9/11 Memorial

“…My childhood journal entry from September 11th, 2001 shows what a difference twenty-four hours can make:

‘When I awoke in the morning, it was true. The World Trade Center towers had been attacked by hijacked planes. The Pentagon had been attacked by yet another hijacked plane. Grief and weeping seemed to take over our nation – Land of the Free and Brave.’…”

The Pentagon smolders on 9/11.

The Pentagon smolders on 9/11.

The above is an excerpt from a column I wrote on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, which shares some of my military family background and its affect on my perception of the terrorist attacks as a child, and how I saw my generation’s awareness shift (“9/11 Generation,” The Washington Times Communities).

On the 11th anniversary of that infamous date, another terrorist attack against Americans took place, this time in Benghazi, Libya. A year later I did a little investigative write-up on how poorly information about the Benghazi attack was handled, which might give insight on President Obama’s recent insistence on the innocence of Islam (“The hustle behind Benghazi talking points,” The Washington Times Communities).

All of us whose lives were spared during these tragedies have a responsibility to awaken to history.

 

 

 

Ebony’s Midnight Jubilee

When I was about four years of age, my family and I visited Gulf Shores, Alabama with relatives. I was at a stage of my life in which my fascination was switching from the science of human blood to horses. I decided I wanted a beautiful equine of my own, and I wanted it right then and there, though I was a military child. Adults, patronizing as they are well-meaning, tend to tell children to wish upon a star for such lofty desires – accompanied by a prayer, of course, to make it legitimate.

A horse at Fair Hills Farm!

A horse at Fair Hills Farm!

So I did.

I stood on the upstairs deck of a beach condo and stared at the stars in the night sky for awhile. I tried to focus on one star in particular and pray God would give me a horse. I figured I ought to add in some specifics to make the request more defined.

The landscape around me was dark. Perhaps I remembered the Black Beauty book Grandmomma gave me for Christmas.

Please give me a black horse with a flowing mane and tail, I added. I might have inserted a petition for a white star too.

Afterwards, I came downstairs and told everybody I saw a star and prayed for a horse…so I was going to get one now, right?

No, I was told. Sometimes you have to wait.

The more time passed by, the less likely it seemed that my childish request was going to be granted, so I forgot all about it. I took riding lessons and placed second in an equitation class in a horse show at the age of eight. But opportunities to work with horses soon faded after that, although I ended up with some little sisters who had a passion for horses from the get-go.

Despite having retired from Army life in the countryside for nearly a decade, we still did not have a horse, regardless of any cajoling from grandparents and friends. Last fall, Mary, over fourteen years old and looking for opportunities to do something with horses, came across an ad in the Buy/Sell Bulletin or online for Feathered Friends Cockatoo and Horse Sanctuary, run by a sweet lady named Emily who offers the option of sponsoring a rescued horse for $50 a month in exchange for visiting and enjoying the horse.

First ride.

First ride.

Mary began sponsoring an elderly white Arabian mare named Splenda, a very gentle horse fit for giving pony rides and being ridden at a very slow gait. When I came along one day, Emily asked if I would like to try riding “Blackie,” a tall, black, purebred Tennessee Walking Horse mare who was just shy of her eleventh year. She had a spunkiness about her and seemed a little intimidating, but I hopped aboard, even with the stirrups of her tremendous Western saddle feeling a bit too long for me. A blindness in Blackie’s right eye contributed to her being discarded after a career as a show horse and broodmare.

I had never had any interest in Tennessee Walking Horses, particularly due to glimpses of the artificial constraints within the TWH industry show ring looking so painfully atrocious. A Tennessee Walker was a lazy person’s horse, so I thought.

Riding her smooth gait at quick speeds had a feeling of being in an airplane taking flight – so hovering and smooth over the ground it was almost unnerving. But I liked it.

I decided to sponsor Blackie myself. Emily told me that Blackie’s real name was something more elaborate, which I could discover on her TWHBEA papers. Ebony’s Midnight Jubilee. I’ve preferred to call her “Jubilee” ever since I’ve known that.

When good pasture and barn space dwindled during the winter and overcrowding of horses ensued, Emily offered to give Blackie to me. During the thrilling yet hectic time of filming the first scenes of Romans XIII, I read aloud the meaning of “jubilee” in Scripture.

“You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.” ~Leviticus 25:10

Perhaps it would make perfect sense to keep the horse out at Reads’ Mill for awhile – a return to the insignificant land of my ancestors. When Jubilee arrived, she was scrawny, scruffy, and had rain rot lesions all over her back. It would take months of feeding and grooming her with essential oils to get her back to a healthy condition.

On the 2nd of July, we finally got to bring Jubilee out to our own land, confined by a round pen we bought from the neighbors. She adapted faster than we anticipated, actually, and enjoys being hand grazed and carries us ’round the trails and pond. She still has some training and conditioning ahead.

Here is a video of me cantering her by the pond in her new English and medieval tack from the Baroque Horse Store:

“A girl and her horse is definitely true” – some ridiculous journal entry made by 6-year-old Amanda Read many years ago, in attempts to let readers know that her journal was not fiction.

“A girl and her horse is definitely true” – some ridiculous journal entry made by 6-year-old Amanda Read many years ago, in attempts to let readers know that her journal was not fiction.

So, that prayer upon a star really did come true. It only took 20 years!

Regulation of Photoshopping – Missing the Picture?

Bureaucratizing beauty is not likely a way to safeguard it, however good it may be for companies to be honest with consumers about what they are serving them.

I’m quite a ModCloth styliste, even choosing them as the source of wardrobe for actresses in my Romans XIII project. They are a very genuine and classy company when it comes to style, and I appreciate their honest approach with shoppers. This tastefulness seems to have an inherent public appeal, as evidenced by its well over 1 million likes on Facebook.

"Luck Be A Lady" dress in red, one of my favorites from ModCloth, on Stacey Bradshaw in a scene from Romans XIII.

“Luck Be A Lady” dress in red, one of my favorites from ModCloth, on actress Stacey Bradshaw in a scene from Romans XIII. Photography by Abigail Read.

They were the first fashion company to sign the “Heroes Pledge For Advertisers,” which complies with legislation H.R. 4341 introduced by a Republican and two Democrats this year for the following purpose:

To direct the Federal Trade Commission to submit to Congress a report
on the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of
commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially
change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the
individuals depicted.

ModCloth is on the right track as a company anyway. But federal legislation is too often well-intentioned and ill-performing. The art of photoshopping, properly applied, does not misconstrue the subject’s appearance, but can actually be used to make someone look more like their real 3-dimensional selves than the camera may capture in a particular setting. A temporary blemish might be present, or the lighting might be too harsh, or a distracting shadow might obscure someone’s true eye or hair color, or the white balance might not be quite right. Photoshopping and painted portrait touch up is as old as the relevant arts themselves. If an individual company chooses to demonstrate that they can use modern photography and art tools in a tasteful and honest way and think that a pledge helps communicate this message to consumers, they are welcome to go for it.

But on the level of federal law, will there be routine cases of organizations and individuals complaining that images have illegally “been altered to materially change” depictions of human beings (or even animals) even when actual airbrushing has not taken place? Will countless digital and printed copies of un-retouched photographs and videos side-by-side completed advertisements need to be inspected by a new line of government employees? Will some businesses be fined or taxed for using certain types of image editing software?

When bureaucracy gets involved, you have to be wary. The Crusading Chemist Dr. Harvey Wiley learned all about how innocent law in crooked hands can go terribly wrong.

Ministries to Support During This Turmoil

“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold,” our LORD Jesus told us. “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13)

We see the folly of lacking principle, the roots of the world’s strife, and our souls may well be vexed and our hearts closed and apathetic because it is just too exhausting to be an advocate for righteousness. Whom can we trust on the ground to deliver what the lost and persecuted need?

These are the tried-and-true ministries to whom I choose to tithe. They are smaller, more personal ministries with whom I generally have a personal connection.

PPF CompassionPersecution Project Foundation

I interviewed PPF founder Brad Phillips in 2011 (“Genocide in Sudan: An interview with Brad Phillips,” August 12, 2011, The Washington Times Communities) after being put in contact with him by friends of ours who are also involved in PPF, Matt and Jennie Chancey. These Christians are unique in their understanding of how the persecuted’s enemies abroad are our enemies, and our individuals and families reaching out as a community to impart compassion and self-sufficiency is more effective than any bureaucratized institution or government policy. Your gifts do not spoil in store rooms, nor arm our enemies.

www.persecutionproject.org

Glory of ZionGlory of Zion International Ministries

Glory of Zion is one ministry especially committed to not quenching the Spirit or despising prophetic utterances, and is not afraid to bring the Word with authority to areas others might fear to tread in a time of war. You can choose to have your donation go specifically to the cause of Israel, where members of the GOZ family are living to minister to people there.

www.gloryofzion.org

Smyrna MinistriesSmyrna Ministries

Like that church in Revelation 2:8-10, Smyrna Ministries holds to the hope that God knows their tribulation. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. An old friend of mine works for this organization, among the small staff that is very quietly, modestly in the background of their work to aid Christians in surviving Islamic persecution.

www.smyrnaministries.org

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.16.12 AMRescue Christians (Walid Shoebat Ministries, Forum For Middle East Understanding)

I am acquainted with the Shoebats, who work to deliver and provide asylum to Christians persecuted by Islamic governments as well as aid in helping American citizens and media understand what is really going on in the Arab world.

http://rescuechristians.org

https://ffmu.webconnex.com/rescuechristians

Church for SkepticsChurch for Skeptics

Dan Arsenault is a friend and Biblical scholar based in Alabama who gives insights on Scripture, history, and philosophy in his weekly television program Church for Skeptics. Dan also travels abroad to preach the word and engage with unbelievers, particularly in secular Europe.

www.churchforskeptics.org

Watch some Church for Skeptics episodes here: http://www.youtube.com/darsenault

Sasha’s Hope

Sasha's HopeThe Tauntons are friends who have done timeless apologetic work in Alabama and abroad, and after adopting Sasha from the Ukraine have founded a ministry to protect (particularly Eastern European) orphans from sex trafficking.

www.sashashope.org


Read my review of Larry Taunton’s book about Sasha’s adoption, The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief (“Debate meets reality in ‘The Grace Effect,'” January 7, 2012, The Washington Times Communities).

“The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”
- Proverbs 11:25

 

Soul Doctors

It is no person’s job to compete with the leadings of the Holy Spirit, especially not Ann Coulter’s. But whatever the method to her madness, there is one line in her latest controversial and harshly titled column that stood out to me as rational and compassionate:

Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

Ann CoulterThat, my fellow creative artists, is why we do what we do.

What appears to be just entertainment is actually expressive communication that goes back to the Psalms, to the designing of the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant, to the very creation of the universe.

We minister to exercise, cleanse, nourish, heal, and save the mind and soul.

Never underestimate the power of the written, sung, and performed word.