Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane ...

... I'm pretty sure when I'll be back again, but, as James admonished in his epistle, I ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and return on Monday, January 30."

At last, we are leaving the giant rat and the cowardly cat to fight it out, and we are journeying to Ottawa, ON via MA, NH and VT. All this in pursuit of another Carolyn Arends/Spencer Capier concert experience. Plus, we get to meet a long time Internet friend and fellow admirer of the mighty triumvirate of female wordsmiths (that would be Carolyn Arends, Jane Austen, and L.M. Montgomery, in case you didn't know), vermonster. She is no monster, according to Carolyn herself, who, legend has it, once received from vermonster a jug of Vermont Maple Syrup so large that she is still using it on her pancakes years later. This promises to be a delightful trip.

I am very guilty of blog neglect, but I take comfort in knowing that, since most of us have many blogs we read regularly, a paucity of posts here makes little difference to anyone other than my muse (who is sitting and sulking in the corner as you read this). Here are some things I have wanted to post about at length, but haven't yet, and may never before they are pushed aside by more pressing events:

The March for Life in Olympia on January 18, 2006: Sadie and I attended sans Jason this year. The pro-life crowd was gloriously huge! This was the largest turnout I've ever seen at a March for Life, and it was most heartening to witness. As I wrote in an e-mail to Joelle, I was fully expecting that -- with Judge Alito's upcoming confirmation and the overturning of Roe vs. Wade looking more and more like a blessed future reality instead of a pipe dream -- the turnout would be smaller, with many pro-lifers lulled into cheerful complacence. Boy, was I wrong! The peaceful gathering spread out to fill the capitol steps and much of the pavement surrounding the building. It was so wonderful to see that most of the faces were under forty-years-old. Women my age and younger, who have lived our whole lives with the slaughter of innocents enshrined as a right, who have seen our generations thinned out by mass-murder called "choice," are now leading the way to end this travesty and restore liberty to this land.

My only complaint about the March this year, was that the rally was so Christo-centric. Please do not get me wrong. I think that believers' lives should always be Christo-centric. But, in a fight like this one, we do not need to alienate the Jewish believers, the Muslims, the atheists, the agnostics, the Buddhists, etc. So, on one hand, my heart swelled with joy to hear the name of the Most High proclaimed in the capital of a state where He is often ignored. On the other, I felt a twinge for the marchers who did not share our beautiful faith in Jesus. Of course, the Catholics have been the group most responsible for holding together and promoting the pro-life view throughout the dark years, so if they want to pray "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys," it is their due for the long years of keeping the flame from burning out. I only wish that the speakers had been more varied.

The anti-lifers, pro-abortionists were there too, but they seemed even more irrelevant this year, though they were even more obscene. They haven't too much to worry about, actually. When Roe vs. Wade is overturned, Washington will still allow legal abortion -- God forgive us all. Since this state is so reactionary about this issue, it will probably have the most liberal abortion laws in the country, outside of New York and California. Maybe even less restrictive than California, come to think of it. There is a large pro-life group of Latino-Americans in California that will speak up for the littlest ones.

Gehenna by Paul Thigpen: Andrea recommended this book a few weeks ago. I got it from the library last week and read it in two days. It is a fast-paced religious thriller. Basically, the plot is an updating of Dante's Inferno, made relevant to the prevalent sins of today. The protagonist, Thomas, is an agnostic professor of theology at an Atlanta, GA seminary who, while running in fear of his life, takes a wrong turn and falls farther than he had imagined possible. After regaining consciousness in a colorless underworld, he approaches a manhole, looking for a way back. Across the manhole cover, he sees the words: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE. Soon, an old, small, serene woman appears and begins to guide him through the circles of what he comes to find is Hell.

This book is gripping and chilling. Some parts made me gasp with conviction, such as when Thomas met face-to-face with the demon judge of souls: His hooded eyes flashed and burned a hole through mine, piercing all the way through to my brain. He had me. I couldn't look away, and the guilty revelations exploded from my mouth against my will: "Fornication, gluttony, greed, rage, heresy ..." I reached the end of the list quickly, and his wire-stitched fingers latched around my throat. (p. 66) I could easily see myself in Thomas' place, a confession of my wretched sins pulled from my unwilling lips by a power beyond me. How my heart praised the blood covering of Jesus when I read those words!

Some parts made me weep with heartache, such as the author's description of the Lake of Innocents: When we reached the water's edge, I saw what the bubbles held.

Babies. Millions of unborn and newborn babies.

"This is the grisly harvest of your century, Thomas. These were murdered by their own parents, the victims of abortion, infanticide and what your people so glibly call 'fetal harvesting.' Here they rest for a season in a womb safe at last from the selfishness of the mothers who rejected them, the fathers who hired killers to take their lives."

As far as I could see to the horizon, the babies floated, wave after gentle wave of countless little bodies, perfectly formed and still.

I had to sit down.

Miss C. remained standing. "I have heard of King Herod's slaughter of the innocents. He has a place now in the flames below. But far below him, in torturous pains of conscience Herod has never even dreamed of, lie the mothers and fathers who had their babies poisoned, dismembered, sold for body parts -- for the sake of their own convenience or profit.

"Tell me, Thomas: How could you have lived in such a land, where such a crime was protected by law?" (p.59)

She might as well have said, "Tell me, Justine, how do you live in this land?" What a call to conscience never to cease to speak up and fight against this travesty of justice and liberty!

But then came the tears of joy: "You said that they rest here for a season. Do they leave, then?" ...

Her face brightened. "Yes. The messengers come for the children and take them away."

"To heaven?"

"To Him. They say the babies play around His throne."

"Why don't the children go there as soon as they die?"

"They have purposes to accomplish here first. But they are not here long. Even heaven's patience has its limits, and He is eager to hold them." (p. 60)


The book is written with many of the questions that Thomas poses to his guide, Capopia, justifiably left unanswered. I have never read Inferno, but now I have been inspired to pursue it. My main quarrel with the book is that Hell is written in such a way that makes God seem almost petty in His punishment of sin. I think that the author tries valiantly to make the souls consigned to Hell reprehensible enough to warrant the eternal punishment they are given. It is just so hard for me to believe that the Lord of Life and Love who I know through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the kind of God who saw me dead in my sin and restored me to Him through unmerited grace, could allow the torment of souls created in His image for an eternity. Maybe that is why Dante wrote Inferno as only one part of his trilogy, The Divine Comedy. Maybe Hell does seem petty when taken alone, and can only be understood by journeying also through Purgatory (if such a place exists) and into Paradise.

In any event, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. Absolutely enthralling! My thanks to Andrea, and a hearty recommendation. This is the sort of book that you want to discuss afterward and chew it over with others, both points of agreement and disagreement. It will never leave you.

A Prayer for Owen Meany: I awoke this morning thinking again of this wretched book. Vermonster has invited Carolyn Arends and Spencer Capier to lunch before Saturday's concert, giving some of their fans the opportunity to "treat [them] to a meal when they have kept our souls so well fed all these years with their beautiful music." I just quoted myself, which is, I've been told, geeky and narcissistic. Oh well. Anyway, this will be the first time I've seen Carolyn Arends since she recommended A Prayer for Owen Meany last summer at camp. I feel slightly queasy and nervous about this, since I detested the book so much. I suppose I could just not bring up books at all, but I do so want to let her know how much I loved The Jesus I Never Knew, and how much I appreciated her recommendation of it. But that might bring the uncomfortable follow-up inquiry: "And, did you have a chance to read Owen Meany?" Or, it might not. But, if it does, I need to be prepared to put the sentiment, "I thought that it was the most putrid heap of literary fertilizer that I'd read since Light in August," into more gentle terms.

Then, like a blessed bolt from the blue, I found this comment on my ancient Owen Meany review:
Came across your blog when I was actually searching for Eddie Askew painting retreats. Totally agree that "A Prayer for Owen Meany" was a dreadful book, I just couldn't believe in his character. It was the first book we had to read for a readers' group a few years ago. I was the only one who didn't like it, probably the only Christian in the group too...
An incomparably better book is Eddie Askew's recent autobiography, "The Edge of Daylight"
Linda, Scotland

I was beginning to feel all alone. Not only do Carolyn, Rich and Flicka like the book, I was reminded by my friend Kadie that she likes the book too. Now, I have an unexpected ally in the anti-Owen camp. I couldn't be more tickled. I had always said that Scottish people tend to be filled with common sense and excellent literary judgement. Or, at least, I'm going to start saying that.

Well, peace to all. Any prayers you could spare for a safe and non-tantrum-filled travelling experience would be mightily appreciated. Six-hour flights with toddlers, then ten-hour road-trips with same, do not the most relaxing of vacations make. At least there will be no rats. There had better not be!

Write often, write passionately, and I look forward to reading your wit, insight, passion and persuasion when, if the Lord wills it, we return.

Some photos from last year's appearance at the venue to which we will soon be travelling are posted below for you poor souls who have never experienced the wonder and power of a live concert of Carolyn Arends and Spencer Capier. Please note Carolyn's rock star pants (which, I confess, are one of the main attractions of seeing a live show). Photos were stolen fair and square from DC Presentations, the hosts of Saturday night's concert:

I can never get pics this good at concerts. I hate to use a flash, and my seats are usually too far away. These serve to illustrate reality much better than anything I'll ever get.


Andrea said...

First of all, have a wonderful, safe trip and a fun time at the concert! Here's hoping Sadie will not be too overstimulated - no meltdowns!

And of course we miss your posts! I check this blog all day long on the off-chance that you've posted something new. You're good at this blog thing, Justine.

I'm glad you liked the book. Finally some people to discuss it with! I also was left with the humbling realization that I too *deserve* to be on one "level" or another, but that a steep price was paid for me. Focusing solely on this underworld place will necessarily mean that some of the message will be a bit incomplete. And there's so much to cover too. I think it does accomplish that "what punishment do I deserve?" kind of thought. Speaking of punishment, I can see where you can glean a feeling of pettiness, but for me, it was simply an extension of the selfishness with which one lives one's life in this world. Kind of like how the Lord will turn people loose to pursue their own desires. Or, "you made your bed, now sleep in it." It just hits especially close to home when I read through the sins that I know I'm guilty of. Praise God for His precious Son! Some of the imagery're right, it just doesn't leave you. Remember the flatterers? Or the people who spent their lives sowing hate and division? Capopia herself is a clear image in my mind. And the Lake of Innocents...I can't even imagine :(

I'm also really inspired to read The Divine Comedy. In fact, I'm going to try to pick it up this weekend if I can.

And you have a great weekend too! Can't wait till you get back and chime in on the book some more :)

Arielle said...

I certainly hope you have fun, Justine!

Speaking of recommended books, I finished Grover Cleveland: His Life and Presidencies and enjoyed it tremendously. Thanks for the recommendation!

CrazyJo said...

Yay, a nice long Justine-post! :)
Hope you had a blast at the concert - though that probably goes without saying.
I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to reply to your email yet. I've been away from internet access since early last week.
I'm still reading Gehenna. I usually breeze through books, but this one is a lot harder to go through all at once for me. There's a lot to think about, and it's also a sobering subject matter. I was thinking of posting on it when I finished, but I think you've done a much better job than I would have. :)

Amigo said...

I don't know about California regarding abortion. While there may be a group of Hispanic pro-lifers, I've noticed two new Planned Parenthood offices that recently opened in OC, in areas with a Hispanic majority population. Marge Sanger always wanted to get rid of the brown-skinned ones.