Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Other Half of the Analogy

Every once in a while, a friend who is not a believer will challenge me with the statement: So, since you're a Christian, that must mean that you believe that husbands should be able to control and oppress their wives. Aren't you commanded to submit to your husband? And how do you like that?

It always makes me a bit sad that such a beautiful passage in Scripture has been so perverted in this post-feminist cultural worldview that says that women should just do whatever the hell they want, hang the opinion and desires of their husbands, and, should their husbands object, well, that's why we have liberal divorce laws, isn't it? And, why do we even have those pesky little patriarchs around in the first place, anyway?

In fact, the responsibility for this perversion of the beautiful analogy that Paul presents -- that earthly marriage between a man and a woman should reflect the relationship of Christ and His bride, the church -- can be laid to a large extent on certain Christians' having pounded the first part into the culture's consciousness, while down-playing the second, much more difficult to fulfill, admonition. When you stop to think about what is written in Ephesians 5:22-33, you realize that the greater burden in this comparison falls upon husbands. Here is the text, from the New King James translation:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her [emphasis mine], 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

How well would you fulfill the charge to love anyone as Christ loves the church? Especially someone that you live with, day in and day out, year after year, seeing them at their worst, at their least attractive, at their most annoying? I know that I fall short of Christian love in much less stressful and demanding situations than that every day, and, yet, my husband is to love me with that unfailing, unfaltering love for the rest of my life. Does he fulfill that charge faithfully without ever stumbling or falling short of such a lofty ideal? Of course not. He is as human and prone to sin as any of us. But, since he uses Scripture as his model, he always tries again, and again, and again. And I bless him for that.

Of course, I fall short often on the submission front. I'm fairly strong-willed, less than some women, more than others, so I like to push stubbornly against my husband's better judgment, occasionally. And yet, I cannot help but think that I got off easy on this marriage thing. That all-consuming, holy, sacrificial love that my husband strives to bestow upon me needs to be translated upon my reception into respect that I am to return unto him. And, really, when a husband is loving you like that, respect and submission are the natural, easy responses. We women love and count on our strong, godly men, don't we?

I think that, in the modern world, women have gotten this idea of power completely mixed up. Women have never been without power and opportunity. I think that that is subtly acknowledged in Paul's epistle. Who has the brute force in worldly matters, Christ or the church? The church, which is so incredibly prevalent that it can become more of an idol than the body of Christ, tends toward power over day-to-day life. The power is only positive and holy when it is kept under submission to Christ. We have countless examples over the past two thousand years of what happens when the church becomes divorced from the commands and will of Jesus. It is not a pretty sight, is it? Congregants are hurt, society is hurt, Christianity is hurt, and, eventually, those churches either go through a radical restorative reformation, or they disappear. Because a body without a head is a monster of power without conscience.

So it can be in a marriage. Look at what happens to marriage when the husband is not at the head. Women become powerful in ways that were never meant to be -- assuming all control, complete responsibility, arrogating a will that quickly becomes destructive. Within a generation or two, men have become irrelevant in family life, as women assume (with a Hydra-like proclivity) all the roles of the household. Then, we get the tragedy of single-mother households -- children rotting away in daycares and after-school programs that run far into the evening, nutritious meals at the family dining table becoming a relic of the past, television becoming a substitute for the other much-needed, yet absent, parent, etc.* Women are exhausted, mentally and emotionally, frayed like a woven blanket pulled in all directions. Children are insecure and needy, suddenly showing signs of physical and psychological disorders unkown generations ago. And men ... men need to be needed, and, if they are not or perceive that they are not, they will fade further and further into irresponsibility and perpetual childhood, until they vanish and men are gone. Oh, there will still be males of adult-size wandering the earth, spreading their semen far and wide into sperm receptacles, perpetuating more generations of fatherless children, but there will be NO MEN. And we need men. We need them, and we want them, despite all appearances otherwise.

Households need heads. They also need hearts. I believe with all my heart that a Judeo-Christian marriage is the model for a household that works the best. When men shoulder the responsibility that comes from being a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church, women are freed to be glorious wives and mothers. Children are given the gift of a balanced home life and the beauty of watching a harmonious example of "two [becoming] one flesh." It is hard to imagine any woman worth her salt who would not revel in such a love, not return every act of such a love with a gratitude that proves itself in respect and submission. Our pastor once said, when he was preaching from Ephesians, that a woman who is continually disregarded, put-down, oppressed, abused, etc. by her husband -- in other words, a woman married to a man who is not committed to living that love of Christ for her -- was not under obligation to submit. He said that, in his reading of the Scripture, the man's sacrificial love must be extended first, as Christ died for the church in its ignorance and sin. Not many men who cite Ephesians 5:22-24, while conveniently overlooking verses 25-33, want to live that kind of love. That is understandable, since that kind of love is almost beyond human comprehension. But, if men would exert themselves to love that way as often and as well as they can, there would be a change for the better in society today.

*I acknowledge that many single-mother households are not that way by choice. Many women out there are doing the best that they can under sad circumstances wrought by unsought divorce or the tragedy of widowhood. Too many are by choice, though. And even many of the ones that are not by choice are still symptomatic of a breakdown in the symbiotic relationship in marriage, as outlined by Paul. This is not meant to attack women out there doing what they can to raise their children unexpectedly and undesiredly alone. Those women would most likely agree that it is not ideal or positive for their children or society for them to be the head-of-household.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stay Out Of "The Loop" (Or At Least Away From It)

I watched one of the most painful 1/2 hours of television "comedy" last night. It was "The Loop," a most implausible show about a young airline executive, Sam, in Chicago and his wacky homelife with three twenty-something roommates: a) his slacker older brother, Sully, b) a hottie, blonde bartender, Lizzy, and c) Piper, the girl who is his secret crush but is in the middle of a long-distance relationship with her college boyfriend.

We usually do not watch pilots of sit-coms, because we tend to watch exactly two hours of American network television a week and have no desire to increase that amount. But, we decided to give this one a chance for two reasons: 1) Jason works in airline management and has been saying for years that someone should write a television show about the hilarious and dramatic antics of people in airline management (as opposed to writing yet more shows about doctors, lawyers, crime scene investigators, and cops) and 2) we enjoyed Bret Harrison (the main character) when he was on "Grounded for Life."

First of all, Bret Harrison was the best thing about the show. And that is the last positive thing to say. None of the other characters were likable. They were either non-personalities, like the secret crush character, Piper, or they were annoying, like the slacker older brother, or they were disgusting, like Meryl (played by Mimi Rogers), a completely over-the-top portrayal of a predatory female executive. I just did not care about anyone involved or anything that was going on. The pacing was frantic, and, for once, I kept looking at my watch, hoping for a commercial break to have the chance to see plots unfolding at a leisurely pace. By the way, the Volkswagen commercials for the new GTI contain more humor in 30 seconds than this lame show was able to spin out in 30 minutes. And, the entire show was absurd, but not good absurd -- bad absurd, insulting absurd, and, most unforgivable, boring absurd.

There was this whole sub-plotline about employee non-rev travel vouchers' needing to "cycle through" the system, involving an extensive paper trail that made absolutely no sense. Does this guy work for Pan Am in 1950? Plus, the boss kept calling meetings inexplicably at the airport, which was inexplicably played by LAX. Then Sam had a stripe of hair on his head shaven as a prank by Sully, and somehow didn't realize this until the predatory Meryl was running her fingers through his hair in the morning at the office, telling me that this executive does not find it necessary to shower before he arrives at work.

The dialogue was so heavy-handed. The characters delivered their lines like they were weighed down with jet lag. The boss ... the female VP ... the slacker ... even Sam ... these could have all been characters written with sparkling subtlety, but they were really betrayed by writers who have no sense of a well-turned phrase. You wonder, seriously, if these people have ever even spoken with airline employees (or other humans) or ever worked in a professional corporate environment. There is a lot of humor hidden in the seeming conformity of American corporate life. This subversive hilarity has been captured before in such movies as Office Space, and even in television's "The Office." "The Loop" went for the cheap or redundant shots -- the butt-grabbing executive, the gruff, almost nonsensical, vulgarity of the boss, the whining, over-qualified assistant who includes a recitation of her MIT credentials with every spoken line.

I think that much of what makes comedy work is a certain grounding in reality, and then that reality's unexpectedly skewing, or in having the surreal coexist with a certain level of oblivion with prosaic banality. That comforting sense of reality needs to be established early on, whether in factual details or in authentically written and delivered dialogue, so that credibility is built with the audience -- then, you turn them upside-down with pricks of the unexpected, and their natural reaction is to laugh. "The Loop" is unable to achieve either of those comedic premises, and so it fails to generate humor. And that is a shame, since it might discourage television writers to plumb the depths of the airline business in the future for the comic gold buried within.

There, you've been warned: Stay out of "The Loop."

Monday, March 13, 2006

It'll Make You Sick

Did you know that in Canada you are prohibited by law from paying for medical services privately or purchasing any private medical insurance?

I did not know that.

If you find yourself with 25 minutes to spare, you may want to check out On the Fence Films and their short piece called "Dead Meat." Probably the most gut-wrenching aspect of the film is when they document the superior care for animals that is provided by Canada's veterinarian clinics juxtaposed to the people interviewed who wait and wait and wait for surgeries and specialized care.

I cannot believe that Canadians are not allowed even to purchase their own medical care. I mean, I knew that they have socialized medicine, but most countries with socialized medicine also allow private alternatives to co-exist.

It's amazing.

President Bush's Low Approval Ratings

I hardly ever write about politics, because I find it inane, annoying, and, too often, depressing. But I've been watching with interest Bush's poll numbers sinking, then rising a little, then sinking some more, and I've started to think more than I like to about what it all means.

Assuming, of course, that it actually means something and isn't merely meaningless.

Do you think that Bush's low approval ratings are a reflection that most people wish that he were not in office -- that he had lost in 2000 or 2004? I do not think so. I wonder how I would answer a pollster, should I ever be contacted by one. I can only imagine the kinds of questions they ask, but my tendency to agree or disagree with the executive actions of this President (for whom I voted twice -- yikes!) varies so widely, and has many shadings.

If I were asked if I agree with Bush's handling of Iraq, I would probably answer, "No." I never was in favor of invading Iraq. I believe that revolutionary changes in the structure of a country's government should be organic in nature, not from the outside in. So, was Saddam Hussein a giant, evil bastard-man? Of course. Does anyone deserve to live under such tyranny? On one hand, no -- no one, especially a nation's children, deserves that sort of oppression. But, on the other, people must fight for their own freedom -- not have it foisted upon them from a distant country with whom they have no natural ties. In terms of ethnicity, religion, culture, etc., it is difficult to find two nations more dissimilar than the U.S. and Iraq.

But, do I think that the whole Iraq War was some sort of evil collusion between the Bush Administration and profiteering corporations, begun only to enrich a few at the cost of precious human lives and unimaginable human suffering? No. I do believe that George W. Bush is sincere when he says that the endeavor to bring democracy to (read: force democracy onto) the people of Iraq is, in his view, a worthy humanitarian enterprise to spread "God's gift of freedom" to the world. I just think that he is sincerely wrong. No, he is not wrong that human liberty is a gift from the Creator, but, until a nation of peoples recognizes that and comes to understand the true nature of the Father, it is futile to drive home that idea at the point of a gun.

Implicit in a question from a poll taker regarding the President's handling of Iraq is the question: Do you wish that it were Al Gore or John Kerry in office handling this quagmire instead? To which I would answer, "Aieee! No!" I am by no means convinced that, had Al Gore been president instead of GWB, we would have stayed out of Iraq. I am absolutely certain that, had John Kerry been in office, we would have no better exit strategy than we now possess. Plus, we would have had all the other yucky stuff that a presidency from either of those two would have brought.

What might be another question from a pollster? Maybe something about Bush's Social Security plan? Well, I think that Bush's proposal to allow personal, private, "opt-out" accounts was both timely and necessary. Social Security is going to bankrupt, if not my generation, then my daughter's. The program needs to be addressed and solved (preferrably dissolved), but Bush met with a Congress whose heads are determined to be beneath the sand on this one. So, I guess I disapprove of his Social Security proposal only in as much as it did nothing. Good intentions pave the road to you-know-where, and I'm rather disheartened that he seems to have dropped it as a pressure point.

How about Bush's stand on education? Well, I think that there should be no Federal Government involvement in education, including on the university level (excepting, of course, veterans, to whom I think everything should be given, bless their hearts), but especially in K-12 education. Of course, I'm a radical on this topic, as I think that public education should be dismantled on all levels of government sponsorship, post haste. But, "No Child Left Behind" is particularly heinous, since it intrudes the Federal Government's nose into local control of education, its putrid odor of uselessness perfumed with the sickly stench of doing something. I do not know about you, but I really hate it most of the time when the gov'ment thinks it needs to do something. So, he'd get a check in the "No" box from me on that one.

What about Bush's picks for the Supreme Court? Ah, now there is a topic on which I can give the Prez my full approbation. In fact, that is the one "voter issue" that really won him my vote, twice. I mean, tax cuts are very nice, and they have helped our single-income family very well, but, when the world falls away, it is the matters of life and death, of holiness and vileness, that will have counted most. And America is on the fast-track to abomination for its disgusting allowance of prenatal infanticide. So, yes, I want the Supreme Court revolutionized, and that never would have happened with Gore or Kerry, so it was important to elect a pro-life president who would in turn nominate Constitutional constructionists to the highest court in the land. He seems to be doing very well on that point, so, yay GW!

What would I say on Bush's handling of the threat of terrorism in general? Well, I'm very tense about such things as eavesdropping on citizens' conversations and even parts of the Patriot Act. They just smell bad to the libertarian within. On the other hand, I think that we need to be vigilant in finding terrorist enemies at home and abroad, and I think that GWB is doing the best he can. I guess that gets back to my conviction that he is a sincere man in the most difficult job. I do not see him as evil, though some of the actions of his administration have been morally questionable. So I wonder, would I give a pollster a "No" on that, or a "Yes"? I might have to go with a "No," even though I would wish to further clarify my position. Of course, a pollster does not have room for shadings and qualifications.

What about GWB's stance on health care? Well, the prescription drug benefit added to Medicare was annoying, but the gray-haired mafia has a stranglehold on the politicos. I really liked what Bush was declaring about health care recently. He was stating that what we need is less third-party payment in health care, not more. He averred, correctly in my view, that third-party payment takes away individual initiative to take control of one's health, and it has essentially eliminated competition. I am so impressed that the President would take such a controversial and reasoned stance, one that the majority of Americans does not want to hear. That news story was dropped pretty quickly, probably because the President was making too much sense. His ideas on the healthcare savings accounts are wonderful. Our family has one through Jason's work, and it has been a boon to us. The drawback is that, currently, you have to decide before the next year how much money you would like to put aside in your savings account. If you do not use all the money you've put aside, you lose it at the end of the year. This is completely lame. It works if you know (as we did) that you're having a baby in the next year. But it fails to consider that often the most burdensome of medical bills comes unexpectedly. You cannot really ask yourself at the beginning of the year, "Hmmm ... Am I going to get hit by a truck this year?" Bush has proposed amending the healthcare savings accounts to roll over every year, kind of like your 401(k) account, allowing you to acculmulate money tax-free for medical expenses both foreseen and unforeseen. This makes a lot of sense, and it could greatly help alleviate the Medicare burden in the future, as the geriatric generation could use up their own money before digging into the productive younger generation's pockets. So, I think, overall, he'd get a "Yes" from me on his healthcare ideas. Though, again, it's great to dream big, but he needs the persuasive powers to convince Congress to adopt these proposals.

Plus, he has never vetoed anything. Anything! He needs to look up and read a biography of Grover Cleveland -- here's one I can recommend -- and exercise that beautiful, little executive power -- just on principle, for crying out loud.

So, would the President of the United States, George Walker Bush, get an overall thumbs-up or thumbs-down from this private citizen? I think that I would regretfully have to give him a very close thumbs-down. Gosh, I wouldn't want his job for anything in the world (except to use the bully pulpit to harangue Congress -- I love the idea of a bully pulpit!). What tough decisions he is faced with! But, I think that the war in Iraq was such a misstep, such a grievous idea, so poorly executed, costing so much in economic terms, let alone the human terms that can never be measured, that it is overshadowing a presidency that I might otherwise find rather benign, or even positive. I just expected more from a Christian, which I think has been the stumbling block often of GWB's Administration. I cannot see a disciple of Christ's going to war for any but the most dire of reasons. And, the world that lives to mock the Son of God and those who try to live in the Way, finds endless glee in a perceived hypocrisy of a professing Christian's initiating war. And, to tell truth, they are essentially correct. We are called to be the peacemakers, and the Iraq War is far from an example of making peace. But, am I glad that he is there, rather than the schmucks he ran against? Yes, yes I am.

Of course, I would rather have had someone else altogether run for and win the presidency (like Walter Williams -- now that would get my heart a-thumpin' -- and not just because he is so good looking!). We just do not get the best of men running for that job anymore. It is embarassing that this country, of which I am so proud and grateful to be a citizen, cannot put forth better candidates. It seems like it is always a choice between Tweedlebad and Tweedleworse, where each candidate has particular parts of the Constitution that he likes, but neither really cares too much for the whole. And that is a shame.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Gotta Love These Internet Quizzes...

Found this at Joelle's site. Very interesting, and it seems pretty accurate.

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have high agreeableness.
You are easy to get along with, and you value harmony highly.
Helpful and generous, you are willing to compromise with almost anyone.
You give people the benefit of the doubt and don't mind giving someone a second chance.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

Friday, March 10, 2006

My Dream Car

So, what's your dream car? Do you drive it now? Is it a distant dream? Do you not even care about cars enough to have a dream car?

I usually fall into the latter category. I've had my Chevrolet Cavalier since 1996, and I've never really lusted after another automobile. But, lately, as our car turns ten this autumn, I've been thinking about a new set of wheels. Jason gets to pick out a car first, since he has not had his "own" car for about eight years, and he's a car guy, anyway. But, when we are able to afford two cars for our family, my dream car is becoming more and more a ...

Volkswagen Beetle!

Yep, call me a goofy hippie chick, but I love the whole aura of casual fun and not-taking-oneself-too-seriously that this jaunty little car evokes. As the sheik said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "And I even like the color." That would be "Sunflower Yellow," in case you are curious!

I also love VW's whole "Force for Good" advertising campaign. Jason, urban sophisticate that he is, is turned off by it, but it appeals to silly little me. I like the idea of a VW Beetle's doing battle against such forces of evil as men's speedos bathing suits, lunchlady hairnets, bad eighties-style hair, etc.

The nice thing about this particular dream car is that it will most likely be attainable in the not too distant future. I already know what flowers I'll put in my bud vase -- yes, of course I'm going to use the bud vase!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Just Love Random Acts of Kindness

I'm trying to find a news link to this story, since all I've been able to find is a video link, but the story made me smile, so I want to share. I will add a link when I can find one.

In Virginia, a Ruby Tuesday's waitress was left a life-changing tip. The patron had a bill for $26. He or she left $1000 on the table (in $100 bills) and left a note at the top of the check to "Keep the change." and "Have a great day!" Have a great day, indeed. The 19-year-old waitress is pregnant, and you should have seen her face when she said that she could "really use" the money right now.

Sometimes people in this world just do amazingly beautiful things. I know from experience how hard waitressing can be, and it was just written all over this girl's stunned and grateful expression how much she appreciated this generosity and compassion.

Whoever you are out there, anonymous restaurant patron, you are a blessing and an inspiration. Thank you for making it so that there are stories like this to share.

Sins of Omission: My Abortion Guilt

When you consider that abortion has been unregulated in America for over thirty-three years now, and that approximately 4,000 babies are robbed of their lives every day, it is probable that most everyone between the ages of, say, sixteen and sixty has an abortion story. When I think of the impact of rampant abortion on society, an image from the movie The Ten Commandments comes to mind. Remember the final curse that the Lord placed on Egypt when Pharaoh's heart was hardened toward the Israelites? It was the taking of the lives of the firstborn in all the land, but the Passover covering protected the children of Israel from the wrath of the Lord. Anyway, Cecile B. DeMille chose to portray the fulfillment of this plague in a particularly striking way. The fingers of a putrid green mist spread out into the households of Egypt that are not marked by the blood of the lamb, seeping in through cracks and under doorways, unstoppable, ubiquitous, deadly. The Bible does not shy away from detailing the devastating consequences of this tenth and final plague: And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. (Exodus 12:29-30)

A big crisis for the pro-abortion crowd is the turning of the younger generations increasingly pro-life. I think that, to a large extent, this is because there is hardly a person in post-Roe America who does not have a corner of his or her heart touched and scarred in some way by the tragedy of abortion. My only encounter with abortion has weighed more and more heavily on my heart every year. No, I have not had an abortion (by the grace of God), but I do have abortion guilt.

One of the few books that should be read by every aspiring or established creative artist regardless, I would say, even of faith is Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. You will never see the act of putting words to paper, brush to canvas, lyrics to melody in the same way again. In Chapter 2, "Icons of Truth," L'Engle writes of changes that have been made to update the Book of Common Prayer. She notes that, in the new version, a confession of the sins of commission is made before the confession of the sins of omission. Psychologically, L'Engle writes, it is more appropriate to confess the "things left undone which ought to have been done" first, since, "when someone dies, those who are left are apt to cry out, 'Oh, if I had only taken her on that picnic!' or, 'If only I had gone to see him last Wednesday.' It is the things I have left undone which haunt me far more than the things which I have done" (p. 41). How true that is! For my only personal exposure to the reality of a baby who was there one day, growing, developing, living, and then the next brutally dismembered by the will of his mother has left me for years with the burden of the sin of omission. If only my eyes had not been blind and my heart had not been hard, there might just be a boy or girl of twelve years old alive today.

In 1994, I was living in South Dakota when I received a telephone call from a childhood friend in California. We were having that sort of guarded, casual conversation that you have with people who are forever tied to your youth, but whose company you now hold of little value. In the course of our chit-chat, she revealed that she was scheduled to have an abortion the following week. While I was a little startled by this intimation, I was not too surprised, since this friend had long been involved in reckless sexuality, and certainly would have been, had I had such a mental list, the top candidate among my acquaintances for "Most Likely to Get Knocked-Up." Also, knowing the level of self-absorption that this friend routinely demonstrated, I would have also, had I had such a grisly category, nominated her for "Most Likely to Have an Abortion." But, you see, I was pro-choice at this time, and so, while the news of her abortion was a little disturbing (though I knew not why it should be), I did nothing to talk to her about it, and I changed the subject as quickly as possible. We hung up, and I didn't talk with her at length for the next ten years.

In the meantime, I came to know the Lord of Life, and, though my change of heart for the unborn was not immediate upon my conversion, I grew to become stridently pro-life.

Fast forward to 2004. I decided to look up this friend and catch up with her. I think that a part of me wanted to make sure that she was okay. Through the miracle of the Internet, I was able to locate her and e-mail her. Eventually, we ended up exchanging phone numbers and having several very long conversations. At least, she spoke at length to me. True to her trademark self-involvement, I scarcely got a word in edgewise. But, I think that she needed a listening ear. And no wonder, for I have never come across a more shattered person in any of my years. Not only has she myriad physical health problems, but she is such a wreck emotionally that her inner self is more fragile than even her outer shell. She had never been the most even-keeled soul, but she seemed more broken than I remember her having been. During one of these phone calls, she mentioned in passing about meeting with her psychologist when she discovered she was pregnant at the age of twenty. She said that the psychologist seemed to dismiss the grave doubts that she was having over her scheduled abortion. My friend did not think that this therapist offered her any concrete help during that heart-wrenching time. Conviction fell on my heart with a thud, as my mind raced back to my own conversation with this friend in 1994. Could she have called me out of the blue at that time as a cry for help?

What if, instead of brushing off my discomfort with her announcement of her planned abortion, I had instead lent her a shoulder to lean on? What if I had said, "Dear friend, do not kill your child. Come, stay here with me. Get away from the man whose rejection is hurting you and the parents who think that ending this pregnancy will restore your life's promise. I have some money saved up, and I will support you. You can rest and have your baby and, if you need to, keep it or let it be adopted into a loving family. But, do not kill this tiny child. There is a better way, and I am here for you all that way."? Now, this may not have changed her mind. This may not have saved her baby. But, this would have been the kind of response that my Lord would have wanted me to give. I did not know Him at the time, or things might have been very different. Because my heart was still hardened to His call, and because my eyes were so blind to the humanity of the tiny babe, a child lost his chance to live in the most vulnerable moment of his mother's fateful decision. This is abortion guilt indeed, just as surely if I had commissioned the scalpel to rip his limbs from him and activated the vacuum to suck his broken body from the womb where he should have rested in complete safety.

So, I think about that child, probably not as often as my friend does, but as often as I think about abortion and the voids in this world where the lives should be. That is quite often indeed. I ask for God to forgive me, because I truly knew not what I omitted to do. God forgive us all.

Recently, Dave Andrusko wrote a two-part entry for "Today's News & Views," a daily e-mail newletter of the National Right to Life Committee, about Anne Lamott. What he wrote illustrates my point. Lamott recently wrote an absolutely abhorrent editorial that was published in the Los Angeles Times defending abortion. Here is a link to her essay, if you have the stomach for it. Dave Andrusko, in his gentle, thoughtful, and spiritually-strong way, looked at the views she expressed in her editorial and compared them with her history that she has written about in her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. In the very first part of the book, "Overture: Lily Pads," Lamott writes about an abortion that she had when she was thirty years old: I did not have the money or wherewithal to have a baby. The father was someone I had just met, who was married, and no one I wanted a real life or a baby with. So Pammy one evening took me in for the abortion, and I was sadder than I had been since my father died, and when she brought me home that night, I went upstairs to my loft with a pint of Bushmills and some of the codeine a nurse had given me for pain. I drank until nearly dawn. (p. 48). The next time Lamott got pregnant outside of a marriage, a few years later, the outcome was quite different (see if you can guess the reason why): Two years later, I'm pregnant by a man I was dating, who really didn't want to be a father at the time. I was still poor, but friends and the people at my church convinced me that if I decided to have a child, we would be provided for every step of the way. Pammy really wanted a kid. She had been both trying to conceive and waiting to adopt for years. She said, "Let me put it this way, Annie. We're going to have this baby." [I]n August of 1989, my son is born. I named him Sam. (p. 52) Amazing, isn't it, how when the friend who drove her to the abortion clinic turned into the friend who gave her unconditional support, the child was allowed to live? That was the over-arching theme of the two-part TN&V that Dave Andrusko wrote about Lamott's disgusting editorial. You can read the first part here and the second part here.

Should that call ever come again from another friend (or the same friend), how different now will my reaction be! There is no emotional boundary, no protective wall that my friend will be able to erect that will keep me from scaling it. I will push through and do whatever I can to save that precious little life by offering love, support, and strength to his mother.

Lord, please keep me as much as possible from leaving undone those things which I ought to have done. And, forgive me too, for doing those things which I ought to have not done. And cover with Your mercy and grace those millions of us who today walk under the burden of abortion guilt -- show us our sin, and free us from its bondage. In the name of Your holy Son, Amen.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring Has Sprung!

Well, what do you know? I look out today, and our cherry blossom trees are in bloom. Plus, the crocuses and daffodils that line our front walk are opening their faces to the sun (and finding themselves very disappointed, I'm sure, since it is so overcast today). I've been seeing the robins back in town for a few weeks now. Spring and autumn are, in my opinion, in a perpetual coin toss for most beautiful season.

Everything is renewed again. It is difficult to be gloomy in the midst of such beauty. Who am I kidding? It's difficult for me to be gloomy anytime, but I'm annoying like that. But springtime is an extra-happy season.

I hope that, wherever you happen to be reading this post from, you are enjoying the beginning of a lovely spring!*

*Or the beginning of a lovely autumn, in the case of our neighbors in the southern hemisphere. Thanks for the reminder, Morris!

Wanting What I Can Get

"If I can't get what I want, I'll want what I can get."

L.M. Montgomery put those words into the mouth of Ilse Burnley, a woman about to marry a man who is her second choice, in the third book of the Emily trilogy, Emily's Quest. And, while this may not be a good motto in choosing your life's mate, this small phrase has stuck with me year after year, shielding me from disappointments and balancing my perspective. In fact, this idea has been a driving philosophy in my life, bringing me comfort when the inevitable setbacks or reductions of goals occur.

This does not mean that I dream small, managable dreams. No. Indeed, my fancy often roams as wild as woodland brook in springtime. I love the big dreams, immense hopes, unfathomable what-ifs that fuel my quiet hours and keep me awake and excited far into the night. After all, I believe in the grandest, most seemingly impossible hope in all the world: that I will someday see my Redeemer's face and hear His voice whisper tenderly, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." So, it is not a fear of pursuing the highest that bends me to this practical philosophy.

In a world where so much of what happens is beyond our control, in a world where "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley," in a world where the ultimate good or purpose of an event is so often shrouded in a mystery beyond human understanding, I have found joy by knowing what I want and, if that fails to come about, to want what I can get. I think that, to a large extent, this idea has forged my even-temperedness and my ability to avoid getting mired in frustration. If my plans get skewed, it is easy for me to embrace a revised plan. If I fail to meet a goal, no time is lost in regrets as I redirect my energies toward a new goal that I can, with grace, achieve. Inherent in the philosophy behind this phrase is the ability to let go of the need for control. Inherent in letting go of the need for control is the peaceful repose of a contented soul.

Wanting what you can get is not really "settling." It is not in any way passive or even really resigned. Rather, it is an active exercise in faith and trust. What becomes attainable in this world is a gift, and learning to want that gift is gateway to fulfillment. What is more in tune with the Father? Setting goals, failing to attain them, then sitting in self-pity and regret, immobilized by your disappointment? Or, dreaming big, doing what you can, and then wanting whatever you are gifted with, no matter how that may deviate from your original dream? To want something is to desire it. Desiring what you can get is a blessing to the Father. It speaks to a willingness to view His provision as sufficient.

I have often not gotten what I have thought that I wanted. But, with His grace, I am learning day by day to want what I can get.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Chasing Colleen and Playing Catch-Up (Again!)

What a rotten blogger I've been! My muse, Colleen (she's a lesser muse -- what, you thought there were only nine?), had her bags packed and a ticket for the next train back to Pieria, when I caught her at the station and plied her with flowers, chocolates, promises I don't intend to keep -- the usual. She returned still a little sulky, but I think she's coming around.

In any event, for those of you who still stop by this barren corner of the blogosphere, I thought that I'd plant a seed and sprinkle some water and try to catch up my words to my life.

Well, the most exciting thing that has been happening is the solidifying of Internet buddies into real friendships. I've had the immense pleasure and honor lately to have furthered my acquaintances with Andrea and Joelle, two worthy ladies who are known already by their writings to many of you. Andrea and I had a good, long conversation on the phone a couple weeks ago, and Joelle I actually got to meet in person last week. To meet and connect and fellowship with two sisters in Christ who are well-read, thoughtful, and funny is a blessing that defies description.

We are trying like crazy to get this house in shape to put on the market. It seems like every time we turn around, something else is collapsing or bulging or leaking or stopped-up. However, what is kind of cool is that Jason has conceded to staying another year in my beloved Washington, so long as we move back into an apartment. Well, we've been looking at apartments, and it is a bit depressing to contemplate living in one again, since we are used to the style, independence and comfort of a stand-alone house. But, when I think of the freedom from worrying about rats, yard maintenance, plumbing, mold, etc., I find myself easily reconciled to a renter's life again (at least for one year!). Plus, Sadie will really like living in a place with a swimming pool, so it is sounding better and better. And, I really shouldn't be complaining at all, since no matter where we end up living, it will be in the lap of luxury compared to 95% of the rest of the world. We are really blessed -- and, though it doesn't always sound that way, we do know and appreciate that blessedness. It's not like this world is really our home, anyway. Right?

We were up in Vancouver, BC this past weekend. We were supposed to go to a performance at the Pacific Theatre called Testimony. Carolyn Arends was a featured performer in this. We ended up planning very poorly, though, and missed the show. As a consolation, we got to see downtown Vancouver at night, and it is a really lovely cityscape. We made our customary stop at Tim Horton's as soon as we crossed the border. It is the time of year when they are running the "Rrrroll Up The Rim" promotion. When you purchase a hot drink, you have a chance to win one of many fabulous prizes by rrrrolling up the rim of your cup and peeking underneath. We had a total of three hot drinks in BC, and we won nothing. It was fun playing, though. British Columbia is truly beautiful (Don't believe me? Just ask their license plates.), and I would recommend a trip across our northern border to anyone who comes as far up as Seattle.

As much as I love Washington, I cannot help but be proud of my future home state, South Dakota, when I read articles like this. Go Governor Rounds! Wouldn't you just LOVE to see those baby butchers getting jail-time for murdering those most innocent of little ones? I know I would. I wouldn't mind seeing the women seeking abortions getting some chill time in the slammer too (say nine to ten months?), but I know that that's not the official pro-life party line. So, I'll settle for the butchers.

You can blame a lot of my absence from the blogging scene on books. I've been reading some really good stuff lately. Frances Burney's Evelina was a delightful 18th Century romp through a young lady's introduction into society and all the mirth that ensued therefore. The Grizzly Maze by Nick Jans was enthralling. This is an account of Timothy Treadwell's life and, ultimately, death among Alaskan grizzly bears. You'll be more amazed that this goofball was able to go thirteen years without being mauled, rather than amazed by his being found in a grizzly's digestive tract. The best book I've read since, well, since his last book, is Stephen Cox's The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns. Think that this sounds dry and scholarly and like something only an English major might enjoy? Well, you'd be wrong! Again, I am struck by God's infinite nature when I consider that the first part of this book has given me a whole new outlook on a very old Story. I will post a full-length review (and regular visitors know what that means! Ha! Ha!) when I am finished reading it through a second time.

Sadie turned three last Thursday. Thanks, Joelle, for the birthday shout out. She was born on the nine-year anniversary of my first date with Jason. That means that Jason and I have been a couple for twelve years (me do math good). On March 2, 1994, I called my dad on the telephone and exclaimed, "I just went out on a date with the guy I'm going to marry!" Since I was nineteen years old at the time (not to mention that the "guy" was not yet seventeen!), my dad can be forgiven for dismissing my proclamation as incredible. Four and a half years after that, we were married. Now, we are parents. Since I know that there are no coincindences in God's sweet providence, I like to think that the Lord was chuckling a little that night so long ago to see us falling into a love that was ordained from before time began. I married my best friend, and no one makes me laugh harder than he or makes me feel more secure and treasured. When I dared to whisper early in our relationship that my dream was to write, this wonderful man's immediate (and hyperbolic) response was, "Cool -- you're going to be a famous author!" Thank you, Jason, for your belief in me that has sustained my dreams in spite of myself. Someday, I hope to justify your steady faith.

I'm looking forward to rekindling the flame with Colleen and showing the fruits thereof in the very near future. Thank you to those who continue to stop by despite my neglect. I never meant to let it go this long, but I'm not even close to being through.

Peace to all, and happy blogging!