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  • Dec 23 / 2008
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Amazing Grace

The authentic story of the redeeming power of the Christmas message is nowhere more vividly illustrated than in the incredible life of an English slaver named John Newton. — Wesley Pruden, Washington Times

Having grown up in Mayberry, so to speak, I’ve always loved the hymn “Amazing Grace,” as well as “Rock of Ages” and “Bringing in the Sheep.” When we named our second daughter “Ida Grace,” it took on added meaning. Fr. Paul, the Weyauwega guitar-priest, played it for us at her baptism.

I especially like the line, “that saved a wretch like me.” Wretch is the perfect word for a miserable sinner, and only a repentant one would use it to describe himself. At one point, some squeamish fool saw fit to remove that unpleasantly apt word and the line began showing up in missalettes as “that saved and rescued me.” The period of sissified delicacy seems to have passed, thank God, and we are now back to wretch.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions, linked above, is Wes Pruden’s annual retelling of the extraordinary story behind “Amazing Grace.” It’s well worth reading, year after year.

  • Dec 22 / 2008
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Good Cause

Carver High School athletic director Brian Bordainick sat in the Rue de la Course coffee shop in downtown New Orleans at 6 a.m., six days before Christmas. The lanky, 23-year-old New York native was hunched over his computer, headphones on, trying to respond to the hundreds of e-mails he’d received in the past 24 hours, when an older man walked up to him. Without a hello, the man slapped a $20 bill onto the table. “I really believe in what you’re doing,” the man said. “Get this done.” Then he walked away. — ESPN.com

E+D+R senior partner Mark Ripple, cited in the article excerpted above, is a best buddy of mine from grammar school. Any project he’s involved in is a good project. If you’re so inclined, please contribute.

  • Dec 21 / 2008
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Your Weekly Politickle

Feel free to publish, post, or pass on Your Weekly Politickle by F.R. Duplantier:

“Will our nemesis nevermore vex us,
Enrage and appall and perplex us?
Will we not feel the same
When he’s out of the game
In a quiet retirement in Texas?”


As your second term comes to an end,
Say farewell to the fair-weather friend,
Whose encouraging voice
Will become ugly noise
And oppose where it once would defend.

How we cheered at the clarion call
For the Soviet Union’s downfall!
Now it’s President Bush
Giving China a push
To demolish their own wicked wall!

“Be careful when choosing new hires
And make sure they fulfill your desires;
If you want to choose wiser,
Ask a trusted advisor.
— Yours truly, Harriet Miers.”

Here’s a problem that is knotty
And could drive a person dotty:
When a meeting’s not brief,
The Commander in Chief
Sometimes has to use the potty.

Nothing Bush could win, but still he won.
Nothing Bush could spin, but still he spun.
All he needs is Rove.
All he needs is Rove.
Rove. Rove. Rove’s his all-in-one.

The criticism may be intense
Of his Secretary of Defense,
But George Bush is no dummy:
He’ll be sticking with “Rummy,”
As a matter of common sense.

Try as hard as you possibly can,
You’ll not find even one Kerry fan:
As election day looms,
All the babes in their wombs
Know instinctively Bush is their man!

The “impartial” commission betrayed
Public trust and became a charade:
Unfair and uncouth,
They have trampled the truth,
Blaming Bush for the mess Clinton made.

Dean and Gephardt start to run.
Kerry, Edwards join the fun.
They hear a whoosh
– And there goes Bush,
Lapping everyone.

The President seldom gets ill.
At least, he hasn’t yet. Still,
To maintain that vim,
My advice to him
Is to pass when proffered a pretzel.

In the midst of waging a war,
We have much to be thankful for,
Since it’s President Bush
Who’s leading the push
Instead of President Gore.

Last week’s limerick:

Thanta, there’th a thpaith
I’d like you to replaith:
I’ll jump with glee
When all can thee
The thmile upon my faith.

  • Dec 20 / 2008
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Wide Awake in Weyauwega

My brush with death on the Wolf River was the inspiration for a country song I wrote once. It’s the story of a guy whose wife leaves him just as the river is starting to freeze up, and the question he fears to ask: Did she even make it to the other side? The compulsion of Wisconsonites to start place names with Ws — Weyauwega, Waupaca, Wauwatosa, Winnebago, Winneconne, etc. — dictated the alliteration in the refrain.

© 1991, F.R. Duplantier

It was early in December
When the ice was still quite thin
That my love lit out and left me
And never came back again.

That’s why I’m wide awake
In Weyauwega,
Wondering what went wrong.
Yes, I’m wide awake
in Weyauwega,
Wishing you’d come home.

Cold snap hit right after she left
And the river froze good and hard,
So I’d cross each day to check the box,
But she never sent a card.

That’s why, ETC.

The days are getting longer
And the ice is breaking free.
Still no word from the one I love —
Will she ever come back to me?

That’s why, ETC.

  • Dec 19 / 2008
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Character Counts

Bad character leads to bad economics, which is bad for liberty. Ultimately, whether we live free and in harmony with the laws of economics or stumble in the dark thrall of serfdom is a character issue. — Lawrence W. Reed in The Freeman

I’ve followed Larry Reed’s brilliant career for more than 20 years. Now the president of the venerable Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Larry was president of the Mackinac Center in Michigan when I first “discovered” him back in the mid-80s and began featuring his commentaries in the national news magazine I edited at the time.  He was the person I turned to for an on-the-scene assessment in 1989 when the Evil Empire began to implode and my conspiratorially-minded colleagues refused to accept the legitimacy of this amazing phenomenon. As one of America’s best-known defenders of the free market, Larry had been invited to Russia to explain the fundamentals of capitalism to the ideological descendants of Marx and Lenin. He had gone there himself and seen what was happening.

As I noted in a July 89 commentary, there was reason to be cautious, for the Communists have a long history of feigning liberalization in order to flush out hidden dissidents; but the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed genuinely to be the moment that staunch anti-Communists had fought for, and the great drama had gone on long enough for me to suspect that something more than skepticism was troubling my colleagues. Were they  mourning the apparent loss of our raison d’être?

Larry had the answer to my question. It was real, all right. No one in Russia believed in socialism anymore, and its victims were eager to enjoy the fruits of economic freedom. It was great news, and I couldn’t wait to leave the office so I could celebrate openly.

  • Dec 19 / 2008
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Pray for Faith

Maybe you don’t believe in the power of prayer. If you’ve lost your faith, or never had it, but would like a convincing demonstration of the power of prayer, then this challenge is for you. Find today’s date on the calendar. Flip six months ahead and mark that date. Now, starting today, pray for faith. Pray for faith every day, at least once a day, for six months. Pray sincerely, pray with all your heart, and one day — on or before the date you’ve marked — you’ll suddenly notice that all your doubts have vanished. In their place you’ll find an abiding faith, and you’ll never question again the power of prayer. — F.R. Duplantier

I actually did this in my mid-twenties. Having convinced myself that I didn’t need a “crutch,” I stopped going to church when I was 15 and began a lengthy period of unconscious moral decline — which culminated, fortunately, in an epiphany in which I recognized, and summoned the courage to admit, that I had become a moral cripple. I did need a crutch, after all. The seemingly insurmountable problem was that I no longer had any faith. I wasn’t a staunch unbeliever, merely an agnostic (never have understood how anyone could affirm God’s nonexistence), but the unquestioning faith I’d known as a child was utterly gone. How could I get it back?

The solution was paradoxical: I would pray for it. It seemed like a crazy idea, especially for an intensely logical person like me. How could I pray when I didn’t really believe in God, much less the efficacy of prayer? Why would God listen to the prayers of a faithless person like me? It was illogical, it didn’t make any sense, but I didn’t know what else to do. So I prayed.

It wasn’t much of a prayer, either, for I’d forgotten how to pray. I just asked for my faith back. Please, God, let me believe again.

I did that every day, several times a day, for weeks or months — I’m not sure how long,  because I have no idea exactly when my faith was restored. I never could pinpoint the precise moment, because it came back quite unobtrusively. I just happened to notice one day that the doubt was gone, completely gone, never to return. Where the emptiness had been, there was fullness. It was a nice feeling.

Five more years passed before I actually ventured into a church again, but I had begun the journey home.

  • Dec 18 / 2008
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One Big Snowman

snowmanThis is the largest snowman my wife and I ever built, on the ice-covered Wolf River in front of our house in Weyauwega, Wisconsin. “Frenchie the Snowman” was 8-10 feet tall. I have no idea how much he weighed, but it must have been several hundred pounds. The top two sections were too heavy to lift, so we rolled them down our hanging dock and dropped them into place. This will give you some idea of his size: what looks like a tiny little “beret” on his head is actually the lid to a large cast-iron pot, and the scarf that barely circles his neck is a queen-size bedsheet. The snowmobilers  whizzing up and down the river in front of our house did double takes when they saw our supersized French Frosty. Then Spring came, the river thawed, and Frenchie crashed through the ice, never to be seen again.

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