Thursday, January 31, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue VII

Rising Independents, A New Voice

In the last issue of THYME, we looked at The Art of Leadership [click to read], specifically as it relates to the diversity of representation in Israel's Knesset. The American two-party system seems to dictate sort of an all-in or all-out rolling possession. Yet Augusta County's Independent Supervisors might just have set a precedent for how we might govern in a way that better represents the people.

Independent Thinking in Augusta County

"What's your guy, Karaffa, up to?" my neighbor asked me, "he's talking about RAISING taxes!" He was referring to the recent debate over a personal property tax increase as opposed to 'borrowing' from the capital fund? Conventional wisdom has it that the Conservative will NEVER raise taxes, but conventional wisdom often fails to dig deeper and examine the nuance and complexities of actual problems.

My response was that a little background was in order. First of all, the new Board of Supervisors came into a situation where everyone knew tough choices were in order. Then candidates Karaffa, Pattie, Michaels and Pyles devoted much of the campaign to informing the electorate. They held town hall meetings and laid out the needs of educators and public safety people. They referenced the last botched reappraisal but offered solutions.

The debate over providing essential services/tax increases was held in the open. The skewed appraisals had resulted in a decrease in funding returned from Richmond. Now it was time for the hard choices. Debate over whether or not to use capital fund money occured at a reasonable point in the debate (and in the open), then the tax debate was again held in public view. In the end, none of us likes paying more car tax, we would like Richmond to pony up, but unlike Washington, Augusta has to pass a real budget.

If you were listening, no promises were broken. Hard decisions were weighed and made. In 2011, in the wake of a flawed assessment process and a host of other concerns, David Karaffa, Kurt Michael and Marshall Pattie, along with sitting supervisor Tracy Pyles had begun their respective campaigns as independents promising just such open debate.

Boots on the Ground -- Door to Door

Tommy Kelly, Karaffa's campaign manager, recalls how they laid out a strategy to personally knock on as many doors as they could, taking their message directly to the voters. Capitalizing on the feeling of disenfranchisement many had after the assessment debacle, the independent candidates laid out a comprehensive overview of the issues they promised to address. In the end, three of the four candidates Won Seats [click to read]. The campaign showed that, at least on a local level, a richer representation of the people could be achieved.

Though painted as in 'lockstep' by the Media [click to read], the candidates themselves brought a new depth of diverse ideas to the board. Hearty open debate makes for good governance when the parties involved come with a commitment to serve their constituents and address their concerns.

Conventional wisdom has it that this works on a local level but is much more difficult at the State level. As Lt. Governor Bill Bolling contemplates an independent run for Governor, he faces the hard truth that he's polling in the mid-teens. He would need to be hitting thirty per-cent to have a real chance of winning.

Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press [click to read] says: "There is a silver lining in the numbers, which have Bolling viewed significantly more favorably than either of the presumptive major-party nominees. The survey from Public Policy Polling had Bolling with a roughly 2-to-1 favorable/unfavorable rating among voters with an opinion of his job performance."

So with McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, the Democrat and Republican presumptive nominees both enjoying much more limited support, here's one analyst who thinks Bolling might be able to pull it off. The trick will be reaching the voters directly in a much larger arena.

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine features: The Rise of the Drones [click to read].


Thursday, January 24, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue VI

What We Learn From the Knesset

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week features The Art of Darkness [click to read]. The article centers on the controversy surrounding the movie: Zero Dark Thirty and director Kathryn Bigelow. We at THYME would like to explore another art... that of leadership. Binyamin Netanyahu just won an important election in Israel. Now he must forge a governing coalition.

Unlike the United States, where two parties pretty much dominate the political system, Israel has about seventeen different parties [1.] actively holding seats in the Knesset. There are 120 seats in the representative body and Netanyahu's Likud party held less than thirty after the 2009 elections. Other parties represented in the Knesset include Arab interests, Conservative interests, Liberal interests and a variety of others. Thus, in order to govern, these interests must come together to form a governing coalition.

In the 2009 election, Likud actually finished second, but Binyamin Netanyahu was able to elicit support from several major parties to build such a coalition. In a system such as Israel's bipartisan cooperation isn't just a lofty unattainable ideal, it is the rule of the road. In the Knesset, you cannot tell an Eric Cantor to "sit down, I won." You need to reason with the leaders of the four larger parties and it doesn't hurt to seek common ground with smaller groups in the chamber.

Though popular media regularly malign Israel, the reality is that the Middle-East's most representative government thrives there. The BBC presents a very interesting Guide to Israel's Political Parties [click to read]. There is a lesson for America here. Rather than dismiss the Tea Party Movement, for example, might we look to it as a step toward a more representative Congress? Might the emergence of a robust diversity of voices actually move us toward the spirit of cooperation so many of us profess to desiring?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Laney Riley to Head Up Mural Project

New Project for SAW Coalition for the Office on Youth

Staunton muralist Laney Riley discusses restoration of the Crozet Trestle Murals with Crozet artist Meg West. The restoration of the twenty year-old murals was done in May of 2012.

Kristina Elaine Riley (Laney) has worked on a number of large projects, beginning with Underwater Atlantis, a mural she painted at Lee High School. She partnered with me on the Journey to Jesus murals at Staunton Alliance Church and has helped me with a number of projects since, including the restoration of the Crozet Trestle Murals. [1.] She has provided illustrations for Core Knowledge Foundation's UK partner, Civitas Foundation, for What Your Year One Child Needs to Know. [2.]

Here She is Featured [click to read] on the Bridgewater College Website as she begins her latest project, designing and heading up a mural project for the Staunton Augusta Waynesboro Coalition for the Office on Youth. Congratulations Laney!

The Bridgewater College article says: "Sharing her artistic expertise with elementary- and middle-school children from broken homes and difficult situations, Laney is in charge of designing a mural to be displayed in a community classroom.
Laney’s role in the project includes creating the design and directing the children in painting the mural, as well as building relationships and serving as a role model for them."
"Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank." -- Proverbs 22:29


Public Service as a Holy Calling

William Wiberforce and the Abolition of Slavery

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
William Wilberforce (1759-1833).

A Milestone Monday Feature

Born to priveledge 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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Steeples of Staunton V

Spires Seen Along N. Augusta and N. Coalter Streets

St. John's United Methodist Church.

Christ Lutheran Church.

Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Staunton Church of the Brethren.

Memorial Baptist Church.

Staunton Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

THYME Magazine Special Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue V

The Coming Triumph of Ingenuity

If I were a young man in my twenties, I would most surely be headed for North Dakota right now. An energy boom is happening right in the heartland of America that will change the course of our history. Energy Tomorrow says: "Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a proven and well-regulated technology. First used in the 1940s, hydraulic fracturing has unlocked massive new supplies of oil and clean-burning natural gas from dense deposits of shale — supplies that increase our country’s energy security and improve our ability to generate electricity, heat homes and power vehicles for generations to come. Fracking has been used in more than one million U.S. wells, and has safely produced more than seven billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas." Indeed, this well developed technology [1.] is just now coming into its own in the push to provide safe and reliable domestic enargy production.

This is good news for us, our children and our childrens' children. An energy independent United States will continue to be a great force for good and stability in the world to come. Most of this new energy production, so far, is occurring on private land. The current administration, who's Energy Secretary Steven Chu once said: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”[2.] is being beaten by American Ingenuity. This is good news for all who want to see American manufacturing and a strong middle class working in the private sector.

Those who would argue that industry, production and cheap reliable transportation are bad for the environment need to look back a bit in history. Here in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, ready access is what led to preservation. In the late Nineteenth Century, copper mines in the mountains that are now Shenandoah National Park had gone bust. There were a number of copper claims owned by outside interests such as the one near Stoney Man Mountain near what would become Skyland. George Freedman Pollock took that property, partially owned by his father, and created a primitive resort. Eventually Pollock would become one of the major proponents of Shenandoah National Park. [3.]

In contrast, one only needs to travel to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, to see what happens when the basic resources people need are not provided. Satellite images of Haiti show her stripped of trees and eroding, a stark contrast to the neighboring Dominican Republic. Men like Chu need to be careful what they wish for. Environmental Nirvana does NOT follow in the wake of their misguided policies.

Even as the Federal Government steps up regulatory and tax hurdles to business, states and localities are working to make themselves more business friendly. Some businesses are looking for new sites and are cautiously planning to grow in the years ahead. Smart local governments are making it more attractive.

As the President relies heavily on leftist secularist advisers, he may find himself increasingly facing problems that defy statist solutions. Already the problem of unbridled evil has reared its ugly head to spill the blood of innocents. The left can only answer by more regulation. Innovation alone cannot solve the problem. Something more is needed when it comes to matters of the human heart.

Technology can be used for good. It can save lives in the right hands. It can also be used to rid the world of six million Jews, many Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as countless Gypsies, gay people and others deemed 'unworthy' by the National Socialists. [4.] The unwanted unborn child and the inconvenient elderly may be similarly disposed of in clean modern facilities.

Light for 'Morning in America'

History has unfortunately seen periods of great darkness, aided and abetted by technology, innovation, and well-intentioned attempts to improve the human condition. What shall light our way, so that we do not fall victim to a similar fate? Paul, the Apostle, writes in Ephesians 5:8-14:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Most important for our age is that people of Faith take up the charge to speak into the prevailing culture, to restore the great tradition of public service. Perhaps we can find inspiration in the life of William Howland. His amazing story follows, as told by the Reverend Ed Hurd.

The Mayor Who Made a Difference

This is part of the 'Milestone Monday' series.

An Article for the June 1996 Deep Cove Crier
by Reverend Ed Hird, Rector,
St. Simon’s Anglican Church, Used with his permission.

So often, Toronto functions as the city that other Canadians feel the most ambivalent about. The proverbial expression "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" readily comes to my mind as I think of Toronto. And yet ironically, the nickname "Toronto The Good" points to a side of Toronto that has largely been forgotten in the Canadian amnesia about our own heritage and roots. I was talking recently to Phyllis Beck, the Deep Cove Crier Seniors Columnist, about Toronto roots, only to discover that her daughter-in-law, Barbara Hall, is the current Mayor of Toronto. I commented to Phyllis about the recent discovery that my Great-great-grandfather, Thomas Allen, was a senior Alderman in Toronto during a period of 19 years. When I was in Toronto a few months back, getting a first-hand glimpse of the "Toronto Blessing", I kept driving back and forth past Allen Road. My ignorance about this road named after my Torontonian ancestor reminded me afresh of our Canadian forgetfulness about some of our own heros.

William H. Howland

One such hero was Mayor William Howland of Toronto, a public servant who was so dedicated to helping the disadvantaged that he gave away most of his wealth. Son of the Honorable W.P. Howland, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, William was possessed with a bubbly enthusiasm and phenomenal capacity for hard work. By the age he was 25, William was president, vice-president, or a director of more than a dozen companies in the fields of insurance and finance, electrical services, and paint manufacturing. When he became president of the Queen City Fire Insurance Company in 1871, he was the youngest insurance company president in Canada. As well, Howland was President of three influential organizations: the Toronto Board of Trade, the Dominion Board of Trade, and the Manufacturer’s Association of Ontario. Out of his love for his country, he served as Chairman of the Canada First movement, personally financing its weekly newspaper "The Nation".

At age 32, Howland was led to Christ by his priest, Dr. W.S. Rainsford of St. James Anglican Cathedral. His life-changing experience gave him a new passion for helping the poor. He became involved helping with the Hillcrest Convalescent Hospital, the YMCA, the Haven Home for Unwed Mothers, the Prisoner’s Aid Association, the Central Prison Mission School, and the Toronto General Hospital. Night after night, Howland visited the slums, going from house-to-house, and reaching out to the poor, the sick, and the alcoholic. He also purchased 50 acres to start an Industrial School in order to steer youth away from the life of crime. Other initiatives were his building an alternative school for drop-outs, and a Home for the Aged and Homeless Poor. When he began to teach an interdenominational bible study for 100 young men, his new priest J.P. Lewis objected to Howland’s involvement with non-Anglicans. Out of this rejection, he began the interdenominational Toronto Mission Union, which operated seniors’ homes, convalescent homes, and Toronto’s first-ever home nursing service.

Because of his great compassion for the poor, he was elected as Mayor of Toronto in 1885, with a strong mandate to clean up the city. Howland signaled his arrival in the mayor’s office by installing a twelve-foot banner on the wall, reading, "Except the Lord Build the City, the Watchman Wakes but in Vain". Despite fierce opposition, Howland was so successful, that Toronto became nicknamed "Toronto the Good". As champion of the poor, Howland and his Alliance friend, Rev. John Salmon, would tramp the lanes and alleys, feeding the poor, praying over the sick, and comforting the sad. With a population of just 104,000, Toronto had over 800 licensed and unlicensed saloons. Over half of all criminal offenses recorded in 1885 were related to drunkenness.

Howland is described in Desmond Morton’s book "Mayor Howland: the Citizen’s Candidate" as the first reform mayor in Toronto’s history. Due to bureaucratic corruption, municipal garbage collection was all but non-existent. Even City Hall’s own garbage was rarely picked up. Rotting garbage fouled the alleyways, yards, and streets, giving Toronto a reputation for flies, stench, and disease. With no general sewage system, Toronto lived on the verge of a typhoid epidemic. Children swam in the same Toronto harbour area into which raw sewage was flowing from the ditches. Toronto’s fresh water supply was sucked through leaking and rotting wooden pipes, half buried in the sewage and sludge of the Toronto harbour.

Howland believed that we didn’t usually need more laws; we just needed to enforce the ones that already existed. He shocked the city bureaucrats by enforcing the already existing bylaw which forbid the depositing of garbage within the city limits. After he threatened to send the city commissioner to jail for breaking this bylaw, garbage miraculously began to be collected! Howland also worked hard in the construction of a trunk sewer system, to redirect the sewage away from the Toronto Harbour. He had such a dramatic impact in reducing the crime rate that other mayors began visiting Toronto, hoping to imitate Howland’s miracle.

During his re-election campaign in 1887, all the taxi cabs were paid off by Howland’s opponent so that they would refuse to take Howland’s supporters to the polling stations. Women however (2,000 widows and single women with property) had just been given the vote. So they held up their long Victorian dresses, and trucked through the snow to give Howland the moral reformer a second term. When Howland was re-elected by a landslide, over 3,000 of his supporters at the YMCA hall spontaneously burst into singing "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.".

After he unexpectedly stepped down as Mayor after two terms, Howland became the founding President of the Christian Alliance (which later took the name C&MA: Christian and Missionary Alliance). The unique interdenominational nature of the early C&MA allowed Howland to be its president, while still remaining an Anglican. When he died unexpectedly at age 49, his funeral involved Anglican, Alliance, and Presbyterian clergy. With more than a thousand mourners on foot from all social classes, it was the largest funeral procession that had ever been held in Toronto. A poem published in the Toronto Globe said of Howland: "And not Toronto mourns alone; All Canada his fame had heard; His name is dear, a household word, And far and wide, his worth was known". May William H. Howland continue to be a living symbol of the difference that just one Canadian can make.

Reverend Ed Hird, Rector,
St. Simon’s Anglican Church

Toronto in the late Nineteenth Century.

Where Might Ingenuity Take Us?

The Diomede Islands, joined by a future Bering Strait Crossing. The project would be slightly larger than two Chesapeake Bay Bridge/tunnels. [ 5.]

Here is an example of where unleashed ingenuity might take us. A 50 mile crossing of the Bering Strait between the Russian mainland and Alaska, the Project [click to read] would actually consist of three spans. Two 25 mile spans would link the mainland termini with the Diomede islands which would be joined by a shorter span.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Steeples of Staunton IV

Spires Seen Along West Beverley and Frederick 

First Baptist Church.

Staunton Grace Covenant Church.

Marquis Memorial United Methodist Church.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue IV

Governing Best by Governing Self...

"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty G-d ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
--John Adams, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
--George Washington, The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.

"God 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 of the Gift of 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; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event."
-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on G-d, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."--John Hancock, History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

Joy, one of my three readers writes: "Isn't It Ironic? The food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to "please do not feed the animals" because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves."

To which my nephew, who served in Iraq writes: "I wonder if the Roman politicians bragged about how many loaves had been handed out at the gladiator games before their society pooped out?

The less self sufficient you can make people the easier it is to control them. It's almost as easy as invading their lands."

How true! But when people willingly give up the sense of G-d instilled principles that guide their lives and look to the government to provide for them, they give up far more than self-sufficiency. They enslave themselves. The "other" weekly news magazine once presented "Ten Ideas that will Change Your Life," but they are at best reporting social trends.

There is nothing new under the sun though. Moses led the people out of Egypt and with ten simple lines of Divine revelation built a people that have carried their heritage and built a great nation several times over. They built the first kingdom, returned from exile under Ezra and Nehemiah and built the amazing Nation of Modern Israel in the mid-Twentieth Century!

Our Founding Fathers took the same principles with them to found the great Nation we live in.

It should not surprise us that the values we have built upon are under attack from those who do not love our Nation or Israel. We do well to understand that "lunch inspectors" in schools are not just an annoyance, they represent a usurping of the authority G-d has given parents in Holy Writ. The G-d who states that "Children are a blessing from the LORD" cannot regard well the proclamations of a John Holdren who wants to tell us how big our families may be.

There is not space here to adequately discuss how popular media and the elite "educated class" war against these values, but much of the vitriol being heaped on those who would offer Biblical solutions to our problems has its roots in this struggle.

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine presented "The Gunfighters" [click to read], Mayor Bloomberg, Joe Biden and Gabrielle Giffords. Unfortunately, the best efforts to eliminate access to dangerous devices will do nothing to reach the depraved heart that seeks them with evil intent.

Revival and Renaissance in America

 Many around us are looking for deep answers to deep problems. Of times like this it might well be said: "Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." -- Luke 10:2. Now more than ever, those who would stir men's hearts to higher, nobler aspirations are needed... men and women who understand where a society's true greatness really lies.

Concerned about the materialistic, acquisitive, corrupt world of an affluent society, they sought to confront her sins and establish her again as a light to the world. The year was 1769 and under the preaching of George Whitefield the English beginnings of the Great Awakening had their start. Soon it would change the fabric of American life as well.

Men like Jonathan Edwards took the message of redemption and made it personal. His sermon: "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God" moved many to see the Gospel message in a personal way, not simply as academic material. The personalization of faith led men and women to change their ways and live in light of a redemptive message. Scholars may debate the amount of influence this movement had in the creation of the United States of America, but the fact that it had an influence is clear!

The late Eighteenth Century saw waves of revival. Camp meetings organized by preachers like James McGready brought the far scattered settlers together to confirm their commitment to personal and life-changing faith. Itinerant preachers spread the movement through the South among both those of both European and African ancestry. A massive interdenominational meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801, marked the high point of the movement.

but by 1830 the movement had waned.

America's failings are well documented. Dark times such as the Cherokee Removal and a host of local rebellions show us that America was often prey to the baser nature of man. Modern historians tend to forget the perilous course of America's journey.

Our nation might have ended early in its founding when Continental Army soldiers, who had not been paid, were set to march on Philadelphia. They might have killed the representatives but for the intervention of their beloved leader, George Washington, who rode out to meet them.

The shots fired on Fort Sumpter might have been the end of our United States as well. Indeed the 1860's saw a divided landscape and untold carnage at places like Antietem. Great cities such as Richmond and Atlanta were destroyed, their citizens displaced, their economies ruined.

Men like Dwight L. Moody spoke into the darkness. Moody's revivals are legend.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Year of Jubilee

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers

Jubilee Singers
Early photograph of the Jubilee Singers.

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.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue III

Leadership Often Unheralded

The 'other' weekly news magazine is presenting Chris Christie of New Jersey as "The Boss" [click to read]. Calling him the: "Master of Disaster," TIME seems determined to build Christie's cred as a "reasonable" politician. Sadly, for some of us the 'disaster' that Christie is the master of might be the public appearances with the President [1.] (right before the election), that look more like campaigning than compassion. Also, revelations that Christie's wife presided over a charity for Sandy victims that may have failed to actually deliver funds to the intended recipients have come to light [2.].

A Profile in Quiet Courage

In contrast, one of our good friends has just experienced tragedy in the form of possible arson. His response to a situation most of us would have a very hard time with is challenging. Earlier this morning I wrote:

"We think of the dangers faced by our brethren in places like Nigeria and thank G-d for our relative safety. Yet one has to look at the series of malicious actions toward this fine church in Stuarts Draft and see that effective Christianity is not without opposition anywhere it is practiced.

Lives are changed through the ministry of people like Pastor Chuck Balsamo and, more importantly, by the people he mentors.

We wonder why horrific crimes, such as occurred in a small Connecticut town, happen. We've tried to construct a post-faith model for our society and are reduced to external regulation because we dare not address the issues of the human heart.

Pastor Chuck and his flock are dedicated to life-changing ministry to the heart. The Gospel of Christ is powerful and effective. Through Christ, people experience transformation. I rejoice in that fact, for it is my experience as well. Some in our world, unfortunately, find that very upsetting."

 Here is what Pastor Chuck wrote, still feeling the freshness of this tragedy:

"Dear G-d, please give a change of heart to people who do these things… and please protect our church from further attack. Please protect the beautiful, loving, and compassionate people of our congregation… and give us courage to continue with our mission… to make this community and world a better place. I still thank You for making me the pastor of Destiny Family Center. Our vision is clear and our future is bright. I thank You for our fire department and those who risked their lives for us again tonight. Bless them, and their families as they’ve willingly placed themselves in harm’s way for us.

I feel humbled. I don’t know what to think. So, I pray… with hope in my heart to a G-d who cares more than anyone can ever imagine. Amen."

 He continues:

"Thank you all for your many prayers and kind comments to us. What a blessing it is to feel the love of G-d, through friends, in times like this. Please continue to respond with G-d’s love.

Things can be replaced.

Our mission and our focus has nothing to do with things… it is about making a forever difference in the hearts and souls of people… our families, friends, and even our enemies. This fire is further evidence of the need for churches, and good-hearted Christian people.

This fire inspires me to care for people more, not less. It makes me more so thankful to G-d for saving me from the person I could have become. It compels me to reach out to corrupted people when they are young… before they end up hurting others and themselves. To the people of Destiny Family Center, and to all who feel hurt with us…

Please respond with us by deciding to make a greater difference with your lives this year, than any other year of your life.

Our church has always been known for reaching out to people who are at the lowest rock bottom… to the drug dealers and addicts and people who are fresh out of jail, and those who are fresh out of divorce, and every kind of destruction imaginable. May we continue to do this, no matter what happens to us in the process. Love is greater than hate. Mercy is greater than judgment.

Today is another beautiful day to be alive and shining for Christ. G-d bless you all!

Keep The Dream Alive,

Chuck Balsamo"

Please read Pastor Chuck's Original Letter [click to read] and pray about how YOU can make a greater difference today!

Iranian Pastor on Front Lines of Faith

American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is being held in one of Iran’s most abusive prisons because of his Christian faith, faces a new challenge.  His case was just transferred to a judge who is notorious for violating human rights.

Follow His Story [click to read] and PRAY!

“Prison is a test of faith. I was always worried that the storms of this life would break the ship of my faith, but when you stand steadfast, the storms are like a nice breeze. Nothing can break my faith. These walls have created more fervor for me to love others through sharing the Gospel, but more than that, the walls have deepened my love for my Savior. I feel the prayers of all who are praying for me.” -- Saeed Abedini


Saturday, January 5, 2013

David Green, Founder of Hobby Lobby

Family Business Grew to Serve G-d's Kingdom First

David Green, Founder of Hobby Lobby.

A Milestone Monday Feature

Listen to the story of David Green [click to listen] on Voices of Oklahoma and you will hear the story of an American entreprenuer who sought to honor G-d in his entire life, both in business and personal affairs. As a youth he picked cotton and struggled in school. His first bright moment cae in the form of a program known as Distributive Education, where he was able to spend part of his day working in retail sales outside of the schoolroom.

Learning the basics of marketing, Green later began making miniature picture frames in his garage with a mitre cutter he bought for $600.00. He and his family continued to work their 'day jobs' while they built a small retail shop.

"From such humble beginnings and steady growth, Hobby Lobby is now considered a leader in the arts and crafts industry. Today, Hobby Lobby has 524 stores [click to read] across the nation that average 55,000 square feet in size, and offers more than 65,000 crafting and home decor products in its stores." -- Hobby Lobby Website

Recently Hobby Lobby made the news as the company sued to avoid having to comply with the Obamacare mandate, a matter of conscience and religious freedom for David Green, who writes:

"When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn't much bigger than most people's living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God's word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation's largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family. We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do.

We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week's biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We've not only added jobs in a weak economy, we've raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage. But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government healthcare mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million per day in government fines.

Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that's raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It's not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it's the same for everybody. But that's not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won't exempt them for reasons of religious belief. So, Hobby Lobby — and my family — are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don't like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice.

We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit. My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that's a choice no American — and no American business — should have to make."

Proofs of the illustrated hymns series, ready to frame. Painings by B. Riley, Laney Riley and Bob Kirchman.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue II

Forty Years After Roe vs Wade, Where Are We Now? 

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine celebrates the ruling of Roe vs Wade [click to read] forty years ago. Calling the ruling an 'epic victory,' they go on to lament the successes of the Pro-life movement in pushing back the wholesale slaughter of unborn babies. The truth is humanity may be the big loser in the overall devaluation of human life in the wake of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

Generally considered poor law by scholars [1.], Roe vs Wade finds its substance in a constructed 'right of privacy.' The problem might be seen this way: If I break a car window to rescue to free an overheated puppy on a very hot Summer day, have I infringed on the rights of the car owner? In theory, yes, but if I hadn't rescued the dog, a passing policeman might do the same thing. The overriding concern being the welfare of the poor creature trapped in the car.

What Roe ignores in supporting the privacy of the abortion seeker is the welfare of the unborn child, and any rights (Life, Liberty, etc.) that the child, as a unique human being might possess, thanks to our 'archaic' Constitution [2.]. Indeed, if I see a child falling from a balcony, the 'keep off the grass' sign and the fence are overruled by the facts of the situation. Indeed, I might be considered culpable if I did NOT trespass in this particular instance.

Abortion and the Devaluing of Human Life

Before Christmas an appalling crime occurred in a small town in Connecticut. The murder of six-year old children shocked most Americans. Killing innocent children is wrong. Most of us would agree. When a nine-year old child asks his Mother: “What is an abortion?” and she tries to explain, the child responds: “But, that means killing the baby.” The existence of abortion in the fabric of our culture has long range implications, and they do not bode well for a culture of respect for life [3.].

For forty years abortion has been given privileged protection (your child cannot have an aspirin at school without your consent, but the same school health system may schedule a 'confidential' abortion consultation for your child at Planned Parenthood) [4.]. Attempts to regulate abortion clinics in a manner similar to other medical facilities are regularly challenged. You will never see an abortion performed on educational television. In fact, pro-choice advocates regularly stonewall discussion of the very real issue of protecting preborn life.

I participated in a prayer vigil to silently protest the first abortion clinic built in the city where I lived in 1974. Now, forty years later, one must ask what the long-term consequences are. Occasionally a child survives the attempt to abort her. Gianna Jessen is one such person and though the failed abortion left her with a number of physical challenges, she regularly speaks on the issue of sanctity of life.

A Voice for Those Who Cannot Speak

Gianna Jessen survived an abortion. Now she speaks for the unborn.

She has been on Dr. Dobson's show to tell her story. Since the unborn cannot speak for themselves it is a powerful thing to hear from someone who wasn't supposed to live. Gianna Jessen does not quit. Giving up is not an option to her. Gianna has what she refers to as the "gift" of Cerebral Palsy. She weighed a mere 2 lbs at birth and the doctors said she would never be able to hold up her head, sit up, crawl or walk. She began to walk by the age of three years old with the help of leg braces and a walker.

Gianna is a Christian. Her life was given to her by the grace of God. She shouldn't be walking, but more miraculous still; she should not even be alive. Gianna's biological mother was 17 when she had a saline abortion in her third trimester. Many Americans don’t realize it is legal to have an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. After being burned alive for approximately 18 hours in the womb from the saline solution, Gianna was delivered alive in a Los Angeles County abortion clinic. Her medical records state, "born during saline abortion"...this is what caused her Cerebral Palsy.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Therefore We His Servants Will Arise and Build

Advice to the People of Jerusalem Still Guides Us

Le Château de St. Albain.

"The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" -- Nehemiah 2:20

The first day of 2013 is about to dawn and I am reading the book of Nehemiah. This book was the subject of a Sunday School class I once taught and it has much advice for us today. The story opens with Nehemiah, one of the Jewish exiles in the Persian court, receiving a visitor from the ruined city of Jerusalem. Hanani, one of his brethren, tells him of the sorry state of the people in the once great city. They are defenseless and troubled by enemies all around them. The walls that once protected the city have been reduced to piles of charred rubble.

But what can a man in exile do? Nehemiah weeps when he learns of the plight of his beloved people, but he is a servant to the king. A man in exile, what can he possibly do to help them?

Nehemiah begins with prayer. His heart is not suddenly lifted, for he appears before the king with great sorrow showing in his countenance. Normally such kings tolerated no sorrow before them -- you were supposed to look overjoyed at the opportunity to serve the ruler, but Nehemiah had obviously served well and gained the respect of the king. The king asks him directly why he is so sad and when Nehemiah describes his sorrow at the plight of his beloved city, he finds an unlikely ally in an even more unlikely chain of events.

Nehemiah finds himself traveling to Jerusalem with letters of introduction and financial support for the rebuilding! He arrives in the city and makes an inspection of the ruins by night.

Now each family begins work on the section of wall nearest their houses. The third chapter of the book of Nehemiah lists family after family, all joined in the work of building. Shallum, one of the rulers of Jerusalem, is assisted by his daughters, but the nobles of the Tekoites won't work. Nonetheless, the Tekoites, without their nobles, rebuild two sections.

The work was not without opposition. In fact, the people had to work with their swords by their side. Some of Nehemiah's enemies tried to distract him. They called for him to meet with them:  

"Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" -- Nehemiah 6:1-3.

So today, I will seek G-d, beseeching Him on behalf of my own troubled country. Then, when I see where He is working, I will rush to join Him. Indeed, whatever our times hold for us, He is building His Kingdom:

"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." -- Matthew 9:35-38.

 Le Château de St. Albain.

Archer slit.