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A Story for Memorial Day

Rebekah Hair : May 28, 2017 3:27 pm : Columns, Rebekah

DSCN2163When we all tumbled out of the car into the bright, hot Texas Afternoon, I wasn’t impressed. I had seen cemeteries before. I had walked past the gravestones and looked at all the markers. It had been quiet and warm, like today, and had the same shapes and colors of stone. The only difference in my mind was that there were more fire ants here than in North Carolina.

My parents went up to a white-haired little man with glasses and a hat that said “U.S. Army. Vietnam” In my head I calculated his age to be about the same as my Papa’s, who had been a Telegraph Operator in the army and had died in 2015. We had visited his grave in April, when we drove down to North Carolina to visit family and spend our vacation at the beach. The man was holding an armful of flags and a flat-head screwdriver, and there was a woman with him, probably his wife. My dad asked the man if we could help decorate the graves.

It is May 28th. Memorial day Weekend. That is why we were at the cemetery. We were there to place flags by the graves of soldiers.

I teamed up with my sister Grace and my brother Sam. I looked for the graves, Sam poked a hole in the ground with a screwdriver, and Grace stuck a flag in. We wandered from one end of our corner to another, looking like patriotic grave robbers. It was difficult to tell which graves had been made for soldiers. The big, impressive ones that were easy to read had no useful information on them. They simply said the person’s name, his date of birth and death, and perhaps an inspirational quote. Nothing helpful.

After a while we realized that someone, probably someone in the government, had given the soldiers grave markers that were all the same size, shape, and color. The stone was a light gray, about three inches thick, and the size of a doormat. On each headstone was a black carved cross, the name of the soldier, which war he fought in, sometimes his rank and company, and his dates. The uniform stones made it easier to tell which ones to honor with flags, but it was still difficult. You really couldn’t tell until you were right on top of them.

A bit irritated by the heat, sun, ants, and mosquitoes, I wasn’t too interested in what we were doing until we arrived at a questionable headstone. There was the cross, all right, but the rest of the headstone had been covered with dirt. I couldn’t tell if this was a soldier or just someone with a cross on their stone. To make it worse, an ant hill had settled itself right in the corner. I brushed off as much yellow-white clay dust as I could without  being bitten. There was a name, a date, and…no war. But there, under my feet, someone had been buried. Someone who had once been alive, and alive for a good while, judging from the dates. I wondered who he was. I wondered why they had let his gravestone become so….dirty. It was almost as if the earth was trying to swallow the marker, swallow the last evidence of this man’s life.

His wife’s stone wasn’t in much better shape, or at least, I guessed it was his wife’s. The earth had eaten it completely, leaving only the top exposed. I wondered what the etiquette of graveyards said about shovels. I wanted to get one and use it to clean up the stones. If shovels weren’t allowed, were brooms?

Other stones were covered in mold, mildew, and fungus. One had a bush growing over it, obscuring its inscription. Some were so old the carving had been worn away, leaving only a stone, with words so blurry that you could barely read them. I saw one stone that read 1869. The man who died had been born at the end of the civil war years.

As we continued our quest for soldiers, I looked for different wars on the tombstones. World War I. World War II. Korea. The Spanish-American War. Vietnam. That one made me think about the Soldier who gave us the flags. Did he do this every year, alone? Did he go through the cemetery, bending over to poke the hole, and carefully place every flag, every year? The cemetery was large. It took us about an hour to place the flags. I wondered how long it would have taken him. Why did he do it every year? Did he know someone who had died, and who was buried there?

I ran out of flags and borrowed some from Adam. Reality cut into my musing when I stepped into an ant hill on the way back to Sam and Grace. I had been skirting danger with ants since I stepped foot in that place. They had made their burrows all through the ground, turning it all from packed clay to turned-up sand. Any Texan knows that when the dirt is clumped into tiny circles, and starting to mound, you shouldn’t step there. But the tiny mounds were everywhere, and it was impossible to avoid them all for long. Ant bites make it hard to reminisce. Especially in Texas, where Fire Ants have a strange taste for revenge.

“Thank you for your help.” The soldier said, after inquiring about my ant bites. I was standing with one foot on his tailgate, trying to obliterate the little red demons scurrying about in my shoe and on my foot. “You’ve made this much easier.”

“You’re Welcome.” I said. I wanted to say something else but I couldn’t think of anything other than “I’m glad to help.”

The Soldier thanked us all before we left. We had decorated the graves of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. It was a little cemetery. It didn’t take more than an hour to finish. I had broken my pencil trying to poke holes for the flag, and my foot was itching horribly from the ant bites. It was hot, and there wasn’t any shade. We climbed back into the car and attacked the cooler, pulling out chilled water bottles.

Mom and Dad and Adam talked to the soldier. Joel tried to beg a flag from him, but we didn’t let him have it. He wouldn’t really appreciate it the way it deserved. I thought about how passive we are about the flag. It’s just a symbol, after all, isn’t it?

A Vietnam veteran went every year to decorate the graves of his fellow soldiers. He told us emphatically to never let the flags touch the ground. To him it was important.

As we drove away, Adam mentioned a set of graves he had seen on his side of the cemetery. “Two boys.” He said. “They both died on the same day.”

“Were they soldiers?”

“I don’t know.” He admitted. “But they were eighteen. And they were right next to each other. I wonder if they were friends.”

There were so many mysteries in that graveyard. The stone for the unnamed infant, who was given a month and a year, but no days for his birth or death. The person in the back whose stone was so badly damaged by mildew, so that it couldn’t be read. A grave with a little cat figurine on it. All of these people were alive. But now they have been forgotten.

Except for today, when some of them, the ones who gave everything for their country, were remembered by a former soldier, who still honored their sacrifice, his flag, and his country.

And by us, who had never understood Memorial day.

Until now.

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Illiterate

Rebekah Hair : March 4, 2017 9:54 am : Columns, Rebekah

This morning I woke up with ideas of thrillers and captures, fully planning to write up a delicious new story. I had watched something thrilling, broken, and breathtaking. But something on the radio woke me up, and now I have something else to write, something much more important than an adventure story to give me an adrenaline rush. I need to write something with a purpose.

The story on the radio was about our culture and how foreign the most basic of biblical information is to those who call themselves Christians. Questions like “Who built the ark? What was the name of Adam’s Wife? How many disciples did Jesus have?” could not be answered. People are convinced that Poor Richard’s almanac quotes are scripture.

This is our fault.

It’s really all of our faults. We cell ourselves up in little communities and don’t tell others the truth. We make little evangelism attempts but don’t tell people the whole scripture. We tell people that God loves them without telling them what he did in that love, and why. Kids grow up with the songs and the stories and then leave it all behind. And things aren’t changing.

Christians, what are you doing?

What am I doing?

Who I am.

I’m a Christian and a Bible Scholar. I read the Bible every day and I memorize scripture for my private use. I’m homeschooled and have been taught to think for myself and use logic to discern the truth in a maze of lies. I try to engage in discussions and tell other people what I know, but I’m discouraged by my own fears and sensitivity. I can talk to a boy about coin collections, or teach a little girl Spanish, but I can’t seem to tell someone stories from the Bible, the most important story of all time.

That needs to stop now.

Any storyweaver who can’t tell that Story is not worthy of the title. And I put myself on that list foremost. I am ashamed of this failure. But I am also grateful to God for convicting me of my failure. Now I can move on. Now I can turn around. Now I can make a difference.

In my Sunday School class we have interesting, intellectual conversations about government, history, science, and cults. But I don’t know if my teacher has once asked us a question from the Bible. We’re smart kids! If we don’t know enough about the Bible to answer questions from it…teach us! We need to know. If we don’t know now, we’re in trouble.

What I believe.

As a millennial, I’m in the minority. I believe that God is real, powerful, loving, and the creator of all creation supernaturally and out of nothing. I believe that Jesus Christ is Fully God and Fully Man, who was born of a virgin and lived and taught and did miracles and was unjustly accused and murdered, and who rose from the dead. I believe that when Christ died, the just for the unjust, he not only destroyed Satan but he also took the sins of the entire world; past, present, and future; and he has called us to live a holy life in remembrance and obedience to him. I believe that he truly came, and I believe that he’s coming again. I believe that the Bible is true, that what it says is true, and that everything that disagrees with it is error and and a lie.

And I’m not compromising on that.

What is your Foundation?

If we compromise on any of the things I just stated to accommodate our friends or neighbors, even for evangelism purposes, we sacrifice our foundation for the sake of the building. Where does a building go without a foundation? Straight down. Christian, where is your foundation?

In Geometry, there are three tools you can use to prove a mathematical enigma. These tools have special names: Postulates, Theorems, and Definitions. Postulates are universal rules and truths who have stood the test of time and are still true, self-evident truths. Definitions are clear statements of being and nature, which do not change and identify a thing for what it is. Theorems are built on the foundation of the Postulates and the Definitions. They are the weakest, but they are many. Postulates do not change. Definitions do not change. If they do, they threaten everything that relies on them.

If someone were to take out the postulates, and change the definitions, what would happen? If you change a triangle from a three-pointed shape to a four-pointed shape, would it make a difference? If you built your theorems on other theorems and broken definitions, will what you decide be truth or fiction?

How can we truly search for truth when we can’t even decide what it is?

Illiterate, and proud of it.

Christian, wake up! We’re dealing with an epidemic of illiteracy! We can’t ignore this! What if everyone in a city couldn’t read? What if they couldn’t read street signs or notices? What if they didn’t understand speed limit signs? What would you do? Would you dumb down drivers’ tests and school assignments and give them orally? Would you turn the street signs into pictures? Would you accommodate the illiterate? Is that really helping them? What is better for the person who is illiterate? Isn’t it to teach him to read?

Learning to read is hard! Learning to read isn’t fun! Learning to read is tough! But learning to read is essential for life! Why is the first response of our society to be sympathetic and accommodating? If a person is a disability, yes, we do help them and make things easier for them. But we also help them learn how to live normally! We work hard to help people learn to read, speak English, get jobs. We are passionate about helping them because we love them and are concerned for their physical success and welfare.

When did it become ok in our culture to accept ignorance and error? Why is it our natural response to tell them that they’re right, and that we won’t bother them or try to change their minds? Why do we accept what we know isn’t true? Why do we accept disabilities and handicaps that we don’t need to bear? If your arm is broken, do you just accept it for what it is? No! You take it to a doctor and have it taken care of. You heal it. Then you put it through physical therapy so you can use it again.

Why do we do differently in the Church?

Candy vs. Cardboard

Church for the most part is spoon-fed in feel-good doses. We assume that people aren’t smart enough to learn the hard things so we just give them platitudes and pats on the back and illustrations. We tell them nice stories and don’t ask them hard questions. We are sweet like candy; pleasing, but not substantial. We are kind to a fault, like fluffy pillows with no support. Where is our foundation?

I’ve been in both situations. I’ve been to a church where we had “bare boards” theology, where we were very clear about what we believed and we bordered on the legalistic. I’ve been to a church that was fluffy and sweet, kind to everyone and comfortably confusing. This doesn’t have to be an either-or, hard or soft.

Our church experience doesn’t have to be either candy or cardboard. It doesn’t have to be bare boards or fluffy pillows. There is a happy medium, a place where we tell each other the truth in love, not compromising on what we know is true from scripture, but not being divided on silly little things. We don’t have to sacrifice the truth to be kind.

This is the church’s call.

What should we do?

We need to be kind and helpful and inviting, but we also need to be firm and sure on what we believe! Do the people in your church know why Christ died? Do they know why sin is a problem? Do they know about Hell? Do they know about Satan? Do they know the place of pastors? Do they believe in the Holy Spirit? Do they get their information from God’s Word, or from their pastors, or from books, or from television? Do they know how to tell their neighbors about Christ? Do they know that God loves them? Can they trust the people in their church? Can they trust God?

Do you know the answers to these questions?

We need to talk to our friends about Spiritual things. We need to talk to them about these things like we do about other things. We need to be able to talk about them to our families and not feel strange! We need to be confident in God’s word, which means we need to know it! Studying scripture needs to be our priority. Prayer needs to be our priority. Witnessing needs to be a priority! These things go together!

Our sunday classes need to be informative and helpful. Our studies need to be based on fact instead of emotion and celebrity writers and cool graphics. Kids and adults need to be taught truths, not stories and examples, straight from God’s word and from the words of the saints through history, not just from the last ten years. We need to have a firm grasp on reality and truth and history even in the youngest classes. For a college-age class we should have college-level study. If the kids don’t know the Bible, then help them learn, and encourage them to read it!

Our sermons need to be full of God’s word, using not just emotion and wit, but also truth and history. Our pastors shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth, nor should they worry that they will lose listeners if they talk about painful topics. Our people need to be loving, and to encourage each other and their leaders. This is our call. This is our prerogative.

Why am I so insistent, all of a sudden? What has changed? Why am I so suddenly worried? The answer is in statistics.

Walking with our Eyes closed

We are running into a bloc of children who are growing up with their heroes all following secular scripts. We are growing up and discovering that our parents’ worldview and the worldview of our friends are not compatible. We have no postulates in our culture so all truths are based on emotion and mob rule. We are being fed lies all day, and we’re beginning to repeat them in our sleep. Propaganda from the media, propaganda from the schools, propaganda from our entertainment, propaganda from our books and paintings and music, propaganda from our celebrities.

We are becoming strangers in our own country. We have won an election but we have lost a generation. We have compromised on the truth and we’re reaping the results. It is going to be very dangerous for churches in the years to come. We the Children will either be Giants of the Faith in an Era of Persecution, or we will fall away and quietly join the others in our generation, who believe everything and nothing.

We’ve been walking with our eyes closed as Christians. We have separated our faith from our lives. We live like faith is only a small part of us, like a hobby. We don’t commit to growing the church and discipling our friends, but instead spend our time growing our own little empires of education, fiction, or industry. And as we walk with our eyes closed, others are setting traps all around us, waiting for us to fall.

What can we do? We must know our Bible! We can’t fight this blindly! We need our pastors to speak the truth no matter what people think. We need to teach our children to know their faith and defend their faith, to know God and serve him and love him! We need to speak out. We need to be ready to defend. We need to know the truth. This is a problem with our churches, our families, ourselves. Do I know the Truth? Does my Family? Does my Pastor? Do my Friends?

When our modern heroes fail us, we need to know the stories of the faith! We must learn the stories of the martyrs and heroes who God used to do amazing things. We need to make Christ our example, not fictional characters or celebrities. And this life is going to have consequences.

John 17: 14-19 says “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” Christ came to us and taught us His Truth, a truth that will never change or decay. He died so that the blood-guilt of every sin from Adam on would be covered by his perfect blood. And because we guard the truth, the world hates us. They’re not going to stop hating us if we forget the truth or are careless in guarding it.

It’s time to fight, guys. It’s time to fight, Christian. Get your Bible. Get in the Word. Talk to your pastor. Get involved. Don’t be satisfied with what is! Let’s be the soldiers we are. Run the race given to you. Fight for the Truth. Love others and talk to them. Don’t be satisfied with a lie. Don’t tolerate heresy. Understand what is true and what is a lie.

It’s a lonely world out there for the truth. And if we don’t open our eyes, we’ll be swept away. Stand your ground on your faith. Figure out what that is.

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Lightbearer Letters: The Demonic and Divine

Rebekah Hair : December 6, 2016 8:56 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Sir

My brother is thinking about heroes. But the heroes he thinks of aren’t very heroic. They are broken, bitter people who live for themselves. There is little of the sacred light in them. Any resemblance is accidental. Give me wisdom to see these “angels of light” as the shallow, dead things they are.

I was reading an old history and was appalled by the debauchery carried on shamelessly and written down in these books. Any idea of the “golden age” is dispelled by the truth of these accounts. These were called their highlights. I wonder what they might have called their decay.

In these stories, the gods are merciless and cruel, revealed to be the demons they are. Demons that require sacrifice and the desecration of your temple, our bodies. You once said that whoever did things even to the least of your children, did them to you. These gods devoured the “least of these” and wish to devour today. I bless the glory of your victory, O Captain, which sealed forever these spirits so that they are no longer powerful, but must wait in prison, doing only a portion of what they once could do, as lions chained. Let us not be afraid of the lions, but to trust in the one who not only forged the chains, but also made and freed us.

The decay and death in these stories, both ancient and modern, are depressing. What else could they be? But you have called us to put away what is evil, and to cling to what is good. There are many people who reflect the holy light, and while looking up create works of beauty and grace. Somehow even the most broken of creations can be redeemed. This is your call. This is a side effect of your battle.

We fight not only to reach others, not only to make things better, not only to become holy, but to know you most of all. All other things, even this battle, flow through this. Help me to remember.

In your name,

Lightkeeper Storycraft.

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Lightbearer Letters: Longing

Rebekah Hair : November 9, 2016 9:33 am : Columns, Rebekah

My Captain,

I am feeling a longing that I have not often felt before. It’s a stirring, a desire for more. Perhaps it is the Sacred Light, wanting to shine out through me, wanting to join those who have gone before. Maybe it is a desire to finally end this struggle, this war. Maybe it is a longing to go home.

Home, father, home! It’s a desire that I can hardly control. I want to go to my final home, where I will see you face-t0-face.

I was reading my orders today, reading about Abraham, who lived in the land promised him like a stranger. He was not content with earth, because he was constantly looking up and ahead to the land promised. He could not see it. He did not have any surety of it, no tangible sign, only the word of the Ever-True Father. But that was enough. For that faith he lived and died a wanderer, even being willing to sacrifice his only son, because he loved and trusted his God.

Just reading about my spiritual ancestor gives me hope. I want to be like them, who cannot see what is promised, but believe and continue in obedience.

Give me the faith to believe and long for the City that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Help me to always keep this in my sight, Captain, so that I may never be overcome by darkness and despair. Our enemy is strong, Captain, but you died to free us, and to give us victory. Even now you are going before us to prepare the home Abraham longed for. Now I long for it too. Please, my friend, take us home soon. Let this warfare end. Fill our hearts with your peace.

With longing,

Lightbearer Storycraft.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God….These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11: 8-10, 13-16)

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Lightbearer Letters: Fear

Rebekah Hair : November 7, 2016 10:23 am : Columns, Rebekah

Soldier 161-031-9980
Western Front, Southeast Squadron RPC
Camp S, Section 65B

Captain

We’ve had trouble on several fronts in our camp. Several of us are fighting among ourselves. Our enemy is profiting from our discord and has chided us into inactivity. This infighting must stop or we won’t be able to fight. My enemy Ego is telling me to listen to my pride and join the fighting. I’m finding it hard to fight him. I’ve failed twice already.

Our youngest soldier is very open to the message so far. I only hope that the Holy Light will infect him. I’m reading to him picture books about what you have done. Call him to your service, Captain, and make him one of yours. Make him truly one of your soldiers, not just an observer of the light.

I’m having trouble with my commission. I’m finding that I have more fear of what people might think of me than I have faith in you and what you have done. I want to speak to others about your glory, but I don’t do it in my time, and therefore am out of practice. I’m shirking my duties as soldier and lightbearer.

Remind me again, captain, that my purpose is to reflect the Holy Light coming from you. Let this take full preeminence over all my other passions. Let me not be afraid to speak for you. Fill me with your spirit, your courage, your light. Let me trust you again. Only then can I be a true soldier

Let me no longer fear men, Captain, but fear God

Lightbearer Storycraft.

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Confession of a Wayward Lightbearer

Rebekah Hair : November 4, 2016 10:33 am : Columns, Rebekah

Soldier 161-031-9980

Western Front, Southeast Squadron RPC

Camp S, Section 65B

Captain

Enclosed is my first full report of the battle in camp S. The lapses of communication are not due to any ambiguity on the part of my orders, but result from my flawed misconception that my purpose here was to simply observe, to study, and not to engage the enemy.

The Holy Light has been put out, the one entrusted to Camp S, due to ill keeping. The Soldiers in Camp S have been acting in an advisory capacity, living civilian lives, while still carrying the royal name. Without guarding or engagement in the battles, the flame slowly dwindled. Now it is only coals.

I have failed you in watching my part of the Holy Light, and was lulled to sleep by the words of a traitor in the camp, Ego, who assured me that my part in the campaign was to watch and learn from senior officials. I have been reading the orderbook and the biographies, the latter books reminding me of my full purpose.

The reason this is my first report is because before now I assumed as an observer I had no right to speak to you, but that my orders would come soon. I was unwilling to believe that my orders came when I first joined the camp.

While carrying your Holy Name, and your Holy Light, I have kept silent when asked of my true colors. I have tried to hide the Holy Light, and because of that, the Light has faded away. Not only that, but my lack of participation in the campaigns I was supposed to be part of caused several heavy losses for our camp. The rest of the soldiers are likewise asleep. Only our Commanders nurse the Holy Light. And our Squadron seems more worried about maintaining structural activity than beginning any new campaigns.

We are on the defense, sir, because we have no hope. We feel that our job is simply to wait for you to come and take command, and that you will fix everything. Without the Holy Light, we have become timid. We no longer try to enlarge our ranks.

I ask that the Holy Light be rekindled in our Camp, and our Squadron. I ask that we may be given encouragement and aid as we begin again what we ought to have done long ago. I ask for a Captain to lead us in the conquest of the darkness. I ask for personal aid as I stand against demons of darkness and indifferent soldiers. How strange that my main discouragement comes from within our ranks!

Every night we close the day with this song:

Father, we come to thee, for day is done

And bring account for battles lost and won

For all the vict’ries, let us humble be

For all our power finds its source in Thee.

Give us Victory over our enemy once more, my King

Lightbearer Storycraft

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Sitter Sméagol: Part 2

Rebekah Hair : November 3, 2016 8:02 am : Columns, Rebekah

Where we left off, Sméagol was contemplating the job of watching several little hobbits while “Fat Hobbit” Went with Rosie to see the Elves before they went over the Sea. Sméagol was left alone with Elanor, Sam’s oldest hobbit-daughter, and several little hobbits.

Gollum: We shouldn’t eats them, precious, but we is hungry. We has nothing to eat.

Elanor: Would you like me to make you some toast? Or bacon?

Gollum: Baconses, please. And raw.

Elanor: That doesn’t seem quite safe, mister….

Gollum: Sméagol is our name, precious.

Elanor: Mister Sméagol. You probably should cook your food before you eat it.

Gollum: One raw and one cooked, then?

Elanor: I guess I could do that. I’ll be right back.

Gollum: Would he miss one, I wonder? He has so many small hobbitses… (hears a knock on the door) I wonder if that’s him coming back. Good thing I didn’t eat any. (Goes over to the door and opens it)

Dwalin: Good morning. Dwalin at your service. Where’s supper?

Gollum: Supper?

Dwalin: Don’t dawdle, lad. Bring supper.

Gollum: All right…(goes over to Elanor at the stove) We is going to need more baconses. There are dwarveses in the parlor.

Elanor: Dwarves in the parlor? But papa isn’t home.

Gollum: We knows this.(Door bangs once more) And it looks like there will be more coming!

Fili: Looks like everyone’s here. Hello! Where’s supper?

Gollum: Why does everyone expect supperses?

Dwalin: It was in the message. Little fellow having the meeting at his house, providing supper, and going to come with us to help rob the dragon.

Gollum: DRAGONSES? What’s it talking about, precious?

Thorin: Everyone! Gandalf said we need to get going immediately. There isn’t much time. He’ll meet us in Bree. I’m sorry, Baggins, but we’ll have to leave now.

Gollum: Bagginses? What does it mean, Bagginses?

Balin: We got the message: Baggins, in the Shire, at Bag End, coming to help us get the dragon.

Gollum: This sounds familiarses…..wait, DRAGONSES! WHAT DRAGONSES??

Elanor: Excuse me…

Fili: All right! Let’s go!

 

Sam and Rosie come to their house to find it in complete disarray. All the furniture is topsy-turvy and the pantry is empty.

Rosie: What happened here?

Sam: I knew it wasn’t smart to let Gollum watch our house. Now look at all this.

Rosie: But where are our children?

Sam(to himself): Maybe he ate them.

Rosie: SAM! Look, there’s an elf. Sir, have you seen our children?

Legolas: They’ve taken the hobbits to Isengard!

Sam: (to himself) Better there than with that Gollum.

Rosie: How far away is Isengard?

Sam: Here we go again.

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Sitter Sméagol Part 1

Rebekah Hair : October 17, 2016 9:08 pm : Columns, Rebekah

This Addition to the Sméagol series is the first one to be a two-part. The series is purely fictitious and is not canon, so don’t worry about it. For entertainment only.

Sitter Sméagol

After losing his job at the restaurant, Sméagol scanned the want ads in the local newspaper. The choice of employment for a creature such as him was very slim.

 

Gollum: Nothing for poor Sméagol. Nothing at all. No one cares that he is starving! No one cares that he might die! (Scans the paper again) What’s this? Sitter wanted to watch house for weekendses. What’s a sitter, precious? Someone who sitses? We must looks into this.

(Gollum goes down to the address listed. It is a good sized hobbit-hole with a green door. Seeing a hobbit nearby, he asks for directions.)

Gollum: Excuse us. Where are we, precious?

Hobbit: Why, you’re in the shire, strange looking creature.

Gollum: Shire? That soundses familiar somehow. Might as well knock. (Knocks on door)

Sam: Hello?

Gollum: FAT HOBBIT!!!!!

Sam: There’s no need to be insulting. Why, Gollum! I wondered what had happened to you after you fell into that volcano. And then you were at that restaurant. Well, what are you doing here?

Gollum: I found this ad in the paperses. But I don’t know what sitterses mean.

Sam: Oh. Well, it’s someone who watches over a house and makes sure that no one comes in when they’re not supposed to.

Gollum: Is that all? Just watching houseses?

Sam: That’s it.

Gollum: Then we’ll take the jobses.

Sam: Wait, Gollum, it isn’t that easy. See, this is an odd house. Strange things keep happening. We haven’t been able to go on vacation for two months because people keep coming. We haven’t been able to get a sitter.

Gollum: Problemses solved. You need someone to watch the houses, and I need a jobses. Go ahead and take the little hobbitses with you.

Sam: Well, about that…

Gollum: Yes?

Sam: We haven’t found a baby sitter either.

Gollum: I don’t understandses.

Sam: This is a trip to Rivendell to listen to the elf music. I can’t really take the children. So I’ve been trying to get a babysitter.

Gollum: What’s the difference betweens a sitterses and a babysitterses?

Sam: I’m not leaving the kids with you, Gollum.

Gollum: (whining) But poor Sméagol just wants to be helpful. Fat hobbitses don’t understands us!

Sam: I understands just fine. I don’t mind you watching our house, but I do mind you watching my children. You might eat them.

Gollum: EATSSS THEM? FAT HOBBIT THINKS I’LL EAT THE LITTLE HOBBITSES? SHAME!

Rosie: Dear, I wish you would stop that noise. I just got the children to bed. Elanor is going to stay up with them. Is this the sitter?

Sam: Well, yes…

Rosie: Wonderful! Now, we must hurry if we’re going to make the coach.

Sam: But dear, I don’t know if this is wise….

Rosie: Oh, Sam, don’t worry so much. Elanor will take care of them. (Turns to Gollum) Thank you very much for coming.

Gollum: Um, you’re welcomses?

Rosie: Now we must be going.

Sam: Wait…

Rosie: Hurry, love! This is one of the last times we can see The Elves before they leave on their over the sea tour! We’ve waited long enough! (Drags Sam away)

(Elanor, a girl hobbit, walks out. She blinks at Gollum)

Elanor: Who are you?

Gollum: What did we get ourselves into, precious?

Will Sméagol survive the job at Bag End? Are Sam’s kids safe? And why did it take so long for Sam to find a sitter? Stay tuned for part 2!

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Server Sméagol: A Spoof

Rebekah Hair : October 2, 2016 4:31 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Setting: Gollum, after losing “his” ring, is homeless and out of a job. Out of pity, a Rider of Rohan hires him to work in his restaurant. However, working is not something Gollum is used to.

 

Helm: All right….Gollum? Is that your name?

Gollum: Yes, precious, poor Sméagol is called Gollum now.

Helm: Well, then, Gollum, your jobs will be simple. You’ll wash dishes, take food to the tables, and help clean up the restaurant. People will order at the counter, so you won’t need to take their orders, but you will need to make sure you give the right food to the right people. Is that clear?

Gollum: Very clear, precious. Poor Sméagol does his best.

Helm: Good. First you can help wash dishes in the back here. (Shows Gollum a large sink)

Gollum: What a lot of water. Are there fishes in here, precious?

Helm: No. Just a lot of dishes. And be careful! (begins to walk off)

Gollum: (Looking around) Augh! What’s it doing, precious? He ruins it!

Helm: (rushes over) What is it?

Gollum: He cooks it! He ruins the nice fish! Make him stop!

Helm: (shaking his head) Gollum, you need to calm down. This isn’t a sushi joint. We cook our food. Now maybe this is bothering you. Would you like to do a job where you don’t have to watch them cook?

Gollum: Yes, precious, Sméagol would be so appreciative. (to himself) Might not want to stay this job. Sounds sticky.

Helm: All right. Take this fish and this salad to the couple over there. (hands Sméagol two huge plates)

Gollum: Issss not right precious! (staggering under the heavy plates) They spoils the nice fish. Give it to me now, raw, wriggling….(sets the plates down on the table heavily) and keep the nassty lettuces!

The couple at the table are Eowyn and Faramir.

Faramir: What’s this? (Stares at Gollum) Haven’t we met before?

Gollum: What? This one again, precious? How!? (He ducks under the table.)

Eowyn: Peace, Faramir. He has as much right to work as anyone.

Faramir: No treachery, now.

Gollum: No…no not at all. (slinks away very quickly and goes to see Helm) You didn’t tells us that HE was here!

Helm: Sorry, Gollum. This is a popular restaurant. Speaking of which…(In comes a huge group of orcs) here’s the football team now! How was the game?

Lead orc: Oh! Ha, it was a killing! (all orcs rattle their weapons and cheer) We want something to eat! It seems like we haven’t had anything but maggoty bread in three days!

Helm: Now, now, you were here yesterday. Gollum, get some tables ready for these gentlemen.

Gollum: GENTLEMEN? They’re ORCSES!!!

Helm: Now, don’t be prejudiced. Go on.

Gollum: We goes, we goes. (Grumbling to himself) Helpsing orcses and elvses, no food for poor Sméagol! But must be kind to master. He gives us moneys to buy foodses and hotel roomses. (Does as he’s told)

Helm: Thank you, Gollum, you’re doing a great job so far. But we’re not done yet. Please take these baked potatoes to that table over there.

Gollum: But there’s too much, precious! There’s more taters here than in fat hobbit’s stew, precious! We must think this through, love! He gives us too much! These are….nine taters, precious!

Helm: You know, I could hire a dwarf…

Gollum: Coming, coming! Poor Sméagol does his best, even though he’s tired and hungry! We takes the nassty taters. (Strains to pick up all the trays) Nassty….HEAVY taters! (Gollum staggers over to the table and almost drops all the plates) There! Here’s your nassty taters, good riddance, I says! Takes them! Takes them all! (Looks up)

(The occupants of the table are a family of hobbits. Sméagol’s mouth drops open.)

Sam: Gollum?

Gollum: Fat hobbitses? A whole family of fat hobbitses! Augh!!!!!! (Runs to Helm) I can’t do this, precious! Is too hard!

Helm: (losing his patience) If you can’t work with the others, I can’t have you work here.

Gollum: Fine! We leave. And we’ll never come back! (goes off in a huff) Best decision we’ve made, precious. Can’t work there any more. It’s too much, precious. Too much. We work somewhere else.

 

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Parable of the Laborers

Rebekah Hair : September 18, 2016 3:56 pm : Columns, Rebekah

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable to those around him. Peter and the rest of the disciples have just said “Lord, we have left everything to follow you!” The Rich Young Ruler has just walked away sadly, disappointed in Jesus’ answer. And in just a little while, the sons of Zebedee will ask to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands. They didn’t understand. Jesus said that the first would be last, and  the last would be first. They didn’t understand.

Do we?

In 1 Corinthians, Paul asked if he was anything. He said that he was God’s fellow worker, and could not claim glory. He was simply a laborer, a gardener. He planted the seed, but God made it grow. It was time for the church to collect the harvest.

But how can we gather together if we are too busy fighting over who is first? Unity isn’t necessarily easy, but it is necessary. Whether we come to Christ as children or adults, we are in Christ, and together must work and pray. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Men who are waiting
Just waiting for work
Not looking for it
Just standing alone.

Master comes searching,
Searching for workers
To pick his vineyard
And work his fields

“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”

Workers start working
Glad for the wages
But master still searches
For more to come

Men are still waiting
Standing at market
Idly waiting
For someone to come.

“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”

Workers start working
Glad for the wages
But master still searches
For more to come.

Men are still waiting
Expecting nothing
Day’s almost over
No chance of pay.

“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”

Sun is now setting
Work is now done
Time for the wages
From last to first.

Wonder of wonders!
All is made equal
The same wage for a day
As for an hour.

“Why do you grumble
You who came early?
Did I not promise
And did I not give?

‘Is it not my work
To give a blessing
Grudge not the free gift
Oh you who are blessed!”

“Come to my Vineyard
Gather my harvest
What I will give you
Will be good and right
Wage for the worker
Who works with good pleasure
Hurry and come now
Before the night.”

Do you still worry?
Do you still grumble​?
Angry at God’s Grace
To those who are late?

Bless him who called you
Into the vineyard
And grudge not the master
The gift he has giv’n!

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Irrational Geographic: Beware of the Pterry Hunters

Rebekah Hair : August 19, 2016 9:32 pm : Columns, Irrational Geographic

Authorities are cautioning citizens to avoid a popular phone game for safety reasons, and for good reason, according to Social Commentator Callie Chip.

The game in question, Dino Hunters, was designed for mobile devices and involves players searching the skies for a virtual flying dinosaur, or Pterry. The Pterrys are GPS tethered to satellites, helicopters, and airplanes orbiting earth. Players must point their phones to the skies and keep their eyes on them to make sure they don’t miss a rare Pterry.

“This is just a recipe for disaster.” Security analyst Rob Gig says. “We have people with their eyes on the skies, walking around, not looking where they’re going. People have fallen into stairwells, ran into poles, and tripped over fences, because they don’t see them. They’re also walking into roads. We haven’t had any accidents, because our drivers are responsible, but a Pterry Hunter did hold up traffic for over an hour on Thursday.”

The player in question, Melissa Meg, caused the traffic jam when she stepped onto the road and stayed there, chasing an elusive Pterry. Motorists were unwilling to psychologically harm the pedestrian, so they simply waited for her to leave. “I’m really proud of how they managed the situation.” Police Chief Sam Wills told reporters. “They’re really making the best of a bad situation.”

Other incidents have involved Pterry Hunters walking into residential homes, mistaking ceiling fans for satellites. “A man rushed into my house a few days ago.” 75-year-old Green hills resident Sally Sween reported, obviously shaken by the experience. “I was afraid for my life, but then I noticed he was only interested in my ceiling fan. I told him he could have it.”

Still other problems occur when Pterry Hunters take to the roads to hunt their prey from moving vehicles. “We have had reports of distracted and destructive driving.” Chief Wills report. “Some players just turn when they see a Pterry, regardless of whether or not there’s a turn nearby. One accident has occurred, but both motorists have good lawyers, so I’m sure it will turn out all right.”

“The Dino Hunters game is extremely dangerous.” Social Commentator Callie Chip told us. “It’s turning people into mindless zombies. People aren’t looking where they’re going, they’re breaking rules, trespassing, even doing things that could potentially harm themselves and others. Either the people who created this game are ignorant of the results, or they’re trying to create chaos.”

“I really like the game.” Dylan Falk, a Pterry chaser we met on the street, commented. “It’s fun to play the game and get outside to chase them. It makes it more difficult. But you have to be careful. It’s not for anyone.”

We asked him if he’d be willing to chase Pterrys anywhere. “No way.” He laughed. “No game is worth getting killed for.”

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An Ideology Demoted

Rachel Clark : July 19, 2016 10:15 pm : Columns, Rachel

 

If realizing how little one knows is part of growing up, then I am on the threshold of bona fide adulthood.

Over the past year, I have seen and done many things for the first time. And instead of reassuring me of my inexhaustible teenage knowledge, calmly meshing into my calculated and comfortable worldview, these experiences have dethroned my knowledge, demoted my pet ideologies.

Everything from the 2016 presidential race to my nerve-wracking driving test to some clear-eyed Bible study has drawn me ever closer to the simple conclusion that life offers few simple conclusions. It offers even fewer simple solutions.

One of the earth-shattering implications of this truth, one whose consequences were difficult for me to embrace, is that economic and political freedoms are no solution for the human condition—they can guarantee neither order nor morality. While some systems are more just and potentially moral than others, no political system makes humans any better than they are now. Libertarianism cannot counteract inborn human depravity. Only the Gospel can do that.

In an idyllic free society or Misesian economy, people would likely be more prosperous and things might be more peaceful. But on their own, these systems still present innumerable human flaws and reflect mankind’s all-encompassing sin problem.

In my subconscious I wanted to believe that if only man was given a chance, if only people were given freedom and modern technology and trade, they would do something good and worthwhile and wholly amazing. As soon as I acknowledged this thought, I also noticed its danger. It denies the unique power of God to change people, it diminishes the true value of freedom by introducing absurd impossibilities, and it forces freedom and free markets into a league of other failed ideas that have promised to “change” humans.

Scripture is clear that, whether free or oppressed, people keep on doing just what they have always done: building towers, trying to make names for themselves, and trying to reach heaven on their own accord in an open rebellion against God.

Freedom is good—for many reasons, both practical and Biblical—but not because it makes man good; it does not, cannot, and will never change human nature.

Even if Misesian minarchy were the best system of government ever devised, it and its components would still be surrounded by and capable of great evil. The same goes for every other governmental and economic system in the history of the world; some are better than others, but all are nevertheless bad by reason of their human elements.

So far as solutions go, there is only One for changing people. So far as governments go, well, there’s a lot of debate about which is the most conducive to justice and goodness. In that regard my view of freedom still stands, as strongly as ever and as radically as ever. And although it stands, it stands demoted—its value has not diminished, but a foggy, faulty understanding of it has been put to rest.

I will continue to call myself a freedom-lover, but only after I have been sure to call myself a follower of Christ.

(And maybe, one of these days, I’ll also be able to say that I’m a grown-up.)

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Blueberry Season

Rebekah Hair : June 3, 2016 11:05 am : Columns, Rebekah

Every year about June, something happens in our house. I can sense it coming when the air gets hot and lazy, and the chickens sit on the ground instead of pecking around in their yard. I can see it as I see the summer leaves coming onto the trees.

It is coming.

It is here.

Blueberry Season.

I’m not sure how I gained my intense dislike for the flavor of blueberries. I used to like them. But something happened when I was small, something I can’t remember, and now I detest them. What makes it difficult, however, is that I am the alone.

Everyone in my home looks forward to Blueberry Season. They relish the idea of cold, crisp blueberries in pies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, cobblers, and coffecakes. They like the huge bags of purple-blue berries in the freezer, and soon after a picking, flock to the kitchen to make their culinary conquest.

But what of me?

Oddly enough, even though my family loves to eat blueberries, they aren’t too fond of picking them. I understand, of course. Hot sun, fire ants, thick shoes, heavy buckets, clouds of insects, scratchy bushes, branches stuck in hair. I understand how those things are discouraging, because I’ve been there. I’ve even experienced guard dogs and all sorts of obstacles. But when it comes down to actually picking, my brother and I tie for most efficient. It doesn’t seem to register in my mind that each berry I pick means another blueberry-tainted dessert that I will have to pass on.

So in reality, I’m doing it to myself.

I like that my family likes blueberries. I like that they can now enjoy the harvest they (and I) worked to gather. I like that the sudden pour of berries inspires them to great things and new ideas. I like that. But I do not like blueberries.

So every year, right after the picking, it comes. All the normal desserts and breakfast items, like pie or pancakes, are covered with the berries. And every year I find a way to either eat them or eat something else. After about ten years of it, my family has caught on. But I can’t help it. I eat them sometimes, but as little as possible.

I’ve tried, of course. This is rather inconvenient for me, you know, and for the others. I try to like blueberries, for their sake (and for the sake of that pie) but I can’t. It’s not the only thing in the house, and frankly, if I take a piece and dislike it, then someone who actually loves it can’t have one. It isn’t worth the risk.

So now pie is on the table (blueberry, of course) and I content myself with memories of ice cream. They are enjoying their treasure as a family. That’s worth going without coffee cake.

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Good Friday

Rebekah Hair : March 25, 2016 7:12 pm : Columns, Rebekah

It’s Good Friday. I’m not sure why we call it “good”. It certainly didn’t seem so 2,000 years ago. If I was to name holidays, I would switch the names of this Friday and Black Friday. Then we could have Black Friday (the day when the sky prematurely went black) and Good (deal) Friday. But I’m afraid no one would like that.

The thing is, though it was “good” when you think of the ultimate triumph of that Friday, no one thought so on the day when Jesus was crucified. Save, perhaps, some Pharisees, Sadducees and a guy named Herod. They were quite happy when Jesus died. The spirit world erupted into chaotic joy…like in the parable of the Tenants, where the wicked tenants said “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’’ (Matthew 21:38)

It seemed to be a very BAD Friday then. But even when things were darkest, odd phenomena broke out, hinting that the day wasn’t over. For one thing, the curtain in the temple separating God and Man tore from the top down. No one understood that this meant that a mediator had made the temple sacrifices obsolete. Some dead people came out of their graves and began to prophesy. No one understood that Jesus would very soon rise again.

On Sunday, the day we call Easter, (another odd name) all these things would be explained. But today, on Good Friday, we remember the cross, the pain, the sacrifice for sin. The beauty of Easter is preceded by the pain of Good Friday…God, be merciful to me, a Sinner!

Who is this man, who bears the scars?
What is his lowly name?

For surely he is a wretched soul
to be treated with such shame!

What was his crime, who suffers there
What was his great offense?
What is this burden he must bear
That he should die like this!

Has he no friends, to be alone
Why must he suffer there?
The awful load of sin and guilt
How hard it is to bear!

It is our God, who suffers there!
How hard for us to see!
As each professes, in his heart
He suffered there for me!”

Rebekah Hair

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Ice World

Rebekah Hair : January 28, 2016 8:46 pm : Columns, Rebekah

DSCN2643Ice covered the leaves. Each blade of grass had its own blanket of stunning crystals, each tiny leaf its necklace of diamonds.

In some places the ice stuck out in stiff spikes, like tiny crystals of armor against footsteps. In others it covered the whole surface, branching out and joining together like crocheted lace.

If you walk outside you’ll see the diamond walkway before you. The weak sun sparkles on the grass, warning that soon it will rise to its whole height and warm the air, ending the reign of frosty magic.DSCN2645

I found a leaf on the grass that had fallen there from my potted poinsettia. Ice had covered every vein and panel, making a screen over the textured face. The beauty of the ice makes my frozen fingers worthwhile.

Ice is rare in south Texas. It’s usually dry in the winters, or raining because it’s much too warm for snow. I’ve only seen icicles a few times since we’ve been here, and none of them have been any longer than four inches. But frost is rather common, especially on cold, quiet mornings where the sun has yet to cross the sky and the air is bitterly frigid. During the night the dew turns to frost, and the frost to ice.

My camera has suddenly discovered how to blur and focus on different things depending on distance. Sometimes that’s annoying (birthday parties come to mind here) but other times it’s a blessing. Capturing the frozen morning takes practice. The light is so faded when the ice is out, but it’s so beautiful as it hits the diamond-hued ground. Even though you have to get up early and freeze, it’s worth it.

DSCN2649DSCN2640DSCN2653

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Higgins in Houston: How to Beat Tom

Hodgkins Clark : January 20, 2016 7:04 pm : Advice, Columns, Hodgkins

Dear Hodgkins,

My neighborhood has been invaded by a bully.  I think his name is Tom. Whilst making my routine patrols around my home, as I have done for years, I am sometimes attacked by this feline troglodyte nearly twice my size. I have taken a few beatings after defending the honor of Miss Prissy and Miss Kitty, even though I have my doubts about the latter.  What can I do?

Higgins from Houston

 

Insurrectionist Swine

Even I, the Emperor, have dealt with rebels and traitors.

Higgins,

Even I, the Emperor, have dealt with rebels and traitors. Thus I can recommend offensive, defensive, and preventative measures that you must take in order to defeat Tom: first, make sure he knows you’re no one to be trifled with; second, learn where all of the neighborhood dogs are; and third, enlist the help of your humans.

To send a clear message to Tom about your power and status, acquire an elegant collar with a real jingle bell. Its intimidating effect is enough to keep most riff-raff away altogether. Furthermore, the bell’s jingling stops feline criminals in their tracks just as surely as a shotgun’s cycling stops their human counterparts. Just make sure that you get the correct type of collar—i.e., not a purple one, because purple indicate royalty. Only I am royalty. Please remember this.

If Tom is bold enough to disregard your message, proceed to intensive defensive measures. Whenever Tom pursues you or infringes on your territory, lead him into the real enemy lines: right into a canine’s gaping, drooling, uncoordinated jaws. My neighborhood offers a variety of suitable canines (my favorite locations for leading insurrectionists are the Schnauzer Pit, the Lab Experiment, and the Poodle Death Camp). Perhaps a more merciful method, although one of less certain success, is to learn of automatic sprinkler systems and/or bodies of water in your territory; you’re a clever fellow and I’m sure you can logically infer what I insinuate.

As a last resort, enlist the help of your human. Humans are useful as guards and are typically willing to eliminate threats that are within their power to destroy. My point here is to schedule your duels with Tom at a time when your human can see. They’ll stuff Tom in the Box of Abominations and cart him off to who-knows-where; he may or may not ever come back.

My point with all of these tips is that you don’t have to take a beating. It’s highly unnecessary—especially since, well, Miss Kitty is of doubtful reputation.

I love me too,

Hodgkins

Supreme Emperor of the Universe;

Chief Executive Lizard-Slayer at Lizard Warrior Service;

Recipient of the Snowbell Peace Prize;

Coolest Monarch of the Century (Irrational Geographic);

Expert Tree-Conqueror;

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The Mahler Universe

Rachel Clark : January 16, 2016 10:45 pm : Columns, Music, Rachel

The title page of an 1808 edition of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The title page of an 1808 edition of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Gustav Mahler is one of my favorite composers. His music is imaginative. Glorious. Intense. Unprecedentedly large-scale. Sometimes dark, and other times angelic—always reminiscent of a vague adventure described in bits and pieces over an entire lifetime of creativity. In this regard Mahler’s music resembles a collection of folk tales or fairy stories—which were, not surprisingly, his greatest source of inspiration.

Seen from a broader perspective, though, his works are more than an assortment of thematically linked old lieder: it would be better explained as a story, in music, that takes place in a continuous universe.

Marvel and DC’s universes are two decent illustrations of this analogy. Both of these fictional settings in question are worlds similar to our own, featuring a regular cast of distinctive characters. Marvel has well-known figures like Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and Daredevil, for instance; DC has Batman, Superman, and the Joker. In many ways, though, Mahler’s musical universe is like the Pixar universe formulated and explained in fan theories: through a series of works, most connected and a few not, a thread can be traced. Familiar themes can be detected from piece to piece. And there’s a fascinating reason for it.

Mahler’s universe is based on the romanticized, dark, sometimes grotesque early Germany of the real world—the Germany of a generation or two before he was born. Instead of mutant superheroes and mastermind villains, his music features the familiar characters, ideas, and themes found in Des Knaben Wunderhorn (the Young Boy’s Magic Horn), a collection of German lieder and poetry from a colorful, centuries-old culture.

While it would be presumptuous to say that the man’s music solely reflected Wunderhorn poetry, all of his symphonies were in some way or another influenced by the collection. His life experiences, his philosophies, and his feelings for individuals around him were woven directly into his music; but one might say that Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano’s 1805 poetry collection was his music.

Many 19th century Germans and Austrians would have been familiar with the book. Perhaps as a result of its widespread popularity, several composers, including Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and Schoenberg, wrote works based on selections. None of them impacted the musical scene quite as deeply as Mahler’s, the near entirety of whose creative output was set in the musical universe he created from (and for) Des Knaben Wunderhorn. 

The term “musical universe” is imperfect for a number of reasons, one of them being that it obscures the difference between actual storytelling and actual characters in poems set to music and the recurring musical themes, cadences, and instrumentations that Mahler uses again and again in his symphonies and songs. However, the term’s ambiguity is simultaneously useful—thanks to the intriguing connections between his song sets, symphonies, and Wunderhorn.

The Mahler universe began with his early Songs of a Wayfarer and Lieder and Gesänge, his first settings of Wunderhorn verse and Wunderhorn-inspired poetry; in 1892, he began the best-known set of Wunderhorn songs. From these sets of songs emerged, directly and indirectly, nine symphonies. His First Symphony blatantly references Songs of a Wayfarer; in the Resurrection Symphony, he quotes “Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt” almost measure for measure for a great deal of the second movement—and the fourth movement of the same symphony is a Wunderhorn setting in its entirety, the poignant “Urlicht”. “Ablösung im Sommer” and “Es sungen drei Engel” similarly found their way into the Third Symphony. My favorite of all, the Fourth Symphony, features the beautiful “Das Himmlische Leben”.

With the last chord of the Fourth Symphony ends the Wunderhorn influence, or so it is said. But I disagree: the first motif of Mahler’s Fifth, the famed trumpet call, is a quote from the Fourth. Although it has not been concluded (and it has rarely been discussed) whether or not the quote was intentional, the fact remains that Wunderhorn’s impact was scarcely over. For instance, in the Fifth he hints at two Wunderhorn songs he was working on at the time, “Der Tamboursg’sell” and “Revelge,” two militaristic pieces with dark subjects. Mahler continued to quote and imitate his earlier works until the end.

Mahler’s works are placed into categories: Early, Wunderhorn, Middle, and Late. But  I would argue that “the Wunderhorn years” never properly ended—just as Pixar fans argue that Cars, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. exist in the same chronology. The connection may be harder to trace, but it persists—and you can find it simply by listening to Mahler’s universe.

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Insanity, Part 1

Rebekah Hair : January 14, 2016 11:43 am : Columns, Politics, Rebekah

This year my favorite Radio Station suddenly decided to drop what they had been doing and begin a whole new set of music. I wrote them an e-mail to ask why they had made the change. They said that they made the change to Praise and Worship so that they would minister to the majority of their listeners. While talking to Mom about this, somehow I lost track of the conversation and began to talk about something completely different: our inability to change.

I’m not sure how we got on that track. Maybe it’s because the e-mail didn’t show any signs of changing direction. I understand. We can’t expect a radio station to simply change course because one person doesn’t like what they’re doing. That’s to be expected. Now if everyone listening suddenly decided they didn’t like the new music and protested, and the station still wouldn’t change, that would be a problem. Why, that station would be just like Americans today!

We have a problem in our day and age with making our minors absolutes and our absolutes minors. We stand firm on our nothings while making concessions for our everythings. How is it that we can be so protective of our preferences, but so lenient with our laws? We pass laws protecting our interests but let people strip away our rights.

We need to wake up, people. This is getting pretty insane.

I’m not saying that stubbornness is good or bad, because it is both. When my brother stubbornly keeps his little brother from pulling away from him and running into the road, his stubbornness is invaluable. When little brother just as stubbornly insists on his way, his stubbornness is sinful. The difference between young adult and young child couldn’t be more clear. The child was being stubborn with something he could afford to lose, that is, his right to run into the road. The young man was being stubborn with something he could not afford to lose, that is, his little brother’s life.

There seem to be many more toddlers than young men in this world when it comes to decisions. Both boys were just as determined to win, and neither of them were going to give in. The younger one insisted that his brother let go of his hand. He wanted to run into the road! The older brother insisted that he would hold on to the hand until all the cars had gone down the street. So while the younger brother could have afforded to make concessions, the older one couldn’t. You can’t have a partially ran-over brother and still come out on top in the negotiations. Younger brother didn’t care much about the cars and the older brother’s convictions, but he was vehement about his right to play in the road.

There are many things that we can give in on. We can let other people have the last piece of pie, or our place in line, or the best job. We can also let go of arguments over, say, what C.S. Lewis was thinking in the Last Battle, or whether Rich Mullins wrote a certain song for a certain person. If we don’t have the actual written answer, these things are just speculation and shouldn’t be argued over. These are the places where we should be peacemakers. We can be meek and let others win arguments over silly things, like (don’t get angry at me here) having candles in a church service or baptism. These kinds of conflicts don’t really achieve anything or improve the relationship between the people involved. There’s no moral issue in question.

However, when something that is true, like the existence of God or the value of human life, is questioned or attacked, we cannot sit back and allow other people to spread lies about the laws of God. In my example of the two brothers, my teenage brother was acting under the orders from his parents (the law-givers) that running out into the road was wrong, and that there would be serious consequences for them if they did so. My younger brother knew of the law, but he didn’t care, and my older brother had to restrain him for his good and for the good of the family. In the same way, sometimes we must take action to restrain bad judgment and bad laws, especially if those bad laws will hurt the nation and the people involved.

Our world is steadily streaming towards a fall. Our country has made bad choice after bad choice, and many people have not tried to stop it. Lawmakers get away with insanity because the good people are bickering and the bad people don’t care. Our culture is decaying, and we can’t get over our parking space.

God gave us free will to use for the good of ourselves and others, not to be used in a muscle match to try and bully the person disagreeing with us. We need to use the stubbornness given us to proclaim the truth, and to defend it. We need to find our backbone and not be afraid when people disagree! Our earthly enemies don’t seem to mind the “shame-on-yous” we use to try and change them, and we might want to take their advice. If you believe in something strongly, you should fight for it, but if it’s something that’s a preference, try and make peace. When we forget the true priority of life, we get into really sticky messes, like the one we’re in now.

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Emmanuel!

Rebekah Hair : January 1, 2016 9:06 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Isn’t it interesting that we can become so callous to the wonderful?

That’s a bizarre thing to say, I realize, but by this time you’re probably used to my style. People who read me often probably skipped right over that statement, inadvertently proving it. We’re constantly bombarded by people who are trying to shock us. After some time we simply wander through life.

Christmas is a pretty good example of this. We hear Christmas music all the time and grow tired of it. We hear words and names and acknowledge them as part of the season, too busy to care about their meanings. One word that seems to have been stripped of its meaning is the word “Emmanuel”

Spelled with either an E or an I, the word Emmanuel means “God with us”. In a culture obsessed with people, it’s hard to understand the significance of such a bold and glorious promise. God had not dwelt with his people since before the time of the judges. God had been far off. He had given them his promise to be with them, but had also promised to hide his face if they turned away, which they did over and over. He gave his children second chances, and they spit in his face. For hundreds of years, God was silent.

But there were those who stayed faithful, and who studied the scriptures hoping for a sign of the coming Messiah, who would rescue them from their sin and misery. Imagine their joy as they read these words: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Immanuel; God with Us! The messiah was coming one day, and he would dwell with them on earth! He would be able to interact with them in a way that had not been seen since the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve walked with God each day. Can you imagine the eagerness that possessed those who believed in this word? Can you taste their breathless joy?

Just because these verses are quoted around Christmastime doesn’t mean that they are exclusively Christmas property. Have a wonderful New Year, everyone! May you use the year to do wonderful and amazing things for God’s glory! But through it all, remember that God is With Us Forever! That is a reason to rejoice. Though my verse is clumsy, I hope that it brings you joy.

God with us! He promised
to never forsake.
God with us! His mercies
our hard hearts awake.
God with us! He’s coming!
Lift your praises high!
God with us! Forever!
He who came to die!

God with us! His praises
shall never now end.
God with us! He calls us,
our savior and friend.
God with us! He’s coming!
God here on earth!
God with us! Forever!
Rejoice at Christ’s birth!

God with us! He’s coming
to bring us all peace.
God with us! His kingdom
shall never, ever cease.
God with us! He’s here now!
From heaven’s high throne
God with us! O, Praise him!
He’ll soon bring us home!

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Santa Sméagol: A play

Rebekah Hair : December 22, 2015 8:10 pm : Columns, Rebekah

 

Setting: Gollum and Frodo are wrapping Christmas gifts. Frodo apparently asked Gollum for help with his huge load of presents, and Gollum is obliging with the hopes of achieving something.

Frodo walks in and speaks to Gollum, who is wrapping presents. Gollum was originally muttering to himself and looking sour, but when Frodo walks in, he changes his expression and becomes flattering and “helpful”.

Frodo: Thank you for your help, Sméagol. These gifts were really piling up. They’ve become quite a burden to me. (Sighs and looks dramatically towards audience)

Gollum: Helpful Sméagol always helps master. Sméagol does his best.

Frodo: Well, I appreciate it, I really do. (Looks down at the pile of badly-wrapped gifts, hesitates) They’re a little messy.

Gollum(whining): Nice Sméagol does his best, he does! Always helps master! Can’t help it that gifts are tricksy.

Sam(suddenly appearing through a door): Look at this! What a mess. You’re making me sick. Let me see that! (Grabbing gifts, he proceeds to neatly wrap them) Now that’s the only way to wrap a brace of coneys.

Frodo(alarmed): What? Whose present was that?

Sam(glancing at the package): I’m not really sure. There’s no label on the gift.

Frodo: Oh dear. I must have misplaced the sticky labels. Sméagol, have you seen them?

Gollum(still whining): Sméagol does his best to help master! Sméagol would never take master’s precious.

Sam: (under his breath) Gollum probably ate them, he did. (Louder) I’ll go look for them, Mr. Frodo! (Exits)

Gollum: (Waits a minute to make sure Sam is really gone, then looks at Frodo with a crafty smile.) Nice Sméagol wraps gifts for master, but does not know how to label them without sticky labels, does he precious? Wherever could they be? (Cuts his eyes back and forth, moves in closer) It was him! The Fat Hobbit! He wants them for himself! It will soon have him!

Frodo: What are you talking about? (alarmed again)

Gollum: the precioussssss, love, the preciousssss. He wants it for himself. He’s taken those nice sticky labels all himself, and we shall never see them again. He is jealous of poor Sméagol.

Sam: (calling from the other room) Mr. Frodo! I found the sticky labels! You left them in the closet shelves!

Gollum: (exchanging glances with Frodo) Oopssess.

Sam:(Runs in and hands them to him) Here you are. And it looks like those coneys were for Mr. Gimli, if I’m not mistaken.

Frodo: Ah, Gimli. I’d forgotten. He does like red meat, if I remember correctly.

Sam: Yes, I believe so. (Sam stops and stares at Gollum) Why, Gollum, you’re not using a tape dispenser. You’re going to make everything all messy. Don’t you have one? (fetches a tape holder for Sméagol) There. You couldn’t do better than that.

Gollum: Yes I could! (snatches tape away) Spoils the nice tape. Sméagol likes it raw and sticky, good for wrapping presents in, and you can keeps the nasssty dispenser.

Sam: You’re hopeless. (Exits again)

Frodo: I have to run some errands now, Sméagol. Can you finish up here and put the presents under the tree?

Gollum: Oh yes, oh yes. Go along, hobbitses. Sméagol will watch over things for you. (Frodo exits. Sméagol continues to wrap presents in his own messy way, but now he talks to himself.) It isn’t fair, precious. They goes out to buy presents and don’t let us at all! And all these precious gifts, all going to elveses and orcses, when we wraps them! It isn’t fair!

(Evil Gollum suddenly enters and speaks to Gollum, dialogue)

Evil Gollum: No, it isn’t, love. They doesn’t appreciate us. They only look out for themselves.

Gollum (whining): But Master promised that he would get us a gift this year….

Evil Gollum: Master doesn’t keep his promises. Wicked! Tricksey! False! We must look after ourselves. We should takes it.

Gollum: No! Yess…? But no! They isn’t our preciouses. They are others giftses.

Evil Gollum: But no one is around, precious. They will never know. We takes it for ourselves.

Gollum: But the Fat Hobbit! He sees everything!

Evil Gollum: Then we do it now while Fat Hobbit is gone. Take the precious and let us be gone. Master doesn’t like you.

Gollum (suddenly picking up courage) No! Go away, and NEVER come back! (Hits him with the present. Evil Gollum flees) He’s gone! Yes! Freeeeeee! (He takes gifts to tree. Scene end.)

(Later, outside Christmast party. Gollum is outside of the festivities, feeling very sad. Sam walks up to him.

Sam: What are you doing, sneaking around out here?

Gollum: Sneaking! After all Sméagol does for you, and you accuse us of sneaking! Sneaking, indeed.

Sam: Well, it doesn’t much matter. I’ve brought you something. (holds out gift)

Gollum: Doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t like it. (Takes it cautiously and opens it.)

Sam: Well, Merry Christmas anyway, Gollum. (Stalks off)

Gollum: (Discovering something inside that he likes) My precious….you brought me my precioussss! Merry Christmas to you too, fat hobbit! And to everyones!

Based on actual events.

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Chosen Ones: Climax

Rebekah Hair : December 13, 2015 2:22 pm : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Caro strode forward, letting adrenaline take over. Things began spinning around him. Nya was in the throne room, sitting on his Father’s throne. Caro grew angry. Who was this person? Why did she think that she would be free from her conscience? She had Gino now. Did she have Opal? If she did, then the plan might succeed. Caro could use her pride against her. But what if she didn’t? What if someone else did, or if Opal was simply in hiding? Caro had to take the chance.

A few guards noticed him and rushed forward. Caro pushed them aside and held his pace. Nya’s eyes glittered. She was winning! Caro had come for his friends. Now she had him! What could his puny force do now? In her desperate grab for power, she had forgotten the Chosen. At this time one who had been Chosen, Andrew, was racing down the halls, followed by the twins, Simon and Tully. She had also forgotten the quiet strength within Opal and Gino. She trusted to her army, but Caro was trusting in something deeper.

Caro couldn’t be stopped. Guards shot at him with arrows, but the bolts missed their marks. A wave of fear swept over the crowd. What magic did this boy have? Did it match the magic of their queen? Would there be a battle?

Nya alone remained calm. “Well, who is this?” She asked. “It’s my little runaway prince.”

“Your mocking does not bother me.” Caro called. “What do you want, usurper?”

“You have come.” Nya told him. “Where are your rebels? Are they hiding in the rafters?”

“I’m here for Gino.” Caro said boldly. “Release him.”

“I don’t think so.” Nya told him. “If you want your friend back, you must first face me.”

“I will not fight you.” Caro told her. “It will not do anything.”

“Not fight me?” Nya seemed confused, but only for a minute. “Now, why is that?”

“I do not feel that it is necessary.” Caro replied. “At least, not now.”

“I know why.” Nya snapped. “You’re trying to keep your little prophetess safe. Well, it is pointless. I’ve taken care of her.”

“Where is she?” Caro asked.

“In good time.” Nya smiled. “In good time.”

“You aren’t going to tell me.” Caro realized. “You’re playing for time.”

“I am in charge of this meeting.” Nya snapped, losing her temper. “Why would I play?”

“Why does a cat play with a mouse?” Rocket muttered from his hiding place behind the throne. Oddly enough, Nya didn’t hear him.

“Because you’re afraid of me.” Caro guessed. “You’re afraid of what I have and what you once had. You don’t want to lose your kingdom that you have fought so hard to obtain. But you can never keep it, Nya. The Creator is too powerful for you to defy. Your reign is over.”

“You will not fight me because you say that I am afraid.” Nya hissed. “But you are the one who should be afraid.”

“But I am not.” Caro stubbornly insisted.

“We shall see.” Nya’s mind was reeling. She had not expected Caro to be so confident. Then she had a thought. Caro was a son of a king, but he was still a child. He had been stirred to anger and near-madness by the death of his sister. Perhaps Nya could replicate that reaction. But how?

Opal.
Yes! The blind girl was so helpless, and so trusting. She was the perfect bait for the prince! Nya nodded to Dawes. Dawes gave an order to his men. Davis narrowed his eyes. What were they doing? Were they going to get Gino? Or were they trying to set up a trap for Caro? And what about Opal? The soldier wasn’t sure. He glanced at Rocket. Rocket shrugged. He didn’t know what was going on. All he knew was that if anything went wrong, he would be ready with his pistol.

“I am waiting, Nya.” Caro reminded them of the task at hand. “Release my friends now.”

“As you wish.” Nya smiled icily at him. Suddenly Caro realized that Opal had been there the whole time. She sat at the edge of the platform, nodding sleepily. Caro suddenly realized that the sleep-paralysis had struck her again. She wouldn’t be able to play her part in the drama. Caro suddenly realized that he had walked right into a trap. Nya’s command had been to her men, and now they were surrounding the room. Caro, as well as his men, were trapped inside of the throne room, and if he didn’t think of something quickly, Rocket and Davis would react and die. Opal might die as well.

Caro drew his sword once more, trying to buy a little time. “Let Opal go, Nya!” He cried, but Nya only laughed. Caro went very white. Nya had guessed his plans! But as Caro stood motionless, someone else moved. A large black, silver, and white dog burst through the doors, darting through the legs of the guards and standing, snarling, at the foot of the platform. With a wolf-like howl, he sprang at Nya.

Nya’s concentration was broken. She stared at the dog who was flying at him and lifted her arm to shield her face. Promise was growling like an angry bear. His eyes were red and wild. Caro had never seen him act so ferociously. But Nya was only distracted for a moment. She swung her trident and hit the dog on the side, knocking him to the other side of the throne room. Against his better judgment, Davis bent down to see if he could help the dog. Promise’s brown eyes gazed up at him pitifully.

But in all the confusion, Nya had forgotten about Opal. She stood up like someone in a trance. Then she turned sightless eyes to Nya. “I’m sorry.” She said softly, then raised her voice. “Hear the Word of the Creator God, who chose you before you were born. “I have forsaken you” says the LORD, “and you shall be cut off from the earth. No longer shall you live in the iniquity of your evil ways, and no longer shall you oppress the people whom I have called my own. I will visit the blood of the slain on your head, and you shall bear the punishment you have earned.””

As Nya heard Opal’s words, her face turned paler than pale. She took a step back, cried out, and fell to the ground. The trident fell from her hands. She faded away in their sight and slowly disappeared. Caro dropped his sword in grave sorrow. He hated Nya, but all the same, he was overcome by the thought of someone so evil receiving her due. As for the grim message-bearer, Opal sank to her knees and was silent. Caro thought he heard Gino say sometime, somewhere “So end all who disobey our God’s laws and remain unrepentant.”

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Remembering Animal Land

Rebekah Hair : December 7, 2015 12:37 pm : Columns, Rebekah

A word of explanation: I wrote this for a class, and since I haven’t written much in the last few months, I thought I should put it up.

Growing up, my brothers and I loved to play games. We did not need a game board or cards to play them. Our game pieces were our toys, and the rules were made up as we went along. We liked our cars, because we had so many of them, and we liked our dinosaurs and legos, but we always had a tiny bit of favoritism for our stuffed animals. Our stuffed animals, and the kingdom they built, were what made our childhood special.

It was not hard to guess why. When something shares your confidence, you want to make it the hero in all your games. To three hyper-imaginative children, stuffed animals were perfect dolls. You could make them clothes, but that wasn’t necessary. They could be thrown and stepped on, but they would never hurt you the way the spiky plastic toys would. Besides, they all looked the same. This made history and family structure easy. Adam’s toys were the Dogginas, Sam’s the Doggos, and mine were the Cattianas. They conquered kingdoms, fought blanket monsters, and gnashed their teeth against the irresistible fiend, Goodwill, who had devoured so many of their comrades. There was intrigue and mystery as the armies of King Foxy fought against the villainous Lisechecks and drove them back to their borders. The fairies and the cars were all in their little areas, surrounded by the watchful stuffed animals. Wars were fought every year or so, but what can you expect with two little brothers?

Animal Land gave our creativity jumper cables. Not only did we draw pictures of our pets, but we gave them genealogies. The countryside had to be mapped, and cities and rivers were discovered that could not be found on any other chart. President Blackie Cattiana and King Foxy Doggina had a lasting truce, as they fought to chase out the wicked Shep and her children from their ranks. But all these adventures needed to be written about. Soon a newspaper sprang up, The Animal Enterprise. I was the editor and illustrator. Adam was in charge of the sports page. And Sam…well, Sam was the one whose animals’ exploits were read about in the stories. Sadly, most of the villains in Animal Land were of that notorious family, Doggos. His ideas were rather radical for our culture, and not always understood, but always tolerated. Our creativity knew no bounds!

There was no stopping the invincible armies of Blackie and Foxy, and in peacetime, think of all the competitions! There were the Animal Olympics, of course, and Animal Soccer, Basketball, Football, and cheerleading. Shops sprang up, with their own advertisements. Then we went through our “cardboard box” stage, where we commandeered boxes to create animal castles for the royalty. I kept our animals readily supplied with wedding dresses and flags, curtains and capes, all made from Grandma’s scrap-box. There was no defeating Animal Land. It would reign forever!

Somehow, though no one knows when or how, Animal Land seemed less important to us. For one thing, I was interested in a far more amazing realm, the animal country of Symettria. The Spy Club were testing the waters of mystery, and the human spies, the MPA agents, cautiously lifted their banner high in my imagination. Instead of playing with my toys, I created my own characters with my pen and pencil. As I began to write and draw, my playing became more and more infrequent. Soon my play-time was limited to outside, then only on the swings. It was so much more exciting to play our characters ourselves. Why would we want to play stuffed animals?

We moved on, I suppose. Lily the Leopard and Sam Houston the Teddy were replaced in my mind with Nala Fletcher, Jaycee Fox, and Agent R, who only existed in my mind and my writing. Adam left his animals to chase after sports stars, and Sam’s unquenchable imagination was filled with Jedi, Pokémon, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Our maps became wrinkled and torn, our advertisements were replaced by comic pages chronicling the latest adventures of the Spy Club, and Foxy’s army sat restlessly, waiting for an adversary. That adversary never came. Now it’s too late. We’re too old.

I miss the days when King Foxy’s armies ruled the animal world. It is not easy to grow up. We want to be able to stay little all the time, but that is not possible. When our childhood is over, we first see what we have lost. One day, perhaps, when we have children of our own, Animal Land will awake from its sleep. But for now, our younger siblings are playing, creating, and building their own imaginary world. Their creed is much different than ours, and they are writing their own stories with their own stuffed animals. Children should be allowed to build their imaginary kingdoms while they can, because one day they will look back on them with fondness and regret, as I do.

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Secession: More Than a Texas Tall Tale

Rachel Clark : November 30, 2015 8:17 pm : Columns, Rachel

texas

Unlike the jokes that claim Texas is populated solely by oil millionaires and lone tumbleweeds, the Texas independence movement is no tall tale. Supporters of secession are real and their numbers are growing.

That Texans exaggerate things, and that the rest of the world stretches the truth about Texas itself, is undeniable: as the stereotype would have it, everyone in Texas is an oil millionaire or a cattleman (or both), rattlesnakes and cactus are ubiquitous, and the weather is universally hot, dry, and dusty, with a sprinkling of tumbleweeds.

Texas’ nearly thirty million inhabitants can quickly confirm, of course, that oil tycoons are rare, that the weather is a great deal more than its reputation permits, and that, thankfully, tumbleweeds refuse to grow most places south of Abilene. Yet this amusing but inaccurate stereotype remains, as if it were a statewide inside joke or a reference to a Hollywood comedy that refuses to die.

However, there is one aspect of the Texas reputation that is verifiably true: Texas pride and Texas’ very real, very active independence movement.

The Texas Nationalist Movement has over 200,000 supporters, with approximately 20,000 joining those ranks since June 1, 2015.

For those who have not thoroughly examined the facts and explored their implications, Texas standing as its own nation does indeed seem like farcical folklore, originating in the joking pride and boundless imagination of a self-obsessed culture.

Although many are tempted to downplay the existence of a serious independence movement and dismiss it as another Texas joke, its ideology, its “boots on the ground,” its logic, and the hope it offers Texans cannot be ignored—just as the glaring problems with the current federal system cannot be imagined out of existence.

Supporters of Texas independence are real, they are multiplying, and they are no local legend or stereotype. Furthermore, they have a good chance of succeeding in their mission, a chance that gets even better if you help them.

Look to the future.

The United States’ past, although riddled with bullet holes and strewn with unfulfilled promises, is often shown through an idyllic lens: memories of mom and pop stores, fond recollections of prosperous times and simple pleasures, stories of America’s greatest individuals and their victories for freedom and justice. But this is a one-sided view to take, one that not only neglects to show the tragedies and pitfalls of past eras but also covers up the inconvenient reality that America is not what it once was.

For the past 150 years, and the past 60 years in particular, government intrusion and spending have risen exponentially. States rights have all but vanished, destroying the Founders’ vision of a federation of independent nations; government debt has risen to wholly unsustainable levels; federal intervention in energy, healthcare, and transportation industries has resulted in an unstable system that constantly requires “reform,” stifles progress, is unable to meet demand, and consumes a massive—and unprecedented—percentage of the United States’ GDP. The United States has become an economic, political, and social quagmire that threatens to destroy Texas entirely.

Nostalgic memories of the past are usually inaccurate, but they are also not repeatable: they cannot be relived, and they especially cannot be relived in Washington’s shadow. Clinging to a perishing system, waving an American flag on a sinking ship, is no longer the answer.

The only chance for a bright future comes in creating it, and right now Texans have the opportunity to choose independence.

Originally published here. 

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The Logically Deficient Basis of Pure Conservatism

Rachel Clark : November 30, 2015 7:50 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of "war socialism." But Tories (British conservatives) would change themselves entirely over the next sixty years.

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of “war socialism.” But Tories (British conservatives) would themselves change entirely over the next sixty years.

There was once a time when I was an unyielding, self-proclaimed conservative.

Conservatism—by the dictionary—means “belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society,” or “dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area.”

After three years of reflection, I reached the conclusion that neither of these two pillars of conservatism is invariably desirable—and that this vague ideological construct that millions of Americans cling to is one of the most meaningless political philosophies of the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Pure Conservatism

While the specific policies and proposals of conservatives in a given society should be evaluated on their own merits, the logical basis for many of these stances often amounts to little less than the masked fallacy that “it worked before, so it ought to work now.” Strict preservation of the existing system is the only apparent rationale for pure conservatism—in fact, it is conservatism. Perpetuating what came before, untouched and with no questions asked, is rarely what people think of when they hear the word conservatism, however. The term is frequently associated with far-right political movements or policy positions. While modern conservatives may seem “far-right” compared to more modern ideologies, this is not what conservatism means. Far from it.

In the United States, most conservatives oppose gun control; in Britain, most conservatives support gun control. Neither form of conservatism is internally inconsistent, because both are in favor of preserving the status quo, the governmental inheritance their flawed forefathers left behind. Both are forms of pure conservatism in this regard.

At one point, part of American conservatism was “conserving” prohibition; most modern conservatives, a few generations separated, have flipped this policy on its head and now wish to loosen regulations on alcohol production and lower taxes on alcohol’s sale.

From its founding until the Civil War, the United States was construed to be a confederation of independent nation-states, not unlike the modern European Union. Conservatives immediately after the Civil War wanted to return to said system; after a generation, conservatism had changed—just as the Union had changed.

The face of conservatism changes as often as the status quo changes; there is but a brief generational delay. Neither static nor coherent, conservatism changes with the traditions it attempts in vain to preserve, rendering it incapable of functioning as a standalone philosophy of government.

What’s Worth Conserving?

Conservatism is merely concerned with maintaining a tradition; the moral or practical quality of that tradition is an altogether extraneous question. In the United States today, conservatism exists as a force that supports a “safety net” of welfare agencies, favors the continued ban on recreational drugs, and proposes a closed border policy—whether or not these policies are worth keeping and whether or not they are traditionally “American” are two different questions.

Trade protectionism, frequent military interventions in foreign affairs, the death penalty, the government’s protected monopoly on letter delivery, public education, the bureaucratic phenomenon known as the FDA, and government construction and maintenance of roads are only a few things that conservatives take for granted that conflict with their bitter opposition to new incarnations of similar policies.

Public education and federally constructed curriculum are acceptable; Common Core is not. Background checks on gun purchasers are sensible, but licensing gun owners or restricting ammunition sales is “nonsense.” Jailing nonviolent drug users or traders is the only right answer to an uncomfortable 21st century issue; but alcohol consumption is somehow a different matter altogether.

Just how far a conservative is willing to go is decided not by logic, nor by pragmatism, nor even by morals: it is decided by tradition. Slavery was once an American “tradition.” Not very long ago, women were denied voting rights—this was also a “tradition.” In the near future, abortion will also be a “tradition” that conservatives will fight to preserve.

As it is now, the United States government and its many faulty traditions are not worth conserving; they required changes twenty years ago, and fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago. Conserving a governmental system haunted by inefficiencies, problems, and injustices that continue to compound yearly is hardly the answer to the threatening circumstances—foreign and domestic—that have the potential to rip apart this nation at the seams.

Not All Traditions Are Bad

Like all ideas and practices, traditions should be morally and logically evaluated. Compared to most other countries’ records in human rights and economic freedom, the United States’ history is relatively clean; but that does not change that some of its still-practiced “traditions,” including government monopolies in mail delivery and education, are not acceptable.

Nevertheless, the United States has plenty of ideological traditions to be proud of—due process, free speech, and limited government, to name only an important few. Americans should seek to protect and advance these traditions, rather than the norm in government, which frequently infringe upon the handful of worthwhile “established and traditional practices in politics and society.”

Not all traditions are bad; not all traditions are good. Traditions change. Traditions are unstable. And traditions vary drastically depending on the region, culture, and nation that formed them. Ideological progress, and mankind’s progress as a whole, depends not on “conserving” lock, stock, and barrel what came before, but rather on culling the bad and adopting the good. Conservatism means nothing beneficial if the system it seeks to conserve is a tyrannical one—as is increasingly the case.

Despite sharing a number of political leanings with the modern American conservatives, I no longer label myself as one of them, and the conclusions I share with them I have reached for wholly different reasons than they have: they wish but to preserve a tradition, rather than promoting what is best for mankind, what is best in God’s eyes, and what functions best in this very real world in which we live.

True, pure conservatism—the sort that follows tradition only for tradition’s sake—ignores that established practices can be crimes against humanity, and new ideas can serve as an infusion of life to a nation. Given uninhibited liberty and a minimalist government constrained by the rule of law, humankind can make the greatest advances and pave the way to the brightest future. It is time to create national “traditions” that acknowledge this.

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Happy Dog Reprise

Rebekah Hair : November 16, 2015 4:42 pm : Columns, Guest Author

Hey, this is Felix, fourth columnist down from the exalted Clara. As the alpha dog in the house, I felt that it was my job to keep you updated with the pet population around here. It’s been hard to write anything for some time now because Fluffy went into hiding. He has reluctantly emerged from his hiding, and is now writing for us. Isn’t that nice? I’m following the pawprints of my dog predecessors and resuming the post of dogmaster general.

The first thing I should tell you about is my history. I’m Jack’s older brother by two months. I am turning one year old in three weeks. Jack has left the yard because he killed some turkeys and was put on chain lockup. I haven’t seen him in a few months, and that’s ok. I got a new sidekick now.

My new puppy is Misty. She’s got a gray set of fur and she’s about as round as a puppy should be. She has cute little stick-up ears and a stripey gray tail that sticks up in the air. She also has whiskers. Don’t ask me where those came from. I didn’t give them to her! My little puppy is adorable, and I’ve raised her as my own. Jack and I found her near the bonfire in the burn pile. The family sent her to the shed for a month, but when she emerged, she was all puppy! We loved to wrestle and play-fight. We shared food. All is well.

As far as a puppy goes, she’s a bit strange. She likes to climb trees and posts. She also prefers to scratch rather than biting. She makes this weird vibrating sound when she’s happy. And sometimes she climbs on top of the roof. But I love her anyway. I share scraps with her and we chase each other around the yard. It’s a good life.

Did you know that puppies are really fun to chew on? Did you know that you can carry them around in your mouth? Did you know that they’re really not fun to be scratched by? I didn’t. How funny! I like my little puppy. She makes me laugh.

All of the other creatures around here are cats and chickens. The chickens peck and kick. I don’t like them. The cats scratch and hiss. I don’t like them either. But the people keep getting more and more of them! I don’t know what the attraction is. The newest kitten is Socks. Strangely enough, she’s about the same size and shape as my puppy, and she likes to scratch and bite too. It’s funny.

You know, our chickens are odd. They live in a little fort that is painted with sunflowers. It’s got a big yard and a house raised from the ground. They stink. But sometimes they get out and run around. They are fun to chase, but some of them have strange names. Avoid “Eowyn”! She’s got a sword. And avoid “Radagast” too. She’s…actually, I have no idea what she is. All I know is that my puppy does strange things after “Radagast” waves her little twig. Why did they give her a name like “Radagast”?

The people just got more chicks. I haven’t seen them yet, but Misty says they’re small and crunchy. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds delicious. Misty would know. She’s already killed four mice and a snake. She’s an efficient dog, that’s for sure. She also likes to climb up into the tree and chase squirrels. Ah, squirrels. If only I could catch them! They’re so…so….small and crunchy! One day I’ll actually get to chase one.

Anyway, the chicks are here. I don’t have much information right now, but I think someone said that one of them is called “Batman”.

Oh dear.

You know, chickens aren’t that great. They stink and bite and kick. They aren’t regular in laying eggs. They peck your feet and are very ungrateful. It’s better not to bother with them. But if you think you must have chickens, and you bring them into your home, don’t give them names like “Batman”. How about “Stinky”, or “Chewy”, or “Crunchy”? Those are appropriate names. Not “Batman”.

My Puppy and I might need to intervene here. Be warned, chickens. The Happy Dog will rise again!

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Gotta be Wise

Rebekah Hair : November 4, 2015 6:27 am : Columns, Rebekah

I’ve been watching too much kids TV. No excuses—this is not good! But somehow I feel so excited when a hero triumphs. I love the feeling I get when a bad guy is finally defeated, and when the world is once again safe. Since most superhero shows are weird and have questionable things, I have to be very careful what I look at. PBS is pretty good about keeping it clean, at least right now. I tend to go after PBS’ “Word Girl” episodes, because I like superheroes. Granted, even though the hero in question, Word Girl, is a little annoying, she is a likeable hero.

But it seems that the Villains in the cartoon series have more to say than the heroine. (Quite a feat, especially when the hero has word powers) Sure, the villains are exaggerated and ridiculous, not to mention lawbreakers, but they are also extremely insightful. Not only are they cool enough for my brother, who really loves to talk about “bad guys”, but they each have something to say. One teaches about synonyms, and another antonyms. One in particular always speaks passively, for with PBS shows, even superheroes must teach something. But one villain, Miss Power, teaches about bullying.

This might be rather strange for a show based on explaining proper grammar, if it wasn’t for the public campaign against bullying that is being led by celebrities and the media. I watched the four-episode series, and well…I came out almost frozen. Here’s what happened.Miss Power

Imagine that we have a superhero who spends all her time fighting crime, yet never gets the appreciation or respect she wants. She flies around saving people, often giving up precious family time to do so, and the villains always get out of jail after about a week. She’s exhausted! Now imagine that someone shows up claiming to have the answer to her problem, and that that someone proceeds to follow through with her promises. Her tactics are intimidation: if the villain is too scared to leave the jail, the hero won’t have to fight him as much.

It soon gets out of hand. We now have a power-crazy, sarcastically cruel “hero” running around, with the hero of the show following her every suggestion! But eventually Word Girl’s conscience gets the best of her, and she refuses to go along with Miss Power’s sadistic “crime-fighting”. Angry at being crossed, Miss Power reveals her true nature, and Word Girl has to try and fight something that is more wicked than she ever could have dreamed. Humiliated, Word Girl flees the battle, and Miss Power begins her rule of the city.

In many ways, Miss Power represents a modern celebrity. She looked amazing and had the force to back up her looks. She was popular and helpful, and a good role-model. She was a hero. But underneath her fair features, Miss Power was hiding a disgusting, wicked heart. She wasn’t a good person at all, and definitely not a good leader! Instead of helping people, she started locking them in jail simply for disagreeing with her rule of terror.

It turned out that Miss Power’s beauty was only skin-deep. She wanted to be in complete control of everything, and she would stop at nothing to accomplish that goal. All it took was a little persuasion, and she easily ditched her disguise for her true, violent identity. Her “power” came from having “power” over the other characters. If they were not afraid of her, she would lose her strength. So to keep that from happening, she became crueler and crueler, hoping to keep her advantage.

But even though it’s only a silly show, this story has an interesting twist. Miss Power is really evil, so wicked that I regretted watching it at night. Her cold cruelty—though granted, she never did anything harmful to her enemies, but instead relied on her tongue and her strength—her cruelty sobered me. This is the natural result of the hunger for power. Miss Power could be me. It could be any of us. It could be any hero that we look up to. How fitting it is that one of our sayings is “Power Corrupts”! How sad that we often forget why the phrase was coined.

Strangely enough, this little cartoon taught me a lesson almost more than it taught my siblings. Miss Power used intimidation and power to subdue people to her will. If she couldn’t break her adversaries with her bullying, she would imprison them. This is how most dictators work. And strangely enough, they also seem good in the beginning, and only reveal their true colors after they have gained control.

I never thought of someone who was “bad” would look so….well, good. I wasn’t sure how to process that. If someone can trick people in tv shows, surely I would would be just as vulnerable. Worse still, if even the “best” people fall when given too much power, what about me? Would I pass the test, if I was ever given it? There didn’t seem to be anything I could do.

Or was there?

There are many things I have that the cartoon people don’t. I might not be extremely wise, or even close. But I do have some things that I can do to guard myself from being tricked, especially when it comes to teachings.

First, I can compare what someone says to the Scriptures. If I heard someone saying something that sounded wonderful, but then thought it through and wasn’t sure if I agreed with it, I could always go back to the truth and contrast it with what the person said. If the two don’t line up, I have decide who to trust: God’s perfect word, or Man’s interpretation. I don’t mean to be snobbish, but I think I will stick to God’s word. It has never yet been proven wrong, but those who contradict it are proven wrong again and again. The odds are good that God will stay being God, and therefore I will stick to his side whenever I can.

Another thing I can do is analyze a person’s actions. Does someone seem a little too attached to the limelight? Does she climb

Another look-good celebrity who turned out to be a dictator

Another look-good celebrity who turned out to be a dictator

ladders and take shortcuts to try and get a higher place? Does she go out of her way to get people to notice her? Watch out! People who live off of others’ opinions of them are usually bad candidates. At the very least, they can be easily swayed, and will not be firm in their convictions. At the worst, they can be serpents in disguise. I have seen far too many “heroes” crash and burn. No one is perfect, and anyone who tries to be is setting himself up for failure.

A last thing I can do is pray. It isn’t easy to process why power-hungry people seem to fly to the top of the government. It isn’t easy to fight them. But we are not alone in our struggles. When we pray to our father, we are no longer isolated. When we pray together, as a church family, we are united in Christ! We are an army, and though we don’t use our weapons to attack people, we do use our numbers and our voice to make a difference. We have that freedom now, and we need to be careful to not give it away.

In the show, thingsbooks were looking blue. Word Girl was too weak to fight Miss Power, so she wisely decided to bow out and do some studying on how to defeat her. (What’s this? Studying her orders? What about us? Maybe little superheroes have something to tell us after all.) While she was doing that, all of her “enemies” were imprisoned, and wondering what had gone wrong. They were encouraged to team up and work together with their former foe, to put aside their differences and stop a common enemy. Using their various strengths and weaknesses, the ‘villains’ broke out of the prison (freeing quite a few civilians as well) and went off to do war with Miss Power. Encouraged by their collective abilities, the villains (even the kids) decided not to be afraid of this space invader, and instead helped Word Girl defeat her.

Now, granted, we can’t be teaming up with thieves, disgruntled employees, vandal-robot-wielding-boy-geniuses, mad scientists, and greedy little girls that tend to turn into monsters when refused. That’s just crazy. And no, we don’t usually celebrate our victories with pizza and sandwiches, some spare salami, and quite a bit of cheese. That’s just part of the cartoon. But what we can do is work together with some of the people that WE think are villains, namely, people who believe slightly different things than we do. It isn’t easy to put aside our differences. It never has been. But we’re at a time of crisis. It’s time to do something different.

While we aren’t superheroes, we are charged with the keeping of our world. We have enemies that we must fight. Sometimes, we must tackle things that are hard for us, and face our fears. Sometimes we will be tricked and will fall. But a true hero will push past the difficulties and do what’s right. Thankfully, we don’t have to be alone. We have the greatest ally in the world on our side, and he’s not sitting around on the sidelines. We serve a God of action, so we need to act!

Maybe this silly cartoon, meant to teach the dangers of bullying, can reach further than the writers intended. Maybe I can remember the dangers of “Miss Power” and become wise. Or maybe, if I happen to be a history lover, I might go back and survey the many dictators who came into power, crushed their opponents, and eventually fell to the ground. Maybe I can ditch the imaginary world and cling to the real one.

Real world Truth resides even in the goofiest cartoons. Listen and be Wise! Test teachings against the scriptures. Be sure of what you believe. Determine your friends from your enemies. Don’t be deceived by beautiful wolves in sheep’s clothing. Oh, and be careful what you watch, especially at night.

Ugh. Perhaps the wicked eyes of Miss Power will keep me from falling for other good-looking celebrities. With prayer, and a good amount of God’s grace, I hope to be wise from this point on.

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Grasping at memories

Rebekah Hair : November 3, 2015 9:41 pm : Columns, Rebekah

I remember Oregon. It’s only a few scattered memories, lost in my mind like wind-blown leaves. I wish I could remember more. As it is I can only see a few broken scenes. A white pony, bought for me by Grandma. A vivid nightmare, and the only time I ever screamed in my sleep. A carousel. A princess dress, and older cousins that babied me. People talking in a room. A man’s laugh, was it my Grandfather’s? That rough feeling that comes from older furniture. A certain smell.

My second trip to Oregon happened when I was eight, but it’s still muddled. I remember my Aunt and Uncle’s house best. I remember that it was on a hill, and that it was large and very pretty, but still with that strange, otherworldly feel. I remember going down the stairs to the basement, and how cold it was. I felt like I was going down to the center of the earth! That was pretty close to the truth, I found, because the house was built into the hill, and the basement was dug out of it. I had never been in a dug-out basement before. That isn’t done in Texas, and I had only been in a few North Carolina houses that had them.

Uncle Al and Aunt Diane were so nice to me. I remembered that they had a pair of canaries, and that one of the birds had laid an egg! I was so excited. Perhaps it would hatch! But it did not. I remember two three-year-old cousins who played so nicely with me. Now they are almost grown up, and I’m half afraid of them! How the time flies! I remember when they wanted to have a sleepover. They both decided to turn over in the bed, and I was pushed out in the middle of the night. Not the best experience to have in a strange house.

These memories are fading. So are some of the others. Like what was my cousin Zach like before I grew up and “knew” more? I wish I could remember some things that are simply impressions now. I feel like my history is disappearing with each member of my family who has passed on. I feel like I’m losing my grounding.

North Carolina is so much clearer. I feel it whenever I feel the wind blow through the trees. Can you hear the windchimes? Can you breathe the cool air? Can you see the azalea bushes, and the old gazebo whose swing never quite seemed to swing enough? Looking up, you can see gourds that Papa put up for Martins. There is the playhouse, there the pond! There are the horses! Behind you is the porch, up the stairs and through the gate, and look! There is the kitchen, and that’s where you’ll find Granny more likely than not. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

But now even the familiar has become strange. My missionary Uncle and Aunt have retired, and now they are both facing serious health problems. Grandma has died of cancer. Papa is gone. And I feel like I have lost a huge opportunity. With my grandparents went my history, and now I am simply clinging to the present, hoping that I won’t lose anything else.

I can’t afford the loss.

I feel like an investor. I go through old things of my Grandma’s, hoping to find a bit of her writing. Can I see that old, loopy cursive? Yes! And my Grandpa….he died before I could remember him. Can I keep his memory alive? Perhaps. Perhaps if I go back and try to imagine, using my Uncle as my guide…perhaps I can hear his voice. But I’m afraid I’ll never find it. Papa is alive in the songs he once sung, in the stories he told, in that gentle way he would make us laugh. I miss him. I hold birthday cards as precious, because they have his handwriting on them. I’m afraid that if I go any longer, I will forget.

Every memory is precious now, even the painful ones. I went through my Grandmother’s files by accident, trying to access my stories, and accidentally found a love letter. I felt so ashamed. It was as if I had intruded in on an ancient tragedy, one that I hadn’t even known existed. A Love Letter I found from my mother to my father was much less painful. I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way. It’s too strange and wonderful for me right now, like these memories, except new and exciting. I don’t know how to process some of the things that have happened. They’re just blissful mysteries, and I hope they’ll stay that way.

I cling to old stories now, while still trying to be me. It’s a rough task. But I can still walk through my Grandmother’s house, placing everything where it once was. The house is gone now, but I can still recreate it…

the memories are beginning to fade.

We are spinning our own tales now. Our legacy is still being laid. An observer of the past, I am also an active player in the present. God have mercy on me! I pray that I can play my part well, and be a blessing rather than a curse.

One day I will be a memory. I hope I will be one that lingers long, and for good reason.

I wish to give people hope.

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Tasty and Squishable Shelob Candy

Rachel Clark : October 2, 2015 1:24 pm : Columns, Debbie, Guest Author, Rachel, The Chaotic Kitchen

Tasty, squishable, and very, very sticksy, yesssss Precious, sticksy like Shelob’s webs. Everyone’s always hungry for Shelob candy, yesssss. And Smeagol knows the way; good Smeagol shows Master the way to make Shelob candises. Smeagol gives you the recipe.

First, you need these foodses:

  • 4 cups marshmallows
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Next, microwave the marshmallowses and the butter until they are melted. Stir them well.

1

Add the vanilla.

2

Microwave again if the marshmallowses are too stiff, and then mix in 1 1/4 cups flaked coconutses. Should be about the stickiness of giant spider’s web, yesssss, precious:

4

Now add the tasty and crunchable pecanses.

5

Watch out for nasty tricksy hobbitses, who come to steal your juicy sweet candises:

8Keep close watch for nasty hobbitses while you lay out parchment paperses on a plate and spray it with slippery grease:

9

Use two spoons to roll the sticky juicy sweet into a ball. Once that is done, keep the preciousssss in a cold dark cave, or in a nasty refrigerator (your choice) until they are holdable and chewable:

10.

And listen to good Smeagol, don’t let nasty tricksy hobbitses take your Shelob candy. Because nasty tricksy hobbitses will steal it from you. 

13

Nasty hobbit stole our preciousssss. 

14

We must go look for the preciousssss.

gollum tree

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The Silmarillion

Rebekah Hair : September 19, 2015 6:53 am : Columns, Rebekah

I like the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read them at least once a year if I can. Many people have. But few people have done the research to figure out where Middle Earth began. Tolkien’s legend, the Silmarillion, tells how Middle Earth began. I’ll try to summarize it in this post for you who don’t have enough time to read all the books. Warning: the results may shock you.

In the beginning of Middle Earth, God held his court in the heavens. He taught his angels a song that they were to sing in worship of him. But one of them, Melkor, the brightest of the Valar, decided that he didn’t want to obey God, and instead started his own song. Some of the Valar (angels) followed him in his rebellion. So God began a new song, and his angels sang with him. His song was stronger than that of the rebels, but they continued to sing and shame their brothers into silence.

Then God raised his voice, and all others were silenced. From that last song was created the earth and all that was. Melkor was cast down with his helpers, the Balrogs. Then some of the Valar went down to the new world to form it and keep it. They were hoping to make the world as perfect as they could, but Melkor, who was called by elves Morgoth, destroyed their work. Eventually the world was formed. And then came the creatures.

It started out softly. One of the Valar created the dwarves. Another, Yavanna, prayed for Ents. Manwë, lord of Middle Earth, asked for the eagles. Soon the elves came, blinking in the new light from Valinor, the home of the Valar. Of course, Morgoth hated them. He made imitations of them and called them orcs. None of the works of Morgoth were so heinous as the orcs.

The Valar invited the elves to see the beauty of Valinor, and to see the two light trees that lit the world, for at this time there was neither sun nor moon. And one of them, Fëanor, took the lightsilmaril of the trees and used it to make three gems which he called the Silmarils. He thought that he could keep them forever, and that they would be the greatest works of the elves. But Morgoth slew the glorious light-trees, and Fëanor refused to give them the light of the Silmarils to heal them. Later, Morgoth slew Fëanor’s father and took the three jewels for himself.

Fëanor was furious, and attacked everyone in his path to reclaim his work. He and his seven sons swore an oath that they would let nothing get in their way of reclaiming the Silmarils, no matter how dear. They slew their bretheren and wasted their ships, leaving most of their followers to die. Fëanor attacked Morgoth, and was subsequently killed. His sons began to all follow in his foolish footsteps, which resulted in some of the worst treachery in the history of Middle Earth. It might surprise you to know that most of this killing came from the elves.

Maedhros, the oldest of Fëanor’s sons, tried to avenge his father by attacking Morgoth himself. That only ended up in him being captured, having to be rescued by a friend of his, and ultimately losing a hand. This seemed to wise him up to how hard it was to hit Morgoth, and he gave up on revenge and instead tried to unite Middle Earth against Morgoth. Meanwhile, Morgoth put the Silmarils into his crown and dared the elves to come and take them.

A kingdom of elves that didn’t involve itself with all the bloodshed was the house of Thingol. He married a wood sprite and was very well off for his time. She protected his land and gave him counsel, and he loved her. They had a young daughter named Lúthien, whose beauty was unrivaled by any before or since. Her gown was blue, her eyes gray, her hair dark, her face bright. She was loved by an outlaw of men named Beren, whose parents had been murdered by Sauron. He named her Tinúviel.

Beren was homeless and penniless, and Thingol would not let his daughter marry him without doing something truly spectacular. So for a bride price, he asked Beren to retrieve a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Beren went, and was captured by Sauron. Lúthien was kept in her house by her father, who didn’t want to lose his daughter as she tried to rescue her lover. But Lúthien’s mother was a spirit, and clever Tinúviel knew how to weave enchantments. So she grew her hair long and wove a sleeping enchantment into it, then wove it into a cloak for herself that put whoever it touched to sleep. Using this, she escaped, and fled to find her lover.

Unfortunately, she was discovered by two of the infamous sons of Fëanor, who were still bound by their foolish promise. They held her captive, and it was only by the help of a great wolf named Huan. Huan helped her escape, and even defeated Sauron, who at that time liked to take the form of a werewolf. The elf-princess destroyed the island fortress of the dark spirit, sending him fleeing to Middle Earth. Then she was reunited with Beren and the two of them journeyed to Morgoth, so that they could be done with the Silmaril and marry. The two of them traveled in disguise to the gates of Morgoth, put the wolf at the door to sleep, and passed through.

Once inside, Lúthien Tinúviel charmed Morgoth and blinded him, giving Beren enough time to cut away a Silmaril. The two of them fled, but the Silmaril was devoured by the great wolf guarding the door, and Beren’s hand as well. After this, Thingol allowed them to marry, but Beren was slain by the wicked wolf, and Lúthien bargained with Mandos, guardian of the dead, to let them both return to Middle Earth as mortals. They died after bearing other sons and daughters, and the Silmaril, after causing much bloodshed, was taken by the daughter of Lúthien and Beren into the sky.

Many bloody deeds were done in this troubled time. Elf killed elf, man killed man, and the dwarves got on any side they could. It was a time for mighty deeds, but also for great wickedness. Eventually the Silmarils were lost to Middle Earth: One was set as a star in a constellation, another was cast into the depths of the earth, and a last was dropped into the heart of the sea. Sadly, the oath of Fëanor to reclaim the jewels led to the death of his sons. Elves

But for the elf lover who feels like I have just killed their hero, don’t be discouraged! The creator of the elven rings was grandson to wicked, proud Fëanor. Lúthien and Beren’s descendants were Elrond and Elendil. Indeed, the Silmarils were like triple rings of power, spelling destruction for those who took them wrongly. But unlike the “One Ring”, the Silmarils were redeemed. Their origin was good, but twisted for evil. The Ring’s origin was evil, and couldn’t be used for anything else.

Reading the Silmarillion was like reading the history of Middle Earth. Before, Tinúviel was a just a name. Now she is real to me. The elves and men and dwarves who fought and died in Middle Earth can be remembered now for their heroics, and their legacies written in a book. Reading The Lord of the Rings is a daunting task. Reading The Silmarillion is something even harder. But once you get into it, I guarantee you that Tolkien will not let you down with the literary excellence found in this book of legends. Lúthien will captivate your heart, as she did the hearts of men, elves, and spirits alike. You will mourn the fall of Númenor, and cheer as Morgoth is dethroned. This is the world into which The Hobbit was born. This is Middle Earth.

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Day of rest

Rebekah Hair : September 18, 2015 9:51 pm : Columns, Rebekah

sola scriptura

A day of rest and peace. It is Sunday. It comes in the middle of our labors, sandwiched between our two busiest days. It is tempting to tread on it and treat it like an extension of those days. But Sunday is different. It is holy.

When the Jews worshiped on Saturday, they were remembering something amazing. Genesis 2:2-3 lets us know why. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” The Jewish Sabbath, held on Saturday, consecrated the holy rest of God.

The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden. Instead it was a gift; a chance to rest and reflect on the promises of God. It was holy. It was wonderful. But sinful hearts either discounted or trivialized the sabbath. Judah forgot its sabbath before the exile. After the return, Nehemiah reinstated it. But the Pharisees turned the holy day into a burden, by putting unjust restrictions on God’s commandments.

Since the Sabbath was abused, did it lose its power? Has it been abolished by the coming of Christ? No! Matthew 5:17 says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 12:8 tells us quite plainly that “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” God’s sabbath has not lost its power. It is still holy. Jesus held it to be holy. Should we disregard something that he obeyed?

But we do not worship on Saturday. Why? Well, to a Christian, Sunday is more holy. Notice in the passage above that Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law. The Old Covenant Sabbath pointed to the New Covenant Sabbath, just as the Old Covenant sacrifice pointed to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the first day of the week. On Sunday we remember the resurrection of Christ. This is not something we only remember on Easter Sunday. It is what we remember every Sunday.

Saturday in our house is a day of work. Why? Well, many reasons. For one thing, Dad is home, and we can get more done. But the deeper reason is that we were created to work. We celebrate the creation week by working in the morning and resting in the afternoon. It might be a strange way to remember, but weren’t we commanded to “fill the earth and subdue it”? (Genesis 1:28) To work is to obey God’s command. In many ways, we were created for work.

But Sunday is different. As we remember the promises of God, we rest. We fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We break bread together. We listen to the Word of God. We sing his praises. We pray together. We confess our sins. We study His word. Sunday is not a day for catching up with sports or games or for finishing schoolwork, or even for work. Though these things are all good in themselves, Sunday is Holy to the Lord. Our thoughts, words, and actions should reflect this reality.

For me, Sunday is a time for study and reflection. Sunday is when I read books in the library and watch videos with my siblings. Sunday is when I take time off to think. Most of the time these articles come from Sunday reflection, or from something I think of during one of the services. Sunday’s quiet inspires me. I look forward to it all week. This may be strange, but I treasure the day. Sunday’s different.

How sad when we make Sunday a chore! How sad when we forget its power! How regrettable that most people see no difference between Sunday and any other day. How sad when we let tradition rule our day! It is truly tragic when Sunday is wasted by apathy or by ignorance. It is sad when God’s people forget its power.

Sunday is a day of rest and remembrance. It is the time that we remember that. It is a gift. Like any gift, it can be rejected. It’s your choice. But for those who accept the gift of rest, Sunday is the best day of the week. What is it to you?

 

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Fantasy Ramble

Rebekah Hair : August 26, 2015 9:24 pm : Columns, Rebekah

One of the things I’ve been doing recently is reading. Reading is a fun hobby, especially if you have a vivid imagination. Reading can be better than a movie, because you get to pick the voices of your favorite characters.

The most impressive thing I’ve been reading isn’t a best seller, or a new popular novel. It isn’t going to be reviewed by a magazine as a children’s story, nor is World Magazine likely to do a spotlight on the author, because of his age.

The books I’ve been reading are two classics by fantasy writer George MacDonald. The Princess and the Goblins, and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie, are two books about the mythical kingdom of Gwyntystorm. It was ruled by a king who was very kind, and who had a daughter named Irene. The first book is about her adventures as she learns to trust someone no one else could see. It’s also about a miner’s boy named Curdie, who is the only one who can stop an invasion by goblins.

The amazing thing about this book, The Princess and the Goblins, is how it grows up its characters, but still retains its childlike whimsy. Irene, the princess, has to trust that the string she is following through all this danger is being held and guided by someone she loves and trusts, while Curdie has to decide whether to believe the princess, even after she saves his life. It isn’t until he is not believed that he realizes how wrong he has been to doubt her. Irene learns to totally rely on “Grandmother” to help her and is sent on dangerous missions with the knowledge that she will never come to harm. Curdie learns to help others regardless of his personal dislike of another character.

This book also rings true a sad reminder of times past, when girls were protected by their fathers and brothers. Irene, though she is the main character, is kept out of harm’s way, while Curdie is exposed to all kinds of dangerous situations in his quest for the truth. He can handle it, because he is the hero. But Irene, though she would willingly gone through any number of dangers for the sake of her friend, she was never given a chance. That was not her place. I wonder what would have happened if MacDonald had written his epics in this less chivalrous time.

His pure fantasy might have become tainted with our strange opinions of feminism and freedom. His shining lines would become dimmed and lose their sharpness. His theology might become muddled. And I doubt his works would be published now. To be honest, not all of the fantasy you find in Phantastes is carefree. You might find a were-wolf or vampire in the pages if you look hard enough. There is a whole story dedicated to shadows. But, shining throughout the writings I have read, is the heavenly longing that MacDonald himself yearned for.

In his stories, there is always someone looking after the characters. Strangely enough, this person is often female. She is said to be old and wise in most stories, and is sometimes associated with magic. Most of the time, however, she fits the description of the woman Wisdom found in Proverbs, and is the helper in the story as the characters make their climb heavenward. She is beyond time, but she does not ask to be worshiped. Instead, she is the guardian of the faithful as they try to do what’s right.

But something that I’ve discovered is that the farther in a book series goes, the more serious it becomes. Which of Lewis’ Narnia books is the most intense? The Last Battle. Which Tolkein? The Return of the King. The same is true of the second book, The Princess and Curdie. This time, the danger lies not in the outside enemy, but in the one within. Curdie, who is finally given a task of his own by “Grandmother”, is sent to save the King and Princess. Along the way he meets all sorts of wicked creatures, and is forced to fight to defend himself,

Curdie was told from the start that he would be serving the king. He just was never told how. He certainly didn’t think it to mean that he would be falsely accused and sentenced to death. He probably imagined that he would arrive at the castle and instantly present himself to the king. But it didn’t work out that way. He had to work for his goal. He had to fight for it, and ended up being slandered, threatened, mocked and cursed during his whole journey. Even through all that, he never gave up. Maybe Curdie and his travels represent us in our walk with Christ. When we hold to a higher standard, the world will hate us. They don’t understand our mission and therefore slander it.

I like a book that tells a story, but what I like even more is a story that tells the truth. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just wander around through life, do amazing things, and never get into trouble for it? Who wants to do boring or hard things like traveling alone with no way of knowing where you were or trying to get through a city of cut-throats when you were told you weren’t able to do anything about them! How could God want us to do things like that?

Unfortunately for our pleasure-loving hearts, He’s always done those kinds of things. Think of Moses, and how God told him in advance that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he wouldn’t listen. Or Ezekiel, who was told “They will compliment you for your prophesy, and might seem to have listened, but they won’t change at all.” Life is hard, and it sometimes seems meaningless. Why should we do these things? It makes no sense!

Well, it has a purpose. If you’re told to do something, you have to do it (Jonah comes to mind as a negative example) Another thing this tells us is the true meaning of faith. How could we ever believe in something we cannot see? Well, we believe in gravity, don’t we? We believe that there are wind currents, though they are invisible. We believe in God, though we have never seen him. But we see the effects of their power. Rocks fall down, due to gravity. Leaves scatter through the air, because of the wind. Our universe supports life, because God designed it that way.

One of my favorite characters in The Princess and Curdie is Lina. Not much is known about poor Lina, a monster with a head that is part snake and part polar bear, goat-colored fur with a bald spot under her chin, long icicle teeth that hang out from her mouth, elephant legs, and a tail as long as her body. Curdie discovered that she was once a person who had been so wicked that she turned into a monster, and must do penance before she could be freed. Lina became Curdie’s greatest ally and friend even though everyone else hated him. He could depend on her, and her on him. Imagine the poor woman who had been enchanted by her own wickedness, and who had locked herself inside a beast! How it must have been to have a friend again, who saw past her hideous form and to the child inside.

Curdie eventually became Lina’s salvation. He gave her the means to live again, without worrying about her guilt separating her from God. He led her home. What a beautiful picture! Curdie was no god. He had no ability to save anything. He was simply given directions and charged to accomplish them. But his journey and witness enabled her to do what was right, and to find forgiveness and redemption. We have all been in her place. We were made hideous by our sins and our mistakes, our rebellion and disgusting actions. Who would love a creature like Lina?

God would. God did. He sent his son to die in our place, because he loved us even in our ugliness. But he didn’t leave us there. He cleaned us up and made us into a new creation for his use. Lina didn’t stay a monster. She was freed from her sin, from who she was, and started on the journey herself. That’s something a lot of people seem to miss. God is love. He does accept us for who we are…but he loves us too much to leave us there.

Another thing: Curdie brought Lina to her transformation by caring enough about her to let her hang around, even though she ate most of his food and turned some of his friends into enemies. His example helped her. If Curdie was MacDonald’s Christian, then Lina was someone who was converted because of his example. Though these might only be the musings of a teenaged girl, but I believe that MacDonald, a pastor, brought what he knew to be true into his stories.

There’s something beautiful about MacDonald’s writing. It’s hard to read some fairytales around these days, whose dark content either disturbs you or is just depressing. But MacDonald’s legends are like little rays of light in the murky world of fantasy. We’re searching for The Golden Key, but cannot find it anywhere but in God. His writing points us to Christ.

This might be too long, so I’ll be brief. If you like fairy-tales but are irritated with our immoral fantasy, I invite you to look up the work of George MacDonald. This invitation is also for friends of Narnia and Middle Earth, for those lands were inspired by MacDonald’s fantasy. I like Curdie’s adventures, and many of the others that he wrote, and I think you might as well.

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Chosen Ones: A Daring Rescue

Rebekah Hair : August 26, 2015 9:18 pm : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Andrew knew his orders: to find Rora and make sure she and Opal were safe. He was a little irritated that Caro wouldn’t let him go with them in their scouting mission, but he knew his job was important. The others were all busy on finding boats and planning the route for them. That would be much more exciting than trading pleasantries with two girls.

That morning, some of the non-military followers had joined the army, though they never planned on staying there. Caro and Davis had seen Dawes wandering about. His hand was still bandaged, and Caro secretly hoped that it hurt him badly. Dawes had caused a lot of trouble for his friends. Maybe some pain would bring him to his senses.

But Andrew was getting worried. Rora wasn’t at the meeting place. She was supposed to be at the back of the market, by the carpet seller. But she wasn’t there. Instead she was at the other side of the street, towards the back. “What is she doing there?” He wondered. “It’s too shaded. I can’t see anything.” He tried to wave to her, or get her to come over, but she shook her head. So he went over to her. “Is something wrong?” He asked.

“Run.” She said between her teeth. “Get out of here.”

“What?” Andrew asked.

“Go!” She said, louder.

Andrew turned on his heel and tried to see what she wanted. Soldiers were coming, and many of them. “Now I see what you were worried about.” He muttered. “Don’t worry, Rora. I’ll help you.”

“Where is Andrew?” Davis asked three hours later. “He was supposed to be here hours ago.”

“Maybe he fell into the ocean.” Tully said cheerfully. “But I doubt it.”

“He might have been captured.” Simon suggested.

“Should we look for him?” Caro asked.

“I think we need to go on with the plan.” Davis told them. “It’s getting late.”

“I guess we have no choice.” Caro sighed. “If we wait too long, Nya will hit us before we’re ready. We’re going to find Opal and get to Nya’s castle.”

“What if Opal was captured?” Rocket asked. “What then?”

“We could storm the dungeon.” Tully said. “But it’s not going to be easy. It would be easier if we could bluff her, though.”

“Now that’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all month.” Rocket exclaimed. “How will we bluff her?”

“Make her think we’re really weak.” Simon told him. “Then we strike.”

“Eclectic.” Tully agreed.

“That actually is a good idea.” Davis told Caro. “We can keep our original plan, just with some tweaks. We still hide our men. But then we use them in reserve. You, Prince Caro, will be the sole distraction. She will think you’re here for revenge. But it’s a distraction. If she has Opal, convince her to bring her out. Nya’s triumph will be her downfall.”

“I like it!” Caro cried. “Let’s do this.”

“Then let’s get going.” Simon told him. “Forward!”

The two boats sailed in through the cemetery that afternoon. They were blessed with a heavy fog that rolled in over the sea and filled the place with an impenetrable cloud. Rocket, though he would never admit it, was scared out of his skin. Tully asked him a question and he almost bailed over the side. The gunfighter was terrified of ghosts.

As soon as the boats came to the palace, the men split up. In twos and threes they scattered throughout the place, stealing servant clothes and using army uniforms to disguise themselves. Caro took his sword, took a deep breath, and walked in.

Simon and Tully, inseparable, wandered over to the dungeons. “This place is awful.” Simon muttered. “Why did we have to get this job?”

“I’ll tell you why.” Tully told him. “We have to fi…”

“Hey!” They stopped. Someone was calling to them.

“Who is it?” Simon asked.

A hand was thrust through one of the cell windows. The guard shouted and charged at them, but Tully drew his sword and charged him. Simon found the keys and unlocked the door. Andrew stumbled out. “Thank you.” He gasped. “It’s awful in there.”

“How did you end up in jail?” Simon asked.

“Never mind that!” Andrew cried, almost hysterically. “You have to find…you have to find…get Caro! Get Caro and get him out of here! It’s a trap, d’ye hear? It’s a trap! We have to get out of here!”

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Big Government and Teenagers

Rachel Clark : July 28, 2015 9:25 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.” Thanks to government meddling, however, many teenagers haven’t had the chance to prove themselves in even the smallest jobs.

Despite claims that youngsters of the 21st century are lacking in work ethic and self-motivation, that they are inferior to their predecessors is thus far highly debatable; what is certain, however, is that federal restrictions (child labor laws, the minimum wage, and twelve-year compulsory school attendance) make it exceedingly difficult for teenagers to launch a career, get a starter job, or become an entrepreneur. The effects of Washington’s arbitrary redistribution and intervention fall disproportionately on young adults—allegedly for whose sake many of these harmful regulations were put in place.

Child Labor Laws

Perhaps the most blatantly age-discriminatory interventionist contrivances are “child” labor laws. A teen’s primetime for an after-school job might be in his freshman or sophomore years, when school load is lighter yet he is mature enough to function well and gain practical experience in workplace situations. Yet until age eighteen work hours, schedules, breaks, fields, occupations, roles, and more are micromanaged. A great deal of teenagers anticipate their sixteenth or seventeenth birthdays, when some of the restrictions are relaxed, only to realize when they reach those milestones that they no longer have time for part-time work.

An unnecessary fixture in a developed economy and a harmful one in an undeveloped counterpart, child labor laws limit modern teenagers’ ability to test the flavors and atmospheres of occupations, assess their potential performance in a given field, gain important workplace experience, and earn extra money.

Minimum Wage Laws

Combine this with the minimum wage, the price-fixing of labor that unskilled workers either love or hate, and teenagers have a real problem.

Teens are almost always unskilled and inexperienced, sometimes lack maturity, typically have little practical knowledge, and no matter what job they can get, they probably need training. Employing teenagers is costly. Coercive government-mandated increases in the price of a good or service always result in surpluses of the aforementioned goods or services, and wage rates are no exception. Price-fixing negates or damages the mutually beneficial status of an exchange, and in this scenario it makes teenagers (and other low-skill laborers) very unattractive employees for their legally required per-hour prices.

The Twelve-Year Sentence

If by some miracle or black magic a school-age teenager trumps child labor laws and minimum wage price-fixing and worms his way into a meaningful job he enjoys (i.e., likely not fast food), he has another problem: compulsory school attendance. Schedules are not flexible, hours are long, and there are few alternatives.

The one-size-fits-all, federal-driven public schools require credits for all students that may or may not have anything to do with a student’s career choice or interests; these classes often include theater, music, art appreciation, P.E., or a whole slough of social sciences biased toward totalitarianism. Homeschooling and private schooling are legally permissible options: however, in the very probable case that resources are limited or prices are high (thanks to government control of education markets,) these are impossible.

Cut the Regulations.

Without federal coercion, the teen years could be more productive, enlightening, involving, and growth-centered. Instead, teenagers are viewed as problematic adolescents that cannot do much of anything for themselves; and while this is a cultural and governmental phenomenon, state intervention uses legal force to help perpetuate the myth that teenagers can be little more than internet addicts or thick-skulled sports aficionados.

Even if 21st-century teenagers are or will be “worthless bums” who refuse to start their adult lives until age 29, Washington’s overwhelming initiative-choking benevolence is making it harder and harder for teens and young adults to transcend their unflattering societal reputations and launch a successful career. In the end, the answer lies not in cutting back on these detrimental laws but in abolishing altogether the system that created them.

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Praepositus: Woe Unto Ye Unregulated Peoples

Praepositus : July 20, 2015 9:10 pm : Columns, Praepositus

praepositus
Central planning is often criticized and blamed for all manner of preposterous disturbances. But in reality, the world would be a harrowing place without a logical framework to keep people safe and in check.

Let me point out one all-important truth: you are all idiots. In your defense, this idiocy is an inherent characteristic of the human race. To err is human, as the saying goes, and without the faithful work of your heroes in D.C., you would be committing a great deal more errors, very serious and grave mistakes that would destroy our republic. There is a tradeoff to be made—either there is a world with order, or there is a world with unregulated cauliflower that comes nowhere close to code.

Imagine a world where electrical outlets are too close together.

Imagine a world in which light bulbs were not governed by thousands of pages of parameters and restrictions.

Think of the horror of a rising up of thousands, nay, millions of small businesses that do not conform to fire codes or observe their duty as taxpaying institutions.

Can you comprehend the atrocity of children harassing you and threatening your life with lemonade stands? Take a few moments to truly ponder what a world such as this one would become.

Imagine our nation’s healthy film and entertainment industry disintegrating after the removal of FBI copyright warnings shown before every movie.

Consider the potential death toll—the disgusting effects—of allowing the raw milk and unpasteurized cheese markets to thrive.

Imagine the implications of toothbrushes and Barbie dolls with environmentally questionable plastics. Imagine your dogs and cats and livestock, eating cheap food that had never undergone FDA testing. Imagine your mattress as a fluffy fire hazard of doom.

Woe unto ye unregulated peoples, for ordinary humans are inaccurate, sloppy, and prone to error in everything that they do. They have something like the opposite of the Midas touch. They need a flawless, shining example to step in and do what they are simply incapable of doing for their own benefit. And that is what the selfless individuals in Washington, working for the safety and convenience of the American people, have taken upon themselves to do.

As it is now, even with the most sensible of precautions, things like housing bubbles and student debt crises continue to proceed on a collision course with the American economy; the dedicated force in our capitol is too small in numbers—they are stretched too thin—to ever stop these disasters. The only solution is to add to their ranks, so they can solve the few minute problems (like mass inflation and debt crises) with the glorious system they have devised.

Think again before you criticize the central planners that you so rudely dismiss, because the world would be a dangerous, unlivable place without them.
~ Praepositus

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Teatime in Narnia: How to Make a Tumnus-Style Tea

Debbie Clark : July 19, 2015 10:03 pm : Columns, Debbie, Narnia, The Chaotic Kitchen

Narnia LWW 47“And it really was a wonderful tea. There was a nice brown egg, lightly boiled for each of them, and then sardines on toast, and then buttered toast, and then toast with honey, and then a sugar-topped cake.”  ~ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, page 15.

Every true-blooded Narnian likes a good tea, just like every decent hobbit likes a second breakfast. Mr. Tumnus, one of the noblest of fauns, is a delightful teatime host and a fabulous cook, if I do say so myself. And so, I have procured from the archives at Cair Paravel the recipe that tantalizes taste buds throughout all of Narnia: Mr. Tumnus’ all-around enchanting Sugar-Topped cake.

Without further ado, here is the Magic recipe to get you started on your own Narnian tea:

Actually, no. You need more ado — here are some pictures to document the glorious deliciousness of Narnia cuisine.

20150417 Aerial View RS

A Narnian tea for two, with tea (though I shouldn’t wonder if you hadn’t already guessed that), sardines, apples, sugar-crusted lemons, soft-boiled eggs, candied orange peel, toast with honey and butter, and — this is the most important — Mr. Tumnus’ enchantingly delicious Sugar-Topped Cake.

20150417 Cake und Table RS

Mr. Tumnus’ cave was not likely so well-lit, but at least the furnishings would have been fairly similar: books, a map of Narnia, apples from Calormen, and the Magic cake — the recipe for which had been handed down from faun to faun for generations, and now rests in the archives at Cair Paravel.

20150417 Pouring da tea RS

The food is positively scrumptious here in Narnia; it is completely befuddling that more tourists haven’t arrived to experience it all.

20150417 Non-Photo-bombed side view of cake RS

But, in the end, you’ve really only come here for a cake recipe. So let’s get down to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As seen in the pictures above:
Toast (and butter, and sardines)
Tea, sugar, and cream
Lightly boiled brown eggs
Lemon slices
Apples
Candied orange peels
Sugar-topped cake, Tumnus style

The recipe used for this cake came from The Narnia Cookbook (which means it really came straight from the archives at Cair Paravel). Please note that this recipe only makes one 8″ x 8″ cake layer, and if you desire more, double it.

Sugar-Topped Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup raisins, chopped
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped fine
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup candied cherries (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8″ x 2″ round pan, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper or waxed paper.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. With an electric mixer or by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar alternately with the milk, beating just until mixed.
5. Fold in the fruit and nuts.
6. Pour the batter into the greased pan.
7. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove to a rack and cool completely. Remove the cake from the pan, and frost with sugar cake frosting. Decorate with candied cherries if desired.

 

Icing:

1 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla.

Some Helpful Suggestions From Your Humble Servant, the Narnian (Well, again, that isn’t quite true, because I’m royalty. You get the picture.)

The icing recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how large of a Magic sugar coma you’d like to get yourself into — and as far as I’m concerned, the more cherries there are on top, the better it is.

Serve with some soothing Magic flute music, and don’t try the Turkish delight. It doesn’t end very well most of the time.

 

References: The Narnia Cookbook, Douglas Gresham and Pauline Baynes
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis

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Two Flavors of Tyranny

Rachel Clark : July 19, 2015 4:23 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

 

red and blueIn American politics, there are two angles on any given issue: the Republican side and the Democrat side. Any dissenting or differing opinions are bottled up and shoved into one of the above categories, because as conventional wisdom would have it, either an idea is red or it is blue; either one thinks red bad, or one thinks blue bad. Those who disagree with both factions are quickly dismissed as socialist quacks or libertarian-leaning internet trolls.

However, one need not be a collectivist crusader or an anarcho-capitalist to notice that the two major parties bear only internal relevance. When viewed away from the American political context, the parties, it becomes evident, squabble over details, yet agree on major points; and although they fall on two sides of the so-called left-right spectrum, both of them assume big government and rely on its existence for debates to endure between them. In the end, the choice between Democrat and Republican is a choice between two flavors of tyranny.

Their one discrepancy begins with the thing that very few people are aware that they possess—namely, political worldview. Republicans and Democrats use the same means (in slightly varying amounts) to achieve radically different visions of national greatness. Republicans seek military strength and material prosperity for all, and Democrats are purportedly working towards ultimate social justice and safety for the masses; this roughly sumps up the distinction between the goals of fascism and socialism. The ends are at odds, but the means are identical.

Fascist and socialist states are related by blood, and telling them apart at a glance is often a challenge: both of them sport secret police forces, enormous militaries, starving populations, central economic planning, drastic shortages and surpluses because of that economic planning, relentless propaganda, mass executions of political opponents, usually a uniting prejudice against a race or culture, programs to indoctrinate youth, a disgusting disregard for the sanctity of life, party-worship and personality cults centering around leaders, uncontrollable inflation and draconian monetary restrictions, burdensome restrictions on the populace, and the list could go on for a while yet.

Interestingly enough, nearly every disagreement between the Republicans and the Democrats is a debate on the workings and minor details of running a preexisting mammoth-sized government.

In the realm of gun control, Republicans cling to licensing and background checks, while Democrats prefer to expunge all firearms from the population, ban all pointy objects, and regulate all choking hazards. Democrats wish to socialize healthcare entirely; Republicans only want to socialize it a bit. Republicans hope to “reform” public schools by decentralizing and cutting off a smidge of funding, and Democrats want to “reform” schools by expanding and throwing extra money at school districts everywhere.

The two parties are not opposites in any of these scenarios; indeed, they are merely on discriminable points of the tyranny gradient. One kind of tyranny is not distinguishable from another, and far left and far right are simply dissimilar names for the same brand of oppression.

The United States’ two dominating parties pretend to disagree on every issue that they can find to discuss, but—in reality—they only disagree on one issue: in what areas, to which degree, and for what purpose can the government control citizens?

Truth be told, ideas are not red or blue: they are good or bad. Both parties have stunning amounts of proposals that fit into the latter classification, and both parties present a type of tyranny that we should be unwilling to accept.

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What’s up with Macbeth?

Rebekah Hair : July 19, 2015 3:30 pm : Columns, Rebekah

DSCN1685

But really, how much trouble can a pirate be?

I didn’t know we’d run into weird stuff in Theater Kids this year. Sure, the plays can have some weird humor, but they’d been funny and clean as far as I could tell. Last year we did a western. This year we would do Pirates and Mermaids. It sounded fun. The only things I were concerned about were avoiding a mermaid role and getting a part.

I definitely didn’t think I’d run into a kid playing with the occult or another one with some superstitious thing against Macbeth. I made a friend, and had a friend who acted with me. We shared laughs and memories. I accidentally was bit by Dora, but that was more of my fault than hers. (I really shouldn’t march around the stage when there are people behind me)

While I could talk about a thousand things about Theater Kids, I might as well mention Macbeth. I’ve been studying it, and I think I know what’s up. First, some context. Here we go. One of the actors, who will not be named (Let’s call him Jake) was a little over-friendly to girls. I don’t know if he’s just getting over teenagerness, or if he is a flirt, but anyway, he was there.

As I was saying, this boy was in the show. Right before the dress rehearsal, when everyone was going “Break a Leg!” and all that stuff, he said to us “I know the bad-luck word for theater. Do you want me to say it?”

Adam and I glanced at each other. “What does it matter?” My brother asked. “Luck doesn’t exist.”

“Yes it does.” The boy insisted. “If you say Macbeth before a play, you’ll jinx it.”

“Oh brother.” I said. “Macbeth is just a play by Shakespeare. What would that have to do with luck? And even if it is “bad-luck”, who cares? Luck isn’t real. I don’t say that because I’m arrogant. I’m just stating the truth. God decides what’s going to happen in this performance, and if He wants it to go well, he’ll bring our lines to our minds.”

“Don’t say it out loud!” The boy protested.

“Say what, Macbeth?” I asked.

“Augh!” He groaned. “No more, please.”

“You brought it up.” Adam pointed out.

The dress rehearsal was pretty terrible. If we believed in curses, I think we’d be pretty discouraged by what happened. But I knew what was really going on. The mermaids didn’t know their lines. I tripped. And people didn’t speak loudly enough. That was because we didn’t listen to our director, not because of a curse.

Opening Night was tense. We were irritated by our failed rehearsal and the messy practice. “Don’t say it.” Jake kept saying. Not many people listened to him. As I said, he’s a little weird.

Melissa snuck over to me to say a quick prayer. “I’m a little nervous.” She admitted. “Are you?”

Melissa had been encouraging everyone on stage. If she had a nickname, it’d probably be Angel. Or fruithead. Depends on whether it was a nice one or a mean one. As I was saying, Melissa had been encouraging everyone around, but she was nervous herself. I prayed with her, asking God to bless our acting, and asking that we would use our talents for his Glory. Melissa went off to her part of the stage, and I went to mine.

Right before the curtain opened, Jake started up again. “Don’t say it.”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Haden, another pirate, spoke up. “Knock it off.”

“Macbeth is just a play. There are no such things as curses or bad luck, Jake.” I told him again. “Do your best. Don’t worry about curses.”

“You said it?” Jake whispered. “I gotta tell Mr. Mark.”

“Shhh!” Riley hushed him. “It’s time!”

“Have I not commanded you?” I whispered. “Be Strong and Courageous! Do not be afraid! Do not be dismayed! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress, I shall not be shaken.” The lights turned on, and the curtains began to open. “He is my God, though dark my road, he holds me that I shall not fall, wherefore to him I leave it all.” (Joshua 1:9, Psalm 62:6, “Whatever my God ordains is Right” by Samuel Rodigast, translated by Catherine Winkworth)

That night was great. Contrary to Jake’s superstitions, we did the best we ever had. I don’t think it had to do with our talent. I think it had more to do with our short prayer before the show. I think it had to do with God blessing us. God is not bound by ancient curses. He isn’t stopped by jinxes or bad luck. He encourages us through his word.

Which is stronger: an ancient curse, or a Christian's prayer?

Which is stronger: an ancient curse, or a Christian’s prayer?

What I know for a fact is that Jake, even if he wasn’t in earnest, was wrong. I did some research into the Macbeth curse, and found out that Jake wasn’t the only one who makes a big deal about it. Most of the time, to break the curse, people have to do an elaborate show and curse. People think that the reason for the curse is because Shakespeare used real witchcraft in the script. It seems fishy to me.

I’m not discounting the power of darkness. I’m extolling the power of light. There is a spiritual battle going on, and I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t exist. But instead, I think I’ll go on the offense, and pray. I know that prayer is stronger than cursing, and I know that God is much stronger than a witch’s spell. It’s too bad I never was able to convince Jake.

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Radical Warfare

Rebekah Hair : July 14, 2015 7:15 am : Columns, Rebekah

bibleI have a book in my house that has been banned in several different countries. Its content can be graphic, its philosophy radical. No one can read it without being affected for good or for bad. It will certainly attack any views already held by you. It encourages people to disobey governments at times, and other times makes them fiercely patriotic.

Proponents of this book have long been looked down on as radicals. In some cases they completely overthrew the government of a country, other times they changed it thoroughly. Its claims can sometimes border on the maniacal. It is very dangerous, and very potent, more deadly than propaganda. Most try to get it out of their country, but it is only powerful when its faithful followers foolishly follow its words. Thankfully, though, there are very few “true believers” who are willing to turn the world upside down. As long as they stay passive, we’ll have no trouble. Who knows? We might be able to get this dangerous book banned in our country as well.

That book is what a Christian calls a Bible.

No one can truly understand the deadly effects of this book. When someone believes it, truly believes it, they tend to do strange and unexplainable things. They breach a person’s personal space to try and tell them the “good news”, or publish it in whatever magazine they can get a hold on. They aren’t afraid of prison, they seem uncannily happy, and they tend to sing often. Indeed, the littlest things seem to set them off in singing. Sometimes they even set their dangerous doctrines to music, making them even more deadly.

But others, as I have said before, don’t think enough about this book to let that happen. They hold to some of the teachings, but would rather avoid the others. Not really dangerous, they are often sleeping giants, and not as much trouble as the other group. They can be easily discouraged, since they usually don’t know enough about what they believe to defend it. But they can be roused to anger unexpectedly, so it’s probably better for them to all be chased out. And there’s one thing you need to know.

I’m one of them.

You might think it’s a little strange that I would write so roughly against my own rulebook and hope, but I think you might be able to see my point. This is how the world sees us. But there’s something they have right: there is a difference between those of us who believe what we believe, and those who only say they do. Will we just let ourselves go through life halfheartedly? Or will we keep to our first love?

The Bible is a funny book. When it rules your life, you are not your own. Your own wants and desires are dethroned in favor of a divine plan. You can become irrationally chipper, even in strange places like a funeral home or a prison. If you read the Bible several times a week, you might even find yourself putting scriptures to music, just like William Kethe, the Scottish Psalmist who used his pen and ken to put ancient psalms to modern music. It’s inevitable. A love of scripture will lead to a love of nature, of others, and of music.

But it’s understandable why many people don’t want to take the time and read it. After all, there are many things that could go wrong. First of all, they might take it too seriously. They might also be affected by some of the side effects: hatred, persecution, and distrust, with great misunderstanding. To some people, it’s easier to get the nice parts of the religion and avoid the painful ones.

Oh brother. With that reasoning, babies wouldn’t ever grow up.

We’re told to “Long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up into salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) In other places, we are told “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the had, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15) In modern terms, “Grow up! Children are vulnerable! Children are gullible! We need children to grow up into soldiers!”

We are supposed to be “child-like” in our faith, not childish doubters. We start to compromise the scriptures, and therefore become wishy-washy in our theology. If you don’t believe the beginning of the Bible, then why would you believe the end of it? If you don’t believe the end, why believe the middle? Why not just make it a nice story, or a guidebook, or a sort of almanac?

Because this isn’t a “nice story.” The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It can’t be sold as a peddled ware to be taken or passed over. With God’s word, there are no other choices but yes or no. Do you believe? Do you believe all of it? If you don’t, don’t bother believing at all. So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with worshipping God only partway? It’s still worship, right? Well, let’s see what God’s word, the always-true scripture, says about it. “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8-9

All right. So there isn’t that much leniency for good intentions. In fact good intentions, without the right heart attitude, is little more than a pharisaical practice. I wonder if some of our churches have been little more than synagogues.  We are told that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 )

Notice that it isn’t compared to a blanket, or a suggestion. What’s with all the war analogies? Maybe it’s because we’re soldiers? But if we’re soldiers, and we are said to be, where are our weapons? Why do we seem to be waiting  for orders, or going AWOL? I suppose it’s because we don’t trust our orderbook, our history, our Bible.

God’s word is powerful. Our enemies know that. They’re trying to neutralize us. Other people know it too, and they hate us and want us destroyed. It seems that the only group in this battle that is underarmed is ours. Some don’t even know that we’re in a war. We need to return to the Scriptures, to hold them all to be true, and do as they tell us. We need to let God’s word work through us. We need to prepare for spiritual battle.

There are people, young  and old, who are even now on fire for Christ. They are being rewarded for their zeal and their carful study of the scriptures, by punishment on earth and blessings in heaven. Many Christians are unwilling to follow them in their quest for what’s right. But as the days ahead come and the battle intensifies, those who are unprepared will be vulnerable.

Strap on your sword, soldier. Hold fast to the faith, and to the Word of God. It will bear you through, if you take it for what it is. Read your Bible! Psalm 119 has more than a hundred descriptions of its power. Read Ephesians! Paul will inspire you to action. But no matter where you start, stay constant. We are at war with the enemy, and we will prevail. But to be a good soldier, you must stand strong.

 

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Bernie Sanders and the Quest for Sparkly Pink Unicorns

Rachel Clark : July 3, 2015 5:14 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

Democrat presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is perpetuating the myth of the free lunch with his recently introduced College for All Act, legislation with a gloriously populist title (Marx would be proud) and about as much hope for success as the never-ending search for sparkly pink unicorns.

Bernie’s audacious legislation will “eliminate undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities.” And Sanders himself alleges that it is “fully paid for by imposing a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street.”

The bill is an impressive demagogic appeal: it takes a snipe at those evil Wall Street guys, hands even more power to our benevolent and completely unbiased federal overseers, and promises free stuff to starving college students. As intriguing as the offer might sound to the uninitiated, the College for All Act is sheer economic fantasy; its failures begin with the fact that it gives colleges and universities the perfect chance to waste even more time and money on a federally funded racketeering scheme, pushing tuition costs to loftier and loftier heights in an accursed circle of perverse incentives.

“Most people now see college as an entitlement to be provided largely at ‘public’ expense. It shouldn’t be,” says George Leef, “If we hadn’t made the blunder of getting government involved in college education, it would today cost much less and deliver more value. That’s because it would be subject to the test of the market. Instead, it’s like an overweight gorilla that has been stuffing itself on taxpayer dollars for many years.”

When government begins to finance a failing corporation, or otherwise one that allegedly needs “strengthening,” the recipient corporation is freed from its obligations to run efficiently and satisfy its consumers. The federal government began subsidizing tuition and universities in 1944 and has not looked back since.

A few student loan crises and credential-based college bubbles later, the wisdom of government involvement in higher education is questionable—particularly in light of the skyrocketing costs of tuition and textbooks. Interestingly enough, college tuition has gone up 1225% since 1978; the CPI has only risen by 279%.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Sanders pays halfhearted lip service to this fact by pretending that only despicable Wall Street desperadoes will suffer in funding America’s college degrees, but in reality such a proposal would create enough perverse incentives for students to misuse and abuse college opportunities and for colleges to jack up prices (since, after all, a person who isn’t paying isn’t concerned with costs) that overall tuition costs would balloon out of proportion and affect all participants and taxpayers in the United States economy. In the end, an absurd chunk of GDP would be swallowed up by higher education’s ever-rising costs.

The pink unicorn will never be found; it does not exist, and Sanders should stop feigning that socialization of tuition would bring it into existence. Rather, government intervention and funding of higher education—at all levels—should end. The United States should return to reality and privatize its public universities and colleges, end federal student aid and federally backed student loans, and allow the price of a diploma to return to reasonable levels that match actual market utility.

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Color doodles

Rebekah Hair : June 28, 2015 2:59 pm : Columns, Rebekah

A creative preschooler once drew a picture of three imaginary lands. On one she drew a person with red crayon. On another, she drew a blue person. On the last one, she drew a yellow stick person. After drawing more stick pictures, she left the room. And for some strange reason, the picture came to life.

colors

No one knew what happened or why, but for some reason the blue people began to fight amongst themselves. So did the reds and yellows. Then the three groups discovered that the little girl had drawn another piece of land, and they all drew little boats and sailed over to it.

That is when they met.

Since they had been fighting for the whole time, just with each other, they continued it when they found different colored stick figures. But it was a little different. For one thing, they started grouping by color and attacking the other colors. It began to be rather ridiculous. Instead of fighting each other, they ganged up on the color that really was having trouble fighting. That one color began to be chased around.

Though this is a silly story, it has a tiny purpose. We as humans like to group together. But our sin makes us fight amongst ourselves. And people like to fight as groups. So they group according to the things they have in common. That can be by language, or by common beliefs, or by color, as in the silly story above.

But that’s where the similarities end. No silly child created us. We were made by the all-powerful, all-wise God of the Universe. We were made as one people, one race. If we are different, it is only because of our environments. Sometimes light plays with our pigments, and sometimes our lives involve activities that change our appearance over time. This is not evolution. This is the creativity of our God.

The problem is not that we are different colors. If we weren’t, we would be less likely to survive in hostile habitats. The problem is that we think ourselves to be perfect, and don’t like anyone who is different from ourselves. We tend to dislike people who don’t live up to our standards. This is the problem with sin: it divides and destroys.

When Jesus died on the cross, he created a new world; a new way of life for those who followed him. There was a main barrier according to the Jews: you were either a Jew and part of the Promise of God, or you were a Gentile, and fit only for hell. Sure, there were a few nice gentiles, but unless they embraced the Jewish traditions, they wouldn’t be saved. And there was an even greater barrier that no one could cross: a wall between the Holy God and sinful men.

But suddenly, as Jesus died, the wall between God and man was breached. A way was opened for man to come to his Creator. And with the falling of that wall, another fell as well: Jew and Gentile. And Paul capped up the difference in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Right now there are many people hurting. The church needs to be there and help those who feel broken. This isn’t a political problem. This is a heart problem. No amount of campaigning, or speeches, or even laws prohibiting this or that, will ever make a permanent change. It isn’t the government’s job to make sure people think the right things. It’s up to us to choose to love one another, even if they’re a little different.

There are many things we can learn from one another. The wealth of creativity and cultures are just some of the treasures we have on this earth. But whether or not we will find the treasure depends on how we treat each other. If we insist on our own perfection, or are too stubborn to admit that others are people too, we’re going to have trouble.

 

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Mosquitoes and Friends

Rebekah Hair : June 7, 2015 3:07 pm : Columns, Rebekah

We knew three weeks in advance that Saturday wouldn’t be normal.

After all, Mom had been talking about it for a long time. We wanted to put together a Bible study using our Sword Study curriculum, put together by Tammy McMahan. We wanted an alternative to the Bible Bee, because it wasn’t going to work for us this year. We invited three families to come over and let us show it off a little.

But we’re homeschooled, so three families plus ours equaled about 40 people. I’m not saying that all homeschoolers have big families. Maybe we’re just weird. I don’t know. But we had over three large families, plus our family, which made a LOT of people.

Seeing as how I’m a bit of a “Jill-of-all-trades”, Mom and Dad put me on the activity committee, being the leader of a team of…well…me. But that was Ok, because my “assistants” ended up being part of the activity, and if I had let them help, they would have known where the treasure was. See, the activity was supposed to be a treasure hunt. I wanted to go through the whole genealogy of Jesus Christ. But after realizing that there were over forty people mentioned, and I only had an hour, plus I didn’t know that much that I could interest a five-year-old about, say, Asaph.

After trimming down genealogies to some well-known ancestors of Christ, I made up clues and hid them. But let me tell you, trying to think of 21 hiding places far enough from each other to make it hard is hard in itself.

Then people started showing up. The first family came and the house got a little loud. Then the second one came and we got redirected outside. But when the third family came, it was like a strange family reunion. I knew people from all three families. But none of them knew each other. That’s when it started to get fun!

A few of the girls there were older than me, and it was really fun watching these older kids trying to figure out my clues. But the best part was watching the parents and kids alike make new friends.

I guess there had to be a downside to such a fun event, so it happened to be a hot and sticky afternoon full of mosquitoes. We tried to chase away the mosquitoes, but nothing would work. They just stuck around.

After a while, when Mom and Dad had made their plans, we came in and sang a hymn. One of the boys from one of the families was a great pianist. We sang “How Great Thou Art”. Even though one of the families had to leave, it was still cool. Three families working together as a group, worshipping the savior! What could be nicer?

Things aren’t always perfect, though, because we’re still sinful. I have a pretty good idea that we’ll fight before the summer is over. I have a good idea that we’ll fight before the day is over. But that’s fine. We can disagree, but as long as our friendship isn’t broken, it doesn’t hurt us. We can still be friends.

I like being able to talk with people who are studying the Bible with me. It makes it a little bit more special. I think that the more we work together, the better we’ll do. Godly friends can encourage us to do the right thing. And I hope that someday we can get together again. Maybe this time, though, we can do the meeting in a building, away from all those pesky mosquitoes.

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Jack and friends

Rebekah Hair : May 31, 2015 4:13 pm : Columns, Guest Author

Hiya, everyone! I’m J-j-j-jack! That’s Jack. I’m the newest pride and joy of the Hair House. People call me a nuisance. I have no idea what that means, but It’s gotta be good, right?

I come bringing tidings of great joy! The best dog in the world (that’s me) has a new side-kick. His name is Felix. Or Happy. Still trying to figure that out.

He isn’t a very good one, though. He eats all the food. He never shares. And he always licks people before I can. He takes control of everything. Sometimes I wonder if he knows that I am the hero and HE is the sidekick. He likes to switch it around. But I don’t mind too much.

The biggest problem with Felix is that he likes chickens. Now I think chickens are kinda fun to chase, and all that, but he thinks that chickens are yummy. What a goofball! I guess he’s never tasted one. I think they’re all feathery.

But Felix is good for one thing: he comes up with a nice set of games! He came up with one called “Dig up the garden” and we did it. Dad wasn’t happy, but it was really fun. Then he came up with a new one: “Fly the coop” and we tried it out. It involved getting into the chicken coop and making the chickens fly out.

The world according to Felix:

A good idea: we could take naps in the middle of the road.

A better idea: we could take naps in the middle of the road when cars could come.

A good idea: eating an ant-hill

A better idea: eating a spider

The best of them all: eating a rattlesnake.

As I’ve said, Felix is very weird. But he’s a nice sidekick. He just needs some training. How should I train him? I guess I could stick him with a cat…no, wait. He actually likes cats. Oh well. But something needs to change. I need a plan.

Anyone have ideas on how I should teach Felix? If so, you can tell me in the comments.

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Sketching Lily

Rebekah Hair : May 30, 2015 9:42 pm : Columns, Rebekah

In case you are wondering, I feel poetic. It seems to be much easier to write a poem than to actually think out an article. I also was going to enter a poetry contest, but two things stopped me. 1: I’m not a poet. 2: I didn’t like the assignment. I could also add 3: I forgot to mail in the form. So here goes. Perhaps this is self-condemnation. If it is, it’s in a nice way.

Sketching Lily

Sketching Lily

Waiting in the car one day,
I pulled out my sketchbook to sketch
It’s much better to hide in the images of mine,
But what I should draw is a stretch.

 

I think I should draw up a field of flowers,
Or a Castle hewn out of cold stone.
Perhaps a dancer with joyful steps,
Or a cave filled with carven bone.

 

I pull out a pencil and ready the slate,
But my mind has suddenly gone silly.
Instead of picturing a figure or place,
I can only sketch up Water Lily.

 

With anger and resentment seething within,
Outwardly, my pencil is still.
I can think of a thousand things to sketch,
But somehow, they are outside of my will.

 

I love to draw almost more than I love anything,
But what actually comes out is bland.
I can think up the most amazing of drawings,
But somehow, they don’t come out as planned.

 

I finally give in and draw the same character
I’ve drawn at least seventy times.
I know that I’m losing the battle within,
But I’ve tired of holding these lines.

 

They think I’m an artist when they see that sweet girl,
They say my skill has become great.
But it’s only because I’ve drawn her so much,
And can’t think of another as of late.

 

I’ve grown to love my sweet Lily-Fair,
Though our partnership has been rather forced,
I still bring out my sketchbook all cluttered with notes,
And I admit, they really aren’t the worst.

 

Look after all that you can do
Be it sing or paint the Lily-Fair
Remember that God picked your talents for you,
And each one has a reason to be there.

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Life at the Top and the Bottom: Homeschooling Through High School

Rachel Clark : May 27, 2015 7:39 pm : Columns, Rachel, Spoofs

Homeschooling through high school means that you're on the top, on the bottom, don't have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear  cloaks if you feel like it.

Homeschooling through high school means that you’re on the top, on the bottom, don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom, and can wear cloaks if you feel like it.

 

Many people have questions and curiosities about life as a homeschooled high school student.

 

“Do your family’s students get a home economics credit for doing the dishes?”

“How do you teach integral calculus?”

“Where in heaven’s name did you get such a nice transmission electron microscope?”

“Is school violence a major issue—are there gangs or bullies?”

“Is that a pipe organ in your living room?” 

 

I am asked these questions and many more hundreds of times each year; usually I say “no comment” or refer the askers to my press secretary or my cat. However, at last I have taken the time to personally answer a few of them; do keep in mind, however, that no two homeschools are alike.

 

School Sports

My school football team has never lost a game. Consequently, we have never played a game, either, and none of us know how to play football. That’s beside the point—the point is that we are doing better than Lumberton High School.

 

School Music

This homeschool has a thriving music program. Currently there is a nose-flute virtuoso in middle school here; we had a banjo player until last year, when we banished him to an apartment and gifted his instrument with the ultimate banjo mute (a.k.a, the sledgehammer).

 

College Preparation

Two thirds of my school’s students have learned to like coffee by at least their sophomore years; the other third has not yet reached its—or, well, her—sophomore year.

 

School Lunches

There is no policy forbidding me from bringing, cooking, dissecting, or hunting my lunch. Usually the school lunches are quite good, unless the freshman home economics class is in charge for the week. (I failed the home economics class the first time around after catching the stove on fire.)

 

Science Experiments

My school has never had a lab safety issue or explosion, and the school’s decontamination shower has never been used. (Once some potassium permanganate stained the kitchen countertop, but it blended with the pattern anyway.) Personally, I have only eaten one science experiment; I’m still alive and maybe with superhuman powers to boot.

 

School Violence

My cat kills things, but usually just mice or Entergy workers. The facility is monitored 24/7 by sniper-archer-ninja freshmen sitting on the roof.

 

Socialization

Do not worry about it. I talked to a person once and despite that I think I’m still turning out alright.

 

Home Economics

Chores-for-grades is a simple system my homeschool has developed for making the most of the home economics experience. Target practice and science experiments are integrated to help with the first-time cake failures and carbonized animal tissues.

 

Field Trips

Personally, I am quite taken with the field just west of my house—lovely for geological expeditions. I found a baby armadillo there not too long ago.

 

Calculus? Quantum physics?

Two words: Khan Academy.

 

School Dress Code

Pajamas are acceptable, but chainmail, swim suits, lab coats, or sometimes jeans are also acceptable. The freshman prefers wearing cloaks and chainmail, but I—the junior or senior or whatever you would like to call me—am nocturnal, so it is of little consequence anyhow.

 

School Spirit

Like many high schools, my homeschool likes to show school spirit. My family mainly does this by having pep rallies around the dinner table and then watching DIVE videos* together.

 

Letter Jackets

I actually learned my alphabet long, long ago. I see no use in wearing letters at this stage of the game.

 

Competition

My sister once whacked me upside the head after I beat her at chess. Other than that, student rivalry has not been a significant factor in academics or trips to the emergency room.

 

 In conclusion,

hopefully this has answered a few of your most pressing questions. But again, remember—not all homeschools are all alike, and not many homeschools have such great football teams.

 

*For the uninitiated: DIVE is homeschool celebrity Dr. Shormann’s lifesaving curriculum. Best thing since the Pythagorean theorem.

 

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Thunder Hymn

Rebekah Hair : May 17, 2015 7:08 pm : Columns, Rebekah

I wrote this after church one night. It had been stormy, and the dark clouds frightened me. But God is with us even through the hardest storms.

Thunder Hymn

Storm clouds rise
Fill the skies
With dark clouds all around.
Storms will come
And cause some
to fear Thunder’s drum.
Do not fear!
God is here!
He will help you even here.
Do not take fright!
God will fight!
For your cause day and night

Fear not the flood
For the blood
Of Jesus Christ claims your life
You won’t be lost
For your cost
Has been paid on the Cross.
Fear not the fire!
For his desire
Is that your soul be refined.
Though it may burn
You will learn
Your faith grows when it is tried.

Watch and Pray
Seize the day
He has promised to be with you always.
Lift up your heart
Stand apart
Do not fear the deadly dark.
Lift up your hands!
Don’t fear to stand!
He is with you in this land.
Lift up your voice!
Make your choice!
Make a stand against this noise.

Lift up your eyes
and see the skies,
For the sun will surely rise.
The clouds won’t stay
Light finds a way
To make a new and brighter day.
Lift up your head!
Your God’s not dead!
He bore the scars for you instead.
Lift up His Name!
He stays the same!
He will come just as he came!

Look to the Sky.
God is Nigh.
He will return,
Our praise to earn.
Fear not the End
God is our friend.
He will bring justice to the end.
Do not fear!
God is near!
He is with you even here.
Fear not the night!
He makes all things right!
For your cause he will fight.

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Chosen Ones: Caro’s Plan

Rebekah Hair : May 12, 2015 2:05 am : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

The young men couldn’t believe their good luck. Now they would be able to enter the city without being noticed. But Davis, Simon, and Tully’s military background made them suspicious of the sudden order. “Nya doesn’t just make a random census.” Davis warned. “This is because of Gino, make no mistake.”discussion

“Gino?” Simon laughed. “How would he be so important?”

“Hold your tongue.” Davis growled. “You don’t understand.”

He was right, though. Most of those who followed Caro were young men who wanted in on the action. They wanted a military strike. Very few of them had guessed the true significance of the Chosen, and some had mistakenly thought Opal to be Caro’s sister. Caro had tried to explain, but it seemed to be beyond them. However, Caro had no complaint, for everyone there was fiercely loyal, brave, and valiant.

Rocket the gunfighter soon discovered one of Nya’s hidden motives. “The temple has been sacked.” He reported after a scouting mission with Andrew.

“Say that again?” Tully asked.

“The priests are all gone. Completely shipped out. Most people said they were sent to the core. Nya must be tired of them.”

“Why wouldn’t she be?” Caro muttered. “She detests anything that reminds her of being Chosen; she wouldn’t let the priests and priestesses join the True King.”

“Our Creator is our King.” Andrew said quietly. “And He delegates power to those whom He chooses. But this is a bad turn. How will the priests offer intercession on behalf of our people from the core? Will the Creator forsake us, when we are so close? He can’t! Will the nation have to keep suffering for its leader’s wickedness?”

“I’m afraid so.” Davis agreed. “We’re in a war now. The Chosen are gone. Opal, or Iya, or whatever you called her, has gone ahead. Maybe she’s gotten there already. We need to make a distraction and make sure she makes it to the palace and to Nya. We cannot rely on Gino. We must act quickly.”

“It’s not like the people themselves are innocent.” Rocket interjected. “If this “Creator” really cares, I’m sure he won’t be happy with me, or any people right about now.”

Andrew shook his head in frustration. “You’re talking about things you don’t understand.” He began. “None of us are good enough to be right with our God. But that is why the priests muse intercede. If they cannot…will He understand? I think so. There is a prophecy…”

“We’re getting off the point.” Davis interjected.

Caro agreed. “Andrew, tomorrow meet Rora in the place we agreed on before. I want to make sure she and Opal are safe. The rest of us will enter the city by groups and pairs. Some will even pretend to do the silly census. But that’s going to be a ploy to get us unnoticed and past the gates. Once inside, we should head for the sea. I found something a few months ago that no one knows about. A way to the castle.”

“”What?” They asked in surprise. “How do you know this?”

“Because I sailed there, before I came here. We’re going to use boats to get to the shore on the other side of the cemetery. No one will be there. Nya’s people fear ghosts.”

“Ghosts?”

“It is a cemetery. And Nya’s people have plenty of reason to fear the dead.” Caro explained.

“But are there really ghosts?” Rocket wanted to know.

“No, I don’t think so. And if there are, we have no trouble with them. Most of them are my family, anyway. Let’s hurry.”

“I have a question.” Andrew ventured.

“Is it about ghosts?” Caro asked, half-smiling.

“No…it’s how I’m supposed to meet up with the others if I’m going to go to the town square and meet Rora.” Andrew explained.

“You’re not.” Caro tried to explain. “You’re going, the rest of us are getting things ready. We’ll come back to one of the inns in the afternoon, trade information, and then head out together. Try to get back around lunch time. We’re acting at one o’clock this afternoon. If Nya is to be stopped, it has to be before her army masses for the attack planned against Lithia, if I remember right.”

“Who is going against the queen?” Rocket asked.

“Opal is. Our job is distraction.” Davis sighed, as there was a collective groan.

“A blind girl?” Tully asked in disbelief. “Next you’ll be telling me that the dog is going to take down Dawes.”Promise sniffing the air Caro turned and looked at Promise. Since Gino had been taken, the dog had been almost savage. Davis had tied him up, but the dog was obviously agitated. Some of the men had suggested leaving him behind, but Caro couldn’t bring himself to do it. Gino had loved the dog too much.

“He might.” Rocket said sarcastically. He had no idea what Caro was planning, but he would do anything for his captain, and was irritated at their hesitancy.  “Now shut your mouth and follow orders!”

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The Songbirds

Rebekah Hair : May 10, 2015 9:37 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Maybe this is just us, but our family loves to sing.

Both of my parents sang, and we’ve been singing ever since. Our ideas of good music vary from person to person, but we all enjoy listening to and making music. At any given time, six or seven people might be singing. One might start off with “Do you want to build a Snowman?” From Frozen. Then her sister will chime in with “Let it Go” and her brother, trying to drown them out, will start singing “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey. Finally, their older brother will get fed up with all this noise and start singing a weird version of “Kung-Fu Fighting” from Kung Fu Panda.

Actually, I think the noise aspect of this house could be summed up in this little ditty taught to us by our Theater Kids director.

Sing, Sing, Sing
I like to sing
I like to sing a song
Sing, Sing, Sing.

In some cases, however, it comes out like this.

Scream, Scream, Scream
I like to scream
I like to scream a lot
Scream, Scream, Scream

That’s when our mom starts to wonder if we’re really all worth the trouble. But we like singing. We like to sing. We sometimes play games where we talk in song, or make parodies of some songs we don’t like so much. This comes in handy when the song in question has questionable material. No problem for a family of jokesters. We’ll just warp the words and make them say something else. If the song is kinda rocky and we have no idea what it’s saying, but we like the movie it comes from, we’ll just change some of the words up and make it applicable to the film in other ways. “Immortals” becomes “We could be Portals”. And that’s just the beginning.

After some time, and years of refining, we’ve discovered that music is a deadly weapon. Some of the rhymes we have come up with are rather crude. Others were hurtful to the person listening. Music has a strange way of creeping up on a person and turning off your senses. I sometimes wonder if music isn’t just distilled emotion put to sound. Whether this will be poison or medicine is up to the writer.

I suppose that’s why our parents have to be so careful with what we listen to. I remember a particularly rocky tune that I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks, simply because a friend was playing it. The lyrics were ridiculously awful, but there was something in it that was so captivating.

Maybe girls have this harder than boys. I just keep thinking about that short story by Mark Twain called “A Literary Nightmare” about a little rhyme that the author couldn’t get out of his head. Maybe it’s just a little thing about how music and rhythm that makes us go on autopilot. Plato saw it, and many have seen it since.

We communicate with music at our house because it makes our contradictions softer. No one wants to hear someone yell “Sam! You haven’t finished your job yet!” But if someone sings those same words, somehow it’s different.

Singing also makes memorizing easier. Even just a little rhythm to the presidents can make them easier to remember, and with so many of them, that’s a good help. Singing helps many things. Singing can also make things worse.

Why is it that singing is such a large part of fairytales? The princesses sang to lure in handsome princes. So did Sirens, but they were thinking about lunch. Speaking of lunch, a bunch of goblins were going to try and eat a miner. What did he do? Sang to them. Some witches in the old stories used song to work their evil, and C.S. Lewis picked up on this when he was writing the Silver Chair. So I guess music isn’t harmless.

To tell the truth, music opens us up and makes us vulnerable. This is another warning: We need to be careful what we say and what we do. But we need to be careful of what we listen to, too. It’s not harmless.

No, I’m not saying to riot or burn cd’s. Some music is just plain rotten, but in this country we have free speech. All we are responsible for are our own actions. Those two options might seem more fun, but they don’t solve anything. After all, they aren’t attacking the heart of the issue: ourselves.

As Christians, we have the obligation to guard our ears. We need to guard our hearts from garbage. We also need to be considerate of others when we make up rhymes. This might not be your problem. But what about making rude comments, or posting terrible things online? That hurts just as much.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be considerate. It’s Ok to want to sing your own tune. But be considerate! There are others singing with you. Don’t introduce something that will bring discord. And I really do mean discord.

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Ella: A New Miniseries

Guest : May 9, 2015 12:17 pm : Columns, News

 

Ella, starring Avery Danielle, Frank Bolton, Sophie Hannah, Andrew Stecker, Joshua Boertje, Michael Sung-Ho, Martin Brady, and Michael Swan.

Ella, starring Avery Danielle, Frank Bolton, Sophie Hannah, Andrew Stecker, Joshua Boertje, Michael Sung-Ho, Martin Brady, and Michael Swan.

 

Last week the first episode of Ella, a new adventure miniseries, was released on Vimeo.

The award-winning creators of the series—writer and producer Eric Johnson, producer Scott van Dalen, and director Zac Anderson—wanted to craft an impactful, unforgettable story.

“My favorite part of telling stories is the impact they can have,” Johnson said, “I want to tell stories that are inspiring and impactful.”

Ella’s dramatic cinematography, compelling plot, and strong dialogue serve as clear indicators that Johnson, Anderson, and their team succeeded.

“I’m not quite sure where the original idea for this show came from. I wanted to write a story about photographers, so I just sat down and started. That’s how I came up with the concept. From there, I ran the idea by Zac and Scott, and we made the idea bigger and better,” said Johnson.

The story begins as Ella, her friends, and her sister are celebrating her 23rd birthday with a hike into the woods; the group is taking pictures and having fun. (Except Dave, who’s mad that there is no cell phone service in the middle of nowhere.)

“Low key, quiet, and photography,” turns into something far more sinister. Ella sees something through her camera lens that is out of the ordinary: two murderers and their victim.

After seeing what Trev, the leather-clad gunman, doesn’t want them to see, they hikers have to run for their lives. And they all have choices to make. Ought one of them to take the car and leave the others behind? Is there even anything to be done?

Ella has the option of running away from the scene and abandoning her friends, or risking herself to save the others. As the disaster unfolds, she decides to try to find out what is important to the gunmen in pursuit and why they were there in the first place. The story is very much one about characters and their selflessness (or lack thereof):

Johnson continued, “The theme of the show is a very important aspect to me, but not a lot of people ask me about it. The theme of Ella is selflessness. Every character is either selfless, selfish, or somewhere in between. Ella, our hero, represents one extreme while our villain Trev represents the other.”

Ella is an intriguing example of how Christian filmmakers can branch out into new genres and tell a story–from a Biblical worldview–without resorting to cliché plots or preaching a sermon.

You can watch Ella here. (Please note it probably is not suitable for young audiences.)

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Still Struggling

Rebekah Hair : May 6, 2015 9:25 pm : Columns, Rebekah

What began as a casual reading of WORLD magazine turned into a soul-searching that I had never experienced before. It all started when I had some free time in the afternoon. I flipped through the pages, reading of the fight for Cambodia and the battle for religious freedom in our Nation. But as I was going through it a second time, I found a story that I had missed. The story was from Burma. This interested me, because I’m praying for a Missionary named Ngun in Burma (Myanmar) and I think the country is very interesting. That was where Adoniram Judson served, after all.

But the story turned sickeningly horrible within seconds. Two young women, missionaries, had been tortured and killed. I read, almost in shock, as the story revealed a battle no one is talking about. These two girls were martyred, abused terribly… all for their faith. Throwing down the magazine, I asked myself “Why?”

The age old turmoil between what I see as just and what I see as merciful flared up again. These two girls were murdered. They were senselessly brutalized, and for what? What could God possibly accomplish in the death of these two workers? Why would He let this happen? They were His. Why didn’t God protect them? And those men who did it…how could hey be so cruel? Why didn’t God just strike them down where they stood?

All these questions and thoughts rushed through my head like a hurricane. Louder and more frightening  by far, however, were the thoughts of revenge. I didn’t even know these girls. But I wanted those men to die. I wanted them dead and I wanted them to suffer for what they did. This thought scared me, so I turned to God and asked him to take away these thoughts. Then, like Job, I began to ask why he had let it happen at all.

My drive for justice and vengeance was as sinful as their rampage. I had to be reminded that Christ died for their sins as well as mine. Though I didn’t want to, I prayed for them to repent. I prayed that they would turn to God before it was too late. After a while, I realized I didn’t want them to suffer for their actions. Who would want anyone to suffer in hell? Just another sinner, I suppose.

Slowly, painfully, I had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t know everything. Me, who had been raised in the Church to the best parents in the world! Me, who knew all the answers! That hurt, maybe even more than anything else. That I was even thinking like this scared me even more. Was I becoming a Pharisee?

If I was, I was in good company. Paul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5) These were the people who thought themselves perfect. Strangely enough, the people who act most like them today are those who condemn them. But that’s something for another post.

Christ our Mediator

It’s so hard to not condemn. I know, I know that we are all sinners. But why is it that everyone else is such a great sinner compared to me? It sounds silly, and perhaps it is. But when Jesus told us that we wouldn’t be able to see the beam in our own eyes, he had a very good point. We are so blind when it comes to our own faults. It’s so easy to think of ourselves as perfect. But we’re not. We’re so far from perfect.

But what of this….this atrocity? Was it wrong to want justice to be served? Well…I guess even Justice can be twisted to be used as an instrument for revenge. So it’s a good thing that I am not God. But oh, why do we have to struggle so hard? Why do we have to suffer through life? In my disbelief, I wonder if Heaven is really worth it. But in God’s word, I discover that it is.

Why does God take his servants, those who do his holy will? Why doesn’t he save them? Why doesn’t he let them live? There are thousands of sinners around who deserved to be treated that way. Why would God allow his gems to be violated? Why is it that only the good die young? Is it because they are the ones ready to go home?

In a scene from one of my favorite books, Rebel’s Keep by Douglas Bond, a Scottish leader named Cameron prayed that God would “Spare the Green and take the Ripe.” Perhaps God knew that these two girls were ready to go home, and he took them. But why then? Why that way?

As my mind rambled from topic to topic, it kept returning to the same question: why? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he take away two young women who could have done such good in their ministry? They could have strengthened His church!

But something else echoed through my head. The blood of the martyrs grows the church. God uses his saints, even through their deaths. In fact, God uses martyrs to break the hardest hearts, and who knows? Maybe the murderers would remember them and God can use that to break their hearts and save them. God doesn’t always destroy. Sometimes he takes captives. These captives are people who are dragged kicking and screaming into salvation in the beginning, but in the end become some of his best workers. Paul is a good example of this.

The things that we call Mysterious Ways are named well. We don’t understand God’s purposes. I don’t know if we ever will. But it doesn’t matter. As far as we know, Job never found out about why he ran into all of his troubles. But God doesn’t have to tell us what he’s planning. It’s his plan, not ours.

If we knew about them, they wouldn’t be called mysterious, would they? We’re so curious about things we simply cannot understand. Curious to a fault.

It’s hard not to know what’s going on. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after a tragedy. Right now Baltimore is erupting into chaos, and Nepal is picking itself up from a massive earthquake. Bad things are happening. But they will not overtake us.

After a while, I came to realize that no matter what happened to these two missionaries, they are safe with God now. They have joined the company of white-robed martyrs, and their sufferings probably don’t seem that bad now. God is a God of justice, and those who hurt his children are hurting him. If they refuse to listen to Him, their justice will come to be after their deaths. And that is a pain that no one envies. That is a pain no one should wish on another, and I confess with shame my reluctance to forgive. God save me from my wicked passion!

To be truthful, I have no idea why God wanted to take two of his workers home early. I don’t know why he let them take them in this terrible way. I, even I, don’t have all the answers, and I probably never will. Job, as far as we know, didn’t until he died. But I know God had a reason for the events turning out the way they did, and I need to be content. God uses sin sinlessly: though he doesn’t orchestrate it, he knows that it will happen, and he turns it for the good of his Church. Even when it’s hard to understand.

Thanks for bearing with my rambling. If you have some free time, please pray for the families of these two missionaries. The murder happened in January, but their hearts are still broken. And if you have some more time, pray for those who did it. If we get some prayer pressure on them, perhaps they will finally come to see God’s love. It’s tough praying for those who persecute us. But it’s something we’re commanded to do.

Oh, it never gets easy. Even for me. Especially for me.

Philippians 3:4, 7:

Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

 

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Return of the Happy dog

Rebekah Hair : April 25, 2015 2:40 pm : Columns, Guest Author

Jack  Ha, ha! I fooled you! You thought I was going to be Clara, didn’t ya?

But you’re wrong. I’m a new little cutie. Check it out. If you can read this, then you’ll know who I am.

J, as in “Just the best ever!”

A, as in “Awesomest dog in the universe!”

C, as in “Cats be gone!”

K, as in “Kome and get me, chickens!”

Ok, so I can’t spell very well. But who cares? My name is Ja-ja-jaaaaaack! Jack is the greatest! Let me tell you all the awesome stuff about me!

I was born a long time ago. I must be at least 6 months old.

I am the best dog in the world. I don’t chase chickens and I hate cats!

I can defy gravity by jumping over the chicken coop.

Everyone loves me.

See? I am the most awesome puppy in the whole wide world! Not only that, but I am a super-hero!Superjack

Let me tell you how I work. See, I know the cats are evil. I can see it in the way they walk. I can see it in the snooty way they talk. And I can definitely see it in the way they don’t let me eat their food! But because I’m a puppy, and I spend a lot of time inside, I don’t need Fluffy to type for me. I figure that I have paws just like he does, and I can do it myself. But when I see the cats eat their food, I fly in to the rescue! I don’t want the helpless food kernels to be trapped in their stomachs. They need to be free and go in mine!

diagramSo when I see the cats eat their food, I use my super-awesome super abilities to destroy those crazy cats and free their food prisoners. Then I eat them, oh boy! I like to chase cats too. They are very fun to play with. But cats cheat. They don’t run all the time. Instead they try to hit me in the nose.

That hurts.

EggI also guard the chickens. They love me, and sometimes give me gifts. Sure, the gifts are all chicken food, but it’s the thought that counts. I wish they would give me eggs. Tchickens and jackhey never eat them, so why should they hoard them all? But the chickens are pretty cool. One time they gave me a corncob, and it was really chewy! I thought it was yummy, but then the cat wanted it. So I decided to cash all my bones in the corn market. Now Fluffy has my food and his food, but I have the corncob.

I think I’m missing something.

Anyway, my people love me like a son. That is very good, because I adopted them, anyway. They even took me to a spa when I was sick. I didn’t like it very much. They kept giving me shots. They called me a puppy!

Well! I’m the biggest, most handsome dog ever, and it was not very nice of them to call me a puppy. Plus, they kept me in a cage. I had to get out of there.

There’s a cage in our yard. It’s for the cats, I guess, because they would never put me in one. They keep trying to use me as bait for the cats. Well, that’s what I think they want, because they put me in there for a long time. The problem is, the cats never come. They just make faces at me through the fence. So I dig out.

I’m the most cool dog ever, and my people are very lucky to have me! I am trying to train them to let me on the couch. They don’t learn very fast. People never do.

Oh well. As the newest dog in the Hair house, and by far the most important, I have many duties. But since the other dogs throughout history have kept up this page, I thought I should keep up the tradition.

Rememeber. Ja, ja, JACK! I’m the best dog around. See ya later.

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San Jacinto Day: The Eve of Battle

Rachel Clark : April 21, 2015 1:40 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

 

The battle itself lasted less than 20 minutes.

The battle itself lasted less than 20 minutes.

“We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name!” – Sam Houston, before the Battle of San Jacinto.

It is April, 1836: the fledgling government of the Republic of Texas struggles to remain in existence. In overfilled wagons, on horseback, and on foot, Texian women and children leave behind their homesteads and villages to escape Santa Anna’s approaching army. Marauders plunder the vacated homes and villages, and advancing Mexican troops burn what remains to the ground.

After losing hundreds of men and suffering five crucial defeats to their cause, Sam Houston’s untrained band of ragtag patriots is retreating eastwards. Some of them abandon, concerned about their unprotected wives and children.

The fate of nations lies with Houston’s men— men with empty stomachs, holes in their shoes, and a worrying lack of ammunition and training.

On April 21, Santa Anna’s troops and Houston’s men finally face off at San Jacinto. The Texians are again outnumbered; to make life more interesting, they have retreated so far that they are backed up to two bayous with no possibility of escape should things end badly (as is very, very possible). Yet with shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” the Texians win.

179 years have passed since this unexpected and improbable victory, the triumph that won Texas its independence—an elusive prize for which many gave their lives.

Modern Texians read about, delight in, and reenact this victory. To some it may seem like washed-up high school athletes reminiscing over their “glory days,” but nothing could be further from the reality of this state’s potential for independence.

Texas’s days as a nation are not necessarily over: we can rise among the nations once more, but only if Texians decide that they want to be free and will again sacrifice something to obtain that freedom.

“We must now act or abandon all hope!” 

Throughout the 1830s, Mexico’s government steadily worsened until at last a lawless caudillaje emerged, a brutal military serving as the state. Texas was not singled out for militaristic rule; Mexico was also governed by garrisons of troops. The difference between Mexico and its northern neighbor was in the reaction to the bout of tyranny.

For the past century, the United States’ federal government has grown ever larger and more intrusive. Its absorption of private sector resources and its violations of individual rights are not prevented by the constitution designed to restrict it, neither are they halted by the efforts of freedom-loving representatives. At best, they are merely delayed or lessened.

Texas’s situation in 1836 is in many ways similar to the one it faces now: a much-changed government threatens it with new regulations, legislations, and infringements upon natural rights, and no ordinary efforts are stopping the onslaught.

Somewhat like the 1820s and 1830s Mexican government, the American system has changed and is finding new, creative ways to eliminate freedom and individual choice—in healthcare, in retirement savings, in self-defense, in education, in transportation, in communication. This time the solution to the plague of totalitarianism is to break away from the system entirely.

The eve of battle 

Many of Sam Houston’s men paid for Texas independence with their lives. The war (short as it may seem in retrospect) scattered families and ended in a great deal of physical destruction.

This time, Texians fight the battle for independence not with rifles but instead with ideas. The sacrifices for supporters in are not as life-defining or dangerous, but the stakes are just as high.

Bystanders often think that independence is an optimist’s pipe dream. A number of 1836 spectators shared that conclusion, but fortunately were not right. Counting the costs matters little and counting the odds matters less, but calculating the stakes matters a great deal: liberty is on the line.

We find ourselves on the eve of a battle that is every bit as defining as the one that took place at San Jacinto 179 years ago today. Will you rally to the standard?

Originally published on www.texnat.org

 

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Siegfried in Silsbee (who’s wrong, as usual)

Hodgkins Clark : April 10, 2015 3:23 pm : Columns, Hodgkins

My Dear Hodgkins,

It has been about a year since I last contacted you in writing.  My spies have been monitoring your progress from right in your own back yard!  It would seem that you have been defeated.  Your claims to be the Supreme Emperor of the Universe must have been scaled back significantly.  In the past twelve months, the extent of your empire’s borders have yet to reach the northern shores of the mighty Village Creek.  I spit a hairball in your general direction.  I am willing to discuss your unconditional surrender to me…

-Siegfried in Silsbee, Supreme Emperor of the Universe, Chief of Kats Are Obviously Superior (K.A.O.S.)

 

 

 

Dear Siegfried,

You are fortunate to receive this recognition from me: Supreme Emperors rarely bother replying to spam emails, used television salesmen, or insurrectionist furballs like yourself. Before I begin in earnest, I have a few suggestions to make, the first one being that you ought to learn how to spell “cat” if you truly believe the species is superior. My second recommendation is that you cease your partnership with lizards and canines. You deserve all the dreadful things coming to you as a result of this unholy alliance, including fiery death by lizard breath and suffocation from the canine equivalent.

Me, when I received your letter.

Me, when I received your letter.

Your letter’s fantastical allegations are amusing. You claim that your spies have been monitoring my progress from my own backyard, my empire’s borders are shrinking, and that I have nothing left but to admit imminent defeat.

Your first mistake was in sending a canine as a spy: they will do anything for food. I intercepted communications long ago by fooling them into thinking that litterbox lumps were special treats. Needless to say, all of your enticing reports are entirely false.

You second mistake is in your understanding of borders. It may have escaped your notice, but the universe doesn’t have them. Unlike your mind, the universe has no meaningful limits.

Your third, but not final, mistake is spitting a hairball in my general direction. Sadly enough, one of your canine spies has eaten it.

I am pleased to announce that I will discuss unconditional surrender with you. Before you get too terribly excited, realize that you will be the one surrendering—not I. Additionally, now that you are out of a job, I realize you need a new one. If you so desire, send me an application and there is a possibility you can become one of my minions. Clearly I am much too kind.

I love me too,

Hodgkins

Supreme Emperor of the Universe;

Chief Executive Lizard-Slayer at Lizard Warrior Service;

Recipient of the Snowbell Peace Prize;

Coolest Monarch of the Century (Irrational Geographic);

Expert Tree-Conqueror;

And Your Humble Master.

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Eden Calls, part 2

Rebekah Hair : April 4, 2015 10:18 pm : Columns, Rebekah

The man and his wife were guilty, and there was no way to argue with it. There was nothing they could do to hide. They were guilty, sullen, and already decaying into the same corruption found in the outsider who had destroyed the Father’s perfect paradise. They knew they deserved death. That was what had been promised.

But their Father unexpectedly showed mercy. “I am providing you with a way of escape.” He told them. “One day, one of your descendants will finally destroy that wicked serpent who deceived you.” Then, he gave them another mercy. He clothed them with the skins of animals, so that they wouldn’t have to be ashamed. But the animals had to die. They were the substitute for the Children’s sin.

Years passed, and the children of men continued to try and try again to make things better. But even their best efforts were futile. Even the best of them could do little more than terrible. Nothing they could do would ever make up for their sins. But God, in his Mercy, provided animals who would be sacrificed in their place. Without blood, their sins would still be unpaid.

Then came Moses. He was the Father’s instrument of showing his children once and for all what was right, and what was wrong. But even Moses fell, and animals had to be sacrificed for his sins.

His brother Aaron became the first Priest to the Lord, the one who mediated between God and His People. But Aaron was fallen as well, and every time he offered a sacrifice, he felt his own sin staining his hands. He knew that without blood, his sin would drive him to judgment.

Then came the Kings. David, a king after God’s own heart, fell wickedly and forsook him. But when God gently reminded him of his sin, David repented, and was forgiven. But not forever, because without blood, he could not be made clean. The priests offered sacrifices daily, knowing that each sin needed to be atoned for.

Then came the prophets, for the kings forsook the Father. The prophets warned the kings, and the children, that God was just. They reminded him that perfect sacrifices must be made, sacrifices without spot or blemish, sacrifices that would reconcile God and man. They must be made with sincere repentance, not hypocrisy. But even the prophets were kept from seeing who it would be who would destroy sin at last, and they died.

Then came exile. Upon return, the people cried out to their Father, and resumed the sacrifices, for they knew that without blood, they would die in their sins. The scribes who led them reminded them of God’s justice, but also of his mercy in promising a Messiah.

And then HE came.

The Last Adam, the firstborn of His new race, yet still a man.

The Law, who was perfectly obedient in every way and a standard of righteousness.

The Priest who would at once mediate between God and Man.

The King set to rule His people.

The Prophet of the new age to come.

The Scribe who knew the Law perfectly.

When he spoke, they were amazed. But when he acted, they were affronted. Pleasant words were all good and well, but this man lived by them. He was perfectly good, perfectly loving, perfectly just.

Perfectly dangerous, in the eyes of men.

Corruption took root in the hearts of the children. They saw Holiness, and couldn’t stand it. He made them feel wicked, they, who were the best! He must be stopped. So they took Him, they tried Him, and they crucified Him.

But while they didn’t know it, this man was more than just the fulfillment of prophecy. He was the one and only Son of God, the only one who could ever pay the penalty for sin. Only a sinless substitute could satisfy sin’s stain. But that substitute had to give himself willingly. And on that day, Jesus did.

Imagination cannot describe that moment. Suddenly, the unbreakable became broken, as Father and Son were torn apart. On Jesus, the Messiah, the only Son of God, was placed all the sins of the world. What you did yesterday. What he did last night when no one was watching. What she said this morning. What I will think tomorrow. Every wicked word, every sinful thought, every vile deed, all were placed on his soul. And the Father, who in His holiness could not see any unclean thing, looked away.

In the body of one man dwelt the curse, full and vile as it was. And then, that man died, for without blood, there will be no forgiveness of sins.

When he died, the sky went black. The stars came out, and the constellation Aires, which had long been thought of by Jewish philosophers as a sacrificial lamb, shone brightly in the sky above a blood-stained hill. The ground shook. The veil in the temple, the one thing that had kept Man and God separate, was torn to shreds. “It is Finished.”

Suddenly, the dead rose from their graves and went about rejoicing. But among the living, there was a ghostly silence. Some mocked. But they were soon silenced. Something had happened. Something huge. But after a few hours, life went about as normal. They tried to forget.

Late Friday night, that man was buried in a tomb, for the Sabbath was at hand. Those who buried him did so without hope. And indeed, it seemed a shallow victory. The sacrifice had been given. But at what cost? What did it matter that sin was taken care of? Now they had no ally, no mediator, no friend. No Savior.

Early Sunday morning, however, that changed. Something stirred. A tremor shook the earth to its core, and suddenly the serpent felt wary. Something was going on. He thought of his victory. What had gone wrong? Jesus was dead.

But he wasn’t. Quietly, though all of the spiritual forces cried out in joy or terror, the SON of GOD sat up, quietly folded the grave clothes, and walked out of the tomb. And ever since, we have been waiting for our call to follow him out of the tomb, and into a new and glorious life.

Happy Easter.

 

 

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Eden calls

Rebekah Hair : March 21, 2015 3:58 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Once, not so long ago, two people lived alone on an island. No one else was there, except for the person who owned the large island. He had planted a garden in one corner of the island, and there the people lived. It was a wonderful place. The man and his wife had endless sources of delight. The animals were tame. The island had hills that they could mine in, endless forests to cut down and make into lumber, and enough land for them to spread out over many generations. It was bliss.

There were no clouds in this perfect place, but they never were burned. It never rained, but instead a cool mist rose in the morning and refreshed the land. There were rivers, pools, waterfalls, and even mountains. It was truly amazing.

To make things even nicer, there were no poisonous plants in this paradise, so they could be at ease. The man and wife became wiser and wiser. The owner of the island, their father, told them many things: about the stars, the sea, the mountains, and the animals, birds, and fish that they took care of. There was no centralized government. The man looked after his wife, and both were looked after by their father. He had only one rule: a special tree that grew in the center of his orchard, which had fruit that he had made for himself, must be left alone. They were content. There was a whole island to explore, and they were just getting started.

Then one day, an intruder landed on their island. He was not the kind of person the father wanted in his paradise. As soon as he arrived, he caused chaos and discord: first between the husband and wife, and then between them and their father. In direct disobedience to their master, the people listened to the newcomer and stole some fruit. Instantly, they changed. They had traded the real for the counterfeit. Miserable, they fled from the father, but instead of hating and despising the one who had caused them such pain, they followed him as their leader.

Soon after, the island began to decay. Thorny and poisonous plants sprang up in the rocks and the ground. Life was hard for the rebellious ones. But their pain had one positive effect: it reminded them what they had lost. Repentant and hopeful, they turned back to their father, master, and former friend, praying for forgiveness. And he did forgive them, and patiently bore with them even as they fell deeper and deeper into sin. Finally, though, they stopped seeking him. When this happened, he had no choice but to start afresh. But remembering his promise to his undeserving creatures, he spared a family to be saved from destruction.

Now we live in a world after Eden. We’ve been trying to find it since we lost it. Every time a new island is found we want to conquer it, to make it a tiny bit of what it once was. But the curse works against us. We cannot combat it. But we try anyway.

It isn’t hard to find dreams of Eden. What about The Swiss Family Robinson? Or Robinson Caruso? Or a thousand others? Reality TV shows, video games, movies, and comic books all do their bit. It’s always an island, always a place where the characters have to conquer the place. They are alone, and they learn to be good stewards of what they are given. Sounds like a reflection of Eden.

Well, I suppose this is just another proof that as much as we try to deny it, we were made for a purpose, and consciously or unconsciously, we’re going to emulate that. It’s like our fascination with flight, the stars, and other gifts God has given us. We want them. We’re longing for God, our Father, but are too stubborn and foolish to admit it. So we turn to fake counterfeits like reality TV and novels to quench our thirst for dominion.

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Forgiving producers (somewhat)

Rebekah Hair : March 15, 2015 4:53 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Resolved: That Books and Videoplays are very different. With this knowledge, then, let us treat them as such.

Book lovers have seen it all the time. A book that was beautifully, carefully, and thoughtfully crafted finally received the attention it was due. A producer picked it up and used the characters and story to create some sort of reproduction on the screen. And everyone is disappointed.

It’s not like the producers didn’t try. Unfortunately, sometimes their effort isn’t enough. They aren’t trying to make a precise copy of the book. They’re looking for something that will make a good movie. This is what usually makes all the book lovers revolt. This is also why they revolt.

Granted, some movie producers aren’t even trying. They don’t care about the story. They want the big money and prestige of a book adaptation. But even those who are deeply in love with the story come to the heartbreaking discovery that there is no real way to represent the book the way its’ mastery deserves.

The similarities of books and Movies are easy to see. Both are judged by the quality of their story, characters, and setting. That’s where the similarities seem to end. Books are also judged by their ability to describe and touch the reader with gentleness or conviction (or both). They rely on dialog and narration to entrance the reader. Most of the times, books are written to be read alone, unless you have a family with small children.

Movies are different. They add to their story with visual stunning, choice music, and a score engineered to elicit a response from the audience. While the story is flying through the audience’s mind, it is also being amplified by the musical background. Movies are like art projects, and require much trial and error, as well as some tinkering with the finished project. Their credibility is determined by their visual appeal. These can be watched universally, and hopefully evoke discussion about the different aspects of the story.

After studying books and videos, it’s easy to conclude that they are as different as cats and dogs, with no transitional forms at all. But there is one transitional form that imperfectly clings to both mediums, and that is the one known as Graphic Novella, or comics.

I discovered how hard it was to use this when I decided to transfer a portion of my story into graphic novel form to show to my brothers. Naively, I believed that it would be easy. It wasn’t. I realized that some parts of the story wouldn’t be able to make the transition. Other parts just didn’t make sense. And those parts left gaps in the story that had to be filled with new data. I almost rewrote the whole story, and when I finished, I looked at the graphic novel and thought “What have I done?”

If I had fans (which I don’t) they might have been horrified at the changes. I had deleted a character, taken out or rearranged most of the dialog, and changed the periods of time to make the story shorter. Since I had written both versions, I forgave myself. But what if someone else had done it?

Then I realized that these things have happened, pretty much every time that a movie has been adapted. Most of the time an author dies without getting much attention for his stories, and then some producer gets into it, and changes everything. This usually angers people. The only times I can think of that the author was there are Mary Poppins and How to Train your Dragon, though I’m sure that there were more.

So even though I’m still a little miffed at those lazy producers wasting their money and talent for counterfeits, I’m willing to forgive others. I’ve figured out that this is a hard line to walk. I know how hard it is to change things! Though this is tough to understand, I’d advise that book lovers understand that these ‘transitions’ from book to movie are really hard to make.

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I don’t have the Nerve to be a feminist

Rebekah Hair : March 5, 2015 10:48 am : Columns, Politics, Rebekah

I don’t have the nerve to be a feminist.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand where they’re coming from. But the way they are going about it exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. They seem to be attacking their own team.

The main platform of the feminist movement is to stand up for the rights of women and prove their equality with men. This is good, in its way. History has revealed a pattern of oppression, abuse, and mistreatment of anyone who happened to be weaker than normal. Women, because they were formed differently than men, were usually the objects of this abuse. Notice that I said that they were formed differently! Though neither is more important than the other, men and women are not equal.

I wouldn’t want to live in the ancient world anyway, as a girl. If there’s one thing that history has taught me, it’s our intense need for something more. In the ancient times of Greece and Rome it wasn’t that great to be alive. When I was little, I would read about all the killings of the soldiers, and I’d breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t a boy. At least I would have been safe, right?

I wish I still had that innocence. No, actually to be a girl in that or any time period would be a nightmare. No rights. No freedom. No protection. If you had a good father, and later a good husband, you could live a quiet life. But no one is free from the ravages of war. If those people were killed…who protects you? No one.

They lived in a strange time. People were objects. Property. Slaves. Most of the time women made up most of that last category. What else could you call them? They were thought of as wicked. As trophies. As servants. As toys. Never people. Being born into royalty didn’t help much. For a while, you would be secure. But imagine what would happen if your kingdom was taken? Master would be slave. Kings had some strange pleasure in making former princesses into slaves. The Iliad cued me in to that practice.

If I had been in that story, I might have been in the place in Cassandra. The Iliad is an ancient poem about the destruction of a proud city called Troy. The Greeks built the famous “Trojan Horse” to infiltrate the unbreachable walls. I don’t have time to go into the whole story, but Cassandra has always been a special source of grief to me. Her story is truly tragic.

In the midst of this strange and magical story came a young priestess, probably the youngest daughter of the King of Troy. She was young enough to have been innocent in relation to the war. It wasn’t her who had kidnapped Queen Helen of Sparta, nor did she have anything to do with it. She was probably a young child at the time. Over ten years later, she was given a special curse: the agony of knowing of the coming disaster, but having no one believe her.

Here and there she flew about, crying “Doom is Near! Please, please, stop!” But the drunken crowd would not. They had won. Inside the horse was the sign of their victory, and the means of their defeat. Did the poor princess know? If she did, she was unable to do a thing about it. By a cruel trick of the many deities that flit through the poem, she was stripped of her credibility. Perhaps it was then that she fled to the temple to try to entreat the deities that had forsaken her. At the end of the story, innocent Cassandra is punished for her older brother’s sin, and forced into a life of slavery and ill use. There her story ends.

But our story didn’t. All of us, even the feminists, are searching for something. We’ve tried to get it ourselves. Oneness. It’s what were were made to be. One. Perfectly complete. But Sin breaks into that. It makes things like slavery and adultery enter into the perfect family that God created. We can’t get away from it. We can’t rule it. We can’t stop it. Like Cassandra, we are helpless before a wave of evil. Unlike Cassandra, we are often the cause of it. In some cases, we’re more like the crowd below. We hear the warnings, but we don’t care. How many of them were left alive in the morning?

Of course the way they try to get Oneness is by proving that somehow women are superior to men, and therefore don’t need them. The One they are thinking of is themselves, a horrid object called Self that lurks inside each person, waiting to manifest its horrid face. That is why many feminists are rather mean. They have told themselves that they are sufficient, when they know they aren’t. All they have to cherish is that which lives within them, their sinful hearts, and that eventually destroys whoever tries it.

Perhaps the one thing that these people are most afraid of is the thing that would give them peace. They fear being under authority, for that would make them slaves. But they will continue to be slaves of themselves until they submit to someone higher. They hate the idea of being sheltered because they think that takes away their freedom. But without protection, are they truly free? They fear being accountable because they don’t want to feel guilty. But the true guilt that they fear every day can only be escaped through repentance. Foolish, wretched people! Who would choose this life?

Me.

You.

Everyone.

Praise God, He didn’t leave us this way! Instead He chose to be our protection, our salvation, our guard. He promised to protect those who are helpless, and to avenge them when they are abused. He is the only God in all of history. He is also the only one who ever showed any love and grace to women. His pagan counterparts all were wicked, debauched, and instruments of slavery. But He alone was alive: was, and is, and always will be! He didn’t leave us drowning in ourselves and in our sin. He rescued us.

With that new life was also a new love. For the first time in created history since the Garden, people were treated equally. “In CHRIST there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor Parthian, nor Scythian, nor Slave, nor Free.” All are equal in the body of Christ. And for the first time, this meant that women were respected. They were loved. They were free and equal servants of the Lord.

For the first time, women were valued for who they were. Notice that this didn’t come from lobbying. It wasn’t the result of an organized protest. This hadn’t come from years of careful planning. It was spontaneous. It was deep-rooted. It was supernatural. And it’s been the driving force for the “equal treatment for women” movement years before the feminists thought up a name for themselves.

What’s sad is what my feminist friends don’t understand is the thing they’re running from is the very thing they should be running to! Our Religion isn’t one of domination and supremacy. I can think of a few religions that would qualify that description, but not the True Faith. And what really hurts is when our women, who could be the Church’s greatest ally, seem intent on tearing it to pieces. Why try to destroy our closest ally?

In a book I’m writing, the imaginary kingdom of Symettria is having internal trouble. The king has suddenly grown hostile to the nomadic tribes that rove the plains to the south, and decided all “natives” should be restricted from interacting with the “True Symetttrians.” The leader of the armies was really annoyed with this. “I’m supposed to be keeping out the evil from our land, when it keeps seeping in through the borders. How am I also supposed to also defend us from our own people? Why are we making war inside our country?”

Why indeed. It seems as if we are standing against an order that hates us, that religion that is called Islam. It wants the world subjected under it, a world dominated by men. In their eyes, women are evil. I would be killed for writing this. Just because I spoke out, and because I am a woman.

Why are the feminists so quiet against them? Why are our media ‘friends’ so ignorant at the threat of war? The one thing they’re fighting so hard to get away from they have nothing to say about. They’re attacking their allies and flattering their enemies.

That’s really frustrating. Sometimes I see the TV anchors in their dresses, and wonder if they’re really thinking through what they’re reporting. But I guess their eyes have been blinded to Cassandra’s message. “Doom is Near, Doom is near!” No one will believe her. Instead, they mock and side with those who want to destroy them.

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Peace or Right?

Rebekah Hair : February 20, 2015 9:27 pm : Columns, Rebekah

The scene comes straight from a novel: a evil villain captures a good guy, but just as he is celebrating his success, someone he loves falls deathly ill. The good guy might be the only person who can save her, but would he let his enemy help? He could either make peace, and get his friend back, or be right, and risk losing her.

All right, so I made up the scenario, but the idea is the same: at what cost peace? Everything has a price, and those who tell you otherwise are selling something, as someone sarcastically commented. Peace is precious…how precious?

When we’re living our lives, at leas in our family, peace seems to be the chief end of our family. I mean that, of course, in the best way possible. But think about it: 7 kids in one house with two imperfect parents, two awful dogs and two flawed cats, a messy house and a stressful extended family….it’s a recipe for discord.

In this time period, we usually treat peace like the One Ring: we buy it, though at great pain. Or, if we don’t buy it, we end up killing each other anyway. Peace is lucrative: you can’t be sure that it will “stick” with you or whether it will fly away.

Of course that choice is based on what you choose to do. In most cases, you have a choice: press the point and chance winning the argument or quit early and avoid that person. I’m not sure if that’s good for peace, but it really has helped us out. Ignore the people, and they’ll forget the quarrel.

Actually, that doesn’t work too well. Normal kids don’t forget quarrels. They let them go but bring them up at the best possible moment. How can we truly achieve lasting peace?

Perhaps history can give us a glimpse of what is needed. Does being at peace come from prosperity? From self-sufficiency? From power? Not really. A nation might be strong and rich, but full of turmoil. Without peace, those things soon pass away. Almost all things will.

I suppose we’ll get out into the world sometime and realize this struggle is ongoing. We realize that this choice of “right” or “peace” becomes harder and harder to choose. We might not have to make life-altering decisions like the made-up one in the front, which is straight from a novel for a reason, but on the other hand, isn’t every choice we make life-changing?

In our house, we want to be right. Is  that normal? Is it right that everyone must be…well, right? Not really. The chances that everyone could be right at once are ridiculously low. How could they be? In every argument, there has to be at least one person at wrong, and usually both people are.

The biggest problem is mediating between the two arguing parties. It’s hard to tell which side to side with, without actually seeming to side. If you do, your status as mediator is over. Digging through the layers of hurt and wrongs is difficult. But someone has to make peace. It won’t be easy, but it’s needed.

In our history, we’ve been mixed up in hundreds of these conflicts. We’ve tried to save all the world with our…I’m not sure what. We need to think of what it’s worth. Smaller countries pay for peace. Larger ones fight for it. People barter, bargain, quarrel, and quibble for it.

Some people justify paying off larger countries for peace. They say that they are keeping the peace. In the end, they’re simply putting off war. There is no peace if both sides are unwilling. That’s the thing that we seem to have forgotten. Peace only comes when the person on one side of the issue comes forward to sacrifice and say, “I was wrong.”

That’s the real issue. Which is better, to be right, or to have peace?

I’ll let you decide.

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Chosen Ones: Time runs down

Rebekah Hair : February 19, 2015 9:45 pm : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Nya turned and glared at her servant. “What do you mean, by coming to me this way? Where is the prince? And what has happened to your hand?”

Dawes bowed and cast a wrathful glance over his shoulder. “My Grace, the Prince is running himself ragged, trying to gather support for his lost cause. My guess is that he plans to try and take over the government. But he would be hard-pressed. The people do not listen to madmen.” “They listen to you.” The false queen said archly. “And there is little difference.”

“We were able to capture one of his band.” Dawes said quickly. “Gino. The shepherd.” Nya stiffened and turned to face him. “Gino? He is here?” “Yes, my lady. I have brought him.” Nya grabbed his bandaged hand and tore off the cloth. Then she laughed. Embarrassed, Dawes quickly replaced it; as quickly, that is, as one can with one hand.

“So he has gone that way, then.” She said, more to herself than to anyone else. “That is useful. A weak boy like Gino shepherd’s-son is easily managed. Bring him here, Dawes. I wish to speak to him. Immediately.” Dawes bowed and walked off. Nya laughed to herself. “Our shepherd friend has done us a favor by his foolishness. Quite a favor, indeed.”

So Gino was brought out; tired, sad, but determined. “What do you have to say for yourself, then, Gino?” Nya asked sharply. “What have you been doing?” Gino said nothing, but glanced at his feet and examined closely the wood trim on the floor. “I asked you a question, boy. What have you been doing?” Nya said more loudly, stepping forward.

Gino looked at her. “Begging your pardon, ma’am, but I’m not a boy anymore. That was long ago.” His eyes alNya and Gino fademost made Nya despair of her purpose: they were so sad, yet so calm. But Nya would not be turned easily.

“Only a day in the reckoning of the ancients.” Nya said lightly. “But in truth, you have something there. Twenty-seven is quite ancient.” She mocked. Gino again was silent. His silence irritated her. Gino had always irritated her. Once it was because he was so frightened, and she despised him(though what child wouldn’t be, after being thrown into prison alone and unprotected?). Now she wished he was frightened. It would make things easier.

Nya glanced at him again. He refused to look at her. Even now, they were defying her! The Chosen would never give. Chosen… “What happened to Dawes’ hand?” She asked, pretending to study the roofing tiles. “I shot him, God forgive me.” Gino muttered, already guessing her plan. His pride was gone, but his wits stayed about him.

“But you know the writ of Chosen. Revenge is for the Creator alone. So you have broken from that, as I have.” Gino said nothing. “And are no longer Chosen.” Again, nothing. Apparently, Gino had been thinking about this the whole time. She wasn’t making any progress here.

“Why are you so stubborn with this?” She asked, almost exasperated at his silence. “There is nothing for you here.”

“Yes, nothing!” Gino said loudly, surprising her. His eyes were like black coals, burning with inner fire. “Nothing, you say, but your service. I may be in chains, dear Nya, but I have my heart. My mind is made up. There is nothing for me here, nor anywhere else, because of my actions. But that does not mean I have given up the fight. There is no place for me in this kingdom, but there is for others, and I’m striving towards that goal.”

Nya stepped back as if she had been stunned. So did Gino. The fire died, and he hung his head, ashamed. A slow smile crept over the wicked ruler’s face. “He does have power in him.” She mused. “And a bad temper. Perfect.”

“I’m sorry.” Came a soft voice. “That was wrong of me. Will you forgive me?”

Nya laughed. “Forgive you? Why would I do that, rebel?” “I don’t know.” Gino said sadly. “No one will, I’m afraid. But I will not help you, Nya. You might as well not try.”

Nya stalked out of the room and went after Dawes. “Where is everyone? Dawes! Where is he?” She yelled at a lady maid. The girl shook her head and began to arrange flowers on the table. Nya dashed the flowers off the table. “Tell me!”

The maid bowed. “Dawes is with the soldiers. What would I know about soldiers?”

Eventually, Nya found the missing Dawes. “I want you to tell me what he said to you, and I mean exactly.” She hissed, banging her fist on the table. Dawes looked surprised. “He simply said that it was his duty.” He said lightly.

Nya stared at him. Her eyes twitched. “Do you mean that they are going to use their ‘Chosen’ religion to gather followers? He actually told you that, and you let them? Weren’t you listening, or are your ears made out of rocks?”  She shook her head. “Never mind. You know nothing of this.”

Dawes stood up. “What do you want me to do?” Nya tapped her trident against the wall. “We can’t let the clergy join this rebellion.” She said, turning severely towards the temple. “We need to make sure that those who are still true to their fictional creator don’t get involved. And we need to make sure the people stay out of it too.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shortly after the girls left, Andrew ran over. “Read this!” he said quickly, handing Davis a sheet of paper. It was a notice. “From this day forward, the Queen has established a festival in the capitol, in the temple, where all will…pledge allegiance?” He looked up in disbelief. “What is the Queen doing?”

“No one will go for that.” Rocket laughed, but Andrew shook his head. “They’ll have to. Read on.” Caro took the paper. “All who refuse are traitors, basically, and would be accused of helping us. They would be wiped out.” “The queen is making sure she doesn’t have anything to worry about.” Davis growled.

Caro shook his head. “Think about it! Thousands of men, traveling to the capitol!” “I think as soon as the get there, there will be forced conscriptions.” Davis sighed. “The army would grow exponentially.”

Cory and the twins looked at one another, frightened. “If we go, they will arrest us for being traitors.” One twin worried. “But if we don’t go, they will destroy our families.” The other added, folding his arms. Caro shook his head. “We’re going. Nya has provided us with the perfect cover! We don’t have to worry about entering the city, because there will be so many people there that we can slip in. It will be perfect.”

The men hesitated. Rocket stepped forward. “I have neither family nor friends to worry about. Let’s go to the capitol!”

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The Injustice of Compulsory Attendance Laws

Rachel Clark : February 12, 2015 3:01 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

Do kids really do better when forced by law to attend a government-run "education" facility for twelve years?

Do kids really do better when forced by law to attend a government-run “education” facility for twelve years?

“When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better. So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18,” declared President Barack Obama at the 2012 State of the Union — old news for political analysts and journalists. Yet it highlights one of the least questioned and most cruel of government restrictions: compulsory school attendance.

From around age six until eighteen or so, a school-age child is left with few alternatives but to eat government-prepared lunches, live in a government-run building, participate in government-run activities, and study material vetted and chosen by the government—why not put bars on the door and make the children wear prison uniforms with numbers on them?

Parents, students, teachers, and legislators argue and protest about class size, curriculum content, school lunches, and standardized tests, but they cannot see the forest for all the trees—while other school issues are important, the root cause of them all is the idea that the state should control a child’s physical location, what he learns, and how he learns it. Abolishing compulsory school attendance laws is a good place to start bettering Americans’ education.

Perhaps it seems that compulsory attendance laws can effectively be considered null and void, since alternative school choices (private, online, and home schooling) are available; on the contrary, government has an intentional near-monopoly on education, requires children by law to attend some form of school, and only grudgingly allows other options.

For instance, it was only in the 1970s and 1980s that homeschooling received the full legal legitimacy it deserves. Even then it was and is hampered with reservations and regulations. All other things being equal, public schools are of such dismal quality that there must be laws forcing parents to place their children in them.

As it is now, anyone who chooses alternative education choices must pay for their children’s learning twice—once for taxes, and another time for tuition elsewhere. Thus even children who manage to break away haven’t done so entirely. The state’s bloated leviathan of a public school system is designed like everything else that the state manages, meaning that any private competition has to deal with its own costs and the costs of its public counterpart.

Those who maintain that public schools ought to exist in conjunction with a strong private school system to help school choice contradict themselves; anything run by the state requires citizens to fund it. Indeed, the injustices of the public school system extend far past mere finances and the impracticability of private competition.

If an innocent adult were ordered to spend each weekday in a prison and could not leave until a bell rang, there would be an outcry. If it were revealed what he had to do and learn there, the outcry would be uncontrollable. Yet most American children are forced into that life with no way out.

Although parents squabble over particulars, most don’t care one way or another—this is due to the fact that they (correctly) assume education is important for lifelong success. It is for a vast majority of people, but that does not mean it needs to be required or provided by government; nor does it mean that the busywork government schools often force students into constitutes a good education.

In the end, compulsory school attendance is nothing more than a gross violation of liberty and basic human rights. Through a citizen’s lifespan, government steals the first twelve or thirteen years and probably thirty years after (the worker a child grows up to be, of course, must pay taxes).

If education is as important to “enable” students “to succeed in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation” as the federal government says it is, parents and children would find schools to their liking on their own, without forcing millions of taxpayers to foot the bill.

No, Mr. President: compulsory school attendance, paired with the monopolistic reign of public education, is a state intrusion into private lives. The negligible benefits it offers are outweighed by the heavy costs in dollars, time, and liberty.

 

Originally published on turningpointusa.net
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No Grounds for Arresting the Groundhog

Rachel Clark : February 11, 2015 9:58 pm : Columns, Homeschooled Timelord, Rachel, Spoofs

groundhog

“There are no grounds for arresting this groundhog.” says Phil’s lawyer.

Police in Merrimack, New Hampshire, have issued a warrant for Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrity groundhog given the annual task of either predicting an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

Police claim that “we have received several complaints from the public that this little varmint is held up in a hole, warm and toasty … He told several people that winter would last 6 more weeks, however he failed to disclose that it would consist of mountains of snow!”

In addition to this wild claim, they allege that Phil is “armed and dangerous.”

However, according to New Hampshire law, Phil has done nothing to deserve the warrant—it’s a “gross violation of free speech and personal liberty,” according to several legal experts.

“If Phil were the cause of this snow, we might have legal grounds to arrest him,” said policy analyst Rachel Clark, “However, Phil did not cause the snow, he only predicted it. This is a textbook example of the ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy.”

Clark continued, “Predicting an event and publicly announcing it is a form of free speech that we need to protect. Weathermen and groundhogs don’t deserve arrest for wrongly predicting weather.”

Protesters are rising up in support of the groundhog, and many of them are saying that the entire ordeal is strictly unconstitutional. Punxsutawney Phil did not sign a legal contract, but did agree to the Groundhog Ceremony several days ago, his lawyer tells us.

“He was only told to look for his shadow, nothing more,” the groundhog’s spokesman explained.

The Groundhog controversy is expected to heavily influence the upcoming Merrimack elections, and state police are closely monitoring the volatile situation.

Co-written by Joshua Swearingen. 

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Honor the Flag

Rebekah Hair : February 10, 2015 9:38 pm : Columns, Rebekah

20130908 1549 Flag Rotunda US Capitol - 16x9

I went to the funeral of a soldier not long ago. The ceremony wasn’t that much different from any other. It seemed as if there was none. But then, at the very end of the service, something happened that made it different that any I had ever seen.

 

Just as we were wondering what would happen next, (we had forgotten to get programs) a loud clear song began to play from somewhere we couldn’t see. Taps.

 

I heard that Taps was written during the civil war. That makes a lot of sense. There’s a sweet sorrow in its notes, a feeling that is very hard to grasp or control. I suppose that’s why it’s played at funerals.

 

But music aside, there was a strange difference to it as well: there was a soldier in the front of the church. I didn’t get it at first, but it soon dawned on me that she, and the soldier playing Taps, were paying their final respects to the deceased soldier. Included in this service was the folding of the flag.

 

Never have I seen such thorough, caring, loving handling of the emblem of our nation. When I thought of what those soldiers did for us, it became even more amazing. These people, and many others like them, risk their lives defending the sacred honor of the flag we think so lightly of.

 

Every fold, every star of that flag had to be carefully considered as they folded and unfolded it. The church was still as everyone watched. Perhaps they caught the spark of patriotism that instantly enflamed me. Why are we so ashamed, anyway?

 

As I study history, I begin to realize how special we are. We were so small, so insignificant. We fought. We failed. We fell. But somehow we succeeded and built this nation. From the beginning it was fraught with trouble. We did the wrong things many times, trying to figure out what to do. For some reason, You still visited us, pouring out Your spirit on us even though we didn’t deserve it. God, why here? Why us?

 

I suppose we’ll never know. But God uses the weak to shame the strong, which brings us to the chilling reminder that we are not safe on this pedestal. Believe it or not, we were not promised freedom to do what we wished. Our country is beginning to fade.

 

But as those soldiers showed me, America isn’t dead. Faith isn’t dead. Duty isn’t dead. If God wills it, we can once again thrive in his word. But that means obeying the authorities, even when we feel like they’ve lost their brains somewhere outside of the capitol.

 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t protest wicked laws or obey them if they clash with scripture. What I’m saying is that we need to have a little more pride in our country. We should try and take better care of it. The blood of patriots stain our flags if we slip into decadence. Honor the flag, and remember.

 

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The Glitch in the System

Rachel Clark : February 10, 2015 6:38 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

texas capitol at night

Texas Democrats, republicans, communists, libertarians, economists, businessmen, and taxpayers have all reached this enlightened conclusion: the federal government is corrupt.

Each of them proposes a solution to abuses of power and funds—they’re all absolutely positive that they have the one unbeatable answer to Washington’s financial turpitude, the only resolution to this centuries-old problem—and then they bombard the populace and government with mail, flyers, television spots, radio ads, lobbyists, phone calls, protests, lawsuits, party coups, and new politicians (or old ones with new promises).

Political parties think that the answer is to shift the balance of power so that their largest voter blocs are the beneficiaries, and not the victims, of government-imposed burdens, financial or otherwise.

Corporations and their mercenary lobbyists vouch not for greater freedom, but for more regulations and fees on the backs of their competitors. (Political entrepreneurship of this sort slowly gives the state a grip on all participating industries.) State governments (including that of Texas) aren’t much better.

Ordinary citizens stick to a sincere but currently ineffective tactic when it comes to combating political corruption; their method—sending another new man, “our man,” the perfect one who won’t give in to pressure—is rather futile these days.

This tactic is akin to sending a lone chipmunk into a standoff with a pack of wolves; or perhaps it’s better described as trying to repair something that is already a total loss.

Governmental power, a tool of coercion, is an invitation for corruption. Considering that the federal government has an almost unlimited scope, we shouldn’t be too surprised that it is incurably addicted to doing clever little things with earmarks and funds and bureaucracies.

Liberty-loving activists fight each trick every step of the way; sometimes they win a battle, but they are certainly not winning the long-term war for freedom. Americans have tried reforming the government and opposing its antics, but never with lasting success. Almost everyone blames political parties or individuals working in Washington for the corruption; but swapping the individual or party has no long-term effect or benefit. When the work itself isn’t meant to be done, it matters little who does it.

The glitch in the system is the system itself.

When a car is damaged so extensively that repairs cost more than the vehicle is worth, the owner scraps it and replaces it. Despite the best efforts and “progress” of voters and activists for half a century, the inexorable growth of government’s size and scope continues. “Repairs” in Washington have already cost Texans too much in cash and time.

The damage to the American republic is so extensive that the costs of repairing it are more than it’s worth. But what is there to do other than keep patching it up indefinitely?

Working within the political environment has failed us for decades; but almost all of the alternatives are clearly far worse than our current situation. Some American leaders are proposing a constitutional convention—but this is beyond foolish in a political environment where even inherent rights like the right to life, the right to bear arms, or the right to free speech are called into question by the same representatives who would be tampering with the nation’s most important set of laws.

Mercilessly cutting off politicians from their offices and replacing them with new ones has been tried. And it has failed. Power corrupts, and the leaders that voters think can limit themselves in this regard merely decide to use their privileges in the pursuit of different endeavors—and the phenomenon of unelected bureaucrats makes matters much, much worse.

The state, once it has taken hold of something, will not give it up until literal or metaphorical blood has been shed.

The solution to preventing and eliminating governmental corruption is getting rid of opportunities for it—in other words, shrinking the size of the government in the first place and vigilantly suppressing its natural tendency to balloon into a bureaucratic institution of tyranny.

For Texas, the best way to solve the problem of corruption and abused power is to pull out from the malfunctioning American government altogether. Despite what pundits are claiming, secession is a real possibility. It’s the last and best answer—and Texans are starting to realize it.

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The Pretentiousness of Central Planning

Rachel Clark : February 10, 2015 6:32 pm : Columns, Rachel

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial
A free economy is incomprehensibly complex: it is a massive, entangled, incredible web of intertwined individual action, preference, choice, and value—a system willed by no one, controlled by no single person, and improving the situation of all whom it touches.

Adam Smith called the force that holds this web together (and directs its movement) the Invisible Hand: it begins when individuals work through the capitalist system for their own betterment, yet unintentionally benefit the whole of the market through their voluntary mutually beneficial exchanges.

In a display of arrogance nearly as astonishing as the marvels of the economy, advocates of big government are certain that this system can and ought to be conquered and managed via state-owned cubicles.

If “pride goes before a fall” were a law of economics, explaining central planning’s universal, consistent shortcomings would be effortless.

Advocates of big government are certain that a bureaucratic elite—operating on glorified progress reports, news bulletins, and caffeine—can arbitrate the correct balance and relationship between the trillions of variables involved in each economic transaction.

For big government and its inevitable bureaucracy to function properly, it must be staffed by godlike central planners capable of deciding whether a citizen deserves an extra pair of socks, a teenager ought to go to college, or if an industry is important enough to warrant a new facility.

Big government handcuffs Smith’s Invisible Hand and tries to lead the market where it “ought” to go with words on paper and guns to back them up.

If you count on an efficient economy under a government-run system, you count on central planners’ ability to judge the effect of every ultimatum they issue and understand each individual’s perception of value, profit, and loss. Economic calculation in a socialist or interventionist system is impossible.

In the end, the only way to forcibly control an economy and still enjoy any degree of efficiency is to become omniscient—to get inside people’s heads, to put numerical monetary value on things that can’t be quantifiably valued, to understand complex relationships between goods and services, to know everything that individuals can understand about their own situations, and to know how the sum of this information works together.

Big government’s explicit assumption that central planners have a right to micromanage your existence (and that they’d be better at it than you are) makes it easy to see one of the state’s many loathsome attributes: pretentiousness.

 

Originally published on turningpointusa.net
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Jesus Came For Sinners.

Gregory Watson : February 7, 2015 3:19 pm : Columns, Gregory

Jesus came for sinners       

Forgiveness For All.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.- 1 John 1:9

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.-Psalms 103:12

Many people who first hear about Jesus the Christ, they do not feel like they are worth saving — that, somehow or some way, their sins are unforgivable.

Jesus doesn’t have a measure on sin. He views them all as equal. Look at it this way: If you made a bar graph of each sin increasing in order by the way you view them and put them side by side, you would see the way sins reflect to you and by your judgement. But God is in Heaven looking over us, and He sees the top of the bar graphs equally.

Every sin is equal because just one tips the scale of sin. No one is perfect and people who think they have never sinned cannot go into to heaven.

In Luke 18:9-14 it states,”To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evil doers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is amazing! We all need to understand that every man, every woman, and every child has sinned. We were born into it. It is unavoidable. To say that we are not sinners is yet another count on the Sin Tally. Jesus passed to all of us his own pure blood to cleanse us all. As long as you humble yourself you are forgiven before the eyes of the Lord.          

Pontius’ Decision.

I take my heart in my hand, O my God , O my God. My broken heart in my hand: Thou Hast seen, judge thou. -Christina Rossetti

Many people know Pilate as the man who ordered the death of Jesus Christ. Many do not know the full story on what had happened before the choice that led him to be killed.

Pontius Pilate had a lot of power; as the mayor, he held a great deal of responsibility in his land. But when the elders came with a man who was alleged to have conspired to destroy their town (although they had no evidence against him), he became worried. So in a stroke of genius, he decided that this was not his rule but that it was Herod’s. Jesus was not from Pontius’ area, so he sent Jesus to Herod and the next day was returned in an elegant, purple robe. (Luke 23:11)

Pilate thought that since Jesus’ crime wasn’t evident, he could just punish Him and then later release him.

But the crowd uproared and still demanded Jesus’ death. Pontius was befuddled; the crowd grew large and demanded the death of Jesus despite the absence of proof of crime. He had been thinking and fasting to find a solution and then he talked to Jesus. “Are you king of the Jews?” And Jesus replied,”Yes, it is as you say.” (Luke 23:3)

What could Pontius do? The elders were yelling and screaming for Jesus’ death and there was nothing he could think of to do. Later, his Pontius’ wife sent him an urgent message reading : “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” Despite all the signs that Pontius was given, he had ignored them all.

Since Jesus’ accusation occurred during the Passover, Pontius had the choice to release Him. So he brought out the true criminal Barabbas (there was definitely proof of his crime) and said, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” And clearly and without hesitation the crowd shouted, “Barabbas!” Pontius then asked, ” What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” And the crowd roared, again without hesitation, “Crucify Him.” (Matthew 27: 15-24)

Now Pontius was scared. His power meant nothing so he tried reaching out to Jesus to try and talk and find a way to save him and asked, “Where do you come from?” But Jesus said nothing. “Don’t you realize I have the power to free you or crucify you?”  And Jesus answered, ” You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:8-11)

Pontius tried to save Jesus but the crowd grew more raucous and out of control. So he washed his hands in front of the crowd and screamed, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.” And they took Jesus and crucified him. (Matthew 27:24)

The point of this story is that Pontius, Judas, Barabbas, the Crowd, and the World were responsible for the death of Jesus. No man’s hand could be clean as they watched Jesus’ death. He was innocent of all crime and he took the crimes of us all. He forgave us all.

Barabbas was a man who committed murder and a host of other sins. He was a personification of our sin nature, yet the crowd released him and Jesus forgave him. Judas was the disciple who followed Jesus and then betrayed him, and Jesus forgave him. Pontius was the man who allowed Jesus to be taken, beaten, and then later crucified, and he too was forgiven. If Jesus can forgive these people, the people that killed him, don’t you think he can forgive you too?

 

Jesus Didn’t Come For The Righteous.

All the wisdom of the world is childlish foolishness in comparison with the acknoledgement of Jesus Christ. -Martin Luther

Where is the foolish person who would think it in his power to commit more than God could forgive? -Francis De Sales 

Everyone has been given a chance to be forgiven and not a single person ought to live unaware of Jesus’ sacrifice. If we deprive a man the word of God because we didn’t think that he deserved it, doesn’t that make us just as bad as that man? (Matthew 6:37)

In Luke 5:27-32 it states, “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the of name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples,”Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered them,”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”” (Luke 5:27-31)

Let me repeat that last sentence for you: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. You cannot say you are not sinful and expect to get to heaven. Jesus did not come for perfect people; he came for sinners. He came for us.

Do not worry that you are not worthy of God’s forgiveness: we are all short of perfection. You cannot say that Jesus doesn’t want to forgive you, because he already has. All you have to do is accept it.

In Luke 7:36-50 the verse says, “Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping , she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and then put perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him,’ Simon, I have something to tell you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied,’I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus answered. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,’Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her own tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered the room, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not pour oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven- for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Than Jesus said to her,’ Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Jesus said to the woman, ‘ Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'”

The woman was perhaps the most sinful woman in that village and Jesus Christ forgave her. He forgave her and looked past the countless sins she committed. So if he can forgive her, why not you?

Christ Is Here.

We love him, because he first loved us.- 1 John 4:19

For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.- John 16:27

Do not try hiding yourself from God because you will only be fooling yourself. God is omniscient, here, there, everywhere, and at all times. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and the only reason you exist is because He willed it. God does not make mistakes, and you are definitely not one of them; so do not hinder yourself from Him. Because He is already waiting on you, all you have to do is accept Him.

God is with you always, and He has never left you.

So let me pray for you: Let Jesus bring peace when there is worry in your life. When you hunger, let you be well-fed. When you are thirsty, let God quench it. If there are tears and stress, let God wipe the tears away and throw the stress into oblivion. I pray that when you are tired, you find yourself well rested. If you are sick, let Jesus heal you of that ailment. And if you are always trying to find someone to talk to, I pray that God is there listening to you. I pray that you forever follow God and you never find yourself off the path God has chosen for you. And if you do find yourself off the path, I pray that you find your way back. In Jesus’ everlasting name, Amen.

The End. (Thanks)

Now thank we all our God, With heart and hands and voices. Who wondrous things hath done in whom his world rejoices.-Catherine Winkworth

Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom , and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. -Revelation 7:12

Hello, it’s Greg again! I just want to thank everyone who reads my blog and that it is only because of you guys that this Outpost is amazing. Thank you for reading my posts and please feel free to comment, correct, like, or share me. Thanks very much and God bless.

 

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Lessons from dragons

Rebekah Hair : February 3, 2015 7:52 pm : Columns, Rebekah

All right, I admit it. I’ve written three things about dragons, and I know that they aren’t for everyone. It’s hard for some people to get excited about giant fiery reptiles.

Or is it? Dragons have been around from the beginning, it seems. Mesopotamian legend involves a dragon named Tiamat. Ever since that rather strange beginning, legends have exploded about these creatures. One of my favorites may not be legend: an ancient carving depicting a man riding on some sort of long-necked reptile. The discovery of flying serpents further whets our appetite for flight, as do those of giant eagles in fossil layers.

I wonder if the paleontologists have seen this yet. Their dating might be off slightly.

I wonder if the paleontologists have seen this yet. Their dating might be off slightly.

 

One thing I can’t help but wondering is if Dragons have become the scapegoats, and have been given attributes that they never had. Or could it be that legends are simply distant memories long forgotten?

There has to be some connection between the dinosaurs we unearth and reconstruct and the dragons we laugh at or cheer for. After all, people didn’t just look at an alligator and make up one with wings. There has to be some sort of reference. Unfortunately, that’s a story for another time.

When you think of dragons, what do you think about? Here are some common ideas.

  • Greed
  • Grace
  • Pride
  • Massive Size
  • Fire
  • Destruction
  • Flight
  • Evil
  • Cunning
  • Magic

Greed: Everyone has seen it, from Beowulf to the Dawn Treader: Dragons are greedy creatures. I wonder how this legend came about. Perhaps our ancestors knew something we didn’t, and observed the dragons hoarding something. Perhaps like magpies, the reptiles were attracted by shiny things. Maybe our fathers used these strange creatures as an object lesson against greed, and the image stuck.

Smaug

Smaug, the Great and Terrible

Whatever the reason, we’ve always seen dragons as greedy and wicked creatures, full of cunning. One of our culture’s new favorite examples of this is Smaug, the fearsome worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Hobbit. Notice that I did not say villain. In truth, Bilbo and the others realize that they are their own worst enemies. But again, that’s another story.

Smaug has no need of his amazing horde, but he cannot give it up. He knew it, piece by piece, and it gave him no pleasure. He would not permit it to be lost, even though it did nothing for it except glitter in the emptiness. Beware, ye who strive after riches. All greed is blessed with a dragon’s curse. That’s why I value Galadriel’s blessing in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Galadriel, a powerful elf-queen, gave gifts to the company at their parting from the fading world of Lorien. Her words were uncertain, but hopeful. “I do not fortell, for all fortelling is now vain; on one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli Son of Gloin,that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.” For a dwarf, a fitting gift indeed.

Grace: You have to admit that there is a certain grace about any creature in flight. The slow dive of the falcon and the flittering flight of a sparrow attest to God’s creativity at making these streamlined creatures. But what of a dragon?

To be perfectly honest, we have no idea of the grace of a dragon. When we dig up a skeleton, which comes up in bits and pieces, we can’t tell if the dinosaur moved easily or clumsily. Some clues are left, like how the bones connected and moved. But unfortunately, we’re left to our own devices for the most part.

However, we’ve been told from our legends and histories that dragons are serpentine and lithe. Think of the flying dinosaurs, Pterodactyl and his friends. I seriously doubt that he moved in a clumsy manner.

Pride: The portrayal of dragons as prideful is interesting. I suppose it has to do with the fact that dragons, like all serpentine creatures, were associated with Satan, whose pride is mentioned several times. A particular dragon, known in Job as Leviathan, says this about the powerful creature: “He sees everything that is high;
he is king over all the sons of pride.” (Job 41:34) Something that big and strong has a good reason to be proud. Through the ages, this attribute has lived on.

fireworms

Tiny fireworm dragons from Dragons: Defenders of Berk

Massive Size: From the skeletons we’ve dug up, we have a pretty good idea of the size of dinosaurs, or dragons, but as I’ve said before, those are not very good examples, because most of the massive ones were very old, just as alligators are biggest after they’ve been growing for ten years or so. However, even as youngsters, these creatures were huge! For all it’s worth, dragons could have been the largest creatures of God’s creation.

However, we’ve also found dragons…I mean dinosaurs…the size of sheep. And even of chickens! These are not as well known, but were there all the same, and were the natural exception. Even now, modern dragons can be found in all different sizes, through the imagination of writers and animators.

Fiery breath: Job 41: ” His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.” (Job 41:18-21)

Though we haven’t found any fire breathers in the fossil record, it’s not like we have any clues. From looking at a skunk skeleton, we can’t see that it’s anything more than a cat. Chemicals and organs, unfortunately, aren’t preserved. We have no idea what color dinosaurs are, or if they could breathe fire, but from the stories and record left for us by

The Red Death, from the movie How to Train your Dragon, destroys a whole fleet with its breath.

The Red Death, from the movie How to Train your Dragon, destroys a whole fleet with its breath.

those who went before, I think there’s a pretty good evidence that dragon fire is no legend!

Destruction: Everyone knows that a dragon isn’t to be messed with. Massive size and fiery breath leads to a lot of trouble! Though in the beginning, this wasn’t a problem, dinosaur/dragon fights would cause a lot of damage to the area around them. It’s pretty easy to see why most people would consider them a nuisance, and would try to drive them from the land. But with their scaly hides, this was easier said than done.

Flight! By far  the most amazing of all the dragon attributes, God in his creativity made them with an amazing variety of wings, tails, and bodies to help them soar. Why did he make these strange creatures? Who knows! But I’m glad he did, and the fascination with dinosaurs and dragons go on. Imagine…flying!

Evil: Since the beginning, the dragons have been associated with evil. It’s because of the snake-lizard-dragon difference. It’s not hard to see why. With wings and scales and a reputation of being magical, they would seem terrible. Let’s not mention that they were probably nocturnal, like Bats and some other flying animals. Going out on silent wings under the cover of darkness, they would have seemed work for the evil one. They might have even been used in his worship, as other animals have over the centuries.

Cunning:  “Now the serpent was more crafty than all the beasts of the field.” (Genesis 3:1) It’s not hard to imagine how this image would transfer to dinosaurs or dragons. Perhaps people believed that they were simply winged snakes. But there have never been any stories of stupid dragons. That would be strange.

All the same, I believe that dragons would have the kind of intelligence we attribute to Dolphins or monkeys or however we measure brainpower. Just as other creatures are sneaky to catch their prey, meat-eating dragons could have been feared not only because of their size, fire, and fear factor, but also because of their extensive trapping power.

Magic: Throughout history, dragons have had a magical reputation. As time went on and the stories became more and more fantastic, magic has seeped into the legends. Though I

eustace

Eustace, an enchanted boy, sympathizes with the talking mouse Reepicheep in The Voyage of The Dawn Treader

doubt dragons ever had magical powers or any abilities beyond those of other animals, the magical reputation remains. Maybe, if we find any hiding somewhere today, the magical aspect will fade away.

All the same, Magic is a large part of dragon mythology. Stories of enchantments and fairytales of cunning and wicked dragons are ingrained into our history. I have a feeling that if we found a dragon, several people would be disappointed.

Companionship? Imagine! Living with dinosaurs and dragons in a perfect world! Imagine flying with them and not being afraid. Now that is something that the dragons franchise has done so excellently. It feeds on our longing for something greater. But as I’ve already touched on this, I’ll paint you a picture.

Dragons and people living together? What kind of dream is this?

Dragons and people living together? What kind of dream is this?

Large reptilian creatures, no longer to be feared, living in a perfect world even more splendid than they. With no enmity between creatures, the serpent and the lamb rest together. A lion steps forward in a reverent yet confident manner and bows before his king. That’s what we have to look forward to. A world where dragons aren’t even noticed because of the wonder that the land holds. Who lives there. Who has called us.

Isn’t that better than an island full of dragons?

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Red Tape: Violent and Inefficient

Rachel Clark : February 3, 2015 7:45 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

It’s a dimly lit detention facility.

In the background a light bulb buzzes; the heavy sound of human breathing steadily reverberates down the halls. The springs of a cot squeak; rubber shoes squeal against the floor.

The conspicuously-clothed criminals pent up in this concrete-clad cage strike up a conversation.

“So, what are you in here for?” a rough-looking character says as he leans against the wall, with his clenched fist resting on his hip.

A man with a weasel face, thick-framed glasses, and greasy hair is hunched over in the corner, watching as events unfold.

Rather rebellious-looking and shifting uneasily, a young fellow towers by the locked entrance. He knows the question was addressed to him. Yet the silence prevails.

“Well, c’mon,” the demanding questioner continues, “We don’t have all day.”

“Actually we do,” he corrects, “But I ain’t a patient person.”

The young man looks down at the floor, his face turning red.

“Blogging without a license,” he gulps. The gruff individual who asked the question stares, wide-eyed. He isn’t sure he can match it.

The weasel-faced man nods, and points to the rough-looking man (his mother never told him it was rude to point) and mutters, “Ol’ Jim here planted patented pumpkins two falls ago. Big lawsuit. You probably saw it in the news.”

“What are you here for?” the young one asks the weasel-faced man.

Weasel-face scratches his head, and looks up.

“I sold organic raw-milk goat cheese to homeschool moms,” he pauses, “In New York no less.”

“You know what’s more?” Jim the rough-looking fellow adds, “’fore he was sent to solitary, I spent five weeks in thuh’ same cell as Trademark Tim.”

The young man is new to prison life. He asks, “Am I supposed to know who that is?”

“Fresh-face, eh?” weasel-face says, “He started up a package delivery company and used the color brown. You know the rest.”

They all shudder. They know they have to watch their backs—the inhabitants of this nightmarish “detainment facility” are obviously capable of anything.

 

When everybody’s a criminal, the law can’t mean anything.

d.c.

The town that paints everything red.

More and more often in the United States, ordinary people are inadvertently turning to a life of crime; and because the federal government is so determined to stifle honest work and efficient free enterprise, this sort of “crime” definitely pays.

In fact, the cost of complying with bureaucracies’ arbitrary regulation is so exceedingly burdensome that it’s enough to destroy entire markets and firms—to say nothing of millions of lost jobs and vanishing economic efficiency.

Red tape is more than just inefficient: it is violent.

A government’s one function is to protect life, liberty, and property—thus murderers, rapists, and thieves ought to be considered criminals.

But clearly those who do nothing to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property ought not be punished by the state, and when they are, the state is surpassing its bounds and is no longer legally valid. Even if the “criminal” would not have violated the non-aggression principle, the government’s henchmen would in their enforcement of their petty federal ultimatum.

Regulations that dish out thousand-dollar fines and prison time for legal “offenses” like unlicensed hair-braiding or out-of-the-home freelancing are doing precisely what the state is meant to prevent: infringing upon inherent rights.

The state-sponsored aggression that ensues when a regulation is broken is nauseatingly inconsistent and harsh, dictated by the mood of a bureaucrat. Kids selling lemonade without a license can get a criminal record before the age of ten; bakers or photographers can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars because they turn down a customer; someone who crosses a powerful corporation with a strong D.C. presence will be cut down in the prime of life. (I mean this in a mostly figurative sense.)

Many who lean towards free markets but can’t help but think that there ought to be a set of ground rules for each industry are overlooking the fact that laws are not magically supported by words printed on paper: the law is backed up by guns, fines, pepper spray, prison time, promises of death, and life-ruining lawsuits. Are most of the federal regulations threatening these things worth those punishments?

In the end, the mass of federal regulations torturing the economy is unwarranted interference in individual choice, a brutal manifestation of state aggression against the citizenry, and an absolute breach of legal equality. These regulations present more than moral problems: practical problems (including overfilled jails, criminalization of half the population, dramatic economic slowdowns, and inconsistent enforcement of laws) also make our foolishly large collection of regulations far from worthwhile.

Little laws here and there almost always sound like they’re for the best; the contents of voluminous thousand-page laws seem to be prudent; the powers afforded to bureaucrats sound fair enough—but this is not the case, and never will be.

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Happy Birthday, Mendelssohn.

Rachel Clark : February 3, 2015 5:12 pm : Columns, Rachel

mendelssohn

Today is Felix Mendelssohn’s 206th birthday.

(Although he’s not as famous as Beethoven or Handel, you’ve almost certainly heard his wedding march.)

Known as the “happy composer” of the Romantic Era, Mendelssohn kicked off his musical career in earnest at the age of 17 with his fabulous Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture.

In 1829 he launched the Bach Revival with a performance of St. Matthew’s Passion, which had not been performed since its composer’s death in 1750.

He was a devoted Christian and wrote two extremely famous oratorios, “Elijah” and “Saint Paul,” as well as five symphonies (the Italian and Reformation Symphonies being the best known). His music was cheerful and lighthearted, but was exceptionally beautiful and well-constructed.

Immediately after Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, anti-Semitic Richard Wagner began a smear campaign against Felix — who was Jewish — and as a result Mendelssohn too came close to obscurity. In the 20th century, Hitler banned Mendelssohn’s works.

But there’s one important question to be answered: why was Mendelssohn so happy relative to contemporary composers?

Probably a great deal of this happiness hinged on the fact that he lived a somewhat affluent life and never really had financial struggles, unlike the chronically depressed and death-obsessed likes of Hector Berlioz.

However, what truly distinguished Mendelssohn from other Romantic Era composers was his faith in God and purposefulness in life. He knew what he was living for, and rather like his hero Bach, he intended his music for the glory of God.

Mendelssohn’s best-known works:

Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave)

Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture

Reformation Symphony

Italian Symphony

Violin Concerto in E Minor

 

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Chosen Ones: Strategy

Rebekah Hair : January 29, 2015 10:27 am : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Caro shook his head. “I still can’t believe this? How could Gino do something so…so…” “Stupid?” Davis suggested. Caro glared at him. “Thank you. I was thinking foolish.”

Davis held up his hands. “Don’t blame me; I’m just as confused as anyone here. Opal, are you sure that this is true?” Rora bowed her head and stood up. “Sir, Gino went back to the building after Pussy. He wanted to make sure we didn’t forget her, knowing how much she meant to…Opal.” Opal put her arms around her beloved cat protectively.

Promise growled and his ears shot up. Caro rubbed his head. “Promise senses something wrong.” He sighed. “He’s like an alarm clock for danger. But this… this disrupts everything! What is the plan now?”

Davis wheeled around and faced them. “I think we’ve been running too long, Prince Caro. We’re so close to the capitol. It’s time to act.” Opal lifted her sightless eyes to his. “And what would you have us do?” She asked.

Davis thought for a moment. “What if we sent you and Rora ahead to the capitol? As long as you travel with us, you will be in danger. But alone, who would notice you? You could wait in the city until we arrive, and then if something happens to us, you’ll be able to go on.” Pussy climbed onto Opal’s shoulder and licked her ear. Opal gently lifted her off. “That is an idea.” She said slowly. “But whether it is a good one or not is beyond me.”

“If only we had Gino.” Caro grumbled. “Why did he have to leave us for something so foolish?” “Gino had troubles few knew about.” Opal cried. “I do not justify his works, but only ask for understanding. You can only see a portion of what is happening.”

They were silent for a while. “You’re right.” Caro said softly. “I’m sorry, Opal. That was out of turn.” “I am as well.” Opal sighed. “Sorry that this had to happen at all. Sorry that we don’t have a chance without his advice.”

“We might have lost one person, but we still have some left.” Davis said stubbornly. “I came to help take Nya from the throne. And I intend to finish that purpose as far as I can help it.” Caro laughed, took Opal’s hands, and helped her up. “That’s good for me. I think we can try that plan Davis came up with.”

Opal sighed. “I don’t know. The capitol is such a chaotic mess. I can only see tiny snatches of what’s going on, from tiny things that Gino sends me, but even that is becoming less and less frequent. He’s scared. That scares me.” Caro sighed with her. Both Opal and Caro knew what Nya was like. “What scares you, that Gino is scared?” He asked.

Opal laughed. “Gino is always scared.” She said softly. “Even when we were small children. My memories are so vague from that time, but I remember one thing. Grown-up Gino coming to me and asking me what I see. I don’t see anything. He says he is worried about his parents. Then I tell him. And he starts to cry.” Opal began to cry herself and sat back down. “I’m scared that he’s alone. Gino is strong. But not that strong.”

Promise slunk over and laid his head on her knees, as if to say, “I miss him too.” Opal rubbed his head. “Don’t worry about Gino, Opal. Someone is watching him, just like He’s watching us.” Caro said, looking out towards the rest of the camp. “But what do we tell the others?”

“To be perfectly honest, Prince Caro, most of them had no idea of Gino’s real job here. In fact, a few of them wondered why he was here at all. We don’t need a mapmaker, we have some professional scouts now, and Gino couldn’t fight or lead.” Davis explained. Caro nodded.

“Why bring a shepherd? Why not a soldier? I don’t know why The Creator chose, or why he chose us. But there has to be a reason. We’ll continue on. I think you’re right, Davis. It’s getting too dangerous for the girls. We should send them on. Well, if Rora is willing.”

Rora was willing, and the plans were made. They needed a good time to enter the city, and it hadn’t come yer. But they were impatient to begin. The faster they got there, the faster they took out Nya. Davis, Caro, and Opal had another reason: the faster they stopped Nya, the sooner they found Gino.

Opal seemed reluctant. Though she never said anything, something was bothering her. She shook her head, as if to clear it, but the doubt remained. Caro noticed. “Are you frightened?” He asked one day, almost right before their departure.

Opal’s eyes turned blank. “No.” She said softly. “I’m not frightened. I’m just…worried. Those of my order were powerful, and I am young. I have no training, and no sight. How, if I were to face Nya, and she resisted, would I fare?”

“But what about the words of promise?” Caro asked. Opal tilted her head. “There is that, yes. If I can speak in her presence, I will say that. But it will be difficult. And heartbreaking.” She covered her face with her hands. Caro had been thinking of her statement. “Your order? What does that mean?”

Opal laughed, in spite of herself. “Did no one tell you of the schools of the prophets? My order is the Iya. My mother, in fact, was of the priestly line. Her father was furious when she married mine, a peasant. She named me Iya, after the order I was born into. My father called me Opal.”

“Nya is also an Iya. Strangely enough, her name was once Iya as well, but she changed it, as you know. The other Iya are gone. I can’t help but wonder if Nya had something to do with that, and that my father changed my name to protect me. Dear Father! I miss him. But I worry. Nya’s power is stronger than mine. Much stronger, like a child compared to a giant!”

“A child slew the giant, when the Creator was with him.” Caro mused. “I don’t think you should worry about that. He is with you. He has left her.” Opal sighed. “But did that weaken her, or make her stronger?” She worried.

The next day, the two girls set out. “It’s better this way.” Caro assured Opal. She looked at him in that strange way that made him feel like she could see right into him. She smiled sadly. “Until we meet again?” She said timidly, holding out her hand. “We’ll be there soon.” Caro said again. Opal shook her head, and turned to Rora. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

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Goofy Dog news report

Rebekah Hair : January 19, 2015 6:08 pm : Columns, Guest Author

Hi there. I’m Tanner, and well, I thought you might want to know how well I’m doing without my leader, Clara. You know her as Happy Dog. Well, don’t you worry. I’m being a good dog. I follow all the rules, chase cars, and bark at the mailman.

Well, you know how those weird mail people have this strange habit of getting out of their cars. What is the point of that? They have these nice little cars with their nice little tires and seats and radios and all sorts of things. Why would they want to leave them?

But they do, and I have to chase them. When they leave their cars, that makes me have to go to all the trouble of chasing them and chewing their shoes off. They sure run fast. And they really don’t like it when you bite them. Talk about bad-tempered!

So when Clara said that there’s nothing to do when you’re in solitary confinement, she was right. Nothing. Why is it my fault that the person intruded? Hey, I could have told him not to do that. That’s just silly.

But the real issue is that my place as cool cucumber 1 is being threatened. There’s a new puppy around. At first I chased him off and Dad chased him off and everyone…well, actually, it was three in the mornin’ and no one was awake but me and Daddy and Sammy because he was eatin’ dinner. Who eats at three in the morning? But that’s not the point.

The point is, I knew I had to get him out of here before Melly woke up or we’d never get to the end of it. It didn’t work out. She woke up, and Adam, and Sam…Sam never went to sleep. He’s a weird kid. And Grace woke up and Bekah and Joel and Merry and Eowyn and Spot and…hold on. Somehow, I left off naming people and started naming chickens. Oops. What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah, little black. So he came, and he was typical puppy. No manners, no grammer…gramer, grammmmr, how ever you say that, he didn’t have it. And he took everyone by the heartstrings. They called him Blackie and Shadow and other things, but no one would agree to that. Something about having stuffed animals with those names.

In a Hank book, there were some dogs named black and jack. Momma and Bekah started calling him Black Jack, and it stuck. Something about a card game. Bekah said it had to do with a weapon, so it didn’t quite come off without an argument, but he’s Jack. Daddy calls him Puppy Jack. I think it has to do with cheese.

There are a lot of jokes with Jack in ’em.

But who cares about the name? The little turkey is trespassing. Sure, he’s cute, cuddly, and loves to play. But what about the dogs who make it all possible? What about the people who sacrifice everything to make sure that delivery guys approach the house with fear?

Poor me. No one can compete with puppy love.

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The College Game

Rachel Clark : January 17, 2015 10:43 am : Columns, Rachel

university of texas

When you were an impressionable preschooler, your companions would ask you if you wanted to play “house” or “school” or “work.” When you are eighteen, or nearing it, your friends and others start asking if you want to play “college.”

One of these endeavors is often a waste of time with little to no practical life value; the other was your childhood game.

 

If you choose to play the college game, once more every cent means something to you. Finding a penny in the parking lot elicits as much exuberance as it did a decade and a half or so ago.

 

Just like in your preschool years, there is a huge emphasis on “sharing.” Hurting anyone’s feelings results in a strict administration of kindergarten-like social justice. Offering up an opinion and arguing your point are two cardinal academic sins: after all, we have to have a free and tolerant exchange of ideas where nobody is criticized.

 

Suddenly meaningless skills start mattering again—except instead of burping, imprisoning insects, or shooting rubber bands, it’s whether or not you can write a politically correct film evaluation for a required credit.

 

Those who were good at aiming rubber bands stole the show and ruled the roost back in the day; those who are skilled in regurgitating test material and those who sacrifice true academic pursuits for mandatory courses like Etymology of the Twinkie and Squirrel Imitation 101 get ahead in college.

 

Students interested in education probably fare well; those interested in learning do not. However, unlike in your preschool years, you do not have as much choice this time: in your early childhood you could reject a fantastical game and its irrational rules with little consequence.

 

You’re not so fortunate now.

 

If you want to enter a technical field, you have little choice but to get further training; if you want to learn about anything categorized under “Liberal Arts” your studies will oftentimes be rejected unless it comes along with a $400,000 piece of paper saying you took some classes.

 

Unless you are either an incredibly brilliant individual or fit into an arbitrary race and income bracket, you probably will get little help with scholarships. Student loans are a racket from the start, and cheap college is an oxymoron.

 

Many things about colleges are part of a game, one invented by universities, fostered by bureaucracy, and sustained by government subsidization. Whereas in a free market a profit motive encourages excellence, low prices, and innovation, in a situation where jack-booted IRS thugs are involved and the intrusive arm of the state controls all, political entrepreneurship is the only worthwhile effort.

 

Completely unrelated courses are suddenly made mandatory; fees multiply; strange research projects and building boondoggles pervade the campus; religion and free speech, as a matter of course, have to be scrubbed because of government funding and control.

 

Alternatives to traditional college accreditation are starting to pop up—things like CollegePlus, dual credit, online classes, apprenticeship-like arrangements, and CLEP testing—thanks to innovation in an area which has for decades and centuries been dominated by monopolistic state-owned, state-sponsored, or state-controlled institutions.

 

As for learning without official accreditation, thousands of websites akin to Udemy and Khan Academy teach everything from calculus to music theory. Learning isn’t as hard as it used to be.  If you can’t avoid a mandatory Slovakian Finger-Food Etiquette course, at least the free market is making it possible to avoid some of the exorbitant cost.

 

Well, do you want to play “college”? If you’re the kid with steely resolve and a sense of direction, you might be the one—just like in preschool—to say no and play a game with different rules.

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Why Authors are Dreamers

Rebekah Hair : January 16, 2015 8:26 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Rachel has quite excellently written about the insanity of book-writing. However, her experience was based on a historical fiction. I would like to lend my experience in the often misunderstood realm of Fantasy.

To different people, Fantasy can mean anything from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Star Wars”. To me, Fantasy is writing that dabbles with the fantastic, that is, realms beyond our knowledge. Fairies, mermaids, tree spirits, water nymphs, creatures of my imagination, and of the imaginations of countless others throughout human history.

From the beginning, creatures have been imagined and recorded in mythology, from fauns and monsters to wicked serpents. Some of these legends stand knee-deep in truth, but they are a good basis. However, because of those who wrote them, most stories about these creatures have been dark, disgusting, or disturbing. Or, as one former classmate imagined, “all of the above”.

There is a definite difference between the writer of a historical fiction and the writer of a fantasy. Now the research takes on a quite different type. Science fiction? You have to know something about computers and technology. Fairies? What about plants? But the most troubling bits of fiction are the kinds where the worlds themselves are fabricated.

I like to think of myself as an architect. With my keyboard, I build landscapes. With my pencil, I lay out cities. And with my imagination, I produce…people! Characters, all with their strengths and weaknesses, their loves and hates, their struggles and their triumphs. But that’s when it gets interesting.

When you are building your own world, you have to populate it. Where are the mountain ranges? Should there be rivers, or should this be a vast plain? Where is the ocean? And who lives where? In most books, all you need to find out about these things is look at a map. But when you’re the one building the world, you’re the mapmaker. Cities pop up like wildflowers. Forts and castles raise their stony heads from the earth, as each is bestowed with its own name. Countries form slowly, until they emerge from their chrysalis, new and wet and vulnerable.

Then the characters emerge. That’s when pets are especially helpful, because in this world, in order for the characters to be unique, they are animals (in the broad, fantasy sense). Tall, reserved cats and their enemies, the quick-tempered, yet loyal, Flash-Dogs. Bats the size of Dragons, and rabbits with wings. Dogs who can transform, werewolf-like, into dragons.

But before you go into ecstasy about the simplicity of it all, this type of writing requires almost more research than historical fiction. At least in that case, the information needed is a little easier to find. Here, we need to know about how mountains are formed. Can lava form on top of water? Is it possible for water to be moved organically, through some sort of chemical process? What would have to be in fur to keep it from burning? What kinds of substances melt in water? These are the strange questions that we have to think about.

Unfortunately, the thinking part is what usually gets us in trouble. Sure, I might be washing dishes on the outside, but on the inside I’m going through a dialogue between Gino and the evil dictatoress, Nya. (Which is coming soon to Chosen Ones in a week or so)Around this time, someone asks me a question, and I break both trains of thought to try to answer it. Some would call this daydreaming. I call it plot development. But that’s a very different point all together.

One of the strange things about all this is that you become protective of your story. If you tell someone, and they seem uninterested, you mentally check them off the list. Eventually you split up your friends between those who support your world and those who are more…practical.

But in all this foolishness, there’s that ever-present question: am I writing something worth reading? My stories now are better than they were a year ago, or even six months ago. I’ve aged in my writing. But are my stories pure? Are my characters true? Are my countries and creatures realistic?

The true danger with fantasy is that the laws are self-imposed. You, essentially, are the creator, and must decide what is right and wrong. Because of this, fantasy can get us into worlds of trouble. Is it right to fight for what we believe? Is it right to defend ourselves? Is it right to lead? Your worldview translates into that of your creation. Those who read your work can see that instantly.

As with all things, our writing must be “whatever is true… honorable… just… pure… lovely… commendable… if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think(write) about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 abbreviated) Whether the character is wielding a sword or a pen, he/she should act honorably at all times. I’m not saying that they are perfect. I’m saying that they should act as we do, and follow their creator’s bidding, which is good and right. Our stories should reflect our faith.

That’s the really hard part of writing. All these things we need to think through, all the problems with our stories, all the things that have to be accurate, even in our own creation, make authors some of the rarest people in the world…the published ones. Many never finish. Some good talent languishes because the person is too scared to act. I call them sleepwalkers; dreamers who never wake up and fulfill their dreams.

And of course, there is the tragedy of the great authors who never were allowed to live because they were an inconvenience when they were small. Our literature might have been changed dramatically, but for that tragic fact. The authors have disappeared from history.

To make up for that, and all the garbage that assaults us from every angle, I believe that more young people should write! The brain is like a muscle, and needs to be exercised. Trust me, my first story was about a cat with superpowers. It was rather strange, had over ten characters, and a really weird plot. I’ve learned since then.

So what are you like? Do you want to re-write history, in a way, like Rachel? Or would you rather make your own, like me? Maybe you’re into neither, and would rather write about the Constitution. Or toasters. Or anything!

My brother received a Matthew West CD for Christmas. I really like the lyrics. “If you’re living, if you’re breathing, you have something to say. If you know your heart is beating, you have something to say.” You do have something to say. It’s time to write!

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Picture this

Rebekah Hair : January 15, 2015 10:04 pm : Columns, Rebekah

A really wierd picture of DNAI have a new fascination with the DNA in the human body. Sure, it’s super complicated, and even the tiny bit I know befuddles me. It’s hard to understand how DNA and its twin, RNA, can form the intricacies of our bodies down to our eye color. It all has to do with the proteins that they make. God planned it well.

Of course, this would mean you’d need a little practice with DNA. Everyone who has heard the term associates it with the weird loopy thing that some scientists call a double-helix. Each of those strands are made out of four chemicals, and those are called adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. I know, I know. Those names seem crazy. It gets a little strange. Especially since A only links to T, G to C, and vice-versa.

Now before you fall over dead, give me a little time. Those strange little double-helixes unravel easily, and the twin, RNA, likes to hold on to the strands. Because of those weird little chemicals, the RNA holds on to the DNA like a photo negative.

Who cares about photo negatives?

Don’t leave yet. The more I read, the more fascinated I became. I knew that proteins were made out of amino acids, which are made into really, really, weirdly long strands of them. I still didn’t understand how the DNA was used in making protein. I mean, I knew it was important, but I didn’t get it. The RNA negative was used really strange, and seemed to just hang around. I didn’t get it. Why did we start out with DNA and just copy it backwards? What’s the point? God, I think you need to add a few more steps to the process.

Of course what I didn’t know is that certain type of RNA has a strange habit of attracting amino acids. Or that that tiny piece of RNA can only attach to a certain acid depending on the chemicals making it (which there are only three spots to fill, but with four choices,

tRNA, a strange act of God's creativity.

tRNA, a strange act of God’s creativity.

that’s 4! or 24 different possibilities). This is called tRNA, and looks somewhat like the crudely-drawn model below. There are three bases that attach to one big circular acid.

So why is this important? Like a magnet, our negative draws these little floaters to itself, and they latch onto only a specific section of it. As they latch on, their acids are dragged with them. Amino acids. You might guess how this is going to work out. When every space is filled, we have a long train of acids under our negative. We have a protein.

Now consider how complex this is.

If I was in charge of our genetic material, aside from the massive headache I would have, life would be exterminated. But in a strange, improbable world where I was in charge of a new reproductive system, I might be able to find these chemicals. Under the right stimulation, I might make them bond. But how would I know that the ‘c’ bonds to the ‘g’? I can’t even see them!

When I get to the DNA itself, we’d really be in trouble. If it was at all possible for me to somehow build DNA, and to be able to make enough to make one protein (which is really an underachievement) then I would have to match it with RNA. Oops, what if I’ve forgotten to invent that? And what rule would I have for the amino acids? Do you realize that the simplest protein in our bodies, ribonuclease, has 124 amino acids, and that it’s an anomaly? The ‘average’ protein has several thousand.

I’m not ignorant. I’ve studied physics. I’ve done some chemistry. I know anatomy. I have algebra 2 and geometry experience. My brother thinks I’m a…I’m not going to repeat the word. In our house, an insult to me is telling me I’m smart. He knows that. It’s a bit strange.

All the same, there’s that little issue that my brain can’t get around. To have the knowledge to form a single strand of protein would take me years. To have the tools and machinery to accomplish that would take a research grant. But what did it take God? “Let there be life.” And it was.

Instantly all the laws of life and order were formed, and all these things were taken care of. Wisely, justly, and perfectly. When we study this, we are forced to admit like Einstein that there is a God, and he speaks the language of math

Or, after all, we could believe that random fate somehow formed all this. Now that that would take some faith.

 

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Why Authors Are Insane

Rachel Clark : January 15, 2015 7:53 pm : Columns, Rachel

u-2Aspirations to write a novel aren’t unusual. In fact, teenaged females are particularly vulnerable to such hankerings. It has yet to be determined whether or not many of these hopeful writers even begin, and it’s quite uncertain whether more than a handful ever finish.

So when I decided to take the step, a good two and a half years ago, I imagined first of all that it would be a fabulous book if only I could finish it. And all that I had to do was force myself to write.

Outlining? Outlining is for wimps. First and foremost, I wanted to get things going, to start the actual process, to meet my characters. That was my first mistake.

After due deliberation, I decided on the novel I would write: a Cold War espionage adventure/mystery based on the U-2 crash over Russian territory in 1960. I named the main character after my cat. That was my second mistake.

It just so happens that historical novels also require research. Research is hard.

I've got this figured out.

I’ve got this figured out.

I found myself searching for everything from glove etiquette to 1963 CIA budget information. My internet search history could have been either that of a murderer or an author: how long does it take for a person to bleed to death from a gunshot wound to the shoulder? How did Soviets torture people? What lethal poisons are best disguised in alcohol?

Writing a novel alters your mental state, it’s safe to say. Strange things start happening. Even when you’re working on it by yourself, you start saying things like “we’re planning on making the fifteenth chapter the showdown” or “our story is …”

As it turns out, products of your imagination blend with your mind. The story makes you a stronger person, if less of a sane one. You don’t always learn to solve problems, but you do learn how to create them.

Unfortunately, you also learn interesting ways to get rid of people. You learn how to destroy everything that is dear and good to your main character, to leave him in a situation so bleak there appears to be no way out.

The events of a good adventure novel ought to leave the main character, reader, and author with lasting emotional scars. Otherwise it probably isn’t worth reading.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how most authors become insane.

I discovered early on that if you’re totally confident in your storytelling capabilities, you most likely shouldn’t be. Approaching a novel or a story with humility is the first step in learning to identify weak spots and lousy characters. You’ll probably develop some sort of an inferiority complex when it comes to creative writing; and the worst part is, the writing is so bad at first that it isn’t a complex, it’s legitimate embarrassment.

Despite computer crashes, the loss of an important notebook, and several bouts of intense hopelessness, I finished the story. Now I hate it and never want to speak to it again. After talking to a few other writers, I learned that this too is normal.

To be a writer, you write. In a way, I was right that finishing a story would mean “fabulousness.”

Your first essay wasn’t perfect; your first sentence wasn’t either. Most first novels are the stuff of nightmares, and not because they’re horror stories. Communicating, storytelling, and writing all get better with practice.

And now: on to the second novel. Some of us are just gluttons for punishment. It probably has something to do with our brilliant insanity.

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Obama’s Anti-Personality Cult

Rachel Clark : January 2, 2015 6:37 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

obama face

A great deal has been said about the personality cults of famous politicians, and Obama’s is as good an example as any. Obamamania is the term coined for unquestioning, naïve support of the nation’s 44th president. And for the past seven or so years, plenty of conservatives have been decrying it.

 

They talk about Obama energy, Obamanation, and the Obama economy; they find as many terrible pictures of the man as possible*; they try to prove that he’s responsible for all the activities of the Democratic Party. They grumble about his wife’s healthy food hypocrisy; they snidely insist that leaders should never play “that much golf”; they poke fun at his history of eating dogs.

 

In other words, a disturbing portion of the right wing has taken to slamming the man himself and not his ideals, morals, religion, or policies.

 

Yes, these conservatives are right in some capacity: he fully supports big, intrusive government and is therefore a deplorable proponent of tyranny. As President, Obama has done loads of damage.  Yes, in politics such attacks are normal and within the rights of those who initiate them.

 

But focusing solely on this one man doesn’t improve the ideological situation in the United States—he’s just one man among millions. As soon as he’s gone, another will take his place.

 

These attacks and complaints, the anti-charisma and anti- magnetism, are never enough to ultimately change the scene of American politics or to do anything except foster dislike of one particular man.

 

However, killing his ideas of tyranny and government control would bring permanent change. Conservatives should be fighting an ideological battle, not a personal one. Men are mortal, ideas are eternal: fighting the former and ignoring the latter is a recipe for disaster.

 

Tearing down an individual and creating an anti-personality cult takes less short-term effort than putting together a logical argument and explaining it to millions of people, but it also has very few short-term benefits.

 

It’s essentially like a Kleenex box—if one is finally yanked out, another pops up. Using a flame-thrower on the whole box, however, might yield more positive results.

 

Obama’s popularity has suffered because of the conservatives’ attacks, but his ideology hasn’t.

 

Conservatives, find something better to rally against than Obama. Or better yet, find something to rally together for. Liberty would be a great place to start.

 

 

Note: finding unflattering pictures of your political opponents is fine. I do it all the time. But a bad picture isn’t your ultimate goal.
 
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The Choice is Yours

Rebekah Hair : January 1, 2015 1:21 pm : Columns, Rebekah

I think one of my favorite movies of the year was How to Train your Dragon 2. After all, it came out near my birthday, so I had fun watching it then. Yes, I realize that I warned against sequels. That bias continues to stand. But there are some exceptions, and those are the best.

In the movie, Hiccup isn’t a confused boy anymore, but almost an adult. His dad is preparing to hand the leadership of the island over to him. But Hiccup would rather pursue his dream of discovering and cataloging new islands and dragons. He confided his frustration with his father in Astrid, his first friend. “That’s his thing. It’s not me.”

But a villain is on the loose, someone who threatens to destroy everything they hold dear. Unfortunately, this only makes the wedge between father and son larger. Stoick is determined to fortify Berk as much as possible and prepare for an attack. But Hiccup disagrees. “We can’t just wait for him to attack.” He persists. “We can change his mind.” Stoick, however, is firm. “A man like that can’t be reasoned with.”

Hiccup disobeys his father and ends up getting into trouble. He continues to protest that he has to try and change the villain’s mind. Eventually, he gets his chance. But he soon realizes that his peacekeeping skill wasn’t as strong as he thought, and someone gets hurt.

Hiccup

The problem is, who was right? One person said that people can’t change, and another said that they can. “If I could change your mind,” Hiccup explains to his father, once a dedicated enemy to all dragons, “I can change his.” But both of Hiccup’s parents tell him the same thing. “There’s no talking to Drago.” His mother laughed. “Some people don’t change.”

While I could go on with the movie forever, I really do have a point to all this. The question of a person’s ability to change his nature has been debated for years. Can people change? I mean, what on earth does it mean?

To get into this, I should explain both sides of this argument. The father, being older, believed that people could not be convinced. He had seen this particular man and his nature, and knew that he was not to be trusted. The son was more optimistic. He had mixed success with changing people’s minds through showing them what Dragons were really like, and believed that this new challenge was no different. He assumed that inwardly, this ‘Drago’ person could be changed, because all people are reasonable on the inside, right?

According to most people, a person is essentially good. This leads to the idea that we can get into heaven by our works, because we start out with a clean slate. That’s a cheerful idea, right? Well, it should be, but it’s not.

The problem is, that’s not the way it is. If we believe what the Bible teaches, we have to admit that we don’t start out with a spotless record. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) We are sinful from birth, and it only goes down from there.

The myth about “choosing to do right” is that there is no possibility to do so. When our first parents ate the forbidden fruit, they were promised the ability to know good and evil. Instead, they lost their ability to do good. If we do something, it’s either the wrong thing, or for the wrong reason. Nothing we do is good.

It isn’t until God opens our eyes that we become able to change. It has nothing to do with our ability, but with the heart-change caused by a new life.

But what Stoick’s side of the story? There the lines are blurred a little. It becomes hard for someone like Hiccup, for example, to understand how everyone else was so prejudiced against this certain person, that is, until he saw firsthand how ruthless he was. Unlike his beloved dragons, some of them can’t be changed by kindness.

There will always be the kinds of people who can’t be reasoned with, people who are so wicked they will not be stopped by reasoning or anything other than force. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood how Hitler couldn’t be stopped by mere talk. They had been talking and talking for years. Nothing happened. Finally, they had to act, and though they failed, they tried.

Of course, there’s the sneaky side effect to not believing people can change that we tend to call prejudice. Another one is misunderstanding. It might be easier to talk it out, but what’s the point? They won’t listen, right?

In the end, both Hiccup and his Father were right, and both were wrong.  Some people choose not to change. Others have a change of heart. But it can be hard to tell which one it’s going to be until you meet the person.

Here’s a tip, Hiccup. Even when it feels wrong, you should always listen to your Dad. It just works out better that way.

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Chosen Ones: Gino’s Folly

Rebekah Hair : December 25, 2014 7:22 am : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Gino looked worried, and dropped the basket. It rolled off and he could hear Pussy clawing from the inside, very upset at being dropped. “Now this is a surprise.” Dawes spoke, his eyes locked on Gino. “Why on earth are you in the city, so close to the capitol? Shouldn’t you be off with your sheep?”

Gino shook his head. “I have a duty beyond that, Dawes. I’m sure you know of it.” Dawes laughed. “I’m sure. You’re here because of Opal. Predictable, as always.”

Gino found himself getting angry. Dawes, once a close friend, had betrayed his comrade for a share in Nya’s empire. It had been him who had tracked down the two Chosen long ago, and it had been him since who had pursued them so mercilessly. Indeed, Dawes now held in his hand Opal’s consciousness. The betrayal kept getting worse.

Dawes realized Gino’s mixed feelings and began to take advantage of them. “You know how easy you’ve made it now, Gino. If I have you, and I already have Opal, what will these rebels do? Wander around in the dark, most likely, making bad decisions and eventually falling off a cliff.”

Gino didn’t say anything. If anything happened to Opal, truly the band would be directionless…and purposeless! But if Nya’s henchman knew that, he would test them sore. He couldn’t take that risk.

Suddenly, Dawes turned on him. “Why won’t you say anything?” He asked, angrily. “What could I say?” Gino asked meekly, before answering his own question. “Nothing. I will say nothing.”

Dawes laughed. “This silence becomes one of your class. Of course, you probably think that you’re perfect, with your ‘secret religion’ and your ‘special gifts’. It makes me sick.” He spat on the ground. “You used to believe in the One True God, just as much as I did.” Gino said quietly, though inwardly chafing at the rude remark.

Dawes shook his head. “And I also used to believe in sprites. What matters it? Your ‘strange’ friends won’t be able to get by without you. And believe me,” He thrust out his hand and grabbed Gino’s arm “I intend to find them, every last one of them, and destroy them. Men and women alike.” He hissed.

What happened next surprised both of them. Gino suddenly felt the ground spinning under his feet, and Dawes turned red in his eyes. He pulled his right arm back, while at the same time reaching with his left behind him. There was an explosion.

The next thing they knew, Dawes had fell back, and was shrieking and cursing. Gino stood there for a second, triumphant, with a pistol in his hand. “You took my fingers years ago, Dawes. How do you like it now?” He cried, stepping back.

The sky had been overcast for a few hours, but now lightning sparked its way across the sky. The sound jolted Gino out of his triumph, and he dropped the weapon as if it had been made of fire. Then he collapsed, and hid his face in his hands.

“No! No, Lord! I….” He sobbed, shaking violently. The slight pattering of raindrops mixed with Dawes’ curses and Gino’s sobbing. “Ruined! Oh, Creator, forgive me! Forgive me!”

Dawes’ men came running up and stopped at the strange sight. “Don’t just stand there, fools! Help me up!” Dawes yelled, half-ashamed at the cowardly way he had been carrying on. Gino didn’t move. “To fail now, and for such a thing as revenge.” He muttered. “Ruined.”

The rainstorm met the rest of the band under the grateful cover of the great forest that led into the capitol city. “We’re so close.” Caro remarked wistfully. “If only Opal would awaken, and we could continue our purpose.” Davis, who had been following (and indeed seldom left the prince out of his sight) agreed. “If the princess would awaken, and bring peace to this land, even I would believe in fairytales. But what’s all the ruckus down there?” He asked suddenly, as he heard the sounds of a great commotion coming from the camp.awakened

They descended the hill that had given them a view into the city, and were met by Rora. She looked as though she had seen a ghost. “Donnae blame me, sirs.” She panted, “Because I know nothing of it. One leaves, one comes back, and then she’s out of bed and babbling like…I don’t know what!” Caro and Davis exchanged worried glances. “What?”

Rora pointed behind her. There, pacing back and forth through the ranks of surprised men, as if life depended on it, ran Opal, with her cat in her arms. Puss had scratRora and Pussyched her way out of the basket and had returned to her mistress, who was now awake.

Caro ran to Opal, who was weeping and whispering at the same time. “Woe! For hope to me means death to another.” She cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Prince Caro, Gino is taken, and all is lost.”

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He is Willing

Rebekah Hair : December 23, 2014 6:36 am : Columns, Rebekah

Prayer is a major part of life for a Follower of Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, wrote “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” (I Cor 10:31) However, there’s a lot of trouble when we go about and actually pray.

It’s all well and good to talk about praying. After all, that encourages others and can add their prayers to yours. But the act of praying isn’t something to gossip about. As James said, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

One of the problems people have with prayer is they feel reluctant to ask for something. Maybe they grew up with parents who never said yes. Maybe they are used to doing things themselves; whatever it is, people struggle. For me, it’s the same thing I struggle with concerning my parents: asking them for something that benefits only me.

Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you is his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or of he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:7-11)

Like the poor father who cried in agony “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” we know that we can ask him, and should, but like frightened children we dawdle at the door. “Praise the Grace whose threats alarmed us, roused us from our Fatal Ease. Praise the Grace whose blessings charmed us, praise the Grace that whispered peace.” One hymn reads, while another says “’Twas the same love that spread the feast, that sweetly drew us in, lest we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.”

One of the things that God planted within us, as his children, is diligence. When we diligently seek him, pouring out our souls to his perfect will and pleading desperately for mercy, his heart is touched. Though we may not see the answer then, that day, that year or even that lifetime, God hears us. El Shama, God who Hears.

Though I could use more verses, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways of getting my point across is a story. If Debbie will forgive me, I will use a Narnia story and hope she doesn’t get too angry.

In The Magician’s Nephew, Fledge the Flying Horse, with two children on his back, have just set off on a long journey to bring something back to Aslan that will protect the land from the witch Digory(the boy) accidentally brought in. But when they stopped to rest, they realized that they had forgotten something in their rush to leave. Food.

“Well, I do think someone might have arranged our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Alsan would have, if you’d asked him.” Said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”

Another reason we can be afraid to pray is we don’t want to be rejected. We’ve tried so hard…will you deny us what we’ve been dreaming about for so long? It’s not fair! But while sometimes his plans are contrary to ours, it is always best to talk to him, even if it seems pointless.

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

(Matthew 15:21-28 ESV

In this story, Jesus first ignores the woman, so much so that his disciples are disturbed by her cries (this is no gentle pleading) then insults her….twice! But, even through all that, she refuses to give up, and even uses his insult against him. He called her dog, she calls herself “little dog” or “pet.” In Ancient Israel, a “dog” was more like my doofus Tanner: a large dog, or a smaller skulking, unclean, dangerous dog. But a “little dog” as she called herself, was more like the little dachshund dogs that my friend owns: pets. She said, “You are right, but have mercy on me anyway, even though I don’t deserve it.”

She had faith.

That is how we all come, all undeserving. We know that we shouldn’t have this blessing, but we know that we must have it. For this woman, it meant the life of her daughter. But God is even willing to give us smaller things, if we ask. Here’s an example…

In the Book Prince Caspian, Lucy, using her magic cordial, healed Reepicheep of his wounds from the great battle with the Telmarines, but she couldn’t fix the tail, because it wasn’t there to heal. Aslan and the mouse had a discussion on whether or not he needs a tail.reep

“I am confounded,” said Reepicheep to Aslan. “I am completely out of countenance. I must crave your indulgence for appearing in this unseemly fashion.”

“It becomes you very well, Small One,” said Aslan.

“All the same,” replied Reepicheep, “if anything could be done…Perhaps her majesty?” and here he bowed to Lucy.

“But what do you want with at tail?” asked Aslan.

“Sir,” said the Mouse, “I can eat and sleep and die for my king without one. But a tail is the honor and glory of a Mouse.”

“I have sometimes wondered, friend,” said Aslan, “whether you do not think too much about your honor.”

“Highest of all High Kings,” said Reepicheep, “permit me to remind you that a very small size has been bestowed on us Mice, and if we did not guard our dignity, some (who weigh worth in inches) would allow themselves very unsuitable pleasantries at our expense. That is why I have been at some pains to make it known that no one who does not wish to feel this sword as near his heart as I can reach shall talk in my presence about Traps or Tasted Cheese or Candles: no, Sir-not the tallest fool in Narnia!” Here he glared very fiercely up at Wimbleweather, but the Giant, who was always a stage behind everyone else, had not yet discovered what was being talked about down at his feet, and so missed the point.

“Why have your followers all drawn their swords, may I ask?” said Aslan.

“May it please your High Majesty,” said the Second Mouse, whose name was Peepiceek, “we are all willing to cut off our own tails if our Chief must go without his. We will not bear the shame of wearing an honor that is denied to the High Mouse.”

“Ah!” roared Aslan. “You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people, and still more for the kindnesss your people showed me long ago when you ate away the cords of the Stone Table (and it was then, though you have long forgotten it, that you began to be Talking Mice), you shall have your tail again.

Before Aslan had finished speaking the new tail was in its place.

In this story, Reepicheep had a very vain demand: a tail. He was already healed, and could have alone just fine without it. But because of Aslan’s mercy, his friends’ loyalty, and the whole situation, he had it.

Now there are many things to prayer I do not understand. Like why is it that husbands and wives seem to have different rules? And why is it that we seem to ask and ask about things but do not receive? Can something truly be wrong if you want it so badly? What if it’s something good?

Well, as Peter Kreeft said in his dialog (in the character of C.S. Lewis) “Do you think I carry God in my pocket?” Though I admire Kreeft, I think C.S. Lewis said it better himself, “He’s not a tame lion.”

I don’t know why some prayers seem to go unanswered. But I know there’s a reason. Because I know that our God, the God who is greater than our intellect, always keeps his promises. Even when that means someone is killed in an accident, or even martyred like Stephen (or worse). There are the things that we can’t understand.

Praises to his name, though, God does. I trust him. Do you?

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Can Christians Oppose the Government?

Rachel Clark : December 8, 2014 9:33 pm : Columns, Rachel

At what point -- if ever -- can Christians oppose the government? Are laws directly ordering Christians to go against their faith the limit, or is defiance warranted sooner?

At what point — if ever — can Christians oppose the government? Are laws directly ordering Christians to go against their faith the limit, or is defiance warranted sooner?

“We should always be good citizens and obey our government, except when doing so goes against God.”

 

My Sunday school class members nodded in agreement at the teacher’s statement. Two or three piped up, and one mentioned how voting is important; another brought up the issue of prayer in public schools; and yet another introduced the very pressing problem of whether or not nativity scenes should be allowed on public property.

 

But there’s a gigantic flaw with this variety of good citizenship: If Christians are to obey the state under all circumstances, up until the point that it goes against God, how and when is activism for the cause of freedom justified?

 

Despite that the opposite seems true at first glance, opposing the government is not merely justified—it is necessary.

 

As it turns out, the state will rarely begin encroaching upon religious freedoms without warning (revolutions excluded).

 

Usually an unprecedented increase in the size and scope of government, excessive regulations, an explosion of new bureaucracies, intrusion into all financial sectors of the economy, gun and weapon control laws, a police state, an interventionist economy, skyrocketing taxes and a nightmarishly large welfare state crop up years (possibly decades) before direct legal persecution comes from the government.

 

In other words, before the state tells you to go against God, it will tell you to empty your wallet, drop your weapons, and register belongings. Only a large and intrusive government has the power to regulate worldviews and religion, and large and intrusive governments always begin with financially controlling and crippling the populace, disarming citizens, and keeping tabs on your life and property.

 

Being a truly good citizen is attempting to stop these phenomena in their tracks—to try and ensure that the circumstances in which the government can or would tell you to go against God would never come about in the first place.

 

It should also be noted that laws going against God are not necessarily applying to merely so-called “religious” issues, like prayer in public schools or nativity scenes at city hall: God has ordained a way for government to function, a way for financial situations to work, a way for children to be educated and raised, a way for charity to happen, a way for animals to be treated.

 

Not even individual denominations, much less the whole of Christianity or an entire nation, can decide amongst themselves what precisely these ways entail. The best option is to leave government out entirely and to fight to keep it that way.

 

Good citizenship never involves silently allowing one’s self to become a host or unfair beneficiary of a parasitical state; it never involves the doormat-like existence that some modern Christians suggest is ideal; it never involves handing over weapons, children, or freedoms.

 

The moral problems with government control of the economy and an intrusive state is a topic for another day; but excessive government intrusion makes a Christian lifestyle gradually less possible and inevitably leads to persecution and outright laws against its existence.

 

The prayer in public school issue and the debate over nativity scenes on public property are two very small facets of an ever-growing underlying problem—the expanding scope of government.

 

So, is obeying the state at all times a Christian imperative?

 

No—respect the government when respect is due, support it when it deserves support, and always keep Christ your focus in politics and in matters of the state, but realize that there is a time when you must oppose government. And remember in particular that this time comes a lot sooner than when Christian beliefs are under direct legal attack.

 

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Goofy Dog’s tribute

Rebekah Hair : December 8, 2014 3:40 pm : Columns, Guest Author

Hi there. My name’s…actually, maybe I shouldn’t tell ya that. See, I’m not sure if I can trust you. I mean, weird things have been happening.

I have to explain what happened. See, usually, when ya see something that says “Dog” it means that Clara will be a’writing something here on this fancy calculator. But that isn’t going to be happening anymore. I suppose I should explain why.

It all started with those chickens. Clara didn’t like ‘em. I did. I thought they were kinda cute, and you know? They taste just like chicken too. Course, that there means that there will be trouble with the folks up at the house. You know me, happy as ever, but Clara didn’t like being chained up. It’s a sad one, that is. I can’t hardly explain it, but it can’t be that she liked the taste of them. It had to be that she loved to chase stuff.

So they tried to train her out of it. Don’t get me wrong, they did. Tried treats and tricks and shocky collars and time in the doghouse, but she wouldn’t budge. Wouldn’t even come when called. Well. They don’t like that in a dog. Not that she was a bad ‘un, but she just was a bit of a rascal. Wouldn’t listen at all.

So they put up a for sale sign, and wouldn’t you know? Some feller said he wanted a good dog for his kids. Oh, Clara was sad to leave the chickens, to be sure. She said something about the “Duty of all dogs” or something else, but well, they were very insistant. Last thing I saw she was grinnin’ off the side of a pickup truck with a girl and a baby, getting pet and everything.

Now don’t think I’m any writer, ‘cause that’s not true. Clara always had that. She gave me one last assignment, to get the chickens by a’making a poster that showed how terribly awful those chickens are and bad chickens are to people and Dogs. I even came up with an acronym and everything.

C.A.R.E. Chickens are really evil

C.A.R.E. Chickens are really evil

Clara will be so proud.

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Poem: Christmas Carol

Rebekah Hair : December 5, 2014 8:08 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Oh, let us come; singing carols stand,

And with our songs rejoice,

Kindness and favor are in his hands,

And goodness and mercy his voice.

For he has forgiven the unpayable debt

And promised to take us home

Let Christmas not be the time we forget

For whom he had to come.

With grace God became a man,

And was born on the earth,

The ending of creation began,

It started with his birth.

For he who knew nothing but love

Was born trembling in the hay

The sweetest gift from above,

Was forgotten on Christmas day.

Oh let us remember him today,

The day that bears his name,

For the one who started every day,

Was not born into fame.

Was not born in a castle great,

But in a cattle stall,

He died to finally destroy hate,

He died to save us all.

 

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Burned again

Rebekah Hair : December 3, 2014 1:25 pm : Columns, Politics, Rebekah

It’s getting alarming how our nation seems to be in one place to some and another to the others. We all would rather live in our own little worlds than try and stop the ticking time-bomb that is being tampered with by non-professionals. At least, that’s what you have to conclude when you look around at all the turmoil in our backyards.

Where’s our sense of nationalism? My chickens might be smarter than those in power. I don’t doubt that these men and women are intelligent. I just wonder if they’re behind their time. I have pet chickens. To me they are pets. To Mom, they are egg-producing wonders. But they are fiercely loyal to their pen and will fight any chicken that invades their privacy.

For those of you who don’t have chickens, consider this example. Poor, poor Sparkle was being picked on by her sisters, who are meaner than mean(she is too, but this was before she grew up). We had two little delicate hens in a cage all by themselves, and they never pecked each other. They had raised our chicks and were tolerant and kind little mothers.

Of course, that was before they began to lay. Suddenly they realized  that any chicken that invades their space might try to be the leader. She might destroy their eggs. She might set up a dictatorship. So what did they do? They chased her around until we decided that Sparkle would be safer back with the persecutors.

Now I’m not saying that politicians should act like chickens. That would be increasingly strange (though some people wonder if the people they elected suddenly turned into chickens when they have to make a decision) and rather cruel. Just because a being is nationalistic doesn’t mean it should be elected. Hitler was, and no one has him on their ticket.

But there is something to say about being loyal. This can be played both ways, as can everything, but let’s use a small example. First of all, did you know that one of the ways the Soviet Union kept their territories under their control was splitting them along ethnic lines? Suddenly, all reason to band together was lost. These people weren’t your friends or even allies…they were enemies! Why should we help them?

Secondly, how do you identify yourself: as a person or as a part of a family? To us, it is obviously a person. To an Asian, it’s obviously a family. They are loyal to their heritage, and we are loyal to…what?

Are we loyal to our community? The color of our skin? Our nation? Our state? Or nothing? That question must be asked. Those who formed our nation were amateurs. They had never run a country before. Indeed, at first it wasn’t a country, but simply a confederation of states. No state had dominance over the others. A Massachusetts man couldn’t order a Virginian to do something. They lived as separate countries.

But war has a funny way of either uniting or dividing. Suddenly they had an enemy. Should they fight or sue for peace? It divided them at first, but they soon realized that those armies weren’t going to go away on their own. The feuding states, like their delegates, must “Hang together, or we will all surely hang separately.”

Our forefathers learned very quickly that rich or poor, white or black, Northern merchant or Southern farmer, we need to work together. Some things that were big problems before are suddenly very small. After the war, the delegates had plenty of time to argue over whether slavery was right or whether representation should be proportionate to size or equal. But during the war, things were dropped.

Today we have reached a dangerous point in our nation. The parties, both R. & D. have been corrupted by those who claim to be our friends. People no longer trust our leaders, and consequently, don’t trust those whose job is to keep peace, namely, the military. Hypocrisy flows from Washington, and We the People are angry and upset.

My study of history has led me to believe that parties have always been more political than useful, but that is a story for another time. We’re facing a dilemma. Our nation is confused. We want peace, but those who are supposed to lead us are only pouring gasoline on the fire. No wonder we’re being burned.

It’s at times like this that we are particularly vulnerable, and those who want us destroyed can rise. Maybe they’re already there. I believe that the only thing we really can do is remember. This is my land, my Father’s land, my Home.

If I can’t be proud of anything else, I can be proud of this. In the end, these leaders will bite the dust, and be forgotten. No one cares who the Secretary of Treasury was under the Washington Administration (Alexander Hamilton) I doubt more than a dozen people know who the Attorney General was either. They are long gone. Soon these names will be just that, names! But the great story goes on.

We have to remember our ultimate loyalty. God First. Family second. Country third. No matter who you are or where you live, these things matter. Our ultimate loyalty is not to those who look like us. It’s to our God in heaven, who set up laws and officials. And he said that stealing was wrong, no matter what the cause.

I’m not going to pretend that we are perfect. As a nation, we have had our triumphs and our shames. But stirring up old wrongs to serve your own motives is disgusting, no matter who you are or what the excuse is. Some people have forgotten that.

 

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President Obama Announces Plan for Jobs Growth

Rachel Clark : December 2, 2014 5:11 pm : Columns, Rachel, Spoofs

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest Holds Daily Briefing

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest describes the President’s new jobs growth plan.

 

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s newest lame-duck project, the American Jobs and Reinvestment Act of 2014 (AJRA) offers up a bold new plan for United States jobs growth: nuking most populated areas of the country.

 

After the planned nuclear cataclysm, labor supply will be reduced sufficiently so that those seeking work won’t find it difficult to get.

 

“And on top of this, the destruction of most of U.S. civilization will leave a lot of jobs to be done—I think we’ll see a boom in housing, development, building sectors, possibly agriculture, and so much more,” said Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained: “The President will not be satisfied until every American who wants work can find a job. That’s why he is working to grow our economy, so middle class families feel confident in their futures and their children’s futures. Well, I mean, depends on if your kids survive … but you get the idea.”

 

Among other things, the first stage of the law’s enactment incentivizes finding a friend or family member and swapping a dollar bill back and forth for fifteen minutes every day to increase economic activity. The AJRA includes a provision that checks will be sent to eligible U.S. households, for the express purpose of being thrown into the wind—hopefully to reach some wind-energy farms and subsequently boost jobs growth.

 

After that, nuclear bombs will be placed in strategically significant cities throughout the nation and then set off; as a result, key American industries will receive a much-needed boost.

 

“New houses will need to be built, all agriculture will need to relocate, and manufacturers of all sorts will find plenty of demand,” continued Furman.

 

He went on to say that while opponents in Congress are calling this plan “radical” and “dangerous,” it is not much different from the government’s response to the financial crisis of  2008 and is extremely similar to President Roosevelt’s New Deal after the Great Depression.

 

“This is common-sense economic policy that has been tried many times before,” the President said, “It’s a natural extension of the policy we’ve been pursuing since 2008.”

 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) added, “The whole purpose of this legislation is to up spending, consumer confidence, and get the money flowing back into the economy. In the second stage, we’ll self-induce a nuclear apocalypse.”

 

“Increased economic activity is what it will take for Americans to get the jobs and wages that they need and deserve. American industry and small businesses shouldn’t be shutting down—they should be growing and expanding. My new plan will do something to help get business back on its feet again,” President Obama concluded.

 

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Black Friday’s Absurdities

Rachel Clark : December 1, 2014 11:31 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

black friday fallacy

On Black Friday you were bombarded with advertisements, inconvenienced by heavy traffic, and promised by local yokels and media that all the hectic and potentially lethal mobs descending on Wal-Mart and Best Buy were doing the nation’s economy a favor.

 

On small-business Saturday you were probably informed that not “supporting local business owners” could have disastrous consequences, warned of the evils of “big corporations,” and possibly guilted into dropping a few dozen dollars at the nearest mom-and-pop diner or antique shop. For the local economy’s sake, of course.

 

On Cyber Monday you might have sat home in your Snuggie (God help us all) and watched as your inbox and newsfeed blew up with allegedly unbeatable online deals; and if you didn’t, maybe you skimmed through the morning news and saw headlines about those wounded in the Black Friday skirmishes and later a few paragraphs about the economic condition of the nation.

 

And well, today, you might feel trampled—literally or figuratively, depending on whether or not you went shopping on Friday. The feeling may stick around for another month or so.

 

Although the private sector is almost entirely responsible for the December-long mall-raiding rampage, and although consumers make the choice to spend their money in this manner, there are some seriously outdated economic theories floating around in the political sphere about how consumer spending grows the economy, particularly the seasonal variety of binge-buying.

 

The Black Friday Lie . . . one of them . . .

 

You’re going to hear it from a lot of places:

 

“Strong consumer and government spending drove UK growth in the third quarter as business investment and exports contracted against an increasingly uncertain global backdrop…” – the Telegraph

 

“A pair of Commerce Department reports this week showed that consumer spending is recovering from a weak first quarter more slowly than economists expected, and some are worrying that slowdown in a sector accounting for 70 percent of the U.S. economy could foreshadow slower economic growth on the whole.” – International Business Times

 

“…holiday spending can start a virtuous cycle of spending, profits, hiring and more spending, said Richard Feinberg, professor of retail management at PurdueUniversity.” – Columbus Dispatch

 

And the Dispatch summed it all up in one fallacious headline: “Holiday spending can lift businesses, entire economy.”

 

All that trickle-down financial well-being, job growth, and impending prosperity you’ve been told comes about from the disturbing Friday, Saturday, and Monday splurges and the month-long Christmas frenzy? Lies, all lies.

 

Going bankrupt, spending well into the red, buying unnecessary products, and paying extra at small businesses for products available more cheaply elsewhere not only harms you financially, it has no aggregate economic benefit whatsoever.

 

You’re often told that consumer spending is crucial to growth because the more money individuals spend, the more money flows through the economy—and somehow that bolsters businesses and creates jobs. Savings are practically tantamount to holding back economic “growth,” or at least that’s what Keynesians have been broadcasting to eager interventionist listeners for over half a century now.

 

The problem is that Keynes’ theory disregards the difference between economic activity and economic expansion. Economic activity could be anything from a complex private sector banking system to two castaways sitting on an island and literally exchanging the same clamshell all day long. According to Keynes, the latter example is an engine for economic growth. Growth, however, is quite different from the Keynesian vision: it is greater productivity and efficiency in the allocation of resources, impossible to achieve without capital investment and savings.

 

The Law of Markets (Say’s Law) dictates that demand is caused by supply, and therefore there cannot be a consumer-led recovery at all. And even though spending may benefit some retailers a smidgen, consider what might have been. Other, possibly better, things are available, but only when consumption is delayed for a time.

 

Bastiat’s classic example of two brothers, one who spends all of his money as quickly as possible and one who delays consumption, demonstrates what savings actually do for the economy. Behind the scenes, in bank accounts and piggy banks, savings are invested in capital goods—goods that are used in the production of other goods, like factory equipment and technology. The greater efficiency afforded by such capital investment reduces the price of consumer goods, and thus technically consumer spending.

 

When a consumer decides to save and not spend, other consumers pick up the slack by borrowing those savings and using them to finance capital investment, which in turn results in a higher standard of living, greater efficiency, lower prices, and less consumer spending. Productivity and the efficient allocation of resources, not mindless spending and consuming, are the goals of an economy.

 

In short, less consumer spending can (and almost always does) mean greater capital investment and accompanying true economic growth. While the ultimate goal of the economy is to fulfill consumer needs, it can’t be done without saving.

 

Spending and consumption are not bad; you have the option to spend until you can spend no more, but keep in mind it is not the pathway to prosperity in the aggregate or otherwise.

 

The seasonal Christmas spending frenzy is pretty bad from a lot of perspectives, but the worst part is the assumption that this consumer spending leads to long-run growth.

 

 

It doesn’t.

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Holidays hurt

Rebekah Hair : November 27, 2014 6:52 pm : Columns, Rebekah

It’s not a surprise that loss is felt the hardest on holidays. After all, the holidays that lasted throughout history hurt. Christmas? The first one was far from romantic. Friendless and alone, a woman had her baby in a world that had forgotten her. Easter? Even worse! Before the glorious resurrection, there was the agonizing day of waiting and thinking and praying “What went wrong?”

Even Thanksgiving had its problems. The year before the one we celebrate, half of the Pilgrims either froze to death or died of sickness. Most of the women died. There was hurting on all sides, and the grim knowledge that “There is really no other way.” People died. Indians, both the helpful and the hurtful, surrounded them. They feared for their lives.

But they never gave up hope. They knew that God was their anchor, their protector. The brave Pilgrims who survived called a feast to thank their God, who had kept them safe throughout their first year. Yes, many died, but there was hope. Many more died the next year, but they knew that God was faithful. “Though he slay me, yet shall I trust him.”

He still is.

Guess what? Holidays hurt. They always did. They always will. Holidays are when you celebrate those you love. It’s when you remember those who have gone before. It’s when you look forward to the time to come. This is the time that matters.

Pilgrim

Alone in a crowd

But loss stalks you, and the memories bring tears. Every year, Grandma would decorate for every holiday. She had a collection of Pilgrims, one for each of us. I remember when I got mine. I thought she was so pretty. The little carven face seemed so kind. I love that pilgrim. I guess Grandma went to a lot of trouble picking her for me.

And this year, the first year without her, we didn’t even have dinner at home. No pumpkin spice candle, no reading of the story, no Thanksgiving music. I had practiced a song for the piano, but somehow…I couldn’t play it. I wasn’t ready. Sometimes surprises backfire. Nothing was the way it should be, and nothing would be for a very long time. Things are different.

I’m starting to realize that there is no end to the things that can stir your memories. For me, it was the Christmas Waltz. I never really thought about it until now, but the words hit me like a bullet. “It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love, every song you hear, seems to say….Merry Christmas! May your New Year’s dreams come true….”

Holidays, when things should be their best, they’re the worst. They’re terrible! The closer you try to stay together, the more it hurts when things you can’t control tear you apart. Sometimes, when you can’t blame anyone else, you just want to ask God, why?

Why did this happen? Why did they have to die? I mean, it isn’t fair!

But the thing is, the very definition of ‘Holiday’ is Holy day, day of God. Those who have gone before us are remembered. And yes, that means there will be some crying. There are those who try to drown out the hurt, but become more like Frozen‘s Queen Elsa: frozen stiff in her fear of showing any emotion. For those people, sometimes it will take years for them to finally overflow, and start crying. But there are the more normal ones who realize that “It’s ok to cry.”

So if you’re hurting this Christmas, and food allergies and friends seem to make your day even more strange, there is hope. This day was created to give thanks. This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. Thank you, God, for the time I had. Be with Mom. We’re entering the season, starting tomorrow, where we wait for your coming. Be patient with me, if I’m becoming impatient at your return. It’s been a rough year.

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Good Dog’s problem

Rebekah Hair : November 26, 2014 5:13 pm : Columns, Guest Author

I don’t like all these crazy things. They don’t understand the complex nature of a dog’s feelings. We like having a nice time by the fire, or on the carpet, or by  the bed, sleeping the night away. Little things like fleas and chickens can destroy everything. It isn’t good.

Not at all.

So there’s an issue with chickens. I will admit that. There’s no shame in lying….I mean telling the truth.

So here’s the thing…that old saying about old dogs and tricks? Absolutely true. And Shock Collars. Let’s not go into those little imps. They bite worse than fleas and beep and do all sorts of things that I don’t get. For a while we did fine…but to tell the truth we never really got along. The first time it bit me I was so surprised I ran all the way down the street until I was sure that they weren’t going to bite again.

I can’t trust anyone! I can’t trust even Bekah. Not that I ever really did. Sam was always my friend, but now that he had foot surgery he’s gone all crazy. Poor me. Friendless, alone, and Mom’s eye…

In case you want to know about that disastrous occasion, I think you’ll have to read the Return of the Charlie Monsters by Hank the Cowdog. I’m not going to go into those things. I don’t like repeating this. It was a very unfortunate turn of events. Let’s just say that instead of Hank and Sally May, it was me and Mom.

So if anyone wants a beautiful border collie, with lightning speed and masterful affection, and if that person has a large fence and no chickens, I will love you forever. I need to get out of here, and they don’t like me either.

I think Fluffy is trying to sell me on Southeast Texas dot comma or something. But I refuse to go!

Please?

 

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Chosen Ones: Dawes

Rebekah Hair : November 24, 2014 8:54 pm : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

Simon and Tully, deserters to Caro's band

Simon and Tully, deserters to Caro’s band

Rora soon wasn’t the only straggler who joined to them. After her were Simon and Tully, twins and scientists from Nya’s front lines, who had deserted when they realized their job would be against civilians and not soldiers. Then came Cory, and Andrew, and then Rocket, a former gunfighter. All had been called in some way, shape or form to join, though Gino expressed doubts about Rocket’s calling.

“What would our Creator do with a Gunfighter?” He asked. Caro laughed. “What would he do with a prince?” Gino fell silent.

So Caro and Gino soon realized that while the Creator hadn’t given them all visible gifts, he had chosen them to small tasks, just as he had chosen Rora. Caro’s band was growing. Some of them had deserted. Some were farmers who felt called to protect their families. One was a lawyer. Davis didn’t quite know what they would do with him, but Gino thought he might be useful in the future, so he vouched for him. If the situation hadn’t been so grave, it would have been comical.

Yet in all this, the silence that Caro had felt since the snakebite was growing. It was little things at first, but then Gino began to get irritated at the strangest things. And once Caro found him with Rocket’s pistol, simply staring at it. He immediately dropped it and walked away, but Caro wasn’t convinced. Something was up.

What Gino was thinking, he didn’t say, but Caro had plenty of people to talk to. Simon and Tully had been from one of the seaward provinces and knew plenty about boats and piloting, something that Caro missed immensely. And Cory was a historian, strangely enough, and could tell him more of his past than even Gino could. They were closer in age to Caro, and began to take precedence. Gino noticed.

But even though they might have had good talks, the way was far from easy. Rora, though Caro had his doubts, took care of Opal, and made sure that she didn’t unexpectedly take a turn for the worse. And Dawes constantly chased them. To make it worse, they were leaving wilderness country and heading into the capitol area. This was good for their mission in one way, but that meant that they couldn’t hide in the woods anymore. They needed to find shelter in the city.

So Andrew, a former soldier who used to be a scout, was usually sent off with Davis to find abandoned buildings for them to stay in, or more precisely, one for them to hide the girls, and a boarding house to keep most of the men. In these things, Caro would hide somewhere with Gino, Rora with Opal, and the others would pretend to be going to a conference. They went to a lot of conferences.

Suddenly, Dawes was right on their tails. Caro and Gino were heading out when Caro felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Rocket, his black-and-white dyed hair nearly standing straight on end. “Dawes!” He whispered, and walked quickly off.Rocket's warning

Caro ducked back into the building and collared Gino. “Quiet! We need to go right now.” Gino went blank. “Opal!” He whispered, and without warning tore himself from Caro’s hand and ran off towards the back window. “What are you doing?” Caro hissed, then looked around. “Oh boy.”

Gino tore through the street, stayed still a moment to avoid a policeman, and then ran as fast as he could to the old firehouse that Opal was resting in. He climbed on top of the old wagon, slipped over the sidewall, and ran over to where Rora was making a small meal. “None of that! Hurry! Dawes is coming. He might be here now!”Gino and Rora

Rora instantly swept all of the food into her pack and slung it onto her back. Then she grabbed Opal’s bed and pulled it. Pussy mewed from the corner. Gino helped her get Opal down to the tiny door at the back of the building and then further on to the wagon that Davis had bought.

But just as they were preparing to set off, Rora froze. “The cat!” Gino’s eyes rolled back into his head. “The cat? She’s not here?” Rora shook her head.

Gino thought quickly. “Ok. Go on to the others. I’ll get Opal’s cat. Go on!” Rora nodded and began to go off. “Are you sure?” Gino stood there, staring at her for a moment. Then he rubbed his face with his sleeve and turned away. “Aye. Now go!” He turned and ran headback to the building. Rora clicked to the horses and they moved away.

Gino looked around. “Here, pussy pussy pussy!” He called softly, trying to see where she had gone. The brown and black spotted cat finally emerged from the shadows, with a mouse in her mouth. “Silly cat. Now get over here! I need you to come with me!” Pussy turned her tail and walked slowly away.

Gino dove for her and grabbed the tiny cat. “Come here, you turkey in cat’s clothing!” He put her in the basket and slung it over his shoulder. Pussy was not amused. “Don’t look at me that way. This is for your good. Now let’s go.”

“Who’s in here?” Gino froze. Behind him he heard the tramp of boots on the gravel Gino-croppedoutside. “I got them out just in time…” he realized, walking quickly out of the way, “but I think I’ve just trapped myself!”

The door was only a little way off, but it seemed like eternity. Gino finally reached it and turned the knob. But it opened unexpectedly outward, knocking him over. He scrambled to his feet, in time to see who had opened the door.

“Hello, old friend.”

Gino blinked and backed up a step. “D-Dawes!”

 

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Because Equality, Right?

Rachel Clark : November 22, 2014 5:31 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel

The nauseating signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- a great example of the fallacious assumption that economic equality is a good thing and ought to be enforced by the government.

The nauseating signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act — a great example of the fallacious assumption that economic equality is a good thing and ought to be enforced by the government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few fallacious catchphrases set my blood to boiling more fiercely than equal pay for equal work. A regrettable but unquestionably catching shibboleth of a misinformed women’s “rights” movement, it’s so appealing a maxim that millions of politicians and protestors have repeated it without understanding its meaning, much less its potential results.

What the phrase implies, of course, is that remuneration for labor shouldn’t be influenced by gender alone; the leftists who so often repeat these now rather meaningless four words, however, are willing to take the cause even further into the depths of state intervention. The movement has mostly been whipped up out of the misguided contention that government should break the economy of its purportedly discriminatory ways. Because equality, right?

President Obama and his gender pay gap howler monkeys fixate on apparent employer discrimination allegedly evidenced by wage differences, but the statistically flexible pay gap is demonstrative of a normal economic phenomenon: women have different life goals than men. They choose lower-risk occupations. A great deal of them prefer flexible schedules. And as a general rule, they’re more likely to state flexibility and enjoyableness as their goals rather than earning money. Basically, they make different choices. (While the occupation choices may be because of individual preference, most of it stems from the fact that women do have different roles in society, in the economy, and in the home from that of men.)

These choices translate into economic consequences; namely, slightly less pay.

Altering the economic consequences of these choices through government fiat merely because of gender is foolish, misguided, and characteristic of short-sighted statists.

Yet despite this unchangeable truth, solutions like the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act have all been offered up with great political fanfare.

There are many erroneous assumptions in the modern end-the-pay-gap movement, especially the notion that government can revise reality and alter the financial and economic outcomes of making different life choices, of different occupations, of different working hours, of different efficiency levels—the list could go on for a great while.

But the aspect of this gender-politics campaign that offends my economic conscience most isn’t a superficial annoyance like brazen party politics and activism-mongering for an issue that doesn’t exist.

It isn’t female legislators who assume that their gender allows them to transcend economic fact.

The chief irritation isn’t even totalitarian newscasters and deluded protestors who tawdrily demand a dramatic shift in the government’s stated purpose and our national economic structure.

What’s truly disturbing about the movement is that so many Americans assume that all varieties of equality and all means of obtaining it have the moral high ground: this is most certainly not the case, and the root of the equal pay for equal work nonsense economics leads back to a confusion between legal equality and government-enforced social equality,  two values that share a word but have nothing else in common.

 

Legal Equality

 

What sort of equality were these guys actually talking about?

What sort of equality were these guys actually talking about?

Legal equality is far from what most minorities and “underprivileged” or “unjustly treated” groups have been lead to believe about equality in general. Just as the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal, a government guided by the concept of legal equality will not make laws helping one group and hurting another.

 

 

Put simply, all laws apply to everybody under legal equality.

Income, skin color, or gender, for example, will not and cannot be the deciding factor in a court battle over your innocence or guilt.

Legal equality isn’t always popular.

Pundits’ and popular demands for a state solution to the “unjust” phenomenon of income inequality are similar to the cries of activists alleging that the so-called gender pay gap is a problem warranting government intervention. Yet state action in either of those areas abolishes legal equality: any attempted government solution (other than leaving it alone in the first place) will give some groups preferential treatment over others.

There’s a good reason why legal equality should be a guiding principle in government. Without a constant citizens’ vigil seeking to preserve equal rights under the law, politicians will vote themselves favors, the political majority will seek to create laws friendly to its own, and society will create a class of those who take and those who make. Those at the bottom will have no rights and no political power.

Legal equality is also crucial in an economic sense.

While involuntary servitude may seem like an extreme, unlikely occurrence even in developed interventionist economies that aren’t governed by the principle of legal equality, such a governmental system is well attuned (if not ideal) for the exploitation of the minority.

A majority of the population enslaving another group through sheer force, thereby creating an underclass or serfdom, is no different than the same majority determining that the minority’s assets were “unjustly” large and then legally dividing the politically powerless minority’s  hard-earned income and material goods more “equally.”

In either scenario, the minority is being forced to work for someone else without reaping the benefits—and that’s the definition of involuntary servitude.

Due to a very predictable aspect of human nature, involuntary servitude of all kinds is less efficient than the mutually beneficial exchanges characteristic of a capitalist economic system. Without legal equality, there are marked moral, political, and economic consequences.

As Mises noted, the maintenance of social peace is crucial to the peaceful development of the division of labor. “But it is well nigh impossible to preserve lasting peace in a society in which the rights and duties of the respective classes are different,” he said in Liberalism.

He continues in the same chapter:

“…the socialists say, it is not enough to make man equal before the law. In order to make them really equal, one must also allot them the same income. It is not enough to abolish privileges of birth and rank. One must finish the job and do away with the greatest and most important privilege of all, namely, that which is accorded by private property.”

And that’s where government-enforced social equality comes in.

 

Government-enforced social equality

 

As it turns out, this Great Equalizer -- Mao Zedong -- killed up to 78 million people for communism. And rather worryingly, he mentioned "equal pay for equal work."

As it turns out, this Great Equalizer — Mao Zedong — killed up to 78 million people for communism. And rather worryingly, he mentioned “equal pay for equal work.”

In short, this government-enforced social “equality” is the opposite of legal equality. It is the precursor to and abstruse goal of full socialism and government micromanagement. And it must be emphasized that social equality can never exist side by side with legal equality in any one given situation. Modern-day women’s “rights” movements strive for this statist bliss, but all the while maintain a façade that they’re still campaigning for equal legal rights.

The comprehensive immigration reform that leftists keep promising pretends to call for equal legal rights, when in reality it is for exemption from the law altogether for a specific group of politically connected people. Having laws apply to some but not others invalidates legal equality. Applying laws to some and not others is the only way to achieve this social “equality” of which totalitarians speak.

Social equality that totalitarians advocate is not about governing and judging humankind by the areas in which they are equal—their created state, unalienable rights, and human nature—but about governing and judging men according to the areas in which they are unequal. It is about central planners adopting a moral code; it is about measuring up all of society to their arbitrary code and then reacting accordingly with the full coercive force of government.

It’s about making all citizens equal in substance, in possessions, in material goods, and in income (but of course, some are more equal than others).

 

Social equality means abolition of legal equality

 

If you want government-enforced social equality (i.e., socialism and redistribution) talk to the Communists.

If you want government-enforced social equality (i.e., socialism and redistribution) talk to the Communists.

While social equality in and of itself is not an evil or unacceptable state, it’s definitely impossible; and particularly in light of the method in which it has traditionally been pursued—complete government control of the economy—it is an evil thing.

Full government control of the economy is the only way to redistribute wealth and regulate the capitalists, and redistributing and regulating is the only way that social equality can even begin to be achieved. And that’s where the big problems begin.

Any governmental system that allows for the redistribution of wealth will be corrupted, quickly and badly; and any governmental system that controls the economy requires very specific, non-general action to operate at all. The presence of “social equality” negates legal equality. Combine this with inevitable insatiable greed on the part of whoever’s running the show—be it a dictator, committee, or voters under a democratic system—and you’ve got a system bred for discord, instability, political unrest, economic collapse, poverty, a police state, political oppression, and varying degrees of involuntary servitude.

The only means by which the state can pursue social equality is, in fact, redistribution and laws that apply to one group but not another. Government will hurt some, help others, and run the whole economy on the basis of central planners’ ideal of social justice (whatever that may be). It’s an ambiguous, arbitrary, and unknown goal of “justice” and material equality.

As Hayek said:

“In fact, as planning becomes more and more extensive, it becomes regularly necessary to qualify legal provisions increasingly by reference to what is ‘fair’ or ‘reasonable’; this means that it becomes necessary to leave the decision of the concrete case more and more to the discretion of the judge or authority in question.”

In other words, when government seeks social equality, it can only do so through controlling the economy; controlling the economy necessitates planning; planning means that the Rule of Law is completely absent. 

Whereas individuals in a free market decide on their own what is “fair” or “reasonable,” in a socialist economy—which is the only type of economy compatible with seeking social equality—planners must decide, and decide arbitrarily, according to their individual concepts of fairness or reason, absolutely impossible to align with the public’s diverse moral and logical codes.

If the absence of legal equality means injustice (as I certainly contend) then adopting social equality as a goal, despite its advocates’ muddleheaded claims that it’s the only way to justice, is perhaps one of the most unjust economic goals a government can formulate.

Furthermore, to produce the precise same results for women as for men means it is necessary to treat them differently; this means the abolition of both legal equality and the Rule of Law in that area.

Anything the government does to equalize the economy or financially assist certain portions of the economy destroys legal equality and disregards that all men are created equal and should be governed the same.

 

 Social Equality’s manifestations

occupy wall street

These Occupy Wall Street protestors assumed that income inequality needed to be managed by government — and oddly enough, they invoked equality to support their cause.
Other logical errors and problems with their arguments aside, income redistribution always means the abolition of legal equality.

Protective tariffs and import restrictions, welfare, food stamps, socialized healthcare, the construction of government infrastructure, graduated tax brackets, all forms of subsidization and crony capitalism, public schools, amnesty, and social security are just a few examples of government action that by nature must treat different groups of people differently. Some are helped, some are hurt—because government has no funds on its own, anything that it pays for is paid for by a certain group of taxpayers whether they enjoy the benefits or not.

If legal equality is necessary and social equality negates it, government treating all humankind equally is just; government making all humankind equal in substance is definitely not.

If legal equality is something we must strive for, then big government is entirely out of the question. Economic interference on the part of the state can only lead to the destruction of legal equality, and therefore freedom, the free market, and financial stability.

 

All men are created equal, or all men need to be made equal?

 

The implicit socioeconomic goal in the statement all men are created equal couldn’t be more different then the agenda of “equal pay for equal work” advocates, who want preferential legal treatment from the state for a group that’s somehow better than the rest.

Legal equality is the backbone of capitalist economies and free, minimally governed societies.

Social equality is government coercion in the economic sphere (and thus necessarily individual life), excessive legal plunder to accommodate a technically permissible system of looting and subsequent redistribution, and complete disregard of the actual usefulness and efficiency of workers and occupations in relation to the remuneration they receive.

Social equality and legal equality ought never to be confused, considered compatible, or thought to be one and the same. They are opposites. They cannot exist side by side. While conservatives in the United States fight the alleged gender pay gap with statistics, they ought to hit at the heart of the matter: social equality is not true equality, and working towards this government-enforced equality rips apart the fabric that holds a capitalist economy and a free society together.

 

Not all types of equality are equal.

In conclusion, the biggest ideological flaw in many arguments for and against various categories of redistribution is definitely the failure to recognize that not all forms of equality are equal—and they shouldn’t be treated like they are.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Culture of Marsh-wiggles

Debbie Clark : November 21, 2014 2:16 pm : Columns, Debbie, Narnia

Narnia is replete with abnormal creatures, both small and large. Although C. S. Lewis employed various creatures that are often found in mythology and fairy tales, he also created his own, the Marsh-wiggle being one of them. Marsh-wiggles are purely Narnian beings, and are a favorite amongst readers of The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Silver Chair is the only book in the series that really mentions Marsh-wiggles, though in earlier maps of Narnia a marsh is present. This excerpt is from The Silver Chair, after Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb have made the decision –with the help of a parliament of owls– that they must go north in search of the lost prince of Narnia, and are taken to the guide that the owls have arranged. This would have been their first good look at a Marsh-wiggle, though they had briefly met him the night before.

 

As they drew nearer, the figure turned its head and showed them

a long thing face with rather sunken cheeks, a tightly shut mouth, 

a sharp nose, and no beard. He was wearing a high, pointed hat

like a steeple, with an enormously wide flat brim. The hair, if it

could be called hair, which hung over his large ears was greeny-

gray, and each lock was flat rather than round, so that they were

like tiny reeds. His expression was solemn, his complexion

muddy, and you could see at once that he took a serious view of

life.

“Good morning, Guests,” he said. “Though when I say good I

don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or

fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.”

Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle

The next smidgen of text is from the paragraph further down, and describes more about the peculiar features of the Marsh-wiggle.

 

 “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it. I

can always tell you again.”

The children sat down on each side of him. They now say that he

had very long legs and arms, so that though his body was not

much bigger that a dwarf’s, he would be taller than most men

when he stood up. The fingers of his hands were webbed like a

frog’s, and so were his bare feet which dangled in the muddy

water. He was dressed in earth-colored clothes that hung loose

about him.

 

Marsh-wiggles, on the whole, are tall and have long arms and legs, along with a pessimistic view on life. Though they speak gloomily, they aren’t being mean, it’s just their nature; they are actually cheerful pessimists (even though that’s an oxymoron, its true). Though Puddleglum seems to be the epitome of Marsh-wiggles, among his own friends he is considered an oddball because of his ‘uncommon cheerfulness’.

 

They all say—I mean, the other wiggles all say—that I’m too

flighty; don’t take life seriously enough. If they’ve said it once,

they’ve said it a thousand times. ‘Puddleglum,’

they’ve said, ‘you’re altogether too full of high spirits. You’ve got

to learn that life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want

something to sober you down a bit. We’re only saying it for your

own good, Puddleglum.’ That’s what they say.”

 

It seems as if a wiggle’s diet mainly consists of eel, and that they have created many varieties of cooking them as well. It appears that they eat frogs too.

 

Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle fishing for eels

“I’m trying to catch a few eels to make an eel stew for our dinner,”

said Puddleglum.

“Though I shouldn’t wonder if I didn’t get any. And you won’t

like them much if I do.”

“Why not?” asked Scrubb.

“Why, it’s not in reason that you should like our sort of victuals, though I’ve no doubt you’ll put a bold face on it.” 

 

Jill and Eustace enjoyed their dinner of eel stew, much to the surprise of Puddleglum; he says that their ‘just putting a bold face on it.’

This is what Puddleglum said, when Jill and Eustace had arrived at his wigwam:

 “There you are. Best we can do. You’ll lie cold and hard. Damp

too, I shouldn’t wonder. Won’t sleep a wink, most likely; even if

there isn’t a thunderstorm or a flood or a wigwam doesn’t fall

down on top of us all, as I’ve known them do”.

 

As was proved in the morning, the bed that Jill and Eustace slept on in the wigwam wasn’t cold, or hard, or damp. There wasn’t a thunderstorm, nor was there a flood, and the wigwam didn’t fall down on top of them either.

Marsh-wiggles are mesmerizing creatures, with many curious habits and personalities. They do a lot of the watery work in Narnia. They all live together in a marsh, though their dwellings are a comfortable distance away because they value their privacy very greatly. Their choice of a home is a wigwam, which seems a reasonable preference as they live in a marsh.

Puddleglum by his wigwam and pot of eel stew. As seen in the illustration, Puddleglum smokes a pipe. It is said of Marsh-wiggles that they smoke a heavy tobacco, perhaps even mixed with mud.

The name ‘Marsh-wiggle’ is indicative of the creatures in general. ‘Marsh’ is obvious because they live in a marsh. ‘Wiggle’ comes in because Marsh-wiggles have feet and hands that are webbed like a frog’s or perhaps a duck’s feet, thus seeming wiggly or floppy.

Further along in The Silver Chair, Puddleglum accepts a drink from the giants at Harfang; though he is skeptical, he does drink it, and in turn, behaves like a frog. As you might be able to see, Marsh-wiggles have about the most amusing character traits and speech habits that you can possibly find in the entity of Narnia.

At the end of The Silver Chair when Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum have completed their quest to find Prince Rilian, Puddleglum inquires about the news that he might have missed while he was away.

 

The whole crowd began to move away through the trees toward

the cave. Jill heard Puddleglum saying to those who pressed

round him.

“No, no, my story can wait. Nothing worth talking about has

happened to me. I want to hear the news. Don’t try breaking it to

me gently, for I’d rather have it all at once. Has the King been

shipwrecked? Any forest fires? No wars on the Calormen border?

Or a few dragons, I shouldn’t wonder?”

And all the creatures laughed aloud and said, “Isn’t that just like a Marsh-wiggle?”

 

Marsh-wiggles are a lugubrious sort, and as was said of Puddleglum at the end of The Silver Chair:

Puddleglum often pointed out that bright mornings brought on

wet afternoons, and that you couldn’t expect good times to last.

 

 

 

—————————————————————————–

Works Cited:

Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

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When it’s fun to chase Sam out of the room because you aren’t going to do anything until he leaves.

Rebekah Hair : November 15, 2014 9:27 pm : Columns, Rebekah

I have a little brother named Sam. He doesn’t like me calling him little, because he thinks that he will grow up to be a seven foot tall person. But I don’t care: he’s still younger and shorter than me so I can call him little.

Sometimes I play games on my computer. Sam has gotten it into his head that if he sits and stares at me enough, I’ll give in and let him play. So I started this post about words and it sort of got hi-jacked by my brother refusing to leave the room.

So because I’m not going to write anything useful while he’s here, I might as well mention how weird we can be. At least then I won’t feel so claustrophobic. He has a habit of breathing in my ear.

And now he’s whacking me on the arm because nothing is happening.

The upside to this is that I have a two year old brother who is also watching, and he has distracted Sam so that now they are having a fistfight. Now I realize that this is wrong, but I’m tired. We installed a microwave and had our pictures taken.  Meanwhile, my little sister Mel is carrying around my cat and pretending she’s a…I don’t know, a bean-bag.

Now Sam has fled the scene because it’s late. Now Joel, the “terrible two” is trying to help Mel torture the cat. Adam, my closest sibling, is watching football, and Mom and Dad are discussing what we are going to do for Grace’s birthday. As for the remaining siblings, Grace and Aaron are reading books. Not much going on.

I like my family. Even though I have an overbearing older brother and a scheming younger one, my sisters drive me nuts and my little brothers won’t stop making noise, I like them. I know I have my problems. Maybe it’s easier to see them in others than it is to see in myself. I have the tendency to think one of two things 1: that I’m perfect, or 2(more likely): I’m terrible. I have an addiction to computerized things.

And I am writing a column to help with that.

Not really. To be honest, I’m a sneaky theaving liar and exaggerator. I lie about my siblings. I make snap decisions without much evidence. And I tend to compare myself with others and get discouraged and encouraged routinely.

But with all that’s wrong with this family, we click. No, I’m not happy that Sam is breathing in my ear and fidgeting because I am writing instead of playing a video game. And no, I’m not proud that I wrote my own comic book instead of working on the one I started for my sister’s birthday. But all the same, I would miss them a lot if they ever went away.

Makes me think of Horatio Spafford, who wrote “It is well with my Soul”. In one year he lost all his children: one to a fever and four more when their boat was hit by another and they drowned. He didn’t have a perfect life. He had arguments and his daughters bickered. But then they all were gone, and there was nothing he could do. No time he could get back. But it was well with his soul.

He wasn’t perfect. At the end of his life he lost his mind and thought that he was the Lord Jesus Christ. But the words we write last forever, not just on the internet, but in the minds of our readers. No matter who they are, if they read this, I think they will get a taste of a very imperfect life.

It’s late. We’re tired. There’s going to be some yelling. We love each other. But there are still the little things: a sister screaming because someone is brushing her hair, a brother you accidentally step on late at night when you need a cough drop and he’s too scared to sleep alone…little things that can ‘rile’ you.

But family means pushing through those things. And sometimes that means enduring Sam’s closeness and elbowing because he wants to battle robots.

Sigh.

But I’d rather skip them. It’s hard not to want to, I guess. I’m still learning.

Now if you would excuse me, I have to leave. I need to go rescue the cat. The kids need to get to bed, and I need to fish my Sonic Characters from Joel before he makes them go off on a quest to save the galaxy. And Adam has the TV turned on so loud that I can hear all the drums. If we’re going to go to sleep, we need a little less noise!

No Sam, I’m not going to play robots. Go to bed.

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I’m not allowed to bring a knife to a gun fight

Rachel Clark : November 13, 2014 9:41 am : Columns, Politics, Rachel

Jim Bowie and his illegal knife. (Painting by Michael Schrek.)

Jim Bowie and his illegal knife. (Painting by Michael Schrek.)

Much to my chagrin, I recently discovered I can’t carry a broadsword into Whataburger.

 

Concealed carry of daggers in the local Wal-Mart is strictly forbidden; walking down the street with a Bowie knife, concealed or not, is entirely illicit.

 

Unlike with firearms—which I won’t be able to own until age eighteen or conceal until age twenty-one—Texas law prohibits citizens from legally carrying knives anywhere except in their own homes, in their own vehicles, or in vehicles “under their control.”

 

As it turns out, the state can’t trust citizens with sharp, pointy objects. Someone might get hurt. Yet oddly enough, the state allows, to an extent, ownership and concealed carry of handguns.

 

The liberality afforded gun owners ought to be expanded and liberalized a great deal more, but it does provide a decent framework for what knife and blade laws should more closely resemble. As it is now, citizens aren’t left with many options regarding knives and blades:

 

  •  Under current law, all blades over 5.5 inches long are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All throwing knives and throwing stars are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All “stabbing knives,” daggers, dirks, and stilettos are illegal to conceal or open carry.
  •  All swords and spears are illegal to conceal or open carry. (I’d actually like to see this done.)
  •  And perhaps most humiliating of all to Texans, Bowie knives are illegal to conceal or open carry. (Hang your head in shame, lawmakers.)

 

In 2013, HB 1862 loosened restrictions on switchblades. It was one miniscule step in the right direction.

 

Bringing a knife to a gun fight isn’t usually an overtly wise choice, but in Texas law-abiding citizens don’t have the freedom to make that choice—and for a time and again disproved reason: the assumption that weapon-restricting laws can reduce crime. But everywhere the law’s been attempted, the exact opposite has happened.

 

As the saying goes, the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; criminals intent on killing innocent victims are already breaking the law, and the realization that they’re wandering into a gun free zone or violating a portion of the Texas Penal Code (no criminal would ever do that, obviously) certainly isn’t going to stop them.

 

Knife and blade laws aren’t going to do a thing to stop blade-related crimes; but what they do manage is to tie the hands of citizens and give them even more by-the-inch government regulations in their lives.

 

Texas should leave the blade restrictions to the People’s Republic of New York and the muddleheaded European continent.

 

If you want to bring a knife to a gunfight, that’s your business.

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The ‘Mess’ in the Message

Gregory Watson : November 12, 2014 7:02 pm : Columns, Gregory

the mess in messageTough Being Christian: 

Matthew 10:22  ” You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

John 15:18-19  “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me firstIf you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Most non-Christians I meet me, “You have it easier than anyone else. You get money and pray. That’s it.”

It is tougher than most people can understand. When you are a follower of Christ you need to follow His footsteps and show His love, and that’s not as simple as it seems. In Luke 6:35 it reads, “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. ”

Love your enemies?  Wow,I think some of you guys just flinched at the sound of that.

We all need to pray for our enemies and to show them kindness without seeking reward. The enemies that persecute, execute, tease, and beat us must be forgiven? Yes. We must show the same infinite love that God gave to us and to show the same mercy as well.

And the Bible says that, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Not a single person can be reprimanded of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ because He didn’t die for just one, but for all.

That is why it is difficult to be Christian.

We must love and care for even the people with the worst hearts, those who spit in our faces, those who treat us like they treated Jesus on the cross. Christians have to do this all without seeking recompense. Without seeking a reward for all of your deeds, you must give all of what you have away.

If that is the case, how do we protect ourselves from evil and temptation?

What defenses do we have? Well, we have the Armor of God.

In Ephesians 6:13-17:  “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

With the belt of truth you speak of a message that is never a lie because it is indefeasibly correct.

With the breastplate of righteousness, you will be guarded from the evils the serpent has to throw at you. And with the Gospel of Peace fitted underneath your feet, wherever you travel the good news of Christ will follow too. With the Shield of Faith you will never be beat by sin, but you will overcome it. And with the Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit, you will be a foe against seemingly unstoppable mischief. Because our God is for us, so who can stop us?

 

 The Rejected Cornerstone.

When Christ came to Earth He was rejected by many. Even the Bible said that the “Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Most Jews believed that Jesus of Nazareth was a hedonistic man with many wives; they didn’t even get the chance to see Him as He was.

We will always find people who will reject us as Christians because of our faith, and many will persecute us or kill us. In some countries it is encouraged. Our faith is by far the most powerful because it has the power to move mountains and save souls. When we find ourselves in trouble, we have a weapon beyond all weapons: Prayer. Prayer is a weapon, an answer for all ills, because all prayers go straight to God. And God never sleeps.

Before Jesus came to this earth, there came a prophecy that told of the key cornerstone and that without it, the building would fall. In Psalms 118:22 it says, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” This world will not function without Him yet we rejected the Creator. Without Him we are nothing yet want to be without Him. Ironic, isn’t it? The rejected stone will be the keystone, and just like Him, so will we be rejected.

Kindness Wins The Heart.

  1 Peter 3:15  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Teaching people and dictating about God are two different ways of going about spreading the gospel. If you are screaming and hollering about ‘You are going to Hell if you don’t repent!’ all you are doing is yelling at wandering strangers.

Expounding on the law, telling strangers about the grace of Christ, and reflecting a Christ-like attitude in daily life are better: helping someone out inevitably leads to a question: ‘Why are you helping me?’ You tell them that you work for the Lord. Which of these methods is more Biblical?

When preaching you always need to have love for you will never succeed in what you are doing if otherwise.

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Each of us is an instrument of God, but if we use are talents without love, no one will hear our message. We all must do everything we do with love and kindness in our hearts so people know we care about them, and if we don’t have love, all is in vain.

 The ‘Mess’ In The Message

Matthew 11:28-30   “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Each of us have a story about how we found God. Some are long and sad, others are short and funny. But all of our stories point out a time when we needed God in our lives.

God will always test our faith, whether it be a good test or a bad one. He will always make sure that we have something to overcome in our lives, but will make sure to carry most of the burden.

We will always have a mess to deal with, no matter if it’s school, death, family, money, or anything else that brings trouble and hardship. When you juggle these items you will soon be struggling with them–and they will all fall on you.

And when they fall on you, that’s when you realize you should have let God take the burden in the first place. It doesn’t matter about how many struggles you have, it is about what you do to make the moments in between them that count. It doesn’t matter the struggles that you’ve experienced but what you did to overcome them.

All of us had had moments where we have messed up in our lives, moments when we think we have failed God in so many ways that we just can’t live with it anymore.

Just remember what 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This verse says that no matter what you do that God will always forgive you if you confess to Him. Isn’t that amazing? No matter how many times we mess up, God is always there to wipe your path clean so that you may continue to walk in Christ’ perfect footsteps. And with the imperfect mess in our lives we are able to show a Message to people that God can forgive even the worst of people, and that with every test that God gives to us there is a Testimony on how we overcame it and how God will still prevail through it all.

Keep this in mind, when you think of Christians around the world: all of us have Tests (testimonies) and Messes (Messages).

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Door to the other World

Debbie Clark : November 12, 2014 3:49 pm : Columns, Debbie, Narnia

   The Chronicles of Narnia is notable for its extraordinary comings and goings to and from Narnia and our own world. In all of the books excepting one, there is a doorway or portal which will take you to or from Narnia.

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe portrays a wardrobe as the magical doorway into Narnia; thus the wardrobe has become an icon for the entire series.

 “This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more moth-balls?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold.

“This is very strange,” she said, and went on a step or two further. Next moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly.

“Why, it is just like branches of trees!” exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her—not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing on the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.

 

In the case of Prince Caspian at the ending of the story, there was a wooden doorframe that Aslan created for the purpose of sending the Telmarines and the Pevensies back to earth from whence they came.

 

  At one end of the glade Aslan had caused to be set up two stakes of wood, higher than a man’s head and about three feet apart. A third, and lighter, piece of wood was bound across them at the top, uniting them, so that the whole thing looked like a doorway from nowhere into nowhere. 

 

Later, in Prince Caspian when the Narnians and Telmarines have assembled at the doorway, one of the Telmarines accepts Aslan’s offer of a different world. This Telmarine walks through the doorway, never to be seen in Narnia again. All of the other Telmarines that were there went through the door by the end of the day.

 

There was a silence for a moment. Then a burly, decent-looking fellow among the Telmarine soldiers pushed forward and said:

 

“Well, I’ll take the offer.”

 

“It is well chosen,” said Aslan. “And because you have spoken first, strong magic is upon you. Your future in that world shall be good. Come forth.”

 

The man, now a little pale, came forward. Aslan and his court drew aside, leaving him free access to the empty doorway of the stakes.

 

“Go through it, my son,” said Aslan, bending towards him and touching the man’s nose with his own. As soon as the Lion’s breath came about him, a new look came into the man’s eyes – startled, but not unhappy – as if he trying to remember something. Then he squared his shoulders and walked through the Door.

 

Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. They saw the three pieces of wood, and through them the trees and grass and sky of Narnia. They saw the man between the doorposts: then, in one second he had vanished utterly. 

 

Further on in the chapter, Lewis describes how it is for the Pevensies as they walked through the Doorway and they were magically transported back to the train station where the whole adventure started.

 

And then, wonderfully and terribly, it was farewell to Aslan himself, and Peter took his place with Susan’s hand on his shoulders and Edmund’s on hers and Lucy’s on his and the first of the Telmarines’ on Lucy’s, and so in a long line they moved forward to the Door. After that came a moment which is hard to describe, for the children seemed to be seeing three things at once. One was the mouth of a cave opening into the glaring green and blue of an island in the Pacific, where all of the Telmarines would find themselves the moment they were through the door. The second was a glade in Narnia, the faces of Dwarfs and Beasts, the deep eyes of Aslan, and the white patches on the Badger’s cheeks. But the third ( which rapidly swallowed up the other two) was the grey, gravelly surface of a platform in a country station, and a seat with luggage round it, where they were all sitting as if they had never moved from it – a little flat and dreary for a moment after all they had been through, but also, unexpectedly, nice in its own way, what with the familiar railway smell and the English sky and the summer term before them.

 

The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ begins with Edmund and Lucy talking about a painting of a ship which looks like it is from Narnia. Eustace, who is a little tease, is drawn into the painting along with the other two; this magic painting of the Dawn Treader serves as the portal into Narnia, drawing all three into it.

 

I’ll smash the rotten thing,” cried Eustace; and then several things happened at the same time. Eustace rushed toward the picture. Edmund, who knew something about magic, sprang after him and told him not to be a fool. Lucy grabbed at him from the other side and was dragged forward. And by this time either they had grown much smaller or the picture had grown bigger. Eustace jumped to try to pull it off the wall and found himself standing on the frame; in front of him was not glass but real sea, and wind and waves rushing up to the frame as they might to a rock. He lost his head and clutched at the other two who had jumped up beside him. There was second of struggling and shouting, and just as they thought they had got their balance a great blue roller surged up round them, swept them off their feet, and drew them down into the sea. Eustace’s despairing cry suddenly ended as the water got into his mouth. 

 

Further along in the story, after having sailed to the end of the world and into Aslan’s Country, the three of them meet Aslan himself. After a long conversation, Aslan opens a door in the sky, and sends Edmund, Lucy and Eustace back into England.

 

“Come, I am opening the door in the sky.” Then all in one moment there was a rending of the blue wall (like a curtain being torn) and a terrible white light from beyond the sky, and the feel of Aslan’s mane and a Lion’s kiss on their foreheads and then—the back bedroom in Aunt Alberta’s home in Cambridge. 

 

In The Silver Chair, Jill and Eustace are trying to escape the bullies at their wretched school. There is a gate that leads to moors by Jill and Eustace’s school and it’s almost always locked. Here, this gate is the doorway into Aslan’s country; from there, the two of them are blown into Narnia by Aslan. This entrance to by being blown is probably the most peculiar in the series.

 

 “It’s sure to be no good,” said Eustace with his hand on the handle; and then, “O-o-oh. By Gum!!”

 

For the handle turned and the door opened. A moment before, both of them had meant to get through that doorway in double quick time, if by any chance the door was not locked. But when the door actually opened, they both stood stock still. For what they saw was quite different from what they had expected. They had expected to see the grey, heathery slope of the moor going up and up to join the dull autumn sky. Instead, a blaze of sunshine met them. It poured through the doorway as the light of a June day pours into a garage when you open the door. It made the drops of water on the grass glitter like beads and showed up the dirtiness of Jill’s tear-stained face. And the sunlight was coming from what certainly did look like a different world—what they could see of it. They saw smooth turf, smoother and brighter that Jill had ever seen before, and the blue sky, and, darting to and fro, things so bright that they might have been jewels of huge butterflies. Although she had been longing for something like this, Jill felt frightened. She looked at Scrubb’s face and saw that he was frightened too.

 

“Come on, Pole,” he said in a breathless voice.

 

“Can we get back? Is it safe?”

 

At that moment a voice shouted from behind, a mean, spiteful little voice. “Now then, Pole,” it squeaked. “Everyone knows you’re there. Down you come.” It was the voice of Edith Jackle, not one of Them herself but one of their hangers-on and tale-bearers.

 

“Quick!” said Scrubb. “Here. Hold hands. We mustn’t get separated.” And before she quite knew what was happening, he had grabbed her hand and pulled her through the door, out of the school grounds, out of England, out of our whole world into That Place.

 

After Jill and Eustace complete their task in Narnia, they come back to Aslan’s Country. By now, King Caspian is in Aslan’s Country, and he joins them in a playful combat against the bullies at Experiment House, Caspian and Eustace with the flats of their swords, and Jill with a switch that Aslan has turned into a riding crop. Aslan comes with them and roars a great big roar which knocks down the wall thru which they came to Narnia in the first place. When that is finished Aslan repairs the wall and goes back to his own country.

 

The most significant portal in the series is the door to the stable. In The Last Battle, a wicked ape named Shift has created a false Aslan and placed it in a stable; from there, he sends messages to the Tisroc of Calormen and has him send an army of Calormenes to Narnia. Though Shift has created a beautifully clever plot which has both the Narnians and Calormenes in submission by creating ‘Tashlan’, –a mash-up name of Tash and Aslan– he never thought that the real Tash would turn up. Tash enters the stable and doesn’t leave for a good long while.

 

“I feel in my bones,” said Poggin, “that we shall all, one by one, pass through that dark door before morning. I can think of a hundred deaths I would rather have died.

 

“It is indeed a grim door,” said Tirian. “It is more like a mouth.”

 

“Oh, can’t we do anything to stop it?” said Jill in a shaken voice.

 

“Nay, fair friend,” said Jewel, nosing her gently. “It may be for us the door to Aslan’s county and we shall sup at his table tonight.”

 

 

tlb-doorwayAfter a hard battle with the Calormenes, all three pass through the stable, and enter Aslan’s Country. Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund and Lucy are already there, having died in the same train wreck which sent Jill and Eustace into Narnia at the beginning of the story.

 

 

“And what has been happening since you got here?” asked Eustace.

 

 “Well,” sad Peter, “for a long (at least I suppose it was a long time) nothing happened. Then the door opened— “

 

 “The door?” said Tirian.

 

 “Yes,” said Peter, “The door you came in—or came out—by. Have you forgotten?”

 

 “But where is it?”

 

 “Look,” said Peter and pointed.

 

 Tirian looked and saw the queerest and most ridiculous thing you can imagine. Only a few yards away, clear to be seen in the sunlight, there stood up a rough wooden door and, round it, the framework of the doorway: nothing else, no walls, no roof. He walked toward it, bewildered, and the others followed, watching to see what he would do. He walked round to the other side of the door. But it looked just the same from the other side:  he was still in the open air, no a summer morning. The door was simply standing up by itself as if it had grown there like a tree.

 

In the entire Chronicles of Narnia there are Biblical parallels, some are downright obvious, some are hidden carefully, and some are just faint likenesses to the Bible. This conversation between Aslan and Jill from The Silver Chair has its own similarities to what was said in the book of Revelations.

 “I was wondering—I mean—could there be some mistake? Because nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call to – to Somebody—It was a name I wouldn’t know—and perhaps the Somebody would let us in. And we did, and then we found the door open.”

 

“You would not have been calling to me unless I had been calling to you.”

Here, Aslan is basically saying that he is  calling to you, but what happens will depend on what you do, be it to answer or ignore him. This is pretty much what the verse below is says.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him– Revelations 3; 20

There are other similarities to this verse in other parts of the series, such as when the four Pevensies are trying to escape from Mrs. Macready’s tour of sight seers. They all decide to just go in the wardrobe to escape, rather than be chased all over the house trying to evade “the Macready” as they call her. What the Pevensies think is just an annoying coincidence is actually magic, trying to herd them into Narnia so they can deliver it from the White Witch as was prophesied.

Not all entrances to Narnia are by doors or doorways, there are also the magic rings from The Magician’s Nephew. Aslan is always a way back into this world.  Aslan says that there are ‘chinks and chasms’ between the worlds, but they have grown rarer. At that time, he was referring to a cave on an island, which was one of the last doorways into Narnia, but not the last. When he said this he most likely was hinting at the wardrobe, and the painting that Edmund, Lucy and Eustace went through, not to mention the gateway at Eustace and Jill’s school. As Professor Kirke’s advice to the Pevensies at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, referring to trying to get back to Narnia is extremely useful:

 

“Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you not looking for it.”

 

So watch for things that look as if they may transport you to a different world and remember what the Professor said; his advice may come in handy if you can remember it in time before you begin searching for the nearest wardrobe in the area.

 

 

———————————————————————————————————-

Works Cited:

Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

 

 

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Chosen Ones: Rora

Rebekah Hair : November 5, 2014 4:08 pm : Columns, Pilot, Rebekah

With no other real option, the three boys packed up their meager camp and set off. With the axes they cut some strong saplings and tied them together with ropes to make a kind of litter for Opal. After all, no one wanted to carry her. That would be rather awkward.

After some argument, they decided to chance taking Opal to a doctor. Caro disguised himself and took her, but the doctor became suspicious and they had to flee. The unwanted side-affect to this was that not only did Caro have to carry her out very quickly, but also that Dawes found out where they were and began to pursue them. The first problem wasn’t that bad, because Caro was strong for his age. But the second was a big problem, and Davis and Gino had great difficulty keeping Dawes off their tails. And Opal was watchingfading.

Davis took an accurate look at the situation and realized that they would need help. With the chase taking all their attention, Opal needed someone to look after her: another girl. So he decided to go find one. Caro laughed. “‘Twill be trouble just to find someone we can trust, Davis! I don’t think that this will work at all.”

Davis shook his head. “I’m no nurse, Caro. You aren’t either, and Gino’s got enough on his mind. If someone is to look after Opal, it has to be a girl! Think about it, Caro. It wouldn’t be right for one of us. Yes, it’s difficult, and it shouldn’t work…” “The last one didn’t.” Caro commented.

Davis sighed. “No, it didn’t. That wasn’t my best idea. Still, I think that this is necessary if we’re going to keep going! Dawes is hot on our trails, and we’re going to need help.” He turned on his heel and walked off towards the nearest village.

Caro shook his head. “They’re going to think he’s a lunatic. What’s he going to do…go up to a girl and ask her if she wants to come with him? They’ll think he’s looking for a wife!” He laughed.

But when the soldier returned, he did inderoraed have a young woman with him. She looked to be about peasant class, but with keen eyes that flashed in the sun and took in everything. “Caro, this is Rora. She’s going to help us.” Davis said triumphantly, as the girl bowed. “Yes, sir. I am Rora, and I am willing to help you, even if it is to the hills of Carcorus.”

Caro looked skeptical. He was about to say something, when he felt very strange. Almost as if he understood why Rora had come willingly. Was she Chosen as well? Or was it simply a fantasy? Gino would know. But Gino had gone off again, and Promise had gone with him. They went off often, to see where Dawes was and where they should go next. As Davis had to admit, he did know the land, even if he knew nothing about war.

Or did he? Caro wasn’t sure.

Rora went up to Opal and  bent down over her sleeping form. She placed a thin, tanned hand up to her forehead. Opal smiled in her sleep. Davis looked relieved. Caro wasn’t sure what to think. “How do you know this is safe, Davis? Gino won’t be happy about this.” Davis laughed. “Don’t worry, Caro. I think Gino will understand.”

Gino came back late that night and didn’t look like he wanted to talk. His dark eyes were narrowed and calculating. “Did you find them?” Caro asked, seeing him come down. Promise growled. “We did.” Gino said, sullenly. “And they’re still coming. We’ll need to scatter again.”

He stopped suddenly. “Oh.” Davis hastened to explain. “This is Rora. She’ll help care for Opal.” Gino didn’t say anything, but stood there as if he had been frozen into place. Rora rose and brushed a wisp of dark hair from her face. “Who are you?” She asked.

Gino found his voice. “I’m sorry…I was startled. I am Gino…where did you corora and Ginome from?” “The village.” Rora answered. “I felt called to come with this soldier. And I’m afraid you don’t have much tact for a gentleman.”

Gino looked worried, but only for a moment, and not about her words. “This will be a hard journey.” He challenged.

“I can do it.” Rora said quietly. “I’ve taken many in my time.”

“But they will hunt us!”

“Aren’t we on the side of justice?”

Gino laughed. “Sometimes I wonder. But I am convinced: you will come with us.”

 

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A kid by any other name

Rebekah Hair : November 3, 2014 6:22 pm : Columns, Rebekah

Not long ago I was volunteering with the THSC Homeschool conference. I had about twelve kids to take care of with my teacher/helper/mental compass Avrie. In case you don’t know how to say that, it’s Avery, just spelled differently. Sometimes I would teach, sometimes she would. I don’t think either of us was ever officially in charge.

We had a pretty good agreement: we would split the lessons and projects between us. I’d like to think that mine were sillier. In the agreement, she was the ‘teacher’ type and I was more of the goofy one that had a pair of crazy siblings trying to knock me over because of a small stuffed dog, and had brought more bandanas to that place than you would see in a homeschooled pirate play.

We had a pretty good class too: two girls named Sophie, one named Barret, (who thought he was too old to be in the Kids program) Jacob, Luke, Mariah, Grace, Faith, etc. Ours was one of about six teams in a large room that I believe was some sort of Sunday School room for a mega-church. It had a large disco ball on the ceiling, and we figured out very quickly that there were some switches that should be kept away from children.

But as time was wearing down on the last day, the teachers made a non-verbal, mutual agreement that it was time to let go. The kids were bored/excited about what had happened throughout the day and wanted to run around. So the room erupted into spasms of red-light-green-light, and all team divisions were tossed to the wind until the parents picked the kids up.

While most of the kids were playing red-light-green-light, some of the kids began to branch off and play superheroes. I’m guessing that it had to do with Avengers because I think one of them was Batman and another was Black Widow. No, I’m not exactly an expert on superheroes. But that was when I first noticed Faith.

No, wait, let me rephrase that. That was when I had first noticed something about Faith. The evens and odds in the convention had different time-clocks. Her team was on the same time as mine. I had noticed her before, but since she wasn’t in my team, I wasn’t paying much attention. But when she began to run around, I noticed something very interesting.

Faith had blonde-blonde hair, almost white, and before her mom had taken her to the children’s program, she had given her a French braid down her back. She had pretty long hair, white hair, braided, and she had been running around, making her hair stringy and frizzy and sticking up in the front.

She looked like Frozen’s Queen Elsa.

elsa and faith

I couldn’t help but sketch her, since Avrie had her eyes on the kids, and all the other teachers were talking amongst themselves. I drew her and her main antagonist: a dark-haired boy that kept trying to drag her off into jail. After a while, I saw that Mister bad-guy was being a little too rough…my goodness, he had the whole team on his side! It seemed as if Red-light-green-light had been forsaken for a game of “Everyone chase Faith!”

I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know her name yet (I later read it on her nametag) so I didn’t know any other way to get her attention. “Elsa! Over here! You’ll be safe here!”

Oops.

I really shouldn’t have called her Elsa. Frozen was still big when this happened, and as soon as I said Elsa, everyone who saw her suddenly realized “Oh my goodness! She looks just like Elsa!” and began to shout “Let’s capture the Ice Queen!” Faith, for her part, was very brave and quick-thinking, and stopped running to adopt her new part. “Come any closer,” she dared “and I’ll attack you with my ice powers!”

So with one idle name, I completely changed the game.

I didn’t mean to make it a Frozen Bash, or to make Faith target #1. I was trying to help. But I said the wrong thing.

It’s interesting how a name can change so much. We’ve all had experience with a name that has stayed with us and made us feel either less than who we are or feel special. We can remember times when we were made to feel foolish, or when we felt loved. I remember one time where I was at a church event and an older boy was watching me write. Writing was a big deal for me and I felt important about it because I was only about five. But he was much older than five, and criticized me about not dotting my j.

I don’t know why I can’t forget that. It’s a simple J! All he said was “You can’t just leave it there. If it’s lowercase, dot it, if it’s capital, you put a line on the top.” But somehow, it made me feel silly: a little kid pretending to know how to write.

Maybe you have a name that you can’t forget, that’s been nagging you from when you were little. Someone who made you feel worthless. A friend who turned on you. But there’s something more to it than that. Why is it that the very thing that makes you hurt the most is the thing that you use against others? I can tell you. Because it makes us feel better.

We need to be careful with what we say. We need to work on being loving. But it’s not just us. There will always be those who live to put others down. We can’t heal those things by ourselves, but we have a God who can heal scars.

Bottom line? Careless words are like knives. “Like a madman throwing firebrands, arrows and death, is a man who deceives his neighbor and says ‘I am only joking!'” Proverbs tells us. But even though our words can hurt others, like my name accidentally made Faith the object of a reenactment of the scariest part of a kids movie, we do have an upside to them.

We can make our words give life to others. We can reflect the love of God through our words, and that means weighing our speech carefully. And even when we fail, God is merciful.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Story of the Thousand-Year Jet Lag

Debbie Clark : October 31, 2014 8:42 pm : Columns, Debbie

wardrobeIn The Chronicles of Narnia, time is a critical component of all the stories. This excerpt of The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ is the best description of Narnian timing throughout the whole series:

 

Narnian time flows differently from ours. If you spent a hundred years in Narnia, you would still come back to our world at the very same hour of the very same day on which you left. And then, if you went back to Narnia after spending a week here, you might find that a thousand Narnian years had passed, or only a day, or no time at all. You never know till you get there.

 

This conversation from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, between Prof. Kirke, Peter and Susan concerning Lucy’s mad story is explanatory of what Kirke thinks of other worlds; especially since he has been to another world himself.

 

“But there was no time,” said Susan. “Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than a minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours.”

 

“That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true,” said the Professor. “If there really is a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know little about it)—if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at all surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stayed there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don’t think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story.”

 

 

Narnian timing is illustrated in the ending of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a valid demonstration of Professor Kirke’s theory.

 

So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamp-post, and before they had gone twenty more they noticed that they were making their way not through branches but through coats. And the next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe door into the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens in their hunting array but just Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in their old clothes. It was the same day and the same hour of the day on which they had all gone into the wardrobe to hide. Mrs. Macready and the visitors were still talking in the passage, but luckily they never came into the empty room and so the children weren’t caught.

 

The Pevensies in their school clothes after being drawn into Narnia for the second time.

The Pevensies in their school clothes after being drawn into Narnia for the second time.

Once you are out of Narnia, you can never tell how Narnian time is going. In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children come back to Narnia, only to find that Cair Paravel is in ruins. They learn later from the news of Trumpkin the Dwarf that Narnia is at war with an usurping tyrant and that it’s been about a thousand years since the Pevensies were Kings and Queens of Narnia.

 

“But, Peter,” said Lucy, “look here. I know I can’t swim for nuts at home—in England, I mean. But couldn’t we all swim long ago—if it was long ago—when we were Kings and Queens in Narnia? We could ride then too, and do all sorts of things. Don’t you think–?”

 

“Ah, but we were sort of grown-up then,” said Peter. “We reigned for years and years and learned to do things. Aren’t we just back at our proper ages again now?”

 

“Oh!” said Edmund in a voice which made everyone stop talking and listen to him.

“I’ve just seen it all,” he said.

 

“Seen what?” asked Peter.

 

“Why, the whole thing,” said Edmund. “You know what we were puzzling about last night, that it was only a year ago since we left Narnia but everything looks as if no one had lived in Cair Paravel for hundreds of years? Well don’t you see? You know that, however long we seemed to have lived in Narnia, when we got back through the wardrobe it seemed to have taken no time at all?”

 

“Go on,” said Susan. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”

 

“And that means,” continued Edmund, “that, once you’re out of Narnia, you have no idea how Narnian time is going. Why shouldn’t hundreds of years have gone past in Narnia while only one year has passed for us in England?”

 

“By Jove, Ed,” said Peter. “I believe you’ve got it. In that sense it really was hundreds of years ago that we lived in Cair Paravel. And now we’re coming back to Narnia just as if we were Crusaders or Anglo-Saxons or Ancient Britons or someone coming back to modern England!”

 

“How excited they’ll be to see us—“began Lucy, but at the same moment everyone else said, “Hush!” or, “Look!” For now something was happening. 

 

In The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ When Edmund, Lucy and Eustace join King Caspian on board the Dawn Treader, the pace of time has slackened since they were in Narnia last. It has been one year in England and three years in Narnia, opposed to the time differences of the previous books which was about twelve hundred years.

 

“Meanwhile,” said Caspian, “we want to talk.”

 

“By Jove, we do,” said Edmund. “And first, about time. It’s a year ago by our time since we left you just before you coronation. How long has it been in Narnia?”

 

“Exactly three years,” said Caspian.

 

“All going well?” asked Edmund.

 

“You don’t suppose I’d have left my kingdom and put to sea unless all was well,” answered the King. “It couldn’t be better. There’s no trouble at all now between Telmarines, Dwarfs, Talking Beasts, Fauns and the rest. 

 

When Edmund, Lucy and Eustace come back to England at the end of The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’, the time that they have spent in Narnia (approximately four months) has taken no time at all in our own world.

 

In The Silver Chair, Eustace comes back to Narnia, though this time he has one of his schoolmates with him; a girl called Jill Pole. It has only been about two or three months since Eustace came back to our world from his visit to Narnia, but it has been about seventy Narnian years since Eustace was on the Dawn Treader with Caspian. In this conversation, Eustace and Jill are at Cair Paravel for the night, with the invitation of Trumpkin the Dwarf.

 

“Come in,” said Jill. And in came Scrubb, also bathed and splendidly dressed in Narnian clothes. But his face didn’t look as if he were enjoying it.

 

“Oh, here you are at last,” he said crossly, flinging himself in a chair. “I’ve been trying to find you for ever so long.”

 

“Well, now you have,” said Jill. “I say, Scrubb, isn’t all too exciting and scrumptious for words.” She had forgotten all about the signs and the lost Prince for the moment.

 

“Oh! That’s what you think, is it?” said Scrubb: and then, after a pause, I wish to goodness we’d never come.”

 

“Why on earth?”

 

“I can’t bear it,” said Scrubb, “seeing the King — Caspian –- doddering old man like that. It’s — it’s frightful.”

 

“Why, what harm does it do you?”

 

“Oh, you don’t understand. Now that I come to think of it, you couldn’t. I didn’t tell you that this world has a different time from ours.”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

“The time you spend here doesn’t take up any of our time. Do you see? I mean, however long we Spend here, we shall still get back to Experiment House at the moment we left it—“

 

“That won’t be much fun—“

 

“Oh, dry up! Don’t keep interrupting. And when you’re back in England – in our world – you can’t tell how time is going here. It might be any number of years in Narnia while we’re having one year at home. The Pevensies explained it all to me, but, like a fool, I forgot about it. And now it’s been about seventy years –- Narnian years – since I was here last.” 

 

At the end of The Silver Chair, Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb come back to their school. They have spent about a month or so in Narnia, and come back at the same time as when they departed.

 

King Tirian, Jill Pole, and Eustace Scrubb during the events of The Last Battle.

King Tirian, Jill Pole, and Eustace Scrubb during the events of The Last Battle.

Though Narnian time generally takes none of our time, our time can also take none of theirs. An example of this is given in The Last Battle, when Jill and Eustace come to King Tirian’s aid while he is tied to a tree.

 

And immediately he was plunged into a dream (if it was a dream) more vivid than any he had had in his life.

 

He seemed to be standing in a lighted room where seven people sat round a table. It looked as if they had just finished their meal. Two of those people were very old, an old man with a white beard and an old woman with wise, merry, twinkling eyes. He who sat at the right hand of the old man was hardly fully grown, certainly younger than Tirian himself, but his face had already the look of a king and warrior. And you could almost say the same of the other youth who sat at the right hand of the old woman. Facing Tirian across the table was a fair-haired girl younger than either of these, and on the other side of her a boy and a girl who were younger still. They were all dressed in what seemed to Tirian the oddest kind of clothes.

 

But he had no time to think about details like that, for instantly the youngest boy and both the girls started to their feet, and one of them gave a little scream. The old woman started and drew in her breath sharply. The old man must have made some sudden movement too for the wine glass which stood at his right was swept off the table: Tirian could hear the tinkling noise as it broke on the floor.

 

Then Tirian realized that these people could see him; they were staring at him as if they saw a ghost. But he noticed that the king-like one who sat at the old man’s right never moved (though he turned pale) except that he clenched his hand very tight.

 

 

Then he said:

 

“Speak, if you’re a not a phantom or a dream. You have a Narnian look about you and we are the seven friends of Narnia.”

 

 

Tirian was longing to speak, and he tried to cry out aloud that he was Tirian of Narnia, in great need of help. But he found (as I have sometimes found in dreams too) that his voice mad no noise at all.

 

The one who had already spoken to him rose to his feet.

 

“Shadow or spirit or whatever you are,“ he said, fixing his eyes full upon Tirian. “If you are from Narnia, I charge you in the name of Aslan, speak to me. I am Peter the High King.”

 

The room began to swim before Tirian’s eyes. He heard the voices of those seven people all speaking at once, and all getting fainter every second, and they were all saying things like, “Look! It’s fading.” “It’s melting away.” It’s vanishing.”

 

 

Next moment, he was wide awake, still tied to the tree, colder and stiffer than ever. The wood was full of the pale, dreary light that comes before sunrise, and he was soaking wet with dew; it was nearly morning.

 

That waking was about the worst moment he had ever had in his life.

 

 

  But his misery did not last long. Almost at once there came a bump, and then a second bump, and two children were standing before him. The wood in front of him had been quite empty a second before and he knew they had not come from behind his tree, for he would have heard them. They had in fact simply appeared out of nowhere. He saw at a glance that they were wearing the same queer, dingy sort of clothes as the people in his dream; and he saw, at a second glance, that they were the youngest boy and girl out of that party of seven.

 

“Gosh!” said the boy, “that took one’s breath away! I thought—!”

 

“Hurry up and get him untied,” said the girl, “we can talk afterward.” Then she added turning to Tirian, “I’m sorry we’ve been so long. We came the moment we could.”

 

While she was speaking the Boy produced a knife from his pocket and was quickly cutting the King’s bonds: too quickly, in fact, for the King was so stiff and numb that when the last cord was cut he fell forward on his hands and knees. He couldn’t get up again till he had brought some life into his legs by a good rubbing.

 

“I say,” said the girl. “It was you, wasn’t it, who appeared to us that night when we were all at supper? Nearly a week ago.”

 

“A week, fair maid?” said Tirian. “My dream led me into your world scarce ten minutes since.”

 

“It’s the usual muddle about times, Pole,” said the Boy.

 

“I remember now,” said Tirian. “That too comes in all the old tales. The time of your strange land is different from ours. But if we speak of time, ‘tis time to be gone from here: for my enemies are close at hand. Will you come with me?”

 

“Of course,” said the girl. “It’s you we’ve come to help.” 

 

 

narnia

When you go to Narnia, consider that their climate is similar to that of Southwest England and you might experience a thousand-year jet lag.

Narnian time is a tricky thing: so when you go to Narnia, remember that timing could be an issue and that however long you spend in Narnia, when you come back to this world, it will still be the same time as when you left. In that case, it is really quite handy to have Aslan come and help sort out the mess. Also, for all of you people who don’t live in Narnia, remember the time change that you’ll be having this Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

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Of Politicians and Hobbits (spoiler warning)

Rachel Clark : October 31, 2014 8:14 pm : Columns, Politics, Rachel, Spoofs

frodo23Frodo Baggins is a lot like a politician.

He inherits a problem—an evil ring of power—from his uncle, who’s become overly attached to it and doesn’t understand all the problems it can cause (just like the others who previously owned the ring).

Frodo’s given the task of destroying it.

 

Almost immediately Frodo is trailed by a completely succumbed previous ring-bearer. This creature, known as Gollum, has killed for possession of the ring before and would do it again.

 

Meanwhile, Frodo is fighting and vowing to not become like Gollum; yet it’s practically unavoidable. The enchantment is too strong.

ryan and frodo

 

The insane previous ring-bearer offers to “help” Frodo and his bodyguard, Sam. He’s going to walk them to Mordor for the sole purpose of destroying the ring. But not before carefully triggering some infighting, separating Frodo and Sam, and then leading dazed Frodo into a giant spider’s lair.

gollum and smeagol

 

At the crucial moment, as he’s about to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, he decides the ring is mine. It would have remained so, but the previous ring-bearer lunges forward and gruesomely steals it—and in the fray, falls into the fire.

it's mine, bros

 

After a little drama, Frodo and Sam walk home. Frodo is left with lasting scars, Sam returns to the Shire that he originally left with the sole purpose of protecting (along with Mr. Frodo, of course), and both of them are considered strange hobbits for the rest of their days.

quayle and bush

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Narnia: Lessons from the Dwarfs

Debbie Clark : October 24, 2014 11:31 am : Columns, Debbie, Narnia

C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist, philosopher, and author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Although he was born into a Christian family, he became an atheist and remained until he gradually realized that there had to be a God.

C.S. Lewis, the Christian apologist, philosopher, and author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Although he was born into a Christian family, he became an atheist and remained one until he gradually realized that there had to be a God, and converted to Christianity. He was quite familiar with the subject of disbelief.

Disbelief is a recurrent theme, both major and minor in many of the Chronicles of Narnia. The fear of being ‘taken in’, or exposed as gullible is something everyone fears, but it’s sometimes best to swallow one’s pride and accept the impossible—and this is precisely what C.S. Lewis implied throughout the series. One intriguing aspect of this oft-portrayed struggle is that Lewis himself, a professing atheist, said he was afraid of being ‘taken in’ by the apparent flaws of theism; yet when he slowly came to faith in Christ, he realized that he was so concerned about being ‘taken in’ that he could scarcely be taken out of his own mental prison.

 

Aslan, creating Narnia by singing.

Aslan, creating Narnia by singing.

 

In the very beginning of Narnia, Uncle Andrew—Andrew Ketterley, the amateur magician that sends Polly and Digory into another world during one of his devilish experiments—refuses to believe that the beasts that he hears talking are really talking, or that he’s witnessing a singing lion, creating and perfecting a new world:

 

 

 Then when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion (“only a lion”, as he said to himself) he tried his hardest to make believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing – only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world.

“Of course it can’t really have been singing,” He thought, “I must have imagined it. I’ve been letting my nerves get out of order. Who ever hear of a lion singing?” And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he had wanted to.

 

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children, namely Lucy, inadvertently discover a wardrobe with magical properties. Lucy’s brothers and sister dismiss her story of a different world and a gentlemanly Faun as a falsehood:

 

“What do you mean, Lu?” asked Peter. “What I said,” answered Lucy. “It was just after breakfast when I went into the wardrobe, and I’ve been away for hours and hours, and had tea, and all sorts of things have happened.”

 

“Don’t be silly, Lucy,” said Susan “We’ve only just come out of that room a moment ago, and you were there then.”

 

“She’s not being silly at all,” said Peter, “she’s just making up a story for fun, aren’t you, Lu? And why shouldn’t she?”

 

“No, Peter, I’m not,” she said. “It’s – it’s a magic wardrobe. There’s a wood inside it, and it’s snowing, and there’s a Faun and a Witch and its called Narnia; come and see.”

 

The others did not know what to think, but Lucy was so excited that they all went back with her into the room. She rushed ahead of them, flung open the door of the wardrobe and cried “Now! Go in and see for yourselves.”

 

“Why, you goose,” said Susan, putting her head inside and pulling the fur coats apart, “it’s just an ordinary wardrobe! Look! There’s the back of it.”

 

Then everyone looked in and pulled the coats apart, and they all saw – Lucy herself saw – a perfectly ordinary wardrobe. There was no wood and no snow, only the back of the wardrobe, with hooks on it. Peter went in and rapped his knuckles on it to make sure that it was solid.

 

“A jolly good hoax, Lu,” he said as he came out again; “you have really taken us in, I must admit. We half believed you.”

 

“But it wasn’t a hoax at all,” said Lucy, “really and truly. It was all different a moment ago. Honestly it was. I promise.”

 

“Come, Lu,” said Peter,” that’s going a bit far. You’ve had you joke. Hadn’t you better drop it now?”

 

Lucy grew very red in the face and tried to say something, though she hardly knew what she was trying to say, and burst in to tears.

 

 

It had been one year in our own world and over a thousand years in Narnia since the Pevensies left the events of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when they were mysteriously drawn back—but to their deep disappointment, they did not see Aslan.  When tromping through the woods in search of Aslan’s How and Prince Caspian (on Trumpkin the Dwarf’s word that there was trouble and the Narnians needed help), Lucy sees Aslan, who wants her and her siblings to follow him:

 

 “Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.

 

“Where? What?” said everyone.

 

“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.

 

“Do you really mean – ?” began Peter.

 

“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.

 

“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him, I saw him.”

 

“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.

 

“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you want to go. And he wanted us to go where he was – up there.”

 

“How do you know that was what he wanted?’ asked Edmund.

 

“He – I – I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”

 

The others all looked at each other in puzzled silence.

 

“Her majesty may well have seen a lion,” put in Trumpkin. “There are lions in these woods, I’ve been told. But it needn’t have been a friendly and talking lion any more than the bear was a friendly and talking bear.”

 

“Oh, don’t be so stupid,” said Lucy. “Do you think I don’t know Aslan when I see him?”

 

“He’d be a pretty elderly lion by now,” said Trumpkin, “if he’s the one you knew when you were here before! And if it could be the same one, what’s to prevent him having gone wild and witless like so many others?”

 

Lucy turned crimson and I think she would have flown at Trumpkin, if Peter had not laid his hand on her arm.

 

“The D.L.F doesn’t understand. How could he? You must just take it, Trumpkin that we do really know about Aslan: a little bit about him, I mean. And you mustn’t talk about him like that again. It isn’t lucky for one thing: and it’s all nonsense for another. The only question is whether Aslan was really there.”

 

“But I know he was,” said Lucy, her eyes filling with tears.

 

“Yes, Lu, but we don’t, you see,” said Peter.

 

Lucy, a prime example of honesty, is disbelieved by Trumpkin and all of her siblings. Though a vote is taken, and Edmund comes to her defense, Lucy is still ruled out and goes with the others though their tramp into the dense forest, later to be proved correct.

 

Eustace Scrubb, as portrayed by Will Poulter in the 2010 movie by Walden Media.

Eustace Scrubb, as portrayed by Will Poulter in the 2010 movie by Walden Media.

The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’ begins with a (priggish) main character, Eustace Scrubb, introduced into the Pevensies’ lives under extenuating circumstances, much to his annoyance. The Pevensies’ obnoxious cousin who scoffs at their talk of Narnia, Eustace disapproves of Edmund and Lucy staying at his house for the summer. Listening in the doorway one afternoon, he barges in and begins teasing Edmund and Lucy about Narnia (even making a corny rhyme, which he says is an assonance):

 

 

 

 

 “Still playing your old game?” said Eustace Clarence, who had been listening outside the door and now, came grinning into the room. Last year, when he had been staying with the Pevensies, he had managed to hear them all talking of Narnia and he loved teasing them about it. He thought of course that they were making it all up; and as he was far too stupid to make anything up himself, he did not approve of that.

 

 

But in a drastic conversion experience, minutes later Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy are sucked into a Magical painting of a sailing ship—and as it turns out, King Caspian is aboard. Though Eustace spends about another two months in his usual annoying form, they land on one of the many islands that they discover and he is transformed into a dragon as a result of his own selfishness. He is later changed back into a boy again by Aslan, much humbled by his experience.  Eustace Clarence Scrubb never doubts Narnia again.

 

Disbelief reappears in The Silver Chair, but this time in a much milder and benign form. Eustace—who had been to Narnia previously—attempts to explain his experiences to Jill Pole, whose reaction is skeptical:

 

Both children were quiet for a moment. The drops dripped off the laurel leaves.

 

“Why were you so different last term?” said Jill presently.

 

“A lot of queer things happened to me in the hols,” said Eustace mysteriously.

 

“What sort of things?” asked Jill.

 

Eustace didn’t say anything for quite a long time. Then he said: “Look here, Pole, you and I hate this place about as much as anybody can hate anything, don’t we?”

 

“I know I do,” said Jill.

 

“Then I really think I can trust you.”

 

“Dam’ good of you,” said Jill.

 

“Yes, but this is a really terrific secret. Pole, I say, are you good at believing things? I mean things that everyone here would laugh at?”

 

“I’ve never had the chance,” said Jill, “but I think I would be.”

 

“Could you believe me if I said I’d been right out of the world—outside this world—last hols?”

 

“I wouldn’t know what you meant.”

 

“Well, don’t let’s bother about worlds then. Supposing I told you I’d been in a place where animals can talk and where there are—er—enchantments and dragons—and-well, all the sorts of things you have in fairy-tales.” Scrubb got terribly awkward as he said this and got red in the face.

 

“How did you get there?” said Jill. She also felt curiously shy.

 

“The only way you can—by Magic,” said Eustace almost in a whisper. “I was with two cousins of mine. We were just –whisked away. They’d been there before.”

 

Now that they were talking in whispers Jill somehow felt it easier to believe. Then suddenly a horrible suspicious came over her and she said (so fiercely that for the moment she look like a tigress):

 

“If I find you’ve been pulling my leg I’ll never speak to you again; never, never, never.”

 

“I’m not,” said Eustace. “I swear I’m not. I swear by—by everything.”

 

(When I was at school one would have said, ‘I swear by the Bible.’ But Bibles were not encouraged at Experiment House.)

 

Jill’s reaction to Eustace’s ludicrous tale wasn’t one of blatant disbelief, but rather one of muddled doubt—and it seems possible that this reaction can be thought of as like Lewis’s own casual childhood acceptance of Christianity.  However, unlike Lewis, Jill grew in trust rather than falling away and went to Narnia herself.

 

But despite all the other examples of disbelief and cynicism within The Chronicles of Narnia, the chief among these is that of the Dwarfs in The Last Battle—and this distrustful, rebellious band of Dwarfs is a Narnian equivalent of atheists. A disbeliever in his early adulthood, C.S. Lewis later described himself in a manner much the same as he did the Dwarfs. Lewis said in Surprised by Joy, “I had (and this was very precisely the opposite of the truth) ‘seen through’ them. And I was never going to be taken in again.” He also said regarding Christianity, “There was no danger of my being taken in.”

 

Both Lewis and the Dwarfs were wounded, confused, and trying to deal with the fact that their long-held beliefs might actually be lies; and both of Lewis’s earlier quotes are similar to what Griffle the Dwarf said in the latter part of this conversation with King Tirian in The Last Battle, when they learn that the Narnians have been taken in by a false Aslan of Shift the ape’s making. Tirian attempts to regain the support of the Narnians, but the Dwarfs reject his leadership:

 

“You must think we’re blooming soft in the head, that you must,” said Griffle. We’ve been taken in once and now you expect us to be taken in again the next minute. We’ve no more use for stories about Aslan, see! Look at him and old moke with long ears!”

 

“By heaven you make me mad,” said Tirian. “Which of us said that was the real Aslan? That is the apes’ imitation of the real Aslan. Can’t you understand?”

 

And you’ve got a better imitation I suppose!” said Griffle. “No thanks. We’ve been fooled once and we’re not going to be fooled again.”

 

“I have not,” said Tirian angrily, “I serve the real Aslan.”

 

 

The Narnian Dwarfs, forever to think that they are stuck in a stable.

The Narnian Dwarfs, forever to think that they are stuck in a stable.

Later, in The Last Battle, when the Dwarfs are brought to Aslan’s Country—the real Narnia, an indescribably beautiful paradise—they are still in a mental prison, in literal, not metaphorical terms. They think that they are imprisoned in a filthy stable. Though Aslan, with one shake of his glorious mane, prepares a fine feast for the Dwarfs, they are still stuck in their mental stable thinking that they are eating nothing more than what you might find in a stable, such as an old turnip, or a raw cabbage leaf, or a trough of water that a donkey has been at.

 

 “You see,” said Aslan, “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

 

Whatever else you may say about Dwarfs no one can say they aren’t brave. They could easily have got away to some safe place. They preferred to stay and kill as many of both sides as they could, except when both sides were kind enough to save them trouble by killing each other. They wanted Narnia for their own.

 

In Surprised by Joy, Lewis said, “Remember, I had always wanted, above all things not to be ‘interfered with’. I had wanted (mad wish) ‘to call my soul my own’.”

 

Although the depiction of disbelief in The Chronicles of Narnia closely aligns with Lewis’s personal experiences, the disbelievers’ stories and decisions also closely resemble that of the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.

 

In the parable, some seeds fell by the wayside and were consumed by fowls—just like when Lucy saw Aslan but none believed her; some fell upon stony places, and initially grew strong but then fell away because they had no deepness of earth—just like Susan failed to believe in Narnia once she had “grown up”; some were among the thorns, and were choked by their own bitter hearts and painful circumstances—just like the Dwarfs in The Last Battle; but others fell onto good ground, namely Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace and Jill.

The Kings and Queens of Narnia.

The Kings and Queens of Narnia.

 

Interestingly enough, whenever there was disbelief in Narnia, it resulted in the disbeliever missing out on something wonderful — like Aslan’s Country, Narnia itself, Talking Beasts, or seeing Aslan; Lewis wanted to show that cynicism and a loss of wonder deprive a man of the greatest things in life, and possibly even life itself. The Chronicles may not be realistic in some ways, with its Centaurs, Fauns, and Talking Beasts, but it is very approximate to real life in its colorful and sometimes tragic showing of disbelief.

 

 

Works Cited

Lewis, C. S. “The New Look, Checkmate.” Surprised by Joy. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1955. 204-206+. Print.

Lewis, C.S. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. Print.

 

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Dachshund in Dayton: The Beloved Master Dilemma

Hodgkins Clark : October 22, 2014 10:43 pm : Columns, Hodgkins

Dear Hodgkins,

My Beloved Master thinks the cat loves him.

 Actually, Cat couldn’t care less about him and only “loves” him when the food bowl needs filling. The cat is shamelessly using him to get free food. I don’t know why Beloved Master doesn’t see right through this charade. I have told Cat many times to change his ways, but he never listens to me. I feel bad for Beloved Master, but I don’t know what to do about it. What should I do? — Dachshund in Dayton

 

 

See? This is my thinking face.  Meaning that this is my all-the-time face, because my brilliant mind never really stops working.

See? This is my thinking face. Meaning that this is my all-the-time face, because my brilliant mind never really stops working.

Dear Dachshund in Dayton,

Apparently you consider the cat’s actions somehow inappropriate or unacceptable. You are right, in one way and one way alone: cat is using your human for food.

 

In the end, Purina offerings are merely humble tokens of the human’s appreciation for the myriad services I offer and for the honor of being in my presence. The same goes for all members of my imperial species.

 

There are precious few reasons why I would stoop so low as to associate myself with humans and the canines like yourself that they inevitably keep around; food certainly isn’t one of those reasons.

 

Free “food” is a poor triviality that the humans offer me as meager compensation for the privileges I so graciously bestow upon them.

 

I think for some there’s an element of compassion in gracing humans with our presence, but I rather think that the responsibility of owning them is its own reward. Wild humans have much harder lives than those whom we domesticate.

 

Staying with a human when we don’t have to is clear evidence of our deep, boundless, humility. Saving the humans time and time again and hiding this fact takes courage and panache. (Of which dachshunds like yourself are completely devoid.)

 

Our patience is manifest, our unnecessary kindness to the humans extremely evident. Obviously only one side of this exchange benefits.

 

I allow my humans to sit in my presence, to touch with their grubby human fingers my glorious fur, and additionally, I, Supreme Emperor of the Universe, go so far as to save them from lizards and songbirds.

 

Clearly if they have a scrap of decency in their pitiful human bodies, the people will at least attempt to offer me whatever paltry, miserable refuse they can pick up at Wal-Mart. And they do, so I suppose it’s the thought that counts. (Humans actually very rarely think about anything, so all thoughts count for something with that species.)

 

Dachshund from Dayton, you are disillusioned. There is an unfair exchange taking place; one party is giving more than it ought; the other is like a parasite – and the beneficiaries is the human, not the noble and altruistic cat whom you mentioned.

 

I love me too,

Hodgkins

Supreme Emperor of the Universe;
Chief Executive Lizard-Slayer at Lizard Warrior Service;
Recipient of the Snowbell Peace Prize;
Coolest Monarch of the Century (Irrational Geographic);
Expert Tree-Conqueror;
And Your Humble Master.

 

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50% is still F

Rebekah Hair : October 20, 2014 3:56 pm : Columns, Rebekah

I need to be more careful about what I write. I sometimes forget that this is public, and begin to ramble. So when I was swamped with comments on one of my last ones, I was rather overwhelmed. To avoid that happening again, I’m going to stick to something more basic.

I don’t exactly like taking tests. The thing about tests is that grading is always crazy. See, the problem is that the grading system expects you to get a majority of the problems right or else you won’t get a good grade. If you only do about half, you’ll still get an F.

What I don’t understand is how people have gotten used to the way of grading tests, but not with grading our lives. What? Yes. As Christians, we are called to do what’s right…not to earn salvation somehow, but to obey God out of love and gratefulness for all that he’s done. That’s what we are called to do. Works do not earn Salvation: all the same, the law is important. So why do we think we can only do half of it?

Think about it: if a few kids were told to clean up a room and the parent leaves…will they do it? Maybe, but I doubt it. If they do, they’ll do the ‘bare minimum’ of it and leave the rest undone. Sure, you might say, but they’re just kids.

We do much better….right?

Well, don’t we?

Unfortunately, no. The shirking is a big problem for us. While we all might understand the “Love your enemies” we don’t plan on inviting them over for dinner. We don’t “murder” in our hearts,  but we also don’t love them, and we don’t “steal” but we also don’t work to protect their property. Legalism all.

Before I get on a soapbox and start preaching, let’s think for a moment. Each commandment has both a positive and a negative. So “Do not Lie” as a negative has “Do speak the truth” as a positive. Here are the ten commandments and their negations.

You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall worship me as your only God
You shall not make any false image for worship.
You shall worship me the way I have perscribed
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
You shall keep my name respected and Holy
You shall remember the Sabbath day and make it Holy.
You shall not forget or disrespect my Holy Day
You shall honor your Father and your Mother.
You shall not despise and disobey your parents
You shall not Murder.
You shall preserve life
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall keep and cherish what is given to you
You shall not steal.
You shall protect the belonging of others
You shall not lie.
You shall tell the truth
You shall not covet.
You shall be content with what you have
How could we possibly keep that list? Easy. We can’t.

It’s impossible for us do all that. We break His law by Omission and by Comission (leaving stuff out or doing what’s wrong) and we have no possible way of keeping it. But we are justified by Grace. So does that mean we can live however we want? Ha ha, no. Accepting Jesus into your heart isn’t a ticket to a fun life. Look at the early church, or the church now. In Iraq, girls are being kidnapped and their brothers are being murdered, for the only crime of being Christians. Adherence to God will produce two things: hostility, and a renewed sense of gratefulness and purpose.

Because of this we should try our best to keep all of the things commanded to us. We’re not perfect, and we can’t do anything, but the last thing we should be doing is picking four we like and ignoring all the others. Since when has that helped you in your homework?

Like it or not, every deed we do will be judged someday, and to each will be given according to his work. It’s not something you can lose salvation over, but beware…do you want to be shamed because of stinginess? How about to be thought of as a hypocrite by those who you’re trying to evangelize? What we do has consequences, and when we forget our duty, we become ineffective soldiers…forgetful Cinderellas. We have been chosen for so much more than to sit around and argue about theology. It’s time for us to live what we preach, to stand with our brothers and sisters, because they’re the ones on the front lines, and those on the homefront realize that they’re in danger too. For if the front lines fall…

We’re done for.

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The Evolution Quandary

Joshua Swearingen : October 19, 2014 11:55 am : Columns, Homeschooled Timelord

Charles Darwin, considered by many to be  the father of the evolutionary theory.

Charles Darwin, considered by many to be the father of the evolutionary theory.

In 1831, an English seminary student named Charles Darwin boarded The HMS Beagle to take a five year journey across the world.  One of the stops on this trip were the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin devised the origins of the theory of evolution.

The theory of evolution is based on the idea that species change drastically over long periods of time.  No scientist will disagree with the fact that species do change and adapt as they migrate and as the earth’s climate changes; but to say that wolves changed into whales or that lizards changed into birds with no particular reason or order is absolutely absurd.

First off, many of the supposedly linked organisms are genetically contradictory. One of the more famous links is between dinosaurs and modern-day birds.  Reptiles are cold-blooded whereas birds are warm-blooded, their skeletal systems are quite different, and the same goes for their lungs.  If birds evolved from reptiles, then feathers came from scales; this is a bit of a problem when you look at the biology of feathers and scales.  Scales grow as a continuous sheet of skin that sheds as a whole.  Feathers grow similarly to hair, they shed individually.

For a reptile to change into a bird, DNA would have to be added to its genetic code.  A system such as this has never been observed or even theorized.

This is just one argument of many against evolution.

In America we have the freedom to believe pretty much whatever we want, no matter how invalid or scientifically inaccurate it may be. I support this freedom. Without it, we’d likely be unable homeschool or even attend church.  But the fact that such theories as evolution are taught in the vast majority of schools across the world today is troublesome. Children are not taught to think critically. They’re taught baseless ideologies as if they were fact.

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