Thursday, July 26, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXX

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week features the cover: "How Guns Won." Joe Klein concludes that the debate over gun control has gotten out of control. Indeed, the rush of some journalists to blame Second Amendment advocates and talk radio hosts was ill-timed. A nation needs time to simply mourn and process the unthinkable when it happens.

Unfortunately, unthinkable events have been the recurring nightmare of history. Genocides and enslavements are nothing new. Sadly there has been no evolution out of such horror. In fact, the great reengineered societys such as Socialist Russia, built on the promise of eliminating the horror, created their own unspeakable horrors. While the National Socialists in Germany were killing millions, Stalin's Russia was killing millions as well. Because Hitler lost, we saw the horrible pictures of his atrocities. Stalin's often went unreported, but for millions of Ukranians, were they any less real?

Yet, in the face of every horror, heroes emerged. The 'Righteous Gentiles' who hid their neighbors in Holland during the occupation remain part of our history as well. Now we see the faces of the men who died shielding their wives and girlfriends in Aurora. We think of a time forty years ago when a brave weightlifter blocked a door as he tried in vain to keep terrorists out of the Israeli Olympic quarters.

On Monda, April 16, 2007, Holocaust survivor Dr. Liviu Librescu was teaching his students at Virginia Tech. As a gunman tried to break into the room, Dr. Librescu blocked the door and told his students to jump out of the windows. Dr. Librescu sucessfully held the door shut as bullets ripped through his body. His quick thinking saved many lives, but he died in the process.

Into every period of history, those who answered man's basest instincts were opposed by those who answered to a higher authority... aspired to a loftier mountaintop. This issue of THYME is dedicated to their memory.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXIX

The Athletes Next Door
Special Olympics Opens Opportunities

"Special Olympics strives to awaken the world to the precious abilities and dignity of every human being."

The 'other' weekly news magazine is featuring their "Summer Olympics Special." Far from the glitter of London, another special breed of Olympians are training. They come from 170 different countries. They are kids you know... they're in your church and community. They're the participants in Special Olympics.

"Special Olympics began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the First International Summer Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The concept was born in the early 1960s when Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disability. She saw that individuals with intellectual disability were far more capable in sports and physical activities than experts thought.

In December 1968, Special Olympics was established as a nonprofit charitable organization under the laws of the District of Columbia, USA. The National Association for Retarded Citizens, the Council for Exceptional Children and the American Association on Mental Deficiency pledged their support for this first systemic effort to provide sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disability based on the Olympic tradition and spirit. Since 1968, millions of children and adults with intellectual disability have participated in Special Olympics around the world." -- Special Olympics Website

In 2011, about four million athletes competed in the world event, but Special Olympics is a year-round training program that reaches into many localities.

Lani DeMello was born with intellectual disabilities and a heart defect. Her doctors told her mother Ana, "Take her home. She’s never going to achieve anything." Flash forward 25 years and Lani is a Special Olympics gold medalist and a source of inspiration to her friends and family.

As a young girl, Lani took an interest in dance. She spent several years taking classes at a local ballet studio, yet was unable to keep up with the other dancers. At 13, a friend recommended that she sign up to participate in Special Olympics. There, Lani finally had the support she needed and at her first gymnastics competition, she won almost exclusively gold medals.

From that day on, Lani’s parents made the commitment to drive their daughter 52 miles twice a week to the nearest gymnastics training facility in Georgia. Now Lani has received her coaching certification and has been assisting the Georgia gymnastics program and interned for the Special Olympics International Technical Delegate for Rhythmic Gymnastics at the World Summer Games in Athens.

Private donations make this wonderful program possible. Their Website [click to read] offers more information and the opportunity to help.

The view from Betsy Bell Mountain in Staunton, Virginia.


Monday, July 16, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXVIII

Caring for the Souls of Soldiers
A History of Chaplains in the Service

In 1756 George Washington appointed a minister for his Virginia Regiment. In July 1775, the Second Constitutional Congress voted to pay chaplains $20 a month ... just above first lieutenants. Washington sought Divine Providence as he fought the British and looked to chaplains as an important link in the chain of command. In addition to providing religious services, chaplains counselled the troops, visited them when they were sick (disease was often a more deadly enemy than hostile fire), and read and wrote letters to and from home for the soldiers who could not read and write.

In the early days, with regiments coming from specific geographical areas, often the same communities, it was relatively easy to select a chaplain and there were few rules necessary in the creation of this office.

"Chaplains have been counseling soldiers since 1775 on things like trying to stay sober; don't cheat at cards; don't gamble away your pay, send it home; all that sort of thing. But in World War II, because the armies were so big, the chaplains got involved in a major way in trying to counsel the soldiers. We even had chaplains in Nuremberg to try to counsel the German POWs." -- John Brinsfield, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps Hstorian

The World Wars, with regiments created with men from all over the country, presented new challenges for the chaplaincy. In World War II, the armed services set quotas for chaplains of various faiths, attempting to match the proportion of each denomination in the general population. Today the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest mainline denomination providing chaplains to the military, while a general shortage of Priests hinders the provision of Catholic clergy.

Today the honest discussion of how to minister to entire regiments with respect for diverse traditions is often muddied by demands for political correctness. Consider the case of  Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a chaplain and a priest with the Evangelical Episcopal Church:

"Aboard the USS Anzio, his first post, he backed a Jewish sailor's request to receive kosher meals and tried to get permission for a Muslim crewman to take a turn offering the nightly benediction over the ship's public address system. But Klingenschmitt also insisted on his own right to preach what he believes as a born-again Christian. " -- Alan Cooperman

Klingensschmitt was sanctioned for expressing Biblical distinctives of his faith in sermons that were given in a setting where attendance was optional. The fact that most applicants for the chaplaincy today are Evangelicals makes the issue of religious freedom and free speech for Evangelical chaplains a lively one.

Yet the spiritual needs of soldiers remain the same. Today soldiers wrestle with a lot of the same issues as their forefathers; Relationships back home, stretching their paycheck, parenting in absence and isolation, to name a few, and on top of that dealing with the stress of combat. Deployments to areas such as Afghanistan, which are nothing like home, present unique challenges.

This week TIME discusses the suicide rate among soldiers, one that begs the question of how to bring our best resources to the caring for their souls?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sunset on Blackrock in Shenandoah Park

Evening Light Paints the Rocks and Ridges

Camping near Blackrock allows you to watch the evening light and the dawn in this wonderful place. This is my painting of the evening light on the rocks.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Snowy Afternoon in Sugar Hollow

A Favorite Family Spot in a Different Season
When my children were growing up, we often picnicked and played along the banks of the river here. One winter day I wandered up to our favorite spot as snow transformed it with a silent blanket of white. Here is my painting of it. Today this spot no longer exists as portrayed. A major storm has toppled the big sycamores and the river flows through an open place in the canyon.

The Creative Mandate of Genesis 1 and 2

The Unique Responsibility Conferred in Imago Dei


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, July 9, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXVII

"Robert's Rules" or Roger's Rule

The "other" Weekly News Magazine [click to read] reports this week on the recent Supreme Court decision and the role of Chief Justice John Roberts. For fifteen pages they lavish praise for this "brilliant" decision.

Brilliant Decision? Consider the case of Dred Scott, now cited as the ultimate example of a bad decision. When it comes to precedent cases, the court's record is less than stellar:

"Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and were not U.S. citizens. Since passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the decision has not been a precedent case, but retains historical significance as perhaps the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court."

In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, (pronounced TAW-NEE), declared that all blacks -- slaves as well as free -- were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permiting slavery in all of the country's territories.

The case before the court was that of Dred Scott v. Sanford. Dred Scott, a slave who had lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin before moving back to the slave state of Missouri, had appealed to the Supreme Court in hopes of being granted his freedom.

Taney -- a staunch supporter of slavery and intent on protecting southerners from northern aggression -- wrote in the Court's majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it."

Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, "all men are created equal," Taney reasoned that "it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration. . . ."

Abolitionists were incensed. Although disappointed, Frederick Douglass, found a bright side to the decision and announced, "my hopes were never brighter than now." For Douglass, the decision would bring slavery to the attention of the nation and was a step toward slavery's ultimate destruction. -- PBS [1.] 

The framers of our founding documents though, had wisely changed the definition of G-d given rights from John Locke's "Life, Liberty and Property" to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," thus sowing the seeds for invoking a higher principle in the eventual overturning of slavery.

The 'Right' of Privacy

More recently, in the case of Roe vs. Wade, the court overturned state laws protecting unborn children from abortion, citing a 'right of privacy.' The decision is generally considered poor law, though Pro-choice advocates still stand by it. One has to wonder though, since anyone rushing to aid an endangered child behind a sea of "No Tresspassing" signs would in all likelihood be lauded as a hero rather than arrested for tresspassing.

If it Walks like a Mandate...

No doubt, the recent decision to recast the healthcare mandate as a tax creates vast powers for the Federal government. Using such logic, I can now be legally taxed for not buying a Prius, or not buying a salad at McDonalds. The distinct possibility of Nanny State gone wild exists in the tax code.

There is power in a name. Because the legislation has been dubbed "healthcare," a vote against it has been cast as a vote against healthcare! Nothing could be further from the truth!

I have read enough of the legislation to see that it is heavy on creating mechanisms to generate new revenue (16,500 new IRS agents), and lean on actual reform. [2.] It shuns market driven reforms and sets up the mechanisms for rationing care. In addition, there will be mandates for "Reproductive Health Services" (read Abortion), that will be an intrusion into the religious liberty of certain institutions. CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf says of the legislation:

"CBO has not completed an estimate of all of the discretionary costs that would be associated with H.R. 3590. … [S]uch costs would probably include an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion over 10 years for administrative costs of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)."

The media coverage of this vote has continued to drown out the voices of those who would offer a more reasoned and specific package of reforms. Here are a series of articles by David Karaffa outlining real reforms requiring minimal legislation:

Real Health Care Reform Secrets (Part 1) [click to read]
Real Health Care Reform Secrets (Part 2) [click to read]
Real Health Care Reform Secrets (Part 3) [click to read]
Real Health Care Reform Secrets (Part 4) [click to read]


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Black Bear in the Back Yard!

Here is a Bear Cub in an Oak Behind My House

Ursus Americanus.

We were in the back yard with my Daughter and her husband when my Son-in-law said: "there goes a bear!" Lucy, my beagle, got very excited and I looked up quickly enough to see the small bear retreat to the forest at the edge of the property.

Dusk was falling rapidly, but I heard a rustling in the oak above me as I walked softly into the woods. There, on a branch, was the bear! He was straddling the branch and raised his head when I approached. He was young enough that there should have been a Mother nearby. Perhaps the recent storm caused him to be separated from her. I wished the little fellow a pleasant rest as he settled down on his branch.

Preparing for 'Operation Overboard'

Vacation Bible School at St. John's United Methodist

Staunton muralist, Laney Riley paints an underwater scene as a backdrop for St. John's Vacation Bible School: "Operation Overboard." The VBS runs July 8-10, beginning each night with a free dinner at 5:30pm. The Program runs from 6:00pm to 8:00pm each evening. For more information, please phone 540-886-1500.