This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

If God Loves Everyone Where Does that Leave Me?

M. Blaine Smith: If God Loves Everyone, Where Does That Leave Me? Appreciating God's Distinctive Love

This article is by M. Blaine Smith, and reprinted by permission from HERE. It raises an interesting question: If God loves EVERYONE, can He see me as an individual?

The language we use in modern Christianity to speak about God and his love for us often fails to do justice to the special ways he relates to us as individuals. I grew convinced of this after a woman once told me she had long resisted giving her life to Christ because God’s love seemed too universal to her.“For a long time I had no doubt that God loved me,” Nancy confessed, “but it made no difference to me--for the fact is that God loves everyone. And if God loves everybody, what’s so special about the fact that he loves me?”

Although I had never heard it expressed this way before, I realized immediately that Nancy had her point. Our manner of talking about God can imply that there’s no distinctiveness in a relationship with him. We speak of him loving everyone, and loving them equally, impartially, the same way. While the thought of God’s love being so inclusive is deeply comforting to some, others fear their individuality will be lost if they allow him to have much influence in their life.
We long for distinctiveness as human creatures--probably more than anything. We each want to know that we’re originals among the mass of humanity and not copies. We crave assurance that we’re unmatched by anyone else who has walked this earth, that we may know there is justification to our existence.

This urge for distinctiveness touches us on two levels. We long, on the one hand, to know that our work and accomplishment are unique--that we’re able to contribute something to human life that no one else can. But we also yearn for distinctiveness in relationships. Much of the thrill of being loved and cherished by someone is the sense of being special that goes along with it. You know that you’re accepted for who you are, and esteemed in a way that’s different from that person’s affection for anyone else.

Yet if God loves everyone in an equal, unbiased fashion, how can there be anything distinctive about a relationship with him? What’s so novel about receiving his love? What possibility for creative accomplishment is there in living for him? You’re simply one of the mass of believers, responding to a vast cosmic love force.

Nancy had put her finger on why it is that some people, though convinced that a loving God exists--perhaps even that he has revealed himself in Christ--still fail to give their life to him. It would mean losing their individuality, and entering a life of clonely conformity with others who have joined the Christian movement.

Nancy’s struggle also highlights why some believers actually bail out of their Christian walk. The chaplain of a large Christian university agreed with me, for instance, that the major reason some students on Christian campuses abandon their faith is that they see little distinctive about being Christian. On the secular campus, one may enjoy a cherished sense of rebellion by following Christ. At the Christian college, by contrast, everyone around you is a believer. If a student assumes that God loves him and his classmates all identically and has similar intentions for their lives, he may reach the fateful conclusion: individuality can only be found outside of a relationship with Christ.

From Despair to Distinction
Nancy, however, was no longer inclined to think of God and the Christian life this way. Her concept of God had grown and changed substantially, and she now viewed him much more personally than she first implied.

“I’ve finally come to realize that God does love me differently from any other person,” she continued. “I don’t mean that he loves me any more than anyone else, but distinctively. I’m convinced there is a portion of his love that is meant for me and for me alone.” She went on to explain that this insight had been the turning point for her, allowing her to enter a meaningful relationship with Christ.

The thought of God’s love being distinctive was revolutionary to me. But the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’ve become convinced that this is exactly the outlook Scripture presents. God is pictured as one who loves each person equally, perfectly, completely, yet still in a fashion unique to that individual. There is a measure of his love meant for each of us alone.
On five occasions in his Gospel, for instance, John refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20). John clearly didn’t mean that Jesus loved him more than anyone else. He notes that Jesus also loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus (Jn 11:5, 36), and all of his disciples (Jn 13:1). In his most far reaching statements, John quotes Jesus as saying that anyone who follows him will be loved by God (Jn 14:21), and that God through Christ loves the world (Jn 3:16).

Why, then, did John call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved? I believe he meant that Jesus’ love for him, while not exclusive, nor greater than his love for anyone else, was distinctive. Christ loved him in a way unique from his affection for any other person!

John surely would have thought it appropriate for Peter or any other disciple to make this claim. By the same token, it’s one that each of us who follows Christ can make for ourselves. The remarkable freedom John felt to refer to himself in this way suggests that we should think of ourselves likewise. “I am the disciple whom Jesus loves.” Such a conviction isn’t egotistical, but central to our self-image as Christians.

I’ve been intrigued to find no less a thinker than C. S. Lewis suggesting that God loves us in an individual manner. In The Problem of Pain he declares, “Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?”*

Many centuries before, St. Augustine expressed a similar understanding of God’s love in a prayer of his Confessions: “O Thou Good omnipotent, who so cares for every one of us, as if Thou cared for him only; and so for all, as if they were but one!”*

Equal But Not Identical
We can barely begin to fathom this dimension of God’s love. It is a deep mystery. But we can realize some of its implications.

For one thing, it gives us a basis for accepting our own distinctiveness. An important way that God shows his love for us is through the unique manner in which he creates and guides our lives (Ps 139, 1 Cor 12). While it is a lifetime task to fully understand the gifts and plans God has for each of us, we have a theological basis for taking that responsibility seriously, and for getting beyond any idea that the Christian life must be conformist.

For another thing, we have a basis for seeking an intimate personal relationship with Christ, knowing it will be different from any other Christian’s. C. S. Lewis suggests that we will enjoy a distinctive relationship with Christ even in eternity. Reflecting on Scripture’s promise that we will receive a new name in heaven (Rev 2:17), he predicts that there we each “shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can.”*
God’s distinctive love is also shown in how he nurtures and matures us, with a different pattern of growth for each of our lives. It may seem you’re moving at a snail’s pace in some area where others are growing by leaps and bounds. Your friend has a devotional time for an hour every morning, while you struggle to concentrate for fifteen minutes. But other areas of growth come surprisingly quickly for you. You quickly overcome an addictive habit; you find an ability to share your faith that is out of all proportion with your shyness.

It can be so tempting to compare yourself with others at points of strength and weakness. Yet such comparisons are always meaningless. Even the person whom you most admire as a pinnacle of spiritual strength has plenty of vulnerable points.

The fact that God loves us distinctively inspires us also to accept the uniqueness he has given to other believers. And it saves us from thinking that we have to leave the Christian environment in order to salvage our individuality. The student on a Christian campus can know that while she shares something similar and vital with those around her, Christ’s relationship with her and his plan for her life are unique, as is true for each of her classmates. She can esteem her fellow students as individuals, and feel great freedom to be herself--where she is.

You and I should reflect often on God’s distinctive for us, and what it means for the life he has called us to live. Appreciating this aspect of God’s love will enrich our relationship with him in endless ways, and strengthen our ability to love others with the affection of Christ.

Monday, March 26, 2012


In an essay (The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment) CS Lewis writes:

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

My friends, I am not the first to say this, but I add my voice to the Tea Party activists, Jeffersonians, and all of us plain Americans in "fly-over" country who see something terribly wrong happening to our country.

CS Lewis' quote reminds me so much of the USA in 2012: strong men and women in government are passing more laws to make sure we do "what is best for us." Health care, reduced US oil production, runaway spending, and so many more examples that one grows weary even thinking of them. Taxes and other means of raising governmental revenue keep rising, costs of living (food, shelter, transportation) keep rising, and jobs are not available.

Our presidential race this year in all likelihood will be between Obama and a RINO (Republican in name only) who initiated his own state-run health care mandates in Massachusetts when he was governor. Nancy Pelosi tells us that the US plan is what the Founding Fathers meant by "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Huh?

Below I have two quick speeches, one of Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or Give me Death," the other of JFK's talk on "Truth." These men spoke in different times, but their words ring true today.

One more thought: As much as our problems might seem to be based on overspending, racial prejudice, class warfare (the "rich"), oil, immigration, world unrest, or anything else, I believe the root is a spiritual lack in our country. We have lost our sense of God. The remedy comes from those who believe in God:

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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).

Anything on this Earth is temporary, and all kingdoms fall, but we can still ask for God's favor for current times. Please join me in prayer for our country.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Time Solid

I love to ponder the nature of time. The only thing I'm sure of is that we humans don't perceive it as it actually is. So what might it be like? Hmm.

The analogy of the the time solid I used to invent a mechanism for time travel in my novel, A Lever Long Enough. I'm not saying this analogy is correct, or even mathematically consistent, just that it feels to me like it could very well be correct. And since it's my blog, I get to write about what I want to :-) My analogy comes from Edwin Abbott's often-reprinted 1880 classic, Flatland. This is a terrific and readable book whose ideas on dimensions have stayed with me since I was a kid.

Taking a direct application from Flatland, imagine that you are a two-dimensional figure living on a plane (visualize that you are a square sketched on a piece of paper). Now imagine that your plane passes through a cube, point first. You’d see a triangle drawn on the paper that grows larger, then smaller again, then disappears. You’ve observed sequential slices of the same object over time, like a movie. As a two-dimensional being you wouldn’t be able to imagine what a three-dimensional constant object might look like, or that what you've just seen is qualitatively more of a square than you are. How could sequential views of a triangle even be a square? Similarly, if there is an arched shape that passes through your plane, you'd see two dots. If you push one dot, the other dot also moves and you can infer they are related although you confirm no physical connection between the two dots. Mr. Cube, though, easily understands this physical linkage.

Although our bodies exist in three dimensions, I imagine in my novel that time is a greater-than-three-dimensional constant solid object that we can only experience one slice at a time. My time machine is able to somehow “turn” the time solid so that one of the physical components becomes the cross-section while time is expanded into a full dimension. With this circumstance, an object can travel through seconds or years by being thrown into the time solid or pulled out of it.

The time solid is obviously an extreme oversimplification of what time might be like, and raises all sorts of metaphysical questions such as the existence of free will versus predestination. No, I won't go there today.

The time solid theory also doesn't take into account that time, in its true form, lacks "edges." What are edges? This is a sense, something I believe but it's hard to articulate. It's like explaining what the color "red" looks like. But let me try.

OK. Everything in this world has a beginning, and an end -- everything is "more than" or "less than" something else. There are no absolutes, since things don't exist in isolation, but only in relation to each other. It's hard for us to imagine, say, infinity of distance or size, because we have to start somewhere and continuously calculate "where we are now" compared to "where we were." These are edges. But time, I believe, is limitless and uncompared to other things, even itself. Time isn't linear; it only seems so to us because of our three dimensional limits. I believe that our bodies on this Earth are filters, interfaces, that allow our spiritual soul or spirit to interact with a three dimensional world. While we are attached to these bodies, we are unable to comprehend transcendent concepts, such as time.

Time may also be more than just one extra dimension that we see in cross-section. Lisa Randall, in her book Warped Passages, postulates eleven dimensions interconnected through the ubiquitous pull of gravity. I'm not even going to start on this concept, except to say that I'm not the only one who has strange imaginings!

OK, I think that's enough for today. Are you confused yet?

Monday, March 19, 2012


When our kids were little, I bought them a large abacus to play with, and while they napped I had great fun figuring out how to multiply and divide on the darn thing. Later, when my dad gave me his old slide rule, I loved sliding the center bar to calculate numbers. Both these tools use some brain power and attention in order to work, whereas a calculator is often too easy and thus the answer is often wrong if you're just punching buttons.

My 16 year old son loves mental math, using a book by Arthur Benjamin that I had in the basement. We have races now to see who can square a two-digit number faster -- I'm still winning, but like chess where he's edged me out over the past year, suspect I won't be reigning champion for long. This stuff is so fun, in a geeky sort of way.

Just so you can see how amazing a true human calculator can be, here is a fun video of Arthur Benjamin doing his numbers "magic" show. This guy is incredible!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dogs and Cats

How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?

1. Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

2. Border Collie: Just one. And then I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.

3. Dachshund: You know I can't reach that stupid lamp!

4. Rottweiler: Make me.

5. Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.

6. Lab: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!

7. German Shepherd: I'll change it as soon as I've led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven't missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.

8. Jack Russell Terrier: I'll just pop it in while I'm bouncing off the walls and furniture.

9. Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I'm sorry, but I don't see a light bulb!

10. Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

11. Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb. Or "We don't need no stinking light bulb."

12. Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?

13. Australian Shepherd: First, I'll put all the light bulbs in a little circle...

14. Poodle: I'll just blow in the Border Collie's ear and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.


How many cats does it take to change a light bulb?

Cats do not change light bulbs. People change light bulbs. So, the real question is:

"How long will it be before I can expect some light, some dinner, and a massage?"


Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Obituaries

Two Obituaries

I admit it -- When I have time to read them, I find the newspaper's obituaries section a keen source of interest and imagination. The short encapsulations of someone's life can be poignant, and I often wonder about what isn't said -- what the person thought about the places he had lived, or what he was most proud of, or what he would say if he could make one final statement to his dearest ones. What happens to those he leaves behind? Often the cause of death is not listed, and especially for someone young, I have questions. If donations in lieu of flowers are requested for the American Cancer Society, for example, I can make a shrewd guess. Still, I wonder what the person thought, and how he coped with such a scary diagnosis. If an accidental death, I wonder what the person might have done differently if told that the grim reaper had an appointment with him on a highway next Tuesday...

Last week I scanned the obituaries at my parents' house. At the bottom of the page were two memorial statements: two men who had died on that date in a different year (one 35 years old in 1979, one 56 years old in 1984). The difference in the statements struck me.

The first one, for the 35 year old man, was from a woman who talked to him like a friend: "I miss you, but am looking forward to seeing you soon..." She talked about how she'd found Christ from his example, and how she smiled to think of him in Jesus' presence, and wondered if he sang his goofy songs to the Lord. It was so hopeful, and made me smile.

The second one, for the 56 year old man, was restrained. "We miss you so much. We visit your grave, but there is nothing left of you..."

Hope. Hopeless.

I wondered about how these two men might have seemed if I'd met them. The first one sounded as if he'd been on fire for the Lord, quoting verses and doing silly magic tricks for kids, whose purpose was to point to God. The second man had a restrained family. He might have been restrained too, working hard, quietly living his life, quietly dying and being buried in a respectable plot at the corner cemetery. Maybe the family had put a cross on the gravestone, maybe not. The family even now quietly despaired his loss.

What are you living for? And when Death comes for you, when it is your time, how will you respond?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Roya Abdolhosini

This 22 year old was born with only one leg, and decided to start gymnastics in elementary school. Watch this video to see what is possible when you don't worry about what others say. You can read an article about this young woman HERE.

Monday, March 5, 2012

No Left Turns

A little long, but fabulous! This is the 2005 Commencement Address at Iowa State by Michael Gartner - Pulitzer Prize winner, former president of NBC News, and the principal owner of the Iowa Cubs.

First, I want to say to graduates: Congratulations. Second, I want to say to your parents: Now, quit bugging them about their grades. You knew they'd make it, eventually.

For those of you who took a bit longer than the prescribed four years to graduate, don't give it a second thought.

My father graduated from the University of Missouri at age 91. And then he went on and had a productive life.

My father lived to be 102, sound mentally and physically till the day he died.

One time, when he and my mother were in their 80s, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

"Of course," I said.

"No left turns," he said.

I thought at first he was criticizing my politics, but he explained that years earlier he and my mother had read somewhere that most accidents involving old people happened when they were turning left.

They lose their depth perception, he explained, and turn in front of other cars.

"So," my father explained, "ten years ago your mother and I made a policy decision: We would never make any left turns again."

"You're kidding!" I said.

"No," he said. "Think about it. If you make three right turns, it's the same as a left, and you eliminate the risk."

I turned to my mother — she was the driver in the family, and he was the navigator — and I asked if it were true.

"Yes," she said, "it's true. And it works — except when your father loses count."

"Sometimes," she went on, "he forgets how many rights we have taken."

"What do you do then?" I asked. "It's simple," my father said. "You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

"But if you lose count at 3, mightn't you lose count at 7?" I asked. "What do you do then, go for 11?"

"No," he said. "You just go home and try again tomorrow. Nothing in life is so important it has to be done today."

There you have it.

I am old enough to know that I have no wisdom to impart to you this morning, and even if I did you would not remember it. So if you just remember "no left turns," I will consider the morning a triumph.

Having no wisdom to give you, no great thoughts to pass on, no clever rules for living, I will instead just tell you a few stories this morning.

Seven stories, to be exact.

Actually, I've already told you the first one — about my father — so I'll move on to the second.

Story #2

It involves Tom Brokaw.

When I worked at NBC, he and I were in my office one day, having a spirited argument. I thought something should be on the air that night, and he thought not. Or vice versa. I can't remember the fact, just the argument.

"Damn it, Tom," I said, "if we don't put that on tonight, we'll have egg on our face."

"No, Michael," he responded. "If we DO put it on we'll have egg on our face. And the thing for you to remember is this: It's YOUR egg, but it's MY face."

That was the second story.

Story #3

Here's the third.

It's about a man named Jules Leotard. Jules Leotard was a vain French aerialist who was born in 1842 and died of smallpox in 1870, at the age of 28.

He was proud of his body, and he liked to show it off, so he regularly performed in very tight tights — though, now that I think about that phrase, there's probably no such thing as loose tights.

Leotard became quite famous. He was the first person to prefect the aerial somersault — which sort of makes you wonder what happened to those who tried it earlier and didn't perfect it — and eventually the revealing uniform he wore became known as a leotard, or leotards.

As I said, Leotard was a vain man, and while still a young man — indeed, he was a young man when he died — he wrote his Memoirs. In them, he said:

"Do you want to be adored by the ladies? A trapeze is not required, but instead of draping yourself in unflattering clothes, invented by ladies, and which give us the air of ridiculous manikins, put on a more natural garb, which does not hide your best features."

That was the third story.

Story #4

Here is the fourth.

This is also from my days at NBC.

There was there, then, a wonderful woman who was bright and beautiful and nice and extraordinarily telegenic. She had all the makings of a zillion-dollar star. All but one.

She didn't listen. She didn't listen off-camera, and she didn't listen on-camera.

If she was interviewing you, and you said you were there to talk about the ten best land-grant colleges in the nation, the interview would go something like this:

"Now I understand that you're here to talk about the 10 best land-grant colleges in the nation, and that you think Iowa State University is the best."

"Yes," you'd say, "but before we get into that, I should tell you that I just looked out the studio window here and saw that masked terrorists have Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric and Tim Russert lined up against the wall, with guns to their heads. And police are everywhere, and I see 27 bodies on the sidewalk."

"Yes," she'd say, "and, now, what is the second best land-grant school?"

She didn't listen.

And still today she's bright and beautiful and nice and extraordinarily telegenic. But she's no longer on network television.

That was the fourth story.

Story #5

Here's the fifth.

It's about a man named Jack Welch, a legendary businessman who retired a while back as chief executive of General Electric Company.

GE owns NBC — in fact, those duh-DUH-duh NBC chimes hit the notes G E C, which stand for General Electric Co., and if you remember two things from this talk, that might be the second.

Anyway, I went to New York in 1988 to be president of NBC News. So Jack Welch was my ultimate boss. Jack Welch is a small man, bald and not particularly handsome. He also stutters quite badly.

Yet somehow he is so magnetic, that after you talk to him you come away thinking to yourself, "I wish I was short and bald and not very good looking and stuttered badly! (As you can see, I got three of my four wishes. Before I met him, I was 6-2, had a full head of wavy blond hair, and a movie-star face.)

At any rate, he is dynamic.

We were talking once, about a business venture I wanted to start at NBC. It was going to cost millions, and I had to go to him to get approval.

I explained the plan, told him how we had investigated it and what we expected, and he quickly gave me the money.

Then he said, "I hope it works. But it's okay if it fails. It's better to take a risk and fail then not to take a risk at all."

That was the fifth story.

Story #6

Here's the sixth.

This story — and the last, the seventh — both are about cases from the Iowa Supreme Court, which has a long and glorious history.

Anyway, this story is about a man named Ralph. Ralph was a slave who was owned by a Missouri man named Montgomery.

Montgomery and Ralph made a deal that let Ralph buy his freedom on the installment plan. He was to move to Iowa and work in the lead mines around Dubuque.

But he didn't make enough money even to pay for his boarding and clothing — let alone to save $550 to buy his freedom.

Two men from Virginia heard of the deal, and they wrote Montgomery, saying they'd deliver Ralph back to him, and to slavery, for $100. Montgomery accepted the deal.

The bounty hunters then went to the local magistrate and got an order for the sheriff to seize Ralph. The sheriff, having no choice, took Ralph in and handed him over to the bounty hunters.

They put Ralph in a wagon, handcuffed him, and took him to a little river town, hoping to catch the next steamer to Missouri.

A nearby farmer heard of the tale and instantly called upon Thomas S. Wilson, an Iowa Supreme Court justice who was living in Dubuque. Here's Judge Wilson's account:

"Alexander Butterworth, a noble-hearted Irishman . . ."

And I should stop right here. I think "noble-hearted Irishman" is redundant.

At any rate: "Alexander Butterworth, a noble-hearted Irishman, who was ploughing in an adjoining field, soon heard of the arrest and came immediately to my residence and demanded a writ of habeas corpus. An attorney drew up the application, and it was granted. The sheriff overtook the parties at Bellevue, and Ralph was returned to Dubuque. The case was heard, but at my suggestion it was transferred to the Supreme Court of the Territory, because of its importance, and there it was unanimously decided that Montgomery's contract with the slave, whereby he was permitted to become a citizen of a free territory, liberated him, and that slavery did not and could not exist in Iowa."

The Supreme Court said: "When, in seeking to accomplish his object, [Montgomery] illegally restrained a human being of his liberty, it is proper that the laws, which should extend equal protection to men of all colors and conditions, should exert their remedial interposition."

In other words, slavery was illegal in Iowa.

I should tell you that this happened even before Iowa became a state. And this decision was the very first decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Iowa — it's in the records as 1 Iowa 1.

The decision was handed down on July 4, 1838, and it's one of many reasons I'm proud to be an Iowan.

That was the sixth story.

Story #7

Here's the seventh.

It's, again, about some Iowans.

These Iowans were from Cedar Rapids, and they were in show business. They were the Cherry Sisters — Effie, Addie, Jessie, Lizzie, and Ellie. They couldn't dance, and they couldn't sing. In fact, they couldn't do much of anything, at least not well. Their act exerted a ghastly fascination over its audiences.

And that was exactly what the great Oscar Hammerstein was looking for.

The year was 1896, and he was going broke. He was in debt, and the acts he brought to Broadway weren't doing well. He was desperate.

"I've tried the best," he said. "Now I'll try the worst."

So he sent for the Cherry Sisters.

They opened at the New Olympia Theater in New York on November 16, 1896.

"Never before did New Yorkers see anything like the Cherry Sisters from Cedar Rapids, Iowa," the New York Times reported the next morning. "It is sincerely to be hoped that nothing like them will ever be seen again."

The New York Herald was even harsher: "Did you ever hear the musical 'kerchunk' of the half-flooded milk pail as the brindle-cow kicked it over with her offhind foot?" wrote the reviewer. "Well, that was Lizzie's voice. Did you ever hear the frightened squeak of the rooster when your sister-in-law's firstborn jumped on him hard with his little copper-toed boots? If you didn't, you won't appreciate Jesse's song of 'Fair Columbia."

But the audiences loved them.

Night after night, young men crowded the theater. Often, they brought vegetables: sidewalk vendors were said to do a brisk business every evening selling onions and rutabagas and melons.

"There was scarcely a young blade in the late nineties," the Des Moines Register recalled in 1929, "but boasted he had heaved a cabbage or two at the Cherry Sisters."

Hammerstein himself may have encouraged such activity by rigging a fishnet across the footlights to protect the ladies.

Eventually, they went on the road, and they made some stops back here in their home state.

In 1901, the Des Moines Leader wrote:

"Billy Hamilton of the Odebolt Chronicle, gives the Cherry Sisters the following graphic write-up on the late appearance in his town: 'Effie is an old jade of 50 summers, Jessie a frisky filly of 40, and Addie, the flower of the family, a capering monstrosity of 35. Their long, skinny arms, equipped with talons at the extremities, swung mechanically, and anon waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns, and sounds like the wailing of damned souls issued therefrom. They pranced around the stage, strange creatures with painted faces and hideous mien. Effie is spavined, Addie is stringhalt, and Jessie, the only one who showed her stockings, has legs with calves as classic in their outlines as the curves of a broom handle."

Well, the ladies sued, and a lower court — after watching the ladies perform and after noting that the act was so bad the piano player left at intermission — threw out the case.

They appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, which struck another blow for freedom. The Court ruled that ridicule is often a writer's best weapon.

The case is considered a landmark of First Amendment law, for it upholds the notion that fair comment — even intemperate comment or comment representing minority opinion — is a valid defense of libel charges.

It said, in effect, that anyone is entitled to his or her opinion without the threat of being sued.

It was 75 years before the Supreme Court of the United States came to the same conclusion.

Lessons learned.

So those are my seven stories.

Why did I tell them to you on this, your graduation day?

Because you're all smart people, and you're going out into the world, and you'll be looked to for leadership in your towns, your states, and your nations.

And I just talked to you about leadership.

Leadership is knowing that there is more than one way of achieving what you want. Sometimes, like my father, you'll have to make three right turns instead of a left, but that will get you where you want to go.

Leadership is knowing that you can't do things alone, that you must work together. Otherwise, as Tom Brokaw reminded me, you'll have egg on your face. Sometimes, it will be your egg; sometimes, your face.

Leadership is capitalizing on your strong points, as Jules Leotard did and wanted other men to do.

Leadership is listening, staying tuned in so you can recognize new facts and situations that can change your mind and your course of action, something that a beautiful and smart woman couldn't do on television.

Leadership is developing a plan and then taking risks, as Jack Welch demanded of his lieutenants and straw bosses.

Leadership is being brave and bold, as the Iowa Supreme Court was in its very first decision guaranteeing freedom to Ralph, the former slave.

Leadership is standing ready to have a few rutabagas thrown at you.

But if you realize there is more than one way of doing things, if you understand the value of working together, if you capitalize on your strong points, if you listen, if you take risks, if you're brave and bold, and if you're willing to have a few cabbages tossed your way — then you'll have a great life and be a good leader.

Let me add one footnote:

After her wailing days were over, Effie Cherry ended up back in Cedar Rapids, running a bakery.

In 1926, she ran for mayor on the Moral Uplift ticket.

"It's the high prices; high skirts; high life; one-piece bathing suits; high gas, light and water rates; and white-collared gasoline hounds I'm after," she said.

She added, "Public officials spend too much time playing golf. Women's skirts are ridiculous; they are too short — ankle-length skirts will be the style if I have my way."

She also advocated a 9 p.m. curfew.

In the four-way primary, Mayor J.F. Rall got 3,413 votes. W.G. Loftus received 2,899. Frederick Burill got 566.

And 347 people voted for Effie.

So I guess there's a second moral to this story. It's this:

Sometimes, the high point of a career is when people are throwing rutabagas at you.

Again, congratulations

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Review: Jay Payleitner/52 Things Wives Need from Their Husbands: What Husbands Can Do to Build a Stronger Marriage

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States. He has worked on Josh McDowell Radio, Today's Father, Jesus Freaks Radio for The Voice of the Martyrs, Project Angel Tree with Chuck Colson, and many others. He’s also a popular speaker at men's events and the author of the bestselling 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 365 Ways to Say “I Love You” to Your Kids and, releasing late 2011, 52 Things Wives Need from a Husband. He has also served as an AWANA director, a wrestling coach, and executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Jay and his wife, Rita, make their home in the Chicago area, where they’ve raised five great kids and loved on ten foster babies.

Visit the author's website.


For the husband who wants to live out God’s plan for his marriage, 52 Things Wives Need from Their Husbands provides a full year’s worth of advice that will put him on the right track without making him feel guilty or criticizing him for acting like a man. A great gift or men’s group resource.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 176 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944710

ISBN-13: 978-0736944717


Wives Need Their Husbands…
To Kiss the Girl

A husband and wife are driving down a country road. They’re a few years older than you are now. He’s behind the wheel. The pavement and cornfields are passing by. She breaks the silence with a sigh and says, “Remember when we were younger and we used to sit right next to each other in the car?” “I remember,” the husband replies after a moment. “But you know, I haven’t moved.”
It’s a story from way before seat-belt laws, but the sentiment still carries a bushel of truth. Men—the good ones like you and me—travel down the road of life with a sense of stability and direction. We’re not out drinking every night. We do our best to bring home a paycheck and be a good father. An affair is not an option. Neither is divorce. Our deepest need is for our bride to sit close to us and tell us—just once in a while—that we’re doing a good job. That we’re appreciated. That they look up to us and need us.
Our wives, on the other hand, slide back and forth. Like many women these days, they are getting mixed messages and giving mixed signals. They don’t seem to know what they want. A career or a houseful of babies? A new washer/dryer or a week in Aruba? A bigger house or just bigger closets? Do they want a husband who is sensitive and tender or a tattooed bad boy riding a Harley? While they’re daydreaming about what they want, we’re just two feet away and hoping they’ll ask us for it. We want to fill their every desire. We want to be their shining knight and perfect man. If only they’d slide next to us and tell us what they want.
How did we get here? Two feet and two miles apart.
Think back to not too long ago. Remember that girl you married? The girl who caught your eye. The girl you couldn’t keep your hands off of. The girl who taught you to love in brand-new ways. Romantic love. Committed love. Crazy love. Eternal love. Silly love. You may be thinking, Where did that girl go?
Gentlemen, she’s right there. That girl is inches away. She’s looking down the same road and going the same direction. She’s committed to sharing your life and sharing your bed. By the way, she’s asking the same question. Where did that boy go?
Men of courage, follow your impulse. Pull the car over. Look into her eyes, maybe for the first time in a long time. Tell her she means everything to you. Be the boy. Be the girl. Expect no less than to memorize each other’s hopes and dreams.
Steam up those car windows. With conversation, of course.

You did not marry to live separate lives.
“Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.”

Song of Songs 8:6-7

And Now: My Review:

This short book remembers a sense of humor with its gentle suggestions for husbands to interact with their wives. Although the stories are quick and entertaining, the points within are profound. This book is written for well-intentioned husbands who may benefit from guidance in remembering what sorts of actions will melt a woman's heart. It's a quick read or can be read intermittently.

Thank you to Harvest House for providing me a copy for my unbiased review of this book. I definitely recommend it.