Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



Whether you're in a writers' group or just want to be a writer, readings for writers can help.  Three series are especially valuable: 

First, seven decades of Writers at Work, along with The Writer's Chapbook.  While they are published as books, they are also available on line at http://theparisreview.org/  In the top bar, click on "Interviews". 

Second, Booknotes, 800 non-fiction authors in hour-long TV interviews.  These are C-Span programs from 1989 to 2004.  The URL is http://www.booknotes.org/

Third, the World Writers series, published by Morgan Reynolds, Greensboro, N.C.  While this is a teen series, I’ve known for decades that the easiest way to grasp a subject is to read a book for teens which is written by an expert.  Books in this series are evidently brief, well-researched and well-written.

Writers at Work

I have a personal experience with Writers at Work. First, the background: In 1953, Harold Humes, Peter Matthiessen and Georage Plimpton founded The Paris Review.  As a start-up literary journal, they needed big names to attract readers, but lacked the funds to pay big-name writers.  So, they ingeniously interviewed major writers on how and why they wrote.  These interviews became so significant that they still continue.  They're collected in the Writers at Work series.

And now the personal experience: In 1993 my older daughter graduated from Hampshire College near Amherst, Massachusetts.  At commencement were George Plimpton's daughter, a classmate, and her father. George Plimpton is tall and easily spotted, so I struck up a conversation and thanked him for Writers at Work. I treasured my first volume, but he surprised me by explaining that there were eighteen more.

In addition, The Paris Review had just published The Writer's Chapbook, a topical collection of the best quotes from the nineteen volumes.  For example, there was a long section on "Writer's Block".  Thus, I gave my older daughter The Writer's Chapbook as her graduation present.


Booknotes is a marvelous find, and I’ve resolved to sample it before I read any contemporary non-fiction work. I’ve just finished viewing the interview with Jill Ker Conway, a favorite writer.  Born and raised on a sheep station in the Australian outback, Jill Conway became the first woman president of Smith College. She has written four autobiographies, each a fascinating demonstration of how a liberated woman lives.  For example, early in their marriage, she and her husband agreed that they would have alternate ten-year choices on where they would live.  So, they had his, hers, and his cities -- Toronto, Northampton, and Boston.

World Writers

I discovered the World Writers series while browsing at the Ballard branch Library. I picked up Real Courage: The Story of Harper Lee by Katherine Don. I hadn’t realized that Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird was her childhood friend, Truman Capote. Also I learned that she went to Kansas with Capote for background research on the killings, arrest, convictions and executions In Cold Blood. If other books in the World Writers series are as well done, they’re good reads.

Regarding all three series, I recommend that they be savored. Catching one or two entries a week can bear fruit. You'll discover that world-class writers faced the same problems you do. You can also find out whether and how they solved them. 

Law School Preparation

Another thought: If you're a writer and want to go to law school, you may be able to gain admission by writing a book – but it should be about law or history. Include lots of footnotes and a thorough bibliography. The admissions people will be impressed if you add significantly to legal lore, perhaps through the biography of a significant judge or attorney. 

Or you can write on a major historical event that changed the law. See for example, A Magnificent Catastrophe by Edward J. Larson. It covers the tumultuous election of 1800, which was our first election in which the candidates campaigned, and that election led directly to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment.

Or you can write about a major miscarriage of justice. I usually avoid John Grisham's books, because they're prospective movie scripts.  However, I'm currently listening to The Innocent Man on CD's. Grisham wrote this novelized news report of a former major leaguer who was railroaded to a murder conviction in a small town. Capote's In Cold Blood pioneered novelized news.

If two of you in the group want to go to law school, apply to a law firm as a duo of legal assistants. Each of you could work half a week.  You could each leave a thorough memo at the end of your 20 hours so there would be no interruption when your partner takes over. Two or three years of such work could be the best possible preparation for law school.

Exciting History

Bear in mind that writing about law and history need not be dull. Since World War II, both writers and readers have discovered that non-fiction can be more exciting than fiction. For example, Amanda Foreman followed The Duchess with World on Fire, a 958 page-turner about British-American relations during our Civil War.

Another possibility: You could report the lobbying and politicking that leads to the passage of a major provision in the Internal Revenue Code. In Congress, the Tax Code is where the rubber hits the road.  By what is taxed--or exempted from taxation--or given special treatment, such as the oil depletion allowance--the Congress has great power to shape the U.S. economy.  The Tax Code directs major funds flow in our Nation, so industries and public-interest groups put tremendous pressure on Congress regarding Code provisions.  This is a fertile field waiting to be explored.

But note that most research for Tax Code changes cannot be done in a library.  The real action takes place on Capitol Hill.  The writer would need to interview lobbyists, senators, MC's and staffers.  The writer would also have to attend endless committee hearings, as well as floor debates.   He or she would also have to be present at--or reconstruct--significant conversations, such as the deals cut in the Senate / House conference committee.  This can be done.  See, e.g. The Brethren by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, which details the deals that justices cut with each other on the U.S. Supreme Court during the administration of Chief Justice Warren Burger.


Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe


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