destroy inconvenient young life. The parents' legal arguments, conducted in private, reportedly emphasized— what else?—"freedom of choice." The freedom to choose to kill inconvenient life is being extended, precisely as predicted, beyond fetal life to categories of inconvenient infants, such as Down's syndrome babies.

There is no reason—none—to doubt that if the baby had not had Down's syndrome the operation would have been ordered without hesitation, almost certainly, by the parents or, if not by them, by the courts. Therefore the baby was killed because it was retarded. I defy the parents and their medical and legal accomplices to explain why, by the principles affirmed in this case, parents do not have a right to kill by calculated neglect any Down's syndrome child—regardless of any medical need—or any other baby that parents decide would be inconvenient.

Indeed, the parents' lawyer implied as much when, justifying the starvation, he emphasized that even if successful the surgery would not have corrected the retardation. That is, the Down's syndrome was sufficient reason for starving the baby. But the broader message of this case is that being an unwanted baby is a capital offense.

In 1973 the Supreme Court created a virtually unrestrictable right to kill fetuses. Critics of the ruling were alarmed because the court failed to dispatch the burden of saying why the fetus, which unquestionably is alive, is not protectable life. Critics were alarmed also because the court, having incoherently emphasized "viability," offered no intelligible, let alone serious, reason why birth should be the point at which discretionary killing stops. Critics feared what the Indiana homicide demonstrates: the killing will not stop.

The values and passions, as well as the logic of some portions of the "abortion rights" movement, have always pointed beyond abortion, toward something like the Indiana outcome, which affirms a broader right to kill. Some people have used the silly argument that it is impossible to know when life begins. (The serious argument is about when a "person" protectable by law should be said to exist.) So what could be done about the awkward fact that a newborn, even a retarded newborn, is so incontestably alive?

The trick is to argue that the lives of certain kinds of newborns, like the lives of fetuses, are not sufficiently "meaningful"—a word that figured in the 1973 ruling—to merit any protection that inconveniences an adult's freedom of choice.

The Indiana parents consulted with doctors about the "treatment" they chose. But this was not at any point, in any sense, a medical decision. Such homicides in hospitals are common and will become more so now that a state's courts have given them an imprimatur. There should be interesting litigation now that Indiana courts—whether they understand this or not—are going to decide which categories of newborns (besides Down's syndrome children) can be killed by mandatory neglect.

Hours after the baby died, the parents' lawyer was on the "CBS Morning News" praising his clients' "courage." He said, "The easiest thing would have been to defer, let somebody else make that decision."

Oh? Someone had to deliberate about whether or not to starve the baby? When did it become natural, even necessary, in Indiana for parents to sit around debating whether to love or starve their newborns? The lawyer said it was a "no-win situation" because "there would have been horrific trauma— trauma to the child who would never have enjoyed a —a quality of life of—of any sort, trauma to the family, trauma to society." In this "no-win" situation, the parents won: the county was prevented from ordering surgery; prospective adopters were frustrated; the baby is dead. Furthermore, how is society traumatized whenever a Down's syndrome baby is not killed? It was, I believe, George Orwell who warned that insincerity is the enemy of sensible language.

Someone should counsel the counselor to stop babbling about Down's syndrome children not having "any sort" of quality of life. The task of convincing communities to provide services and human sympathy for the retarded is difficult enough without incoherent lawyers laying down the law about whose life does and whose does not have "meaning."

The Washington Post headlined its report: "The Demise of 'Infant Doe'" (the name used in court). "Demise," indeed. That suggests an event unplanned, even perhaps unexplained. ("The Demise of Abraham Lincoln"?) The Post's story began: "An Indiana couple, backed by the state's highest court and the family doctor, allowed their severely retarded newborn baby to die last Thursday night. . . ." But "severely retarded" is a misjudgment (also appearing in The New York Times) that is both a cause and an effect of cases like the one in Indiana. There is no way of knowing, and no reason to believe, that the baby would have been "severely retarded." A small fraction of Down's syndrome children are severely retarded. The degree of retardation cannot be known at birth. Furthermore, such children are dramatically responsive to infant stimulation and other early interventions. But, like other children, they need to eat.

When a commentator has a direct personal interest in an issue, it behooves him to say so. Some of my best friends are Down's syndrome citizens. (Citizens is what Down's syndrome children are if they avoid being homicide victims in hospitals.) Jonathan Will, 10, fourth-grader and Orioles fan (and the best Wiffle-ball hitter in southern Maryland), has Down's syndrome. He does not "suffer from" (as newspapers are wont to say) Down's syndrome. He suffers from nothing, except anxiety about the Orioles' lousy start.

He is doing nicely, thank you. But he is bound to have quite enough problems dealing with society—receiving rights, let alone empathy. He can do without people like Infant Doe's parents, and courts like Indiana's asserting by their actions the principle that people like him are less than fully human. On the evidence, Down's syndrome citizens have little to learn about being human from the people responsible for the death of Infant Doe.
Please pray for Terri and her family.

The above was copied from "Today's News & Views" which is the excellent daily e-mail update I receive from Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life Committee. To its ending, I would add please pray for our misguided country, that we would be delivered from this culture of death that has encompassed our formerly noble nation. In a lot of ways, it all started with Roe vs. Wade in 1973...Roe has to go!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sadie and Jesus

"There's a world of wonders waiting in store just outside our door, but the greatest thing that we ever will do is kneel by your bedside and introduce you to the One Who first thought of the wonder of you, your Father in Heaven." --Carolyn Arends, "Your Father in Heaven" from the album We've Been Waiting For You: The Parenthood Project

This past Sunday, Sadie, who now goes to "big girl" Sunday school instead of the church nursery, had a poopy-butt when we retrieved her at the end of service. While I was changing her in the bathroom, I asked her conversationally what she had learned that day. She told me that she colored a picture of Jesus. Then she clasped her hands in front of her and told me that she had been taught how to pray to Jesus. That's just one of those moments you live for as a parent. I got all choked up, right in the middle of a diaper change in the church bathroom. She's learning how to pray to Jesus. Wow.

Last night, we had our first "official" goodnight prayers session together after her two bedtime stories and drink of water. I've been waiting since before I was even pregnant to share this moment with her. We knelt together and clasped our hands before us. I told her that I would start, and she could add whatever she wanted to say at the end. So I started by thanking Jesus for His gift of salvation, for another day of watching Sadie grow, for my marriage to Jason, for our respective families, for our house, our sustenance, our church, our community, our troops, our country, and so on. Then I asked Sadie if she would like to add anything else for which she was thankful. She added that she was thankful for the park and dogs. Then I asked for God's protection over our family's health and safety, and for Him to watch especially over the vulnerable children of the world, born and unborn. We said, "Amen!" and she crawled into bed for her lullabies. Another milestone reached. I am so grateful.

Then, just this morning, I was singing a song about Jesus, and Sadie suddenly said, "I love Jesus..." and, as I started to beam with motherly pride and gratitude, she made my jaw drop by adding, "...because Jesus is a bad-ass." Oh dear. Well, He is. But, I think we'll have to work this kink out before next Sunday...

On the Verge of a Miracle...

"The realisation that one is to be hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully. "
--Samuel Johnson

Isn't it amazing how, when people are faced with their own mortality, the chains that bind them to this world creak and crack and fall away and they are freed? Thank you so much for that post about Ray Charles - I don't read that magazine (Rolling Stone), nor do I listen to his music, but his words were very powerful and moved me incredibly (See: "Ray Charles on Praise" at Carolyn Arends's blog:

I had a similar experience with my mother on the day before she died. She had always said that when she died, she would have no regrets. She was not the sort of person who admitted to any kind of weakness easily. She had divorced two husbands and was on the verge of divorcing her third when she found out that her previously-in-remission breast cancer had spread to her liver, and she had about six months to live (in actuality, it was only three months). She did not have contact with two of her three brothers. She and I had recently ended a year of "not talking" and were trying to heal our often turbulent relationship. Even after the diagnosis, she was still her stubborn, hard-as-nails self, making me promise that I would not let either of her two estranged brothers into any memorial service we might plan. She had her death as well organized as her life. Not a thing happened that she hadn't carefully planned for. Every emotion that she had seemed to be well-ordered and accounted for. I felt somewhat foolish every time I broke into tears while talking to her. She seemed to approach death with the same detached impassivity that had left me so cold over the years. I had been a Christian for almost three years when this occured, and I had stumblingly tried to discuss my faith with my mother a few times, but had never felt that we were at the same dinner party, let alone having the same dish. I prayed and prayed for her peace and for God's grace to fall upon her. She never discussed anything with me, other than the practical "stuff of earth."

The night before she died was Thanksgiving. After a bleak and solemn meal with my to-be-husband and aunt and uncle (the one brother she talked to), I crept into my mother's bedroom, just to be still and close to her. The Hospice nurses had told us that she was practically in a coma, that the cancer had spread to her brain, and that she wouldn't be alive much longer. I just wanted to be alone with her, in the dark as we must have spent many an hour when I was a nursing baby or a toddler awakened by a bad dream or a sick child, to try to ponder the mystery that she had always been to me, and to be near her in love as she prepared to leave this world. I lay on the bed next to her, listening to her breathing, occasionally touching her in wonder that this vital woman, who had been to me almost like a force of nature, was now a shrunken shell.

Sometimes, God lets us be witnesses to miracles. He does it every time we bring a new, tiny, yelling baby into this world, and He did it that night for me and my mom. In the stillness, my mother, whom I had been told that I would never hear speak again, starting to call out. Her voice was rough and hoarse (I'm sure she hadn't much saliva available to speak well), but its cry was unmistakable. She was crying over and over, full of raw emotion, "Jesus, forgive me. Please forgive me, Jesus. Jesus...Jesus, forgive me. Jesus...Jesus...Please forgive me..." Over and over the words tumbled out of her, like the floodgates of life pouring out, and I felt His presence there as I never had before, even upon my own conversion. I trembled with awe (and finally understood the real meaning behind this phrase), and the atmosphere in the room suddenly grew lighter and easier somehow, as if the burdens my mother carried and the burden I had carried from years of a really rotten relationship with her were simply lifted. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. And I knew that my mother was closer to experiencing the full reality of life at that hour so close to her death than she had ever been in her busy and immaculately-planned existence.

Aside from the privilege of being mom to Sadie, this night six years ago stands out as the greatest blessing (among countless blessings) that I have ever been given. When my mother took her last earthly breath the following afternoon, I was able to be filled with hope in the midst of my grief. What a gift, not only for my mother to receive the Living Water of the Lord, but for Him to allow me to witness this intimate moment between Him and His child! He knew that I needed this as much as she, and He does not give us stones in lieu of bread. My mom...such a cool, self-sufficient, indomitable presence she had seemed to me her entire life. In the end, in her desperate crying out, when all her defenses were stripped bare, when all the barriers she had built up in this world had crumbled to dust, she found a God Who is so very good - His grace is, well, amazing - His mercy is boundless.

I'm glad that Ray Charles had a little more time than my mother to live with the eternal in sight. I hope that he was able to fall upon the grace of Jesus with a whole heart, knowing that forgiveness is always available. Who knows? Maybe we'll see him in concert soon (I'd like to see Keith Green and Ray Charles jamming on pianos with Rich Mullins on the hammered dulcimer, Carolyn Arends on guitar - and sax too! it is heaven after all - Spencer Capier on violin, with a whole angel choir singing backup - aren't you going to love concerts in His kingdom?). Jesus told us He was coming back quickly (God's version of "quickly" seems a little long, but this clay won't question the Potter), and I want to chime in with John, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" But He really does come so quickly, even in this late age, when you call His name ("When Your love comes down, You take my soul by storm - You take my soul by storm." --Carolyn Arends). I am so grateful that He still stands ready to open eyes and soften hearts.

Rich Mullins wrote such a great song that sums up so beautifully that moment before you know the Lord. I wasn't thinking of this song on the night my mother cried out - I was too deep in grief and regrets to think of anything other than the moment at hand - but I have never listened to this song since without remembering that night. I would like to copy the lyrics out, so you'll see what I mean:

"Verge of a Miracle"
Words and music by Rich Mullins
Copyrighted 1986 by BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP)

Clung to a ball that was hung in the sky
Hurled into orbit - there you are
Whether you fall down or whether you fly
Seems you can never get too far
Someone's waiting to put wings
Upon your flightless heart

You're on the verge of a miracle
Standing there - oh -
You're on the verge of a miracle
Just waiting to be believed in
Open your eyes and see
You're on the verge of a miracle

Here in your room where nobody can see
Voices are loud but seldom clear
But beneath the confusion that's running so deep
There is a promise you must hear
The love that seems so far away
Is standing very near

Repeat Chorus

When you've played out your last chance
And your directions have all been lost
When the roads that you look down are all dead ends
Look up - you could see if you just look up

What an incredible talent God housed in that clay vessel, Rich Mullins! The generosity of God is such that He shared him with us for as long as He did.

Peace to all...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Living the Simple Life with Gratitude, Not Guilt

I recently checked a book out of the library entitled, Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Children and the Joy of Parenting by Marie Sherlock. This sounded like my kind of book. My goal for Sadie (and our future children, D.V.) has always been to offer her a complete, old-fashioned kind of childhood - safe, secure, loving, carefree, wholesome, preserving her innocence, etc. I have long thought that the best way to do this is to live simply - taking joys and sorrows as they come - not complicating her young life with too many flashy toys or overwhelming situations - providing a haven against commercialization and materialism - instilling to the best of my abilities a sense of gratitude based upon strong faith. So far, this lifestyle has been easy to provide, but I know it will get more and more difficult as she gets older and more independent. So, I'm always on the lookout for tips from other parents for achieving this goal, which is why I picked up this book with more than a little interest.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get through the first three chapters before I had to give up in disgust. The lady who wrote this book seemed to have a chip on her shoulder that was a cinder block. Within the first three chapters that I read, she mentioned the current Bush administration three times, never flatteringly. Now, I can understand not liking the Bush administration, but what in the world does that have to do with raising children simply? I mean, I don't like some of the things that have been a part of this President's policies, but in some ways the administration has enhanced my ability to live a simple life. For instance, the tax cuts he advocated have been a real help to our family - any extra money we have to use in our single-income household or give to a charity of our choice is a welcome blessing and takes us closer to the kind of lives we want to live.

Another thing that really bothered me was the attitude throughout the three chapters that seemed to say that we should live simply because most of the rest of the world is in poverty and it's (somehow) all our fault as Americans. Many of the parents whom she quoted in the book were raising their children with this guilt-based philosophy, which I hardly think is a simple way to raise children. What is simple about weighing down a childhood with a sense of guilt everyday? That seems like a way to burden children that is unconscionable. How can children grow up with a sense of optimism and joy under such a dark cloud?

How much better would it be to raise children with gratitude instead of guilt? How much better to instill the virtues of earthly stewardship upon their hearts than the fear of ecological devastation? How much better to teach children to give much because they have been given much by God than to see third-world poverty as somehow their fault? How much better to choose walking and bicycle riding for transportation because of health and family-togetherness than to view automobiles as gas-guzzling destroyers? How much better to introduce them to living with and among animals and let their natural love for God's creation shine through than to somehow say that humans and animals are at odds, with humans always in the wrong?

To me, living simply is about making choices that will enhance your child's innate sense of wonder and joy at the world around them. I think that humans are naturally rather simple - God certainly made us naked and in a garden; what's more simple than that? I think that sin is what leads us to complicate our lives - that desire to over-think and over-do and over-use - to always be looking past what He gives to more, more, more ("I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want, than take what You give that I need." --Rich Mullins, "Hold Me, Jesus"). Also, the sin of wanting to be in control over everything, including other people, to "play God" in other words, is what leads to things like poverty, genocide, mass-disease, etc. If people everywhere were free, if they had economic liberty and political liberty and religious liberty, you would not see such widespread inequality among the nations.

I'll never forget the horrible problem of the starving Ethiopians in the 1980s. For a while, you couldn't turn around without seeing a tragic portrait of a starving child with a bloated belly besieged by flies and filth staring piteously out at you from a magazine cover. Developed nations everywhere, and the United States in particular (as always), sprung into immediate action - poured out their hearts and emptied their wallets at the plight of these innocents. My school had a fund-raiser to send money to a group who would send food to these poor souls. With great zeal, I eagerly followed the news stories of the relief efforts. I was horrified that children should die for lack of food and clean water. Food and supplies were sent in crate after crate after crate - and what happened? If I remember correctly, most of it sat, rotting on the Ethiopian tarmac, unable to reach the needy because a corrupt government was blocking distribution; the rest, I believe went directly to that corrupt government's storehouses and coffers. That taught me a fundamental lesson I shall never forget. I learned that there is not poverty in the world because Americans (read: Christians - those are the only Americans that the gloom-and-doomers like to blame for our manifold "evils") do not fulfill their call to action on behalf of the poor - there is poverty because most of the poor live under such wretched oppression - unable to receive that which Americans (Christians) so freely wish to give.

I do not feel guilty at all for the blessings I enjoy daily, but I am humbled by them and grateful for them. I think that if I were to feel guilty for these gifts, it would be an affront to the Giver. Living life well with a full and giving heart is the greatest proof of His grace. Because my heart is so filled with gratitude, its desire is to serve Jesus as He wills. This is the only way I've found that leads to joy and fulfillment, and it is because the Way found me that I can truly say that I have all that I need in this life. And what is more simple than that?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Fam Not-So Close Up Posted by Hello

The Fam Close Up Posted by Hello

Yeah - Whatcha want? Posted by Hello

Let me tell ya somethin', Paly! Posted by Hello

Monday, March 07, 2005

Our Last Great Hope

The greatest fighters for freedom today are homeschooling parents. They are the best hope for the future of America, perhaps even the last hope as we continue this slow, terrible slide into collectivism and banality. Though the term has been overused almost to the point of meaninglessness, I call these parents my heroes. The most heroic of this movement are the parents who fought in court for legal protection of homeschooling (mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, but today as well) and a terrific group called the HomeSchool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

If you really want to know what America should be, you need look no further than homeschoolers. These families are amazing. The parents are so dedicated to growing their children's minds and nurturing their innate abilities and curiosity. The children are so confident and positive and energetic. You can tell within a few moments of conversation that they are individuals with their own goals and dreams and directions. I have never met an obnoxious or anti-social homeschooled child (and I have met plenty over the years). They are comfortable around all ages, conversing as easily with adults as with toddlers - gentle, sweet, genuine. These are real kids, neat kids, the kinds of kids you always want to be around - comfortable in their own skin, becoming who they are.

It takes a lot of courage to homeschool your children, especially for the parents who really defined and modernized the movement 20-30 years ago, but, to some extent, even today. American society got sold the bill of goods on compulsory public education about 100 years ago, and most folks still cling to it like some sort of talisman of societal virtue or golden idol of democratic ideals. You can convince otherwise sane people that stupid ideas and misbegotten policies will miraculously work if they are implemented through the "gov'ment schools."

Somewhere along the line, a bunch of authoritarian meddlers decided that children should be made to go into a building (no matter what the weather was like outside) with 30 other kids their age (no matter what learning level they were currently at) and sit at tiny desks (no matter what their size or comfort level) and not talk or move around much for hours on end (no matter how much they wanted to exercise young bodies full of energy or young minds longing to interact) and stare at a chalkboard while listening to a droning voice and copy things over and over again as a group (no matter whether they understood the material an hour earlier or weren't yet ready for the material at all). This group-think kills - it kills innovation, curiosity, ingenuity, motivation, excitement, and imagination - it kills minds. Can you believe we do this to children starting at age six? I can think of no worse way to inspire a life-long love of learning in children.

Homeschooling parents know what other parents have forgotten - learning is as natural for children as breathing. There is nothing in the world more beautiful than guiding, facilitating, encouraging children to learn, to experience, to grow. "Homeschooling" is not a very good term for the miracle that occurs in almost 2 million households across America on a daily basis - not much of what goes on in these homes resembles anything like "school." There is no conformity, there is no collectivism, there are no hours of idleness, boredom and tedium. This is not to say that homeschooling is a bed of petunias or a gliding ride over calm waters - it's a tough, gutsy, sometimes rocky path, but the rewards (according to every homeschooling parent and child I've talked to) far, far outweigh the moments of frustration, exhaustion, doubt, and societal hostility.

And there still is quite a bit of hostility out there toward homeschoolers. Many folks of a statist bent have a vested interest in molding their idea of what a "good citizen" should be through the convenience of public school indoctrination, and they resent immensely anyone bucking their well-plotted system by raising children as thinking individuals. They've infiltrated most private schools with their daffy schemes and petty rules, and so they are content to leave them be. But homeschoolers are a very stubborn mule of a different color - rejecting the paternal state in all its "wisdom" and creating a vivid world of enrichment and stimulation for their children against which pea-green institutional walls, chalkboard dust, urine-scented public restrooms and asphalt-covered playgrounds can never compete.

What chaps their hides the most is how far the homeschoolers outshine publicos in any sort of scholarly test, proving, of course, these gov'ment experts' obsolescence and general insignificance. Nobody likes to be discarded as irrevelant, least of all would-be educational messiahs who dispense their theories and practices to the unwashed masses with great condescension and smugness. They want you to believe that you cannot teach your children - that they will be deprived of an education that only a "professional" can provide - that they will grow up to be emotionally maladjusted - that they will never get into a good college with only a "homeschooled diploma" - that they will be miserable introverts who will never make it in this scary world. Don't you believe them!! Anyone with common sense, a nurturing heart, a natural curiosity, a true commitment to their children's development as individuals, and a whole lot of gumption can teach their children. Heck, those qualifications alone make you a better "teacher" than 90% of those with degrees in education!

As a future homeschooling mom, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the brave and dedicated parents who paved the way to bring homeschooling out of the shadows and into the light as a viable (and truly preferable) educational alternative. I will have it so easy, compared to my predecessors. Most of them have only their own consciences and (at least one hopes) their children to say, "Good job!" and "Thank you!" and "You have really made a difference," and "You've made the world a better place." Because, they have made the world a better place. Children who grow up to be critical thinkers, strong individuals, well-grounded in their sense of themselves and their ties to their families and communities, forever curious and confident and optimistic - those are the children who are going to be the hope of the future - perhaps our last great hope.