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Friday, October 31, 2008

The 10 Cannots

These were published as a brochure by William Boetcker in 1916. I think these are worth thinking about, especially as we move into the election next Tuesday. Thoughtfully consider the candidates and then vote, my dear friends. This is a great privilege and responsibility that has been bought with the blood of many.

1.  You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

2.  You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

3.  You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

4.  You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.

5.  You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.

6.  You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

7.  You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

8.  You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

9.  You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

10  You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Don't Waste Your Life

I don't remember who spoke at my high school graduation, but all these years later I do remember her opening line:

"You've already lived one quarter of your life."

This was powerful stuff for an eighteen year old. As I've thought back on her talk through the years, I am grateful that she pointed my attention to be careful, not to waste life, while I was still young.

Life IS very short, isn't it? When you're 18, it seems like it will last forever, but by the time you're 28 you've already made some pivotal decisions of the direction your life will go (marriage, career, family, location) and by the time you're 38 these decisions are even more entrenched. And so on. Yes, you can always alter your path, but it gets progressively harder.

And no matter what you do, the past years are already gone.

You feel the touch of the mortal hand: bodies age, people die, disappointments multiply, safeguards fail. Life is not limitless as it is when you're 18. More and more potentials become actualities as you build the legacy you will leave, stone by stone.

What legacy will you leave? Sweetness or bitter? Gratitude or anger? Emphasis on others or yourself?

You've heard this one before, but what would you do if you only had a day/week/month to live? Would you change your focus for these last hours or days, or would you more or less do what you're doing now? Do you think it's important if you'd change your focus? What is your guiding principle in life?

Will you choose to follow God? I believe this life is the only place you can freely make this decision, and also that this is the most important question of all.

Ponder these things. In the meantime, let me make the statement that the woman made to our high school class:


Make your life count. Build your legacy, whether it is to play with your children, be with your family, or do your job that will make life better for many. Design that computer program, start your dream business, paint your masterpiece. Love and bless others. Search for truth. Search for God.

Play a song for me, my dear friends. I won't hear it now, but I will smile because I know it's beautiful.

And I will see you at the Gate.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Election is Nigh

My dear friends, we stand on the cusp of great changes in this country, changes that may last for generations, and may affect this country in a profoundly negative way.

America is founded on great and true principles: that all men are created equal, that the government derives its power from the people rather than people receiving *rights* from the government. Yes, we have blemishes and incidences of hypocrisy in our history, starting with the ownership of slaves by some of the Founders (an evil, BTW, fought and finally excised with the blood of many more than half a million men). What other country offers the freedom, the generosity, the *City on a Hill* that so many peoples from other countries run to? What other country has liberated so many others, not to keep but to help and guide to become free, independent?

Read again the words of Emma Lazarus, whose poem is engraven on the Statue of Liberty:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
by Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883

Our God-given freedoms have been eroding for awhile, but this election seems to have the potential of putting in place a great acceleration in the process. Please, dear friends, don't let our blood-bought freedoms go so easily. We need to turn back to God. Pray for His mercy on our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Joy Comes...

Sometimes it doesn't seem like the sadness and tears will ever end.

I know two people who, within the last 6 weeks, have both lost their jobs with no idea of what they will do. Loss of a dear one, illness, wayward children, finances, frustration -- and don't forget the war, the stock market, natural disasters, the upcoming election...

This world is a discouraging place. Happiness is in snatches, yet troubles are constant. It comes down, I think, to what you believe: that this world is random and without sense, or that we are *all* making our realities and need to think more positively (tell that to victims of oppression trapped in China or Africa, or wherever), or that there is a Loving God who is helping us through this mess we've created, and will one day restore us.

CS Lewis said in a presentation (transcribed in the volume God in the Dock) that "Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists; the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic."

Most people *sense* there are forces beyond the natural in our world -- angels, a universal force, or even a Creator-God -- but how can one know for sure? And does it matter?

Christians believe that God one day will redeem the world, and there is surprisingly much objective evidence to support Christianity as being true. I myself came to faith through in-depth study of these issues, although when I started I desperately wanted to disprove it all. Christians believe that difficult times now can train and teach our spirits, if we will let them. As it says, "For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalms 30:5, AKJV)

If you ask WHY do these things happen?, I hope you might consider asking God, whoever or whatever He might be, to make his truth clear to you. If you ask this sincerely and with an open mind, you may be surprised at what you find.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Presidential End Game

As I watch the playing out of this election, I find myself increasingly dismayed. One thing that I'm noticing is the very different outlook of the two major candidates. There are many policy points, but a general observation might be that one party champions individual efforts while the other wants to establish governmental monopolies that will produce *universal* solutions to groups of people to *make things more equal*.

Whenever people start talking about *groups* I get nervous, because it's very easy to lose the individual's autonomy within the group's well-being. For example, I am horrified at the vilification of *Joe the Plumber*. Doesn't the character assassination of this man seems like overkill for his simply asking an honest question? Is *Joe the Plumber's* individual reputation worth trading for whatever group benefit may supposedly result? The point is, ad hominem attacks don't change the fact that he asked a good question that applies to many many people.

I'd like to quote CS Lewis from "Man or Rabbit?" in his collection of essays, God in the Dock. He says:

"To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day."

No matter what your political views, I hope that you are in prayer for our country for this critical election. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Good Sunday, dear friends.

I just have to pass this on! While this story is simply that -- a story, originally put forward by comic Shelley Berman -- it certainly demonstrates frustrations with the mindless bureacracy. Enjoy!


Dear Maid,

Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine cabinet and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you,
S. Berman


Dear Room 635,

I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily.

I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid


Dear Maid -- I hope you are my regular maid.

Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won't need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc.

Please remove them.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed to place in each room by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn't remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Your regular maid,


Dear Mr. Berman,

The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this A.M. that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8 am and 5 pm. Thank you.

Elaine Carmen


Dear Ms. Carmen,

It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45 am and don't get back before 5:30 or 6 pm. That's the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bathroom shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 betweem 8 am and 5 pm. Thank you,

Elaine Carmen,


Dr. Mr. Kensedder,

My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager


Dear Ms. Carmen,

Who the hell left 54 little bars of camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don't want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

S. Berman


Dear Mr. Berman,

You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don't know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don't know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen


Dear Ms. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up to date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:

* On shelf under medicine cabinet: 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2
* On Kleenex dispenser: 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3
* On bedroom dresser: 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet, 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 camay in 2 stacks of 4
* Inside medicine cabinet: 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2
* In shower soap dish: 6 Camay, very moist
* On northeast corner of tub: 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used
* On northwest corner of tub: 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Story Structure

In my studies of story structure, the biggest surprise I found was how little story development varies. My dear friends, we are such very boring creatures! No matter the genre, the same development of story events occurred, over and over and over.

For this blog entry I wanted to give a quick summary of story structure according to me. Much of this is not original work -- I'm not that brilliant -- but I've synthesized the work of smart people with my own humble observations to come up with a model of story structure that works for me, during my work in coaching writers.

During my studies, I tore apart about 20 *good* modern novels (ie novels that I enjoyed), ranging in genre from literary to adventure to mystery to YA to science fiction, plus a bunch of movies. I did word counts or timed scenes with a watch, listed everything into columns, and then analyzed the commonalities of story progression across genre.

The story can be divided into four more-or-less equal parts, each part with a distinct theme. Furthermore, there are definite story POSTS that occur reliably in the progression of the story, and land reliably within a range of a few percentage points of the whole. I'll put them down very briefly, and use the film *My Big Fat Greek Wedding* to illustrate. BTW I could have picked just about anything to illustrate, but this is a cute movie :-)

ACT ONE: demonstrates the original or starting position of the protagonist, plus the set up to show how he moves into the main story.

Ordinary World -- shows what the protagonist's *normal life* is like. Toula is a 30 year old unmarried Greek woman working in her (extremely intrusive) family's restaurant.

Inciting Incident -- shows a potential change offered to the protagonist, either a choice or an assignment. Toula finds a college brochure that might offer her an opportunity to achieve something different by taking a few classes.

Argument -- the protagonist isn't sure if he will enter the new world or not. Toula must convince her father to allow her to take some courses at the college.

Door -- represents a *journey* into the new world. Toula enters the college campus and starts taking classes.

ACT TWO FIRST PART: the protagonist learns how the *New World* works, and also thinks that once this little journey is over he will be *unchanged* (able to straddle or return to the Ordinary World). This is often shown as a series of three encounters, each increasingly involved.

Toula is shown changing her image to become more glamorous (hair, clothing, ditching the glasses, makeup etc.), answering questions competently in class, and socializing with other students (something she couldn't do as a kid).

Midpoint: an often flashy event that represents either a false high, or a devastating loss, that makes it clear the protagonist can no longer go back to his Ordinary World.

Toula meets Ian, a high school English teacher, and starts dating him even though she knows her family will *never* accept him because he isn't Greek. Shortly afterwards, Nikki tells Toula that the family knows about her romance with Ian, and then Toula must sit before the disapproving family committee that tells her to break it off.

ACT TWO SECOND PART: the protagonist scrambles to regain equilibrium while the antagonistic forces gain power. Toula's family tries to match her with other *suitable* bachelors without success. Finally Ian proposes to Toula, who joyfully accepts, but her family only reluctantly agrees. Ian yields to these powerful forces by becoming *Greek*: becoming baptized and participating in Greek family activities, including a fabulous party in which Ian's conservative parents are contrasted with the noisy Porticullis clan.

Slide: another often flashy event that serves as a funnel. The nature of the climax is now clearly seen. Often there is a sort of *death* present here; think Obi Wan against Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie. (observation courtesy of Blake Snyder in his Save the Cat!, a book I highly recommend). Toula comes home with her wedding plans, only to learn her family has already ordered the invitations and the bridesmaids' dresses.

ACT THREE: the protagonist gears up for the final encounter, although it looks unlikely that he will ever win. Toula is dismayed that her family is so intrusive, and that her family and Ian's are so different.

Darkest Moment: The very worst position that the protagonist can possibly imagine. While preparing for the wedding that morning, Toula realizes she will never be free of her family.

Help from Outside: a small action that allows the protagonist to regroup and win. This story post I recognized courtesy of Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt in a NANGIE writing class I took a few years ago. Toula's grandmother shows Toula her own wedding crown, and Toula realizes that her family all love her and that she is connected to her family in a deep and profound way.

Climax: an often flashy sequence in which the protagonist ultimately wins, if not the outer conflict then certainly the inner (think Rocky). Toula and Ian have a beautiful, Greek, wedding and reception. Toula's father makes a joke that shows how Toula's family and Ian's family, although different, are ultimately the same.

Resolution: tells how the protagonist's life will go on. Toula and Ian are shown several years later in a house next door to her family's house, walking their daughter to Greek school.


OK, there is the story structure in miniature, sort of. Try laying these story points over any story you like -- you'll be surprised at how well they'll match!

This column is for dear friends. I hope it provides some food for thought.


copyright 2008 by Amy Deardon
all rights reserved

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cute Pix

Just wanted to post some life reminders for a Sunday evening. Hope you're well, dear friends!

Believe in yourself


Always try to see the glass half-full


Remain calm, even when it seems hopeless


Try to have a little fun every's important


Don't waste food


Watch your step


It will get better


Seize the moment

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, John Lennon

October 9 1940-December 8 1980

I have John Lennon on my mind, probably because it was his birthday yesterday. I smile sadly when I think of him.

Perpetually young, the talented musician and angry agitator, it's hard to believe that John Lennon has been dead for almost 28 years. Lennon was the originator and chief songwriter, along with Paul McCartney, of the Beatles until the group broke up in 1970. He was married most famously to Yoko Ono, had two boys, and was a notoriously free spirit. He was killed outside his apartment in New York City by a deranged fan waiting for him with a gun.

One of Lennon's most famous post-Beatles songs is *Imagine*; I've pasted the lyrics at the bottom of this entry. This song talks about a shining worldwide brotherhood, where no one fights or competes, and we all just love each other and live in peace.

Although beautiful both in music and lyrics, though, this song has always discomforted me in its lumping of people into a *group* where we *all* do all these things. In my mind, this seems to be a real dichotomy in society even today: there are people who believe in the strength of the individual to create and to choose how he will live, versus the people who believe in groups of people who are oppressed, or privileged, or whatever, and need one-size-fits-all solutions.

There is a monument to John Lennon on Videy Island, Reykjavik Iceland, that sends a bright column of light into the sky.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cool Video

Grace is defined in Christian terms as *unmerited favor* -- in other words, it is the gift of salvation that we are totally incapable of earning. While it's easy to give lip service, it can be boggling to try to really wrap one's mind around what this means.

Here's a great video that, while funny, gives a good illustration of Grace. Enjoy!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Where Does Faith Come From?

My dear friends, from a radio interview I've just become aware of a remarkable man, and wanted to share this with you.

When you are sad or annoyed, think of Nick and the joy he has. Is it just denial? A sleight of mind? It seems humanly impossible that someone with this handicap could develop such optimism. Nick says it's Christ.

Think about this...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated and/or voted in the blog review contest! It was a lot of fun.

I'm going to move the original voting chart to the side of this blog so it doesn't take too much room. The final tally is here:

Donna L.......................0
History Lover...............0
Josie O........................4
Tilly F..........................2
Hannah C....................2
Kathy H.....................13

As you can see, Kathy H. won with 13 votes out of 31. She has elected to donate the $50 prize money to Feed the Children, one of her favorite charities. Feed The Children is a Christian, international, nonprofit relief organization with headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They deliver food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster. You can read more about them here

Way to go, Kathy!

Thank you everyone.

Have a great day.