Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME0914
Volume IX, Issue XIV

The Ministry of Building Things

I'll bet if I asked you to think of some different types of ministry and ways to build the Kingdom of G-d, you probably wouldn't think of Economic Development. Pastor Tim Keller, in his book: Resources for Deacons, sees it clearly as a part of the Diaconal ministry. Our church helps women in Zambia get sewing machines. To be sure, the gift of the ability to earn their living as seamstresses is an act of ministry to these ladies.

But think bigger! THYME presents the story of how a nation turned from a great evil and one city suffered greatly in doing so. G-d provided a provider! Then G-d provided provision for the provider by inspiring great innovation that came to revitalize that great city. Should we dare to pray for such innovation and inspiration in our own day?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
What a Nineteenth Century Innovator Can Teach Us Now
© 2013 The Kirchman Studio, All rights reserved.

They say that the condition for a miracle is difficulty, but the condition for a great miracle is impossibility” -- Angus Buchan, “G-d's Farmer”

When William Wilberforce [1.] had ended the slave trade in the British Empire, he had thrown the city of Bristol, England into economic depression. The port there was heavily devoted to that wretched business and suffered heavily when it was brought to a sudden halt. The unintended consequence had been a rise in children condemned to a life of poverty. Ending the vile business of enslaving Africa's children had resulting in England's society spurning the needs of her own. Into this world came George Müller [2.], who, relying on faith in G-d alone, provided redemption for thousands of orphans. Many of these children were cast-offs of a society in economic despair.

George Müller [3.] had seen the wretched street urchins most people despised as jewels to be polished. Muller, relying solely on Divine provision, built five large houses for Orphans at Ashley Downs in Bristol, England. He trained the girls to be nurses, teachers, clerical workers and domestics. He apprenticed all the boys in various trades. He was excoriated for training these unwanted children "above their station." He ignored the critics.

Müller looked to G-d alone, but Bristol needed an outfowing of Divine provision to provide for her children. G-d's provision for Bristol was to come in the form of inspiration and innovation, embodied in the work of a young pioneer of civil engineering. He also ignored his critics.

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Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge became the symbol of the City of Bristol.

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Building the Great Western Railway.

In 1831, 24 year old Isambard Kingdom Brunel [4.] was awarded a contract to bridge the Avon Gorge. It was the dream of a prosperous wine merchant who provided the initial funding. The completed bridge would become the symbol of the city, but lack of funding dogged the project. It took thirty years to complete it. For years only the towers stood completed. In 1833 Brunel began work on the Great Western Railway, which would become the instrument of Bristol's economic revitalization. The nicknames: "Great Way Round" and "G-d's Wonderful Railway" seem to describe well Brunel's great work.

Brunel was an innovator. He probably experienced as many failures as successes in his short lifetime. Born on April 9, 1806, the son of Sir Marc Brunel, he assisted his father in building a tunnel under the Thames. He would later become the resident engineer of that project. At twenty years of age, he designed a suspension bridge to cross the Avon river. A modified version of his plan was actually constructed.

At 26, Brunel was building the Great Western Railway, commissioned to maintain Bristol's importance as a port and position her for  trade with America. This wide-gauge railroad linked Bristol and Western regions of England to London. Bristol's prosperity as a port was assured and the work of Müller created solid citizens with strong spiritual foundations to benefit.

But Brunel was not content to simply build a better railway. He looked across the Atlantic, envisioning fleets of ocean greyhounds -- great steamships that would complete the linking of his Great Western Railway to America! The S. S. Great Britain was his creation. It was the first metal-hulled propeller-driven ocean ship and became the prototype for modern ocean liners.

Building the South Devon Railway as a spur to the Great Western, Brunel experimented with an alternative to steam engines -- Vacuum tube powered trains. Stationary vacuum plants evacuated tubes laid along the center of the track that powered the movement of trains.

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Brunel's 'Atmospheric Railway.'

The technology required the use of leather flaps to seal the vacuum pipes. The natural oils were drawn out of the leather by the vacuum, making the leather vulnerable to water, rotting it and breaking the fibres when it froze. It had to be kept supple with tallow, which is attractive to rats. The flaps were eaten, and vacuum operation lasted less than a year, from 1847 (experimental service began in September; operations from February 1848) to 10 September 1848.[45] It has been suggested that the whole project was an expensive flop. In Brunel's favour, it has been noted that he had the courage to call a halt to the venture instead of struggling on with it at greater cost." -- Wikipedia

Like alternative transportation prototypes of our day, the vacuum tube system was more expensive. The accounts of the SDR for 1848 show that atmospheric traction cost 3s 1d (three shillings and one penny) per mile compared to 1s 4d/mile for conventional steam power.Though considered a failure at the time, vacuum powered trains may have been a distant precursor to Evacuated Tube Technology [5.] which is now being developed to move entire transport capsules through large tubes -- essentially powered in the same way as Brunel's South Devon train. Brunel was simply two Centuries before his time on this.

What can we learn from Brunel today? Plenty! Inspiration and innovation are needed now as they were needed then. Brunel teaches us valuable lessons about expanding vision with proven technologies and wisely exploring alternatives (and abandoning them when they do not work as planned).

Praying people see the diaconate role of economic development as an integral part of G-d's provision. In “Resources for Deacons, Love Expressed Through Mercy Ministries,” [6.] Tim Keller states his belief in three “levels” of mercy in diaconal ministry:

The first Level Is Simple Relief: That is taking care of the immediate need.

The Second Level Is Economic Development: That is teaching the poor how to get out of poverty by teaching them how to handle money, property, etc. and furnishing them with the means to do so. “Not handouts, but ownership is the way to break the cycle of poverty.”

The Third Level Is Social Reform: Christians should be involved in the culture in an effort to change the social structure.

We see it very localized in a place like Zambia, where people of faith instruct widows to become seamstresses (and people in America gift them with sewing machines). But, can we believe G-d for ever greater inspiration? What vision would G-d give us for our family, our company of employment, our city and county... and beyond? Müller said "the age of miracles is not past." Angus Buchan [7.], in the turmoil of Zambia and South Africa, looked to G-d for inspiration. G-d met him in a corn field where he learned the power of prayer!

Buchan had packed his family up during the unrest in Zambia in the late 'seventies and moved them to South Africa. A successful farmer in Zambia, he felt that he would be happy if he could acquire another farm in South Africa. It didn't. Experiencing deep depression, Buchan was angry and confused. Wandering into a lay-witness Sunday at the local Methodist Church, Angus heard builders, tradesmen and fellow farmers tell of what Jesus meant in their lives. For the first time he saw men crying, he wept unashamedly himself as he responded to an altar call. He took the Lord seriously about the changed life promise.

Buchan went back to his farm and learned to pray in his own corn field. Then he sought to minister to his Zulu workers. His farm manager, Simeon Bhengu, told him: "that's women's religion..." But G-d met Angus and spoke through his friendship with Simeon. Today the men are brothers in faith and brothers in every way. "My children are his and his are mine." Angus says of his Zulu brother. Angus expanded his farming operations and G-d's miraculous provision was seen at every turn. The movie "Faith like Potatoes" is the true story of Angus Buchan and it is quite inspiring! Buchan used machinery but avoided totally mechanizing the farm, looking to provide steady employment to his Zulu neighbors.

In the early 1980's Buchan became aware of a new tragic development. AIDS was ravaging families and creating untold numbers of orphans. Buchan reached out to these orphans but had no place to house them. A local school had temporary classrooms they were going to demolish and Angus received permission to take them apart and reassemble them at Shalom, which he had named his complex at the farm. At first the children lived in dormitories but gradually Angus was able to create "houses" where one "mother" cared for a smaller number.

South Africa in her recent history has experienced much uncertainty and Buchan's experience is instructive as we look to address the turmoil in our own country today. Isambard Kingdom Brunel should serve as an inspiration as well.

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

Passover
Dogwood Flower. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Passover and Passion
Stories of Divine Redemption

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.

On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.

On all other nights, we don't dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline." [7.]

The meal begins with a child's questions. It is a celebration of Divine Redemption and it is told in the courses of the meal. This time of year is a special time of remembering G-d's hand in delivering his people! Remembering the hand of the Divine in our own lives and passing that knowledge along to our children is a Sacred thing. May this be a time of great blessing and significance for you.

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Dogwood Flowers. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME0913
Volume IX, Issue XIII: William Wilberforce (1759-1833).
Portrait by Karl Anton Heckel, 1794


Building the Kingdom II

The term Social Justice is often used in the discussion of finding solutions to societal problems today. Jonah Goldberg describes what it often means today in the following video. But, has the noble quest for human rights and dignity been hijacked from its original purpose? Is there a proper application in the building of the Kingdom of G-d? Today the term is largely associated with government intervention and redistribution, but that was not always the case.

Jamie Casler, Director of Trevecca Nazarine University's J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice [1.] believes there is indeed a place for Scriptural social justice, saying: "We draw our definition of social justice from the Scripture, not so much from the secular terminology, We try to be very careful to say we're about biblical social justice, not about secular social justice. What we call today 'social justice' the church has commonly called 'compassion ministries'-showing compassion to your neighbor and helping those in need." Casler seeks a return to the Church's role in fostering this sort of compassion.

Carlton Hayes wrote, "From the wellspring of Christian compassion, our Western civilization has drawn its inspiration, and its sense of duty, for feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, looking after the homeless, clothing the naked, tending the sick and visiting the prisoner." As one writer put it, missionaries and other Christians lived as if people mattered. Revolutionary!

Christianity exploded onto a brutal, heartless Greco-Roman culture. Believers in this radical new religion set a new standard for caring for the ill, downtrodden, and abused, even at risk of death. Through their transformed Christlike outlooks, they established countercultural ways that lead to later innovations: orphanages, hospitals, transcendent art and architecture, and systems of law and order based on fairness, to name a few. In the early church, every congregation had a list of needy recipients called a matriculum. Enormous amounts of charity were given. "Pagan society, through its excesses, teetered on the brink of extinction. Christianity, however, represented . . . a new way." [2.]

THYME presents here the lives of several reformers who's work was clearly rooted in the principles of Scripture.Their work should serve as a model for the building of the Kingdom in our own time.


Without foundations in timeless values, 'Social Justice' becomes simply an excuse for government intervention and redistribution.

The Abolition of Slavery
William Wilberforce

Born to privelege and prone to enjoy the pleasures his status afforded, William Wilberforce would have seemed an unlikely candidate for world changing reformer but G-d in his wisdom had bigger plans for the young dandy. He prepared himself for a life of politics while studying at St John's College, Cambridge.

Then, as now, religion was something considered good 'but not in excess.' Still Wilberforce found himself spiritually hungry and found faith. He sought out the council of John Newton, former slaver turned clergyman. Wilberforce was ready to forsake his place in Parliament to serve G-d but Newton convinced him that his service in Parliament could indeed be a great service to his Creator!

Wilberforce became convinced of two great missions: "the abolition of slavery and the reformation of manners." That is to say reform of society's priorities and treatment of people.

Wilberforce labored for almost half a century to end slavery in the British possessions. He pressed himself to exhaustion and stressed himself to the detriment of his health, but eventually he prevailed. The movie "Amazing Grace" tells of his life and gives a broader picture of the man. He was concerned about mistreatment of animals, healthcare, prison reform and a host of issues that press mankind still.

His work is far from finished. Human Trafficking [click to read] is an issue that modern day persons desiring to follow the lead of Wilberforce must step up to address.

Compassion for Orphans
The House that Faith Built Cared for Thousands

George Müller
George Müller.

What Can One Do, 
Motivated by G-d's Love?

Our small group has been discussing the book Crazy Love [1.] by Francis Chan. There is a brief mention of George Müller, the Nineteenth Century evangalist who is famous for his work with orphans. Müller's story begins in Prussia and continues as he comes to faith as a young man. Motivated by his love for G-d he moves away from some practices in the church such as 'renting' pews. In those days people of means would pay handsomely for the best seats and the Pastor would make a good living from these monies.

George Müller's love for G-d soon moved him to reliance on G-d. When he came to take a church in Bristol, England he declined the salary. He wanted to show people how vast and great G-d really is by trusting Him for his supply. Müller prayed and told his needs to no one, then ministered to the needs of his congregation. When his needs were supplied he gave G-d the glory. In times of waiting for supply he gave G-d the glory.

Seeing the needs of orphan children, George Müller went to his knees on their behalf and G-d provided the means for him to care for them. He eventually built five orphan houses and never once made an appeal for money!

We often read of how G-d worked in the lives of the saints of old. We read Hebrews 11 and see how men and women motivated by the love of G-d lived out that love, but with George Müller's story we have photographs. Here are some old post card views of the orphan house at Ashly Down, built in 1849.

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Nineteenth Century rendering of the house at Ashly Down.

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The house at Ashly Down.

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Children at Ashly Down.

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Children at Ashly Down received education and training for future employment. the day started at 6am for the orphans, normal forworking-class children of Victorian times.

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While boys would be placed in apprenticeships at age 14, the young ladies would remain until 17. They received training to be Nurses, Teachers and Domestic Servants [as the group in maids' uniforms above].

More on the Life of George Müller [click to read].

The George Müller Foundation [click to read].

Redefining 'Social Justice' [click to read] from World Magazine.

Beck vs Wallis [click to read]. More thoughts on 'Social Justice.'

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The house at Ashly Down today. Although the building might seem austere by today's standards it featured high ceilings and three hundred large windows [all donated by a window maker]. By Victorian standards it was a bright environment.

The Story of George Müller
One Man's Journey of Faith Changed History

George was born in Prussia on September 27, 1805 and was in college studying to be a preacher when he became a Christian. In those days some young men saw preaching as a well paying job, not necessarily as a service to G-d. The University at Halle, where young George was studying was a place where one could find bad company.

His father was a tax collector for the government. He gave George a lot of money, and he spent it very foolishly. Young Mueller was known for his wild out of control lifestyle, But his life was transformed when he came to know Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" -- 2 Cor. 5:17

Müller turned from his old ways but still struggled in his desire to follow Christ. He finished his studies and headed for England to begin his career as a preacher.

Soon after coming to England Müller received a deeper Christian experience which entirely revolutionized his life. He became very ill and was at the point of death when he saw what a bad life he had led but realized all his sins were completely forgiven -- that he was washed and made clean, completely clean, in the blood of Jesus. The result of this was great peace. "I longed exceedingly to depart and to be with Christ..." he wrote.

He was sick for two weeks. Then his Doctor said he was better. He was sad. "I wanted to be in Heaven with the Lord, but he gave me grace to do his will.”

He became pastor of Ebenezer Chapel in Devonshire. His marriage to Miss Mary Groves, a Devonshire lady,followed. Their married life was a very happy one.

In those days the church ”rented” pews to the people. Rich families would pay for the best seats while the poorer brother sat in the far corner. Large salaries were paid to the minister.

George did not think this right. He ended the practice of collecting pew rent in his chirch and forsook a salary. He stated that he would look to the Lord he served to meet his needs, not to men.

He and his wife told their needs to no one but the Lord. Occasionally reports were spread that they were starving; but though at times their faith was tried, their income was greater than before. He and his wife gave away freely all that they had above their present needs, and trusted the Lord for their "daily bread."

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith:as it is written, The just shall live by faith." -- Romans 1:17

He and his wife eventually settled in Bristol, England, where they saw many orphans roaming the streets -- uncared for, unfed, often sick, and virtually guaranteed death at a young age. At this time writers like Charles Dickens and William Blake had not yet brought attention to the plight of these children, and NOTHING was being done to help them.

Müller began his labors in Bristol in 1832, as co-pastor with his friend Mr. Craik, who had been called to that city. Without salaries or rented pews their labors were greatly blessed at Gideon and Bethesda Chapels. The membership more than quadrupled in numbers in a short time. Ten days after the opening of Bethesda there was such a crowd of persons inquiring the way of salvation that it took four hours to minister to them.

George and Mary decided to start an orphanage that would be entirely free of charge, and for which they would never ask any money or support. When they had needs they would go to G-d alone, trusting that he would give them everything they needed.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." -- James 1:27

Among the greatest monuments of what can be accomplished through simple faith in G-d are the great orphanages covering thirteen acres of ground on Ashley Downs, Bristol, England. When G-d put it into the heart of George Müller to build these orphanages, he had only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket. Without making his wants known to any man, but to G-d alone, over a million, four hundred thousand pounds ($7,000,000) were sent to him for the building and maintaining of these orphan homes. At the time of Mr. Müller's death, there were five immense buildings of solid granite, capable of accommodating two thousand orphans. In all the years since the first orphans arrived the Lord had sent food in due time, so that they had never missed a meal for want of food.

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" -- James 5:16

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." -- Phillipians 4:19

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." -- Psalm 37:25

Hundreds of children were saved from the mean streets. They knew love and happiness in the care of George and Mary.

In 1875, at the age of 70, the remarkable George Müller decided to devote the next period of his life to a world-wide ministry of preaching and teaching.

During his seventeen years of missionary travel he toured the United States of America three times, India twice and on three occasions toured Australia and the Colonies. In addition, George Müller preached in forty-two countries including China and Japan. By land and sea he traveled 200,000 miles, an extraordinary feat in the nineteenth century.

Charles Dickens
With Six Children to Feed, the Author Needed a Miracle

Francis_Alexander_-_Charles_Dickens_1842
Frances Alexander's 1842 painting of the famous author.

The Year was 1843 and he needed a miracle. With six children to feed and a large house in London to maintain, his slipping sales as a writer were of great concern. His installment novel: Martin Chuzzlewit, was selling poorly, unlike earlier works like Nicholas Nickleby, which had given him some measure of success.

Christmas was coming as he bitterly confided to a friend that his checkbook was empty. Walking the streets, he came up with a 'Ghost of an Idea' and set to work. He published 6000 copies in time for Christmas distribution. They sold out, but because he had splurged on hand-coloured illustrations by John Leech he barely broke even. [3.] Yes, even in Nineteenth Century England, good illustration cost you something! [4.]

Fortunately the little work went on to be a classic. It reinvigorated the career of its creator. Today we still love A Christmas Carol and its author: Charles Dickens, not only as a writer, but as one who helped to bring about much needed social reforms in his day.
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Binyamin Netanyahu's Big Win

Binyamin
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Early predictions had Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party not likely to win a clear majority. Major media outlets were predicting a tie at best with the Zionist Party, meaning perhaps a rotating Prime Ministership. Still, as the actual voting occurred a week ago, as "official" exit polls hovered around a tie, The Prime Minister declared the race a victory and began the important process of building coalitions to govern. How could that be possible?

Phillip Pasmanick, who writes: Israel and Stuff [click to read] put it best: "Wait until the IDF votes are counted. He'll have thirty seats!" Sure enough, as the hard results started coming in on Wednesday, Likud had secured the promised thirty seats. You need to know something about Phillip. He's in the IDF and he's up defending the border with Lebanon. Alongside him are arabs; soldiers, also in the IDF. This should begin to give you a glimpse into the under-reported life of this amazing country the size of New Jersey.

It is indeed the only place in the Middle-East where the religious and political minorities live in peace with their majority neighbors, not only enjoying protection from persecution but representation in the Kenesset! Netanyahu's win, remaniscent of Ronald Reagan's unexpected win in 1980, says that there is solid support for his strong stance in defending the stability of the region. Those who truly desire peace in the region will do well to listen to him.

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Restoring Harmony

Harmonic


I have been in Stephens City much of the past week helping master restorer and organ builder, Xaver Wilhelmy as he restores the Estey pipe organ in Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. The instrument was likely built sometime in the early Twentieth Century, though we have no known opus number. Here are some photographs from the trip.

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The sanctuary itself was completed in 1906.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

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The church windows illuminated from within.
Photo by Bob Kirchman


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The organ itself was probably installed in the 1930's, having been moved from a church in Baltimore. Photo by Bob Kirchman

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Here are some of the motors that play the 1200 pipes.
Photo by Bob Kirchman


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Front Pipes. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THYME Magazine: Faith and Bright Hope

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME0912
Volume IX, Issue XII

Jesus is Coming, Plant a Tree!

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
   -- 1 Corinthians 15:58

In a wonderful article by N. T. Wright entitled Jesus is Coming, Plant a Tree [click to read], the author writes: "For the early Christians, the resurrection of Jesus launched God’s new creation upon the world, beginning to fulfill the prayer Jesus taught his followers, that God’s kingdom would come “on earth as in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and anticipating the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17, 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) promised by Isaiah and again in the New Testament. From this point of view, as I have often said (though the phrase is not original to me), Heaven is undoubtedly important, but it’s not the end of the world. The early Christians were not very interested, in the way our world has been interested, in what happens to people immediately after they die. They were extremely interested in a topic many Western Christians in the last few years have forgotten about altogether, namely the final new creation, new heavens and new earth joined together, and the resurrection of the body that will create new human beings to live in that new world."

I have friends who are very much into eschatology, wonderful people, but they are pretty much convinced that this world is pretty rotten and the sooner it passes away the better. I also have friends who are very much into fixing things in the here and now, not thinking about the hereafter at all. Wright makes the case that I very much agree with: Both are missing something! He also struck a chord with me, especially in light of this dedication in my yet to be published novel: "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale:"

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!" [1.] Jeremiah 29:4-7 -- 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."
-- Excerpt from "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale"  ©Copyright, 2015, The Kirchman Studio

Referencing 1 Corinthians 15:58, Wright presents the important idea that our work here in this world is not wasted. It is incredibly important to the building of the Kingdom to come! Just as human marriage is a picture of Christ and his Church, there is much to do to point the way and give vision to the Unseen Kingdom. Wright continues: "I have no idea precisely what this means. I do not know how the painting an artist paints today in prayer and wisdom will find a place in G-d’s new world. I don’t know what musical instruments we will have to play Bach, though I’m sure Bach’s music will be there. 

I don’t know how my planting a tree today will relate to the wonderful trees that will be in G-d’s recreated world. I don’t know how my work for justice for the poor, for remission of global debts, will reappear in that new world. But I know that G-d’s new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning: I know he calls me and you to live in him and by the power of his spirit, and so to be new-creation people here and now, giving birth to signs and symbols of the kingdom on earth as in heaven. 

The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit mean that we are called to bring forth real and effective signs of G-d’s renewed creation even in the midst of the present age. Not to do so is at best to put ourselves in the position of those Second Temple Jews who believed they had to wait passively for G-d to act – when G-d has acted in Jesus to inaugurate his kingdom on earth as in heaven. At worst, not to bring forth works and signs of renewal in G-d’s creation is to collude, as gnosticism always does, with the forces of sin and death."

Revelation 19:6-9 speaks of the time when people of all nations are joined in communion with G-d:

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord G-d omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of G-d."

In Isaiah 60 [4.] and in Revelation 21 Believers look to a New Heaven and a New Earth where a Heavenly Jerusalem descends to join the Earth. Here is a Kingdom that needs no temple, needs no sun to light it, for G-d Himself is the force that illuminates it! [5.]

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 G-d 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 G-d is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and G-d himself shall be with them, and be their G-d." -- Revelation 21:1-3

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Journey to Jesus, a mural depicting the nations coming to Jesus in the New Heaven and New Earth described in Revelation 21. Mural by Kristina Elaine Greer and Bob Kirchman

Journey to Jesus [click to view larger images].

Our Christian hope is that we're going to live with Christ in a new Earth, where there is not only no more death, but where life is what it was always meant to be." -- Timothy Keller.

THYMELESS
The hope of Heaven and New Earth.

A Lesson from the Missionaries

Wes Stafford, founder of Compassion International, remembers with great joy the times he and his missionary father dug wells together. He happily recalls the tired, sweaty, muddy process of ensuring clean water for the villages in Africa that they served. Father and son came home tired and filthy and the people saw a beautiful illustration of the love of G-d! Clean wells, fenced off so that cattle could not foul them, meant healthy children instead of sickly ones. Lives were saved and the people, through that expression of love, were moved to trust in Christ!

The Staffords excitedly sent photographs of the whole operation, dirty faces and all. They surely would be an exciting part of the mission's newsletter. To their dismay, when the newsletter arrived, there were no pictures of the well digging. It wasn't about 'salvation' in the eyes of the mission board. Yet it had resulted in real salvation (earthly as well as Heavenly) to the villagers! Years later, as head of Compassion International, Wes Stafford still presides over the digging of a lot of wells!

Tragically, the board's earthward myopia extended to the boarding school for missionary kids that Wes and his sister attended. Those who washed out as missionaries were assigned to teach at the school. Not seeing the school as an important work of G-d, the children were poorly cared for, sometimes even abused, and the faith of many was destroyed. In his book: Too Small to Ignore, [2.] Stafford makes the case that the work of teaching and caring for children is paramount in the work of the Kingdom of G-d.

Passing the Torch

Perhaps the greatest lesson Stafford's father ever taught was in the digging of the wells. Wes grew up with practical experience in participating in the building of the Kingdom. That lesson would stick with him as he grew to head Compassion International. There is a poem by Gary Snyder: Axe Handles [click to read] which captures the Sacred process quite nicely:

I am an axe And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on."

How are we doing as teachers. Not very well, I fear. As we are all too eager to see this world pass away, our young adults busy themselves with apocalyptic video games. The sad truth is that both generations have lost the mandate to build the Kingdom. A little child, it turns out, will teach me a "more excellent way." We are outside her house together... initially we set out to dig in the snow. Perhaps we'll build a snowman.

But we notice the chaos of snow and ice on the path to the trash cans. I chip, she digs. We create a beautiful clear walk for the neighbors. Then we clear off some sidewalk. The young child is clearly enjoying the whole process. But my adult mind soon grows restless that we have not built the snowman! Funny, how the adult mind can be distracted so easily!

It is only later that I realize that the child has been the teacher that day. We created a small patch of beauty (and safety) for her neighbors. She indeed saw that such labor was a good thing. No pontification, just a simple model, simply followed. We were making something together! Didn't Jesus say that: "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these!" -- Luke 18:16

The Fragrance of Eden
Wisdom from an Old Rebbe

AT on Hazeltop
In the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Here is a Beautiful Story [click to read] of an old Rebbe who's devotion to G-d's work of redemption shaped the way he lived his own life. The wise man was told one day that the Messiah had come and was in the steet outside. The man opened the window, sniffed the air outside and declared the so-called 'Messiah' a fraud. His instincts told him the coming Messiah would bring with him the sweet fragrance of Eden, the fragrence of the divine presence in the tabernacle and the temple, that was lost when the Glory departed.

Years later, the Rebbe's son wondered why his father had to go to the window to sniff the air. Surely the sweet smell of redemption would come into the house. His son then realized that the father had lived his life in devotion to torah study and the expectancy of Messiah's coming. His life, so lived, gave his own dwelling place the fragrance of what he hoped for. Thus it was necessary for him to smell the air outside his house to know if what he hoped for had truly appeared.

May our faith and devotion create such an aroma in our own dwelling places!

Spring Crocus
Spring Crocus

THYME Magazine: The Crocus Chronicles

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Crocus
Volume IX, Issue IXa

The Crocus Chronicles

The first crocus made its appearance last week and the series of photographs I took of it suggested the coming of the much deferred Springtime in C. S. Lewis' classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some thought provoking quotations from that work have been included with the photographs, which hopefully capture the anticipation the characters in that story had as Aslan, the King drew closer!

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First Crocus I, Photo by Bob Kirchman

Well, sir, if things are real, they’re there all the time." "Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter did not quite know what to say." -- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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First Crocus II, Photo by Bob Kirchman

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."
-- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

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First Crocus III, Photo by Bob Kirchman

Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." -- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)


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First Crocus IV, Photo by Bob Kirchman

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

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First Crocus V, Photo by Bob Kirchman

But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Aslan
First Crocus VI, Photo by Bob Kirchman

None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning--either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it's inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of Summer." -- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

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First Crocus VII, Photo by Bob Kirchman

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different - deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

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"The Wood Between the Worlds." Painting by Bob Kirchman.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ― C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

THYME Magazine: Escape from Obamacare

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME0911
Volume IX, Issue XI

Escape from Obamacare

The promise was clear: "If you like your plan, you can KEEP your plan." The harsh reality was that many of our friends simply LOST their non-Obamacare compliant coverage. Being self-employed, we had played the individual policy game for years. We had gone through the arduous process of re-qualification just to get a plan with a higher deductable. A $6000 deductable allowed us an affordable policy. We had re-qualified just early enough that our plan was "grandfathered." Even though it did not meet the standards of the so-called: "Affordable Care Act," it was old enough that it did not fall into the group of plans that were simply disallowed.

But the last premium increase notice was a jaw-dropping increase in a premium that was already beyond our means to pay. As our business fell off, our actual earnings often wouldn't even cover it. Our agent simply shrugged: "Go on the exchanges and get Coventry." Friends advised us that that company was horrible to work with. We were no longer sought after customers. Years of faithfully struggling to pay the premiums does not guarantee any loyalty on the part of your insurance company. Their lack of pushback to government intervention is telling. Follow the money. But that, dear reader is a subject for another day.

Some very dear friends of ours had left the system a long time ago. They introduced us to Samaritan Ministries, an ALTERNATIVE to traditional health insurance. Going back to the original concept of underwriting and neighbor helping neighbor, Samaritan Ministries members pay a monthly 'share' to cover each others' healthcare burdens. This 'share' is not sent to the central office of the organization but rather sent directly to the member who needs it. Cards and prayers accompany the 'share.' Bearing one anothers' burdens now has a name and a face.

Though the coverage is pretty basic (well visits are not covered), uncovered items are presented as matters for prayer. My wife is about to send an extra $20.00 to help someone with dental surgery that is not covered by the basic plan. Neighbors helping neighbors. It is a beautiful concept!

How does Samaritan Ministries avoid the dreaded Individual Mandate? The so-called "Affordable Care Act" includes an exemption for Faith-based healthcare organizations in accordance with our country's long-standing tradition of respect for conscience. [1.]

Amish
Amish barn raising. File Photo

The Amish and Social Security

In 1935, congress passed The Social Security Act. Included in this legislation was "Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance," provided for those in industry and commerce, and extended to include farm operators in 1955. The  Amish Country News writes:

While the Amish have no objection "paying unto Caesar what is Caesar’s," they do have problems with commercial insurance. In a sense, insurance was seen as not trusting in G-d. Insurance plans were a worldly operation. Plus, the Amish view of separation of church and state normally meant not accepting money from government programs, especially something viewed as welfare. No one could deny that this program was one of paying money to the government and then receiving a benefit in return.

Perhaps most importantly, the care of the elderly is seen as the responsibility of the family and community, not the government. Whether it be additions built onto the main house where grandparents "retire," benefit sales to pay large medical bills, or the community effort of a barn-raising, the Amish truly try to "take care of their own."

The complete story of how legislation was enacted eventually to exempt the Amish from Social Security Tax is told in this article: The Amish and Social Security [click to read].

The Social Security Tax  was administered by the Internal Revenue Service, beginning in earnest during the 1950's Though Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance was clearly in the description, it was collected as a tax. The issue came to a head when the IRS seized the horses of one Valentine Byler for non-payment of the tax. Public sentiment was stirred as Byler depended on these horses for his livelihood as a farmer.

He received letters of support such as this one from Texas: "May I congratulate you on having the intestinal fortitude to stand up for your beliefs. While I am aware that your action stemmed from a love of your religion rather than from defiance, I hope that your example may serve to point out to some of us just how far our benevolent Government will go to reach its goal of making dependents of us all. There seems to be no place for a person who asks merely to be left alone, and to provide for himself and his family."

In 1961, Amish bishops sent the following petition to the IRS: 

We, as representatives of the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church, do herein express our deep appreciation, and with grateful hearts do we recount the favors and consideration accorded our forefathers in the past...

We believe in a supreme being and also the constitution of the USA, and we feel the Social Security Act and Old Age Survivors Insurance [OASI] is abridging and infringing to our religious freedom. We believe in giving alms in the church according to Christ’s teaching.

It has been our Christian concern from birth of our church group to supply those of our group who have a need, financial or otherwise... Our faith has always been sufficient to meet the needs as they come about, and we feel the present OASI is an infringement on our responsibilities; as a church we feel grieved that this OASI has come upon us...

We Bishops, representatives of the Old Order Churches of the USA are appealing to you to prayerfully consider and reconsider this favor. In G-d we trust."

Ironically, relief was finally forthcoming to the Amish in a provision that was tacked on to the 1965 legislation that established Medicare. Wayne Fisher writes: "Tucked into the 138 page bill was a clause exempting the Old Order Amish, and any other religious sect who conscientiously objected to insurance, from paying Social Security payments, providing that sect had been in existence since December 31, 1950. After Senate approval in July, the signing of the bill by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 13, 1965, made it official and canceled tax accounts of some 15,000 Amish people amounting to nearly $250,000." [2.]

John Jay on Right of Conscience

Consciences of men are not the objects of human legislation…How beautiful appears our expansive constitution in disclaiming all jurisdiction over the souls of men, and securing (by a never-to-be-repealed section) the voluntary, unchecked, moral suasion of every individual.”

John Jay, the original Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on the right of conscience in the Constitution

In the Garden
Charles A. Miles, 1913, Public Domain

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In the Garden. Photo by Bob Kirchman

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

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Oak branches in snow. Photo by Bob Kirchman

A Restful Walk on a Ridge
Shenandoah Mountain Trail

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Shenandoah Mountain Trail begins at this overlook on U. S. 250 at the Western border of Augusta County where Confederate troops from Georgia once manned Fort Edward Johnson,... 
Photo by Bob Kirchman

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...shivering in a late Spring snow in 1862.
Photo by Bob Kirchman


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Snowy trail. Photo by Bob Kirchman

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Mountain Laurel. Photo by Bob Kirchman

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Restful Ridgetop. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Please Note: THYME Magazine will return to its once-weekly format, publishing midweek. There will be no Saturday edition for the time being.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

THYME Magazine: Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

THYME0910a
Volume IX, Issue IXb

Jonathan Myrick Daniels

I can’t imagine that I have anything to give of any significance…” -- Jonathan Daniels

Graduating from Virginia Military Institute in 1961, Jonathan Myrick Daniels went on to study at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Daniels, who hailed from Keene, New Hampshire, probably never imagined that he would be remembered for one brave deed. In 1965, however, Daniels heard Dr. Martin Luther King plead for more clergy of all races and creeds to become involved in the struggle for civil rights. Daniels traveled to Alabama where he initially became involved in voter registration efforts.

He and 29 other people were arrested when they peacefully picketed whites-only businesses in the small town of Fort Deposit, Alabama. They were incarcerated in the Haynesville, Alabama Jail. Upon his release in August of 1965 Jonathan Daniels and Catholic priest Richard Morrisroe accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, into Varner's Cash Store to buy a cold drink. Though the store served non-whites, Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, was at the store. He was looking for a confrontation. Coleman raised his shotgun and fired at the group. Daniels was shot and killed instantly as he pushed sixteen year old Ruby Sales to the ground in order to protect her. He saved her life. Father Morrisroe was seriously wounded.

His parents, Dr. Phillip Daniels and Connie Daniels, raised Jonathan and his sister Emily in an atmosphere of Faith and service to others. Their son struggled with his own identity and his own calling. He surprised his family by attending VMI, where he was elected Valedictorian and graduated at the head of his class. He initially went to graduate school at Harvard to study literature but then followed his calling to divinity school. He said that the Holy Spirit of G-d was the driving force in the direction of his life.

The young woman who's life he saved, Ruby Sales, eventually went into the ministry herself, founding an urban ministry dedicated to Daniels' memory.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Stories in the Story

The Movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [click to view], was made by Frank Capra in 1939. Capra's film contains some interesting snapshots of how the common man, operating in concert with the principles laid down by our founders, can truly change the course of history as he works to preserve freedom. Early in the story, a "lost" Mr. Smith finds himself in the Lincoln Memorial. Here he sees what must be an immigrant grandfather teaching his grandson the meaning of the great inscriptions that define freedom. Then the gentleman pictured below walks into the great edifice and deliberately removes his hat in reverence for the principles enshrined there.

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Jimmy Stewart enters the Memorial...

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...and sees this gentleman remove his hat, in reverence for...

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...the freedom that was hard won through a time of great sacrifice.

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The little four page paper of Jeff's father has become 'Boy Stuff' and a wonderful group of boys put it together.

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"Bring on the paper!" this young man shouts as they print a special edition to vindicate Jeff as the Taylor Machine attempts to control the big papers.

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Here they pull page proofs.

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"Jeff Tells Truth!"

It would be a little over two decades before Dr. Martin Luther King would stand at that SAME Memorial to share his "I Have a Dream Speech," but it is clear from the stills above, that Capra is in on the dream. To an America mired in a reality of apartheid, he presents the great truth of IMAGO DEI, through the three characters alongside Smith in the Memorial. The staff of 'Boy Stuff' also presents a group where the dream lives. Though some students of the film have trouble with the "pigeons and the porters" in the scene where Smith arrives in Washington, one must remember that the film was made in the 1930's and also that the porters leave the politicians "holding the pigeons."

In the end, Capra makes a film that is entertaining as it gives us glimpses of that "bright shining city on a hill." Though Capra's Senate Chamber is a movie set, the truth he depicts there is something every American needs to see for themselves.

The Prime Minister's Speech

We presented Binyamin Netanyahu's Speech [click to read] without comment earlier in the week. That was by design as we feel the speech was most appropriate, delivered with respect and dignity and like the preceding story of Jefferson Smith, it laid out important truth clearly. Mr. Netanyahu does not need a lengthy defense. His critics, by their own wailing and gnashing of teeth, merely proclaim their own missplaced priorities.

A country that has no qualms about destabilizing the Middle-east, holds innocent Americans like Saeed Abedini [1.] for years without due process in foul prisons and is rushing to obtain weapons of mass destruction must be subjected to the sort of honest analysis presented by the Prime Minister. To do less is reckless! Those who want to wail about perceived insult need to ask themselves if that insult is indeed worse than the injury of an Iranian bomb destroying a city in Israel or America?