A Sound Perpective



Clinging to Hope in a Sea of Regret – A Lesson from Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Regret is the beast you can’t ignore; an obnoxious locker troll cramming moldy cheese sandwiches and rancid gym socks into every nook  – polluting otherwise palatable, even enjoyable memories with its vile, unrelenting stench of decay and failure.  Regret sticks its ugly mug in your business every time you endeavor to move on, as if to say, “Hi – I’m still here… want some cheese sandwich?”

Such regret makes its victim wish to become intangible – bereft of sensation – made of wood.  This is the sentiment movingly captured in song by Anne Elliot, heroine of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, as elegantly presented in the Taproot Theatre musical now playing through August 26th at the Jewell Mainstage in Ballard.  Utilizing brilliantly crafted, and masterfully executed theatrical devices, we enter into Anne’s troubled mind in the midst of a flurry of interactions between other characters.  There, while completely surrounded by and thoroughly disconnected from, family and friends, she plaintively cries out inside, “I’m made of wood! I’m made of wood!” desperately seeking relief, or even just inurement from years-long heartache.  But this sentiment can’t shield her from the regrettable cause of her lament.

Anne is an unmarried young upper-class woman approaching 30, (practically an old maid in Regency-era England – a period two centuries ago). Eight years prior, on the counsel of her class-conscious godmother, Anne suspended the courtship of her true love, Captain Robert Wentworth (presented as a flashback, vividly communicated through the theatrical genius of Taproot’s production team).  The young naval officer plunges himself into an ocean at war to bury his distraught heart in the perils of sea-faring battle with Napoleon’s fleets, vowing to return after making his fortune – but not to the young woman who had so callously broken his heart.

Now, nearly a decade later, their paths cross again in a most unexpected manner, but neither sees a way to reignite love’s former flame.  Between the continuing disapproval of Anne’s upper-class family, and the interest of other would-be suitors (and would-be eligible ladies), their reconnection appears destined a cruel joke of fate, while regret over ending their romance weighs about Anne’s neck like an anchor from Captain Wentworth’s victorious frigate.  Yet, in her heart, the barest hope of a restoration continues to haunt those remorse-stained recesses where their relationship had once flourished.  Against all hope, Anne continues to hope – her deeply wounded heart bridging the endless chasm between the loss of true love and the faintest glimmer of its renewal.

Not dissimilarly for many of us, youth is filled with hope and expectations – before life lands a few swift kicks to the gut, and clean blows to the nose – often knocking the blood, stuffing and dreams from us.  Maturity forces us to reassess which hopes are truly lost, and which are still possibly worth pursuing – but in the process of laying our heart, bare and bloody, upon the slab, it’s wisdom which discerns the voices to heed in making those difficult decisions. Recognizing that we all must live our own lives, it’s prudent to ask whether the counselors and confidants pushing us in directions alien to our deepest desires have done the most seamstressly job of assembling a sensible life quilt with their own pile of materials; and are they offering heartfelt advice from hard-learned lessons, or just exercising a vested interest in persuading us to follow a certain course of action?

King Solomon put it this way in Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”  Deferring hope doesn’t mean putting off a good thing for a better time – which may sometimes be the best course of action – but refers rather to that blacking out of the heart’s lamp from ever seeing desire’s fulfillment.  That is a sure path to a broken spirit.

And while hope can’t guarantee the fruition of some desires, our heart’s well-being requires hoping in something better from life, even if it is only to be found in the life beyond this one; for it’s such hope that awakens our spirit to rise above the pain of regret – that keeps us from emotionally disconnecting from the ones we love – that prevents our becoming as callous and insensitive as a dead log, because as Anne concedes at the story’s end, we are not made of wood.



What Do You Treasure?

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings…
These are the treasures whereof Julie Andrews sings…  in the Sound of Music.  And while I’ve never had particular fondness for snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, I understand the sentimental ties which bind us to objects or experiences of little worth in the eyes of others.  Just about everyone has some inherently worthless possession laden with immeasurable meaning – and that’s not necessarily a bad or unhealthy thing.  It kinda makes us human.

But what we treasure also says something about what we value.

Value is an intrinsically relational commodity.  There is no treasure without a treasure seeker; the willingness of one to sacrifice for something is what confers value upon it.  This is particularly so for those objects which are rare, hard to come by, or reinforce a chosen or inherited identity, such as great-grandfather’s lucky silver piece, a trophy commemorating high performance in business or sports, or the Rolex watch which a clever marketing ad convinces an up-and-coming executive to purchase, in order to convey his superior achievements to his lowly fellow man – when it may actually just send the message that a shallow and materialistic preppy with a lot of money has a shiny little instrument for telling time.

Perhaps most to be treasured are things intangible.  Consider the attributes valued by our fictional friends in the Wizard of Oz:  Scarecrow’s brain (intelligence), Tin Man’s heart (tenderness) and Lion’s courage.  In all three instances, these characters unwittingly already possessed these quantities in demonstrable measure – they just needed a source of authority to confer it upon them through gifts symbolizing the respective principles.  As it happened of course, their chosen authority figure was a known charlatan, the Wizard, whom they had hazarded everything to reach – and perhaps it is the sacrifice demonstrated in the quest to attain such recognitions which sublimates an otherwise meaningless ceremony.  This is the nature of diplomas, medals and testimonials of all kinds – their intrinsic value is often incidental compared to the intangible attributes they reflect, even if these symbols are conferred by a locally esteemed con-artist, such as a politician – because in truth, the intangible realities are already possessed by their recipients.

Our intangible treasures are sometimes held in most contempt by those who do not share their sense of value.  To bring another fictional character into the mix, Don Quixote paid no heed to the ridicule of the world when he launched out upon his quest as a knight errant to right wrongs for the love of his lady, Dulcinea – a homely peasant girl whom he regarded a radiant queen.  And as comic a tale as this aged story is – it is one of the great works in world literature, in part because it presents as oddly heroic an individual who lives in a world not of this world, who holds dear that which those around him hold in contempt.

Curiously, another knight errant who preceded Quixote held the same view of the world, and his duty to the One whom he had committed himself to entirely.  This pre-Quixote had been raised in the strictest sect of Judaism, and had had a transformative encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus on his journey to persecute Christians.  This event led him later to so completely abandon the ways of his previous life, as to literally regard them as excrement in comparison to the value of knowing Christ  (Phillipians 3:8).  This was the all-consuming zeal which drove Paul, and has driven countless others, even up to this day – to attempt the most spectacular of efforts of evangelism, as embodied in the Great Commission, and to accept the most horrific of martyrdoms over renouncing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If treasure is measured in terms of one’s willingness to sacrifice – truly, how could there ever be a greater treasure than this?

The opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect those of Salem Communications Seattle, or its parent company, Salem Communications.



Old School

If it ain’t broke… and you know the rest; the motto long dismissed by trendsetters as a snuggy for the sullen, passive-aggressive Luddite resentful that his shortsighted and nearly antiquated vocation is threatened by the grand arc of innovation.  And just how much sand has this little saying thrown in the gears of progress over the years?   Not much in the decades since “technological” became the new “sexy.”  Why, no one even wants to be the last person to get a new iphone (even if it is the same as the old iphone, sans a phone jack).  Besides, that saying smacks of triteness on the order of “sticks and stones” – a stubbornly smug note of impotent defiance.  It’s a sad little saying which does not benefit the sentiment, even when there’s valid cause for the sentiment – and sometimes, there decidedly is.

There’s good reason the term “old school” has come in vogue over the past few years.  Lost in the whirlwind of advancement is a longing for the stayed and steady.  It’s hard – if not mindnumbingly foolish – to rely on something that hasn’t had time or opportunity to weather any storms, whereas the tried and true, rough and tumble, cliché-inspiring equipment of yesteryear, while perhaps of a lower-order on the technology scale, is often still more than able to ‘get ‘er done’.

On the July 8th broadcast of Spotlight on the Sound, my guest Jerry Senner discusses his museum, the Western Heritage Center, where visitors can make rope, shell and grind corn, cut wood, wash clothes, and handle any number of other chores, using hand-cranked, gasoline- and tractor-powered devices, in some instances over one-hundred years old – but all workhorses nonetheless. This is the most salient characteristic of “old school” products and systems – they still work – just like that light bulb that’s been running now for well over a century. Try finding one of those at the local Walmart.  It’s doubtful that many of today’s trendy gadgets hang around even twenty years from now, much less a hundred.

So maybe instead of simply pitching the appliances and methods we relied on prior to the cutting age discoveries of the last 5 minutes – we rather choose to honor them both for what they’ve contributed to society historically, and what they may still have to offer.  Even if the “ain’t broke” bromide is squeezed white in the stubborn grip of technophobes, it also happens to be a justifiable standard held by the gatekeepers of grounded, revered and well-functioning systems.  After all, it’s not required that something break before it’s improved upon… but when it’s old school, it just doesn’t break much to begin with.



Freedom’s Obligation

The United States of America is the greatest bastion of freedom in the history of the world – and it is no accident.  It was the explicit endeavor of the Constitution’s framers, as expressed in these words from the preface:  “We the People of the United States, in Order to… secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Since the Constitution’s ratification, our nation has experienced an even greater expansion of this freedom through Emancipation, Universal Suffrage and the Civil Rights movement.

But the Constitution uses a different phrase to express the idea of freedom, namely, “the blessings of liberty.” “Blessings”denotes a gift from God of temporal or spiritual benefit, and “liberty” deriving from the Latin libertas expresses freedom from oppression.  The resulting phrase communicates the same general concept conveyed in the word “freedom,” but functionally serves to give it a solemnity cast in the majesty of law, whereas the Teutonic derivative “freedom” could just as easily connote the right to assemble peaceably, as to unleash heathen revelry.  Sadly, the latter appears more in line with freedom’s bent over the past few decades – a tendency which has tragically checked its wholesome expansion in the post-Civil Rights era.

For years, we have watched constitutional freedoms expressed in a wide variety of unhealthy ways – perhaps most egregiously to denigrate the very nation protecting them.  In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson that burning the American flag was a form of free speech.  As grotesque and obscene a display as that is, I must concur.  Unfortunately, an even darker corner has been turned in probing freedom’s perverse, unconstitutional outer-limits – such as the “freedom” to force others to respect indecency, the shutdown of commerce by radical leftists, and the arbitrary silencing of Conservative voices.

Humanity has never stayed a moderate course for long; history is littered with examples.   Forces aggregate to one side of a controversy or another, and the prevailing opinion lunges forward with such velocity in opposition as to threaten to drive the train of government clean off its tracks and over the cliff of anarchy.  In this full-on drive to stretch freedoms beyond their constitutionally intended limits, something fundamental is being ignored – the human institution that protects this framework we all live under – the living mast of the ship of state which faces the waves of opposition from without and within – the hero honored in the poem by Charles M. Province, U.S. Army – “It Is the Soldier”

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

This Independence Day, remember that it is our obligation to appreciate, encourage and support those who offer up their lives to protect the blessings of liberty our nation has enjoyed for over 240 years, and to reign in the base drives in our culture threatening to extinguish those liberties through unmitigated license.  That is freedom’s obligation.



A Higher Perspective

There are serious people who believe our planet to be flat.  You’re laughing, but visit some of their sites.  I’m not talking about the free-thinking gadflies of the Flat Earth Society.  I’m talking about fervent, sometimes quite intelligent, conspiratorial types, who’ve taken visual anomalies in various videos and photos of the sun, moon and earth, and meshed them with a variety of observed phenomena (albeit, subject to suspect interpretation), and constructed a worldview that turns our planet into a pancake, Antarctica into a great worldwide ring of ice, and NASA into the greatest arch-villain of truth in the history of the world.  Some of their explanations for how travel “around the world” is even possible on a flat earth model are actually rather clever.  And while I personally believe there to be a cadre of very devious con-artists running these operations; true dyed-in-the-flat-world believers aren’t people to mock (even though they dismiss non-believers as “round-earthers”).  They simply lack perspective.

Perspective plays a crucial role in your perception of things; as already shown, it can literally determine how you see the world.  While the idea of getting “down-to-earth” may allow you to focus in on meat-and-potato details of life, you can’t see the scope of your forest from the base of your trees.  When you want to know where you’re going, you look at a map – and when you pore over the fruit of the cartographer’s craft, you’re glimpsing a facsimile of the view from on high.

We are taught as children that authority comes from above – and rightly so.  Our authority figures tower over us, and we must look upwards to address them. Similarly, the celestial majesties point our gaze toward the heavens, and the handiwork of the Creator who reigns from a throne high and transcendent.  The view from above is broad, thorough and revelational – one we simply can’t acquire while treading dirt.

Why then wouldn’t everyone simply take a higher perspective on things?  Because those who would seize the view of the heights, must climb.  Climbing involves concerted, sweaty effort, the knowledge of where to place hands and feet, and the perils of falling.  People with a higher perspective on life have often passed through significant trials, which drove them upwards into places they may never have expected to go.  For many, the effort and dangers are enough to keep them solidly on the flat earth. The price to acquire vision does not come cheaply – but for those who succeed in attaining it, the expense is worthwhile.

Is the dried mud of tedium giving you a ‘flat’ view of your surroundings? Are you stuck in ruts carved by endlessly, fruitlessly plodding the same patch of ground?  Do you desire that well-rounded, global perspective enabling you to circumnavigate your world?  Then shift your focus upward, because the path forward in life is always clearer from the light of heaven’s eyes.



A Father’s Trajectory

From generation to generation, the decisions a father makes set a trajectory for his family’s future.  In some cases, those choices may beckon showers of blessing upon his progeny.  In others, rather less-savory substances may drizzle down as the verdict on judgment found wanting.

My Grandpa Summers was born to a farm family as the last of eight children, and from what I’ve been given to understand, Great-Granddaddy was pretty hard on the lot of them.  When Grandpa left the house, he followed in his father’s line of work, eking out a living on the crop-bearing potential of questionable plots of land, or chasing after other suspect whispers of opportunity.  There was a lot of moving from here to there, taking his family from Kansas to Idaho and back.  My grandpa also favored his father’s methods in the treatment of his family – quick to yell, quick to punish and slow to praise.  Stress, availability and disposition led him to take up smoking and drinking (thankfully those impulses were checked in short order when he learned that Grandma wasn’t for punching).

By the time I first remember him, the alcohol had mercifully dried up, but he was still putting chimneys to shame.  Our earliest memories of Grandpa were not especially fond.  He remained largely aloof from us kids, unless he took a fancy to yell at us for being kids, which of course afforded him plenty of opportunity.  In retrospect, I look at it as simply a misguided effort to show us affection.  It was only when we became teenagers that I remember him beginning to interact with us as people, and not as pests. He shared with us stories from his youth and boyhood, and we got a sense of the life-tracks laid in the wet mud of his early life, which he just never seemed able to redirect.  I suspect he had a lot of regrets toward the end, but I never remember him speaking of them.

Somehow though, between the time my grandfather ruled his roost and my dad oversaw his, something changed in our family’s dynamics, and I didn’t adequately appreciate it until after I’d grown up.  My brother and I simply took for granted that we enjoyed the stability of one home over the entire course of our lives; that my dad provided for all of us with a decent job as an electrical engineer, and that the culture of our family did not include any trace of Grandad’s vices whatsoever.  And while Dad was perhaps not as fawning and affectionate as some fathers, he resisted the temptation to treat us as his father had treated him.  He was approachable, concerned about our challenges in life, and willing to help us face them.  This represented a distinct shift from the trajectory of his father’s rearing.

All of this stems from the crucial decision he made in his youth that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps; scratching out a bare subsistence on the plains of Kansas, and succumbing to the stress-relieving addictions at a poor farmer’s disposal.  Instead, he would take advantage of opportunities afforded him to chart a completely different course for his life and that of his future family.   So he joined the Navy to pay for his college, got an engineering degree, established himself financially, married my mother at 28, and had his first son at age thirty; older than had his father, but on a straight and firmly laid track.

My dad was far from perfect – a bit like his sons in that regard – but he single-handedly altered the trajectory of his lineage by taking the hard road to a path different from the one trodden by my grandfather’s poor choices.  Yes, we’re all responsible for the decisions we make in life, but it’s a lot easier to choose right when you’re raised with the right example.

Thank you, Dad, for your example.  Happy Father’s Day.

Love, your first-born son,




The Tour is Worth It

Twenty three years and three months ago, a younger version of myself made his way through the tourist traps of southern Europe in what I came to call my “Great Euroscape.”  Every destination presented a new opportunity to lose myself in the chaotic web of aged streets, foreign tongues and exotic cultures.  I spent months preparing for my trip in advance.  I would launch from my ‘home port’ of Trier, Germany (where I was studying as a foreign student), and make two giant loops – one to the west, through southern France, up through Barcelona and Madrid, back through Paris and then ‘home’ for a brief respite, before blasting my way through Eastern Europe – into the newly divorced Czech Republic and Slovakia, south through Hungary, and then into Serbia (whose planes, unbeknownst to me, the US was busy shooting down in response to Serbian atrocities), down through Greece, across the strait into Italy, and back to Trier.

But it did not go exactly as planned.  Near the end of my journey, I ran short of money, having dropped a couple hundred dollars on an impromptu tour of Pompeii at the behest of a kindly, but persistent, English-speaking tour guide, when up to that point, I had been rationing cash on expenses averaging between 40 to 50 dollars a day.  It wasn’t so much an irresponsible splurge, as a failure to calculate the monetary difference between those insanely inflated lira amounts ending in five zeros versus those ending in six zeros. That unfortunate shortfall forced me into a quandary.  Do I abandon my plans to visit Venice and Florence?  Or do I push through with the original plan, and brave the unknown consequences of having insufficient funds to stay in a youth hostel?

Life is a very long tour of a world filled with choices, where you will thoroughly explore the consequences of every decision you make.  We often fancy that our lives can be planned to the nth degree.  They cannot – but sadly, that is not the more commonly-made error.  Speaking only for myself (and the last several generations of Americans), I kept waiting for life to recognize the eminence deigning to tour it – as though I were Kim Jong Un inspecting a factory filled with fawning paupers. After all, I was so stocked with talent and brains that life ought to just throw its arms wide open and wrap me up in a great love hug of success. Life has never granted me that kind of public display of affection – and unless you are one of a very select handful of people born to wealth or title – it won’t be granting it to you either.  After having my head slammed into the pavement a few times, I came to learn this.  There are moments when you realize you are stuck in a rut, and it’s time to take action to move forward, even if it opens you up to uncertain outcomes; it may also entail sacrificing comfort to take advantage of greater opportunity.

At the end of March 1994, I had run out of money, and was running out of time, but I was also too stubborn to miss out on the opportunity to maximize a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this ancient patchwork of Western civilization.  I took in the spectacle of Venice, and followed up with an evening train north to Innsbruck, Austria, where a night train would send me south again, so that I could sleep on my way to Florence.  I turned my free train pass into a mobile hostel.  In the process of this makeshift solution to my monetary shortcomings, I made new friends, experienced new adventures, and wrapped up my European adventure with a bow the size of the Florentine Duomo.

If life is passing you by because you’re not going anywhere, switch tracks, board a new train, and make the most of your resources, because the tour is worth it.



To Tell the Truth – A Lesson from Busman’s Honeymoon

Mind and heart are often at odds, and this leads to conflict, but rarely to crisis.  Most of the time, we simply weigh our preferences and render a decision leaving one side or the other less than completely satisfied. Such a struggle doesn’t generally result in battle for the core of our being – but such is the case at one critical moment in Dorothy Sayer’s murder mystery, Busman’s Honeymoon, a Taproot Theatre production now playing at the Jewell Mainstage in Seattle.  In the June 3rd broadcast of Spotlight on the Sound, I discussed this production with Producing Artistic Director, Scott Nolte.  Intrigued, I took my wife to see it.

It’s a frightfully simple matter to catch a mindless diversion in our entertainment saturated culture, but finding something both thought provoking and morally conscious is another matter altogether.  Busman’s Honeymoon did not disappoint.

Without need for spoiler alerts, there is a moment in this mystery where crime sleuths Lord Peter Wimsey and his newly minted spouse, Harriet, come to the realization in the midst of an impromptu murder investigation during their honeymoon, that the very act of probing into the mysterious death of the previous owner of their new home could endanger individuals they have come to believe are innocent.  In that moment they must grapple with the question: Do they continue this investigation regardless of consequences? Or do they abandon the chase, and retreat into their love for one another; free from the prospect of contributing to a sentence of condemnation to persons they fervently believe not to be guilty?  In the process of talking it through and considering all that is at stake, they rightfully conclude that they must pursue truth wherever it takes them, lest a pall of guilt remain over every innocent person suspected.

In this critical moment, they affirm that in such instances where mind and emotion stand in hard opposition to one another – truth must needs prevail.  Emotional decisions crumble when tried in the fire of adversity, but truth stands steadfast.  Pursuing truth as far as possible must be our motivation in every such decision; and when we come to this resolution, we find that our emotions play foil to our mind.  Drives contrary to our resolve crash inside us like waves against a dam of reason – proving and forging our character within.  It’s easy to yoke our intellect to the tyranny of emotion – excusing every whim of desire with some token justification, but such internal maneuvering renders an individual vacillating in moments of crisis – moments when clarity must be prized above all else – and that clarity can only be born from a mind accustomed to yielding to the voice of truth.

How refreshing to see entertainment which values that principle!



Why Remember America?

Humans are leaky beings.  We have a tough time keeping much of anything inside of us for long- be it names, knowledge, or even a decent sense of who we are in an increasingly and oppressively loud and disjointed world.  Fortifying agents are crucial and desirable for helping us to retain our sense of identity.  This is a major reason why people seek out lifestyle accoutrements- everything from cars, boats, homes and other possessions, to personal adornments such as makeup, hairdo, piercings, jewelry, clothing and tattoos.  Material emblems project an image or look with specific associations, which serve as mnemonic triggers, reminding us both of who we are and what we desire to be, as well as sending signals to others whom we may wish to attract or repulse, further strengthening our identity through tribal associations.

This has certainly worked for the Jewish people.  The Old Testament records over 600 commands given them concerning appearance, lifestyle, governance and associations as a means, not only of holy living, but of retaining their unique character and identity in the midst of a world demanding conformity to non-kosher standards.  Had they relented to these pressures, it would have meant the end of Jewish identity.   Some of these commands go specifically to the importance of remembering what has been commanded – such as when they are instructed to wear a special fringe on their clothing, that, “…  ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them.” (Num 15:39 KJV).  Unlike forgetting, remembering is not a passive act – it is a very active one, requiring a volitional component.  The fact is, without intentionally internalizing reminders of who we are and what we believe, the psychological structures defining us tend to break down, rendering us dissolute.  In short, we dissolve.

Our beloved country is now in the midst of such disintegration, laboring under systems of higher education which undermine the dissemination of our nation’s noble heritage and ideals, an entertainment complex compulsively searching for creative new ways to slander, mock and revile traditional American values, and a judiciary too often ignoring the rule of law in favor of the lawless whims of radical leftist judges.  Is it any wonder that our cities are plagued by the sporadic misguided wrath of millennial snowflakes?  And this well before the rise of President Trump (consider the mayhem of the Obama-era Occupy movement).

In his 19th century tome, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville assesses America’s character thusly, “America is great because she is good,”  following ominously with, “If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” America stands on the precipice of ceasing to be good, because too many of its people have forgotten what a good country does.

Memorial Day stands as a specially crafted opportunity to reflect on what it means for America to be good – what it means for America to be America.

This day of remembrance grew from memorials commemorating the sacrifices made in the midst of one of the most character-defining events in our history – The American Civil War.  Lincoln’s words in remembrance of the dead at Gettysburg call us to cherish such memorials,  “…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

This Memorial Day, take time to celebrate the memory of those who made the highest sacrifice to keep the torch of liberty lit, as a reminder of our true heritage as a country – one that gives its utmost, and its best and brightest, for the highest causes of humanity; because remembering is more than just ‘not forgetting’ – it is to recollect that which has been dismembered.  It is just such remembering that our nation needs right now.



Love Makes the World Go Round

Curious how violence so frequently accompanies ‘peaceful protests,’ such as the recent May Day melee in Olympia. Thankfully, a smattering of liquid sunshine sufficed to melt away the belligerence of Seattle’s snowflakes that day, but we’re only ever one leftist ‘lovefest’ away from metropolitan meltdown.  I would posit that the existentialism of our post-modernist culture has propagated the myth that transcendent values such as ‘love’ and ‘peace’ can be conjured – as through sorcery – by merely chanting their names.  Why? Because a sizable contingent of secular society regards these values with the same substance as the breath expended to make their references.  These modern spectacles of ‘peace’ and ‘love’ are exercises in the misunderstanding and misapplication of the highest attributes attainable to humanity  – as much a travesty of display and irony of approach as the reassurances of affection an abuser showers upon his traumatized victim.  Participants in such demonstrations utterly fail to grasp the principle that you can’t give what you don’t have.  Professing ‘love’ without its substance is an impotent mockery that serves ought but to denigrate the term, perpetuating the jaded cynicism of a loveless culture.

In the May 20th broadcast of Spotlight on the Sound, I contend that love – actual love, as opposed to these meaningless professions – really does make the world go round.  Think for a moment about the individuals who motivate you to make sacrifices: your spouse, your children, and others you care for.  People will endure amazing hardships to provide for the ones they love, and society benefits greatly from those accumulated contributions to the economy and wealth of the nation.  What else would drive people to clean a stranger’s teeth, or their toilets, or even areas less savory still?  But there’s a troubling shift at work in the land, undermining the structures and drives that maintain civilization.  Narcissism is replacing selflessness, and selfishness is supplanting sacrifice, because our values, and our focus, are becoming inverted.

A movie came out about 15 years ago called Pay It Forward – a sweet film, with a rather implausible storyline, wherein the young hero seeks to make the world a better place by pushing a concept of ‘paying it forward’ – that is, instead of trying to ‘pay back’ the good someone has done on your behalf, you pass the favor along to someone else in need, and request that they do likewise.  But such a system for transforming the world requires a common sense of decency, fairness and accountability.  When a culture’s lovelessness has foundationally perverted the effectiveness of these principles, you end up with ‘decency’ expressed by shutting down commerce and transportation for the sake of personal agendas, ‘fairness’ demonstrated by the excusing or condemning of individuals based on race or political views, and ‘accountability’ ascribed to the dictates of one’s own fickle, narcissistic heart.

Still, in the wake of cultural disintegration, there are countless unheralded individuals and groups, often inspired by Christian convictions, planting seeds of love into the city’s most unloved cracks, and harvesting fields of changed lives – not by parading flamboyant banners, and spraying bullhorns with angry spit, but by actions speaking orders of magnitude more loudly to the hearts of hopeless and broken people – the loving sacrifices of strangers: buying a meal, providing clothing, tending to any number of crucial needs with nothing expected in return.  These are true sacrifices – or sacred works – pointing the objects of beneficence to the love of the Father in whose image they were created.

For all the hysteria over cuts in government funding, I am convinced, having conducted scores of interviews with non-profit organizations, that were government handout moneys directed to non-profit and faith-based communities, an incomparably greater impact in aid and edification could be had in the lives of the indigent. Why?  Because true love changes people in ways entitlements can’t.  Government loves only its power, and the needy (and even not-so-needy) recipients of its largesse are merely useful conduits for retaining that power.  But it is the sacrifice born of love that sublimates the decadent and decaying social strata of a country, as unloved individuals come to a deep realization that there are people motivated by a transcendent value system that has real power and substance beyond the breath used to speak its name.  Love must be expressed through willing sacrifice, or it is not love – because only by paying a price is value conferred, and only when people come to understand their intrinsic worth by the value others place on it, are they likewise willing to make such sacrifices for others  – and so love really does make the world go round.

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