Saturday, December 20, 2014

THYME Magazine: Letter from Rajai Shahr Prison

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXVa

A Message from Pastor Saeed

Rajai Shahr Prison 2014

Merry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why G-d chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did G-d choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did G-d choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.

Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve G-d. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that G-d came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.

Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of G-d in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means G-d is with us.

Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of G-d’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.

The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of G-d, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of G-d’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Soaking in the lava love of Christ [1.]

Saeed Abedini and his children.

"He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." -- Psalm 91:4 Photo by Bob Kirchman

Heart shape found on Betsy Bell Mountain in Staunton, Virginia. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THYME Magazine Special Christmas Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXV

Glimpses into a World Unseen
The Amazing Photography of Alexey Kljatov

© 2013 The Kirchman Studio, All rights reserved. 
Photographs © Alexey Kljatov, Used by permission.

When I first saw the work of Alexey Kljatov, I was amazed. He takes these stunning images with a simple point and shoot camera rigged with an old macro lens and employing skillful manipulation of lighting. Snowflakes landing on his Moscow window reveal their full wonder and individual beauty through his sublime images. Mr. Kljatov graciously allowed THYME to share his amazing work. You can see more of his photography Here [click to view].

Just imagine the swirling dance of these beautiful shapes in a snowstorm!













Glimpses into a World Unseen
Act II

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

Evidence of Divine Design, Great and Small
"The Heavens Declare the Glory of G-d;
The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Moth wing pattern.

I saw this little creature outside my studio one morning. It got me reflecting on the creative wonder, both large and small, that surround us.

M 51 Spiral Galaxy, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Detail of the 'X Structure' in M 51, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The artist is amazed. So much beauty and wonder in the very large cosmos and in the very small things as well! Can a G-d who spins galaxies into being be concerned with things small and personal? Such order and grace in the extreme scales of our world, yet often what we see before us is chaotic and makes no sense.

That is why we present here Lee Strobel's Case for Faith and Case for Christ. If you had stepped into that Bethlehem stable many years ago, you would have not necessarily seen beauty and redemption. The smells of animals and the pain of labor and delivery would have overwhelmed contemplation. Yet Christians around the world will contemplate the wonder of that night; for what happened there ultimately made its mark on human history.

The Case for a Creator [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ [click to view] by Lee Strobel

Creche at the National Cathedral
A Particularly Beautiful Representation of the Nativity

Photo by Kristina Elaine Riley Greer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mazel Tov!

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIVa

The Greatest Gift

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -- 1 Corinthians 13

Special Blessings on this Special Day!

Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Truett Cathy.

THYME Magazine: A Powerful Lesson in a Video

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIVa

An Inspiring Video from Rejoice

Here is a short video with a huge message. As China has become a modern power, her divorce rate has skyrocketed. This touching story puts faces on that statistic and the woman in the story's response to her husband's presentation of the divorce papers is a lesson for all of us. I read a piece about how 'empty nesters' often find themselves lacking in real intimacy. Again, the article only presented the phenomenon. It did not go far enough in offering a solution. Older couples often find themselves more as partners in a venture and when the children leave the house, it is game over for the team effort. But there is often so much richness overlooked. The Divine uses the story to inspire and draw close to us in the Sedar and Purim. Couples have their rich story as well. We don't take enough time to retell it. When Faye's husband hands her the divorce papers to sign, she makes a simple request.

She agrees to sign the papers after one month, if he will do but one thing for her... every day, once a day, she asks him to hold her. He moves out, but complies with her request. Here Faye brings him into their story. She arranges to meet him at places that are the settings: the place they became engaged, the place they first kissed, the place they first told each other that they loved each other. Finally she hands him the signed papers at the place they first met. You will have to watch the video to learn how the story ends. I can promise you it will be worth the effort. You see, this little video has much to say about how we cherish the person who is G-d's most special gift to us. Rekindling memories and early conversations is the stuff of Divine inspiration, and a great challenge for all of us who are married to another beautiful person!

Powerful video from Rejoice.

Life Lesson from Some of G-d's Creatures

The Family that Plays Together and Stays Together

Sea otters hold hands while they are sleeping so that they don't drift apart.

A special prayer of BLESSING for my favorite OTTERS today!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-- George Bernard Shaw ht/Chuck Balsamo and Laney Riley.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THYME Magazine: Faith and Persecution

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIV

Faith and Persecution

I will never forget the first Nepali I ever met. His name was Prem Pradahn and I sat across from him at a Thanksgiving meal over thirty years ago. He came to Faith while serving in the British Air Force and returned to his native land eager to share the new hope he had found in Christ. Although he walked with a limp from an injury sustained in the service, Prem would walk for miles to visit villages in the mountains where he would say to anyone who would listen: "I have heard a new thing! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!"

For this simple, but eloquent statement of Good News, Pradahn ran afoul of Nepal's strict 'anti-conversion laws.' He spent seven years in prison. Like Paul in the early church, he had a dream or a vision of the Risen Christ! This sustained him as he somehow survived an incarceration that most people did not survive. The prison he was in was notorious as a place that few came out of again. But not only did Prem did survive!, He lived to undertake new things. He gathered unwanted children into homes and taught them the wonderful story. Now he found himself revered by his community as an educator and was able to influence countless young lives. If the Apostolic age is not past, here is a man who could rightly be called one.

Though we have been blessed to live in a nation founded on principles that protected religious freedom, history tells us that Faith has from the very beginnings put the faithful at odds with the prevailing culture. The sons of Isaac living in Egypt were suppressed and enslaved, as a Pharaoh saw them as a threat. Their miraculous deliverance and elevation to a nation of promise occurred surrounded by hostile threat. Moses saw things go from bad to worse as he negotiated with the Egyptians for the freedom of his people. Though Abraham had received the promise that his descendents would be a blessing to the nations, the nations to this day (and sadly, even so-called 'Christian' nations), do not return blessing to them. Those nations who did encourage their Jewish communities enjoyed the rich creativity they brought to the lands they inhabited. Those who surpressed them missed the blessing.

First Century Christians also were ostracized. The Roman Emperor Claudius [Acts 18:2] ordered all the Jews out of Rome, and similarly the Christians were seen as owing their primary allegiance, not to the Emperor, but to the Divine! The persecuted church grew and affirmed the value of human life. Unwanted babies thrown into the Tiber River were rescued and raised by people of Faith in an ongoing ethic reminiscent of the story of Moses. Moses, you will recall, was cast adrift in the Nile as the Egyptians attempted to force population control on the Hebrews by ordering the killing of their babies. Moses survived thanks to the quick thinking of his older sister Miriam and became the instrument of Divine Deliverance for his people. Faith, in its purest form, has always sought to deliver people from their present (and often wretched) state. Thus it often finds itself at odds with the civil authorities.

In most recent history, as so-called 'Christian' nations succombed to philosophies such as those of the National Socialists in Germany and the Marxists in other places; you see the rise of "Righteous Gentiles." These people arose, motivated by Faith, to protect their neighbors from regimes intent on destroying the people G-d had called his own. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany endured similar dangers. In fact, a history of the Twentieth Century needs to include the near obliteration of the House of Israel and the rise of new philosophies of dystopia that sought to replace those ideals found in dependence on the Divine. That Century also saw a new nation of Israel reborn in the ashes of the Century's most terrible war. The Middle-East's only representative government exists there, as does a marvelous land of innovation and wonder.

Our own nation's early history is filled with stories of those fleeing persecution who established new communities of Faith on her shores. Pilgrims, Moravians, Catholics and Anabaptists all came to America seeking the freedom to live by their Faith. Virginia's own history, first as an Anglican colony and later as adopters of statutes of religious freedom, sets the stage for the First Amendment of the Constitution. Here the Federal government is prohibited from establishing a state church and is clearly prohibited from restricting the rights of CITIZENS to actively practice their Faith! Again, one wonders at the modern overemphasis of the 'establishment' clause and the relative lack of concern about recent infringements upon 'free exercise!' In a schoolroom somewhere in America, elementary school children sing "Praises to Obama." Their teachers instruct them to do so! "Obama's Gonna Change the World" they sing in a rousing song taught to them by their teachers. Michelle Malkin has assembled much evidence of such "lessons" being taught around the country. Sadly, this is not some isolated incident. Its recurrence suggests that it was suggested as a 'lesson plan.'

In a movie clip from late 1930's Germany, nicely dressed schoolchildren sit in their orderly desks and sing: "Adolph Hitler is our lord!" Again, their teachers have coerced them to participate in the lauding of an earthly leader in a manner that I, and many others, would believe to be reserved for the Divine! So, as the secular state writhes at the thought of students seeing a Creche or a Menorah, or G-d forbid, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, they blatantly usurp the place of Faith in the lives of young students. It is not always 'Praises to Obama,' but rather in subtle suggestions in lesson plans that 'your parents are not always right,' and that unbridled sexual expression is normal and desirible. Here a civil authority and morality seek to usurp the guiding principles of Faith, and their traditional repository, the family. Condoms and clinics supposedly 'free' you from such archaic constraints. To be sure, there are still many good people of Faith teaching in government schools, and their influence is to be celebrated, but one must honestly acknowledge other influences as well.

Homeschooling has emerged as a very logical response to government schools that overreach their boundaries. I have homeschooled, and I have known scores of homeschooled young people. Educators often complained that they lacked 'socialization,' but my experience is that most of these children were successfully involved in youth sports. If anything, they enjoyed a BROADER socialization, being able to relate to ADULTS as well as PEERS. I have had a few homeschooled young people work alongside me in the studio. When you can confidently hand the key to your shop to someone one third of your age, and entrust that same young person with client contact, such 'socialization' arguments ring hollow. Recently a German family sought asylum in the United States because the state was going to forcibly remove their homeschooled children from their home! The Obama administration sided with the German authorities rather than the Constitutional principles espoused in the First Amendment. Thankfully public outcry stopped the administration's attempt to deport the Romeikes, who simply sought to educate their own children in accordance with their own values.[1.]

Constitutional Attorney Mike Farris defended the family. His advocacy of homeschool perotection goes back for decades. He was shunned by some of his political colleagues for this during his unsuccessfu bid to become Attorney General of Virginia. I supported him. Here it must be pointed out that there has for some time existed an antagonism towards homeschooling on the part of the political establishment. That homeschooling exists largely to underscore the primary role of family in transmitting Faith makes this problematic. Test scores and other statistics would indicate that, if anything, homeschooling provides a healthy alternative to government schools. The real reason for such animosity is probably best characterized by this quote from Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who supposed he was off-mike when he said it: "One of the things you are going to see is a coalition that is just about completely taken over the Republican Party in this state and if they have their way it's going to take over the state government. It is made up of the Christian Coalition, but not just them. It is made up of the right-to-lifers, but not just them. It's made up of the NRA, but not just them. It is made up of the home-schoolers, but not just them. It's made up of a whole coalition of people that have all sorts of differing views that I think most of us in this room would find threatening to what it means to be an American." [2.]

So we see a continued marginalization of Faith under the guise of 'tolerance.' The fear that someone might be 'offended' by the practice of, or a symbol of Faith becomes the overriding principle for government or court intervention. No matter that little Johnny cannot understand why he cannot put Jesus on a poster for school, it might 'offend.' Also, no matter that your personal convictions are that G-d narrowly defines 'marriage.' If you refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple, or refuse to photograph their wedding, you might run afoul of 'anti-discrimination laws.' No matter that if you decline, several of your competitors are more than ready to offer their services, Faith cannot trump the imposition of a 'civil morality.' The cases of Elane Photography, Aaron and Melissa Klein (Sweet Cakes by Melissa), Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties and Ocean Grove Pavilion [3.] all spring from government encroachment on conscience, and as such are government reigning in religious freedom. The result is not necessarily more freedom. Consider the Catholic Charities of Massachusetts who folded their operations rather than place children with same-sex adoptive couples. Who won? Certainly not the children who lost a fine agency dedicated to helping them. Gay couples? Yes, they won a symbolic victory, but they had other government placement agencies who would already place with them. The big loser, (aside from the children), is that part of the First Amendment guaranteeing the free exercise of religion.

The argument may be made that a pluralistic society requires a 'religion neutral' public square. May I suggest that that is simply not what is happening. By excluding values, the state simply promotes another set of values. Witness the tone of so many 'anti-bullying' initiatives that are more concerned with promoting homosexuality as 'normal' than creating a climate of mutual respect. The same school that prohibits Menorahs and Creches may be very likely to introduce Muslim practices in the guise of 'multiculturalism.' I once saw a fourth grade curriculum that celebrated Aztec human sacrifice... even going so far as to say that heart surgery was advanced by the knowledge gained by ripping out the victims' still-beating hearts! Thankfully such abuses and double standards are still more of the exception than the norm for most students. Still, is it unreasonable to look at the perpondrance of evidence and point out the civil society's instances of embracing hostility to Faith? Certainly respect for other students is to be desired and cultivated, and students benefit from learning about other cultures, but they can do so in an enviroment that celebrates, rather than derides their own.

The radicals of the 1960's have become the academics of the Twenty-first Century. Judge Robert Bork describes this quite well in Slouching Towards Gomorrah! [4.] Classical roots of culture are regularly derided or ignored as 'modern' issue such as gender politics become the stuff of literature and learning. [5.] What becomes quite evident is that such thinkers are all to honest in saying that Faith in the public square is a great impediment to the societal re-creation they would like to accomplish. How else do you explain the focused attacks on Faith expression, 'family values' and Classical foundations? Again, I give you Senator Mark Warner's "off-mike" statement: "One of the things you are going to see is a coalition that is just about completely taken over the Republican Party in this state and if they have their way it's going to take over the state government. It is made up of the Christian Coalition, but not just them. It is made up of the right-to-lifers, but not just them. It's made up of the NRA, but not just them. It is made up of the home-schoolers, but not just them. It's made up of a whole coalition of people that have all sorts of differing views that I think most of us in this room would find threatening to what it means to be an American." [6.] Add that to President Obama's remarks about Pennsylvanians "clinging to their guns and religion" and you may see a pattern here. A literal reading of the first two amendments finds "guns and religion" clearly enumerated as rights of citizens. The state may not establish itself over the church and the citizen, in the Second Amendment, does NOT surrender all power to the state.

So, the "bitter clingers" might really be those who brood over the fact that our founding Fathers very nicely created checks and balances against the centralized state that they so desire. Politicians who fume about their inability to rule by executive order would do well to remember that it protects THEM from their opponents as well. For over two-hundred years, the United States was a magnet for people fleeing the oppression of tyrants and centralized states. Many of these immigrants were religious refugees. Though far from perfect, the state that purposefully restricted itself and protected liberties became a "Nation of Nations." You are free to believe (or NOT to believe) as your conscience dictates. This is in great contrast to most of the world where to be of a minority religion is to be ostracized if not outright persecuted. Coptic Christians in Egypt, as well as a host of minorities caught in the re-bordering of places like the Balkans and Iraq, look longingly at the freedom we seem all too ready to cast aside. Would that we preserve it!

Beware of the Curse of 'Slacktivism'

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." - 1 John 3:16-18

You've signed petitions, "shared" statuses, tweeted and posted, but are you really making a difference? Wake Forest University Anthropology professor Karin Frederic warns: "Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube seem like powerful tools for change. They help activists spread awareness, create networks of solidarity and mobilize people quickly and efficiently. Thousands of people can ‘like’ a campaign within 24 hours. That’s really appealing, but it’s often quite shallow and it can detract attention from efforts that could be more useful, effective and sustainable."

This is a blog, it has a 'related' Facebook page, so I write this mostly to myself, but here is an astounding fact: 'Placebo Activism' can make you feel involved and aware, but a healthy reality check would include asking yourself if you are really in the game? "Am I sponsoring a child or a ministry in some difficult area of the world? Does my church regularly highlight the difficulties of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world?" As Fredric reminds us: "We need to ensure that giving is less about us and the image we can project to our friends, and more about those people in the world who really need support. Does a hungry child really care if you ‘like’ a Facebook page?" [7.]

As the world (particularly the Middle East) becomes ever more volatile, Christians in many places are facing a new resurgence of age-old threats. Displaced Christians from places like Mosul in Iraq still need our prayers and our help, though they may have faded from the headlines. Our FAMILY in such difficult places need us to remember them now. Groups such as Advancing Native Missions [click to read] can channel your practical help to those who need it most. This Christmas might be a great opportunity to give our loved ones close to home, who really do have everything, the gift of helping some of these dear Saints with a gift in their name or in their honor!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mia Love, Distinctly American

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIIIa

Mia Love, Distinctly American

She was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Haitian immigrants Jean Maxine Bourdeau and his wife Marie who had fled the country in 1973. Ludmya Bourdeau (Mia) came into the world December 6, 1975. Her father had been threatened by dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier's secret police. Jean came to the country by himself and was joined by his wife a few months later. Immigration law at the time allowed them to apply for citizenship if they had a child born in this country. Mia says: “My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family’s ticket to America.”

When she was five, the family moved to Norwalk Connecticut. Marie worked as a nurse and Jean worked as a janitor, a bus driver and other assorted jobs. She grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. She recalls that friends from her Catholic school were not allowed by their parents to come to her home for her birthday party. After high school, Mia attended the University of Hartford. A fine arts major, she was probably not looking forward to a career in politics. The theater appealed to her more.

After college, Mia became a flight attendant. Her sister Cynthia had joined the Latter Day Saints and Mia's investigation of the Church led her to do so as well. Jason Love, an LDS missionary on assignment to Connecticut, took an interest in this amazing young woman. Though young men on mission are admonished not to think about romance, the two found each other when Mia later moved to Salt Lake City. They were married, and here the story might have ended with Mia Love, mother of three, but for the bugs.

When she and her husband moved to a new neighborhood at the North end of Utah Lake, they found that the lake's midge flies were a real problem. She became a champion for the cause of getting the neighborhood sprayed for bugs! When the Supreme Court considered removing the phrase: "Under G-d" from the Pledge of Allegiance, she became active in public affairs again. in 2003 she was elected to the Saratoga Springs City Council. In 2009 she ran for mayor. She got sixty percent of the vote.

Running for Congress in Utah's Fourth District, Love again made history in this past election. She's the first black Republican Congresswoman, but there is more to her story. She has attained these milestones for Americans of Haitian ancestry in the United States as well. Love says of her earlier success: "I wasn’t elected in Saratoga Springs because of my race or my gender or my heels. I was elected by the people there because I had a plan and a vision to get us financially stable. Think about people like Martin Luther King. Imagine if he decided to fit into this mold that society told him to fit into. Imagine if he just listened to the government when they told him he was a second-class citizen.” Mia Love has already defied any effort to "mold" her. She will be a breath of fresh air when she takes her seat in Congress.

Boeing's Space Launch System

"Going to Mars is hard, but can you imagine the things that we're going to learn along the way?" -- Paisley Matthews, Boeing Program Integration Manager

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mr. Scott Goes to Washington

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIIa

Mr. Scott Goes to Washington

Like Jimmy Stewart's Mister Smith [click to view], Tim Scott was originally appointed to his seat by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the first ever Indian-American female governor. But in the 2014 election he went on to win the seat as he stood for reelection. The first African-American Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction, Scott has already made history. What most of the media will miss, however, is the fact that like Jefferson Smith in the Frank Capra movie; Scott has a vision for the youth of America!

We caught an Interview [click to listen] that Scott did with Jim Daley of Focus on the Family, and learned that Tim spent the first part of his life growing up on Air Force Bases and was raised by his single mother when his father left. Mom worked a double shift as a nurse and struggled to provide for her family. Young Tim struggled in school, failing at many of his subjects. He might have never risen past his beginnings but he found a friend. He got a job working at Chick-fil-A and the store's operator took young Tim under his wing. John Moniz was the man's name. Scott remembers: "He started teaching me that if you don't like where you are, don't blame your father, if he's not around. Don't blame your mom, because she's working so hard. Look in the mirror and blame yourself. And he started teaching me this notion of individual responsibility at a very core level. He didn't pound it into my head. He simply on a consistent and continuous basis showed me what it meant to be responsible and second, encouraged me that the best was yet to come."

Moniz died at 38 when Scott was only 19, but the seed he had planted took root. Scott went on to apply himself to his studies with renewed purpose. He served in the United States Congress before he was appointed Senator. He now has a vision to bring about an even greater sense of E pluribus unum. He says: "I'm working with Cory Booker, who is a Democrat senator, much more liberal than I am, probably as liberal as I am conservative. We found solid ground on apprenticeship programs. We're going to work together on, I believe, charter schools and educational remedies that will provide solutions. We're looking for ways to look at the justice system and create a better path, help people avoid it." Here is the bipartisanship many long for. Scott and Booker have found common ground in an issue close to Scott's heart, the next generation!

Scott has a unique approach to what it means to him to represent his constituents: "See what the need is. I did something called "The Undercover Senator" for the last several months. I worked at the Goodwill side by side, not as a senator. I put on some jeans and some clothes and just went and worked. I worked at a burrito restaurant. I bagged groceries, so I would have the experience of talking to folks. I rode the public transportation system undercover, so that I could ask the question. "What do you need? What are you lookin' for? What are you expecting out of your life?" Hunger for opportunity, devastating educational experiences. So, too often and I would say 8 out of 10 times, the person barely finished high school or did not. This is a major component to solving poverty from my role in government. It's not how much more can we give. It's how do you prepare the foundation? The foundation besides faith and family is education."

Scott encourages all who will listen: "It you find the root, the tap root to prosperity, you can solve poverty. Fight poverty doesn't seem to work. Creating a path to prosperity I believe will help us solve the problem of poverty."

The friendship extended to him by John Moniz inspires Tim Scott's deepest longing for more people to become mentors, stepping out of their isolation and into their larger communities: "I think we need to "intracountry" mission work. That would be one of the challenges I would submit that would be a life-changing experience for folks. We went around. So, first thing you would do in my opinion is go visit those areas that you're not accustomed to visiting. [1.]

Photos Around Staunton

Good Shepherd Church was designed in the style of a simple country church. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The firm of T. J. Collins incorporated some Celtic elements in the design. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Detail of the original altar carving. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The Forgotten Season

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. -- Isaiah 40:3-5

Isaiah the Prophet writes with great expectation of the coming Messiah. Our December 17th issue will explore the wonder more as we look at the wonder of both nature and her Creator... and His wonderful love for us, His creation.
(to be continued)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

THYME Magazine Special Advent Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIII

The Forgotten Season

The turkey leftovers were still cooling when the much media hyped 'Black Friday' events began. In a Long Island Wal Mart, a young associate was trampled to death as bargain hunters literally broke down the doors. A young man had to die because twenty dollars could be saved on flatscreens. Managers closed the store and someone actually was irate that he couldn't get in. Come on, if a colleague has died, its 'Game Over' on the shopping frenzy. Close the store and try to help the poor man's significant others. To hell with reopening for the remainder of the day! Management reopened the store at one o'clock that afternoon. Satirical publication 'The Onion' came out with a story where thousands were 'reported' to have died in Black Friday shopping. I did not find it funny. One death to satisfy the greed gods is too many. Our prayers go out to the family and friends of this young man. May they find comfort.

Lost in the madness of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and yes, even Small Business Saturday is the wonderful celebration of Advent. The high churches still celebrate it. It is a time of waiting and preparation for the miracle to come. It is so un-modern! It ties us to history. The traditions of Judaism are full of waiting. Abraham and Sarah saw the child of promise when they were way past the age of child bearing. I sometimes think of one-hundred year old Sarah as a preschool parent and join her in her laughter! Then there was Joseph and his imprisonment, followed by hundreds of years of exile in Egypt. We often think about the Promised Land, but we forget that all Promised Lands seem to require a prep!

In fact, there came a time when people forgot the lessons of the brick kilns and lost the Promised Land to the Babylonians and the Persians. The Temple, center of worship, was destroyed. But it was in this time of living as expats that the community of the Synagogue strengthened the people anew. Ezra and Nehemiah presided over a return to the land of promise. Again, the promise required a prep. As the exiles built the prosperity of Persia, they prepared themselves for the time when they would build their own.

A second Temple was built. The exiles returned. Then came the great empires of the Greeks and the Romans. The Temple was rebuilt, but the heavy hand of Roman rule presided over a time of trouble. Many looked to the future Messiah to put things aright. Indeed, there were many who claimed to BE Messiah. They came and went. But in a time when Heaven seemed so distant, there came another child of promise... to a couple way past child bearing. John the Baptist, a "Voice crying in the wilderness," came saying: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." At the same season of history, his mother Elizabeth's cousin Mary came to visit.

Mary had been visited by an angel and told that she, a virgin, would bear the child of promise. Though this was an incredible blessing, she faced the prospect of unwed motherhood... in a culture that stoned you for it. Her betrothed, however, had also been given a message from Heaven, that he should take her for his wife. What incredible faith and love! When I chose my Confirmation name, as a boy, I took the name Joseph. It was not that I ever thought I could match such selfless love, but that I so admired it! Even to this day, some of the people I admire the most are those men who have stepped into the lives of children they did not physically father, and yet have earned the name Dad nonetheless! These men live as both an example and a challenge to me. Some of them are my juniors in years, but they far surpass in their maturity!

Such are the lessons we miss if we merely content ourselves with instant gratification. There is an old saying: "Rome wasn't built in a day." Indeed our own nation cast off from its sure position as an English colony to pursue an uncertain future. In 1812 England returned to burn the young country's capital. The White House is so called because its sandstone outer walls had to be painted after the burning left them permanently blackened. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, however, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building great ships to strengthen Bristol's trade with America. A hundred years after barely surviving her revolution, the nation we know had taken her place as a world power.

Why Advent is Important to Artists [click to read]

We do well to celebrate Advent, though it is largely forgotten in the popular narrative, because it causes us to pause and prepare. In a world where preparation is limited to four years it does us good to remember the lessons of centuries. Advent allows us to step back from our busy lives and ponder timeless truths... like the man that the Bethlehem baby grew to be. He too died, some say on a Friday, but his death was not just his own. Did He indeed carry the sins of the world? The account of His Resurrection causes us to ponder mysteries far greater than ourselves and our puny wants. In our next issue of THYME we will ponder more wonders and present some compelling evidence that we should indeed consider the life of this man. (to be continued)

Photos Around Staunton

Snow highlights this house in Staunton, Virginia, designed by noted architect T. J. Collins. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The firm of T. J. Collins also designed The Church of the Good Shepherd which was built in 1924. The sanctuary originally had oil lamps. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Isn't this a great message! When I saw this, I smiled back!  
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Paul Smith's Typewriter Art

A man with severe cerebral palsy creates amazing compositions on a typewriter!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THYME Magazine: Special Thanksgiving Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXII

Thanksgiving is Good for You

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” -- Psalm 100:4-5 NIV

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] once featured the story: "Why ANXIETY is Good for You." We at THYME see this one a bit differently. In the Bible, Philippians 4:6 exhorts us NOT to be anxious. Rather we are to view our needs in light of our relationship to a loving G-d. Indeed, our requests are presented in light of the gratitude we feel as we consider the goodness and provision to be found in the Divine.

Fitting thoughts as we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving. These are indeed anxious times, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the general angst of the period we live in. History tells us of Divine promise and fulfillment. The Patriarchs piled up stones to remind them of G-d's faithfulness in the past and to keep them faithful as they waited to see His faithfulness in their present lives.

And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee." -- Deuteronomy 27:2-3
Indeed, one must recount the stories of how G-d met needs in times past. One must also tell of the promises of G-d. Faith needs fuel, and Gratitude is the substance that makes our faith burn bright, even in the darkest of times.

Standing on the Promises [1.]

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of G-d.
Standing, standing,
standing on the promises of Christ my Savior;
standing, standing,
I'm standing on the promises of G-d.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of G-d I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of G-d.

3. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love's strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword,
standing on the promises of G-d.

4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit's call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of G-d.

The staff of THYME wish you a most blessed Thanksgiving!

The 'Common Course and Condition' 
America's First Experiment with Socialism

When the Pilgrims first set up their economic system in Plymouth they opted for a system where all the results of their labor were held in common. All of the colonists then drew from the common store what they lived on. The Common Course and Condition, as this system was called, resulted in some bad feelings on the part of those who produced effectively and some lack of initiative on the part of those who were happy to have the food without the work.

The system produced constant shortages and a man who rose early and worked diligently came quite naturally to resent his neighbor who slept in and contributed less effort. Friction was high among the colonists and in 1623 Governor William Bradford declared the common course a failure.

The colonists were next assigned plots by families. Larger families were given larger plots. Everyone was responsible for the production of his own land and growing food for his own family. The results were notable. Far more crops were planted and tended. There was plenty instead of shortage and all in response to this new sense of ownership.

Church Found where 
Pocohantas was Married

Her eyes meet yours as you enter the Virginia Executive Mansion. A young girl from days long ago, yet her presence in the foyer immediately captured my attention. There are two portraits of Pocahontas in the room, one in English clothing (below) and the more familiar rendering seen above.

Pocahontas's formal names were Matoaka (or Matoika) and Amonute. Pocahontas is a childhood name that perhaps referred to her playful nature. After her marriage to John Rolfe, she was known as Rebecca Rolfe.

Archeologists say that they have Discovered the Church [click to read] where Pocahontas married Jamestown planter John Rolfe.

Harvest Hymn Written 
in 1844 by Henry Alford

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” is a harvest hymn written in 1844 by Henry Alford. It is often sung to the tune “St. George's Windsor” by George Job Elvey. So I created this in light of Thanksgiving to remind us of what we should really be thankful for. Two of my photos are overlayed with the text of the hymn added." -- Kristina Elaine Riley Photo Graphic by Kristina Elaine Riley

View Larger Image [click to view].

Saturday, November 22, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Vision of Charles Carroll

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIa

The Vision of Charles Carroll

July 4, 1828 the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence took part in an important ceremony as he turned the first spade of earth at the symbolic laying of the first stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Fifty-two years after he put his name to the document that began our nation, Charles Carroll of Carrollton participated in an event that looked to her future. Indeed, inspired by the Ellicott Brothers [click to read], Carroll had already diversified agriculture on his large estate in Howard County, Maryland. He had helped build flour mills and limestone mills that in turn helped to create a more sustainable agriculture. The Quaker Ellicotts had migrated to this "picturesque wilderness" from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and partnered with Carroll, a Catholic, to move the region away from single crop plantations and enrich the soil with ground limestone, a practice that continues to this day. Now the ninety year old patriot was breaking ground for the prototype railroad. It was not exactly like the modern rails on cross ties we are familiar with, but rather iron straps laid on top of two continuous granite "curbs." The first motive power was horsepower. Horses actually pulled the carriages along the rails. A wind powered wicker car was even experimented with before the famous "Tom Thumb" steam engine gave challenge to a horse drawn train carriage in the now legendary race. [2.]

I consider this among the most important acts of my life, second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence, if even it be second to that.” Carroll said of the moment. The stone, laid in a field outside Baltimore, was also a time capsule, into which were placed a copy of the company's charter, newspapers of the day and a scroll bearing the words: "This Stone is deposited in commemoration of the commencement of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. A work of deep and vital interest to the American people. Its accomplishment will confer the most important benefits upon this nation, by facilitating its commerce, diffusing and extending its social intercourse, and perpetuating the happy Union of these, Confederated States. The first general meeting of the citizens of Baltimore to confer upon the adoption of proper measures for undertaking this magnificent work, was on the second day of' February 1827…” [1.]

The railroad would eventually do all of these things as a vast nation would be joined together by her steel rails. The Nineteenth Century would see her span from sea to sea to become a country her founders could scarcely have imagined!

Charles Carroll had been born in September 1737 in Annapolis. He attended Jesuit colleges in Maryland and France, before going on to study law in Paris and London. In 1765 he returned to Howard County and took charge of the Carroll family's vast estate there. Catholics in Maryland before independence were not allowed to participate in politics, practice law or vote, but Carroll became influential as a writer of tracts against taxation without representation under the pseudonym "First Citizen." In 1776 he was appointed to the Continental Congress. Although he was not present for the vote for independence, he was one of the first signers. He added the distinct identifier: "of Carrollton" to distinguish himself from a number of relatives having the same name. After independence was won, Carroll became a Maryland State Senator in 1777 and eventually became a United States Senator representing that state.

In 1800 he left political service and was instrumental in building canals and the establishment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. His farm in Howard County became a model of improvements in agriculture. He died in Baltimore in 1835 at the age of 95.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THYME Magazine: Essential Knowledge III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXI

Essential  Knowledge III

Does the human condition indeed require Faith to sustain it? I write from that perspective in this essay, but there are those who would disagree. Indeed there is fresh argument to the effect that human compassion  can (and indeed DOES) exist apart from Faith. Leaving the Sciences vs science arguements of the past, a new study from the University of California, Berkley, suggests that Compassion Moves the Non-Religious [click to read] more than the people of Faith. A closer look would not necessarily discredit the compassion of the faithful, but identify the top motivator in the life of a person who's life is not characterized by Faith.

"Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not," explained Robb Willer, co-author of the study and UC Berkeley social psychologist. "The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns." -- Laura Saslow, Researcher

Saslow goes on to say that it is more likely that the person of Faith will cite Religious teaching as the reason for his or her actions. The person who professes NO belief will indeed cite compassion by default. Atheists often cite the observed lack or compassion they see in religious people as one reason they chose not to believe. For me the study has deeper implications. I remember Bertrand Russell's wrestling with the meaning of life:

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be safely built. -- Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man's Worship, 1903)

In despair, one still reaches out to find an anchor. A soul adrift still seeks safe harbor. Conscience still leads us to the safe waters of compassion... even as we dismiss it as a simple evolution necessary for the survival of the species, that anchor becomes MORE important because we find nothing else to tie our rope to. The first irony implicit in the role of despair is that for many of us this was the point where we began our discipleship IN the Faith. Though those who want to deny Faith will undoubtedly reference obscure similarities to now extinct ancient religions to obfuscate the beacon that I follow, I humbly offer that compassion finds its roots in some very clearly marked repositories. Winston Churchill said it best: "There is no better hope than Christ's principles in the Sermon on the Mount!" Wallace Henley [click to read] writes:

"Everyone on the planet has a worldview. Those who understand reality through a biblical view know transformation is the fundamental issue. "Where do wars come from?" asks James, rhetorically. They come from our lusts and passions. We desire power and possessions, and we enter conflicts to satisfy those perceived needs.

Biblically formed thinkers are the ultimate realists. While many in the world try to find other explanations for "irrational" human behavior whether in the form of nations or individuals, those who embrace the Bible's worldview know the bottom line: "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

Then follows the question: What worldview can really bring human transformation that benefits the rest of the world? Certainly not a belief system that advocates intimidation, manipulation, condemnation, and domination to force global allegiance.

Suddenly the Christ towers in our precarious moment: the Christ who taught us to love our enemies, to be harmless as doves but simultaneously wise as serpents, to lead as servants, the Christ who renews the human mind, and who gives us a whole new way of seeing and living."

Alvin Schmidt concurs with Henley. In his book: Under the Influence [click to read], Schmidt documents well the roots of much of what the world today calls "Compassion," in the revelation of the Divine. The Berkley study first referenced finds two reasons for action: compassion (usually for those one feels empathy with), and doctrine. What if pure doctrine expands compassion? Consider those early Christians who pulled discarded babies out of the Tiber River and cared for them. What about the Righteous Gentiles who risked their own lives to protect their Jewish Neighbors from the Holocaust?

In fact Jesus once asked: "Who is my neighbor?" in Luke chapter 10. The lesson he proceeded to teach did just that... EXPANDED the reach of compassion! Jesus was always embracing lepers and talking with people he wasn't supposed to... like WOMEN. In a world where the (self) righteous man would pray, thanking the Divine that he had not been born a Gentile, a Slave or a Woman, Jesus brought the message of promise to all three, as well as to the House of Israel. IMAGO DEI was a non-negotiable concept  for the carpenter from Gallilee.

A very sad story was seen in the Washington Post recently. It was about a 19th Century home for unwed mothers where the bodies of hundreds of discarded children had been buried. The story went on to explain the distain the surrounding community had for the "home babies." They mainly died from neglect. The picture of the building's exterior bore a chilling resemblance to a Müller home, but here the resemblance ends. Where Müller saw IMAGO DEI, the administrators of this facility saw only the children's unwantedness. Today the household of Faith extends compassion in ministry to unwed mothers and their unborn babies.

Expanding compassion might well take the same reporter who investigated this home to shudder at the case of Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic in Pennsylvania. Where Gosnell saw only unwantedness, we are challenged to see IMAGO DEI! That is the challenge, and the destination we have arrived at... a personal challenge to expand the vision of compassion, directed by the Divine!

America's Foundational Values

Saturday, November 15, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Legacy of Caesar Rodney

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXa

Caesar Rodney's Midnight Ride

Now one was neither Tory nor Whig; it was either dependence or independence.” Caesar Rodney, after Lexington and Concord.

We all know the famous story of Paul Revere's midnight ride. Virginians celebrate the memory of Jack Jouett, who rode to Monticello to warn Thomas Jefferson of approaching British troops.Jefferson and the Virginia Legislature were able to escape across the Blue Ridge Mountains to Staunton. Still, the most memorable midnight ride that saved the young republic has to be that of Caesar Rodney. Without Rodney's ride, there would not have been a republic at all.

Caesar Rodney was born in 1728 on his family's 800 acre farm, Byfield, on St. Jones Neck in East Dover Hundred, Kent County, Delaware. The family could trace its ancestry to the Adelmare family of Treviso, Italy. Caesar Rodney's farm was a large one, worked by slaves, and it provided wheat and barley to markets in Philadelphia. His brother Thomas described him as possessing a: "great fund of wit and humor of the pleasing kind, so that his conversation was always bright and strong and conducted by wisdom... He always lived a bachelor, was generally esteemed, and indeed very popular." Indeed, his talents found him taking his place in public service. He served as sheriff and in a number of other positions. He joined Thomas McKean as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and was the Brigadier General of the Delaware Militia. He went on to serve in the Continental Congress.

Here is where he made his most courageous contribution to the cause of American independence. In 1776 the vote to adopt the Declaration saw the Delaware delegation deadlocked. This was a problem as the delegates to the convention had decided that an all or nothing approach was essential. Of Delaware's two present delegates Mckean favored independence. The other delegate, George Read, did not. Rodney, who was also qualified to vote, was at home performing his duties as General of the militia when the initial voting took place. Mckean had sent word to Rodney that his vote would be needed in Philadelphia... but the message never got to him. Rodney was a bachelor and his love interest at the time was being used by the Tories to divert his participation! She was intercepting the messages! By the time McKean's message finally got to Rodney, the first deadlocked vote had already taken place and it was well into the evening. Rodney mounted his horse and rode through a great thunderstorm along the muddy road to Philadelphia. Lightning illuminated the wet road as he sloshed along as rapidly as conditions would allow. For seventy miles he rode.

Rodney was not a well man. He suffered from a rare form of cancer that disfigured his face and sapped his strength. No doubt he knew the ride could kill him, but he pressed on. He was committed to an act of treason that might lead to his death if he did survive. But he pressed on through the darkness. He reached Philadelphia by mid-morning. Spattered with mud, he stepped into the chamber just in time to cast his historic vote. Now the votes by all colonies who actually voted was unanimous! The framers rightly considered this essential to the success of the Declaration. Without Caesar Rodney's heroic ride, there would have not been a July 4th for us to celebrate! Rodney served in the war effort, even fighting alongside George Washington, who said of him: “The readiness with which you took to the field at the period most critical to our affairs, the industry you used in bringing out the militia of the Delaware State and the alertness observed by you in forwarding on the troops from Trenton, reflect the highest honor on your character and place your attachment to the cause in a most distinguished point of view.” As a young republic took its place in the world, Rodney continued to serve but his health was now rapidly declining. He died in 1784. [1.]

His legacy lives on today though. My friend Brandy Mason and her four sons are proud descendents of this great patriot and continue his mission to promote the values of this great nation to this day! Special thanks to her for providing additional background for this article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THYME Magazine: Essential Knowledge II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XX

Essential Knowledge II

Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:

And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your G-d into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.

And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day. -- Joshua 4:5-9

The importance of passing foundational truth from generation to generation is seen not only in the prescribed feasts, but in the history of the people of Israel as well. Add to that the fact that most young people were taught their trade by their parents and you see a pattern that only recent centuries have diverted from. One of my relatives opined recently that we, the Church, do youth ministry wrong. "We create a separate space designed to woo them with 'their' music and amusement." Consider that last word for a minute: A-muse! It could be translated: "without thinking." Are we trying to entertain our children into the Church rather than inviting them into the Sacred Wonders? Last week we saw Maggie transformed as she learned the old hymns. The unique fellowship she found did acknowledge her world, but expanded upon it. Maggie found herself enriched by the depth of Sam's circle of friends.

Young people need to know that the sacred things are theirs as well. They are not the "Church of the Future," they are a part of what G-d is doing now. They need to participate in our worship and ministry now. I love it when young people are able to help take up the offering, sing special music and even share there testimonies in the midst of the congregation. Our culture offers so much AMUSEMENT. In fact, if we major in offering amusement to our youth, they will graduate from the Church as they graduate from high school... and will seek out better AMUSEMENT. But consider for a moment the church full of older Mennonites we looked at last week. They did not offer amusement; instead they offered extended family and that was what the youth in their neighborhood longed for.

It is a well documented phenomenon that young men join gangs because they need family. Their initiation cements a bond with others that is otherwise lacking in their culture. Drugs and violence simply are an extension of this identification with their new brethren. How sad that this exists as such a counterfeit of what is available in the house of Faith! Yet it is obvious that the Church does not seem to do too well at creating such family. Some ignore it all together, but it seems that many churches simply create a program. They may fail miserably in this, or have horrible experiences, concluding that such ministry is not for them. Conversely, they may create a dynamic program that attracts large numbers (at least for a time) and go on to write the book on how they do it better. But there is, perhaps, a better way.

The elderly congregation we looked at last week started with earnest prayer. When G-d seemed to be speaking to them they listened. Then they looked to see what G-d might be doing in their own neighborhoods. When they saw Divine appointments they responded, having prepared themselves with prayer and an understanding of those they sought to minister to. They watched G-d build relationships and the ministry flowed out of that. It was such a work of the Divine that they couldn't write a 'how to' manual. (They COULD, of course, share much information on some of the practical aspects such as maintaining safety and trust).

(to be continued).

Heaven: Message by Billy Graham

Saturday, November 8, 2014

THYME Magazine: The 2014 Election

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XIXa

The 2014 Election, What It Means

What follows, to be honest, is an open letter to all in public office, and the media as well. The people have indeed spoken. At first glance it may be noted that Republicans now hold the majority in both the Senate and the House. On further examination it becomes clear that Conservative energy has come into play and indeed there has been a sound repudiation of the policies of Barack Hussein Obama. Now that real Americans have seen what is in the bill that according to Nancy Pelosi, "We have to pass to see what's in it," they are rightly concerned. Real people are seeing premiums for health insurance going up and losing their coverage due to the "Affordable Care Act," and they went to the polls.

In Virginia, the race was close. Without a Libertarian candidate who took 53,000 votes, we likely would be celebrating the installation of Senator Gillespie. The Washington Post writes: "Exit polls provide powerful evidence he attracted enough Republican protest votes to swing the election for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. The Libertarian’s 53,000 voters mostly came from younger voters, particularly white males, unhappy with President Obama’s leadership. They generally leaned independent. Very few (almost none, in fact) were Democrats. But a good chunk did label themselves Republicans." [1.] 

Here there should be powerful evidence that the third party protest vote inevitably becomes a vote for the Democrat Party. Here we must marvel at a party that can hold the vote of both young Gender Feminists and Multiculturalists promoting Shariah Law! (a REAL War on Women). A party who claims to represent the middle class because they are strongly supported by the unions, yet blocks projects like the Keystone Pipeline and offshore energy exploration in Virginia... projects that would create REAL middle class prosperity. Aided by a fawning media, they successfully spin their stories of the so-called "War on Women," while their economic policies actually create more poverty for REAL working single women! With an honest media it is likely that there would be a Democrat protest vote to cancel out the Republican one.

Media, YOU are the big losers in this election. Americans are getting information from other places and more and more of them are concerned with REAL issues, not the made-up ones. Americans want fiscal responsibility and limited government. They want REAL solutions to the rising cost of medical care, but not concentration of power at the Federal level. They want REAL economic prosperity and the opportunity of our country for their children. Americans may prefer to mingle with people of their own background but they LOVE the truth of E PLURIBUS UNUM... Out of Many, One! Thus more and more of them are rejecting the tired old race politics of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. America has long provided opportunity for the minority and the newly-arrived legal immigrant.

We value our Religious Freedom. We value are freedom to speak our mind and we value the essential message of the Second Amendment: Government is NOT the ultimate power, but is only given power by the consent of the people. I wonder how many sixties activists have actually given thought to how the Founders were there first when it came to the thought: "Power to the People?" We do NOT "hate" our gay neighbors, but see no need to be compelled to perform wedding ceremonies for them or bake their wedding cakes if it indeed violates our conscience. Many of us are concerned about the killing of millions of unborn babies by abortion. We are not "Anti-woman" for supporting the right of unborn women to live! For many of us, "In G-d We Trust" is more than a motto, it is the way we live. We resent the marginalization of Faith because someone "might be offended." We think it is actually quite silly to go around trying to remove references to the Divine, especially if you are convinced He doesn't exist!

We humbly ask you in political office and in the media to simply do your job, and honestly represent us!

Mia Love, the first black Republican woman in Congress. Here's what Mia Love said in her victory speech: "President Obama's version of America is a divided one -- pitting us against each other based on our income level, gender, and social status. His policies have failed!"

Tim Scott, the first elected black senator from the South since reconstruction.

Promoting HEALING: Clergy United in Ferguson, Missouri.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

THYME Magazine: Essential Knowledge I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XIX

Essential Knowledge

Never before in history have we been surrounded by more information. Never before have we wanted so severely for essential knowledge!

It is easy and simplistic to lament the replacement of  "old" communications technology with new. In a way that misses the real point. Yes, I can use a search engine to find just about any published fact I want to know. Yes I can search for and look at thousands of news stories. Still a friend of mine lamented that real investigative journalism is sorely lacking these days. Very little 'reporting' gets very far beneath the surface. "There's not the money for it;" he opined. We are likely to hear over and over again what a handful of 'experts' think happened to a missing Malaysian airliner while no one bothers to lay out the background of the situation in Ukrania. In fact, on election night in 2008, we hear reporters celebrate the election of 'their' candidate, Obama, and almost in the same breath they admit: "We know very little about him.!"

There is no excuse for that. Bill Ayers helped him write a book and if you really wanted to understand the man who would be President, all you had to do was read it. Read in the context of who his parents and mentors were, it would tell you exactly what anti-colonial principles drove him. Vetting a Presidential candidate, even one who did NOT have an average American childhood, going instead to a Muslim school in Indonesia, is not rocket science. [1.]

But even more disturbing than the inability to investigate a candidate is the inability to pass along to our next generation the foundational truths our society and our great nation were built on.

I watched a little movie this past weekend that nicely packaged a bit of very important truth in an unlikely medium. It spoke of how the Divine is able to speak into a life through a simple interaction between two human beings. The movie, The Letter Writer shows how one person can speak the truth of Imago Dei into the life of another.

The Letter Writer (2011) puts essential knowledge in a new perspective using a most traditional medium.

Lessons from The Letter Writer

I use modern technology for a lot of my communications. This is no Luddite rant against it. The printing press was once new technology and it put the Bible in the hands of the people. I can read the Holy Scriptures on my Iphone now. I also communicate with family using it. FaceTime with my granddaughter is a great blessing. Facebook helps me pray for those close to me. Smugmug is the family photo album we can all share. Yet, when my young friend and colleague and her fiancee graduated from college recently, I felt a REAL card was in order. Clicking the 'LIKE' button does lack the personal touch that paper and ink provide.

This is the wonderful discovery that Maggie Fuller makes as she receives a mysterious letter from someone she does not know. Tracking down the source brings Maggie into a wonderful journey discovering how her life can serve as a beacon to others. The young singer tracks down the letter writer and finds an unlikely community of mentorship in love and servanthood. Her Epiphany comes about as she joins her new friends in singing Henry Alford's famous hymn: Come Ye Thankful People, Come [click to read more]. The story speaks of how truth and values can and should be passed from one generation to another. Unrealistic? A lot of secular critics dismissed the film and its message, but think of how Jewish culture places the transferal of great truth in the context of the Passover Meal. Think of the Redemptive message of the celebration of the Eucharist.

Walking with my little granddaughter on the tree shaded campus of the nearby college, I find myself humming the tune of Come Ye Thankful People, Come. She smiles as I show her squirrels and bright flowers. Is the message of the movie really so unrealistic? Our Pastor shared with us the story of a little church in our denomination (Mennonite) that prayed for a vision of what G-d might do through them... not a program that THEY would do, but the true seeking of an opportunity to allow G-d to work through them. Through much prayer they felt drawn to minister to the youth of their community. There was a problem, however, as the YOUNGEST member of the congregation was in her sixties!

They shared the vision with their Pastor and continued to pray. There was NO WAY this congregation was ever going to pull off the youth coffee house type of outreach or anything of the kind! But a funny thing happened. The older people, now with enlarged vision for the young people in their neighborhoods, found themselves building relationships where once they might have been saying: "Keep off my grass!" Kids started conversing with older neighbors. Gradually they ventured onto the front porch. Eventually they were enjoying warm cookies and milk in the kitchen. These kids didn't need another youth-centered event, they needed some FAMILY!... and that is just what the church was able to give them.

(to be continued)