Some Words of Gratitude for the Gospel on International Women’s Day

Permit me to point something out that isn’t widely understood or acknowledged in our Postmodern, Bizarro-World times.

Whereever the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread and taken root, the lot of women has radically improved. Conversely, the places where Christianity is least historically present and welcome . . . these are the most hellish places on our planet to have the misfortune of being born a girl.

For the whole of human history, the default setting in our fallen world has been to treat women as property or sex slaves. Paganism is the original “rape culture.”

Jesus shocked the sensibilities of the dominant culture in His day by welcoming women into His inner circle–accepting their worship and follower-ship. And wherever the movement He launched has spread—relentelssly, progressively, although imperfectly—women’s lives have improved and their status has risen.

This, in part, because redemption produces more civilized, responsible, peaceful, compassionate men.

Western Civilization is, in essence, a manifestion of Christian civilization, a.k.a., the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed. The seeds of the end of slavery in Europe were scattered from Britain’s Protestant pulpits. It took longer, but the same was true in North America.

 The Gospel is the greatest force for human equality ever unleashed.

The Abololitionist movement was born and fueled by churches. Just as most of the concern, energy, and money for fighting modern slavery (in the form of human trafficking and sex slavery) is coming from Christian people in Christian ( and formerly Christian) nations.

Perversely, a majority of the self-identifying feminists of our day view Christianity as Enemy Number One, while being inexplicably willing to accommodate Islamic Culture and actively embrace Hindu Culture in the form of Eastern Mysticism.

A few facts for your consideration on this International Women’s Day:

I am a husband to an extraordinary  woman, and father to three more of the same. A few weeks from now, twin girls will be added to our clan. How grateful I am they were born in a Gospel-infused, Gospel-informed culture.

It is a privilege I seek and pray for every little girl in every corner of the world.

 

Restoration!

As longtime readers of this humble internet outpost may recall, several years ago I lost more than five years of blogging output that I had poured out on the old “Blather. Wince. Repeat.” site after a server hacking incident.

The database holding everything I’d written between March of 2007 and July of 2012 became corrupted and seemingly irrepairable.

Frankly it was nearly-heartbreaking to think all of that writing might be lost forever. In that span of time I’d not only written about current events, the culture, and theology, I’d mused about and processed a lot of big life milestones—including my father’s battle with Alzheimers disease and his passing, as well as watching daughters growing up, moving them off to college, and walking them down an aisle.

After more than a year of blogging silence I gave up and launched this new blog in March of 2014. Even so, I never completely abandoned hope of finding a way to repair and restore all that writing.

Today, that hope became a reality. Scoll down on the home page and look in the right column, you’ll see that all those lost months have now been indexed. The prodigal posts have come home.

Now, where did I stash that fatted calf?

 

A Quick Comment on the Oscars

Skipped the telecast but heard there was much earnest fist-shaking at the current president.

Younger viewers may be excused for assuming this is some sort of new phenomenon. For those of us with longer memories, there’s a weary familiarity:

  • These same characters said the same things about George W. Bush with the same levels of righteous ferocity. This, even though W. wasn’t all that conservative and was, by all available evidence, a profoundly decent human being.
  • And the usual suspects said similar things about W’s father—who was even more moderate and temperate than his son.
  • Of course, a previous generation of Hollywood elites mocked, derided and denounced Ronald Reagan as a war-mongering, simple-minded nutjob as well.

No, this isn’t new. Things are simply back to normal for when a Republican sits in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump may or may not be a monster (although he has filled his cabinet with competent, decent, admirable people.)

Thus, the fist shaking in Hollywood tells us nothing—other than that after an eight-year break—our nation’s actors  get to play the most coveted, most romantic role of all: That of the courageous artist “speaking truth to power.”

The Circle of Life

Our oldest had a birthday a few days ago but we’re finally getting a chance to celebrate it tonight. This was her 28 years ago this week, just a few hours old:

This was the last time I had more hair than she did.

Roughly six months ago we learned that she and our wonderful son-in-law were expecting their first baby—more importantly our first grandchild! A few weeks after that wonderful revelation, we learned that we actually have not one, but two on the way. Girls. (of course!)

I should be pointing with two fingers.

She’s going to be an awesome mom. She’s had the very best of mentors and models.

To be honest, the 28-year space between the moments these two photos were captured is a dizzy blur. That space is filled with countless good days. Really, really good days. But there are few days as monumentally life changing as the one in which you welcome your first child into this extraordinary world.

On one side of that day, everything in your life is one way—essentially the way it has always been. Twenty-four hours later everything has changed. Everything. Your routines. Your priorities. Your thoughts. Your view of the world and the dangers it holds. Your hopes.

All of this and more shifts seismically with the breaking of some water and the crossing of a simple line on a calendar.

Mrs. H has been making preparations to help with the new arrivals. She’s prepping with a zeal and logistical ferocity that would have shamed General Eisenhower with his comparitively lackadaisacal approach to the D-day invasion of Normandy.

As for me . . . I never really knew either of my grandfathers. I was too young when they passed to carry any directly imparted wisdom or influence from them. Anything I have from them came secondhand.  So I am profoundly grateful and more excited than I can express to play some role in the lives of these little girls and all the siblings and cousins that come after them.

And the earth continues to spin and wobble around the sun like a blue top, with no time outs and no “pause” button to hit. The circle closes and the tracing of another one begins.

An Informal Little Bible Study

Attention DFW readers,

I’m launching a short new Bible study series in our home next week.

Beginning next Wednesday night, February 1, and continuing for the next four Wedneday nights, I’ll be teaching a series I’m calling:

“Honeycomb Lying on the Ground: The Sweet Reality of Living in Kingdom Grace.”

Open to all. 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Silicon Valley Gazillionaires are Prepping Like Crazy

Found this fascinating:

Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich

Snippet:

How did a preoccupation with the apocalypse come to flourish in Silicon Valley, a place known, to the point of cliché, for unstinting confidence in its ability to change the world for the better?

Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures . . .

Bonus:

Many of Asia’s billionaires have been buying private hidey-holes in New Zealand for the last few years:

Lost in Time

Ah, yes. Now I remember. That’s what a night sky is supposed to look like. So many stars . . . scores of familiar constellations . . . sparkling against a black velvet backdrop. There you are Milky Way, hung across the sky like a sash. There you are, Seven Sisters. It’s been a long time, ladies.

I know I’m far away from the city when I can see the Pleiades.

I’m back at the ancestral estate—the rural Oklahoma hill country acreage where I grew up. Like a salmon, I fought my way upstream from Dallas-Fort Worth on asphalt rivers called U.S. 75 and U.S. 69 to the place of my childhood. But I’m not here to spawn and die. I’m here to sort and cry.

It’s not just the night sky that’s different here. As I stand in the field in front of the house I grew up in, I’m aware of a strange sensation in my ears. Oh, right. It’s the quiet. I’ve grown so accustomed to the thrummy, low-frequency drone of freeway traffic in the distance and jets in the sky that I don’t even notice the noise until it’s missing.

Sound travels a long way out here. I’m actively listening. (Is this what the modern hippies call mindfulness?) From more than a mile away I hear a bull bellowing mightily, sounding like a Hebrew shofar calling the Israelites to battle against the Philistines. From a quarter-mile down the road I hear a woodpecker rapping on a tree.

And there’s bird song. So much bird song. It’s the next morning and I’m on the front porch trying to count how many distinct species of bird I can hear. I get to eighteen. What else can I hear? The breeze picks up and in a barely audible way, the tops of the pine trees begin whispering secrets to one another.

We have a history, those pines and I. My brother and I “helped” our father plant them when we first built the house and moved out here. Is it possible that our afternoon of tree planting will have been fifty years ago, next year? When we put them in the ground they were about a foot tall and no bigger around than my pinkie finger. They looked like sad little Charlie Brown Christmas trees. They survived.

Here they are today . . .

My Pines

Mom and Dad built this place about twenty years ago . . . about 100 paces from the two-story house they built in ’68. I was eight when the first house was finished, my brother six, and two sisters had not yet arrived. We all grew up in the that house over yonder. But this one was their empty nest—one story only, in anticipation of the feebler legs that eventually showed up.

Both homes sit on the same five-acre slice of rural southeastern Oklahoma I roamed freely as a boy—nestled in a valley where the Sans Bois and Kiamichi mountains serve as the front gate to the Ouachita Mountains and the Ouachita National Forest.

All these names are French. Or to be more accurate, French transliterations of Indian names. The first white people to explore this area were French trappers and traders. I’m reminded of that every time I drive out here. Right before you get to the old family place I cross a familiar old bridge over a creek named Fourche Maline—French for “treacherous fork.”

I’ve crossed that bridge thousands of times in my life and never witnessed any treachery along the creek. But then my crossings have all come about three hundred years after Bernard De La Harpe and friends first paddled their way into this neighborhood by heading upstream from the Mississippi River, the Red River, and so forth. Who am I to say that that the old stream wasn’t a little more malevolent back then.

After Dad passed away several years ago, Mom lived here alone as long as she possibly could. But it eventually became clear to all of us, her included, that living alone out here in the sticks no longer made sense. So she moved out of the house a couple of months ago with the help of my sisters. She is now safely and happily ensconced in a little efficiency apartment in a great retirement village in Oklahoma City.

However, only a small portion of her things could make the trip to the new place. A big part of the accumulation of a lifetime was left behind for us to sort through.

The contents will fall into four categories.

First, things one of us kids or grandkids wants to keep. Many of these items are keepsakes, mementos and sentimental treasures.  Some are practical items that the numerous grandchildren now setting up housekeeping for the first time will find useful.

From what remains, things to sell. What doesn’t sell will be donated or given. What absolutely no one will take, will be disposed of in some way.

So, I’ve been digging and sorting. It’s a bit like archeology. The deeper I go, the more ancient the finds. I’m uncovering things I didn’t know existed. Like a bulging, rubberband-wrapped envelope with a Missoula, Montana postmark dated the Summer of 1963. Inside was a stack of handwritten letters from my Dad to my Mom.

I dimly recall that when I was about four years old my Dad spent a couple of months away from us one summer, working on his Masters degree at the University of Montana. What I didn’t know was that he’d written her while he was away. As I noted the date on each letter in the stack, I saw that, in fact, he had written her every three or four days for his entire absence.

This in itself was a stunning revelation. My Dad was kind and sweet, but he was no romantic. At least that I could tell. I’d never perceived him to be the guy who thoughtfully and dutifully wrote his wife every other day while away from his young family. But he was that guy. We just didn’t know it.

Then I thought about the fact that she’d kept them—tucked away with a small cache of other precious mementos. And here I was, 54 years later, learning of their existence for the very first time.

I’ll share a few more of my finds in the days ahead. For now, just know that I’ve spent a weekend lost in time.

And trying to get my arms and mind and heart around the task of curating the remnants of two lives well lived.

 

Dave’s Dozen: 12 Brief Observations on the News

In an effort to be less essay-y, here’s the first in a series of bite-sized comments and observations about events in the news.

1.

Mr. Trump seems to have no intention of moderating his practice of popping off on Twitter. At some point soon after the inauguration, one of these 2:00 a.m., 120-character spleen ventings  is going to trigger a market crash or major international incident. Mark my words. However . . .

2.

As regular readers of this blog well know, I’m no Trump fan. But I must admit that his cabinet appointments have been very good, in my view. If he makes a comparably good nomination to the Supreme Court, then his administration will be off to an encouraging start.

3.

The Obama Administration has used it’s final weeks in office to undermine and further isolate Israel. Here’s a big inconvenient truth . . .

As I’ve pointed out before, all conflict in the Middle East—including the ongoing horror show in Syria—is rooted in the 1500-year-old Sunni-Shiite rift. If the world’s Arabs, Muslims, and UN bureaucrats got their fondest wish and Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, that war would only intensify. With the distraction of Israel removed, Sunni and Shia would continue slaughtering one another in earnest. Imagine a hundred Aleppos.

But sure, Mr. Kerry . . . stubborn Israel is the “obstacle to peace” in the region.

3.

 

Yes, the Russians had a preferred outcome in the recent U.S. presidential election. So did the Chinese. And the French, British, Micronesians and North Koreans. In fact every rational nation-state on earth roots for a side in every U.S. presidential election, in accordance with their own national interests.

The Russians clearly favored Trump although their broader goal is simply weakening our nation by undermining public confidence in the system. The Chinese were pulling for Clinton (a sketchy relationship between the dictatorial Chinese regime and the Clintons goes way back.

That said, Mrs. Clinton lost because she was an unappealing candidate and ran a crappy, incompetent campaign. Full stop.

But yes, the major parties in our previous election gave us a choice between a candidate in bed with the Chinese and and one sympathetic to Putin. That’s a lose-lose proposition for the U.S..

Speaking of meddling in the elections of sovereign foriegn nations . . .

4.

Did you know that Mr. Obama’s campaign organization dispatched a team of his best advertising and social media gurus to Israel in 2015, in an effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu? They did. He failed. But he tried.

5.

The infamous “Russian Hack” of the recent presidential election was basically two compromised email accounts, those of long-time Clinton associate John Podesta and the DNC.

What most Americans don’t recall (or never heard about at all because the mainstream media downplayed it) was a massive and successful Chinese cyberattack on the actual U.S. government back in 2015.

That attack exposed reams of personal information, including social security numbers, of roughly 4 million current and former federal employees. There was no high profile expulsion of Chinese diplomats after this embarassing breech came to light.

Indeed, there was no publically disernable response at all.

Want to see something deliciously awkward? Here’s ABC White House correspondent John Karl asking Mr. Obama’s spokesman why the Russian hack was treated as a big deal while the much more serious Chinese attacks were a non-issue.

6.

For a brief history of cyberattacks on the U.S by foriegn governments, Reporter Sheryl Attkisson’s “Eight Facts of the ‘Russian Hacks‘” is most illuminating (and troubling).

7.

Back when I was convinced Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, I believed that meant a war with crazy Russia was a small but increasingly real possiblity; but that military conflict with crazy China would be unlikely. I’m convinced Trump’s surprise victory reverses that equation.

Odds of conflict with Russia lower. Odds of onflict with China, higher.

8.

Riots and looting broke out across Mexico last week when the government raised the price of gas. History reveals this is the inescapable result in any nation in which the government seizes the power to set prices and wages.

9.

Watched the Golden Globes and it confirmed what I already knew. Left-wing Hollywood is nearly delirious with secret, giddy delight at the opportunity to courageously “speak truth to power” again.

It’s been eight long years since the world’s most pampered, privileged, and coddled people could signal their virtue to one another by shaking an angry fist at the White House and wagging a shaming finger at the rest of us.

Many of these frequently use their formidible creative gifts to hack furiously at the civilizational branch upon which we all sit.

And Meryl Streep is their queen. . .

10.

NRO’s David French, on Streep’s speech, neatly encapsulates my thoughts:

“I have no particular affection for Trump, but I positively loathe the condescension, alarmism, ignorance, and self-regard of the wealthy Hollywood Left, and each of those elements was on full display in Streep’s speech.”

Please read the whole thing. French makes some very important points.

Also re: Ms. Streep . . . When you’re a Progressive and you’ve lost Piers Morgan, you know you’re on thin ice.

A Personal Reflection on a New Year’s Day

As I sit down to tap out a few lines here in the opening hours of 2017, I’m mindful of some sage, three-fold advice from Benjamin Franklin.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

On those first two items . . . “Check” and “Check.” But that third challenge? Am I, today, “a better man” than I was before this most recent orbit of the sun? Frankly, I’m the wrong person to render that assessment. Better to ask the woman who’s lived with me the past 29 solar orbits. Or my friends and co-workers. They know truths to which I am blind.

Of course, my hope is that this deep winter solstice finds me at least a click fairer, kinder and less self-sufficient than the last one. Those being the three key metrics of the Micah 6:8 scale:

“. . . the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

By the way, I hope to do more writing in this space in the months ahead. My pitifully infrequent offerings over the last ten years have tended to fall into one of four broad categories:

  • Theology and Spiritual Things
  • Public Policy; Current Events and Cultural Trends
  • History
  • Family (musings about milestones, life, etc.)

A savvier blogger than I would focus on just one of these areas and forget the others. This is precisely what all the experts recommend to those who desire to find fame and fortune in blogging. “Pick a topic you’re passionate about,” they say. “And write frequently and briefly on it.” In other words, specialize.

Well, I obviously don’t do that. I read with ravenous interest across a  crazy variety of subjects every day—faith, science, tech, history, archeology, psychology, economics, geopolitics, etc.—and love to share synthesized insights about the same in writing.

In other words, I’m a generalist, not a specialist, and it seems the world increasingly belongs to the specialists.

What’s more, I’ve come to grips with the reality that I’m not actually a blogger. I am an essayist at my core. I can’t write short. Well, I can, I just have little interest in doing so. This, too, limits my readership.

I’m at peace with the fact that many people will glance at the length of even this relatively short post and skim it or skip it . . . even as social media has our attention spans shriveling further like grapes in the West Texas summer sun.

Nevertheless, I hope to do more of this over the next 12 months, and even crank out a book or two. I’m working on one right now. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we are well and grateful. My bride and I have launched three offspring into the world with happy results. I really like and admire the people our children have become. We’ll become grandparents for the first time in a few short months. Twin girls are on the way.

But enough about me. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson once wrote: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “It will be happier.”

I’ve heard Hope’s whisper. And I believe her.