This is one of those “to tell the story I first have to tell you this story” posts, so please bear with.

During the early months of last year (February, to be precise), I posted a lengthy dissertation on my personal blog about my favorite guitar and its assorted adventures since coming into my possession a few years ago. Said guitar is a 1976 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, which as noted in the aforementioned post is pretty much the absolute low end of desirability among electric guitar players/collectors in general and Les Paul aficionados in particulari. This holds firm even with the Les Paul being rivaled only by the Fender Stratocaster in terms of popularity among six-string gunslingers. Nevertheless, it is my instrument of choice.

In my case, I bought my Les Paul off of ebay (some hard-earned wisdom when it comes to guitar buying and ebay: don’t mix the two). It arrived sorely in need of some tender loving care, which after being applied transformed the guitar into a genuinely superb instrument despite all the slagging said model, made during said time period, usually receives.

Although it seems impossible given how you cannot find a rock’n’roll band of any stripe from the past forty-five years without a Les Paul being close at, if not in, hand, there was a time when Gibson dropped it from its product line due to years of steadily declining sales. Throughout nearly the entirety of the 1960s, not a single one was built. It was only in 1969 that demand created by the Eric Claptons and Jimmy Pages of this world among others reached a sufficient level for the guitar’s reintroduction, and even then haltingly; it would be two decades before new ownership both rescued Gibson from imminent demise and brought the Les Paul back in anything close to its original, highly prized form. How highly prized? The ones made from 1957 to 1960, after which production was halted, routinely command six figures, often with a crooked number leading the way.

Which leads from this story to the story, namely A.J. Delgado.

Ms. Delgado was, until the end of last year, a longtime member of conservative new media’s upper echelon. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Ms. Delgado was an established lawyer before she started routinely gracing assorted high flyer publications and becoming a regular guest on political television. In last year’s Presidential election – which, by the way, is still over – she threw her support to Donald Trump, going so far as to directly work for his campaign. It was during this time period she met a man who also worked for the campaign, and as happens (not excusing it, just stating the facts) an office romance ensued. Yes, the man was married, but he swore to Ms. Delgado that he and his wife were separated. It later became apparent the man’s interpretation of what entails being separated from one’s spouse was quite different than the norm, as when Ms. Delgado informed him she was unexpectedly expecting, he responded with, “So is my wife.” Awkward.

After dropping a few quite unsubtle hints about what had been/was going on, Ms. Delgado went silent on social media for several months while most everyone who had feted her just weeks before dropped her like a hot potato. No more writing gigs. No more television appearances. It got to the point where a now thoroughly unemployed Ms. Delgado was forced to move in with her mother. She recently gave birth to a son, and has now re-emerged on social media talking not politics, but personal matters related to being a new, single mother.

A third element now enters the story, that being a story in and of itself: Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. When you read John’s account, note that there was no question of whether the woman was being falsely accused. She was guilty. The penalty for adultery under Mosaic law was being stoned to death. The law called for both guilty parties to be stoned to death, but apparently the man involved in this affair was either considered insufficiently guilty or was deemed inadequate for this exercise’s primary purpose which had nothing to do with following the law. It was an effort to trap Jesus in His own words. Say let her go, and Jesus would be violating the law. Say stone her, and all of Jesus’ words about forgiving sin and such would be exposed as hollow rhetoric. Let’s see you get out of this one, carpenter boy!

Jesus, rather than responding, said nothing; instead (depending on which translation you read) stooping over or sitting down on the ground and beginning to write in the dust with His finger. What He wrote was not recorded. Most theologians and such over the ensuing centuries have surmised Jesus was writing down a list of the sins committed by the would-be rock chuck gang. Could well be. Could also be He was writing, “Get ready to be disappointed, boys; you’re about to get the first and last word in mic drop a couple of thousand years before there are any mics to drop.” At this point Jesus stood up, said His famous few words about whoever was there that was without sin could go right ahead and start turning the adulteress into a miniature quarry, and resumed his writing as the crowd one by one dropped their stones in more ways than one and walked away, eventually leaving only Jesus and the adulteress.

Jesus, doubtless thankful that Richard Rosenblatt and Ritchie Cordell had not yet written “I Think We’re Alone Now,” asked what to the woman most likely seemed like a bizarre question: where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? She stifled the temptation of responding, “Uh … don’t you see there’s no one here? Why are you asking me the obvious?” Instead, she replied with a simple, “No, Lord.” Presumably she had heard of Jesus before this moment; He was the talk of the nation. Perhaps she had even heard Him speak, or heard one of His disciples when Jesus sent them out to evangelize. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, even in her utterly terrified state – remember, just a few minutes before this moment she was going to be brutally executed – she realized the Man before her was far, far more than just another itinerant preacher. Jesus had done what no mere man could have done. He had saved her life.

Jesus then said, “Neither do I (condemn you). Go and sin no more.” Mull this over for a moment. Jesus neither condemned the woman for her actions nor condoned them. Instead, he offered mercy and grace accompanied by a stern warning: leave your past life behind. No more adultery. You should be dead right now. Instead, this is your chance to begin life anew. Don’t blow it. (It has long and often been surmised the woman was Mary Magdalene, who would later reappear in the Gospels, but there is no hard Scriptural evidence for this either yea or nay.)

By now, the logical conclusion is, “Ah-HAH! He’s comparing the story of Jesus and the adulteress to A.J. Delgado’s story!” Actually, no, although it does serve a purpose of illustrating why people should lay off the judgmental junk. The real comparison is between Ms. Delgado and the Les Paul guitar in general, my Les Paul Deluxe in particular.

Like the Les Paul, Ms. Delgado’s glory days, if you will, came before she went offline to focus on her new role as a single mom. Like the Les Paul on its first go-around, Ms. Delgado was shunned. Like my Les Paul Deluxe, since her reentry into the public realm Ms. Delgado has been considered as quite the lesser to her former self, having had an affair with a married man and having birthed a child out of wedlock. This time last year she was the hot hand, the prominent feature. Now, she changes diapers in solitude, the cameras and clamor having long departed.

It is easy to say Ms. Delgado is reaping what she has sown, thus eliminating the need to extend any of that love, grace, and mercy stuff. Sure, give her credit for not murdering … er, aborting her son when it would have been all too easy to do so, deny all rumors of an affair, and carry on with everything as before. Other than that, forget about it. And her.

There is another option.

One could try the neither condoning nor condemning tack. You know, what would Jesus do. Or, in this case, did. He offered the adulteress a fresh start, bringing her back literally from the brink of death and telling her you have another chance; don’t throw it away by throwing yourself into the wrong man’s arms again. He offered her grace and mercy. All she had to do was accept it and, going forward, walk with Him figuratively by her side, following His teachings and allowing herself to be transformed by His love. You know … like my Les Paul Deluxe when it was properly treated, changing it from a somewhat battered and thoroughly unwanted relic to something of immense value. At least to me. And certainly Ms. Delgado is of infinitely greater value than any guitar.

So what do you say? Maybe extend the same love, grace, and mercy to her God has extended to each of us? Maybe send her some encouraging words and lift her up in prayer? Maybe, just maybe, acknowledge that in devoting herself to her son Ms. Delgado is doing something of great value, something that deserves a tip of the cap to the person doing this thing?

C’mon. We can do it.

Let’s do it.

This past Sunday marked my fifty-eighth anniversary on this planet. As birthdays go it went all right; a far sight better than has been the unfortunate norm the past several years. Skipping the gory details, suffice it to say the acronym ASB has oft been used to describe another birthday. I add that if you genuinely need me to spell out what the S stands for, you are quite the innocent little waif.

Not that this year’s birthday was entirely minus angst and anxiety, with a dash of aggravation plus animus thrown in for good nature. The days leading toward the event featured several unpleasant moments on multiple fronts, this coming to a head one afternoon when a workplace incident left me quite angry and not a little frightened. I was not a happy camper.

Related to this, it’s sadly noted a lot of people I deeply care about have been wading through some deep mire lately. Relationships, employment/financial struggles, you name it. With no disrespect meant to the divine, it has been one of those times when individually and collectively it has been wondered aloud whether God is out on an extended cigarette break and His answering machine isn’t accepting any more incoming messages. People, good people, are hurting. Bad.

Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, the mountains would obey their command to move. Many of us have faith, yet it seems as whoever may be ordering the mountains about as of late has decreed they fall on top of us. When you are angry and scared; when you keep crashing into dead ends in your job search, when your love life consists of striking out before you can so much as emerge from the dugout, when your loved ones (as Terry Scott Taylor so brilliantly put it) mounted up like eagles but now are dropping like flies, when you see the loudmouth cretin down the road luxuriating with the gorgeous spouse and perfect kids and well lined bank account while you have none of the above … yes, you do start to wonder, even with promised eternity in Christ, what’s the deal. And, how are we supposed to deal with a bitter, seemingly endless losing streak.

Sometimes the only way to deal is burying our face in Jesus’ bloodstained robe and crying our eyes out, asking for comfort and asking Him why. We know the Scripture about how now we see through a glass darkly, but there are times when it seems like the glass is shattered and its shards are slicing us to ribbons. We just want it to end. We need tangible relief. We need something we can grab onto.

The other night, following the aforementioned afternoon when elements both longstanding and sudden were kicking the stuffings out of me, what came to me as a lifeline was a song from over forty years ago.

It was a song straightforwardly declaring faith’s fundamental, calling the seeker home to the One who loves him or her.

The song reminded me of the joy I once knew as a new believer, bursting with love and joy and terrible naïveté about how in so many things not only did I not have the answer, I most likely didn’t so much as have the question right.

It reminded me that through the years, through the high and lows, the doubts and fears, the anger and tears, as well as through all the moments when I felt God’s presence in every fiber of my being, Jesus had remained faithful.

The song reminded me that even in the hurting times He has been and is there, His seeming indifference an illusion belayed by the truth that this, too, shall pass even though in the immediate it hurts like hell.

It reminded me that there is an ending to all this, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with whispering, “Come quickly, Lord; I’ve had enough.”

The song reminded me to trim my sails and turn my ship to the Lord.

It was quite the pleasant early birthday present.

I’ll take it.

by baldilocks

A real environmental crisis: it’s Raining Needles. Alternate title: Why I Stopped Wearing Flip-flops in Public.

They hide in weeds along hiking trails and in playground grass. They wash into rivers and float downstream to land on beaches. They pepper baseball dugouts, sidewalks and streets. Syringes left by drug users amid the heroin crisis are turning up everywhere.

In Portland, Maine, officials have collected more than 700 needles so far this year, putting them on track to handily exceed the nearly 900 gathered in all of 2016. In March alone, San Francisco collected more than 13,000 syringes, compared with only about 2,900 in the same month in 2016.

People, often children, risk getting stuck by discarded needles, raising the prospect they could contract blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis or HIV or be exposed to remnants of heroin or other drugs.

(…)

Needles turn up in places like parks, baseball diamonds, trails and beaches — isolated spots where drug users can gather and attract little attention, and often the same spots used by the public for recreation. The needles are tossed out of carelessness or the fear of being prosecuted for possessing them.

One child was poked by a needle left on the grounds of a Utah elementary school. Another youngster stepped on one while playing on a beach in New Hampshire.

Even if adults or children don’t get sick, they still must endure an unsettling battery of tests to make sure they didn’t catch anything. The girl who put a syringe in her mouth was not poked but had to be tested for hepatitis B and C, her mother said.

Some community advocates are trying to sweep up the pollution.

Rocky Morrison leads a cleanup effort along the Merrimack River, which winds through the old milling city of Lowell, and has recovered hundreds of needles in abandoned homeless camps that dot the banks, as well as in piles of debris that collect in floating booms he recently started setting.

In truth, this is merely a physical manifestation of the inner crises of all too many. These people want to escape from reality, become trapped by their escape route, then become heedless of all things — except for the next time they get a ride along the escape route. There are many means of being set free from this trap. One of them is death. In the meantime, more escape, more death and more discarded needles.

The most sinister spiritual component to heroin and many other drugs does not inhabit the users, however, but the providers. Even if all drugs were to become legal tomorrow, that would not change.

The question is this: what can be done for those who are caught up in this web? I think most solutions of the earthly variety are already available. These people need the Great Healer. Their inner environment needs to be made clean.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

This past weekend, the mysterious albeit not mythical Mrs. Dude and I did a quick trip down Southern California way for the primary purpose of attending a beloved friend’s daughter’s baby shower. And, as long as we were in the neighborhood, swinging by to visit the mice and the ducks and the dogs and the chipmunks. In other words, Disneyland. The two events made for an interesting comparison, to say the least.

While at the House of Mouse, it was difficult to look in any given direction without immediately being assaulted by the sordid phenomenon known as matching T-shirts. For those of you who’ve managed to avoid this scenario up until now, this does not refer to everybody in a group wearing the exact same park or character shirt. Rather, it refers to a gaggle of people wearing cheap homemade shirts, said purpose being informing one and all that they, and/or someone in their party, is so special, and so meriting attention, special clothing must be worn so that they may be properly hailed.

Doubtless it is a special occasion to those involved that little Timmy is having his fifth birthday, or the whole family is taking a vacation, or the bridal party has decided to stop by here before running off to Vegas and getting wasted together. Why the rest of the world should know, or care, above and beyond maybe someone saying something so someone else can congratulate them, remains a mystery.

Somehow, in a amusement park dedicated to the realm of fantasy, with tens of thousands of people in attendance seeking escape from their daily reality in said fantasy, the notion that your everyday events (and you) are so incredibly special, and unique, that everyone should take note both amuses and saddens. Frankly, folks, no one else cares, nor should they be expected to care, nor can they be made to care. You and/or your child and/or your grandchild and/or your family event is neither so cute, nor so smart, nor so unique, that the rest of humanity should take special note. The most egregious example of this witnessed to date was a family wearing matching shirts memorializing grandma, for nothing speaks of sincerity like trolling for sympathy at the happiest place on earth.

Now, you are special and unique to God. However, careful Scriptural research has yet to reveal any indication that drawing attention to yourself is a worthwhile, noble, and altogether pleasant procedure. You’re in Disneyland, okay? No one is there to see, or pay attention to, you. They are there to see Mickey and Minnie and Donald and assorted princesses and superheroes. Besides, if you really wanted to be honest, you’d wear a T-shirt saying something like TEAM 37th IN LINE FOR A DOLE WHIP.

Fast forward to the next day and the baby shower. I freely admit baby showers aren’t my thing, but given the family involved attending this one was a pleasure. Besides, someone had to get the baby the right professional sports team apparel to wear. #LetsGoSharks

What most marked the event wasn’t, thankfully, a gaggle of women trading labor pains stories. Rather, it was the outpouring of sheer, unadulterated, unfiltered, pure love. The radiant glow of the mom to be. The floating on air joy of the soon to be first time grandmother. The equally floating on air joy of the soon to be first time great-grandparents. The love for the Lord; the love for each other flowed from and to all who were there. It was a truly special, blessed occasion. Moments like these provide much needed refreshment in a self-obsessed world.

True love never calls artificial attention to itself. It instead flows naturally, any notice of same coming as a normal byproduct of its presence. The expression “true love waits” is often bandied about in relation to abstaining from sex before marriage. This is true, but it has another meaning. True love also waits until the world has exhausted itself with its endless horn blowing and tub thumping. Then, and only then, does it reveal itself to be the genuine.

Seek the genuine. And lose the stupid T-shirts.

by baldilocks

Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna:

Early Wednesday morning a man with a high-powered rifle attacked Republican members of Congress at a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia. The shooter, a man from Indiana named James T. Hodgkinson, was eventually shot dead by police officers, but not until he had wounded Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three other people, including two of the officers who took him out.

Prior to his rampage in Alexandria, Mr. Hodgkinson had been a devoted supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders (IN-VT), a self-described democratic socialist who ran in last year’s presidential campaign. Mr. Hodgkinson, like his admired candidate, was a staunch progressive. He was a bitter opponent of Donald Trump, and posted messages on Facebook to the effect that the president needed to be “destroyed”.

At some point James Hodgkinson decided to cross the line between peaceful protest and violent insurrection. By dying in furtherance of his political goals, Mr. Hodgkinson set himself up to be the John Brown of what many people — on both Left and Right — see as the coming civil war in America. (…)

[21st-century Progressives] see their cause, with all its intricate sub-causes, as the equivalent of a mid-19th century movement that strove to abolish slavery. For them, any resistance to open borders and unlimited Third-World immigration is the moral equivalent of slaveholding.

When any cause is that morally righteous, only a tiny step is required for it to move beyond a non-violent stance to an ideology that sanctions violence for the sake of the cause.

As of this writing, only the Antifas and their ilk champion violence in the name of the Progressive cause. Armed insurrection has not gone mainstream — YET.

Were Wednesday’s semi-automatic rounds in Alexandria the first volley of the coming civil war?

Richard Fernandez at The Belmont Club:

A civilization at a decision point is almost by definition walking the razor’s edge between two futures.  One future may lead to a catastrophe whose survivors must begin again from scratch. (…)

The poisonous atmosphere in today’s politics illustrates how bitterly established interests will fight to protect their “gains”.  They will literally kill to preserve an agenda.  For example GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot and seriously wounded by someone “distraught” over the recent Republican electoral victory.  “The man suspected of opening fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team early Wednesday morning was distraught over the election of President Trump and traveled to Washington in recent weeks to protest, his brother said on Wednesday.”

The shooting comes after months of increasing political hostility which include but is not limited to, pitched battles between activists at universities, the forcible eviction of speakers from campuses in the name of safe spaces, veiled calls by “comedians” for political violence and general name calling and incivility. The Hill reports that lawmakers are now receiving anonymous threats from voices which accuse them of betraying a political ideal. (…)

Expect more, not less of this.

Kathy Griffin emboldened at least one entity: the University of Alaska.

The University of Alaska at Anchorage is displaying a painting of a nude Chris Evans, the actor who stars as Marvel’s Captain America, holding aloft the severed head of President Donald Trump, as a young ’60s-era Hillary Clinton clings to his leg.

Assistant professor Thomas Chung created the painting, KTTU-TV reported, and he says that he “spent days just weeping” after Trump was elected president. The assistant professor describes himself as a social artist who normally doesn’t deal in politics, but Trump’s election “bled into that.”

“Helmet of Salvation”

Pun intended, I’m sure.

Beheadings seem to be all the rage among the Organized Left—another pun intended. To me, this grisly form of protest is a spiritual issue more than anything else. Is it a stretch to say that this is also the reason that the Organized Left is soft on the Jihad? The two entities certainly have a common enemy. And it’s not us, not ultimately. It’s Christ. The Devil wants his servants to take heads before his gets crushed.

Wear your armor at all times.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

Do people really want the truth?

If you spend any period of time cruising “conservative” sites dedicated to dissecting pop culture, or “neutral” sites dissecting of culture with one or more conservative writers on staff, the answer comes rapidly. It’s no. To be more precise, the aforementioned writers have little if any interest in proclaiming, via pointing out, truth.

This may seem like a strange summation. Didn’t the late, great Andrew Breitbart say politics is downstream from culture? Aren’t these people, at least in part, attempting to embody this truism by discussing the latest entertainment efforts and societal swings mainstream infomedia declares are where it’s at, or at least should be? Sure. But it is a very, very small and utterly ineffective part.

To slightly paraphrase Paul’s snap to the church in Corinth, said writers are looking only at the surface of things. They see the obvious – the blockbuster movie, the hot entertainer, the even hotter social trend as deemed by whichever upper crust publication wants some free publicity this week via prefabricated “controversy.” They comment, they argue, they strive to score maximum points with the Konservative Kool Kidz Klub. All very nice. And all utterly meaningless in terms of influencing pop culture’s course. Genuine influence comes not from adding a me too with a conservative view. It comes from exploring and promoting the unknown that is worthy of attention.

It’s not like there are no opportunities to genuinely impact people through elements generally associated with pop culture, given how its more heralded items seldom pack the punch many believe they hold. The great movie icons of recent decades – Star Wars, the ongoing spate of superhero movies – have worked their way into the popular lexicon, but outside of the freakishly obsessed few their societal impact is nonexistent. Books and their authors fly high for fifteen minutes and then disappear over the horizon. Heard anyone discuss The Bridges of Madison County or Life of Pi lately? An argument can be made that the Chinese water torture known as network television has moved the morality and mores gauge needles to the left; Will & Grace did much to normalize homosexuality in the public eye, and every time I hear a five year old loudly exclaim “oh my god” in reference to most every item in my toy store I, uh, ‘thank’ the writers of Friends. Pop music is both omnipresent and impactless, streamed today and sent packing tomorrow. When an album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles) first released fifty years ago sells more physical copies than any other album, all’s said needing to be said concerning current music’s place in current society.

Maybe follow Sgt. Pepper’s lead and find music from the past that still holds value today?

Time to shift gears a bit. As today’s greatest songwriter Terry Scott Taylor recently sang, there’s not a holy man who doesn’t know grief well, or thinks the road to heaven doesn’t pass through hell. This truth is embodied in how throughout Christianity’s history, many believers have found their greatest solace not in the New Testament but rather in a chapter written by the Old Testament mystic prophet Isaiah. Written hundreds of years before Christ’s passion and death on the cross, Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah as a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, has resonated throughout the millennia with those suffering.

Twenty-two years and 22,000 light years removed from today’s Christian music scene, featuring endless recyclings of endless clichés about a good good father, with his band Adam Again the late pioneer of Christian alternative rock Gene Eugene released Perfecta which sadly turned out to be the band’s final album before Eugene’s death due to an aneurism in 2000. There’s a Kickstarter campaign currently underway to finally release it on vinyl as well as remastered CD. Not that there’s a need for cause aside from its dark brilliance to revisit this sadly unknown work, but it’s as good of a reason as any.

If the measure of an album’s potential impact on individuals, who in turn influence society, can be determined by said album’s rawness stripping away all emotional pretense and posturing, then Perfecta would be an instant game changer even today. Laying atop a foundation of simultaneously jangling and snarling distorted guitars, Eugene’s grainy razored vocals ripped through stories most Christian artists wouldn’t dare touch: failed relationships, substance abuse, and Leonard Cohen. For starters. When during the song “Relapse” he cried ‘believe me, I’m fine,’ you know the song’s character was anything but. In “All You Lucky People,” Eugene’s resigned alienation from the Christian music that at best held him at arms length and usually avoided him at all costs spilled out:

Won’t you give me your secret
And allow me a tale to sell
To the guests of the guilty at the gates of hell
I’m after it
I’m after it
And you’ll know
That I keep looking at all you lucky people coming around to say hello
Hello

It’s somewhat doubtful you’ll be hearing this during worship time next Sunday.

Perfecta isn’t a collection of ruminations about lost faith. Rather, it collects tales of what happens when faith gets stomach punched. A lot. Despite this, faith remains, beaten down but not defeated. There is life beyond life’s insidious heartbreaks. There will be blood. But there is also the bloody Cross.

It is Perfecta, and albums like it, by artists and bands such as Gene Eugene and Adam Again, that tell life changing truths. This is the primal scream at pop culture’s center, one often obscured by drek and dross yet still present. If the writers covering pop culture from the right side truly wish to make an impact, they will throttle back on the 378th dissertation this week about Wonder Woman and start actively seeking out that, and those, whose creation can effect change in lieu of rambling on about the latest layer of frosting atop an already oversugared cake.

Last week, most of the world gasped in horror at the sight of children in Manchester, most of them girls, being blown apart for the crime of attending a pop concert. I say most; the satanic jihadists celebrated even as some among the oh so pure Konservative Kool Kidz Klub sneered how Ariana Grande had it coming because she’s said and done stupid stuff, and by default her audience as well for not knowing they’re not supposed to support someone not bearing the official seal of approval. Because, after all, every eight year old girl should be full up on politics.

The latter losers notwithstanding – and they have no place standing with anyone who has a heart – the terrorist attack was only one side of the war on children, specifically girls; sudden, brutal. There is another face of the war against children usually hidden from sight: the slow death of those ritually abused by adults. Be it sexual, this occasionally bubbling to the surface when another child pornography aficionado and/or sex trafficker is arrested, physical, emotional/mental/spiritual; it lives among us and almost always out of sight. As are its victims, who either put on a forced happy face to hide the truth, disappear from public view, or wind up in a morgue unless their lifeless body is thrown out with the trash. The abuse often doesn’t end at childhood’s end, as the obscenely high number of abused wives and girlfriends can attest once the swelling from their latest bouquet of physical or emotional/mental/spiritual bruises subsides. This noted, it is of the children this post speaks.

This is the world musician Randy Rose exposes in his latest offering Songs For The Ritually Abused. Rose, along with his brother Roger, is fondly remembered by hardcore Christian rock fans from his days in synth to hard rock Mad At The World. Currently working with his own band bearing his last name, Rose successfully went to the Kickstarter well last year to finance a new recording he promised would be anything but, well, roses and rose-colored stained glass windows. A few hiccups hindered the release schedule, but the album is now out. It is raw and real.

"Songs For The Ritually Abused" by Rose
“Songs For The Ritually Abused” by Rose

Musically, for those unaware of Rose’s sound the best comparison would be to think of Muse with the melodrama turned down and the snarl turned up to 11. Melody is often delivered with the business end of a fuzztone sledgehammer. There are quiet moments, but for the most part Songs For The Ritually Abused is pounding mid-tempo fury. It’s not metal nor goth, but fans of each genre as well as those attracted by anthems will find plenty to sink their teeth into even as the music bares its own teeth.

Lyrically, the only words that accurately capture the album’s horror and hope are its own:

You were ritually abused…battered, bloodied and bruised
But Jesus is calling your name and Girl, you’ll never be the same
Tears stain my cheek for the one who couldn’t speak
Sweet little Girl…

I know everything’s gonna be fine
Girl, I know He’ll wipe the tears from your eyes
So close your eyes and dream of things
Close your eyes and dream of things
So close your eyes and dream of things that
You thought that you’d never see

Beautiful Girl…

Havilah, your time has come
And now you get to speak…

You can speak.

For example. Other songs cut even deeper, exposing and calling out the monsters who abuse children while proclaiming Christ’s love in action for victims. It is a fearsome, brutally effective tour de force.

Songs For The Ritually Abused will not make anyone want to hit the dance floor, and it’s extremely doubtful the average Ariana Grande fan will find much, if anything, here to her liking. That said, it is precisely for her fans seeking solace in her music as an escape from their private hell that this album was made. If it moves people to action confronting this evil, or serves as a lifeline for those unwillingly described in its words, with this album Randy Rose has accomplished God’s work.

The album is available at Amazon, CD Baby, direct from the record label, iTunes, and Rose’s website.

This past weekend, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I took some much needed time away from our respective workplaces to visit the mice, ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and other critters. In other words, Disneyland.

Given how we had an extra day, rather than take the quicker, fiercely duller I-5 freeway we opted for the more coastal I-101. The 101 mostly follows the trail left by Spanish Franciscans during the late 1700s and early 1800s as they established twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to Solano, all of which still stand in some fashion.

As the 101 enters the lower reaches of central California, it goes through a lengthy stretch of mostly gentle hills, dotted or covered in evergreen oak trees with grasses and occasionally flowers underneath. In a few places man has unobtrusively made his present felt with the occasional vineyard or orchard, but for the most part everything is how nature has presently left things arranged. It is beautiful, peaceful, and pastoral.

It is also utterly deceiving.

The gently rolling hills, their surface worn to smooth roundness by millennia of rain and growth, thoroughly hide how whenever one travels through them one does so atop a ticking bomb. The San Andreas and ancillary earthquake faults lie beneath, their convulsive thrusting over countless years having formed the scarps and protrusions that we now see in gently sloped, innocent form. It is not a question of if the next great earthquake will strike this land, or north or south of here, but rather when, a question science answers with a supremely confident shrug. Save building upon and anchoring to a solid foundation, one that remains in place even as the structure it supports has sufficient flexibility to enable the passing through of energy expended whenever tectonic plates throw a temper tantrum, there is no possible preparation for when the earth forcibly reminds us we are not in charge.

That said, once proper preparations for the inevitable are made there is no excuse for not finding healing in the hills’ beauty. The moment one conforms his or her thinking to what the hills are, this as compared to what one wishes the hills to be, clarity ensues.

Clarity; seeing what is and responding accordingly in lieu of acting based on preferred reality, is a sadly rare commodity these days. Humanity has done an excellent job of convincing itself its perception is indeed reality. Self-identification has become sacrosanct. Few dare tell others they are not who they think they are. You are an expert witness, a political earthshaker because you say you are? Of course you are. Meanwhile, the real earthshaker lays beneath its benign disguise, waiting for a time of its own choosing to reveal its fearsome power.

The time has come to stop pretending and start living. Let the impotent rage and peacock posing go. Being a social media warrior is no more noble than being a social justice warrior. We are not shifting the dialogue; we are not changing policy. We’re just not.

What we can do is change culture from the inside out. Loving family and friends, tending to one another in heart, mind, and soul; this is achievable. We can preach, in word and far more importantly deed, Christ crucified and risen. Let us embrace truth as we live among the lovely and violent hills, practicing our love and faith while preparing for the inevitable upheaval we can neither prevent nor predict.

I never knew Bob Owens. Given how my Konservative Kool Kidz Klub application was stamped Return To Sender years ago, this is no surprise. He was one of the early conservative new media types, first blogging and later developing a more traditional media business model. He was quite the Second Amendment aficionado. Owens was a family man; wife, three kids. He was known and loved, personally and professionally, by many within CNM, including several people I know as friends.

Earlier this week he left a cryptic note on Facebook about being a coward and a failure.

He then blew his brains out.

An overriding theme in the reactions to Owens’ death is that no one, not even those closest to him, had the slightest inkling this was a possibility. There was nothing in his demeanor, nothing in his words and/or actions, giving any indication he was troubled unto death by his own hand. Owens’ suicide has been met with complete astonishment. The words from those who knew him have both poured out and fallen in shocked silence.

Being one who knows the dark side as something utterly removed from George Lucas’ film franchise, I speak with uncomfortable authority about depression. It is an irrational, illogical assassin; the father of lies’ most hideous, insidious lie. It blinds its victims to reality, convincing them there is no hope when in fact hope abounds. Depression tells the irreplaceable all would fare better without their presence spoiling life’s soup. It declares self-destruction’s broad road as the only road, doing its damnedest to block salvation’s narrow path. Depression is Satan’s scalpel, seeking only to cut out life itself instead of cutting out the cancer it forms on the soul.

While there can be, at least in some cases in part, an understanding of why someone would take their own life, suicide stands in direct opposition to God’s will and Word. No one has the right to dismiss God’s gift of life to us and/or destroy the Holy Spirit’s temple He made for us in His image. The forgiveness made available to each of us through Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross is never a license to sin. While faith alone cannot always completely counteract depression’s lies, it is a vital element in the fight. There are no echoes of throne checks or any other variation on “are you really saved” in asking someone not just how they are, but how is their soul. This said, God alone truly knows the soul. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion. We are His voice and hands on this earth; we must act and speak accordingly.

John Donne was right; no man is an island and the death of one diminishes us all. It should make us stop and take stock of priorities. Nothing exposes our online world’s triviality, the futility of our pursuit within our phonebooth kingdoms echo chamber of hyperlink and hashtag love as validation, like staring at a loved ones’ headstone. Today, now, is the time to preach in word and deed Christ crucified and risen to family, friends, and strangers alike.

I sympathize with Bob Owens’ friends. I grieve for his family. I pray God will have mercy on his soul. And I pray all the more the next Bob Owens among us will never be known as the next Bob Owens because someone reached out, and the person reached cried out to Jesus for the strength to live.

by baldilocks

One of my best longtime blog friends—in the category of haven’t yet met face-to-face—is Steve Graham. A few may remember his hilarious blogs from the early 2000s, Little Tiny Lies and Hog on Ice, and might wonder where he’s been.

I’ve kept up with his blog, Tools of Renewal, for a good ten years. The humor is still there, but this blog has a singular purpose: to glorify God. Even when Steve is not talking overtly about God, he is.

Here’s Steve on the Colbert tempest:

I’m not nearly as upset about politics and public attitudes toward God as I used to be, even though my estimate of America’s future has gotten much worse. I credit God with helping me escape pointless agitation. God is the all-time champion of battle-choosing, and he teaches his ways to his children. If you’re determined to lose your peace over Antifa, so-called gender transitioning, the bizarre political power of illegal aliens, and violence toward conservatives, you can certainly go ahead and sink into the flames. You can write furious blog posts, go to rallies, get beaten with your own flagpole, and get ulcers. My approach these days is to let things slide in the natural realm and to do my fighting in prayer. If I tussle in the mud (euphemism for something else) with the pigs, I’ll become one of them, and the pigs won’t change. Much better to sit back in the comfort of my home and do battle on a supernatural level.

I pray for God to defeat Colbert and also to change his heart, I ask God to help me not to have animosity toward him, and then I go on my merry way. I can’t fix the world, and if I want to lead a blessed life while I’m here, I have to be able to let go of things.

And, in the same post, on mountain climbing:

The Everest professionals had a mission mentality, but in reality, they were just helping rich people walk up the side of a rock. They weren’t repelling the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. They seemed to feel that what they were doing was very, very important, but in reality, it was one hundred percent unnecessary.

They reminded me of gang members. Before you join a gang, you may have a happy-go-lucky life free of stress and dread. Once you join (completely by choice), you have a life of drama. Everything is serious. You’re a “soldier”; gang members often use military terms to describe themselves. Your life is full of danger, and you have to face it. You are likely to end up listening to, or writing and performing, pathetic, self-pitying rap music, in which you glorify yourself and try to get people to see you as a martyr and a victim.

Climbers respect each other. If you’re a dead climber, forget it. “Respect” doesn’t even capture it. What you get is more like worship. Because you climbed a rock and died, when you could have been at home eating pancakes. Sounds a lot like gangsters, pouring cheap booze on the ground as an offering to absent homies.

If you remember the quality of Steve’s writing, you’ll enjoy it and if you’re trying to get closer to God, he has plenty of experiential recommendations. Go read.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

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