wordsmith kid electrolux blog christianity reformed cs lewis tolkien homeshool fantasy fiction
Welcome to "The Wordsmith, the Kid & the Electrolux" Blog--a clearinghouse for information, news, and reviews. I've had so many interesting correspondences about the book and my other work that I thought I'd share them with you.
I'd also love to hear your comments or rants. Feel free to write, I will respond.
Enjoy! - Cliff Leigh




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CFRB Tours "WK&E" in January 2010
CFRB is Christian Fiction Review Blog "CFRB shines--no doubt about it. Started by David Brollier and Jackie Moore this tour does just what [Christian Fiction Book Alliance] intended to do."- Frank Creed, AssociatedContent.com


By David Brollier 1/4/10

"The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux--
Huh? The What?"

By Cathi Hassan 1/4/10

Although this starts out, and I believe is supposed to be geared for children or at least young adults, I found THE WORDSMITH, THE KID, AND THE ELECTROLUX, by Clifford Leigh to be a work of adult fantasy. Not only is it adult fantasy, but it is adult fantasy that centers on a young boy. I know that sounds confusing. Welcome to the world of Corian "Corey" Griffin. If you think the title sounds like someone dared the author to take three randomly chosen words and build a story around them you have only begun to scratctheh surface of this incredible work.

Okay, I'm going to have to take this slow so I don't spoil it for all you readers out there. You are going to want this book, at least to read through once. Why, because everyone should take a jouney as fantastic and wild as THE WORDSMITH, THE KID, AND THE ELECTROLUX. We start out with Corian, a young boy whose father's ritual drink of evening coffee awakened a desire in him that was to send him on a very strange and yet very common journey. The boy, we see, is clearly fixated on getting a sip of this coffee. When his father said "No" Corey decided then and there he would find a way to get what he wanted when he wanted. There were obstacles of course, after all he was still a child and for most things you need money. So the chance finding of the green box by his sister "Jeli" containing coins his father had saved became his "golden" opportunity to embark on fulfilling his desires.

I'm struck by several things and can't go into all of them here, but one is that desire for this became all consuming. It was a compelling force that drove him outside of his own personality, so to speak. We find that when he gets these coins he comes up with a "foolproof" way of getting what he wants. This is where I see something else. He became addicted, oh not to coffee. Strangely enough he never went after his first desire, but rather went after his father and mother's wishes by fulfilling desires that he'd always had in the past. Only now he had the means. Now he had a plan. Now he was getting away with it. Oddly enough this is just how drug addicts start out. There's that little teaser, that taste, that sneak in the boy's room or behind the house. We get away with it and suddenly we think we're so smart. We begin to travel down a path we would never choose if we only realized what we were really getting into. It wasn't just a cigarette we were stealing, or s puff of marijuanna, or some "pills" or whatever. That wasn't the point. Some liked their first experience with these things and others did not. No, the real fascination, the thing that got us really addicted, was that we thought we were pulling a good one over on Mom and Dad. So Corey's little enterprise here may only seem to be about a desire for ice cream, but if you look closer Clifford Leigh is saying something much more important.

Interestingly enough the Apostle Paul also said the same thing. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." (Romans 7:7-11) Paul talks here about how when we didn't know right from wrong, when we didn't know the commandments of God sin had no control over us, even though we may be daily committing those sins. However, once we know right from wrong, once God's Commandments are made know to us, we find that sin is alive in us. We are not the brilliant ones we thought we were, but are in fact the slaves of what we are doing. The very thing that pointed us to the way of life instead now condemns us before a Holy God. What chance do we have? Without the blood of the cross there is no chance, no mercy, no grace, no salvation. You might say that Adam passed on his addiction to all his children. Only a transfusion of pure, holy and righteous blood could free us and bring us back into a relationship with God. Don't you see? God loves you so much, and me so much, that He was willing to step down from His throne, walk upon this earth as one of us, then offer Himself up so that His blood, his pure, holy and righteous blood, could flow in us and set us free from sin and death. Has anyone ever said you are worthless? Have you ever thought you were unworthy? Then look at this again. What did the Lord God Almighty do for YOU that YOU might share in the joys of being part of His family? You see, you are that "precious pearl", that "one lost sheep", that "great treasure". Yes, you. But sometimes it takes an electrolux to bring that point home to us.

Many of you may have never heard of an Electrolux, so right away the title may strike you as odd. Even knowing what an Electrolux is (a brand of vacuum cleaner), I thought the title was odd. One thing for sure, though, it got my attention. What possible connection could there be? What does it mean?

As it turns out, there is a very strong connection, a very meaningful connection, but it isn't really apparent for a while. Before I actually found out how the Electrolux figured into the story, though, I was already well engrossed in it.

Clifford Leigh's wild fantasy reminds me of Alice in Wonderland in many ways, including the long fall down the rabbit hole. In The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux, the fall is into a picture in a box and roughly bumping down the branches of a humongous tree. The protagonist of the story meets a number of unusual people in this new place he's fallen into and finds himself in all kinds of difficult and weird situations. It's  a world full of living pictures, framed ones, and the people choose whether or not to enter various photos. It seems that at least part of these images are connected with certain people and events running in and out. Corey, the main character, just kind of meanders along and finds himself following  twins Benjamin and Ben Endben, who are total opposites in personality and behavior, and yet...well, you'll see if you read the book. Benjamin seems to be the spiritual and ethical brother, but he's always rubbing people the wrong way. He shows everyone these pictures that seem to have special meaning. Most people get annoyed, but a few have an 'aha' moment that changes them. Corey doesn't understand as Benjamin seems to speak in riddles (or parables), yet he is drawn to the strange boy and his pictures. They end up getting in a lot of trouble when...well, again, you need to read the book.

The book takes a while getting to the fall into the box and down the tree, but it's necessary in order to build the back story. Corian "Corey" Griffin is a very selfish boy who doesn't really care for his parents or little sister except for what they can do for him. He starts stealing money from his father's change box so that he can get instant gratification with an ice cream fix. He is oblivious to the family situation, and when his father has to leave home in order to get a job to support the family, Corey's only concern is that his money source won't be replenished. It all comes to a head when the box no longer contains any quarters, and Corey is afraid of being found out. Then the Electrolux starts acting up, and Corey takes off for the adventure of his life.

The main reason I liken this book to Alice in Wonderland is because it is so much more than it seems. With a young boy as a protagonist and a story around his bad behavior and family relationship, it appears to be a middle-grade fantasy. Just like Alice, though, this is quite deceptive. The symbolism and truths that unfold are definitely adult level in a tale with deep corners. I think a younger person can appreciate one level, a teenager another, and adults yet another level. I guess it's kind of like C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia in that way. As you might predict, Corey's relationship with his family will change, but more importantly, he comes to terms with another Father and the Son as well. I don't want to give too much  away, but I was awestruck by the way Leigh explains Jesus' sacrifice and so much more.

I'll have more to say about this book later on this week. Granted, it's a bit odd, but if you take a chance on reading it, it will be well worth your while, whether you're 11 or 41.

I received a review copy of this book free for review purposes, but I never recommend a book or give a good review unless I honestly mean it. And I heartily recommend  The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux. In fact, I am going to give away a copy on my own dime. On Sunday, January 10, I'll choose one name from those who leave comments here and elsewhere on the CFRB tour. This will include comments on all my blogs on the tour and all those by other CFRB members.


Oh it would be so easy to talk about this book, from beginning to end, to spoil it for you, but I will do my best not to do so. Yesterday we looked at how the whole story began with a boy who let a desire come alive in him and enslave him. (You will find evidence of slavery in this if you look closely). What happened? Something was denied him and that really ticked him off. So let's focus on this today. The real reason that Corey went on this binge of self-indulgence, wasn't so much to fulfill some great longing or desire, but to get back at his father for saying "No". We are still talking about living in this real world, not after Corey is sucked up by a vacuum cleaner and dropped down a tree into a land of pictures that come to life. I guess reality is sometimes stranger than fiction, as the saying goes.

I want each of us to stop for a moment and think. Was there ever a time in your life when someone said or did something to you that got you so made that you wanted to get back at them, I mean really get back at them? And when you did whatever it was, didn't you find yourself harming yourself more than the person you meant to harm? Let's take that bitty in church who is always gossiping about everyone, the one who told everyone things that were supposed to be held in strict confidence. Remember her (or him)? Maybe they even altered the facts to make the story all the more juicy and people started avoiding you. You DO remember her right? Okay, now do you remember what you did? I'll tell you what you did, because I've done it too. You got angry, bitter and you decided that you were going to hold a grudge against her (or him) for the rest of your life. Remember? Sound familiar? The thing is she never knew about your unforgiving attitude. She never knew really how hurt you were. You didn't hurt HER at all. Instead, to get back at her you started harming yourself. Unforgiveness. being bitter, holding a grudge, these are things that cause actual physical things to happen in your body. Your body actually starts releasing poisons into the bloodstream. You may have found that your health has declined or that you found it easy to catch colds and hard to get over them. All of this because YOU (and me too) wanted to get back at that little old bitty, that person who has no clue of what's going on inside us. It's like ingesting poison in the hopes of killing the other person. It really doesn't work that way, ever.

Jesus has a lot to say about forgiveness, and rightly so. He came to forgive us. If we can remember that not a single sin can come before God, and yet Jesus came to take ALL of our sin on Himself so we could come before our Heavenly Father, we would begin to understand what forgiveness is. In Matthew 6:12 Jesus taught that we should pray "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." So if we aren't forgiving others then we aren't going to be forgiven. Doesn't that bother you? It bothers me. You might want to check out the parable in Matthew 18:27-35, but let me just pick out a verse for you. "Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?" (verses 32, 33).

There seems to be this big gaping hole in many Christian's armor. It is caused by unforgiveness. We are trying to hurt someone because of some real or imagined trespass against us, and in our zeal to get back at them, we turn our vengence on ourselves. We can really be stupid sometimes. Now, here's the real "kicker". Jesus KNEW all of that before the foundations of the world, and STILL came to die for you and for me. Humanly we are worthless. We are nothing more than neatly arranged dirt and water waiting to be ground down into dirt once again. Yet Jesus sees what is inside this vessel of clay and says, "You are worthy". From an old wooden cross He looked down, not just on the crowds around Him, but down through the corridors of time and saw you and me, and He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is how we are to forgive anyone who has done anything against us. If we fail to do so, then we fail to be forgiven. It's your choice. I have a cousin who for many years refused to become a Christian because of all the hypocrites in the church. Then after 2 tours in the Vietnam War he went down to an altar and gave his life (totally) to the Lord. He later said, "I wasn't going to spend eternity with those hypocrites." What about you? Right now the choice is being laid out before you, death or life, and God loving urges us to choose life. I have, will you?

Each new author we at CFRB read has a style all their own. I personally like some better than others, basically because I like mysteries (I include SF, fantasy and even horror in this category). Generally it's hard for me to get into a romance, but that's just a personal thing. Another personal thing is I really want to see Jesus shining through the work, whether His name is mentioned or not. In THE WORDSMITH, THE KID, AND THE ELECTROLUX, by Clifford Leigh we have just such a story. It is both mystery and fantasy. It is filled with Scripture, but not in a boring way that many of us have encountered in other works. He weaves the teachings of God smoothly into the story so that you hardly know it's there.

This is an awesome story about a young boy whose attempts at pleasing himself and his own desires lands him in a strange world, via the Electrolux. In that world things aren't always what they seem, and he begins to learn that his way of seeing things needs to change. I've already written 6 posts on the CFRB site and to say more may give the story away, and this is one story I don't want to mess up for you. I urge you to get your hands on it and read it. If you can't buy it see if your local library can get it. Somehow, find it and read it. You'll be happy you did. It's an easy book to read. Don't be surprised to find bits and pieces of yourself in the story. That's the point. None of us is exempt from what our desires do to us. It's not pretty, but take heart, there is Someone who has come to you to change that for you, Someone who loves you very much. His name is Jesus.

New Review from Squidoo.com "Best Christian Fantasy"

by "WordVixen"

I don't know if it's actually possible to explain this story. It's about the fall of man, our corrupt nature, and Jesus' amazing sacrifice. It's written as a boy who gives in to his own selfish desires (ice cream), and how it actually destroys his own life as he becomes a slave to his desire (sneaking about, refusing to participate in his family, cavities). One night, he wakes to find that his parents' vacuum cleaner is alive, and seemingly intelligent. It takes him on a ride, bringing him to a book of his family tree, which is filled with odd, almost living pictures. And then he falls into one. Thus begins his adventure.

Suffice to say that it has all of the strangeness of a story like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and even Pilgrim's Progress. It also teaches its lesson in the same subtle but fantastic method, with the same kind of melancholy feel through out much of the book.

Happily, the message truly gets through, and by seeming so strange, it peaks your curiosity ("I wonder where he's going with this?") and keeps your attention riveted, not only to the story, but also the meaning and message behind the story.

This is not the kind of book that is likely to give a non-believer who wasn't raised in church and "aha!" moment, simply because they won't have the key to unlock the mystery unless the Holy Spirit teaches them. Just as reading the Bible tends to not make sense to someone who doesn't already believe, unless the Holy Spirit is there to guide them. It is, however, an excellent book (just as Pilgrim's Progress, and Hinds Feet In High Places) for the believer who wants to really GET Jesus' sacrifice, and why we need it so much.

posted September 16th 2009

"I certainly wish I had read this book when I was a teenager. It would have explained to me why Jesus’s death on the cross meant my sins were paid for.  That was a huge stumbling block to me at the time, for years, and this book makes it understandable and believable."

Phyllis Wheeler, Christan Fantasy Review

posted July 4th 2009



Posted 7/14/09

How did a Reformed Protestant get to draw a picture for the Pope?

What follows is a series of emails that I had with the Pop Artist Mark Kostabi that culminated in just that. Also included is a correspondence with another of Mark's "Idea People" Mike Cockrill, with whom I worked with, but had not spoken to in fifteen years. This gives a more in-depth discussion about the piece, as well as an insight into some of the themes in "The Wordsmith, the Kid & the Electrolux."

I have been designing for Mark, on-and-off, for over twenty years. He might have an infamous reputation but he has always been honest with me and open to all my ideas. The art world, like the rest of the world, is a corrupt and politically correct (a.k.a "lying") institution, therefore the fact that Mark is reviled by many affords him the freedom to indulge even the most incorrect notion of all, Christianity.

During my first five year stint with Mark I injected many subliminal (I thought) Christian themes into his designs. Several years later I was peddling my own artwork to a (gasp!) golf shop. I was waiting to see the manager and a check-out guy asked me about my work. I told him I had worked for an artist named Kostabi. He responded, "Oh yeah, the guy who puts the Bible in his paintings."

As a Christian and an artist I have been providentially blessed to work for and with him. There is no one else in the art world who even approaches this unique position. I know of no other venue which could have afforded me the opportunity to exercise these odd talents.

Enjoy! - Cliff Leigh


From: Kostabi Mark
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 2:50 AM
To: Mark Kostabi
Subject: Mark meets the Pope

 Photo by L’Osservatore Romano

Mark Kostabi meets Pope Benedict XVI at the benediction of his sculpture of Pope John Paul II in Velletri, Italy, September 23, 2007

From: Kostabi Mark
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 1:34 PM
To: Cliff Leigh
Subject: Mark Kostabi and the Pope in the New York Post


NY Post, Page Six, July 10, 2007 -- PAINTER Mark Kostabi, the artist everyone loves to hate - especially the critics - seems to be redeeming himself, at least in the eyes of God. The Italian city of Velletri will soon unveil his larger-than-life bronze likeness of Pope John Paul II in a public square. "When the Italian government asked me to make this realistic sculpture of Pope John Paul II, I was obviously thrilled," Kostabi told Page Six, "but since I'm known for my faceless figures, I had to figure out a way to make it a recognizable Kostabi. So I decided to attach three of my faceless angels to the pope's back so that they look like they're carrying him towards heaven." The pope, thank heaven, has a face. Kostabi admits he was jealous of all the publicity Damien Hirst got recently with his $100 million diamond-encrusted skull. "There are no diamonds on my sculpture. The diamond is the pope."

Kostabi Mark
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 10:47 AM
To: Cliff Leigh; Cliff Leigh
Subject: Pope Benedict XVI

Hi Cliff,
Can you make a masterpiece Kostabi drawing featuring Pope Benedict XVI in a Kostabi situation? Since I've already met him once, I thought I should commemorate the occasion and try to make him see a painting in his honor. I would like to meet him again and talk about many things. This is the goal with this image: to get another meeting with the Pope! It should be something that he and his advisers find appealing.

[Above drawing, as well as others, were executed and delivered to Mark]

From: Kostabi Mark
Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2007 10:29 AM
To: Cliff Leigh
Subject: Re: PopeBenedict et al

Hi Cliff,
These are all great. $XXX is fine. Can you explain some of the themes that you incorporated which relate to Pope Benedict's writings. (I noted the fact that Durer was also German.) For example, what does the writing say at top. And why NOVA RATIO?  The drawing is great and very interesting. I also love music trio and the umbrella drawing.


From: Cliff Leigh
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 8:38 AM
To: Kostabi Mark
Subject: BenedictPiece

Dear Mark,

This piece is a discussion of the nature of Reason, in Latin “ratio”. In Pope Benedict’s writings he accurately reflects the Roman Catholic theological stance on the nature of Reason espoused by Thomas Aquinas, most notably in his masterwork, “Summa Theologica”. A representation of this book can be seen in the lower left corner. In it, Thomas makes use of the Aristotilian understanding of “natural reason” (reason inherent in natural man, as opposed to reason that is a special revelation from God) to espouse “proofs” of the existence of God, or “theistic proofs”.

As you can see, this piece is an image within an image. Yet three elements are outside the bounds of the inner image. This refers to the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The first are the Hebrew words from above, “Bereshiyt bara Elohim,” which are the first three words of the Bible, literally translated “Created, in the beginning, God…” or as we know it, “In the beginning God created…” This represents the “special” revelation of God’s word, as opposed to “reason” derived by “natural” means.

To the right is a vertical beam with a nail in it, a reference to Christ, God incarnate, his death burial, and resurrection as a once and for all atonement for sins. It stretches upward for he is the way to the Father.

To the left is the dove, the Holy Spirit, which brings us new reason (nova ratio) which illuminates and supplants our old natural, reason, which is corrupted by the Fall, that we may apprehend and embrace the truth of the revelation of God in his Word (again represented by the Hebrew text above, which illuminates the whole piece.



From: Kostabi Mark
Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:13 AM
To: Cliff Leigh; Cliff Leigh
Subject: Mike Cockrill

Hi Cliff,
When you asked me to explain your Kostabi Pope drawing it was for my own education so I would know what I was talking about when asked about my own work. When Mike Cockrill saw the drawing at Kostabi world he was intensely fascinated, knowing that you were involved and told me that he was wondering  what you were up to because of conversations he's had with you on the subject years ago. I offered to forward your explanation to him. I assumed you wouldn't mind since there was nothing personal or private in the e-mail and it was all about work. He enjoyed reading your explanation very much and seems very engaged by the topic. He suggested that I forward his letter to me also to you. Here it is.

From: Mike Cockrill
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 10:43 PM
To: Mark Kostabi
Subject: Re: Cliff's explanation

Hi Mark,
 Nice talking to you, too.  You didn't rush off the phone.  I had to get going as well. As for Cliff's explanation.  It all sounds fascinating and like he knows what he's talking about.  But, very notably -- and just as I said -- he makes no mention of Durer, or of the borrowings from his masterpiece, "Melancholia." That is the part that intrigues me, because that is where I suspect Cliff is laying out his own feelings about the Catholic Church and/or the current Pope. Years ago during a discussion on Creationism, Cliff told me that he felt basically that the Catholic church was a satanic corruption of Christianity. He felt no member of the clergy should be called "Father."  In true Christianity there is only one Father, and He is in heaven.  According to Cliff.  So it is with fascination that I studied his drawing -- knowing he would not be a traitor to his own beliefs. (He would be like the Jewish printer forced to publish Nazi screeds and subtly working in hidden Stars of David for the world to later find.)  I'm having a smile about all of this. This is no criticism of Cliff. I see it all in good fun.  But I wonder. 
     Further, no one will be able to slip anything past the eyes of the Vatican.  There are no symbols or images that they do not understand more profoundly than anyone else around.  Catholicism is all about symbols. (Remember; For a thousand years the "fathers" of the church were the only ones around who could read.)
Forward this to Cliff if you like.  I'd love to hear his response. 


From: Cliff Leigh
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2007 11:16 AM
To: Mike Cockrill
Subject: Cliff's Explanation

Hi Mike,

As I was saying… Wow! Talk about a pregnant pause—a fifteen-year gap in the middle of a conversation! It’s a good thing that I didn’t have the chance to do this drawing fifteen years ago, because, if you are relaying accurately the tone of the conversation (I have no doubt you are) than it may have been a whole different picture.  Although, in substance, not much has changed of what I believed about current Roman Catholic theology but I hope how I approach Roman Catholic people (including the Pope) has changed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

We all have a tendency to categorize people, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not, then praise, or mock them accordingly (artists, as stone-throwing tricksters are especially good at this). This never does much except to harden hearts against what you have to say. After all, Pope Benedict, first and foremost is a person, not just an abstract, iconic figurehead. So when Mark proposed a drawing that the Pope would find interesting, I approached him as a thinking man, not as a censorious cardinal on the prowl for heresy. Of course, I do not know him as a man, but I believe I gained some insight into his way of thinking regarding the recent controversy over statements he made about jihad. (http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=71125).
In these statements he made an appeal for Hellenistic Reason as a determinant of the appropriateness of the use of violence in religious persuasion. This is perfectly reasonable coming from him since it is one of the hallmarks of RC teaching since the time of Thomas Aquinas. He also went on to discuss what he believes was the “dehellinization” of Christian thought beginning with the Reformation and more recently with multi-culturalism.

In essence this Hellinism is the system of logic or reason observed most notably by the Greeks. When stripped down to its bare bones it is the notion that there is an autonomous entity known as “Reason”, or “Logic”, or “Logos”, which must be satisfied for the proof and therefore belief, of a given subject (Aquinas applied this Hellenism to church teaching to develop his theistic “proofs” in his masterwork “Summa Theologica”). I say this is something “observed” by the Greeks not created by them because it is something that every human being in every culture, not just the Greeks, uses to some extent almost every moment of a given day (e.g. two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time in non-western India or Hellenized Athens, therefore, all do not stand in front of oncoming traffic, etc.). This system of logic functions on every level—from babies first step to quantum mechanics. It is inherent in each one of us. It is used and articulated in varying degrees in all cultures. It is sometimes called “Natural Reason”. Again it is important to state that this “Reason” is not a system created by the Greeks but observed by them and used by all philosophers. This functions fairly well when dealing with inferior objects. All functional technology has been developed by the accurate application of this Reason. The fact that the wheel works or the atom bomb goes off is a testament that Reason is real. But a problem begins to arise when we start to contemplate superior things. For example, one might observe the cycle of the seasons and using this Reason conclude that all reality functions in an eternal circle, without beginning or end. However, if the observer’s life began and ended on a corkscrew or a spiral staircase, he might observe the circular motion of reality but his conclusion would be flawed. So therefore, we know by Reason that our Natural Reason is limited by our inability to get “outside” and see the whole of all things. Many a philosopher and theologian has proclaimed that they have gotten “outside” and are here to illuminate the world to what they have seen. Plato describes this in his allegory of the Cave, that we are all in a cave only seeing shadows of what is real. But for him to describe this situation he would have to be able to stand outside the cave and come back and tell everyone they were still in it. The pride of this declaration assumes that he can see exhaustively above and through all things, or else how would he know from outside the cave that he was not standing in another greater cave, and if he were to get outside that one that he was not standing in another, etc., etc.? So you see our use of Reason itself is, at very best, fallible by our limitations. Not only is our Reason fallible by our positional limitations (i.e. where we stand in relation to things), but it also suffers from other defects. It is limited by our ability; we, as finite, physical beings cannot see infinitely through all things. Therefore, we can only judge according to what we are able to apprehend. But, perhaps more seriously, our interpretation of what we are able to apprehend is corrupted by a pride that believes we are actually able to infinitely see through all things. We might not outwardly declare this, but in practice we act as if it were true. Pride seeks to claim that our Reason is positionally superior to all things and, therefore, all things must submit their evidence to us that we may judge its correctness. Again, this may work when applied to inferior things, but this singular perverseness will automatically “disprove”, or put into question the existence of a superior being, or, at very best, create a being we call “superior” but in practice make him inferior to our Reason, since the very act of judging this superior has made ourselves the superior and corrupted the ability to submit to him.

And so our Reason, as is, has an essential flaw, a blind spot that, try-as-we-might, will not and, therefore, cannot see superior things, or will pervert them to an inferior position to us. On top of all this, we have made Reason subject to our desires and emotions, so that we will abandon Reason all together when it gets in the way of what we want or what we feel. Again this may function in the short term, but we soon find our emotions and feelings need to be reigned in by some use of Reason. And so we are in a jumbled reality that we all know is not quite “right”. However, the very sense of things being not quite “right” testifies itself that there is a “rightness” that we can’t quite fully attain. Some seek to develop philosophies to explain this situation; some ignore it all together in favor of transient pleasures and concerns. But all fail because they are still on the “inside” looking at things through flawed and inadequate Reason. This is where Revelation literally comes in. It is the “outside” revealing itself to the “inside” and thus explaining the “inside’s” situation.

As I stated before, there are many men who claim to be messengers of this Revelation, but the very fact that they themselves are finite, fallible beings even at best would make their statements interpretations of what they had seen or experienced on their supposed trip to the “outside.” If one were to contemplate what an adequate Revelation must be like, it would require messengers who only relayed what they were told from one of an infinite character, who is able to see through all things, in order to relay without error the truth of reality, not an interpretation of his experience of it. But the fullest Revelation come directly from the one of infinite character communicating himself (the Word, or “Logos,” made flesh). And once this information was passed to finite, flawed, and interpretive beings it would require a clearing away of the obfuscation of our flaws. For if our flaws are not taken fully into account we will mishandle this Revelation by making our Reason superior to it. This does not mean that Revelation is in opposition to Reason. On the contrary, true Revelation clears away the flaws of our old Reason and provides a new Reason (“nova ratio”) or, more accurately, a “right” Reason (“recta ratio”), which is not different than our Natural Reason but fully illuminates and satisfies it.

Therefore, Faith and Reason are not mutually exclusive, but instead Faith frees a corrupted Reason to function more fully and accurately. Reason is a flawed, faint witness of a reasonable God, not an entity or a process to which God must appeal. This is different than Islam’s view of a transcendent God who does not have to operate in the bounds of Reason and the RC view that our current Reason functions more autonomously and better than it does, and is a sufficient tool to apprehend God. All Christian denominations operate according to the way they approach Revelation.

So armed with this little bit of info into Pope Benedict’s thoughts, I saw an entryway for a discussion of topics that I also find of great interest and import.  These issues are displayed in this drawing to Pope Benedict, hopefully, not in a confrontational manner, but in a conversational one, from one “insider” brother to another, speaking of how we may better understand that which has entered in from the “outside”.

As far as the use of Durer’s “Melencolia I” having a subversive meaning, it was only used because it directly addresses the topic of Reason and its use in creativity.

I know this is all complicated but I hope it explains how this drawing emerged.





Here's the latest review of the book by Pastor Shane Lems. Posted on Reformed Reader on April 18, 2009-C.L.

posted July 4th 2009


For Your Christian Imagination

I enjoy C.S. Lewis, but have read only about 40% of the stuff he’s written.  I do remember him and others like him emphasizing the importance of reading and the imagination in the Christian life.  Actually, I either read somewhere or heard someone say that all preachers should either read the Narnia series or the Lord of the Rings as a way to hone preaching skills.  I agree, and would add that the hearers of sermons can benefit from these books as well to hone the art of listening!  This post is about such a book: one that will massage your right brain by way of imagery, allegory, and word-picture.

The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux (Waterford: Capstone Fiction, 2008) by Cliff Leigh is a dance through a new world where things first don’t make sense, then they finally start making sense by words and pictures.  The book is about a young boy (around 10-13 years old give or take) who gets stuck in the “kingdom of his own happiness:” his desires trap him in a downward spiral of folly (p. 3).  Leigh gives us a great window into the mind of this boy (Corian Griffin).  For example, when Corian would steal to fill his desires, “a faint tingling…began to grow just beneath the surface” of his clothing.  He “shifted his body and flexed his muscles to alleviate the sensation but to no avail” (p. 28).  Basically, this is his conscience bothering him; though he wouldn’t call it that, he would call it a terribly uncomfortable sensation.

I don’t want to ruin the story, but Corian travels through a world where he meets all kinds of fascinating characters: army guys, other children with fascinating personalities, adults with odd traits, a life-or-death type of children’s game, a journey, and all sorts of other things which teach Corian about himself and about reality.  Here’s a little “sample.”  After a battle-that-wasn’t-really-a-battle in this new world, “the cheering of the silver city thundered like the ocean, harmonized by the gasp and epithets of the city of copper at the sight of their fallen hero.  The vast sea of humanity rolled and splashed with excitement and misery.  And now, as in the story of the boy who slew the giant, I expected the silver city to attack the coppers, but instead, the strangest thing occurred next (p. 52).”  You’ll have to read it to see what strange thing did happen.

To conclude, the book is a sort of allegory that highlights the main themes of Scripture.  Some allegories sort of jam the Bible into the reader, but this one is not that way.  The biblical references, for the most part, are neither forced nor brought to the front to make the story “cheesy” (for lack of better terms).  In the end, it does come together pretty clearly and an average reader won’t miss the biblical allusions.  (Side note: for you apologists out there in the presuppositionalist camp – you’ll especially enjoy the last part of the story).

There are a few illustrations throughout; they are spectacular.  It is clear that Leigh is an artist through and through.  The few illustrations in the book make the reader wish for a whole lot more.  I was longing for pictures of some things that Leigh took great pains to write about, though perhaps that would have taken away from the great word-pictures.  Either way, the illustrations are great and you’ll really want to see more.  One more thing: the book isn’t really for younger kids.  The content is kid friendly for the most part, but the writing style is at the level of high school and above.  This is not a critique, but an observation (in case you were wondering).

Anyway, long story short: if you like Lewis and Tolkien, you’ll enjoy this.

Cliff Leigh The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux (Oak Tara), 2008.

shane lems

sunnyside wa


Review Excerpts

5.0 out of 5 stars"It is an outstanding read. Leigh massages the right side of the brain: he makes you use and exercise your Christian imagination. You can't just read it and set it down. If you read it deeply, the images and stories will stick in your head after you set it down. And the images and stories are ones that are helpful for a Christian's walk. If you read the book rightly, it will grow your imagination in a godly way, very much like Lewis and Tolkien.
Preachers of sermons and hearers of sermons need to read books like this! It reminds us that the Christian faith is not a bunch of flat propositional statements, but a dramatic 3-D story of sin, salvation, and service
"-Pastor Shane Lems, The Reformed Reader

5.0 out of 5 stars"Cliff Leigh has written a rollicking roller coaster of a book with quirky characters, tongue-in-cheek conversation and throughout profound truths that come from "the mouths of babes." I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be entertained while being brought up short by glimpses of his/her own sinful self and shortcomings. A joyous adventure that you won't soon forget!" -Alison Pickrell, BarnesandNoble.com

5.0 out of 5 stars " A finely written piece of fantasy, "The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux" is highly recommended for community library young adult fiction collections." -Midwest Book Review

5stars"I highly recommend this book for teenagers, young adults, and adults...Once I started reading it, I was gripped by the story and could not put it down... Excellently written!!"
-Darrin Conlon , Amazon.com review

5.0 out of 5 stars"
The surreal descriptions are apparently intended to appeal to the post-modernist mindset so characteristic of the masses today, but the allegorical implications are clear and portray a biting satire on today's anti-God pop culture." -Wayne S. Walker, Stories for Children Magazine, HomeSchoolBuzz

Joy Miller, Fivejs.com

Wordsmith, The Kid, and The Electrolux

November 15, 2008

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, and C.S. Lewis, creator of the Chronicles of Narnia, were masters of allegory, utilizing that unique literary device to present the truths of Scripture. Perhaps they were following the example of Jesus, who frequently used parables to explain spiritual truths in a way the people could understand almost two thousand years ago.

In the 21st century, Cliff Leigh returns to this tried-and-true method of revealing Scriptur<21st century Christian allegory a la Bunyan, CS Lewis>al truth through allegory with his book, The Wordsmith, The Kid, and The Electrolux. Throughout the pages of this novel, Mr. Leigh uses what he calls "echoing allegory" to present the Gospel to his readers with humor, wit, and skillful storytelling.

Deception, self-indulgence, greed, rebellion, grace, and forgiveness are just a few of the themes we read about as we follow the main character, a boy named Corian Griffin, through several troublesome days of his life. The story begins when Corey's father refuses him a cup of coffee, an event which drives him to his father's green Chinese box and subsequently to the neighborhood ice cream man, Mr. Good. That one seemingly inconsequential act begins Corey's disastrous descent into bondage to his desires, and eventually leads him into a dark closet where he comes face-to-face with the one thing that will change his life forever — the Electrolux.

Filled with more than a few curious and charismatic characters, The Wordsmith, The Kid, and The Electrolux makes a wonderful read aloud for families, yet it's complexity also appeals to an adult reader. This book, especially when read aloud to children, could be used as a wonderful conversation starter, and I would especially recommend it to any homeschooling family.



Here's a piece by Forrest Schultz at the Van Til Tool blog originally posted on March15th 2009-C.L.



Let me begin by saying that I am not kidding. I just finished reading a Vantillian fantasy novel. I really did. And the title of it really is The Wordsmith, The Kid, and The Electrolux.

I know it sounds strange because when you think of Van Til and something being Vantillian, you think of philosophy and theology and world-view. You do not think of literature, and you certainly do not think of fantasy literature! Now you might think of the Vantillian method of analyzing the thought in a work of literature (including fantasy). But you do not think of a work of literature itself, esp. not a work of fantasy, as itself BEING Vantillian!! Yet, here we have an example, the one I just noted.

Now because this is indeed a work of literature, i.e. because it tells a story, I cannot proceed to conduct the kind of analysis you expect by a Vantillian on a work of non-fiction. The reason, of course, is clear. I do not want to "give away the story". I do not know how I can analyze it without doing just that. So I shall refrain from doing so and will simply ask you to read the story for yourself. I am not going to need to prove to you that this is a Vantillian fantasy because, to use one of my favorite vantillianisms, its fantasy character will be "self-attesting" to you after you have read it. If you know what the Van Til Perspective is and if you understand what you are reading in this story, its vantillian nature will indeed be self-attesting.
I will tell you just a bit about the author, though. His name is Clifford Leigh, and you can learn about him by visiting his website at http://www.cliffleigh.com/. It is a beautiful website, which is not surprising, because Leigh is an artist as well as a writer. In fact he designed the front and rear covers of the book, the few pictures within the text, and the pictures accompanying the chapter titles.


Article by Linda Mancusco, first published in Smithtown News, June 2008

Workin’ on the Railroad

Dad uses 3.5 hour LIRR commute into Manhattan to Pen First Novel, "The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux"

Most Long Island Railroad commuters spend their train time catching up on emails, speaking too loudly on their cell phones, reading the latest bestseller or, more often than not, napping. But St. James resident Clifford Leigh, 47, spent his 3 ½ daily commute a little more productively – working on his first novel.

Now, nearly nine years later and countless hours on the train commuting to New York City, his novel, The Wordsmith, The Kid and The Electrolux, which he also illustrated, was recently published by Capstone Fiction. And Mr. Leigh, still riding the commuter train, is hard at work on its sequel, Islandship River.

Mr. Leigh, who is married with three sons, is an artist who has had his work exhibited in major galleries and museums around the world as well as a designer for Evergreene Painting Studios, an art and historical restoration firm in Manhattan. When he was first married, Mr. Leigh and his family lived in Syosset, and he only had a 40 minute commute. “But then the family got larger and we moved out to St. James,” said Mr. Leigh. Although his family loved St. James, Mr. Leigh said he didn’t realize how much longer the commute into the city would be and how much it would affect his lifestyle.

At first a little depressed about the amount of time spent on the train, Mr. Leigh decided to use the time more industriously. After receiving a hand-me-down laptop from his brother-in-law, he thought he would use his commuting time doing what he does best, illustrating. But the artist found that too difficult to do on the old LIRR diesel trains he rode when he first started commuting from St. James.

“Then one day, when I transferred at Huntington, they rolled out the big, new double decker train,” recalled Mr. Leigh. “I had more room and I didn’t have to change at Huntington, so I had more [uninterrupted] time.  When he first set out to work on his book, a story about a boy and his magical vacuum cleaner, he thought it would be for younger children with more illustrations than words, but  “as I started to write, it ballooned into a novel. “ Mr. Leigh said his book was inspired by his oldest son, who was about six at the time and the family’s old Electorlux vacuum cleaner. “I think it was made in the ‘60s, but it still worked,” said Mr. Leigh. “My kids used to play on it and sit on it.” 

After three years of working in his locomotive office, The Wordsmith, The Kid and The Electrolux, which by then hadevolved into a fantasy tale targeted more to teens than toddlers, was complete.  But, as the new author soon learned, getting the book published would not be easy. “I had no idea how to get a book published,” said Mr. Leigh. So, he researched and read up on it (during his commuting time, of course), and followed the conventional route and hired a literary agent. But after two years, he still hadn’t heard from any interested publishers. “Then one day I was surfing the web and found a website that would look at some chapters of my book and if they liked it they would advertise in their newsletter,” said Mr. Leigh.

Finally, after another year and a half, Mr. Leigh heard from Capstone Fiction. After checking out the publishing company, which was founded by two publishing veterans, one of whom was a former communications director at the White House, Mr. Leigh signed on. Now, one year later, the book, which is described in the publisher’s press release as a “Fantasy. Adventure. Surprise. A tale of growing up and growing wise,”   is published and the author said it is doing very well. So well, in fact, that Capstone Fiction is very interested in its sequel. The author is hard at work on his second novel, still enduring his long LIRR commute “but it’s all tolerable when you’re 240 pages into your sequel and the publisher already wants to see it.

The Wordsmith, The Kid and The Electorlux is available on line at www.barnesand noble.com; www.amazon.com, www.target.com and other national retail outlets. For more information about the book and the author, visit www.oaktara.com

Here's a little piece on how and why I the book on the Long Island Railroad-C.L.

My Third Rail Life
Or How I Wrote a Novel on the LIRR and Got It Published

Nine years ago we moved farther east delightfully increasing my commute to about three and a half hours a day. At first I used the time to catch up on my reading (I actually read Moby Dick and, hey, it wasn’t half bad) but soon the idea that almost a quarter of my waking hours was spent traveling began to eat away at my sanity. I decided I had to make this daily ping-pong ball of a life more productive, and perhaps exercise some long dormant creative muscles that had been sacrificed for the sake of making a living.

I’m a visual artist by trade and doing work on the train was virtually impossible. At that time they were running grimy, crowded, forty year old diesels that were not only not conducive to artistic expression but barely conducive to conduction. These monstrosities were dirty and clunky and, in fact, the Mrs. Haversham (I also read Dickens) of transportation. They were decrepit time capsules where one would expect Butch and Sundance to be dynamiting the rails up ahead. They seemed to be designed in a tuberculin era of consumption when men’s rear ends were about three inches slimmer. The notion a designer would allocate these absurd benches to three grown-ups with winter coats and briefcases could only be explained by socio-pathology. From time to time you’d plop down to find that there was no seat beneath the Naugahyde (now I understand why the ladies make such a big deal about putting the seat down). The idea that I could do anything productive with my elbows plastered to my ribcage and my rear end sinking below my knees was out of the question. I began to despondently stare through the translucent (and I say that knowing what ‘transparent’ means) windows calculating how many hours in a lifetime I would be consigned to this Groundhog Day cycle of traveling from the barn to the slaughterhouse and back, over and over again. Something had to give.

Then three things happened. First, I saw my young kids playing on our old Electrolux vacuum cleaner. This will become relevant later. Second, my brother got a new laptop from his company and he handed-me-down his twenty-pound Panasonic dinosaur. It permanently gave me a slightly lower right shoulder, but it worked! Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the LIRR rolled out their new, dual-locomotion, double-decker trains.

One morning I dragged myself onto the platform fully expecting to see the filth-breathing dragon groan toward me to gobble me up. But instead this amazing stainless steel hotel rolled smoothly into the station. Now, over the years these trains have had their problems, don’t get me wrong, but the one thing you can’t take away from them is that they have eliminated the three-person torture racks and replaced them with extra-wide double seats. With the liberation of my elbows from my ribs I was now capable of doing something productive with this void in my day. Plus, their dual-locomotion (electric and diesel) allowed them to travel non-stop from the third-rail barren hinterlands all the way into Penn Station and back again without transferring at Huntington. This allowed for three and a half hours of uninterrupted concentration. Except for the occasional six-pack wielding yahoos and the cell phone blatherers the train ride was now like a study cubicle at the library—conducive to work.

This is where the Electrolux comes in. I thought of writing a children’s book about a magical vacuum cleaner. Since I’m an artist it would mainly be a picture book but since I was unable to do artwork on the train perhaps I could write the text on my dinosaur laptop. Well, I began writing, and writing, until it no longer looked like the text blurbs of a children’s book but began to look more like a novel. I was thirty-nine years old at the time and I began to question myself, “What right do I have to be a writer?” After all I was too old to start a new career. Wasn’t I? I should have started in my teens and then I would have had twenty years under my belt. Then the idea struck me that if I start writing now I’d only be fifty-nine when I’d have twenty years of writing under my belt. I wouldn’t even be ready for retirement. And, hey, what the heck, I’m just riding the train anyway. What else do I have to do? So, with an old college text book on English grammar, I decided to retrain myself on the train so that what I wrote would not be laughable. I also purchased a neat little piece of software called CoolSpeech that would audibly read every word as I typed and any selected block of text or an entire library if digitally produced. Since I’m a pretty slow reader this enabled me to hear mistakes and check the musicality of the words that I wouldn’t pick up normally by just reading. And so I wrote and wrote and within two years I had a complete rough draft. Then for the next few months I’d use the software to listen to the entire book over and over again, making corrections, until it sounded just right. And just about the time I couldn’t stand hearing it anymore, voilά, it was complete.

Once it was done I wondered if it would stand on its own as a piece of writing without illustrations. I think I was more concerned about this than anything at the time. Was I a writer or just an artist pretending? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, they say, so the only way to find out was to get it published. This was another field, like writing, of which I was totally ignorant. But the LIRR was my study hall so I bought a book on how to get published and read it. I followed its instructions deciding it would be better to get a literary agent rather than approach publishers myself. I researched agents in my genre, created query letters and sent them out. All but one said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So of course, I went with the only port in the storm and signed a contract with her. She would charge be nothing but take a percentage of the sale.

Little did I know I had fallen into the black hole of literary agents.  Not only was the agency in a deep southern state which shall remain nameless (it does have a lot of S’s in it though) but its owner would alternately sign correspondences with one of two different last names. Was she a serial divorcee? Bipolar? I don’t know. Also, upon further investigation I noticed she was selling arts-and-crafts nick-knacks on her professional website. Needless to say this didn’t inspire confidence, but what did I know? I was writing novels about vacuum cleaners on the train! So I decided I’d let her do her job without much complaint. Her “job,” as it would turn out, consisted of her apparently querying publishers about my book (I have no proof this was done at all) and her not informing me of the supposed results. In the middle of this vast exercise in silence I was informed in a mass email that she was moving from her supposed office to another supposed location and this would hinder her from not emailing me her supposed results from her supposed queries. During a year of nothingness (I’d rather be told to my face by Simon Cowell that I was pathetic) I spent my daily commute learning how to illustrate on my laptop. I was able to produce spot illustrations for the entire book. But of course, this was all academic if it remained only as an MS Word doc on my computer. Finally I broke my yearlong forced vow of silence and asked to be released from my contract. To this she amicably assented, thus notifying me that she was in fact alive and that I had not simply blacked out for the past year.

My book writing was beginning to look more and more like a pipe dream. It began to take a backseat to more pressing matters. I learned in fact that I could do artwork on my computer on the train and get paid for it, so I started to earn cash while riding the rails. My novel sank deeper into obscurity.

Then one day I was browsing a notable website that had nothing to do with writing, but answered questions on family matters. One individual wrote in asking how to get published. The website stated it wasn’t their row-to-hoe but knew of a newsletter that, for a fee ($70), would read sample chapters of books and critique them. And if they thought there was any merit to them they would place a blurb in their monthly which publishers would sift through for potential books. What did I have to lose but $70? So I sent some chapters off. Soon I received a thoughtful critique saying that the book was unusual, comparing it to “The Phantom Tollbooth” and “Alice in Wonderland” (both of which I had not read but subsequently read the latter). He said that if a good editor “got behind it,” it could be published. They would place it in their next newsletter. That was in September 2005, and again I slipped into another long, dark silence. The novel, as far as I was concerned, was ancient history.

Then, like a bolt from the blue, a year and three months later, on returning to my office on the first work day of 2007, I found an email in my inbox with the subject line “The Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux” (the title of my book) from someone who I didn’t know. He claimed to be the founder of a new publishing house interested in reading the manuscript. I, having spent years in the wilderness, was skeptical. But when I googled his name he turned out to be a former communications director at the White House, an author of numerous books,  CEO of a marketing consulting firm, helped launch a notable cable channel, former Knight-Ridder reporter, was an NCAA champion, and, not to mention, runs a sport horse farm. I doubted he sold nick-knacks on his website. So I sent off the manuscript to his editor and business partner, who also was a senior editor for a notable magazine and publishing house. Two weeks later I received a fourteen page, detailed critique expressing her delight in the book and their desire for me to allow them to publish it (more importantly she actually said it was grammatically “clean”). She was a sweetheart and a godsend and a week later I signed a contract. Though it took over a year to see it in print (that’s another story) it’s finally out! Now I’ll have to read another book on marketing.

The solitary life that we commuters lead while in a crowd can break its bonds from time to time. Though we shuffle everyday from our home life to our work life this third life still may be a good life. Meanwhile, I’m writing this on the train, of course, and the “air conditioner” is belching out a blanket of hot air. The other passengers are torturing the conductor, but it’s all tolerable when you’re 240 pages into your sequel and the publisher already wants to see it.


I thought you might find interesting this exchange I had with Diane Olinger, a reviewer for New Horizons. It might give you a clearer picture of some of my thoughts on writing the book. First, is Diane's review, then my response. Enjoy.-C.L.
See Review
See Response

Review of "The Wordsmith, the Kid & the Electrolux" byDiane L Olinger, New Horizons, News, Views, Reviews, March, 2009

Who are the Wordsmith, the Kid, and the Electrolux? This is the question that a boy named Corian Griffin encounters in his strange journey through the “world beneath the tree.” It’s not another world so much as the same world seen in a different way.
In this novel, Clifford Leigh, a deacon at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Bohemia, New York, uses recognizable objects in allegorical forms to express the basic concepts of the Trinity, creation, the Fall, human depravity, election, and the Gospel, as well as faith and reason. As readers, we accompany Corey as he steps into a series of living pictures that serve to enlighten him regarding the true meaning of life beneath the tree and above it. Corey is guided on these adventures by another boy, Benjamin Endben, traveling with his “twin,” Ben. Benjamin carries with him a lambskin packet of pictures bound with a red cord. The pictures have “come down from the mountain” and testify to their own truth.
Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Leigh uses clever naming to help us decipher the meaning of the story. For example, Corey meets Kosmo Kreecher and Fern Kreecher, who admire the creative work of the Wordsmith, the tree-machine, but refuse to attribute it to him. Kosmo is absorbed in the technical aspects of the tree-machine, which he interprets only through reason. His wife, Fern, a lover of nature, refers to the tree-machine as “Bealla” (the be all and end all). She approaches the tree from her own deep spirituality and concludes that Bealla is the mother of the living force within us.
Leigh is an artist, designer, and painter by trade, as well as an author. His artistry comes through in this book. He uses words to create convincing images in scenes that sometimes are as colorful, and also as strange, as those in Alice in Wonderland. Some of the chapters are so well designed that they could stand alone as powerful short stories.
As people of the Word, we live by faith, not by sight. There were times when I felt that this difference between faith and sight was obscured by the book’s emphasis on pictures. For instance, Corey and his companions are eyewitnesses to the Wordsmith’s creation of the tree-machine. This seems to put them in a fundamentally different position than we are in when we observe our Creator’s handiwork, thus severing, or at least weakening, the intended allegorical connection.
Extended allegory can be wearying after a while. But upon arriving at the end of  The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux, when all the shadowy pictures had given way to what is real, I was glad I had persevered.

A Response:

“Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”

Dear Diane,

Thank you so much for reviewing The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux. I especially appreciated the parts critical of its emphasis on “pictures.” It is precisely this kind of discussion I was hoping to provoke. No one has questioned this emphasis and I’m glad to perhaps give an explanation of what was intended by the use of “pictures” in this book. As you wrote, truly, believers are “people of the Word.” By the work of the Holy Spirit we hear the “Word” and believe. The truths of the Scriptures have become so real and concrete that we, as it were, “see” through the eyes of faith. No, we do not literally “see” in order to believe, but biblical faith is overwhelmingly expressed in language descriptive of seeing. Christ himself says “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Although “we walk by faith and not by sight” the Lord uses the language of “seeing,” “blindness,” “darkness rather than light” all denoting spiritual sight. Therefore, seeing in this book, as is also often used in the Scriptures, is an allegory of biblical faith. Pictures in this book (although they are actually not pictures but words describing pictures) are an allegory of the Word of God, or more precisely, discerning the world through the prism of the Word.
One of the reasons this book was written was to present an allegory to those who are so hostile to the Gospel that they will not entertain even a rudimentary presentation of its primary doctrines, not to mention the deeper things. One of the methodologies employed, consciously or subconsciously, by the adversaries of the faith is to ghettoize any Christian talk or media so that it can be instantly dismissed as unpalatable for their sampling. It is marginalized and categorized to be outside their interests. Christian-speak is instantly dismissed, even though, in my experience, many unbelievers are very interested in a backdoor hearing of the principles of the faith. So how does one present the faith when the listener edits out anything to do with it? It can be allegorized, as Nathan did with David, to allow him to hear the principle of the message he was sent to bring without shutting it down before he knew it was speaking of him.
Another reason I wrote the book in this form was to hopefully provoke this kind of discussion among believers about the deeper things of the Scriptures. Allegory forces the reader to ask what is being represented rather than simply allowing a narrative story to flow over them without question. Why does the protagonist “see” the Creator (Wordsmith) and the antagonists do not? If I had simply written that Benjamin believes in the Creator and has to convince the Kreechers that he has created, is this precisely the position we as believers are in? If this is the case then the Gospel presentation is simply an argument between two parties on equal footing, each capable of judging observed evidence. I believe that this is not the case and that the Scriptures declare it so. What does it mean to “believe” or have “faith?” Is it simply being presented convincing evidence of the veracity of the Scriptures, weighing it, deciding it is true, and then living according to this belief?  Truly, the overwhelming physical evidence is in favor of the truth of the Scriptures, however, as the Westminster Confession states: “[Our] full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of the Word of God], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” Or as the Scriptures say, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” Biblical faith is a work and gift of the Holy Spirit of God. Even the verse you quoted “we walk by faith and not by sight” immediately follows “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” The Lord is the primary and continuous actor in our redemption and sanctification. Therefore, the characters representing believers in this book are acted upon by the Spirit of God (the Electrolux), working faith in them, so they see substantially, as if it is evidence truly before them, the “things hoped for” and that “the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”  Because of this action of God, believers are in a fundamentally different position than unbelievers when viewing the Creator’s handiwork and declaring it to them. Not for their own righteousness, but for grace, they have become receivers and declarers of the biblical revelation of God in Christ. They use reason because God is true reason and anything coming from him is reasonable, but fallen man will not receive it in the same way he accepts other logical principles. Although all true rationality points to the God of the Scriptures as the Creator of all things, the problem in proving this to fallen man lies not in the weakness of evidence or poor argumentation but in the perversity of the human heart. Fallen man does not possess, as Luther puts it, “recta ratio” or right reason. He possesses a massive, staggering reason capable of perceiving and harnessing the forces of nature but has the ultimate blind spot about the true God. When man seeks to have the true God proven to him by using fallen reason he will fail because the methodology of this reason presupposes himself as the judge of the veracity of God and from this prideful position is incapable of submission to God who needs not prove himself to anyone. And though God need not prove himself, he, by common grace, condescends to allow man a limited approach to him through a semblance of reason. Therefore, the believers can muster evidential arguments to appeal to the flawed reason of fallen man as an entry into the proclamation of the Gospel, but these arguments taken to their fullest extent will not convert the soul but only at best reveal that unregenerate man does not want the true God. In the process of presenting these arguments believers are in fact declaring the word of God “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believe.” The Spirit of God gives them the “hearing of faith” and they believe. They might ascribe their new found belief to the thoroughness of the appeal, or to the rationality of it, but the Scriptures are clear that belief is a “gift of God.” We must preach the Gospel because it is the God ordained means by which men are exposed to the truth. It is best preached with the clarity of knowledge and reason, but, as Paul writes “whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice.”  It has been my experience that most believers I have met did not come to faith through an exhaustive exercise in rational argumentation. Rather, at some point in hearing the Gospel proclaimed rationally, they simply believed. Again, let me be clear, the Gospel is best proclaimed with the clarity of knowledge and reason because God is Truth, but I believe it is helpful to understand our position as ambassadors lest we become entangled in faulty premises that may actually undermine the Gospel declaration. If one enters the arena representing God and believes he is on “equal footing” with the unbeliever, appealing to an autonomous judge called “Reason,” the very fact of ceding to this premise undermines the Gospel. For, accepting this premise assumes that God, or his representative is bringing logic to bear to appeal to the third party judge, Reason. This puts God and his representative in the position of submission to the judge. If this judge is in actuality a thinly veiled disguise of the reason of the participants in the arena then, like the Fall, man is again setting himself up as the judge of God’s word.
The Fall itself can be described as man choosing to set himself up as the judge of God. God’s word was declared without explanation to Adam and Eve. They entered an arena with the Devil where the premise was that they could or should judge the veracity of God’s declaration. If God is Truth itself, and in him there is no lie, is it not truly rational to believe him at his word? But in the Fall we accepted Satan’s premise that we can be the judge of God. In stark contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ, when tempted to accept Satan’s premise, rested firmly on the declared word of God, saying, we live “by each word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” This is true reason within the Godhead. God the Son, in full knowledge of God the Father will not rationally set himself below a lesser creature; he will not “fall down and worship” Satan. It is also notable that when Satan uses the Scriptures to draw Christ into proving his Sonship, Christ does not engage him in argumentation, which would cede to his premise, but again rests on the clear declaration, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Christ, being fully man, demonstrates how Adam and Eve should have responded to the temptation in the arena of the garden.
God is Reason himself, in the same way he is “Wisdom,” “Truth,” “Love,” and “Life.” His very nature and character is these things. True Reason, Wisdom, Love and Life can only be found in their purest state in the relationship between the three persons of the eternal Godhead. All that has been created by them bears emblems of this character but not in the completeness that can only be known within the great “I AM.” He is the fountainhead of Reason and it descends from him to permeate all things. Therefore, man is able to describe the creation in reasonable terms. Being made in the image of God, man possesses a reason that was only limited by the fact that he was a created being and he continues to use it to judge many things. Because of the Fall, this reason is even more limited and faulty by depravity. This depravity continues to set man’s reason up as a thinly veiled autonomous judge to be appealed to. Man has used this methodology as an effective tool in taming the world, as can be seen in the ascendancy of the West through this so-called Hellenistic reason. Recently, Pope Benedict described the rift between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation as being the fact that the Reformers did not believe that this Hellenistic philosophy was amenable to the Gospel and the Catholic theologians did. The Catholic Schoolmen believed, and Benedict continues this belief, that the “Logos” of the Scriptures is this autonomous Reason. And consequently all their theology diverges from the Reformation at this point. We believe that the “Logos” or “Word” is Christ, and therefore God Himself. This deviation has allowed Roman Catholic theology to have an intellectual basis for giving the tradition of men final authority over the revelation of the Scriptures. For if the word of God and the word of man compete on equal footing beneath an autonomous “Logos” then God is beneath something and this cannot logically be. But if the “Logos” is Christ, then there is perfect rationality within the Godhead, and only man must submit to it. But now, corrupted by the Fall, man is in a self-destructive, impossible situation. He is presented with the command to believe God, and act perfectly according to this belief. However, man cannot even arrive at the first step of believing God, because the methodology that fallen man uses to judge the fact of a matter is the very thing that has severed his relations with God in the first place. He seeks to use a corrupted reason to prove a God which he has dethroned by the very fact of entering an arena which sets himself up as the judge of God in a thinly veiled disguise called “Reason.” It is reasonable that man be judged for this rebellion against the word of God.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved”. To accomplish this, the loving God enters in to this hopeless situation of man’s self-destructive circular reasoning from the outside through the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Revelation is not opposed to true Reason but is the only truly reasonable solution to man’s deadly dilemma. If man is caught in a self-destructive circular argument without the possibility of exit, or even perceiving his condition, one from the outside must enter in to declare the truth. The Incarnation and Revelation of the eternal God in Christ is the truly reasonable entrance and redemption of man’s cursed state. He first signaled this event through the delivery of the Scriptures to Israel. Then he literally entered the world in the Incarnation, where he performed the judicial work of becoming our atonement. But more was reasonably necessary since man still possessed this blind spot to his revelation. He must not only enter into the world but also the hearts of men. This is the effectual work of the Spirit of God within the believers.  There is complete unity and true rationality within the Trinity.
Now Christ has ascended and given us the commission to be his ambassadors “to preach   the Gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For, after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” God “confounds” the circular, deadly “wisdom” or reasoning of the world by the “foolishness of preaching.” He simply proclaims his truth and by the power of the Holy Spirit men believe. Yes, use all the reason you possess, yes, use articulate, intelligent speech in your preaching but always from the position that you are the declarer of the Word of God that alone goes forth with power.
We as believers do not know in whom the Spirit of God abides and therefore must bring the Gospel in all its fullness, but we should be aware of the trap of worldly reason and be armed with the recta ratio of the revelation of the Scriptures. Of course, all I have stated above should be recognizable as “Presuppositionalist” or “Van Tillian” apologetics.

Just one more thing on the use of pictures: It is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words” but which words?
As a professional artist I have learned the limitation of pictures and the absolute supremacy of the Word over images. I have exhibited pictures that I labored to express a particular meaning only to have viewers decipher wholly different interpretations from them. Words are a more specific tool to convey meaning. There fore, I opted to write a book of words describing things that no one is viewing, instead of filling a gallery with paintings of these things.
Words in general are allegories of the real. They are so interchangeable with what they denote that when you read the word “bread” for instance, you don’t think of black ink on a white paper shaped in a particular way, you think of all the sensations that are produced by the actual article—the smell, the texture, the taste. Some bakers may think of its preparation, some who are scientists its chemical properties, a child might think of a particularly nice bologna sandwich his mother made him that morning, anything but ink on paper. Even the fact that you noted an “emphasis on pictures” eliminates the fact that this emphasis is all created by words, not pictures. Words are signs of what they denote. They are so intimate with their object that God himself equates the Word with His precious Son, so much so that by faith when we read or hear his word in the Scriptures we are sacramentally in His presence with Him speaking to us.
In a similar way, the picture or “sensible sign” of bread and wine in Communion is only given specificity of meaning through its institution by the Word of God. An uninitiated person might see many things in bread and wine but is guided into its sacramental meaning through the words “this is my body which is broken for you…” and “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  These words guide us towards the true meaning displayed in the picture of the bread and wine and away from alternate meanings which may be conjured up by the viewer. Therefore, in The Wordsmith, the Kid and the Electrolux, the character Benjamin Endben, seeing by faith the fact of the Creation, labors to explain the truth through the use of words to direct the unbelievers away from their misinterpretation of the material evidence displayed before their eyes. The unbelievers will not see, as it were, a Creator in the evidence displayed before them. Believers, on the other hand, by the work of the Holy Spirit, read the description of the creation in Genesis 1 and believe God’s word and behave accordingly as if they have seen it. No, they have not seen it literally, but the indwelling of the Spirit of God illuminates (again, allegorical language denoting vision) them to its truth. And with this illumination they are better able to make sense of the physical evidence of creation. And with this seeing by faith they act on it as if it has appeared to them.

Much heart felt thanks for your thoughtfulness.
Sincerely, in Christ,

Cliff Leigh





Odd circumstances led Cliff Leigh to be born in New York City of Chinese and Swedish descent in 1960. His father, Edward, was the son of Samuel Kau Yan Lee, the Anglican Archdeacon of Hong Kong and founder of the St. Mark’s School, retreated to Calcutta after the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese. After a bank strike in New York, a call for Chinese English- speaking students plucked him from obscurity, placing him on a “war bride” tanker ship bound for America. Cliff’s American mother was raised in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion, and although a U.S. citizen, a special act of Congress allowed her to return with Cliff’s eldest brother who had been born in China.

Cliff showed early artistic promise receiving a First Place award from the New York School Press Association in 1978, and a B. A. in Art History and Criticism from Stony Brook University in 1982. In 1985 he began exhibiting paintings in galleries in Soho, culminating in a one-man exhibition in 1986. While working on a Master’s Degree he was enlisted by the Pop Art phenomenon, Mark Kostabi as his “Chief Idea Person” to design his artwork. As a result, his work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums throughout the world. As a professing Christian, he injected Biblical references into Kostabi’s work to subliminally express the faith. He continues to collaborate with Kostabi, most recently on an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis, and artwork to be presented to Pope Benedict in 2008.

Cliff is also a designer with Evergreene Architectural Arts, the world’s largest art and historical restoration firm. His work can be seen in a variety of notable buildings such as the White House complex Executive Office Building in Washington DC, St. Peter’s Church in San Francisco, the Miami City Hall, Grey Towers Historic Preservation, the Allen County Courthouse, and the Meridien Grand Opera House. He is instrumental in developing never-before-used architectural arts merging traditional and digital techniques.

Personally, his youth was marked by rebellious behavior. But at the age of twenty-two, after a failed romance with a woman (who seven years later he would marry) he began reading a Bible left on his shelf by his itinerant missionary uncle, M.O. Lee, who had visited years earlier from Hawaii. Largely isolated for the next few years in his studies, he began to seek a biblical church fellowship, which led him through a variety of denominations, where he was asked to teach, speak, and serve. While serving as a deacon in an independent church, one of his sermons was recorded and unwittingly broadcast worldwide via a Christian radio network, causing him to reassess the serious nature of Bible teaching. Eventually, the leadership of this church began to show cultic characteristics, which he confronted. Denounced from the pulpit he left, which caused him to reexamine and embrace Christian orthodoxy and desire a more biblical model of church government. He currently serves as a Deacon in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Cliff and his wife celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in 2008, have three sons, and live in New York.