Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THYME Magazine: Recognizing True Greatness

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXVII

Recognizing True Greatness
G-d's Not Dead

What do you do when your faith is challenged? A recent film asks that question as it follows a college student's unexpected 'testing' when his philosophy professor demends that all of the students write "G-d is Dead" on a piece of paper, sign it, and hand it in at the beginning of the first class, or face a failing grade. For most, it is a simple exercise of class compliance, but for freshman Josh Wheaton it is a demand that he deny the very foundations of who he is. Josh nervously refuses to comply, raising the ire of professor Radisson, who counters Wheaton's refusal with a daunting assignment; he must prove G-d's existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence. He must go head to head with Radisson in a series of classroom debates. If he cannot convince his classmates of G-d's existence, he fails the course.

The movie G-d's Not Dead opened in just under 800 theaters, yet it sold out in many locations and outperformed films with far larger exposure. Directed by Harold Cronk, the film dramatizes what is unfortunately an all too commonly seen antipathy to faith in the modern academic community. But consider this; the universities that the radicals of the 1960's became tenured in during the years that followed owe their beginnings to people of faith who sought to bring truth and order, rooted in faith, to the Americas. Great schools like Dartmouth and William and Mary sought to bring the invigorating element of Faith to the populace of the New World, both Native and European. That initial mission is now reflected only in the aforementioned schools' mascots and Dartmouth's remaining scholarships for people of Native American ancestry.

“G-d’s Not Dead didn’t have a massive marketing budget, a liberal A-list star above the title or even the same number of screens most mainstream movies receive. The film is still on pace to snare the fourth spot in the weekend’s box office chart in a very competitive frame. LA Times: ”The religious drama ‘G-d’s Not Dead’ surprises at box office. The film, which opened on just 780 screens nationwide, took in more than $2.8 million Friday. It’s likely to be the No. 3 movie for the weekend, behind the bigger-budget, wider-released “Divergent” and “Muppets Most Wanted.” - Breitbart

The need to consider the greatness of G-d and His story are nothing new. This is reflected in the hymns of old and the wonder that they still inspire!

Carl Boberg.

He was 26 years old. The year was 1885. Carl Boberg, a Swedish minister,  wrote a poem entitled, “O Store Gud”. Boberg’s poem was published in 1886. The title, “O Store Gud,” translated into English is “O Great G-d,” translated into English, it reads like this:

When I the world consider
Which Thou has made by Thine almighty Word
And how the webb of life Thy wisdom guideth
And all creation feedeth at Thy board.
Then doth my soul burst forth in song of praise
Oh, great G-d
Oh, great G-d.

Stuart K. Hine, who wrote the hymn "How Great Thou Art" that we recognize today, was an English missionary to Poland in the 1920s. Climbing through the Carpathian Mountains, his entourage was faced with a gathering storm. Inspired by "O Store Gud," he penned the first verse of the hymn we know today. The storm was so severe that the party could not travel further. Reaching a little village, they were given shelter by the local schoolmaster.

Traveling on into Romania and into Bukovina, Hine wandered forest glades with the young people in his company. Thus was born the second verse. The conversion of many people living in the Carpathian Mountains inspired the third verse and the fourth, speaking of Christ's triumphant return to Earth, was written when Hine returned to England.

Maltbie Davenport Babcock.

 Born in Syracuse, New York in 1858, Maltbie Davenport Babcock was the Pastor of a church in Lockport, New York. He often took long walks along the Niagra Escarpment, where he enjoyed the sweeping views of Lake Ontario. He would say to his wife Katherine: "I am going out to see the Father's World." Indeed, his walks with G-d in the beauty of Upstate New York inspired him to write the poem that became the great hymn. My beautiful wife was born in Syracuse, New York, though her Oklahoma accent, acquired in her childhood, makes that a well kept secret! She often hears me express a sentiment similar to Babcock's as I head for the Blue Ridge Mountains for the "Sunday Afternoon Walk."

Both hymns begin with an awe of G-d revealed in observation of nature. They build to an understanding of Christ's redemptive Love and rise to an expression of the triumphant Messiah establishing his rule and order on this Earth.

I have always loved the hymns these men wrote. The Hymns Project [click to read] was inspired by them. My friend and Colleague, Kristina Elaine Riley Greer actually deserves the credit for first developing graphic expression for great hymns. Her work on Henry Alford's Come Ye Thankful People, Come [click to read] and Joy to the World [click to read] deserve recognition in their own right. The Hymns Project was an attempt to build a visual representation of the rich musical tradition began by Carl Boberg, Stuart K. Hine and Maltbie Davenport Babcock.

The Hymns Project.

The Testimony of Nature
Evening Light Plays Across the Folds of the Great Valley

Photo by Kristina Elaine Riley Greer.

The heavens declare the glory of G-d; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. -- Psalm 19

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Greetings from Quinhagak, Alaska

A New Twist to Handel's 'Messiah'

Here is a unique production of Messiah by the citizens of a small town in Alaska..

Mural at SAC
Journey to Jesus Mural. Kristina Elaine Riley Greer and Bob Kirchman

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Beloved Christmas Story's Story

With Six Children to Feed, the Author Needed a Miracle

Frances Alexander's 1842 painting of the famous author.

A Milestone Monday Feature

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

Christmas was coming as he bitterly confided to a friend that his checkbook was empty. Walking the streets, he came up with a 'Ghost of an Idea' and set to work. He published 6000 copies in time for Christmas distribution. They sold out, but because he had splurged on hand-coloured illustrations by John Leech he barely broke even. [1.] Yes, even in Nineteenth Century England, good illustration cost you something! [2.]

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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"What Christmas is All About"

Linus Explains the True Meaning to Charlie Brown

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" was always a favorite at our house when I was growing up. We always decorated a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" in our family room in addition to our "formal" one.
-- Courtesy: The C.S. Lewis Society of California [1.]

Saturday, December 27, 2014

THYME Magazine: Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

The pipes of the Trinity Lutheran Church organ in Crimora.

Beloved Carol Inspired
by a Broken Organ

Lynn [click to read] brings us the wonderful story of how one of our most beloved carols came to be written:

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ's birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas' church organ wasn't working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.

From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.

Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.

On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber's guitar.

Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr's Christmas poem.

Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of "Stille Nacht" back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by "Silent Night," both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

English translation:

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
'Round yon virgin mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.

Twenty years after "Silent Night" was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City's Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English (by either Jane Campbell or John Young). Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins' Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of "Silent Night" are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world.

The English version we know today was written by the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, however the standard English version contains just three verses, whereas the German version contains six. (only verses 1, 6 and 2 from the original Joseph Mohr version are sung in English).

After the 1967 riots, Newark, New Jersey struggled for years to restore itself. NASA Photo.

"An Eye for an Eye"

The recent murder of two New York police officers and the incendiary rhetoric of so-called 'leaders' in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri should call for a deeper examination of how we respond to terrible things. First of all, we need to clearly identify those 'leaders' who merely preach a culture of retribution. Theirs is the way of: "an eye for an eye..." and they will ultimately leave their own communities blind and toothless. Their reasoning is flawed on a number of counts. First of all a crime is only worthy of attention if it fits their narrative. Hundreds of young people die each year in inner city neighborhoods, victims of violence within their own communities. Where is the outcry? Where are those leaders when they might lead in mentoring young people to a better way of living?

Police officers come in all persuasions and colors... the ones I know personally have young children. To make their color into a reason to kill them is the ultimate racism. Most officers put their lives on the line to make their communities safe. Most people are glad for their presence as they serve as a defense against the depravity of those who make some places unsafe. They deserve our respect and our prayers. Those who would reduce them to a one-dimensional prop in their narrative would do well to consider the harm their words do to these fine men and women who, for the most part, tirelessly serve their communities. Sure their are 'bad cops,' just as there are misdirected souls who commit crimes. That does not negate the decency and service of the majority.

This new year would be a great time to look to new leadership who might overcome hatred with healing. We need leaders who seek to build and better their communities. THYME has presented a few of them in recent issues:

Star Parker [click to read]
Tim Scott [click to read]
Mia Love [click to read]

Indeed their stories can inspire us toward a place of healing and opportunity instead of an endless cycle of retribution. They are the leaders that media must celebrate.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Wishes for a Blessed and Meaningful Christmas

The House of Christmas by G. K. Chesterton

Earth over the Moon. NASA Photo from Apollo 8

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honor and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam,
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where G-d was homeless
And all men are at home.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Unpacking The Twelve Days of Christmas

You Will Never Look at this Song the Same Way Again


I always assumed the song: "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to be a simple frivolous song of celebration. Not so!, this song is instructive in basic truths of the Christian Faith! Here is the explanation by Father Edward Dowling:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates the official Christmas season which starts liturgically on Christmas Day and ends twelve days later on the Feast of the Epiphany. “My true love” refers to God, “me” is the individual Catholic. The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments (or the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) [click to read]. The “six geese a laying” are the Six Commandments of the Church or the six days of creation. The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God or the three gifts of the Wise Men. The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine or the two Testaments, Old and New. The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself, and the “pear tree” is the Cross."

Here is More Historical Background [click to read] from Father Dowling. h/t Kristina Elaine Greer


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

THYME Magazine Special Christmas Edition II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXVI

"Behold the Man!"

-- John 19:5b

Many years ago I celebrated Thanksgiving with our church family. There I met the first Nepali I have ever had the chance to speak with. His name was Prem Pradhan. This Gurkha warrior had served in Britain's Royal Air Force before returning to his native land. An accident had permanently injured him and he walked with a limp; but walk he did. In a land where foot travel is necessary to reach most of the villages, Prem walked. He had learned something amazing and he felt compelled to travel to the ends of this mountain kingdom to share it!

Walking all day to reach some remote village, Prem would seek out the men and elders of the place and say: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Who would NOT be intrigued? Pradhan would go on to share his fresh vision of the risen Jesus... and many put their faith in Christ through the fresh telling of the old old story. Not everyone was thrilled to hear this 'Good News,' however. Prem had run afoul of the country's anti-conversion laws. He was put into prison, where he languished for seven years.

Nepali prisons are notorious. Prem's enemies sent him there knowing that it was a place to die. Like the amazing man Prem spoke of, he too was basically sentenced to death. But here he was, years later, telling me his story. He didn't die. While he was in prison he had a vision of the risen Lord, and was further strengthened in his resolve to tell the story of redemption. When he left prison he became involved in education and took in a lot of orphans. While proselytizers are discouraged in Nepal, educators are revered. Prem became a leader of his town and never stopped telling the amazing story.

The Babe of Bethlehem became a man. We have heard the Christmas story so many times that we fail to appreciate its audacity! Let us listen again to it with fresh hearing: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Let us follow the grown Jesus to that time of his death. We first meet him on a hillside. An unlikely candidate for leader of a world religion, he attracts multitudes nonetheless. He teaches a simple message that "The Kingdom of G-d is at hand," and then withdraws to a lonely place with his disciples.

Children flock to Him. He is often surrounded by them and his disciples want to shoo them away. Jesus rebukes them. The Kingdom of G-d is meant for such as these. I met an Egyptian woman who had visions of this place. She says that in Heaven Jesus is SURROUNDED by children. This Jesus did not seek out the halls of power, but instead sought out the weak and simple people of this world. He was a carpenter. His disciples were fishermen, zealots and a tax collector. He spoke to women (most rabbis would not). He spoke "as one having authority." Indeed, one of the most amazing parts of the story is when Jesus stands before the Roman ruler Pilate, who's reaction to Jesus is worth noting.

The promises of Messiah were well known and many in Judea hoped for the coming of that leader who would free them from the oppression of Rome. There were many who claimed to be Messiah, looking to fire a zealot rebellion, and Rome was especially good at killing people. So when a maligned and fairly ordinary Galilean was brought before Pilate, why should he hesitate? There was the fact that he was not actually inciting any uprising... but something in Jesus caused this tough old Roman to pause. Pilate knew his job, but he also recognized authority and chain of command. This Galilean was not blustering about rebellion, in fact He was holding the details of His true mission close to His heart. Pilate saw more than met the eye about the man from Galilee. There is more searching than sneering in his question: "Are you a king?"

Pilate finds himself drawn into a higher sort of dialogue with this man... even asking Him: "What is Truth?" Already troubled by the man he sees, he is further troubled by his wife's dream of him. Indeed, he wants to "wash his hands" of this matter. The simple execution of a supposed rebel has become something far bigger. Pilate tries to release Jesus but is pressed to release Barrabas, a real insurrectionist, instead. The death and Resurrection of Jesus became the story that eventually captivated the Gurkha from Nepal.

The modern age brought about a dismissal of the unseen. Science and Naturalism pushed for concentration on what can be observed. The spiritual and invisible dimensions of life no longer dominated great thought... except to perhaps be broad brushed as simply unknowable. Had Pilate limited himself to that which was observable he would have quickly executed this ragged Galilean. There would be no need for angst, for though he SPOKE as one with authority, he had no physical evidence of that authority.

C.S. Lewis was a man of the modern age. He dismissed the faith as a young man, embracing the Naturalism of his day. As an enlightened Medieval scholar, he nonetheless dismissed the power of story to convey unseen truths. His friendship with men like J.R. R. Tolkien led him to become: "the most reluctant convert in all of England." Lewis, along with his friend Tolkien, discovered the power of the story to convey unseen truths. Imagination for them became the key to discover and share: "a NEW THING!"

"When the Pupil is Ready, The Master Will Appear"

CS Lewis-1
"Imagination is the organ of understanding." -- C. S. Lewis

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” -- C. S. Lewis

Saturday, December 20, 2014

THYME Magazine: Letter from Rajai Shahr Prison

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXVa

A Message from Pastor Saeed

Rajai Shahr Prison 2014

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saeed Abedini and his children.

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THYME Magazine Special Christmas Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXV

Glimpses into a World Unseen
The Amazing Photography of Alexey Kljatov

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

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

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













Glimpses into a World Unseen
Act II

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

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

Moth wing pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kristina Elaine Riley Greer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mazel Tov!

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIVa

The Greatest Gift

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

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

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

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

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

Special Blessings on this Special Day!

Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Truett Cathy.

THYME Magazine: A Powerful Lesson in a Video

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIVa

An Inspiring Video from Rejoice

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

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

Powerful video from Rejoice.

Life Lesson from Some of G-d's Creatures

The Family that Plays Together and Stays Together

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

A special prayer of BLESSING for my favorite OTTERS today!

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THYME Magazine: Faith and Persecution

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIV

Faith and Persecution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware of the Curse of 'Slacktivism'

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mia Love, Distinctly American

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIIIa

Mia Love, Distinctly American

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

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

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

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

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

Boeing's Space Launch System

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

THYME Magazine: Mr. Scott Goes to Washington

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue XXIIa

Mr. Scott Goes to Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos Around Staunton

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

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

Detail of the original altar carving. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The Forgotten Season

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

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

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

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