Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Visions of Heaven

Envisioning the Unseen World that Awaits Us

Mural at Staunton Alliance Church depicting the New Heaven and the New Earth as described in Isaiah 60 and Revelation. 
Mural by Kristina Elaine Riley and Bob Kirchman

A Messianic Jewish Woman's Vision

"The flowers... they are enormous!" upon meeting a woman who'd had dreams of Heaven, I asked her to describe what she saw there."What did Heaven look like?" I wanted to hear her story. "Heaven is a lot like Earth... only BETTER. There are brilliant colors. The little children... they are closest to Jesus!

Her eyes twinkled like those of a child on Christmas morning as she proceeded to describe a world full of wonder! I just happened to meet her in our morning worship and we soon found ourselves deep in a discussion of our true Country!

Close to Jesus there are indescribable wonders. How poor the modern world is for its neglect of the wonders that await us in the hereafter.

A Little Boy's Vision

Later that evening, I caught up with some old friends who are missionaries to Nepal. Two years ago, the woman had traveled to a very poor village by the river. The only industry in the village was making gravel from river stones by hammering them. What she saw there broke her heart. Sitting on his front porch was a boy who's spine was so twisted that he was severely crippled, legs twisting into a useless position. His head was bent to the floor and was only able to breath with great effort. My missionary friend so wanted to reach out to him that she returned with another lady to share stories of Jesus with him.

Feeling she should share the joy of Heaven with the boy, she showed him large picture cards and described Heaven. Soon a group of children assembled. The boy's father was away working and his mother agreed to let them keep meeting there. As they returned week after week, their audience grew to about eighty children. Their families were Hindu, but their interest kept them returning.

Last year the little boy became very sick. He asked if the missionary lady would come and pray for him. He was struggling ever harder to breathe but he refused to go to the hospital until the lady came. As he was prayed for, he passed out from exhaustion. The doctors at the local hospital examined him and said there was nothing they could do for him. Perhaps a more advanced hospital might be able to help.

The boy insisted that he did not want to go to another hospital. He just wanted: "to go to Heaven with Jesus."

The next morning, in spite of the doctors' best efforts at both hospitals, the little boy did step into eternity with Jesus. His father, a Hindu, asked that the boy be given a Christian burial as he said that his son had indeed become a believer in Jesus. His friends and their families continue to meet in the village to hear stories of Jesus, but the group has outgrown the little porch. The boy's friends all joyfully proclaim that he is in Heaven.  The boy's sister recently asked: "Can I go to Heaven too?"  
[retold from 'The Most High G-d, Journeys of Triumph with Nanda & Lisa Giri in Nepal'].

The Year of Jubilee

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers

Jubilee Singers
Early photograph of the Jubilee Singers.

A Milestone Monday Feature:

Out of the ashes of the American Civil War there arose institutions such as Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee. The outcome of the war had freed the slaves but many people realized that education was key in truely liberating these citizens. Fisk University's mission was to provide opportunities in higher education to African Americans, many of whom were newly freed slaves. As a young institution without established alumni, the school faced a continual challenge in funding its programs. Five years into its mission the school was facing bankruptcy and the possibility of closing her doors.

George L. White, the school's treasurer and music director, organized a nine member chorus of students with the hope that they might increase awareness of the school and its mission, On October 6, 1871 the initial group, two quartets and a pianist, made their first United States tour.

They began their concert tour in Cincinnati Ohio. When the students heard of the Great Chicago Fire that same month they promptly sent the entire profits from their Cincinnati concert offering. “We had thirty dollars and sent every penny to Chicago and didn’t have anything for ourselves” according to soprano Maggie Porter, who also remembered the gratitude expressed by the people of Chicago.

From Cincinnati the group travelled on to Columbus, where they suffered from a lack of funds enough to provide for even basic accomodations. The Columbus newspapers proved to be less than kind in their coverage and audiences did not take them seriously. The singers were serious musicians and as such did not fit many peoples' stereotype of the 'minstrel' genre.

Tired and discouraged, the group and their pastor, Henry Bennett, prayed about whether or not to continue the tour. The offerings were poor and the audiences sometimes hostile. Surely it was time to pack up and go home.

White, a former missionary, went off by himself to pray about the matter and then reached the conclusion that a new name for the group was in order. The next morning he told the students that henceforth they would be known as "The Jubilee Singers," a reference to Leviticus 25 in the Bible, the passage that talks of the Year of Jubilee, the time in the Kingdom when all debts were to be forgiven and all slaves were to be set free. Indeed, the new name resonated with the experience of many of the students, who had been born in slavery.

They toured on! The first United States tour eventually raised $40,000 for Fisk University. In 1872 they were invided to perform for President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House. In 1873 they toured Europe and sang for Queen Victoria in England. A second European tour raised $150,000 for the university and allowed the construction of the school's first permenant building, aptly named Jubilee Hall.

In 1878 the original group was disbanded. Ella Sheppard, one of the original students in the group says: “our strength was failing under the ill treatment at hotels, on railroads, poorly attended concerts, and ridicule.” Maggie Porter says of this: “There were many times,when we didn’t have place to sleep or anything to eat. Mr. White went out and brought us some sandwiches and tried to find some place to put us up.” Other times while the singers would wait in the railway station White “and some other man of the troupe waded through sleet or snow or rain from hotel to hotel seeking shelter for us.”

A new choir was organized by White in 1879 The group continues to this day. In addition to the usual choral numbers the Jubilee Singers introduced many of the old spirituals they had grown up with to an international audience. [1.]

Fisk University Jubilee Hall
Jubilee Hall at Fisk University was built with proceeds from the Jubilee Singers' second European tour.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Erskine College, Due West, SC

The Erskine Building, Oldest Building on Campus




Saturday, July 27, 2013

Erskine College, Due West, SC

Inscriptions on the Library Wall




Thursday, July 25, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue VI

A 'Best of THYMEs' Feature...

Cover: Ellicott's Mills in miniature as created by Bob Kirchman in 1971/1972 at age 20. It was refurbished and corrected to reflect current research for the B and O Museum's 'Roads to Rails' exhibit two years ago.

Remembering our Roots

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] once presented: "The History of the American Dream." If the American Dream is merely about home ownership and material security, we're down for the count. In the late seventies the government sought to make home ownership available to all. In 2007 we got the bill for it.

But if we see the American dream as something more... those desires that drove people to our shores in the first place, we're ready for a renaissance.

The Pilgrims, the Anabaptists and Moravians were drawn to this land by the promise of freedom to worship and live without interference from hostile government interference. Indeed they preferred the risk and hardship it entailed to the relative safety of servitude.

By 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville observed an amazing young nation taking shape and wrote:

"I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

Though many would seek to obfuscate this heritage, a serious study of history shows that our nation perservered and grew, often against impossible odds, as her founders labored and prayed, trusting in Divine Providence.

The Free Market Did NOT Cause the Great Depression


Great Myths of the Great Depression [Click to Read] by Lawrence W. Reed

"President Herbert Hoover is mistakenly presented in standard history texts as a laissez-faire president, but he signed into law so many costly and foolish bills that one of Franklin Roosevelt’s top aides later said that “practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”

"Americans voted for Franlin Roosevelt in 1932, expecting him to adhere to the Democratic Party platform, which called for less government spending and regulation." -- Lawrence W. Reed

The really frightening thing about history is how it repeats itself.

Required Reading:


In light of the President's assertion that 'America is not a Christian Nation' I would like to offer Alvin Schmidt's book Under the Influence, How Christianity Changed the World. There are many legitimate arguments to be made about how Faith and Government should function together but a look at the principles that our Nation was founded upon will show a clear Judeo-Christian influence.

"If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last 35 years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian." -- Booker T. Washington in 'Up from Slavery' (1901)

Sailcar Outing
AEolus sails down the Baltimore and Ohio tracks. The B andO experimented with wind power but soon moved on to more dependable steam locomotives. [1.] From the Collections of the B and O Railroad Museum, used with permission.

The American Dream and Ellicott's Mills

The little model featured on this week's cover was built to show the extent to which Ellicott's Mills had developed by the middle of the Nineteenth century! It was founded in 1772 by John, Joseph and Andrew Ellicott, who convinced Charles Carroll [the one who signed the Declaration of Independence] to move away from single crop agriculture on his estate of Carrollton. Tobacco was the big cash crop and that was all Carroll grew in the beginning. The brothers built a flour mill and promoted a more diverse agriculture. That kept the region from experiencing the soil depletion that occured in many plantation areas.

Carroll planted wheat and other crops and the Ellicotts milled the wheat. They also partnered with Charles Carroll to build a turnpike which was later incorporated into the great National Road The Ellicotts operated a sawmill and another mill for crushing limestone. This was usd to enrich the fields. They also operated an iron rolling mill. Joseph Scott's "Geographical Description of the States of Maryland and Delaware," published in 1807, tells of the economic diversity Ellicott's Mills had achieved at this early date. "Several kinds of mechanical trades are carried on here; such as coopers, blacksmiths, tanners, shoemakers, saddlers."

In 1830 the town became the first terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The first rail cars were horse-drawn and a sail-powered car was even tried on the new iron road. Steam was to prevail as the motive power of choice and the legendary race between the steam engine Tom Thumb and a horse-drawn car was run at Relay, a point on the tracks between Ellicott's Mills and Baltimore. The old station, shown here with some later Nineteenth Century modifications, was built of granite blocks. Locally quarried granite was used to construct most of the buildings in the town. Today the old station is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

When the three Ellicotts migrated to the banks of the Patapsco from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, they found a 'picturesque wilderness.' By the turn of the Century they had established a thriving community. Then came railroads and romanticism. 'Castle Angelo,'  [2.] on a cliff above the Patapsco River, is one great example of American Romantic Architecture. When Mr. Kirchman photographed it, it had been covered in aluminum siding! The siding was applied vertically on the turrets and was 'most unusual to behold.'

Although the Ellicotts, who hailed from Pennsylvania, were Quakers, their adopted home was predominantly Catholic. The Catholic church tower [3.] had an Italianate feeling rendered in the native stone and a few gothic doorways thrown in for good measure. The Friends' Meeting House where the Ellicotts worshipped was far simpler in construction.

 B&O Station
B&O Station.

Patapsco Hotel
Patapsco Hotel.

Arch of the old railroad bridge.

Floods of the Twentieth Century.

Cornerstone of the railroad bridge...

...still carrying Chessie System trains today.

Monday, July 22, 2013

'The Apprentice'

Benjamin Banneker's Amazing Accomplishments

Benjamin Banneker was a renaissance man.

"You're Fired"

A Milestone Monday Feature:

The story of Benjamin Banneker is forever intertwined with the planning of our nation's capital city. In 1791 Banneker was in the employment of Andrew Ellicott, who was charged with the task of laying out the monumental city plan concieved by French architect Pierre Charles de L'Enfant, who had been hired to design a capital suitable for the new republic.

L'Enfant based his design on the best traditions of Baroque landscape design and his creation resembled the hunting gardens of Louis XIV's massive palace at Versailles. L'Enfant proved to be very difficult to work with... America's first 'rock star' architect, you might say. George Washington fired him.

Here the traditional story says that L'Enfant rolled up his drawings and left the young country in a huff, taking his designs with him. Ellicott turned to Banneker, who had prepared the actual surveys, and Banneker is said to have redrawn the plans from memory!

Though many modern historians doubt that Banneker recreated the plans from memory, the man's documented accomplishments would be in keeping with those of a man capable of such a feat.

The hunting gardens of Versailles...

...inspiration for our nation's capital?

A simple farmer most of his life, Banneker had the good fortune to know the Quaker settlers of Ellicott's Mills in Maryland. The Society of Friends believed in providing basic education to all people and young Banneker certainly received a solid basic education.

Banneker became a student of astronomy and published an almanac. He corresponded with President Thomas Jefferson on the issue of the status of his fellow African Americans. His letter to Jefferson is well crafted, invoking reason as well as compassion. It appears that Banneker took up the craft of surveying in his fifties, looking to a time when he might be physically too old to farm.

Banneker is said to have observed the workings of a clock and then carved his own working clock mechanism from scrap wood. He published his almanac until 1802.

"Banneker lived for four years after his almanacs discontinued. He published a treatise on bees, did a mathematical study on the cycle of the seventeen-year locust, and became a pamphleteer for the anti-slavery movement. He continued scientific studies by night and walked his land by day. He also continued to keep his garden. He hosted many distinguished scientists and artists of his day, and his visitors commented on his intelligence and on his knowledge of everything of importance that was happening in the country. As always, he remained precise and reflective in his conversations with others. His last walk (with a friend) came on October 9, 1806, he complained of being ill and went home to rest on his couch. He died later that day." [1.]

Banneker's Almanac.

The Ellicott/Banneker map of Washington.

The city today.

Friday, July 19, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue V

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine features a cover picture of an empty 'hoodie' and the headline After Trayvon [click to read]. THYME wants to look youth violence square in the face, hence we invite you with our cover to see Imago Dei, the 'Image of G-d.' For every publicized youth death, there are hundreds more that happen in our nation's big cities. John Donne is right to remind us:

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

The sentiment expressed by Donne should move us when we learn of any young person dead before their time. The young man who died, any young man who died, might have become instead the next Vivien Thomas [click to read], who developed surgical techniques that saved thousands of lives. Vivien Thomas was the victim of discrimination, not even allowed to be on the payroll of John's Hopkins as anything but a housekeeper, but Johns Hopkins was able to grow into the institution it is today, where Dr. Benjamin Carson could become Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Co-Director of The Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. Prejudice can and should be overcome. Our young people need to see examples to follow; examples of action, not anger.

But how can we inspire the youth of our communities with the vision that they are essential participants in humanity? Here is One Example [click to read] of how positive role models can become involved in the lives of youth. A church can become the catalyst for creating relationships with kids and gifted people for them to emulate. We need to offer young people our best mentors and principles if they are to succeed.

Staunton's Office on Youth did just that in creating Terrific Tuesdays. Middle school and elementary school students got to participate in a variety of art and craft projects, including painting a mural on the wall of their community center [1.] Pastor Tony Evans works to create partnerships of suburban churches and inner city churches to provide resources and tutoring for young people. His Urban Alternative [click to read] offers hope Activist Star Parker, who went from welfare mother to creator of an urban affairs magazine, watched her office go up in flames during the Watts riots. She persisted in her mission and now is the director of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education [click to read].

These are the leaders America needs right now. Back in the 1970's a friend of mine traveled to Northern Ireland to do a paper on the situation there. He met people on both sides of the issue with deep-seated resentment, the victims of an ongoing bloody battle. He even interviewed Bernadette Devlin. What stuck with me from his research was how there were indeed people in Northern Ireland who were, in spite of the injustice and bloodshed they had experienced, seeking to heal their country.

Guided by Christian ideals of forgiveness and love for one's enemies, these unique individuals sought to bring about a reconciliation in their land. Reading the vicious 'tweets' and stories of racially motivated beatings after the Zimmerman verdict, one can only hope for such noble people to lead us now. Eric Holder's assertion that 'white people haven't suffered enough' needs to be weighed against real history. Many of us are in America because our ancestors fled oppression of all sorts. My Bavarian ancestors came to escape Bismark's exploitation. If we studied more real history we might all end up as friends. I have heard Egyptian Christians who have sought asylum in our country tell their stories.

As a child in Baltimore, some of my school teachers had escaped oppression in Eastern Europe. Baltimore's immigrant citizens came in waves, all having stories of fleeing famine, war and pestilence. The media had already convicted Zimmerman. 'Reasonable doubt' had not been put to rest. In this case, justice worked. It isn't about Zimmerman's morality or lack thereof, it is about proof. A media truly concerned about truth would tell us so. Leaders concerned for the youth of their cities would seek to lead us in healing, not hatred. Our concern should be directed toward redemption, not revenge. Every young person who dies or is not encouraged to flourish in our community diminishes us all. John Donne is right!

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Invention We Depend Upon Every Day

Specifically, the white line.

The story of this simple innovation may surprise you.

 A Milestone Monday Feature:

Who besides myself has ever wondered "who was the 'guy' who invented pavement markings?" Without them modern highways could not function so their origin must have been forged by necessity. Some historians like to point to Roman street crossing stones as the forerunner of modern 'zebra walks' and that is certainly good history but the actual sorting of traffic by lanes requires a visit to more recent times.

As the automobile came into common use in the United States, the U.S. Numbered Highway System came into being and the various states embarked on a mission to pave cross-country highways. In their gravel and dirt condition the danger of head-on collisions was not so life threatening as the speeds were not that great. As the great highways became paved, however, the speed of vehicles increased to the point that dangerous collisions did occur. U.S. 99 in Indio, California was a particularly dangerous stretch of road and in 1917 necessity would soon become the 'mother of invention.'

Dr. June Hill Robertson McCarroll was born in New York's Adirondack Mountains and went on to study medicine in Chicago during an era when few women completed professional studies at all. When her first husband John Robertson developed tuberculosis, she moved with him to Southern California hoping the desert climate would help his recovery. She took a job as a nurse with the Southern Pacific Railroad. Mr. Robertson died in 1914 and Dr. June later married Frank McCarroll, the local station master. She continued in her medical practice and at one time was the only physician serving the desert area between Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. She began to see victims of automobile accidents on an increasingly regular basis.

Driving in her model T Ford, along what was to become U.S. 99 in Indio, the good doctor was run off the road by a large truck roaring toward her in the center of the pavement. In her own words: "My Model T Ford and I found ourselves face to face with a truck on the paved highway. It did not take me long to choose between a sandy berth [sic] to the right and a ten-ton truck to the left! Then I had my idea of a white line painted down the center of the highways of the country as a safety measure."

Dr. McCarroll approached the Riverside County Supervisors and the Chamber of Commerce who listened politely to her idea and politely shelved it. Frustrated, but far from defeated, she finally engaged in a bit of guerrilla road improvement, hand painting a four-inch white line down the center of a mile-long stretch of U.S. 99 to create two distinct lanes. Aided by the Indio Women's Club, she began a statewide letter writing campaign and finally, in 1924 the state highway commission adopted her proposal. Initially 3500 miles of road were striped at a cost of $163,000. Soon pavement markings were in use around the world.

Dr. June McCarroll
Dr. June Hill Robertson McCarroll

Thursday, July 11, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue IV

What to Feed Your Soul

A 'Best of THYMEs' Feature...

The 'other' weekly news magazine once featured, just in time for Thanksgiving reading, What to Eat Now [click to read]. While not disparaging the discussion of good nutrition, THYME explores the satisfaction of a different sort of hunger.

This week, the 'other' weekly news magazine looks at the precarious situation in Egypt. The World's Best Protesters/The World's Worst Democrats [click to read]. Indeed, nations can be carried away on a precarious course. How best can concerned citizens chart their way when the critical mass of leadership (or lack thereof) in the land they love is hurtling out of control.

On November 7th, 2012; many of us awoke to a gnawing inside that would not be satisfied by any meal. We saw ourselves losing our beloved country. It was an emptiness that could not be explained away. Steve Elliott of Grassfire offered this bit of wisdom from Jeremiah 29: 

Build! Plant! Bless! And Pray!


"Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)

By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;

Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.

For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive." -- Jeremiah 29:1-14

Did you know that: "Jews make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions." -- David Brooks

I found an interesting article by Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo in Jewish World Review. The Greatest Chess Game on Earth [click to read] shows how the people who followed Jeremiah's advice learned how, not only to survive, but to thrive in exile. After the destruction of the Temple, the development of small fellowships in Synagogues fed the spiritual hunger of those who had been carried away. Central to this community were the Holy Scriptures. Rabbi Lopez gives us a unique perspective on the Scripture. We should not see the constraints of Faith as restrictive. Rather, they are the structural rules which allow us to pursue great works, and in the process bless those around us.

The game of Chess, Cardozo writes, has strict rules. Yet, within these rules there are an unlimited amount of possibilities:

"He who knows all the rules is not automatically a good player. What makes him a great player is his ability to use these rules to unleash an outburst of creativity, which resides deep within him and emerges only because of the "unbearable" limitations. He then strikes! One small move forces everything to shift around, creating total upheaval and causing the opponent to panic as he never did before. And all this without ever violating one chess rule. This is mental torture. But it is also the height of beauty. It is the poetry of the game, like a melody is to music. Like one gentle brushstroke of Rembrandt on a colorful canvas, making everything look radically different, or like the genius musician playing her Stradivarius, re-creating the whole of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5. It transports the chess player to heaven. His body must be in top form because his playing ability deteriorates when his body does. Body and mind are inseparable. An entire world of feelings, images, ideas, emotions and passions come to the forefront." -- Rabbi Cardozo

Rabbi Cardozo offers deep nourishment for the journey ahead, as well as unique insight into how to live in the light of Holy Scripture. I LOVE the implications of his final thoughts:

" Surely chess is just a game, while Halacha, if properly understood and lived, deals with real life, deep religiosity, moral dilemmas, emotions and intuitions far more significant in man's life than a chess game.

But the man who plays chess in real life as suggested by Halacha will realize that if he "plays" well he is on the track to drawing closer and closer to the King, until he is checkmated and, unlike in a chess game, falls into the arms of the King." -- Rabbi Cardozo

The woods I played in as a boy...

...still offer endless adventures.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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.

Congratulations to my favorite otters on their engagement yesterday! 

“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.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dr. Vivien Theodore Thomas

Breaking Barriers in Surgery and Opportunity

Dr. Thomas pioneered lifesaving surgical techniques.

A Milestone Monday Feature:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." -- Colossians 3:23-24

Dr. Vivien Theodore Thomas was born on August 29, 1910 in New Iberia, Louisiana. He was the grandson of slaves but completed high school in Nashville Tennessee. He dreamed of continuing his education and becoming a doctor but the Great Depression in 1929 dashed his hopes for higher education.

Thomas had found a job at Fisk University as a carpenter for their maintenance department. He worked through the Summer of 1929 but was laid off in October of that year following the stock market crash. This put his educational plans on hold and eventually he found work as a laboratory assistant with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University.

The original job description was caring for the dogs being used for surgical experiments. Thomas fed the animals and cleaned their cages. Dr. Blalock took notice of the young Thomas, discovering that he possessed keen hand-eye coordination, a sharp intellect and the ability to think on his feet to solve problems. No doubt, Thomas' carpentry skills and training came in to play here.

Blalock began using Thomas as a technical assistant, having him perform much of the actual work in developing new surgical techniques. Through the 1930's Blalock pushed on into new frontiers in vascular and cardiac surgery. Thomas did essential work in perfecting the surgical procedures. This pioneer work made Blalock one of the leading surgeons of his time.

In 1940 Blalock was offered the position of Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He requested that Thomas be hired with him. Their 34 year partnership would continue to push the barriers in surgical technique. Their work would eventually lead to learning how to correct the heart defects that caused blue baby syndrome, Their work on crush syndrome led to understanding that would save the lives of thousands of soldiers in World War II.

Baltimore society was even more segregated than Nashville and Johns Hopkins only hired African Americans in their houskeeping department. Thomas was put on the payroll as a janitor but worked alongside Blalock in surgery. He turned a few heads walking the halls in his labcoat. Here many wonder that Blalock so valued Thomas professionally but allowed him to be distanced socially. Both men, it must be remembered, where men raised in the old Southern society. The separation was highly codified in a city like Baltimore [I still have a map of the city from my youth that matter-of-fact labels the white and colored swimming pools in Druid Hill Park]. The recognition of merit over race and the mens' friendship was enough to remove the most insurmountable of barriers.

Blalock didn't object to Thomas initially being 'assigned' to housekeeping but by 1946 he had negotiated his status as the highest paid lab assistant at Hopkins.

Watching Thomas perform an intricate surgical procedure, Blalock remarked "That looks like something the Lord made." Thomas was able to perform complex surgeries with such efficiency of motion that the students said that he made them look effortless. When a young surgeon in training moved in too close to observe, he might unknowingly step into a spot next to Blalock, who would tersely remind him: "Only Vivien is to stand there!"

In 1976 Johns Hopkins presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate and appointed him an instructor of surgery, acknowledging the work he had already been performing for decades.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VI, Issue III

What Makes a Nation Great?
A 'Best of THYMEs' Feature for Independence Day

This is a reprinting of the September 10, 2010 issue of THYME, which we feel is appropriate for our time as well. The 'other' weekly news magazine does not publish this week.

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] asked a while ago: "What makes a school great?" THYME asks: "Why stop there, what makes a NATION great?" We can agree with the 'other' magazine that it takes great teachers, so here are some thoughts from our Founding Fathers:

John Adams and John Hancock:
We Recognize No Sovereign but G-d, and no King but Jesus! [April 18, 1775]

John Adams:
“ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of G-d.”
“[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
–John Adams in a letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --October 11, 1798

"I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." December 25, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson

"Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell." [John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817]

Samuel Adams: He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.” [ "American Independence," August 1, 1776. Speech delivered at the State House in Philadelphia]

“ Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity… and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” [October 4, 1790]

John Quincy Adams:
“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]?" “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity"?
--1837, at the age of 69, when he delivered a Fourth of July speech at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

“The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code.”
John Quincy Adams. Letters to his son. p. 61

Elias Boudinot: “Be religiously careful in our choice of all public officers . . . and judge of the tree by its fruits.”

Charles Carroll - signer of the Declaration of Independence
" Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." [Source: To James McHenry on November 4, 1800.]

Benjamin Franklin:
“ G-d governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 original manuscript of this speech

“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” [Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787]

In Benjamin Franklin's 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach "the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern."

In 1787 when Franklin helped found Benjamin Franklin University, it was dedicated as "a nursery of religion and learning, built on Christ, the Cornerstone."

Alexander Hamilton: Hamilton began work with the Rev. James Bayard to form the Christian Constitutional Society to help spread over the world the two things which Hamilton said made America great:
(1) Christianity
(2) a Constitution formed under Christianity.
“The Christian Constitutional Society, its object is first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States.”

On July 12, 1804 at his death, Hamilton said, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.”

"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of G-d, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." [1787 after the Constitutional Convention]

"I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man."

John Hancock:
“In circumstances as dark as these, it becomes us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments, …at the same time all confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that God rules in the armies of Heaven, and without His whole blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness… Resolved; …Thursday the 11th of May…to humble themselves before G-d under the heavy judgments felt and feared, to confess the sins that have deserved them, to implore the Forgiveness of all our transgressions, and a spirit of repentance and reformation …and a Blessing on the … Union of the American Colonies in Defense of their Rights [for which hitherto we desire to thank Almighty G-d]…That the people of Great Britain and their rulers may have their eyes opened to discern the things that shall make for the peace of the nation…for the redress of America’s many grievances, the restoration of all her invaded liberties, and their security to the latest generations.
"A Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, with a total abstinence from labor and recreation. Proclamation on April 15, 1775"

Patrick Henry:
"Orator of the Revolution."

This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
—The Last Will and Testament of Patrick Henry

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

John Jay:
“ Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Source: October 12, 1816. The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed., (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), Vol. IV, p. 393.

“Whether our religion permits Christians to vote for infidel rulers is a question which merits more consideration than it seems yet to have generally received either from the clergy or the laity. It appears to me that what the prophet said to Jehoshaphat about his attachment to Ahab ["Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?" 2 Chronicles 19:2] affords a salutary lesson.” [The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1794-1826, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1893), Vol. IV, p.365]

Thomas Jefferson:
“ The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man.”

“Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.”

"I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."

“G-d who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from G-d? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (excerpts are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in the nations capital) [Source: Merrill . D. Peterson, ed., Jefferson Writings, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), Vol. IV, p. 289. From Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781.]

Samuel Johnston:
“It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans (Muslims), pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, [unless] first the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.
[Elliot’s Debates, Vol. IV, pp 198-199, Governor Samuel Johnston, July 30, 1788 at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention]

James Madison:“ We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.”

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of G-d.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]

• I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare the unsatisfactoriness [of temportal enjoyments] by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.
Letter by Madison to William Bradford (September 25, 1773)

• In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided the Bible Society of Philadelphia in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible
“ An Act for the relief of the Bible Society of Philadelphia” Approved February 2, 1813 by Congress

“It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

• A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven. [Letter by Madison to William Bradford [urging him to make sure of his own salvation] November 9, 1772]

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed the plan to divide the central government into three branches. He discovered this model of government from the Perfect Governor, as he read Isaiah 33:22;
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
He will save us.”
[Baron Charles Montesquieu, wrote in 1748; “Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separated from legislative power and from executive power. If it [the power of judging] were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislature if it were joined to the executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same … body of principal men … exercised these three powers." Madison claimed Isaiah 33:22 as the source of division of power in government
See also: pp.241-242 in Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle approach by Rosalie Slater]

James McHenry – Signer of the Constitution: Public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.

Jedediah Morse:
"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg
In a sermon delivered to his Virginia congregation on Jan. 21, 1776, he preached from Ecclesiastes 3.

Arriving at verse 8, which declares that there is a time of war and a time of peace, Muhlenberg noted that this surely was not the time of peace; this was the time of war. Concluding with a prayer, and while standing in full view of the congregation, he removed his clerical robes to reveal that beneath them he was wearing the uniform of an officer in the Continental army! He marched to the back of the church; ordered the drum to beat for recruits and over three hundred men joined him, becoming the Eighth Virginia Brigade. John Peter Muhlenberg finished the Revolution as a Major-General, having been at Valley Forge and having participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stonypoint, and Yorktown.

Thomas Paine:
“ It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences, and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles: he can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.”
“ The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools, in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only, has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of his existence. They labour with studied ingenuity to ascribe every thing they behold to innate properties of matter, and jump over all the rest by saying, that matter is eternal.” “The Existence of G-d--1810”

Benjamin Rush: “I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them…we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this Divine Book, above all others, constitutes the soul of republicanism.” “By withholding the knowledge of [the Scriptures] from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.” [Letter written (1790’s) in Defense of the Bible in all schools in America]
• “Christianity is the only true and perfect religion.”
• “If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of G-d into our world would have been unnecessary.”

"Let the children who are sent to those schools be taught to read and write and above all, let both sexes be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education”
Letters of Benjamin Rush, "To the citizens of Philadelphia: A Plan for Free Schools", March 28, 1787

Justice Joseph Story:
“ I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. . . There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.”
[Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States p. 593]
“ Infidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice as unworthy of credit.” [Life and letters of Joseph Story, Vol. II 1851, pp. 8-9.]

“ At the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration [i.e., the First Amendment], the general, if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”
[Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States p. 593]

Noah Webster:
“ The duties of men are summarily comprised in the Ten Commandments, consisting of two tables; one comprehending the duties which we owe immediately to G-d - the other, the duties we owe to our fellow men.”

“In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed...No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
[Source: 1828, in the preface to his American Dictionary of the English Language]

Let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of G-d [Exodus 18:21]. . . . If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted . . . If our government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. [Noah Webster, The History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), pp. 336-337, 49]

“All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” [Noah Webster. History. p. 339]

“The Bible was America’s basic textbook
in all fields.” [Noah Webster. Our Christian Heritage p.5]

“Education is useless without the Bible” [Noah Webster. Our Christian Heritage p.5 ]

George Washington:

Farewell Address: The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion" ...and later: "...reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle..."

“ It is impossible to rightly govern the world without G-d and Bible.”

“What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” [speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779]

"To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian" [May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge]

During his inauguration, Washington took the oath as prescribed by the Constitution but added several religious components to that official ceremony. Before taking his oath of office, he summoned a Bible on which to take the oath, added the words “So help me G-d!” to the end of the oath, then leaned over and kissed the Bible.

Nelly Custis-Lewis (Washington’s adopted daughter):
Is it necessary that any one should [ask], “Did General Washington avow himself to be a believer in Christianity?" As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic devotion to his country. His mottos were, "Deeds, not Words"; and, "For G-d and my Country."

“ O Most Glorious G-d, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.”
“ I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed. I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not. I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promise. I have neglected the better things. My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great. I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, detestation and loathing and desire to be vile in my own eyes as I have rendered myself vile in Thine. I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.”
[George Washington; from a 24 page authentic handwritten manuscript book dated April 21-23, 1752
William J. Johnson George Washington, the Christian (New York: The Abingdon Press, New York and Cincinnati, 1919), pp. 24-35.]

"Although guided by our excellent Constitution in the discharge of official duties, and actuated, through the whole course of my public life, solely by a wish to promote the best interests of our country; yet, without the beneficial interposition of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, we could not have reached the distinguished situation which we have attained with such unprecedented rapidity. To HIM, therefore, should we bow with gratitude and reverence, and endeavor to merit a continuance of HIS special favors". [1797 letter to John Adams]

James Wilson:
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
Supreme Court Justice appointed by George Washington
Spoke 168 times during the Constitutional Convention

"Christianity is part of the common law"
[Sources: James Wilson, Course of Lectures [vol 3, p.122]; and quoted in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 Serg, and; R. 393, 403 (1824).]

Source:  Quotes of the Founding Fathers.

The American Flag Glass Organ Pipes by Xaver Wilhelmy.