Monday, August 31, 2015

When It Seems Like There Is No Choice

Here is a short, poignant retrospective by Sydna Masse in the LA Times on her own abortion, her days as a pro-choice activist, and her conversion to pro-life activist.

Choice Killed a Part of My Heart

Masse is an old friend of my husband, and she now runs a healing ministry called Ramah International for women who have had abortions.

Ramah International

A second chance in north Dallas:

For local women in crisis pregnancies looking for real, living options -- women who want a hopeful, positive choice for themselves and their babies -- here is a link to a ministry which provides counseling, medical services, and adoption help. It is supported by local churches, including members of our evangelical church here in Texas. Did you know these kind of organizations are dotted all over the country?

Hope Crisis Pregnancy Center

And below is a link to ministry which helps single moms receive housing and career counseling and support in North Texas, founded by some dear friends.

Shiloh Place

Finally, here is a ministry that is one of my favorites, as it provides safe housing, food, transportation, and career counseling to homeless families, and helps homeless school kids stay in their regular school system through the process. It is a national group with local chapters. Local churches provide overnight housing, facilities, and hot meals in the church building.

Family Promise

There is hope and second chance for ALL of us. We all need a second chance (and a third chance, and a 77th chance), and God is the God of second chances!

These ministries and many, many others all across America provide real, wholesome, life-giving CHOICE and a second chance to mothers and fathers and children.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"The Georgia O'Keefe of Photography"

I'm an adult transplant to the West and have become endeared to its people and its wide open spaces. Looking forward to this exhibit in Fort Worth and hoping I can attend.

Laura Wilson and the American West

Monday, August 24, 2015

"You make eloquent the tongues of infants"

A home schooling friend sent me this prayer, cited at the Aquinas College website as one of Thomas Aquinas's prayers. It's a good one for those beginning their studies in a new school year or on a new school day. It's also a good one for those whose work is study.

Here is part of the prayer:

Ineffable Creator...

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high and beyond all things

Put forth a ray of your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born;
sin and ignorance

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May you
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You who are true God and true man,
who live and reign, world without end.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

College and the Honors League

Interesting article about the rise of honors colleges at public universities. We were impressed with the leadership path and other honors college offerings at Christopher Newport in Virginia.

A Prudent Path

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The [Trollope] Diamonds

Anthony Trollope's The Prime Minister.

Finally getting around to reading this book -- the 5th of the 6 Palliser novels (and one praised by Tolstoy) -- which parallels our hero, the now-older Duke of Omnium and his final political challenge as the liberal head of a coalition government, with the marital fate of an earnest girl of good family named Emily Wharton.

It is the middle-late 19th century in England.

Will England's greatness be advanced? Will the coalition government be a good suitor to Albion? Will the Duke's warm and ambitious wife's social excesses on his behalf help or hurt him? She is political and he is scrupulous.

And in the other story: Will young, noble Emily Wharton marry a stranger and foreigner who is involved in shady dealings, against the wishes of her father, who is wise and loving, but whose arguments against the man are marred by blind prejudice? Will she be led by her vulgar aunt or her beloved family friends?

All of this marked by Trollope's shrewd and sometimes-funny commentary on human public and private behavior in the House and in the house. Trollope was a dissector of human foibles and greatness, though with a light touch, and his characters can be more complex and less tragic than some Victorian writers'. His heroes have imperfections and his villains sometimes have something to admire, but it is always clear who and what is right.

[Addenda 9/14/15: Finished. Oh, the noble example of the tragic loyalty of Emily Wharton Lopez! The author lost control of his secondary story line and it becomes the meat of the book in theme and pathos if not word count.]

The question the book addresses is: What is a true gentleman and Englishman like?

Some quotes from the first quarter of the book:

"The man, certainly, was one strangely endowed with the power of creating a belief."'

"Though the thing had been long a-doing, still it had come suddenly."

"And it was not the way with her Grace to hide such sorrows in the depth of her bosom."

"I remember dear old Lord Brock telling me how much more difficult it was to find a good coachman than a good Secretary of State."

"It'll be best in the long run." "I'm sometimes happy when I think I shan't live to see the long run.'"

"She knew him to be full of scruples....unwilling to domineer when men might be brought to subjection only by domination."

On political alliances: "I don't want a man to stick to me. I want a man to stick to his country."

On young, rich men with political ambitions: "He had the great question of labor, and all that refers to unions, strikes, and lock-outs, quite at his fingers' ends. He knew how the Church of England should be disestablished and recomposed. He was quite clear on questions of finance, and saw to a 't' how progress should be made towards communism, so that no violence should disturb that progress, and that in due course of centuries all desire for personal property should be conquered and annihilated by a philanthropy so general as hardly to be accounted a virtue. In the meantime, he could never contrive to pay his tailor's bill regularly out of the allowance of 400 pounds a year which his father made him, and was always dreaming of the comforts of a handsome income."

"There is such a thing as a conscience with too fine an edge that it will allow a man to do nothing."

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Who Cares about Homer and Shakespeare?

David sent this along to me today -- sensible reasons and practical ways for all students to read and study the classics -- even business majors. But I posted this mainly for the stories about Catholic school (which I attended in high school).

The Suicide of the Liberal Arts

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Check Your White, Female Privilege

In the New York Times, Ross Douthat counters Milbank et al's arguments that the only way for Planned Parenthood to provide family planning services is for them also to provide baby-in-the-womb dismemberment services.

There Is No Pro-Life Case for Planned Parenthood

It's good to point out when the actual narrative conflicts with the establishment narrative. In these videos, the antagonists are women, the victims are predominantly minorities, and the hero is a white male. Time for PP to check its white, female privilege.

"What If I Have Already Had an Abortion?"

My thoughts keep winding back to the women watching these Planned Parenthood videos who have, themselves, had abortions. I can imagine some women, especially those who had second or third trimester abortions, experiencing a deep sense of personal horror and grief. Down at the bottom of a woman is a wholly wholesome, natural, and real love for her baby, a love which well-coiffed abortion activists in suits and scrubs cannot really tamp down, try as they might.

Christian Scripture carries in it major themes of life and death. It is not only clamorous on the side of life, but also on the side of forgiveness. One of God's greatest heroes was once a killer.

"Let the Bones You Have Crushed Rejoice"

David -- shepherd, musician, poet, warrior, and king -- was beloved of God. David loved a woman named Bathsheba, whom he had spied bathing naked. But Bathsheba was already married to a soldier fighting on behalf of David's interests. When David couldn't cover up the fact that he had made Bathsheba pregnant, he had her husband killed.  There were those who were complicit in his act, but he is the one who ultimately had the authority to kill and the story is about him. After this, David recommenced life as usual, on the throne in Jerusalem, married to Bathsheba, this new bride of blood.

Nathan, the prophet, came to David and told him a story about a poor man's beloved little pet ewe lamb, which was taken, killed, and eaten by a rich man who had many sheep of his own, and the reality of what David had done penetrated and sickened him.

Stories and pictures make us see things more truly.

When David was made to really feel and see the evil in his acts, he became weak with the emotional understanding of his acts.  He talks about being "broken." He even said that his very bones were "crushed." I know what he means when he describes those feelings. I have felt that inner, gut-twisting sickness of realization about my own life at crucial points.

Being a poet, he describes his misery, repentance, and eventual relief in Psalm 51. Here is part of it:

"Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, O God, will not despise."

(Psalm 51, NIV emphasis mine)

Sin, followed by repentance, leads to real, true saving by a real, true Savior. Followed by relief and a renewed focus on serving God -- "May it please you to prosper Zion" is David's new prayer at the end of the Psalm. He is brought down, to be redeemed, in order to serve God truly again.

"Have Mercy on Me, O God...according to your great compassion."

My invitation to the women who have had abortions -- who believed the lies told by their culture, their political party, their doctors, their sisters, and perhaps even their family -- is to be a truth-teller. Tell the truth to yourself and God:

-- Talk to an already-knowing God
-- Confess what you have done to a righteous God
-- Ask forgiveness from a gracious God
-- And receive the profound relief -- and renewed purpose -- that are the gifts of a merciful, compassionate God
-- Go to church

Jesus Christ never takes something without giving something else back. He takes your sin upon himself, and gives in return his own Spirit, to those who believe.

Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 11, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Joyful Exiles, Penitent Strangers"

One for the Church in the West today -- here's a good post dealing with biblical perspective by Scott Redd of sunergoi at The Christward Collective

Joyful Exiles

And here a sermon by Scott Redd which describes

 Walking in the Light in Cultural Darkness

Screwtape Pipes Up

Here is a site, goodreads, with some of the memorable quotes from Under Secretary Screwtape in C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters.

The kids and I listened to the book on our road trip this summer to Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina. (Nothing like a captive audience. But they enjoyed it more than they thought they would.)

To begin with a little humor:

-- "She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression.” 

And moving on to the more serious:

-- “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” 

-- "...thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the the impossible.” 

-- "Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out...” 

-- “[M]an has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false," but as "academic" or "practical," "outworn" or "contemporary," "conventional" or "ruthless." Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.” 

-- "When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.” 

Changing Your Mind about Abortion

Sometimes the bravest thing to do is change your mind.

For those pro-choice women considering changing their minds about abortion in light of the new video documentation, please read the following article, written by a PhD and former pro-abortion advocate.

I Thought Planned Parenthood Supported Family Values

Over our summer road trip the kids and I listened to The Screwtape Letters by Oxford professor C.S. Lewis. I was reminded of that shrewd tempter Screwtape's gleeful reporting that, while in former days men and women would change the course of their lives based on one solid, consistent line of reasoning about an modern days that kind of noble behavior -- the behavior of following truth even when it means change -- need not concern tempters.

(And if you balk about facing religious people, know that no honest Christian can look down in pride on those who have found they are wrong. All Christians have altered the course of their life based on a change of heart and mind.)

Sometimes a change of mind and heart is an integral part of your own story, your own personal narrative of who you are -- You-Now grows out of You-Then. Sometimes "Then" is "just yesterday" or even "just this morning."

"Just yesterday, I believed...But today I realize..."

Will you change your mind?

“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern."

[From the Preface] ― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

Paper airplanes

Paper airplanes: warm, sweet ad about a military childhood, and about fathers, sons, and good neighbors.

Paper airplanes

Conquest's Conquests

Robert Conquest, a man who described misrule in Stalinist Russia when information was scarce, has died.

What an interesting man: historian, advisor to Margaret Thatcher, poet, and writer of prose. I enjoyed reading this obituary:

Stalin's daughter also recently died. She lived in Wisconsin.

About her life in Wisconsin:

Lana about Svetlana

Review of a biography of her (by Rosemary Sullivan)

Stalin's Daughter

Monday, August 3, 2015

#lovewins #ifyou'renotababy

Crowing over Obergefell, Quiet on Nucatola

Scott Redd at sunergoi on clamor and silence in the cultural space. (Scott is my brother and the President of Reformed Theological Seminary's DC campus.)

But What about the Mammograms?

And here's one for those concerned that women in poverty won't get mammogram referrals if Planned Parenthood doesn't receive government funding:

Washington Post op ed:  The Tipping Point on Planned Parenthood

Straw Man at the Women's Clinic

And finally -- a few thoughts on the conversation as I have watched it play out on social media.

While I don't have statistics, it wouldn't surprise me if all or almost all of the funding and support for Crisis Pregnancy Centers around the country are received from Evangelicals, Catholics, and political Conservatives. I would also suspect that a hefty amount of funding and volunteer man-hours at relief and support organizations for families -- both nationally and internationally -- are also provided by the these same interests and by pro-lifers (like my own small evangelical church in Texas whose members provide significant funding and basic, human, boots-on-the ground support for both a shelter for single mothers and also a local homeless shelter) -- above and beyond whatever taxes they already pay the government. I also suspect that a significant number of foster and adoptive parents of needy children (children living in America and around the world) are pro-life Evangelicals, Catholics, and Conservatives. Just an anecdotal survey of my evangelical friends and the churches I know reveals adoption as a trend. It's hip to adopt, in these circles.

But whether or not my assumptions and experiences are true and typical (and of course there is need for continual dialogue within pro-life circles on how to better love mothers and fathers and children in need) at this moment, critiques of pro-life methodology by Democrats ring a bit hollow.

When Buchenwald and Auschwitz were opened, and the ashes and tales and bones clattered out, the story of that day was the not the degree to which the German resistance or the Polish resistance or any other anti-Nazi group could or could not have done more or done things a little differently, a little more strategically.

When Rosa Parks took her courageous stand on a regular bus on a regular day in the segregated south, the truth "clicked" in people's minds -- and the story of the day was not whether or not the black community in America could have done more.

In the 19th century, no one serious about slavery questioned whether or not that little Presbyterian woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, could have done more. "COULD she have squeezed out one more book in the same amount of time? If ONLY she'd done more. We'll have Deborah Wasserman Schultz, James Carville, and Cecile Richards in to discuss Stowe's failure to do more in our studio at 6:00!"

And likewise, whether or not religious pro-lifers and political conservatives can do more about abortion is not the story of the day today. Nor is whether or not Republicans (and Fox News talking heads, apparently)  do or don't help low-income women and children by not voting for Democrats.

The Story of This Day is the gruesomely glib, cool-headed, wine-sloshing, lip-smacking, sonogram-guided, cranium-removing traffic of human baby body parts by a group of powerful, educated professional women in America (whether or not their own pockets are lined). (Talk about having a price on your head!)

The ones to be corrected are the cheerleaders of these women, who are predominantly groups like: Democrats, atheists, agnostics, liberal feminists, unions, liberal Catholics, and mainline Protestants. Round up the usual suspects.

Will pro-life Democrats speak truth to power? Will they be heard by their party? One hopes the pro-life remnant that does exist in these circles -- they are there, I know and love some of them -- have a voice and are courageous and heard.

About a Boy

But Fox News (and I am not generally a Fox New apologist), with all of its round-the-clock media coverage of this gruesomely compelling story, is not to be blamed. Look to the other networks for their comparative silence.

Likewise, the story of the day is simply and obviously NOT the undercover sting operation to catch these doctors, lawyers, leaders, and researchers in the act of pushing a baby boy's bloody legs and arms around a glass pie dish, sifting through his parts, his little eye, his little head -- a baby boy they'd just killed intentionally.

As Redd says, above: folks, this one is not hard to figure out, or nuanced.

The story of the day is The Brutal Act itself.