Gird Your Loins and Fight

Latest in my series of book reviews

Never go to war against a mom

Before I started “weaning” myself off my smartphone – I couldn’t have handled a 651-page book – even one as entertaining as “Shut Up! The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment.

The librarian of your nightmares wants you to stop questioning the Library Board

This book makes me so glad I did the work to get my concentration back. Authors Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan tell the tale of their multi-year fight with a public library which allowed adults to access porn on their computers – and did nothing to stop it, saying it was allowed by the First Amendment. (Spoiler alert: no, the Supreme Court ruled libraries do NOT have to allow access to porn.)

A pleasant day turned peep show

At the beginning of the saga, Megan was a homeschooling mama of two little girls, named “Seven” and “Four” to protect them in the book. One day she decided to take them to the Orland Park Public Library with friend Kevin along with the ride. A quick errand to print some homeschool activity sheets led to a three-year saga – complete with lawsuits and a cast of characters that could fill a long-running soap opera. Here’s how Megan described it:

“There’s the awkward sibling of a beloved TV icon; a national hero from the Reagan administration; a former Playboy model, jewel thief, ex-wife of a Chicago Bear, ex-girlfriend of an infamous mobster who turned state’s evidence against him (and those last four are all the same person!); Our Ladies of the Perpetually Furrowed Brows; the heiress to the Comiskey baseball diamonds; a former United States Senate candidate from Illinois (who is more famous for once being married toa Sci-Fi starlet who flew around the universe in a spaceship); the King of Journalism; a gargoyle; someone who sold his soul on eBay (like it was a good thing); hot cops; … some of the best lawyers in the whole damn world (pitted against clearly some of the worst) … SNL’s Weekend Update; … the Karate Kid; famous legal scholars; fearless watchdogs; sexually harassed whistleblowers; and the nation’s leading expert on the dangers to children in public libraries.”

-Megan Fox

Truly, this book had EVERYTHING, as Megan described it: “Sex, government corruption, child porn, a gold heist, libel, slander, defamation, lawsuits, death and rape threats, police harassment, a SLAPP, cloak and dagger intrigue, fruits, 7 pounds of Italian beef and 2 large jugs of peppers, and special interest groups out to sabotage a suburban mom and her whimsical gay friend.”

Kevin and Megan take turns, chapter by chapter, telling the story. Their styles of storytelling complement and contrast with each other. Both bring in themes from children’s stories to anchor the tale: if you’ve read Harry Potter you’ll love the way they work in references to that saga. Kevin’s style is more “whimsical” as Megan said, and Megan’s motherly concern doesn’t just shine through – she’s on the warpath to make the library safe for all kids. Thank God these two are people who NEVER back down. They fought a public governmental body for years and triumphed. The best stories are ones where good defeats evil – and that’s exactly what happens here.

Whew!

At the end, you, the reader are drawing in a long breath after just reading about it. By the time the final lawsuit was settled, Megan had added another baby to her family. Kevin was advising other libraries how to prevent these horrors from happening.

I wanted another book – a sequel. What new adventure did Kevin and Megan have? What crimes are they uncovering? Today, you can follow Megan’s investigative reporting on PJ Media and on her YouTube channel. I haven’t been successful finding Kevin’s public profile (but then, I don’t use Facebook anymore!) I’m sure wherever he is, he’s busy employing his talents of organization, letter-writing and campaigning to keep fighting for government accountability.

Watching Life Instead of Living It

Now that the COVID-mania of 2020 and 2021 seems to have lifted, I want to live life instead of watching it happen. Doing, instead of being in the audience, is my thing. That’s why I joined the choir in my church – I didn’t want to just watch other people sing; I want to be in on it too! Why be a spectator?

I’ve made strides toward more living, less watching before. When I first moved into my house in December of 2016, I moved my circa-2000 television with me. That thing was an old bulky set – definitely not a flat screen. The remote control stopped working sometime in the late 2010s.

My TV looked a LOT like this one. Heck, it could have been this model.

I worked around it by actually getting up to change the channel, like in the 1970s. I started watching less and less television over the years, and I decided once I moved, I was going to put that old wreck on the curb and run an experiment: how long can I go without a TV in the house?

Continue reading “Watching Life Instead of Living It”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 7

Thoughts on growing in faith. Last in the series. To catch up: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

My quest to draw closer to Jesus continues, no matter where I go. At times I’m very good about devotions in the morning, praying and reading my Bible; most of the time, I honor daily devotions in the breach by thinking about it for a few minutes. And then feeling guilty. Every time I deviate from my ideal I realize that I’m falling away from relationship with the Lord. He doesn’t move away from me; I’m the one straying. That’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The structured Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and sometimes Compline have been a super way to keep me praying, reading Scripture, and spending time with God. Not that I do them all the time. Like I said, I’ve been much better at observing them as something I should do.

I decided to get a leather-bound copy of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer. Built to last!

When I discovered podcasts devoted to morning prayer, I was thrilled. Finally – a way to listen to Morning Prayer while walking my dog! (Usually, I’m listening to something that isn’t filling my head with good news.) CotA’s church plant, All Souls, created the wonderful 10-minute podcast Lord, Open My Lips and I use that. Another way I’m focusing on God is to go to the Wednesday morning Eucharist our church offers. I’d been off and on, but on my birthday last October, I decided my goal for the next year was to go each week. I’ve been more often than not and I’m keeping on.

It’s not usual to find an Anglican running around in my part of the South; anybody seeking out liturgy is usually an Episcopalian. Most of my friends today in Columbia are Southern Baptist. That only makes sense, because 1) I spent 20 years in a Southern Baptist church, and 2) the top three religions in South Carolina are Baptist, Methodist, and SEC Football. But over the years my spiritual journey, ever since I was 12, has led me to going to where I truly think the Spirit of Truth is. I felt that in my time with Wesley Monumental, with Lamb’s Chapel, and then RHBC. Right now, that is in the Church of the Apostles, a member of the ACNA. In my Apostles 101 class I loved how our past Dean (that’s a fancy Anglican word for the head priest at the cathedral church of the Diocese) described the church: the place where the Scriptures are rightly taught and the Sacraments observed. At least that’s how I remembered the saying. And everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been looking for a place that carefully paid attention to the Bible and actually believed it.

I think I’ll end my journey written journey here, with part 7. It is, after all, the perfect number.

Moving toward the Spirit, part 6

This is the next-to-last post in this series. If you need to catch up, just look at the previous five weeks of posts!

It started with an Excel spreadsheet. Wait: before the Excel spreadsheet, there was an unfortunate administration change at my old church. RHBC’s beloved senior pastor was retiring after a long career. And the new guy was (is) hard-charging, young, enthusiastic, with clear vision and purpose. Unfortunately, his vision didn’t include the outstanding choir director who had led our choir for the past 10+ years. After he was shown the door, I waited until Christmas, to sing in one last Christmas cantata. (I wouldn’t have done that again to witness the chaos resulting from a choir that wasn’t fully in sync with the director and vice versa – missed cues, botched songs. Ah, schadenfreude!) I waited some more, thinking we’d get a new permanent choir leader and everything would start afresh. When that didn’t happen, and the temporary director became the director, my last day was Easter Sunday 2018.

Here’s where the Excel spreadsheet came in. I put together a list of the requirements I was looking for in a church and decided to start visiting around. Here’s what I put them on a spreadsheet:

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 6”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 5

Hopefully I will wrap this multi-part series up soon, but no promises….

That Disciple Bible study was the first time I had done in-depth Bible study. I wouldn’t study the Bible so thoroughly for another two years. I finished the course and put the Good Book back on the shelf to gather dust. In the meantime, I left Savannah, took a job that kept me working afternoons and evenings, and stopped going to church for quite a while.

It wasn’t until I started attending Lamb’s Chapel, a non-denominational church in my next town that I truly started reading the Bible again. I went there because a couple of friends I made in my new town were attending. It was as different from the liturgical United Methodist church as could be … there was no liturgy. Instead, we sang all out for about 30 minutes, followed by a few announcements. Then, the senior pastor would commence to preach, straight from the Bible, for 45 minutes. And what made it fascinating was that I actually liked hearing his sermons. They weren’t the dry sermons I was used to hearing. I actually started taking my new copy of The NIV Study Bible with me to church and making notes in it. I marked up that new Bible completely with notes from those sermons. I stayed at that wonderful, non-denominational, Bible-filled church until I left Florence about 18 months later.

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 5”

Moving toward the Spirit, Part 4

This is the fourth in a multi-part series on how I grew in my Christian faith. See part 1, part 2, and part 3 to catch up.

Ah, the recycling. That and the fact I was pulled in so many directions, like most American teens, had a lot to do with my falling away from the faith for quite some time. I may have attended church during the college years, but it was a faith grown “lukewarm.” Yuck.

After graduation I moved to Savannah in early 1990 for my first job. Sad to say, part of my motivation for finding a church was 1) because the president of the place I interviewed at told me about important church was to him and 2) I was looking for one of those beautiful old churches in the historic district. Not too much on the actual faith part – more of a “looking good” type churchgoer. In a happy accident I wandered across one of the most spirit-filled churches of all, which just happened to be historic, beautiful, and blessed with a magnificent 60-rank Noack organ: Wesley Monumental Church. I was determined to go to a church with glorious music just once in my life!

Wesley Monumental at Christmas – I was lucky enough to sing in that choir
Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, Part 4”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 3

Third in a multi-part series See part 1 and part 2 to catch up.

Right after the high of the Youthciple experience, I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to “do.” So, I just kept going to church. But certain things didn’t set well with me. First, I didn’t like how so many kids my age just started dropping out. It was hard to keep going to MYF when I knew so few people, and I wasn’t the most outgoing person to boot. They were all from different middle and high schools – I didn’t know them! And I didn’t like how so many things we were taught in Sunday School didn’t seem to play out in daily life.

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 3”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 2

this is the second part of a series. The image above: Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks

Believing was so simple, so pure when I was a child. God said through the Psalmist he who had clean hands and a pure heart would ascend the hill of the Lord. And I wanted that.

“…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

I think the first scattering doubts crept in when I read a child’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It had to be around fifth grade, maybe fourth. This volume was published by Disney! It had to be okay. Disney was practically patriotic in our house. Some of the only television we kids were allowed was Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

There was a character in the epic named Ut-napishtim. In these stories from Mesopotamian mythology, he survived a great flood by building a ship to transport his family and some animals. Hmm….

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 2”

Moving toward the Spirit, part 1

This is the first of several parts.

I was a conscientious kid who loved going to church at Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church. My favorite parts were singing in the children’s choir and looking at the beautiful stained-glass windows when the sermons got boring. The windows depicted the life of Christ. As I remember there were seven or eight on each side. His birth in a stable was shown in the first one on the right, leading to his baptism by John in the next window, and so on down the right side and around to the left, culminating in his first resurrection appearance (or was it his ascension? I think that was it. I’m having trouble remembering) on the left closest to the front. Those stained-glass windows were an education in themselves, helping little kids who couldn’t pay attention to the sermon the basics of the faith in beautiful colored pictures that shone gloriously when the sun hit them just right.

I just looked all over the web for pictures of those beautiful windows and the best I can do is an image of someone’s wedding, when they aren’t even the focus. Besides, in 1990 the church redid the interior, changing the pew alignment, the choir arrangement and the color of the walls. Those windows will have to live on in my imagination. Because I can’t find a picture of that beautiful stained glass of my childhood, the header image is something just as glorious: the stained glass at Sainte-Chappelle in Paris. Be sure to click over to the site for the tour.

Learning to sing

Back in the early 70s kids’ choirs everywhere were singing “Do You Hear What I Hear” at Christmas. We did it for a big extravaganza presentation with the combined children’s and adult choirs. Our adult choir director and director of music, for many years, was Dr. Richard Conant, RIP, a wonderful singer, professor of voice at the University of South Carolina, and founding director of Carolina Alive.

Continue reading “Moving toward the Spirit, part 1”

Learning to focus

How do you maximize the time you have to do the things you enjoy?

As part of this ‘work-at-home’ journey I’ve been on for the past nearly two years, I’ve had to learn more about focusing than ever before. As much as I enjoy my job (well, not all the meetings, that is) it is tempting to sometimes let my mind wander. And before I know it, 15 minutes has passed. And then I need to work later, longer hours to make up for it. And that eats into my “me” time – my time for my hobbies, the time for my stuff outside of work.

So today I’m going to share with you one of the tried-and-true methods I’ve found for making it easier to stick to the task at hand…

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