Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An Ode to the O.E.D.

An Ode to the O.E.D. (Oxford English Dictionary)

My O.E.D., dear O.E.D.
My heart sings out an ode to thee
Thou fount of every English word --
Whether common, obscure, or absurd

How oft I turn the page with glee
Of thou, o faithful O.E.D.!
For thou wouldst not think to let me down
Thou bringest smiles, ne'er a frown

Thy tiny print, so hard to see;
I scan thy columns, A to Z,
To find if a new word I've coined
Or merely an ancient text purloined.

Thou hast me in wrong usage caught;
With trepidation I am fraught
Lest such an error I overlook --
An insult to my treasured book!

The mysterious beauty of our tongue,
Each elusive, haunting note we've sung
Has its place within thy pages
Language living through the ages

When I ponder your depth and scope
I am again filled up with hope
That the power of Language will not fade
Though our use of it sadly has decayed

Ignorance, Indolence, Indifference too --
Would all obstruct our love for you
But you stand ever ready against the tide
Whispering, "Treasures here reside."

The fewer words at our command,
The less ground we have on which to stand.
How can one voice his point of view
When limited to words so few?

Let nothing cure me of the need
To value you; Or the greed
To plumb you to your very core
And come out richer than before!

Lord God! I beg, forbid the day
My O.E.D should go away.
I cannot shake this contemplation:
Its fate is shared with civilization.

Dear O.E.D., Sweet O.E.D.!
I will pass on this love for thee;
That Sadie's thoughts won't be controlled --
Her mind contained or pigeon-holed.

O' guardian of sweet liberty
Essential for men to be free!
Those with ears -- proclaim you've heard
By drinking up each blessed word.

Hmmm . . . this started out as a silly, little rhyme that occurred to me while I was weeding our front lawn. I liked the transposition of letters in "ode" and "O.E.D.," and I do love my copy of the O.E.D. quite a bit (thanks, Dad!). As I was composing this light-hearted doggerel, it suddenly took a serious turn. Not that the "poetry" got any better, but my purpose became more sober. This quote from Madeleine L'Engle came to mind:

But I am a storyteller, and that involves language, for me the English language, that wonderfully rich, complex, and ofttimes confusing tongue. When language is limited, I am thereby diminished, too.

In time of war, language always dwindles, vocabulary is lost; and we live in a century of war.

(From Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Shaw, 1980), "Icons of the True" p.35)

And let us not forget that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." How powerful words are, whether spoken by our Creator or spoken by mankind!

I'm often amazed when people do not recognize words -- words that I speak in casual conversation, without a second thought, simply because they are the most appropriate to and expressive of the thought I am trying to convey. Even when I worked at Barnes & Noble, where about 80% of the employees were English majors, I'd still get comments like, "Why do you talk like that?" It's strange and unsettling.

Our cultural vocabulary does seem to be contracting, and our addiction to popular media has made a bad situation incalculably worse.

Anyway, language, particularly the English language, is very dear to me. I love words, maybe too much (can't you tell by my rambling style of getting a point across?). I hope that my daughter will adopt and nourish herself upon that love. Then, nothing in this world will be closed to her.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In Case You're Interested . . .

At long last, I have posted something new in Austensorium. If you're a Jane Austen fan who has given up visiting that blog because it has been silent since, I think, November 2005, I just wanted to give you a heads-up. I hope you enjoy it!

Coming soon to Musings: A review of Isabel Paterson's Never Ask the End. Don't even ask me if it's done yet. Ha! Ha!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Album Review: Pollyanna's Attic

Title: Pollyanna's Attic
Artist: Carolyn Arends
Label: 2B Records (2006)

What's in your attic? Mine, until recently, had rats, but that's another post altogether. Some people have nicely finished attics -- with bright windows illuminating well-organized playrooms or storage areas. I think that most, though, have dark, seldom-visited areas with the artifacts of memories stowed away in cobwebbed corners and dusty alcoves. So, when Eleanor Porter's bubbly heroine, Pollyanna, leaves off playing the "glad game" one rainy afternoon and creeps away to explore her attic, what will she find there?

Carolyn Arends' music normally exudes sunniness, which is ironic, since she comes from the even-more-Pacific-Northwesty-than-Seattle province of British Columbia, Canada. When we have showers, they have rain. When we have rain, they have . . . really quite a lot of rain? But she, in defiance of environmental influences, has made songs and stories of hope and life in light of that hope almost a trademark of sorts. One typically Carolyn tune, from 1999's This Much I Understand, declares, "You can call me Pollyanna, you can call me a child. But I will not lie down -- that's not my style. And I will dare to dream. I will dare to believe in something, baby. And I will dare to be happy." But no one is inside-outside-upright-downright happy all the time, no matter what the children's worship song says. So, we fans probably knew that a "Prozac and razor blades" album would come someday. And, now it is here.

Of course, that's a little unfair. I don't think that this album represents a current state of Carolyn Arends' emotional well-being (unlike Amy Grant's downbeat offering of 1997, Behind the Eyes, which really did reflect a soul struggling with unhappiness). As she admits in the liner notes, many of the songs on Pollyanna's Attic had been slated for release on her earlier albums, but they had been cut -- either because they didn't fit with other albums' more upbeat tone or, perhaps, Carolyn was a little afraid to reveal the thoughts they contain. I wish, though, having listened to this album through several times now, that she had had the courage to include them earlier. Because, to tell truth, it gets a little oppressive hitting you all at once like this. Even the spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down -- particularly in last two tracks -- are so subdued that, as you are recovering from the heaviness of the earlier tracks, you are too drained to realize fully their hopefulness. But, I am grateful that we have these songs at all, even though I'm a little exhausted by the end of the album. It's a journey.

The songs are everything you would expect from Carolyn Arends in terms of lyrical complexity and musical experimentation. She's really done some very interesting things on this album -- at least it seems that way to my novice ear. One of the first things that struck me in listening to the sneak preview songs that she posted on her MySpace site is how lovely her voice is. That may seem like a strange thing to note, considering that I listen to her music almost every day, but I think that familiarity breeds oblivion in this case, since I know so well what is coming that I'm only listening to the lyrics. When I do not know the lyrics, I really hear her voice. And, on this album, her voice seems to have grown in range and character. It is quite beautiful.

Carolyn Arends collaborated with her long-time touring partner and stringed-instrument maven, Spencer Capier, on two songs that were included on Pollyanna's Attic. The first is the lead-off track, "Just Pretending." This song is about the masks of perfection that people don to hide their cracks and brokenness. The lyrics are quite clever, and the vocals and chords on the chorus are so unusual, that the song captivates the ear. The chorus reminds us that maybe we shouldn't try so hard to project these illusions, since "life's not some greeting card." Let's not forget that "models and movie stars" are "just pretending." Carolyn and Spencer are so deep in their ponderings, though, that I don't think that they realize that a lot of people out there are really as shallow as they seem.

Their second track is the most upbeat song in this collection. "Something to Give," which features jubilant trumpet solos -- a rarely heard, but always welcome, instrument on Carolyn's albums -- is a gentle admonition to use the gifts we are given to glorify the Lord and give a hand to our fellow man. The chorus says it all: "There's nothing so rude as a gift you don't use or a live that you choose not to live. 'Cause you're blessed to bless, and the best of possessions is having something to give." And how true is that?

The third song is one of my favorites, because it addresses something that floats up into my mind, unbidden, most every day. It is "What in the World," and its question is: "What in the world makes us act this way and turn away from You?" This is such a gut-wrenching idea, because it gets to the heart of our human dilemma. Two thousand years after the peace and salvation of Christ was given to the world, and we're still just as perverse and faithless generation after generation -- killing, hurting, warring, fighting, blaspheming, cursing -- cutting into God's heart and each other's too. There is something new, too, in Carolyn's voice as she sings this song. The best I can describe it is as "raw anguish." Her voice cries that darkness is in her heart too. And in mine. And in yours.

The next song is another early favorite of mine, and it might just be one of the most desolate on this album. Its appropriate title is "The Wasteland," and its message is a lot clearer than T.S. Eliot's interminable poem of a similar title, but the clarity makes it more devastating. "There's a snake in the shadows, and he's looking us over. A vulture above us, and he's circling lower. See, we're poisoned and we're dying just a little every day. You've got to lead us away from the Wasteland." And, according to Carolyn's notes, this was to be the last verse in this song. But, God gives mercies anew every morning, and He gave her some mercy to pass along to us with this last verse that came suddenly: "You can give us Your justice, but we'll only defy it. You can give us salvation, but we'll just crucify it. Still You rise from the ruins and You promise us a day when You'll lead us away from the Wasteland."

"The Land of the Living" is the next track and it brings us back into more familiar Carolyn Arends territory, both musically and lyrically. It is a simply arranged song based around Psalm 27:13, which is (in my NKJV): "I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." This is a song about a winter of emotional desolation, with a summer of spiritual fulfillment coming in dreams, only to vanish. The core message is one of holding onto the hope, no matter how seemingly threadbare, that again we shall see His hand in this land of the living.

"To See Your Face" is the first of two covers on this album. This is a Mark Heard song, which Carolyn recorded "Keith Green-style" by singing and playing the piano simultaneously. I love that she did that, because there is an immediacy to this recording that captures a little of what it is like to see Carolyn Arends in concert. Mark Heard was an intriguing songwriter -- his lyrical imagery is astounding. "If I ever get to see Your face, and if You will spare me, I know that my allegiance to the human race will not ensnare me." That is certainly our hope in Christ, but what a lovely way to put it.

The next song is a collaboration with her brother, Chris Jonat. Rock Star Carolyn emerges from a nine-year hiatus (see 1997's Feel Free) to jam on "Everybody Wants Everything." When Jason first heard this song he asked, "Is Carolyn rapping?" Well, it's not rapping exactly, it kind of reminds me of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." It's a really cool song -- I know that's not very eloquent, but I do think it's the best word. The music is throbbing, Carolyn's vocals are husky, the lyrics are bitingly humorous. "Everybody wants it. Everybody needs it. Everybody wants everything."

"More is Less" is next up, and it is the second collaboration with Spencer Capier. The lyrics are a commentary on contemporary consumer culture; wherein goods are so cheap and available, human relationships are both more immediately intense and intensely perishable, and our lives feel emptier and fulfillment less attainable. Here is something that has never been done before on a Carolyn Arends album: She uses the word "sex." I only mention this because she was so funny about warning her fans about the word's introduction into her lyrical lexicon. This is just another example of why I would never want to be a "public Christian" or, rather, a Christian in the public eye. Her use of "sex" is as follows: "Here the money makes you paranoid; there’s no one you can trust. The sex will leave you lonely, and the love all turns to rust." As you can see, there is nothing at all offensive about it, but a warning was issued nonetheless. I appreciate her concern for our children's delicate ears, which I know was a part of the warning, but I'm sure that fending off an attack was lurking there too. I applaud her artistic integrity. In Pollyanna's attic, one trunk apparently contains carnal knowledge. Gasp! I like the bridge: "No one could blame us for wanting more, but isn't it strange how the more leaves us wanting?"

"Free" is track nine, and I'm still trying to "get" this song. It is by far the most negative song on the album, at least to my way of thinking. There is no redemptive kicker at the end -- Carolyn seems to be in a very dark mood, indeed. We -- and by this I'm not sure if she's addressing Western Europeans and North Americans, the "Free World"so to speak, or just the U.S., since she uses a lot of American imagery -- are "free from the cradle to the grave. We are so free of meaning and we like it that way. We are free, and we played it all so smart. Ain't nobody going to bother stopping what we never did start. We are free." Now, in a typical Carolyn Arends song, the song would end with a ray of light shining out -- maybe a declaration that, while our sinful natures condemn us to the baser actions of detachment, indifference and malice, free will (under the guidance of Christ) brings incredible acts of generosity and kindness. No such luck. This is grumpy Carolyn, a Carolyn unwilling throw us a bone and shine the light, even a little. Ouch. She also says "hell" on this album, which, coupled with the "sex" from the previous track, led Jason to ask jokingly whether this album came with an "explicit lyrics" warning. Now, that would have been funny!

The next track is another of my favorites, since it really showcases Carolyn's lyrical brilliance. It is "No Trespassing," and, again a little grumpy, but not nearly as stark, Carolyn examines our unwillingness to cross emotional and physical boundaries lines that are drawn in this world. I'm once again in awe of her songwriting capabilities. Consider the chorus: "See you can't go near anybody else's private grounds, and folks 'round here have got a democratic right to drown. And you're just a fool if you care about the faces in the crowd. We've got a new edition of the Golden Rule: No Trespassing Allowed." She's amazing.

The last two songs are fireflies dancing in the dark. "Not Alone" reminds us that things sure can be overwhelming down here -- we are often disappointed (Almanzo Wilder once told his daughter, Rose, that his life had "been mostly disappointments."), sometimes depressed, in many parts of the world severely oppressed, all of us battling the occasional bouts of tiredness, discouragement, unhappiness gloominess, etc. -- BUT we are not alone. She sings this song with the unusual vocals of Layton Howerton, which I found a little distracting. I guess the groans don't have to be figurative, but their reality can be a bit jarring. The last song, "I've Got a Hope," was written by Pierce Pettis and Eric Fiedor. Again, it is just Carolyn and her piano -- immediacy, intimacy, and introspection are the quiet and stunning results. The last two songs in tandem seem to reflect so well Paul's words of encouragement to the early, persecuted Roman church:

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18) . . . For the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:22-25) . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35) . . . For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)"

Well, that's my first-take on Pollyanna's Attic in a nutshell. I'm sure that future listenings will yield deeper understanding and appreciation. That's always the beauty of Carolyn's songs. Like any truly great work of art, each one offers something new and different with each exposure or perusal. If I were asked to describe this album in just one word -- you who know me know that that is a difficult task, indeed -- I would choose "challenging." As I posted previously on Carolyn Arends' message board, this album challenges both the listener and the artist. Pollyanna's Attic so different, so concurrently honest and vulnerable, that I do think it will come to redefine our understanding of what makes a "Carolyn Arends album." She's unlocked some doors here that can never been locked tight again. And, I like to think that she's overcome some of the fear she may have previously harbored about alienating her listener base or fully revealing her heart. It took a lot of courage to release something this innovative and divergent. We, her listeners, have been taken to a new level, too -- we'll never hear her work in the same way again.

But, some things will never change. I think that no collection of songs will ever truly be Carolyn's unless there is some kind of reflection of her eternal hope. And, that hope is here too -- in the midst of grumpiness and misanthropy and a wee bit of disgust -- it's shining out. A hope that somehow, because there is Someone who loves us so much that He died to show us what love could be, we can find a way to overcome our indifference, our selfishness, our cruelty, our futility. And the hope that, even when we fail so miserably to live out His love, that there will be redemption and a chance to try again.

I think that Pollyanna finds an ancient trunk in her attic. In that trunk is a quilt -- a quilt that's a little moth-eaten, a little stained, a little mildewed. But woven into the fabric of that quilt are threads of truth and light and love and hope. And, though the colors are faded and the smell evokes years of close quarters with little air, the quilt is beautiful yet. So, even long after she folds it up and locks the trunk again, the memory of that quilt will stay with her. The sunshine of a thousand summer afternoons will not erase what she found that rainy afternoon in the glow of a single lightbulb illuminating a shadowy garret. And the "glad game" gets a new dimension and honesty because of it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Queer, Dull Ache

I awoke this morning with a queer, dull ache. A tightness had wound itself around my heart, and I felt as though my strength were wasted already. An inauspicious way to start the day.

Today is Mother's Day. And I miss my mom.

This is the eighth year that I've had to mark this day to honor mothers without her. It is the fourth year that I've marked it as a mother myself.

I wish my mom were here to meet her granddaughter.

I tell Sadie stories about Grandma Emilie, and Sadie -- who is amazing -- tells me stories about her, too. One night, a few months ago, while I was getting her bath ready, Sadie startled me. She said, offhandedly, "Grandma Emilie doesn't want you to worry about these things." I said, "What things?" Sadie replied, "All things." I said, "Who is Grandma Emilie?" Sadie said, "You know her. She is your mama." I asked, "Where is Grandma Emilie?" Sadie said, "I saw her in heaven, with the Lord." I started to cry.

(Sadie has an unusual and eerie focus upon living with the Lord. When she prays, she always says that she hopes to live with the Lord someday. She's even argued with me, yelling that she wants to go live with the Lord right now. Funny little girl.)

I wonder: maybe my mother has already met her granddaughter. I do not know the mysterious workings of the Lord -- only that He is mysterious and His hand works within my life for good. There's a lot of my mom in Sadie.

So, I miss my mother, but I can remember with gratitude her life and her mothering. I hope that, even though we clashed loudly and often in this life, she knows somehow that I love her and respect her so.

Thank you, Mom, for always doing the best that you knew how. I wish we had been closer in this world, and I'm looking forward with all my heart to our reunion in the next.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Survey Maker -- Memes Made Easy!

I found this survey maker on my friend Kadie's MySpace site. Now, I don't like MySpace very much, but I like this survey maker a heck of a lot. It's completely customizable, and it makes tagging folks for memes as easy as pie. (Where in the world did that expression come from? Anyone who's ever made pie knows that it's not easy at all!)

Here's a boring one that I made yesterday, just to test it out. I'm posting it now, so that a) y'all'll know I'm still alive, and b) I can be lazy about posting real stuff that takes actual thought for a few more days yet.

What are five novels you enjoyed?Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Golden Vanity by Isabel Paterson; We the Living by Ayn Rand; Mansfield Park by Jane Austen; Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons; The Emily Books by L.M. Montgomery (cheating, I know)
Who are your five favorite novelists?Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, Isabel Paterson, Sophie Kinsella, Agatha Christie
What are five non-fiction books you enjoyed?The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson; The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester; The Woman and the Dynamo by Stephen Cox; The God of the Machine by Isabel Paterson; The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
Who are your five favorite non-fiction authors?P.J. O'Rourke, Thomas Sowell, Stephen Cox, Bill Bryson, C.S. Lewis
What's the best book (any genre) that you've read in the past year?The New Testament and Literature by Stephen Cox (not only because it was such an enlightening and enjoyable read, but because it turned me on to so many other good books that were cited therein)
What books have changed your life?Among many are: The Holy Bible, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, No Compromise: The Keith Green Story by Melody Green, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
What book do you most look forward to discussing with your kid(s) someday?I know I should say The Bible, but I'm already fielding those questions, so I'll go with Pride & Prejudice.
What is your favorite quote about reading or books?"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson
If you could sit down at Starbucks and chat for two hours with any author, living or dead, who would it be?Isabel Paterson
If you went to a book-burning, what would you toss on the flames?A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Would you rather watch TV or read a book?Read a book, of course!
How many countries (other than your native land) have you visited?Two -- Canada and England
How many U.S. States have you visited?Probably about twenty -- I've lost track
Have you ever used a language other than your own in a country in which you were traveling (gone native)?No, but I'd like to in Germany, someday.
What country have you not visited yet that you'd most like to?Australia
If you live in the U.S., have you ever been to Canada?Yes
If you live in the U.S., have you ever been to Mexico?No
Which do you prefer: road-tripping or leaving on a jet plane?Hmmm . . . coin toss: Flying gets us there more quickly, but I love road-trips too.
Have you ever taken a long boat journey (cruise or other)?No
Have you ever traveled by train?Yes
What is your favorite airline?Horizon Air (followed closely by Alaska Airlines and then QANTAS)
What city is the most comfortable for you?Seattle -- It's just always felt like home
What is your favorite type of cuisine?Thai (followed by just about everything else, excluding Japanese food -- I don't like sushi)
Do you like spicy foods?Yes -- too much!
Do you eat to live or live to eat?Live To Eat!
Do you believe that "free food tastes better"?Sometimes -- especially when Mom used to cook it (not if it's from a dumpster)
If you knew in advance and had all your faculties still functioning, what would you like for your last earthly meal?A multi-cultural buffet of Thai, Mexican, Italian and Middle-Eastern. Oh, and don't forget a 20-oz. Porterhouse Steak. I would then die from indigestion, but it would be a blissfully indulgent way to go.


Monday, May 08, 2006


My cable and Internet were out for five days. But I did not care, because . . .


Charles T. Chevy (aka Charlie) is my 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier that has been in the almost exclusive possession of Jason for the past three years. This past weekend, Jason bought his first new car, a Ford Fusion, and I re-took usage of my Charlie. And, believe me, I am as excited as if I had been the one to get the new car myself!

Freedom -- sweet, sweet freedom!

This is a grand and glorious day. Now, to put in some Carolyn Arends tunes, roll down the windows (the air conditioner has been broken since 2001), and cruise in the sunny beauty of my Northwest roaming area.

Peace and happy driving to all!

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Guilty Survey

Feel free to answer and adapt to your own tastes if you will. Here are some guilty pleasures of mine:

Guilty Food: Either Rice Krispies Treats or Pretzel Nachos.
Guilty Read: People Magazine -- oh what a trashy and delectable time-waster!
Guilty Movie: Joe vs. The Volcano -- "Daddy said not to tell me who you are or why he hired you -- that I cannot be trusted. I'm a flibberty-jibbet."
Guilty Video Game: Saddle Up with Pippa Funnell -- yes, I know the target audience is 8-10 year old girls. Shutty.
Guilty Music Group or Singer: ABBA -- I think that this is the guilty group for a lot of people, and we should just all come out of the disco closet and proclaim the joy of ABBA to the world without any guilt. You go first.
Guilty TV Show: Hatching, Matching and Dispatching on CBC -- appallingly addictive!
Guilty Admiration: Ann Coulter -- she cracks me up, but I feel dirty afterward.

Guilt can be constructive if it is good guilt. That's the guilt that convicts your heart of your wrong action or belief, and then paves the road to change. The above are not such guilts (though I've certainly had the other kind). These are just silly, little things that lie under my smooth veneer of culture and erudition.

(Okay, I know, what culture and erudition? Under my pretensions to culture and erudition, then.)

But, I refuse to let them go, because they are fun!

This and That (Oh! And the Other Thing, Too)

Compassion Sunday went fairly well this year. I didn't faint (or cry too much), so that part was good. Only five children found sponsors at my church this year. There were about fourteen last year. Two things were working against more children's finding sponsors this year:
1) Many families in our church already sponsor a child -- either through Compassion International, World Vision (which is local), or Gospel for Asia.
2) It was the Women's Retreat this weekend at our church, and I do not think that many men would sponsor a child without consulting their wives. Maybe a seed was planted, though. I was directing a lot of men to Compassion's website after the services. There, they and their families can choose a child to sponsor, together.
Altogether, this presentation every year has nothing to do with me -- God will work in people's hearts as He wills. My goal is merely to be obedient to Him.

We took a look at our overgrown, weed-filled yard this weekend, and we promptly set out for the mall so we wouldn't have to look at it any more. This worked out great for us, but not so well for our neighbors who are giving us the fish-eye and are probably going to get on the horn with the Homeowner's Association this week to report us.

I'm eagerly awaiting an 18" silver chain that I ordered last week for my cross pendant. Sadie broke it accidentally over a month ago. My neck feels bare without it. Keith Green once said that he didn't think that it was appropriate to wear the cross as jewelry, but I'm going to have to disagree with him, at least in part. I agree that the cross should not be worn simply as jewelry, but, to me, my cross necklace is something that means so much more than mere adornment. It reminds me, with every glance in the mirror, of the price that was paid for me.

There was an interesting e-mail that was sent out to all the members of a Yahoo group to which I belong -- Freedom in Education (formerly: Libertarian Educators). As a current and future homeschooler, I find this group occasionally helpful. Here is what one member, Gene Hawkridge of WA wrote:

About two years ago, my daughter was baptized as a Christian - not up to me to choose, as I AM a Libertarian. She is also most definitely a Christian. Unlike some "Christians" however, my daughter understands what "thou shalt not steal" means. I am extremely proud of this intelligent, moral, Christian Libertarian, even though I do not choose Christianity for myself.What I do not understand is folks who can call themselves both "Christians" and "Libertarians" and then advocate that the State steal more of my money to support students who are allegedly more deserving, somehow, than students in my "white" neighborhood (which is, albeit affluent, actually very diverse - like my own ancestors). There is nothing whatsoever "Christian" nor "Libertarian" about racial prejudice.

Now, since I do not call myself a Christian, perhaps I have no real right to define what one is. I do, however, own copies of both the Tenach ("old testament") and the Gospels ("new testament"), and, while there might be somewhere in these that it says that the government should steal from the more affluent in order to provide for the less fortunate, I simply cannot recall any such passage in either set of books. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of these religious volumes can cite where the "Bible" advocates such a socialist idea.

I've called myself a "Libertarian" for more than 30 years, and I do believe I have a pretty good understanding of what it means. I signed a pledge promising not to advocate the initiation of force, or the use of fraud, to achieve my personal or political goals. I know of no other political organization that has such a simple, clear ethical/moral statement of principle as its founding ideological premise. I am proud of my chosen Party for its dedication to this principle. I also observe that this moral premise is entirely consistent with my understanding of Judeo-Christian ideas of morality, although not as limiting in some ways.

As a Libertarian, I never advocate for any tax. To me, taxation is indistinguishable from theft (the forced extraction of property/money). It does not matter how many wolves vote to have the sheep for lunch, it is still agression. As a board member of a public school system, I am glad to serve without monetary compensation, volunteering my time. I continually look for ways to enhance school funding without the use of taxes, and I continually look for ways to use our "revenue" more efficiently. I never forget that it is stolen money, to the extent that some folks in my state do not pay it voluntarily. One can rationalize this away all one wants, with socialist "social contract" nonsense, but it still comes down to theft.

I regret that my fellow citizens have chosen to fund schools in this manner, but I am elected to serve their interests as well as those - or especially those - who pay unwillingly.

I see nothing whatsover "Christian" (or Jewish, or Islamic) about socialist wealth-transfer schemes. Charity is that which one gives up willingly, voluntarily, and privately, without public fanfare, to help our less fortunate cousins. Theft is theft no matter how justified one thinks it is. We should never try to fool ourselves about it.

Gene Hawkridge
Kenmore, WA, USA

I really appreciate his points, since I happen to be both a Christian and a (small-l) libertarian. My two anchor points of belief are the Apostles' Creed and the non-initiation of force. While I believe strongly, fervently in charity -- in doing all that I can to help feed, clothe, educate, house, and bless the impoverished and hurting at home and abroad -- and my family has committed itself to structured giving, I no more see these worthy endeavors as the responsibility of the government than I do other church business (like building a baptismal fount or putting up a new stained-glass window). We'll never win people to Christ by sloughing off our responsiblity toward our fellow man onto faceless, compassionless, extortion-funded gov'ment. Shame on us!

I haven't written anything about abortion for a while -- to go on to a lighter topic, right?-- oi! There are a couple rather disturbing things that I'm hoping to sit down and write about soon. One has to do with a comment on a very old post I wrote about being a Roe vs. Wade survivor, and the other is something that one of my heroes, Jill Stanek, recently wrote for WorldNet Daily. Maybe, when my three-year-old "product of conception" goes down for a nap, I can take keyboard to monitor and order my thoughts (which will most likely outrage pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike -- ah, controversy!).

Hey, if you haven't been by Amigo's place in a while, please stop by and read his piece on Earth Day. I had nothing to add but ROTFL, so I didn't comment. Anybody else out there missing Billy D. and Andrea and Serena? Serena'll be back (she promised), but those other two have sworn off blogging for a bit. I haven't killed the links to their sites yet, as hope springs eternal. I'd like to see them come back. Wouldn't we all?

Joelle and I have started Who Needs Jenny? -- a blog to keep us accountable to each other and -- considering the format of blogging -- to the world in our weight-loss and healthy eating commitments. If you'd like to join, drop me an e-mail (, and I'll send you an invitation.

My goodness, I have been reading some great books lately! Sometimes, I think that I am too inclined to love what I read, but, maybe, I just have good taste in picking out really good books! Look for upcoming reviews of The New Testament and Literature by Stephen Cox, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro, and Creators by Paul Johnson. Oh, yes, and if you are looking for a couple really interesting novels to read this summer, please consider The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic and Heaven's My Destination by Thornton Wilder. I learned of both by reading The New Testament and Literature. Time allowing, I'd like to review them too.

Has summer arrived in your part of the world yet (or, winter, in the case of Morris)? It's struggling to come out up here in Washington, but we're finally getting some sunny days in a row. Maybe we'll get temps above 70 one of these May days. Or, we might have to wait until June as usual.

Peace to all!