Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale V

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it" -- John Quincy Adams

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will" -- George Bernard Shaw

Elizabeth Zimmerman O’Malley was the youngest of Rupert and Pat’s three children. The older two had been more like Pat. Rupert loved them dearly, but blessed them as they chose different paths from his. His oldest daughter Anna was a gifted teacher. Anna’s children were the delight of Zimmerman’s life. He loved to converse with them. Sandy, his middle child, was a noted travel writer and photographer. Elizabeth was her father’s little shadow. If Rupert sketched a design, Elizabeth had to try to draw it better. Zimmerman quit his job working for another super ego when Elizabeth was young and for a time worked out of a home office where Elizabeth sat at a little desk next to her father’s big table. Zimmerman came from an era when design required drawing by hand. He’d often add texture with crosshatching or stipple with a pencil.

Once a client of Zimmerman’s came into the shop as little Elizabeth was hammering away at her paper with a pencil. “What are you drawing, Elizabeth?” She had asked. “I’m drawing STIPPLE!” was the little girl’s reply. As a girl she copied her father, but as a young woman she excelled him. Being Rupert Zimmerman’s assistant was not for the faint-hearted. He’d been through dozens of them by the time Elizabeth arrived in Nome. Zimmerman trusted his nascent ideas to scarcely anyone. Indeed, his own wife Pat wondered at the rabbit trails of her husband’s mind. Elizabeth was strangely comfortable there.

As a boy, the creative and uber-sensitive Zimmerman had been taught by nuns. One of their favorite pastimes it seemed was to slip up on little boys doodling in class and rap them on the knuckles with a ruler. Use the wrong size pencil and they’d break it over your hand. There was a place behind Rupert’s peripheral vision where if a person entered he would freeze in whatever he was doing, a holdover from those days... unless it happened to be Elizabeth. When he became known for his successes, young people would want to come and learn by watching Zimmerman work. Often one would try to get closer and look over his shoulder. Rupert would freeze in his tracks... then say tersely: “only Elizabeth is to stand there.”

As a boy Zimmerman drew picture after picture of amazing things he wished to build. Cities on the Moon... space stations... outposts in faraway wastelands all flowed from the boy’s hand. After a teacher had unceremoniously ripped up one of his drawings, Zimmerman hid his work under his bed. He grew up to work making other people’s dreams into reality but somehow he never forgot his own. Where Zimmerman was strong on hard line, his daughter was strong on form and color. Together they were masters of the narrative that would become the Bering Strait Bridge. When potential investors saw their work, they were reassured by the depth of it.

Rupert, Elizabeth and Martin plugged on. Together they brought a great work to fruition. As Barry Soetoro’s policies mired the economy of a great nation, some like Pat started quietly storing food and silver, preparing for the worst. Some, like Zimmerman, looked to history as they planned for the future. Most thought them a bit crazy though. Post-war Alaska, however, needed a great work to hold on to. They were grateful to Zimmerman for providing it.

The opening of the Bering Strait Bridge and the creation of the Siberian Autonomous Republic opened up a great new frontier. The Confederation of the two Autonomous Republics possessed more potential energy resources than Saudi Arabia. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a huge stretch of nothing, suddenly blossomed with new exploration rigs drilling for oil. The funny thing is that the rigs themselves were almost unnoticeable and the wildlife flourished. Zimmerman’s fortunes grew with the region and now Elizabeth was able to invest the Zimmerman fortune improving lives around the world.

Where her father saw the potential to build, Elizabeth saw the potential to invest in people’s lives. In her mind there was no point in constructing a great bridge if people had no ability to produce crops or goods to ship across it. She was saddened that so many people in the lower 48 were living on government handouts and no longer producing things. What she saw in the rest of the world broke her heart.

(to be continued)

The Big Diomede Service Plaza.

Map of Connecting Highways. Graphic by Bob Kirchman

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

THYME Magazine: Restoring All Things

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XXII

G-d's Audacious Plan
to Change the World
Through Ordinary People

The only two things that can satisfy the soul are a person and a story; and even a story must be about a person. Men... are much oftener led by their hearts than by their understandings." -- G. K. Chesterton

Modern Evangelical Christians often miss the power of the story" -- Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

After I had completed the manuscript for 'Pontifus, the Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts,' I discovered Restoring All Things by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet. It was as if these two scholars had seen my feeble attempt to bring redemption into a contemporary (albeit slightly futuristic) narrative. They see the dark and hopeless narrative of the culture and counter it with stories of hope and heroism by quite ordinary people.

The language of the Church often seems like a foreign tongue to those in contemporary culture. Indeed, in the afterglow of great revivals, Christian thought was present in the culture. One would know some Biblical wisdom as part of the narrative. Today the Church is speaking into a culture that has relegated Christian ideas and ideals to a place outside the discussion. The authors note how C. S. Lewis: "...had the challenge of building the bridge between the culture of Oxford and Cambridge and the culture of the Church. These cultures were worlds apart by his time." 

Lewis was 'bilingual,' so to speak, understanding the language of the Church as well as the language of the academy. He was able to present a world unseen to those in the secular academy. He and his fellow 'Inkling,'  J. R. R. Tolkien opened new vistas to mankind in the Twentieth Century. I am eternally grateful to them.

But the real beauty of this little book is that it is NOT merely a catalyst for intellectual discussion, but a call to action. Smith and Stonestreet show how Christians, ORDINARY Christians, ministered to those in their own communities. It was Christians who cared for their neighbors during plagues. History is full of the stories of the Church meeting human needs. The Saints of the past lay out a pattern for compassion today!

It is the Church that will continue to make the case for the value of all lives... making the case that if we want to protect children from abuse, we will protect them in the womb as well. The authors quote the oft repeated statistic that divorce rates are about the same for Christians as for Non-Christians and dig deeper, finding a significant difference for those who actually adhere to Scriptural authority. The oft quoted statistic includes ANYONE who merely identifies as a Christian. The reality is where Scriptural principles are the benchmark, there is significantly LESS divorce.

In fact, the Church can do the world a great service by 'Giving Marriage to the World Once Again.' Indeed, a world that has cheapened and discarded the institution simply needs to see more of the lovely thing it was created to be.

My favorite chapter is: 'Coloring Outside the Lines,' and it describes how Christians have cherished learning and innovation through history. The Church can provide meaning, purpose and foundations for the acquiring of knowledge. Though we often associate Christian curriculum today with notions such as: "color the grass green, the tree trunk brown..." the truth is that the Church historically has led in education, even establishing the great universities.

Today the Church must reengage in G-d's work to Remake the world. Smith and Stonestreet provide the workbook; and illustrate it profusely with stories of ordinary people doing just that.


Special Book Section

Three weeks ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the fourth chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below. This special book section will continue through the Summer. The full publication of THYME will resume in the Fall.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale IV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated." -- Thomas Payne

Like the Transcontinental Railroad of old, the Bering Strait Bridge was forged out of the ashes of a time of great Chaos. Alaska was now an autonomous republic, much like Texas in the Nineteenth Century. When United States President Barry Soetoro brokered an unprecedented third term, he then attempted to defund the bulk of the American military. Here he made a fatal miscalculation. The man who had no stomach for extended conflict, who often went to bed when he should have gone to the situation room, forgot that the men and women in his command had no such misgivings. All it took was a handful of generals who quietly slipped to Alaska with the codes for the missiles and Soetoro was their hostage.

Taking a lesson from America's bloody Civil War, the generals were quick to offer terms of peace tailor-made for Soreto's constitution. Alaska would become an autonomous state and provide basic security along with the United States Armed Forces. The rift that had long existed in the so-called 'United States' was now official. Soetoro's 'Blue Party' had promised citizens scores of benefits, all to be provided by the government. When the bill came in, there was no longer a thriving economy to pay for it. Gradually Soetoro's regime had to limit what they could give away. An economy in shambles looked to men and women who seemed to come from another era. Those men and women would carve a new nation out of a wilderness.

A brief time of conflict did ensue. Soetoro loyalists commandeered some landing craft. Coming ashore at night, they sacked and burned Juneau before moving on on to attack Anchorage, hoping to isolate and destroy the pipeline terminal at Valdez. General Palin created the ruse of a man unable to direct his troops, drawing the Soetoro forces ashore with the appearance of poor defenses, he hammered them from the hills surrounding Anchorage. Although Anchorage burned, the economic lifeline of Valdez remained unscathed.

The loyalists blew up every bridge and communication tower they could. They soon came to the realization that in destroying Juneau, they had failed to destroy the Alaskan government. Under the red crosses on tents outside Fairbanks, deep inside Alaska, the business of the young republic went on. Cell towers might have been taken out but ragged children ran to and fro with important communications. The President of the young republic shared a tent with war wounded and took a turn at tending for their needs. Citizen-soldiers bolstered the ranks of American troops who had followed the renegade Generals. They were ragged and often had to provide their own supplies and ammunition. In the end they proved to be a "well organized militia."

The defense of the important port of Valdez was their shining moment. As Juneau and Anchorage smoldered in ruins, Soetoro loyalists tried to circumvent the naval vessels protecting the oil terminal. In their overconfidence they tried to move inland to destroy Alaska's economic lifeline. They were met by the ragged men who had been all too easy to rout earlier... now in the mountains where the same ragged men prevailed. German general Rommel had traveled to Virginia to study Thomas Jackson's Valley Campaign before he became known as the 'Desert Fox.' Alaska's General Palin was, if anything, a more thorough student of Jackson. Alaska might have provided a more limited infrastructure for troop movement than Nineteenth Century Virginia, but her mountains held way more secret passages.

In the American Civil War, Thomas Jackson had enjoyed exellent communications using signal posts such as Massanutten Mountain in the great Valley of Virginia to relay his important messages. Alaska presented a vast array of “signal knobs” for a military engineer with the abilities of Martin O’Malley, Palin's chief strategist. Yupik Inuit specialists joined the effort, communicating in their native language at times. Soetoro's forces couldn't crack the code. Palin always was aware of their positions. By the time they realized it was a Native American language, the war was over. The defenders of the Alaska Republic dug in for a long fight, remembering the lessons of the Civil War, but the Soetoro forces had no great generals and Soetoro himself had little taste for war, especially war that could not be quickly won. His unmanned drones were innefective in the North, where men who honed their marksmanship hunting polar bear were quick to pick them off. After the tide turned at Anchorage, peace was negotiated.

At the battle of Anchorage Rupert Zimmerman, who was no soldier but a strong defender of his land and family, was wounded. This requiring the amputation of his right leg. Recuperating in exile in Nome, he began sketching his great bridge. A new republic, resource rich but lacking connection to the rest of the world, was waiting for him. General Palin's chief engineer, Martin O'Malley, was also in Nome. The dashing young Captain took a liking to Zimmerman's daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth had left her native Virginia to be at her father's side. Elizabeth was a gifted artist and a visionary in her own right. An interesting charrette ensued as Zimmerman's great bridge came to life before their eyes.

Zimmerman found in Martin a man of the stature of Claudius Crozet, Napoleon's engineer who came to Virginia in discrace after planning the Battle of Waterloo. Crozet had built railroads and canals. He built the Blue Ridge Tunnel through the mountains with an army of 2000 Irishmen. O'Malley, the descendent of railroad builders, joked that he'd require three times as many Frenchmen to accomplish his task. Martin and Rupert set to work to create drawings and raise capital. With solid commitments in place, the men made a trip to Wales to survey the stage upon which they would begin their magnum opus.

Although they almost lost their lives when their tent burned on the tundra above Wales, Rupert and Martin survived to begin their great work. Returning to Wales sick and disoriented, the men recovered rapidly as they began assembling resources to build the Bering Strait Bridge. The genius of Zimmerman and O’Malley was in convincing their backers that they really didn’t have any genius. What they were building was nothing that hadn’t been done before. They referenced the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel built in the nineteen-sixties in Virginia. That span was 26 miles long and connecting Alaska to Siberia simply required two spans of similar length joined end to end at the Diomede Islands. What they left out of their narrative was the relative difficulty of what they were proposing. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel was essentially built on pilings driven into the sandy floor of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bering Strait was infinitely more complex, a wild undersea topography that was complicated by plate tectonics.

Three men had died building the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel. Assembling a bridge exposed to the whims of severe weather had its risks. Zimmerman came up with the idea of a tethered pontoon bridge prefabricated in sections in the relative safety of shipyards. Seagoing tugs would maneuver the pieces of Rupert’s game into place and robotic submersables would place the cable stays to keep it in place. Another problem of the Bay Bridge-tunnel was exposure to the elements of travelers on the bridge. A truck had once crashed into the Bay after apparently being struck by lightning! Wind sometimes wreaked havoc on large trailers. Bering Strait Bridge traffic would move in covered roadways. Assembly in shipyards created an economy that allowed for such upgrades.

The only elements of Zimmerman’s plan that had to be fabricated on-site were the high suspended portions to allow for the passage of large ships. O’Malley designed two -- one in each long span, feeling that would be more than adequate. At the last minute the Russians threw a wrench in the process, demanding another high crossing on their side of the Date Line in the span between the Diomedes. O’Malley worked out a design change but stretched the construction budget over the limit in doing so. Zimmerman was furious. His investors were becoming uneasy. In the end he gave the Russians the shortest suspension span possible.

(to be continued)

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THYME Magaine: A Love Song

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XXI

The Story Behind the Photo

The photo above is one I took of the morning flag raising ceremony at Capon Springs, West Virginia. Every morning, when the resort is in operation, the owners will select a child to raise the flag. I readied myself on the third floor porch of the Annex building, which is now the main building since the Mountain House, which was much larger, burned in 1911. I must have been distracted somehow, but the child stepped up rather quickly to raise the flag. I literally shot the photo without thinking.

When I looked at the captured image, I saw the shaft of light. Then I was washed by a great flood of emotion as the light seemed to be as a message of comfort from the Divine. Indeed He hears our prayers for our beloved land. He cares for us. Don't give up. Fight the good fight. I offer you 2nd Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Yes, our problems are great... seemingly insurmountable, and yet I remember that band of men under George Washington at Valley Forge and the Battle of Trenton. The odds weren't so good then either. In 1985, Katharine Lee Bates visited Pike's Peak. It was an arduous journey but the sight of the great mountain stirred her to write this great love song... but it is more than a love song, it is a prayer. Read the verses we seldom sing and you will see her great prayer for this country.

America the Beautiful
Words by Katharine Lee Bates,
Melody by Samuel Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam 
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


Special Book Section

Two weeks ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the third chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


They shall bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing." -- Psalm 92:14

The spirit of man is more important than mere physical strength, and the spiritual fiber of a nation more than its wealth." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Most innovations like the Transcontinental Railroad and the Bering Strait Bridge spread a blight across the landscape they traversed. In the 1890's, "Hell on Wheels" came to be the term used to describe the loosely formed "towns" that blighted the building of the great railroads. Rupert Zimmerman would have none of that on his Bering Strait Bridge. He was not so great a moralist as much as one who realized the toll lawless frontier society exacted from its victims. Knowing that the vilest of human or devilish institutions rush in to fill such a void, Zimmerman had sought to proactively fill it. His biosphere city on Big Diomede was the prototype. Kris had followed her husband to the end of the world to co-pastor the church there. Zimmerman had financed the whole community, including the church. He had seen the folly of making profit at the expense of human suffering, indeed HE had profited at the expense of others. As he learned of the evils of human trafficking and modern day slavery, he had become something of a 21st Century John Newton, loathing his former life and seeking an antidote. He couldn't control the follies of man but he could provide a healthy environment, at least along the tolled portion of the Bering Strait Bridge Highway.

The biosphere enclosed a garden-like eden for her citizens. Kris had had a hand in designing the parsonage, one of the first hand-built houses in any part of the Bering Stait Complex. It was something wrought out of that beautiful classicism that characterized American cities before the Great Depression and the World War. Zimmerman, who'd shamelessly utilized prefabricated structures, even revitalizing a ship interior manufacturing plant in Virginia for his larger buildings, seemed to sense the toll such industrialism took on the human soul. Here on Big Diomede he sought to find and hopefully plant something far more enduring than even his great bridge. Seeking the company of men like Dan Cathy and David Green, who saw their companies as a means to more than a profit, Zimmerman sought expression for his own altruistic purpose in the marvel he had wrought. His Great-Great Grandfather had made his fortune building Chicken Coops. Once a necessity for shipping poultry, they were now seen only as 'Americana' decor in restaurants. His Father had worked in the shop before it closed down and he had passed one story, that of being mentored by Cliff Aylor, a man who taught him how to save the odd pieces of belt lacing and relace drive belts utilizing every last piece. Grandpa was a hard man when it came to wasting nothing. But the words of Cliff's that had become inspiration were these: "Your Grandfather loaned me the money for my first house."

Loaned me the money for my first house." Clearly there was a profit one could derive from business that could not be tallied on a balance sheet. Zimmerman ached to see something bigger than himself emerge from his endeavors. The more he tried to deny it, the more it seemed clear as a bell that his great bridge was not a work of Zimmerman, but of an unseen hand that moved human history. Human history was not and endless cycle, but a line. There was intelligence and purpose drawing that line. Just like the line Zimmerman had drawn across Alaska and Siberia, it led to a destination. Kris' first house was hand-built, but not on site. Her dream design had been cut and fabricated in a production center in Virginia by craftsmen under the supervision of an innovative Swede. The man was an old friend of Zimmerman's and cast in the mold of his Grandfather. Walls and framework were expertly fitted by master craftsmen in Kris' Mother state, packed tightly in a trailer and assembled carefully by those same craftsmen in the wilds of Big Diomede. Zimmerman loved the thought of following in his Great-Great Grandfather's legacy. The gratitude in the young couple's eyes was the bonus Zimmerman hoped for, even knowing that their gratitude was directed to an unseen hand.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Kris' house on Big Diomede. Graphic by Bob Kirchman

 Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Future of Humanity

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XX

Where are the Christians setting out the huge constructive vision of what the Gospel means for the human future?" -- Oz Guiness

What is the Future of Christian Faith?
by Intervarsity Press

Is it possible for society to have redemption and renewal? Is the Christian faith still relevant in the very global world of today? Os Guinness, in his new book Renaissance, declares a hopeful yes. We are in a time of renewal, of change, of continuous reformation, and, as Os writes in chapter one, “a movement that is led by the Spirit of God, which involves the people of God returning to the ways of God and so demonstrating in our time the kingdom of God, and not in word only but in power and with the plausibility of community expression.”

Although we are in a time when the problems of western worldliness — exploitation of the poor, prevalence of prosperity gospel, to name a few — seem to be overtaking the church and the world more broadly, Os believes there is hope for the future. Throughout the book, he describes how the Christian faith influenced and shaped culture over the last two hundred years. Christians have established universities, built great cathedrals, brought literacy to cultures, and generally displayed God’s goodness through art, literature and science. Drawing on great thinkers like John Baillie, Christopher Dawson, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Cahill and others, Guinness shows that the church is in a moment of great transition, but it has been here before. In light of this, readers will see that now is the time to rely wholly on God’s provision, knowing that with it the Christian faith can continue to be the cultural influence it’s always been.

For decades Os Guinness has been one of the most nuanced, realistic, yet hopeful voices calling Christians to engagement with culture,” Tim Keller writes. “This latest volume from him should not be missed by anyone. Os summarizes some of the most helpful recent discussions, updates many of his own lifelong challenges to the church, and provides many fresh insights.”

Renaissance leads readers back to a center point and challenge for the faith of the future. Os writes, “[This challenge] is, I believe, that we trust in God and his gospel and move out confidently into the world, living and working for a new Christian renaissance and thus challenge the darkness with the hope of Christian faith, believe in an outcome that lies beyond the horizon of all we can see and accomplish today.”

Os closes each chapter with thought-provoking discussion questions and brief, stirring prayers that challenge and motivate readers to take action, however dark the times may seem.

Skye Jethani, executive editor at Leadership Journal, declares this book an essential resource: “Os helps us see our present circumstances in the right light. He illuminates why the catastrophizing done by many Christians amid cultural change is unwarranted, but also soberly addresses the genuine challenges we face with new clarity and gravity. Most helpful of all, Os directs our sight back to Christ, the author and completer of our faith, in whom we find both the courage and the resources to be his people in our time. You will not regret a single minute invested in this book.”

Interview with Oz Guinness [click to listen]


Special Book Section

Last week we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [1.] This week we present the second chapter of the first book: "Dinner Stop at the End of the World" below.

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" -- 1 Timothy 4:12

All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind are convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth" -- Aristotle

People always thought Kris was taller than her true height. When she stood next to her husband they assumed he must be seven feet tall. In actuality he was a little over six. Her fair skin and delicate features fooled you too. Under her girly exterior was a woman fit to "meet my mountains." Many of the strong people who had built the Texas Republic in the Nineteenth Century had come from Rockbridge County in Virginia. Sam Houston, "Big Foot" Wallace and a host of other heroes were raised in the rolling valley of Virginia. Kris grew up in their footsteps. She probably never thought she'd leave those gentle hills, but when Rupert Zimmerman sought a spiritual mentor for his Eden, he looked to a church with a history of sending ministers into frontier communities.

Walt Disney once set out to build an idealized version of the Nineteenth Century American town. He built "Main Street" in the center of Disneyland. Notably absent was any church. A 'cast' of characters portrayed a longed for Americana. Tourists paid good money to stroll in its ambiance, then returned home to face their own harsh realities. Such a world was only possible when portrayed by costumed characters funded by high priced tickets. Zimmerman might have simply been seeking a sober and diligent population for his empire, but he at least saw the hole in Disney's thinking. The service plaza was, without doubt, the center of Big Diomede's economic life. The little church in the biosphere was the heart of her life. Many considered Kris the reason. Her given name, Kristina Elaine, seemed to define her best. Meaning "Follower of Christ" and "Light," it defined precisely who she placed her identity in as well as her mission.

Zimmerman had funded Big Dolomede's Pastorate well, but Kris was drawn to reach out to those in the pulse of her economy. A number of women who'd come to Big Diomede with the intention of circumventing Zimmerman's 'codes of conduct' now found themselves singing in the choir as a result of Kris' intentional friendship. Now they in turn were reaching out to newcomers with the same intentionality. The Westward push of the American frontier had come at a high cost for the women who followed their restless men. Loneliness and madness were not the stuff of Luis L'amour novels, but they were the grim reality faced by many a pioneer wife. Kris made it a point to build bridges between souls, bringing together the families of Big Diomede in a circle, to protect them from the wild ravages of a lonely frontier. During the long Winters, she made sure the little community was not overcome by the surrounding darkness.

Summer brought families in minivans looking to drive over the end of the world. They'd often linger in Big Diomede's biosphere. The children would wander into Kris' open-air Summer Bible Schools, were she had created whole undersea worlds on painters' drop-cloths. Smiling belugas and orcas cavorted on fields of deep blue as Kris explained nature's wonders to "little pitchers with big ears." The biosphere's incarnation as a tourist destination was an afterthought, but the nature lessons seemed to be a well purposed institution. Parents would linger on the fringe of the group, finding the discussion far more informative and entertaining than the Park Service's "Ranger Talks," which always seemed to be a repackaging of the "Looming New Ice Age." Kris knew her stuff. A colleague had once dubbed her the "Critter Consultant" because of her knowledge and interest in the ways of nature. Kris had made sure butterflies and hummingbirds were introduced to the biosphere as a condition of her moving there.

Tourists and truckers alike stopped on Big Diomede for much-needed physical refreshment. They lingered there for something else. Disney's Main Street facades were fake. The upper stories were actually scaled down so that they "looked" like three and four story buildings. They were actually much shorter. On Big Diomede the buildings were small and honest, the creation of a Swedish designer for whom form followed function, but something about the community made it seem larger than it was. There was no architectural trickery involved. When your children practically drop their little electronic games to run into a world of true color and wonder, no hyperbole is necessary.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Painting by Kristina Elaine Greer.

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom VI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVIII

IMAGO DEI in Faith 
and Craftsmanship

The movie "The Matrix" takes us to a dystopia where man exists solely to feed the machine. Some feel that our present world is moving headlong in that direction as machines more and more surround us, inform us, entertain us and are seemingly attached to us. More young men live alone and spend most of their non-working time playing video games. Have we lost our sense of place as a unique entity in creation? Are we in need of rescuers like Neo, Morpheus and Trinity?

I read a fascinating review of Matthew Crawford's new book--The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Crawford's Book [click to read] laments the "attentional economy" that reduces us to market guinea pigs in a world of technological stimulation. In light of last week's look at The Creative Mandate of Bezalel and Oholiab, I find Crawford's perscriptions most fascinating. He sees the answer in part in a return to the values learned in skilled practices, such as carpentry: "...the development of skilled practices allows us to navigate it in ways that ultimately focus our attention and expand our competence and agency. And since we usually learn these practices alongside others, often under the guidance of experienced teachers, they draw us into relationships with people as well as things. 

To learn a skilled practice like carpentry you have to humble yourself. You must endure failure, frustration, heckling, and perhaps injury, but you end up with expertise, confidence, and objective standards for judging your work and the work of others—all of which entail a truer and more enduring individuality than today’s hollow consumerist self-fashioning. This individuality also provides a surer foundation for democracy." [1.] He also sees the meditative qualities of Faith as essential to this more patient life, out of step with the techno-masters.

Crawford takes the reader inside the organ building shop of local builders: Taylor and Boody [2.] and indeed finds a comradery of craftsmanship. Indeed there is something to be found in the 'old' craftsmanship that is sorely lacking (or so it seems) in our modern world. But consider this; until the dawn of aviation the pipe organ WAS the most sophisticated machine on the face of the Earth. No doubt the dawn of the pipe organ once shook music as man knew it. Was the strong voice of the pipe seen as an encroachment on the gentleness of the string? For centuries, it would seem, each new technology initially rocks the world that receives it.

Indeed, new technologies tend to overpower the qualities of humanity. No doubt, the mills of the industrial revolution initially created a similar reductive effect on human autonomy. No longer did a man labor in concert with seasons and Sun, but rather to the stroke of the factory clock. Farmers needed no time card, for on the one hand, their work was never done. Life revolved around the making of everything from clothing to candles. There was canning to be done. Cows must be milked. But there was also the "laying by time," when one could fish, walk in the woods and follow one's own muse. That was not so easily come by in the first inception of factory life.

Manufacturing allows me to have a perfectly formed plastic flower pot, but replaces the everyday function of hand-formed ceramics. This does not mean the end of hand-formed pottery, but rather that it is now an art form of its own. Its high form still exists.The volume of ceramic goods produced by hand has decreased. There are fewer artisans who work the wheel, but those who remain produce extremely beautiful works of art. Eventually the factory became more friendly to IMAGO DEI. Hours were limited and to a certain degree collective bargaining allowed workers to demand the value they added to the process.

In fact, it could be argued that where workers were able to negotiate a market value for their skills and expertise, freedom expanded. The factory worker of postwar America enjoyed unprecedented leisure time. One could now putter in the garden, if one desired, without fear of hunger if it didn't produce. One of Staunton's finest photographers was employed by Waynesboro's Dupont plant. He was an amateur photographer in the TRUE sense of the word... he did it for the LOVE of it! He didn't have to find ways to sell his work, but he pursued it with a passion! He was famous for suddenly pulling the car to the side of the road to capture an interesting scene, startling his family riding with him. His photograph of Willie Ferguson's giant Watering Can sculpture was used for the city car decal.

A leather worker I met at a craft fair lamented to me that he often was creating the same belt over and over: "because it sells." Seeing that I appreciated good work, he showed me a very artistic piece he had made. He said sadly, I can't afford to make these because there is way more work in them than people are willing to pay for. Still, the man found great satisfaction in the fact that he could produce even a few pieces of such work.

For thirty years, I have produced hand-drawn renderings of architectural projects. The demand for such work has decreased as more and more designers are content to let the computer draw the perspective. Last week a military school embarking on a campaign to builds a new field house contacted me. "We want something MORE REALISTIC than what the construction company gave us," their representative said. I wondered where this was going. Often that desire simply meant they wanted photo-realistic computer renderings. I showed the gentleman my samples and he proceeded to get more interested.

Two representatives of the school came to view  the work in progress. "Wow!," one said: "I see our CADETS walking around the building." It was obvious that the painting captured something of the spirit of the institution and was indeed more "real" than a computer rendering with stock figures would have given them. That is not to say that a computer artist couldn't have gone to such detail, but most don't. The real point is that that extra touch is what sets man apart from the machine he is using. The HAND is what is important, not the brush (or stylus).

And here is where the real challenge lies. Technology changes the game, for sure, but eventually what stands out is the human conquest of said technology. Photography did not eliminate all painting, but rather became an art form in itself. Smart phones may eliminate human interaction... or they may foster it! When I Facetime my Granddaughter on the iPhone, is that device enabling or hindering real interaction? My iPhone lets me read several translations of Scripture on one device and is easier to carry than a stack of paper Bibles. The Notebook has become a place for writing prayers and adding Scripture (easily copied and pasted) to pray over situations.

Here is where I find Crawford's perscription most appealing. Cultivating the disciplines of meditation and prayer open new vistas for their adherents, however sophisticated (or simple) their culture. No doubt, the Roman world in which Judaism and Christianity found themselves, was complex. The fact that the disciplines of Faith and Faith itself, outlasted that great empire should give us cause for reflection.

"The American Flag Glass Organ Pipes" by Xaver Wilhelmy.
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

"The Father's View of His Forests." Photo by Brandy Mason.

Spring Triptych, A Celebration

"Spring Triptych," a collaborative celebration of Spring by three photographers: Texas Bluebonnets by Melissa K. Hand, Virginia Redbuds by Kristina Elaine Greer, Paperwhite Daffodils by Bob Kirchman. Prints may be obtained through The Kirchman Studio.

It all began when one of us saw a picture that the person sharing claimed was obtained by: "...rolling down a hill shooting a panorama." A little experimentation on my part proved that that was not how it was done.. but my uber-creative friends and I did discover the "Tiny Planet" app. THAT proved to be the secret! Using this we were able to manipulate our photographs to create some pretty wonderful images. Presented here are some of our favorites.

"Organ Keys" by Bob Kirchman.

How Christianity Invented Children


This Article [click to read] by Pascal Emmanuel Gobry recalls how Christianity was instrumental in transforming culture long ago.

Christianity's invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of G-d. If the G-d who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status. That was indeed a revolutionary idea, and it changed our culture so much that we no longer even recognize it." -- Pascal Emmanuel Gobry

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue XIX

The History of Serial Fiction

Serials have existed in fiction for a very long time. Books were expensive back in the 19th century, so they were printed in installments in order to keep the price low. Charles Dickens, often heralded as one of the greatest early self-publishers, was also one of the most successful writers of serialized fiction. Another big name, Alexandre Dumas, was a very prolific serial novelist, publishing both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers in serial format. In fact, serialization worked so well, it was considered the way to go by popular authors during the time." -- Samantha Warren

THYME Magazine presents, in serial form, the story of a man who challenged the proposition that something he wanted to achieve was "impossible." Based on history, depicted in the future, Pontifus is a tale of human triumph in the face of challenges such as face us today.

Pontifus, the Bridge Builder's Tale
By Bob Kirchman
Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

I think over again my small adventures.
My Fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach,
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world."
--Old Inuit Song

Rupert Zimmerman was uncomfortable, to say the least, with the moniker. Perhaps his most trusted assistant and daughter, Elizabeth had struck a nerve. She and her husband Martin were the only ones in on it anyway, but it was an effective device when the old man held the reins too tightly in the conduct of a meeting. To be fair, she used it only on rare occasions and it must be noted that Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley was indeed a compassionate and thoughtful daughter. The old man, like so many who struggle hard before their great work bears fruit, tended to grip things too tightly. The Latin term was actually an apt description of Zimmerman, for it was 'Pontifus,' which simply means; "Bridge Builder." The more used, and more familiar usage of the term refers in no uncertain terms to the Bishop of Rome. Thus a double entendre became a useful tool to the younger Zimmerman. She used it softly and sparingly as a means to help her Father step back into the humility he himself felt more comfortable in.

Mankind has always sought to open up a way to points unreached. First he wore paths to new hunting places. Gradually the paths became highways as trade ensued. Fords and ferries connected the paths across streams and rivers. The building of bridges stretched both the limits of human creativity and the materials employed. Simple logs and planks were laid across streams. Masons crafted stone arches that bridged rivers. Steel beams and cable were spun in the most amazing forms to bridge the largest bodies of water. John A. Roebling's Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, came to symbolize the high art of bridge building. High gothic towers supported an elegant array of cables and stays that gracefully carried the roadway and a pedestrian promenade across the great East River. Throughout the centuries that followed, longer spans connected ever greater distances. But there were a few challenges that remained in the realm of imagination. They remained there, mostly because of geopolitical constraints, but psychological barriers as well. In fact, it was the consensus that something was "impossible" that often stood in the way of the attempt. Rupert Zimmerman would tell you that his earlier projects, far less ambitious than his latest, had almost all defied insurmountable odds. Yet they had been built! Driven to what many considered the end of the world by forces beyond his control, he found a way to go further.


This little book is dedicated to those brave young people, who though I shall not name them here, will likely recognize bits of themselves in the characters I portray. I apologize beforehand for this intrusion into your privacy but feel that the world so desperately needs your story. Your very real dedication and bravery inspired this book and it cannot be written without a foundation of such truth. Most of all it is dedicated to my beautiful wife, of whom the accolade: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" is most fitting. You have stood by me in good times and bad. We have shared in the raising of some incredible young people who inhabited our own home. You have poured your love and wonder into the lives of countless students. I love you with all my being!!!

It is because we both love young people so that I write this. It is but a poor attempt to offer hope and direction to a world so devoid of it. We err, perhaps, in pointing to the hope of the hereafter without providing adequate models and renderings of that Kingdom and those who have labored to bring it into the world we inhabit now. The water that will quench the soul's thirst is dismissed because those who profess to bear it often seem, (to the society around them,) preoccupied with apocalyptic visions and derision for the world as it is now. It is not wrong to love such things, but they are not easily shared with those for whom the flower of life is yet to come. No bride-to-be, having just unwrapped her wedding planner, wants to engage in a lengthy discourse on Eschatology!

Jeremiah of old told those in exile to "Build, Plant, Marry and Have Children, Prosper and Pray!" -- and to be sure, there are many who do. They just don't make the headlines very often. The historical references in this work, and there are probably too many, are essential to understanding how men and women have navigated dangerous times before. They are most necessary to show how one can indeed have vision for one's own times and hope in a greater, unseen reality as well.

Interstate A2 Approaching Wales AK.

Book One: Dinner Stop at the End of the World


OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!" - Rudyard Kipling

The morning sun played upon the flowery tundra of Cape Mountain and Kingigin, the high bluff above Wales Alaska. An arctic fox surveyed the scene as the light played vividly on the Bering Strait. For the years of the Cold War, Soviet and U.S. submarines stalked each other silently beneath the icy waters while fighter jets challenged one another in the airspace above. The Soviets operated a radar station on Big Doiomede Island in the strait. The U.S. Air Force surveyed the scene from an outpost near Wales. Next to the village itself, the U.S. Navy operated a submarine research facility. The hostile environment seemed an appropriate stage for a face-off between the world’s two superpowers.

Captain James Cook named it Cape Prince of Wales in 1778. The Inuit knew it as Kingigin, or 'the high bluff,' and called themselves Kingikmiut, 'people of the high place.' Their ancestors walked into America, it is said, on a bridge of land that once connected Asia to Alaska. Now the icy strait separates the two continents, and as the sun rises on the tip of Alaska, it illuminates tomorrow dawning across the International Date Line. Sunlight gleams upon two thin lines of commerce stretched across the vast strait. The twin spans of the Bering Strait Bridge, completed in 2020, once again connect Asia solidly to America. As morning breaks over the vast landscape, the first trucks begin to roll across the slender spans, carrying the commerce of the world.

Joe fumed inwardly as his rig made its way up the mountainside approaching Wales. He and Chris were in the queue for tonight's hazmat session. The young turk was hauling fertilizer to Siberia from Canada and had missed last night's hazmat hours. Chris and Joe had helped him change a tire that had blown on the merciless road and now he was one of their company. Protocol set him at the front of the convoy, since he was a holdover from last night's roster. Chris, as a senior driver, fell in behind. Joe brought up the rear. "Slow hazmat night;" Chris radioed, "I'm squarely in the 'rocking chair." Joe mumbled: "I hope Abdul does OK with the 'Twenty Questions." He referred to the likely interrogation the man from 'Marlboro Country' faced at the hands of the BSBS personnel who worked security for the span because he'd drawn the hand of hauling a hazmat load. Abdul seemed likeable enough, and had told them about how Turkish customs officials loved to receive cartons of a certain American cigarette in exchange for speedier processing at the border. Still, the retired Israeli Defense Forces personnel contracted to run security on the twin span would likely take some time to get to know him themselves.

Summertime brought a joyful display of color to the arctic hillside. Joe hoped sometime he'd have the opportunity to walk on that landscape, but tonight he just hoped for a rest stop that would time itself so he could SKYPE his granddaughter. 'Kate' as she now proclaimed herself, was in high school now. The child he had had the leisure to watch grow up was quite a wonder now. She would talk about her latest creative endeavor or her latest soccer match with such passion that it seemed to wash the old man with the fountain of youth. These were the men who moved the Bering Strait freight. Younger men stayed for a time, but grew restless. Patient older men and women, for whom time probably moved quicker, made up the bulk of BSB drivers. Most of them seemed to have left their careers in the 'lower 48' prematurely. Castoffs of a struggling economy, they had come to the end of the world to finish their working life making salaries that would make executives jealous. The hours were long, the roads often dangerous, but you had plenty of time to think.

Joe's mind wandered to Willa, a slender brunette with the spirit of a willow tree. She was the love of Joe's life, but life itself had lost much of its flavor in the past few years. Joe had married her in a time when optimism was plentiful and the future had seemed far brighter. He had struggled as a small businessman but their home had been happy. When America seemed to have lost its pioneer spirit and slumped into its economic doldrums, their life together had become tense. Their children had found their own paths in life and Joe found odd jobs to work at, often living in a cheap motel with his colleagues as he worked as a technician in some faraway city. His 'take home pay' often barely covered the health insurance. United States President Barry Soetoro had promised 'free' benefits for all but had only succeeded in making things more expensive. The housing industry, in which Joe had worked, was in shambles. Joe longed to go to Alaska, where opportunity seemed to still reside. Willa resisted. In the end an advertisement for "men willing to endure long hours, dangerous conditions and enjoy huge paychecks" was more than he could resist. A company called Intercontinental Logistics was looking for what they called "Mature Drivers" for the Bering Strait Highway. There was a signing bonus and they trained you. Willa had been devastated, to say the least, when Joe announced that he was headed for the land of the midnight sun. Her dream of happy family dashed by hard economics, she composed herself and tried to win her husband's heart to stay with her in the 'lower 48.' The money didn't matter that much to her. If ever there was a woman who supported her man in crisis, it would have to be Willa. "You are so much more than your career!" she opined. "Look at the lives you have touched..." Indeed their home had been a place where many had flourished in Willa's nurturing love. Joe ached for her sweet presence now, as she did for his! Still, in the end, his faithfulness in sending most of his paycheck to her was a better option than eating up their limited resources. She wished for a simple happy life with friends in their small Virginia community... but the harsh reality was that most of her soul-mates were alone too... their husbands were off working in Alaska!

In the 1950's the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway System was initially planned to include Alaska roads. The designations A1, A2, A3 and A4 were given to Alaska highways and a road was even proposed from Fairbanks to Nome. That road was not built until Rupert Zimmerman needed it and the Interstate designations remained unsigned as traffic, mostly INTRASTATE, did not warrant the necessary upgrades. Now the Alaska Republic was busily widening these arteries and posting Interstate shields to signify their new importance. The opening of the Bering Strait Bridge had ushered in a new age of INTERCONTINENTAL highways. Like the transcontinental railroads of old, they required men. Good men and lots of them were required to turn the wheels of commerce.

All Trucks Must Enter Scanner" blared an electric sign ahead. Joe and Chris knew the drill. Maintaining a 25 mph speed through the scanner, then a mandatory sampling of the low-temperature liquid adhesive in their tankers, a few questions from the BSBS agents and then they'd be "in the corridor." They would be escorted through the cleared Bering Strait Bridge during the wee hours of the morning. They would be allowed a stop for refreshment at one of the service plazas on the Diomede Islands, but other than that they must keep on moving. The unknown card in their hand tonight was the addition of the Turk to their group. If he was sent to the impound lot, Joe and Chris would roll on. but a delay and further checking could put the whole convoy in a later window. As far as the money, you won some and you lost some, but as they approached Thursday morning, a well timed call would catch Kate at home on Wednesday afternoon. That was Joe's plan anyway. Dinner, he told Chris, should be on one of the Diomedes.

BSB Lamp Maintenance
Maintenance operations on the Bering Strait Bridge. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

Chris, Joe knew, would want to hold out for Big Diomede, on the Russian side of the International Dateline in the Siberian Autonomous Republic. He smiled thinking of the likely reason. Her name was Kris. She was one of the hostesses at the Big Diomede Travel Plaza and the two drivers enjoyed her spunk. Chris noticed her name tag at the moment she read the name on his shirt, beginning an ongoing conversation. Her green eyes seemed familiar with worlds unseen. Joe suspected she was writing a novel behind that hostess stand. Probably something full of wizards and worlds with more than one sun. It was the kind of thing he loved to listen to in the cab on audio books. Joe had known Chris from his younger days. They had found each other again on the Bering Strait Highway. Joe driven by the throws of economy and a failing business, Chris from his restless soul. Chris had retreated from the vibrant faith that had characterized his younger life. A series of disappointments in life had driven him to question his questions. He'd studied theology for a time, but now avoided discussion of things unseen... ...except that Joe noted, an exceptional individual could, it seemed, 'see' that dimension so well that even Chris would let down his guard. Someone like Kris seemed capable of painting a picture of that realm in vivid colors. Joe, who's faith seemed to sustain him longed for Chris to know something of the same peace. It would, Joe mused, require an exceptional guide.

Chris' softening at the thought of such an encounter, however brief, was encouraging. Though the senior driver never allowed such conversations to become personal, he did seem to be allowing them with greater regularity. "Didn't C. S. Lewis once say something to the effect that if you could imagine something wonderful, it was very likely that there existed the possibility for its fulfillment, or something like that?" Indeed, here was a conundrum. If one limited oneself to considering the seen world, there were many unfulfilled dreams… many labors lost... much observed futility! But, on the other hand, if there was more to life than life itself, dreams could be fulfilled in worlds now unknown. Healing and restoration might just be the substance of such places. The junior driver was betting his life on it. The senior driver might just see the possibilities.

(to be continued). [click to read]

Map of Alaska's new intercontinental highway. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

THYME Magazine: Prayer for Nepal

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVIIa

Prayer for Nepal

A Missionary friend in Nepal Writes: "I just spoke with one of our pastors in Makwanpur. He said, most of the houses have collapsed and villagers are spending night outside. It has been raining there. Most of the national and international relief efforts are doing something in Capital but Villagers are left out. They have no phone, no leaders for them to get the Govt or international help get to them. I am teaming up with our pastors and planning to take our Bible School guys to some of these villages. The challenge is: How to bring needed supplies to them, since roads are damaged and it is raining. Your prayers are appreciated."

The  BBC reports that at least 3617 people have perished as a result of Saturday's earthquake. Tent cities have sprung up around Kathmandu as people have either lost their homes or are afraid to enter them if they are still standing. In rural areas roads are destroyed. Rain and landslides make matters worse.

Relief efforts are underway in Kathmandu. Climbers stranded on Mt. Everest have been rescued. But it is in the villages that the need is great as well. Missionaries like my friend (a Nepali citizen) have their work cut out for them. If you would like to help, you can send any amount to my friend's home church:

Calvary Chapel Lynchburg, 
742 Leesville Rd. Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Please make a note on your check that this is for the Nepali earthquake relief.

Other ministries getting aid to Nepal are:

Samaritan's Purse [click to read]
Advancing Native Missions [click to read]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom V

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVII

The Kingdom of Restoration

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. -- Revelation 21,22:1-5

Creative Mandate of Genesis 1
The Unique Responsibility Conferred in Imago Dei


And G-d said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d created he him; male and female created he them.

And G-d blessed them, and G-d said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." -- Genesis 1:26-28

New York artist, Makoto Fujimura and others have found in the first chapters of Genesis, a unique charge to mankind. Scripture states that mankind alone bears the Divine image, and as such carries unique responsibility. G-d calls on Man, created in his own image, to 'replenish' the Earth. Many read over this passage and see it as similar to the charge given to fish and fowl... to populate the planet, but read further and G-d involves mankind in something far greater:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." -- Genesis 2:19

Here the Divine does not simply present animals to the newly formed person and tell that person their names... G-d invites Adam into the studio, as it were, and charges him with naming the new creations!

Fujimura and others see in this a Divine mandate: if those gifts of creativity... expressed in the art, culture and industry of mankind, are indeed an extension of 'Imago Dei, their exercise takes on a new importance.

Dr S. Lewis Johnson writes: "One of the scientists who has written on the Book of Genesis has said, “The first introduction of animal life was not a fragile, blob of protoplasm that happened to come together in response to electrical discharges over a primeval ocean as evolutionists believe. The water swarmed with swarms of living creatures.” But we are not to think from this statement, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures” that it is the waters that have brought forth these creatures. It is evident that they are the product of the word of G-d. It is not they, the waters who have created. It is G-d who has created. So when we read, “Then G-d said”, the power of this creation rests in the word of the Lord G-d. So the creation is from G-d, but as a result of his word the waters teem with swarms of living creatures."

Each new phase of the creation account begins with G-d speaking. In Genesis 2:19 the Divine calls Adam to speak... naming specific elements of what G-d has made.

Today G-d calls the artist to an active role in replenishing society. Indeed the artist has always been at the forefront of the cultural discussion. Sadly, in a world that relegates Faith to a position of diminished importance, the artist who is a person of Faith often has taken a back seat in the dialogue.

The secular world itself gives greater weight to the naturalist, who operates in the gritty world that is seen. Beauty and Truth, particularly when seen as the product of Faith's influence, are discounted. In response, artists of Faith have often settled for a less than transformative role, content to produce icons, but unwilling to participate in the transformation of culture.

This does not mean that only a few great names are to participate. For thousands of years, art has been produced by people in the simplest of cultures. Consider the rich tradition in textiles. People have always blended richness and color into their daily lives. Printing presses have made it possible for everyone to have a Rembrant on their walls... but richness is lost when ink replaces real paint. Consider the joy preschool children experience as they apply color to paper! Society seems to dull that, relegating the flow of color to 'experts,' but it can, and should be recaptured as a part of the human experience... especially as a part of our Worship and Wonder!

In her later years, my physicist Mother found joy in creating woven garments and in throwing pots on her wheel, rekindling that Sacred spark. There resides in Imago Dei a deep need to express one's creative spirit. How wonderful when that expression serves the Divine purpose!

How does the creative mandate align itself with the charge to build the Kingdom of G-d? Most certainly! Pictured here are details of very large paintings a young artist has prepared for Vacation Bible School. Just imagine the wonder of children being surrounded by this majestic world... right out of Genesis 1:22! Imagine the power art, writing, theater and music have in the hands of the Faithful to address our culture today!


Top: Swimming Penguins, Center: Whales, Bottom: Dolphins; Details of 9' x 6' Canvases by Muralist Kristina Elaine Greer prepared for St. John's United Methodist Church in Staunton, Virginia

The Creative Mandate 
of Bezalel and Oholiab
Exodus 35 and 36, Skill, Ability and Knowledge

Xaver Wilhelmy's Design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York. The memorial features a 3000 pipe organ to give a voice to everyone who's voice was lost on that terrible day. Rendering by Bob Kirchman

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for a pipe organ enclosure for St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Davis West Virginia. Model by Bob Kirchman and Kristina Elaine Greer.

Bezalel and Oholiab

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills —  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary." -- Exodus 35:30 - 36:3

In Genesis, G-d invited mankind into the studio to name His creation. Mankind was also given the mandate to 'replenish' creation. When G-d chose to work through a specific people as part of his purpose, he again invited those He had created into His work. Bezalel and Oholiab are specifically mentioned by name. Bezalel, it says, is filled with the "Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." Clearly G-d is the giver of artistic gifts. Bezalel and Oholiab both are given the ability to teach by G-d. In the Tabernacle, G-d has these artisans construct the space that He will occupy!

The cubic Sanctuary, the Ark, the tools, fabrics and furnishings were all inspired designs executed by inspired artisans. The Presence of G-d would transform Israel, but Israel participated in building the place for the Presence! Later this same scheme would be repeated in stone and cedarwood for the Temple of Solomon. That form would be repeated in the rebuilt Temple of Zerubbabel's day. The Prophet Haggai again called the people to the work of G-d. Haggai ends his writings looking to a time when G-d will establish His throne in Heaven and on Earth.

In Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21, 22 we see the reign of G-d established and a New Heaven and New Earth. The form of Jerusalem described in Revelation is a cube large enough to encompass all of mankind! Here is restoration of fellowship with G-d and a return to that close fellowship seen in Genesis before the fall. Today the artist who has faith is uniquely equipped -- and called to the building of the Kingdom of Heaven! We possess a mandate to replenish the Earth, to use our gifts in the building of that which G-d is bringing about.

Consider the mission of The Culture House in Kansas City, Missouri. Janie B. Cheaney of World Magazine describes it like this: "an arts organization... that brings a Christian ethos of excellence for the sake of others and cultural leadership for its students." Founded by Jeremiah Enna, the Culture House offers programs in visual arts, dance and theatre... all from a perspective of submitting these gifts to G-d's purpose. In a recent production: Underground, the theatre group tackled the issue of slavery.

The popular narrative often approaches this narrative from the perspective that "America is evil." Underground's producers said instead: "we wanted to show America overcoming evil." Stressing the role of the Church in abolishing slavery, their narrative became: "G-d is the Hero!" In the Centuries past, faith was the inspiration for building great cathedrals and transformative movements in culture. Alvin Schmidt documents much of this in his book: Under the Influence. It is no stretch to conclude that much of our present tolerance for diversity springs from the influence of faith.

In the writings of Moses there are specific protections given to aliens living among the Israelites. In Genesis 12:3 G-d says to Abraham: "...all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you," giving a unique insight into the Divine Heart. The line of David includes Rahab (the woman of Jerico who hid the spies) and Ruth the Moabite. Moses himself had a Cushite wife (she was black). In Isaiah 60 we hear G-d's Heart speak:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." -- Isaiah 60:1-3

Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations -- their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet. The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." -- Isaiah 60:10-14

Looking forward to G-d's transformative work, the artist of faith has a unique place and unique giftings to speak into his or her world.

Mr. Wilhelmy worked out the placement of wind chests and pipes using the model built by the Kirchman Studio.

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for functional stained glass organ pipes embedded in a window. Rendering by Xaver Wilhelmy and Bob Kirchman