Book Review: “Trumpocracy”

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This important new book by David Frum is thoughtfulness personified. It’s quiet; it’s reflective; it’s wise. There are no hysterics, no exaggerations, no fake news. He’s got endless pages of notes at the close, so the references and sources are carefully verified.

David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and despite our political differences, I absolutely respect him as a patriot who loves democracy and upholds our country’s lasting ideals. We’ll get through the Trump years, he says calmly, and America will be better and stronger as we forcefully return to our core values.

I’d share some quotes or soundbites, but trust me . . . there are great lines and insights all through these pages. Get the book for yourself; you will not regret the time spent reading what he has to say.

 

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May 2018 Rachel Marie Newsletter

Hi, everyone! Click here to enjoy our May Newsletter with details about the Rachel Marie book series.

RACHELMARIECOVER

NEWSLETTER May 2018

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When God Picks Up a Paintbrush

ALASKA AIRLINES

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Last summer Lisa and I were waiting for a shuttle bus at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport when the Alaska Airlines logo caught my eye. It was the perfect shade of evergreen, which this photo doesn’t capture at all. And the type font, the rugged aura – everything – seemed to capture the cold, crisp drama of the north. Adventure, snow, unspoiled beauty, warm blankets, hot chocolate, and a nice fireplace. In “Surprised By Joy” C. S. Lewis writes about that indescribable pleasure from being immersed in that cold white purity: the sunset spilling over the hills.

Okay. Then we got on the Carnival cruise ship and spent a wondrous seven days seeing, not corporate logos, but God’s mighty handiwork. It brought back to mind these few paragraphs from my yet-unpublished novel, “The Time Portal.”

# # #

Even in the month of June, 2014, it felt amazing to sit on Deck Nine of a cruise ship and have to wear a jacket. We were between meals, but I had a plateful of Carnival’s potato salad resting on my lap. Every few minutes my hand would automatically lift a forkful to my mouth, but I was almost unaware of my own motions. John watched me, bemused, and then returned to the novel tucked into his Kindle Paperwhite.

After five days at sea, my soul felt absolutely bathed by the native beauty of this place. The mountains were still adorned with pure snow banks; the sunsets spilled pink frosting onto the silver oceans cocooning our vessel of dreams. There were occasional splashes in the distance as whales peered out at us and then resumed their own adventures.

My mind kept returning to the concluding theme of my time-travel journeys. What John had said. How could our creative Lord Jesus create such a splendid, elegant place as this Alaskan paradise, and offer it free of charge to mortals such as Mr. and Mrs. Haller, and yet be unable to simply assert his authority and veto the horrors of D-Day or the Holocaust? Every atom of this spectacular and snow-spangled Eden had been fashioned by Jesus’ own intimately focused power; the ripples trailing our boat and the ghostly beauty of the full moon as it rose up from behind ice-blue glaciers were all actively painted masterpieces. God didn’t simply will a generic beauty; he dreamed it and fashioned it and sprayed it into existence one atom at a time with his own words and intent. And yet, even as John and I dined on plates of pineapple and filet mignon and Carnival’s signature melting-chocolate cake, the Middle East was a boiling cauldron of unfixable heartache and rage. Every few weeks, another angry shooter was unloading Glock magazines in school hallways, sick but craving fifteen minutes of fame on Fox News. Even as we were embarking in Seattle, I had gotten one last text message from Roy McDaniel. Mom passed away early this morning, Pastor Lisa. Will wait for you and Mr. H. to return home; she would want you to do the funeral. Please pray for us. My sweet friend Dinah had been struck down by Alzheimer’s, and there wasn’t a thing any doctor or pill or genius from the Mayo Clinic could have done to arrest her slow descent into the shadows of death.

I comforted myself with the assurance that this virginal beauty around us was Jesus’ unstated testimony to the world. “When the saga is completed and I step forward to make all things new, it will always and forever be like THIS.”

John must have noticed that my fork had stopped in mid-air, suspended along with my memories. “You okay, babe?”

“Yeah. Just letting the Lord baptize my thoughts a bit.”

“This is the perfect place for it.”

“Absolutely. It’s very nice.”

 

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REVIEW: NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”

john-legend-jesus-christ-superstar-live-shirtless-01                Here are my humble reflections about NBC’s Easter offering of the live opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The production was terrific, with inventive staging and what looked like flawless performances by the entire cast. “Hamilton’s” Brandon Victor Dixon was strong as Judas (he played Burr on Broadway, so he has the role of a betrayer down pat), and John Legend was a sympathetic Jesus, especially in the haunting Gethsemane solo, “I Only Want to Say.”

However, if you want to own a recording of the show, you’re better off going back to the original brown double-album where Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and Murray Head offer powerhouse vocals that can’t be rivaled.

In the past 48 years Christians have rightly criticized the play/recording/film for being blasphemous, and the critics have a point. There are errors throughout, and the portrayal of Jesus is just dead wrong in spots. But I first heard it as a 15-year-old kid just back from a mission stint in Thailand, and I’ve been forgiving those lapses my entire adult life. Here’s why.

Despite all the unbiblical moments, the story triumphs in the closing moments. At the NBC finale, as Jesus is up on the cross, the lighting and the stage props slowly fold into a Calvary cross that clearly seems global and eternal. All the cast members peer at the spectacle in wonder, clearly moved by the reality that something otherworldly has just transpired in their lives. In fact, the closing lines Judas sings in a last query to Jesus are these: “Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake? Or did you know your death would be a record-breaker?”

And why is the death of Jesus a record-breaker? Because it redeems a lost and suffering world, that’s why? Because it purchases our salvation as no other death ever has or ever will.

The other wonderfully redeeming moment is when Judas is about to end his own life. (The original recording is chilling indeed at this point.) Beside himself with grief and guilt, Judas sings plaintively: “Does He love me too? Does He care for me?” And the blood-spattered reply is yes. In the upper room, Jesus washed the feet of this broken betrayer and His heart ached for a man who would not, could not surrender to Him.

Some of the most tawdry stories you’ll ever find are in the pages of the Bible, and they still contain redemptive hope. The same was true on our TV screens last Sunday evening.

 

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Book Review: “Thanks, Obama! My Hopey, Changey White House Years”

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I don’t normally forgive careless profanity, and this book literally starts off with an X-rated bomb in the first sentence. But the rest of it is a funny, often inspirational look at what it was like for a gifted young writer barely out of his teens to serve on the Obama speechwriting team.

Litt’s tell-all has its candid and wrenching moments. The Affordable Care Act’s rollout was an unmitigated disaster for Team Obama, and he blasts the President for not getting that right. The President’s first debate against Gov. Romney was another gut-squeezing failure, and even most Democratic loyalists and pundits rightly blamed Obama for not taking this political tradition seriously and doing his homework. The author’s gifted use of metaphors is one reason why he landed his job as speechwriter, and at this point in the narrative, he sighs: “Metaphorically speaking, the nation had noticed that its leader left dishes in the sink.”

But after the juicy tidbits about all-nighters and the White House mess and getting to ride on Air Force One, this very good book reveals the heart of the Obama presidency. For one thing, accuracy and honesty were highly regarded virtues. “There was an entire research office,” Litt writes, “responsible for making sure that the president’s statements were true.”

He was on the inside long enough to observe Mr. Obama in his interpersonal relationships “Not all good presidents are good people. But Barack Obama was the kind of person who noticed when a member of his staff was being insulted and refused to walk away. He used his power to defend the dignity of others.”

And I appreciate his insight about how the President worked tirelessly to understand and grasp the incredibly challenging issues that rear their ugly heads and beset any world leader. Scott McClellan, Bush’s (41) press secretary, similarly affirmed his own boss, but Litt writes about Obama: “I’d often heard senior staff describe President Obama as the smartest guy in the room, but only now did I realize what they meant. He didn’t speak seven languages or know the Latin names of species or multiply large numbers in his head. What he did, more quickly than anyone, was strip away complicated issues to their essence and make the most of the information obtained. No one was better at getting to the point.”

One of the best bits, though, is how he describes the President’s passion for moms who struggle with a chronically sick kid. A little girl named Zoe Lihn was diagnosed with a rare and often fatal congenital heart defect – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Her mother, Stacey, became an ardent advocate for Obamacare, which would give her child lifetime protection as she battled to stay well.

I think any fair-minded reader will appreciate knowing more about how communication happens in the White House, and this book is a valuable resource in that goal.

 

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WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

HARRY SALLY

It’s a film with a classic New Year’s Eve finish . . . and don’t worry, I’m going to pass over the infamous diner scene. But “When Harry Met Sally” lets us eavesdrop on a poignant twelve-year romance between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Sadly, we have all lost – far too soon – the other couple in the film: Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher.

After a myriad of false starts and we’re-just-friends, all of Harry’s angst and wistful passion for Sally come pouring forth during the countdown to midnight and Guy Lombardo playing “Auld Lang Syne.” She’s sure he’s just there out of a temporary loneliness, and that he honestly doesn’t know how to love a woman. So here’s his spiel which finally wins her heart.

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, YOU WANT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE TO START AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.”

I can testify to that one. Lisa and I had only known each other for a scant five weeks when I proposed marriage. Hey, I was itching to get down on one knee and pop the question after two, but endured an additional cushion of three more weeks just to becalm my family’s consternation. Listen, all you nervous nellies, that was 38 years ago, so see, I was right!

But the greater takeaway as we head into 2018 is this. The very best time for our Lord and Redeemer to return to our world would be this coming year. How about really soon? How about right now? Heaven with Jesus is going to be amazing and all good forms of mathematical infinity; I’d like for it to start as soon as possible. Let’s not say “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” unless we really mean it.

 

 

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Mom the Defender

RALPHIE

 

A CHRISTMAS STORY

It’s one of the sweetest moments in cinema history, and if you flip over to TBS this Christmas, their 24-hour marathon guarantees you’ll see Ralphie hoping for that BB gun (You’ll shoot your eye out!). But there’s a scene where Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) gets into a fight with Scut Farkus, the neighborhood bully, and manages to beat him up. Unfortunately, as he’s flailing away, a torrent of obscenities spills out of his mouth and Ralphie’s mom has to tug him loose and take her sobbing son home.

Mom in this story is a wondrous Melinda Dillon, and she plays this part pitch-perfect. She bathes his wounds and tells him to lie down and compose himself. But Ralphie’s beside himself, knowing Dad (a fire-breathing Darrin McGavin), will soon be home and will surely brandish the legendary strap.

In the kitchen, Mom hears whimpering from the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Little Randy is hysterical: “Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie!” “No, he’s not; Daddy is NOT going to kill Ralphie.” “Yes, he is.” She offers him a glass of milk and he stays in his hideout; both boys are dreading the arrival of their father.

When Dad gets home, a pensive Ralphie creeps to the table, awaiting judgment. Sure enough. Dad jumps right in on Ralphie. “Where are your glasses?” (Got busted in the fight.) “Did you lose your glasses again?” Mom edges herself between them with an innocuous fib. “Ralphie, remember you left these on the radio again. Now try not to do that anymore.”

When Dad presses for the day’s headlines, Mom carefully admits: “Ralphie had a fight.” Dad: “A fight? What kind of a fight?” And Ralphie’s mom passes it off. “You know how boys are. I gave him a talking to.”

Just then she spots the out heaven is offering her and the fragile son she’s protecting. Glancing at Mr. Parker’s sports page, she distracts him. “I see that the Bears are playing Green Bay on Sunday.” “Oh, yeah,” he responds, mentally following her right to the offramp. “Zadock’s got tickets. I wish I had.”

He buries his nose to the football stats, the fight forgotten, and there’s this sweet look that passes between Mom and son. Not a single word is spoken, but her loving gaze says it all. “I’ve got your back, sweetheart. I may have to be clever, even diabolical about it, but I will always be your defender.”

The narrator respectful concludes: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”

NICE!

Merry Christmas, everybody.

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