Wednesday, January 29, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Case for Vision III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue VI

A Case for Vision III

You may nave noticed that THYME has departed lately from being a simple parody of the 'other' weekly news magazine. The reason is twofold. First of all. it becomes a bit sophomoronic to parody a magazine that asks on its cover: "Can Anyone Stop Hillary?" I can name about six or seven great candidates without thinking about it. The media won't rush to report them but they are out there. If they want to reduce it to Clinton vs Christie this early in the game, so be it. The Alternative Citizen Media will continue to present a plethora of far more interesting people. In an age of Alternative Media perhaps we can make the game exciting again. We at THYME will do our best! Second, the times demand a more serious approach. We are confronted today by very real problems. If we can draw from history and the voice of experience, we must do so. The political class and the media seem intent on silencing certain voices in the debate. It is those very voices, may I suggest, that we need most to listen to. The country today seems intent on allowing itself to crumble. Noble virtues are denigrated while the vague goal of 'self actualization' has become the subject of ardent pursuit. Relativism is the rule and 'tolerance' the supreme virtue. Clearly we are a nation in distress. Looking back into history, can we find evidence that we as a people have faced similar peril? If so, what lessons might we learn to help us in the struggle for America today? Consider the condition of the nation in the turbulent time following the Revolution.

As the Eighteenth Century drew to a close there were almost a million new settlers to the West of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1803, France sold the Louisiana Purchase to the young nation and Thomas Jefferson, essentially doubling the size of the United States. Lewis and Clark's reports of this vast land would only serve to further fuel the drive for Westward expansion. While the future looked bright for the country, the future of the Christian Faith seemed to be one of slowly diminishing light. Church attendance was dropping off. New ideas from Europe challenged the narrative of Faith and it looked like the influence of Faith would fade, even as the New World filled itself. An Episcopal preacher in the Carolinas said: "How many thousands . . . never saw, much less read, or ever heard a Chapter of the Bible! How many Ten thousands who never were baptized or heard a Sermon! And thrice Ten thousand, who never heard of the Name of Christ, save in Curses . . . ! Lamentable! Lamentable is the situation of these people." Though the land was rich in promise, the spiritual condition of her people was quite impoverished. Immorality and vice abounded as settlement continued. Though no national media paraded it, the dark side of human nature reigned in many remote places. In the wilds of Kentucky, in what would become Logan County, there was a place called Rogues' Harbor. The Digital History of North Carolina describes it as follows: "Here many refugees from almost all parts of the Union fled to escape justice or punishment. . . . It was a desperate state of society. Murderers, horse-thieves, highway robbers, and counterfeiters fled there, until they combined and actually formed a majority." -North Carolina Digital History

But something happened in the very fabric of our nation about that time that would shape our future and chart our course well into the Centuries to follow. There was still much immorality and vice to be found, but in 1799 a Prebyterian minister wrote: "We have heard from different parts the glad tidings of the outpourings of the Spirit, and of times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. . . . From the East, from the West, and from the South, have these joyful tidings reached our ears." The Second Great Awakening came to life as men like James McGready brought the message of Hope and Redemption to the frontier. McGready did not fear to enter places like Rogues' Harbor to speak of: "Heaven and its glories, Hell and its torments." In 1796, McGready was Pastoring three churches in Southwestern Kentucky. In what can only be attributed to a mighty move of the Spirit of G-d, hundreds of people at a time were finding a new and refreshed Faith across the frontier in camp meetings and revivals. In the South and the West. Barton W. Stone was the Presbyterian Pastor of the Cane Ridge and Concord churches, northeast of Lexington, Kentucky. Stone observed McGready's work in Logan County and laid plans for a similar meeting for August 1801 at Cane Ridge. Over 10,000 people attended that meeting. Some estimates put the crowd as high as 25,000. The flames of revival were spreading, leaping now into Tennessee!

Stone observed that Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists were all joined together at this great meeting, singing the same songs and experiencing the same Spirit! "The rough, violent, irreligious frontier, which many felt threatened to undo the morals of the new nation, was being tamed by the Lamb of God." In the East, a similar manifestation of the Spirit of G-d was taking place. Though many prayed for revival, the rise of Universalists, Unitarians and Deists in the region had denied the basic teachings of Christianity and dulled the impact of Faith. Jonathan Edward's Grandson Timothy Dwight observed of the period during and after the Revolution as follows: "The profanation of the Sabbath . . . profaneness of language, drunkenness, gambling, and lewdness, were exceedingly increased; and, what is less commonly remarked, but is not less mischievous, than any of them, a light, vain method of thinking, concerning sacred things, a cold, contemptuous indifference toward every moral and religious subject." But the fires of Revival were stirring in the East. Though this movement was quieter in some respects, it's deep roots would manifest themselves in cultural reform. The abolitionist movement, for example, would come out of this renewed mind. Pastor Alvan Hyde wrote: ". . . A marvelous work was begun, and it bore the most decisive marks of being God’s work. So great was the excitement, though not yet known abroad, that into whatever section of the town I now went, the people in that immediate neighborhood, would leave their worldly employments, at any hour of the day, and soon fill a large room. . . . All our religious meetings were very much thronged, and yet were never noisy or irregular. . . . They were characterized with a stillness and solemnity, which, l believe, have rarely been witnessed. . . . To the praise of sovereign grace, l may add, that the work continued, with great regularity and little abatement, nearly eighteen months."

"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 

As thousands embraced Faith, this Scripture became a reality for the American churches. The Baptists ordained lay ministers to meet the needs of the growing church in the young nation. The Methodists created the institution of the Circuit Rider. Young ministers would literally cover a 'circuit' of churches, riding on horseback from community to community. They were mostly young and single, and had to be in pretty good health. They would be out on the circuit for weeks at a time, perhaps returning to the same community every five weeks or so. They would often come upon a family new to the frontier bringing in the harvest or doing chores and join in as a means of building relationships for the spread of the Gospel. Often the young minister would find a warm welcome and spend the night with the family. He would return on a regular basis and hold services. A congregation might begin to form and build a temporary meeting place, often a 'brush arbor,' which was a simple pole structure covered with brush. Today there are many litle churches that have placed a more permanent building in place of the brush arbor. They may still bear the name of the family that provided the land and materials for the first congregation.

Indeed the seeds had been planted for a movement of G-d that would minister to the nation through a terrible Civil War and well into a Century where America would be thrust into the world's great conflicts. Revival came to the colleges, beginning in Virginia's Hampton Sidney College and even occurring at places like Yale. Men like Charles Finney and D. L. Moody would continue to preach the Gospel, adapting their methods to minister to the nation that grew in the Nineteenth Century, but the message remained the same. Eventually America would become a great sender of missionaries into the world. The Gospel would go forth to touch millions and in doing so would bring hope and purpose in many places around the globe.

In one of my childhood books is the story of a Methodist Pastor who arrives at a new parsonage and with his children plants a tree. The tradition of that Faith is that ministers will move on to new pastorates, so the man is planting a tree that he himself will never sit in the shade of. It is clearly an act of kindness intended to bless a family like his that will follow... in the far distant future. I love that story because it is a planting of hope and belief that looks beyond the here and now. It is a remnant of that far-looking faith that once long ago stood face to face with America's endless frontier.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mary's Rock Tunnel on Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park's Only Tunnel in the Snow

The tunnel, constructed in 1932, passes through 3514' tall Mary's Rock. It is 610 feet long and was engineered to avoid making an unsightly road cut.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Case for Vision II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue V

"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;

For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called." -- Isaiah 54:1-5

A Case for Vision II

For three hundred years following the Reformation, many church leaders neglected the command of Christ to reach the nations. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Century, a newly ordained Baptist leader in England spoke to challenge this misapplication of the doctrine of election. "Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he'll do it without consulting you or me," said an older minister. The young man's name was William Carey. He was a cobbler by trade, but his calling would take him far beyond the walls of his little cobbler's shop. Carey's vision, you see, was as wide as the map of the world that he hung on his shop's wall. Gathering some like-minded friends, he began to pray for the fulfillment of his vision.

Carey admired the work of the Moravians [click to read], who at one point were one of the foremost sending congregations, planting churches around the world. They even founded churches among America's Cherokee Nation. Dismayed by his own denomination's lack of zeal for such work, he penned An Enquiry Into The Obligations Of Christians To Use Means For The Conversion Of The Heathens. Seeing the Great Commission as applying to the church of his day, he said: "Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry."

In 1792, Carey organized a missionary society and called for his fellow believers to: "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!" Few men today would have the patience and tenacity of Carey who said: "I can plod, I can persevere to any definite pursuit." Carey offered to become the first missionary of his society to the great subcontinent of India, offering to go if his friends back home would "hold the ropes." After a fourteen month journey and many personal tragedies, Carey labored on for seven years before he saw his first convert, Krishna Pal. Two months later he published his first Bengali New Testament. He and his colleagues would go on to publish translations of the entire Bible in Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, as well as hundreds of lesser used dialects.

Carey was instrumental in significant social reform in India. His work and advocacy resulted in the abolition of infanticide, widow burning (sati), and assisted suicide. Thus did a man's love for his Saviour result in the affirmation of Imago Dei in a whole new part of the world. When William Carey died, he had served the people of  India for 41 years!

When Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name, Israel had forgotten the G-d given mission to be a light to the nations. Losing sight of this important purpose, the people sank into idolatry and pleasure-seeking. Every generation faces the very real danger of missing the great calling. Ours is no exception. Pastor Bruce Hankee related the story of Carey to his congregation, challenging us to program our lives for G-d's purpose through an understanding of Isaiah 54:1-5. He challenged us to enlarge our capacity for G-d's purpose, as Carey did. Ephesians 3:19 exhorts us: "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Indeed this is a great reason to expand our tent, that we might contain more of the love of G-d for our fellows! In lengthening our cords, we are expanding our influence. Just as a cobbler in the middle of England became a major pioneer in world missions, we too can have a greater influence if we will persevere in the pursuit of a great vision.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Case for Vision

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue IV

A Case for Vision

The day was growing long as the evening light outside was fading away. I was installing the model our studio had built of a major resort in the welcome center. At 1" = 500' the physical model showed ski slopes, golf courses and a wonderful water park on a most amazing mountain location. The staff had quietly slipped in and out to look at the artistic rendition of the resort's majesty and many had expressed their admiration. I was hurrying to place the identifying numbers for the map key when I first noticed that I had an audience. Two teenagers had come in to look at the model up close. Their parents were already headed in to the indoor pool area but even the wonders of a world-class resort couldn't stop youth from being intrigued by a statement of vision.

One of the girls gazed at the model with what appeared to be skills of observation beyond her years. There was no need for the admonition: "Don't touch anything!" In fact, I would have considered it an insult. Both sisters displayed incredible respect for the work taking place before them. Though the first girl was quite conversant in literature (how many kids can use the words 'Utopian' and 'Distopian' in their conversation); Homeschoolers? Perhaps, but I didn't ask. Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling were better topics for conversation. The girls had clearly been raised to treasure literature and thought. That they lingered when a really fun moment awaited them through the next doorway spoke volumes to me. Young people (and I have been priviledged to work with the best in our studio) want to see vision and deserve to be shown our best efforts at it.

Most of my life has been spent in the field of visualization. It has involved constructing hundreds of little models of proposed projects, the drawing and painting of innumerable renderings and as the economy recently crumbled, some really interesting publishing projects. Vision is as essential to the soul as food is to the body, so, as S. Truitt Cathy says: "Make it good!" It is in our blood. It is a part of our history.

Michigan at the turn of the Century was poised to become a center of vision and innovation. My own ancestors fled Bavaria in 1870 as Otto von Bismark 'unified' Germany. They came to the American Northwest to settle in that cold land, finding employment on the growing railroad. The men set out first, seeking their fortunes, and saved their money to bring their ladies to the New World. When Oma arrived, she quickly decided she didn't like the boys working on Sunday, so they found work in Bay City's growing sawmill industry. Eventually Bay City would become known for pre-manufactured houses as Aladdin Homes and Lewis Homes would enter the market that Sears Roebuck is most famous for. The companies grew well into the Twentieth Century, but faltered during America's Great Depression.

Ironically it was during this same Depression, South of Bay City in Detroit, that Henry Ford's assembly line was creating an American version of the 'Industrial Revolution.' For a good portion of the Twentieth Century, Detroit was the automobile production center of the world. Across the 'glove,' in Benton Harbor, the Heath Company [click to read] began manufacturing a 'build it yourself' airplane kit. Expanding into consumer electronics, Heath offered a whole range of kits for enthusiasts who wanted to build their own radios and electronic devices. Heathkit became a legend as scores of people assembled and enjoyed these products. My father and I must have assembled dozens of them in my youth. My two brothers went on to become NASA engineers!

As Detroit diminished and Asian and European auto makers grew, one of my uncles worked for John Portman creating the great towers of Detroit's Renaissance Center. Today those gleaming towers preside over a city in decline. As Japanese and Korean companies remade the assembly line, Detroit's 'Big Three' were hobbled by antiquated methodology and union work rules. They had operated without fear of competition for so long that they came too late to the world of robotics and subcompact cars.

Great minds like that of Lee Iococca might have remade her, but Detroit was stubborn about resisting change and forgot about the deep well of her inventive past. It was not so much that they were 'stuck in the past' but that they were 'stuck in their own Century!' Had they looked to the past, they might have seen the transformation wrought in previous times by men like I. K. Brunel [click to read]. If some day we find ourselves gliding rapidly between cities in pneumatic tube transit systems, we will do well to remember that Brunel was there first. He used a pneumatic tube and piston to propel trains on one of his innovative railways in the Nineteenth Century!

The time was growing late. I asked my young observers a loaded question: "Why are there no books on how to teach your baby to walk?" They looked at me with a serious rumination I had often seen in the countenance of my studio assistant when I'd pose such a problem. "You don't need them!" one of the girls thoughtfully answered. She went on to explain that babies naturally want to stand and reach out to their full potential. "Why do we lose that?" I pondered. "Does it get 'taught out of us' as we move on to more formal instruction?"

And yet, it can be rekindled! It can be nurtured! As a boy I spent hours in the woods observing the wonders of the natural world. In 1964 the New York Worlds Fair inspired me to draw impossible built environments. Men walked on the Moon. My grandfather designed and built his own machinery for his mill. My grandmother was a great painter and designer. My mother loved mathematics and designing sweater patterns. My father wrote the procedures for testing spacecraft in the 1960's. Once Mom took me to visit a friend of hers who sculpted in white marble. Her friend encouraged me to work in Ivory Soap!

I do not consider my childhood to be all that out of the ordinary. This world is FULL of beautiful creative souls, most of whom LOVE to share their vision with young people. If it IS at all out of the ordinary, then I believe we are to blame for not allowing our children to come alongside and be infected by our brightest and best. History offers us even more. Consider the Wright Brothers [click to read]. Too often we've turned history class into: "What's Wrong with America" and neglected the stories of inspiration and greatness. That is not to say we should ignore the dark parts, but we must never create a picture of hopelessness and despair. There is too much evidence to the contrary!

My wife is an educator of young children. She once shared with me some research about early childhood development that focused on infants in an orphanage in Tehran. The staff was spread so thin that the children were merely fed and changed. There was no time to hold and cuddle the infants. Far too many of these precious souls never rose to crawl. They never pulled upright to walk. They simply died. The study affirmed the importance of nurture in young lives, and begs us to ask: "As we push our children to conformity and 'productivity,' do we unwittingly cease to nourish some essential part of the soul?" Could Vision be the essential food for human aspiration?

As much of the media has been all too ready to report the demise of the American experiment, THYME looks at these fine young people and looks to offer them far more. We'd like to present a vision that is rooted in history and faith, that dares them to dream big dreams. The world needs them to do so, We can offer them no less!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

THYME Magazine Epiphany Edition II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue III

Faith's Foundations in Christ's Unity
By Donna Lou Shickel - © 2013 Donna Lou Shickel Publishing Co. Distribute freely with permission

If you’ve been with us here at A Place of Grace recently, you’ve heard the series on the deliberate and systematic attacks against our nation’s Christian Judeo values and freedoms. You’ve heard about the horrific goals they’ve stated and accomplished because they believe the Christian/Judeo faith and traditional values hold back progress, not to mention their own rise to totalitarian power. You’ve heard here about the successful influence by socialist and communist sympathizers in our own country in the attack on human life, education, the modern feminist movement and against our free market system. So what could any of us as Christians possibly have in common with these haters of human dignity and freedom? Is it even possible that any believer could be in mutual agreement with them on anything? Well, there is, and you may be surprised.

Welcome to A Place of Grace, I’m your host, Donna Lou. Through all my research, I was most horrified to see that without exception, these leaders have first and foremost sought to destroy not a human institution, but a Divine one – the historic Church - the most powerful voice standing against socialist/communist now called progressive efforts. Look back at the tactics used to malign and subvert our American institutions, and the re-writing of our Christian-Judeo history and Founding Fathers. Think about the repeated magnification of our countries’ failures and all the stories of those who HAVE abused her benevolence. And with what purpose? To present the problem as freedom, and the solution as government control and oppression. And the same tactics continue to be used in an attempt to destroy the historic Church from her beginning; fueling fear-based divisions, inciting blame, vilifying all members for the failures of a few, basically re-writing history. And too often, enemies of the Church have been quite successful in turning people against the very idea of Christianity, and toward intimidating other churches to water-down or eradicate basic controversial teachings. And divided, we fall.

I mentioned before that thousands of communist sympathizers were recruited by individuals like Bella Dodd to infiltrate seminaries, to destroy the Church in the US and Europe. Not to say that the Church hasn’t always had her Judases helping the devil’s cause from the inside, from the time of Christ - Those who would use God, rather than allow Him to live through them. But don’t you wonder why an anti-Catholic view would be the one area some of us might be in agreement with the likes of Marx, Stalin, Darwin, Frederick Nietzche, Margaret Sanger, Hitler, Mao, John Dewey, not to mention Empererors Nero, Dometian, oh don’t forget Napoleon, and now the secular media, and many of our own countries progressive leaders in government and in other churches? I thought here at Advent, where we are to make straight our crooked ways, it would be good to set straight maybe the most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church – Who does the Bible say Mary is? And who Mary is and is not according to Catholic teaching. It’s hard to ignore Mary at Christmas (or Epiphany for that matter).

 Many of you know I was raised Catholic, educated in Catholic grade school and high school, minus the middle school education during the cultural revolution of the late sixties, which was chaos, teachers taking us out of school to protest, passing marijuana around, during the “make love not war” era, a statement coined by known communist, Herbert Marcuse. A time when the Catholic Church was ridiculed as the lone voice against abortion and departure from virtue, but stood firm, despite many of her own members being swayed by science and media who convinced people that “it wasn’t a real baby” until months after conception and “you bishops are just oppressing natural behavior”. But the Church stood on the faith of the Apostles which carried forth precepts of the ancient Hebrew blood Covenant God entered into with Abraham which included Abraham’s seed, don’t mess with the seed. And because God became flesh in the Person of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the fully Divine Son’s human life began at the moment of conception.

God sanctified human life and we therefore have no right to destroy or tamper with that life or it’s seed which God has created through the sacred union between a husband and wife. Contrary to popular teaching, the nuns were very clear in teaching us that Christ alone is our one, true Mediator, and that you worship Mary or ANY person other than God, family, friend, pastor, pets, if you don’t love God more than these, you do so at the expense of your own soul. I never saw them beat anybody, though I was deserving, but they sure beat that into us, and all other teachings the Catholic Catechisms actually teach. It never crossed my mind that anyone would even think we worshiped Mary until I moved to the peaceful, God-fearing Shenandoah Valley. I learned to stop telling people of my Catholic background, because instead of wanting to talk about Jesus, people seemed to be fixated on Mary and purgatory. I told my Dad once it was like going to a doctor’s convention, and the heart specialists demanding that the endocrinologists explain why they were focused on the thyroid gland. “Why do you worship the thyroid? It’s the heart that gives you life!” But I was never a good Catholic anyway.

I was taught to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to become a fisher of men, but carnal me had other fish to fry. And when I came back to my senses in my early twenties, I came back to the faith only nominally, then married and moved here, to the Valley. And I did what I hate having done to me. I distanced myself from the Church because it was controversial. Even though I knew that MOST accusations were errant, I cared more about belonging and being accepted. And when you’re making friends with people who were raised to believe that the Catholic Church is the antichrist, but you both are just as passionate about the Word of God, and standing against Satan, well you just focus on what you have in common and hope for the best. Plus, I found precious few people who wanted to hear or bother to look up what the Catholic Church actually teaches, and to their credit, it’s the only Church who has set in stone what is believed, taught and why, citing all of Sacred Scripture, and refuses to change it.

The Catechism I was taught then is the exact same today, used in many non-denominational Christian schools to teach the faith, even here in the Valley, and most of it was complete in early Christianity. The Pope has no authority to change the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, that’s why they seem so rigid in our culture. They only reassert the Sacred Truths to a particular culture when needed for clarification and renewal. But I didn’t like being grilled and interrogated and even blamed for the Crusades, which if you check history, were only begun after 400 years of turning the other cheek to Muslim attacks against the Holy Lands and the Christians, Jews and other Muslims who were making their pilgrimages to the Holy Lands. The call to the Crusades included building monasteries along the routes for all religions to have safe shelter and food on their pilgrimages where they once were being killed or captured as slaves. You’d be surprised to learn that the common myths believed about the Crusades originated, again, by communists and others who hate Christianity. And to learn the only religion calling for forced conversions were the Muslims.

Let’s take a whole show for the Crusades one day, shall we? But back to my litany upon moving here: - “No, we don’t worship Mary and dead saints, we worship God alone, we venerate the saints in Heaven and on earth whom the Scriptures say pray and intercede for us, and there’s no such thing as dead saints, if you’re a saint, you never taste death.” “No, the Pope is not above the Scriptures, He’s a servant TO the Scriptures and to the flock. No, we don’t believe you can pray someone out of purgatory on their way to hell, when you die, you’ve chosen your own destination. No, we don’t believe you can work your way to Heaven, only the redeeming sacrifice of Christ unlocks eternal life for us. “But you wear crucifixes because you think Jesus never got off the cross!” “No, we got the memo on that one too.” I thought people should be relieved to hear this, or at least check out the facts themselves, but again, when you’re raised and taught to stay away from Catholics lest you too become deceived, well I was weak. And that bothered me, being someone who would otherwise get between bullies and victims and defend and take hits for people being maligned. But I would soon become engaged in Bible study with my many good Protestant and Evangelical friends who overlooked my Catholic background, and eventually accepted the invitation to enter my new Church’s three year license to ministry program. And it was by this time that I found it necessary to thoroughly investigate every debated teaching of the Catholic Church.

Now the original Protestant Reformers defended the teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity, also not to elevate her, but based on what it says about God, Scriptures, AND about the glory Jesus shares with His beloved, John 17 and throughout the New Testament. It wasn’t until centuries later, with near complete detachment from the early Church customs rooted in Old Testament Judaism, that accusations of Catholics worshiping Mary began, at which time the Pope issued a decree to re-state what the Church and the Protestant reformers believed from the beginning. Yes, I yearn for unity, but not at all costs. I have no intentions of proselytizing or in defending any idolaters or wolves in sheep’s clothing, I just want us to honestly consider these things and encourage good Christians to do your own research. I’m sure you trust the authorities who taught you as they trusted theirs, but do your own research. I can attest that nothing will make you as popular as being a disgruntled, ex-Catholic poster child in a crowd of Protestants, but what a shallow honor! And nothing can lose you friends faster than defending or defining Catholic teaching if you’re a well-Catechized Catholic who’s consecrated your life to Christ. But the devil’s had his day. After having spent half of my life in each Church, all I can see is that we need each other, and we have to begin somewhere to dialogue.

In the meantime, we all need to get grounded in our own faith and leave it to others to profess theirs lest we bear false witness and destroy our own Covenant family with God. I understand the objections and the risk, but I also see the openly stated, hell-bent deliberate effort by Communists who hate us all and want to divide and destroy EVERY Church. Did you know that dehumanizing Jews and Catholics was the very tactic Stalin and Hitler used to slaughter millions? They spread mockery and lies that the existence of these people threatened the lives of their other citizens so that by the time the killing began they would support it or at least look the other way, like we’re doing with the ongoing massacre of thousands of Catholics today in the Middle East and elsewhere. The same thing happened in Rwanda two decades ago. The power-hungry government spread propaganda of fear and hatred, calling the Tutsi people “cockroaches”, that led Hutu neighbors to take up government issued machetes to kill nearly a million of their own brethren! And a few weeks ago, I think I heard the straw that broke this camel’s back.

On a Sunday morning radio show, someone was making vulgar jokes about nuns. Nuns! Women who consecrate their lives to Christ, some who are right now being imprisoned, stripped, raped and paraded through public streets in the Middle East, along with the priests who are being beheaded and their churches and thousands of parishioners bombed, butchered or shot! And when one bishop or priest is killed, another takes his place because they gave a sacred oath before God to shepherd Jesus’ flock with their very lives when all other missions have pulled out. Those nuns who taught me would get up to pray at three in the morning to pray for a wretch like me before spending the day giving us an excellent education. Not that I cared then, but when I heard these jokes, I said, “Enough. Open season on nuns and anyone else we’d like to dehumanize is over. This has to stop. What other group of people can you openly mock and slur in such a way but the Catholics, and still call yourself Christian? What race, creed, color – what religion can you do that to and get away with it in our society today? Yet we preach Grace and Mercy for all?

In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus promised His true disciples they would be accused of being the devil. And it wouldn’t be the atheists calling a group of believers the anti-christ, they don’t believe in Christ or the devil. No, it would be other members of the same religious community. Jesus said they will flog you from their synagogues, where the early Christians would assemble. Fellow believers will accuse you of being Beelzebub and drunkards from their very place of worship. Are other assemblies openly accusing your church what Jesus promised? What prophesy are we fulfilling here? So if Catholics are idolaters and actually worshiping Mary, why would you choose someone who said to God, “Be it done unto me according to your Word”? Why choose as your false idol someone whom God’s messenger said, “The Lord is with you” and “with God all things are possible”? A mother who points to her son, Jesus and says, “Do whatever He tells you?” Why a mother who endures mockery, is accused of being the mother of Beelzebub, but doesn’t distance herself from Him but rather stands and gives her ascent at the Cross for her own salvation and for the world’s, rather than saying no and demanding this brutal execution stop as Peter once did?

Because this humble woman, the first Christian, knew that this brutal execution was actually the willing Sacrifice that would save mankind from eternal death, and for cooperating in His Salvific Act, she would be set afire with the Holy Spirit anew at Pentecost. This is a curious idol, indeed, mostly because Jesus went through Mary to come to us. I could say, “I love Mary Magdelene, I love Rahab the prostitute, and you’d say, “Oh yea.” But “I love Mary?” Oh, that means I worship her. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 487, it states “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.” Likewise, it would say a lot about a God Who would impregnate a young girl and then distance himself from her out of fear others would worship her, and say more about the causes you and I might have given Him to treat us in the same manner. What does it say if Jesus treated Mary with any iota of disrespect, that’s not sinless by Mosaic law. And why would anyone defend the sanctity of human life when God only used Mary as an object?

Yes, what you believe about Mary directly impacts what you believe about our Lord. His Word states, when both women are filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth calls her “Mother of my Lord,” and in the Holy Spirit Mary states, “All generations will call me blessed,” but we don’t call her anything but “a willing vessel”, if that? Is that what you call your mother? So let’s look to what the Israelites would understand from Scripture about the Woman, beginning in Genesis 3 when God said to the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve, verse 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. Enmity to the Jews meant complete separation, division, nothing in common, in fact enmity meant warfare. The mother of the seed who is Christ would by God’s own Word and redeeming Grace, have no connection whatsoever with the devil.

Revelation 12:13 says that when the devil was thrown from Heaven down to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. And when he couldn’t touch her, verse 17 says that he was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children. And really, how could the woman from whom the God-man, Jesus, would draw his flesh and blood from and in whose womb would have created a sinless human body, mind and soul, have in her own being the stain of sin? How could the flesh and blood that would redeem the world be drawn from a sinful woman? Mary was indeed saved by the same Grace that saves us all, as she praises God her Savior in the Magnificat in Luke chapter 2. The once for all sacrifice was applied to Mary by God’s design, otherwise Jesus would have carried the stain of original sin. Or, as some argue, that Jesus wasn’t fully human but was incubated within but separately from Mary’s being. That’s a problem, again, not because of what it says about Mary, but what it says about Christ.

First, if Jesus was not fully human, not truly born of a woman and as it says in Hebrews 4:15, like us in every way except for sin, then He’s not the true mediator for mankind and He’s not like us, not the first-born of God and of man, He’s simply God in a human-like shell and God didn’t really want to be that intimately connected with His Covenant people by becoming fully human through Christ with us after all! So therefore, you can’t really trust and relate to Jesus, you have to lean on created people or things. That’s the spirit of anti-christ. 1st John Chapter 4, 2 "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist!"

 No one denied the historicity of Jesus’ existence, just His full-divinity or humanity, because without both, you don’t have one true mediator, and you don’t have to make a decision to give Him your whole life. You can just toss around His teachings in the Church of the Good People. But consider the parallels between the Tree of Life in Genesis, on Calvary, and in Revelation, and that in calling Mary “the woman”, Jesus was not being rude. Because when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he didn’t speak on his own behalf. These were God’s Words in Luke 1 verse 28 as God’s Messenger, and the original text is “Hail, Full of Grace.” God Himself gave a royal greeting to Mary. Hail as a greeting is only used in the Gospels or historically as a royal greeting, remember “Hail, King of the Jews.” And “Full of Grace”, the title Mary was literally greeted which is translated from complete with grace, is only used elsewhere in John one verse 14 which says of Jesus, He was full of Grace. Mary’s a creature, but Grace, as we know, is the life of God living inside of us.

 All that Mary is is by God’s doing, and her leading in God’s Word gives us hope and a beautiful example, not an object of worship but a “great sign” as Revelation 12 says, that points to ALL THE MORE reason to worship God! But as we read in Luke chapter one beginning in verse 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Now, we might miss the significance that the throne of David would have for a devout Old Testament Jewish girl. But Mary wouldn’t have. According to Scriptural genealogy, historical manuscripts and archeological evidence, Mary was the late-life miracle child of Anna and Joachim, and according to Mosaic Law, was the child that opened the womb, referred to as “first born”, whether there were more children or not. God commanded in Exodus 13, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, don’t miss that, The LORD said to Moses: "Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine." Firstborn in the Bible doesn’t imply there are second born, just as the word “until” in Biblical language didn’t imply mean the cessation of an event would now commence. Psalm 110 quoted in Acts 2 says, The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.", - it doesn’t mean at which point, Jesus you can’t sit here anymore. And in Deuteronomy 34, it says no one knew the location of Moses’ grave “until this present day.” Earlier translations of Matthew 1:25 give a better sense of Mary’s case: "He had no relations with her at any time before she bore a son" or "He had not known her when she bore a son".

The Gospel writers intentionally call to mind Old Testament prefigurements and prophesies to show that Jesus is the Messiah. In 2nd Samuel, David’s wife Michal laughs at and despises David for bringing the Ark of Old into Jerusalem dressed not as a royal king, but in an ephod. 2 Samuel 6:23 says that because Michal despised David, and David rebukes Michal, there was enmity, that “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death. It was understood that because of this enmity, David had no relations with her and gave her no child “until the day of her death.” This is one of literally countless parallels throughout Scripture to validate it’s Divine origin. The ephod was the same garment as Adam, Aaron and other priests wore as did Jesus when He washes His disciples feet, renewing the Old Testament ordination rite with His Apostles. David wasn’t just humbly dressed, he was dressed as a priest of God, leaping and dancing for joy for six steps, sacrificing on every seventh step, and the parallels between David and the Ark of Old and Mary are numerous: David arose and made haste to the hill country of Judea, same written of Mary; David says of the Ark, "who am I that my Lord should come to me?"

Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit says of Mary, who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me, David leaped for joy, Elizabeth says the baby leaped in my womb for joy, the infant John the Baptist who was six months ahead of Jesus, David leaped for joy six steps ahead of the Ark, David offers a prayer, Mary echoes the same prayer in the Magnificat; David and the Ark remained for 3 months at the house of Obed Edom, Mary remained with Elizabeth three months. No Jewish reader would have missed these parallels OR the same patterns and prefigurements occurring where the Ark led the people and the seven trumpets in the Old Testament and the Old Ark seen with the new, THE woman, and the trumpets, and patterns of seven in Revelation. We can argue about linguistics, and translations, like the original Greek texts calling Jesus THE son of Mary, not A son of Mary as was in other cases as with James and John. But far more fundamental than translations of terms are the themes Jewish Christians understood from Sacred Scripture regarding Mary as the New Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant and the New Davidic Kingdom’s Queen Mother.

 In the Old Davidic Kingdom, the Queen mother sat at her son’s right hand interceding for the people, no power on her own, but she took the people’s petitions and brought them to her son who highly revered her, Solomon even bowed before Bathsheba. So why wasn’t the king’s wife the queen? Because the Bride was so numerous. The King Jesus, having some as his bride who would also be his blood sisters or brothers and then be consummated to them in the Wedding Feast would be to the Jews, Catholics and reformers an absolute abomination of God’s Laws, beyond consideration. And what we might miss about virgins in Old Testament, or in the parable Jesus told of ten virgins, was that these were more than biological virgins. That went without saying for unmarried Jewish women, or they were stoned to death. So these would have been sort of like Jewish nuns, consecrated wholly to God for life, and when they came of child-bearing age, would either have permission to remain serving as handmaids of the Lord in His Temple, or to be married to an older, righteous man who was perhaps widowed if they had no other male in the family to provide for them.

 When Mary asked the Angel Gabriel in Luke 1 verse 34‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?” it wasn’t because she hadn’t had the talk yet. Mary was asking, how could she bear a child since as a first-born, consecrated virgin, she would never know a man in the carnal sense. And if she is the prophesied woman of Genesis, with whom God placed complete enmity between the devil, she could have no such communion with a man born in sin. We have understandable confusion when the New Testament mentions Jesus’ brothers and sisters, but close relatives were brothers and sisters by Jewish terminology, and early Church scholars and historians make many mentions that Joseph was widowed with either his children, or his brothers. But more didn’t need to be stated about this because under Mosaic law, whomever impregnated a woman was to be her spouse until his death. Joseph was clearly told that the child in her womb was of the Holy Spirit, who of course could not die. A Jewish scholar once said that “For Mary to have relations with a mere man after supposedly carrying the Divine Son of God in her tabernacle would have been like using the Ark of the Old Covenant as a wine cooler after God left its presence.” And if “Blessed is the fruit of (Mary’s) womb” as the Word states, wouldn’t those accused of idolizing a creature like Mary also idolize the flesh and blood of anyone sharing the same flesh and blood of Jesus? Wouldn’t they know undisputedly the names of these brothers and sisters, and have shrines to them?

Does God have step-sons? And where are the bones and relics of Mary? The term that the Angel used to tell Mary how she would conceive, was only used one other place in Scripture. Luke 1:35, the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will Overshadow" you, the word for overshadow was "episkiasei" – only used in Exodus 40:34 – 48, to describe the Ark of Old when Almighty God came upon it and dwelled, or tabernacled with His people! It’s the same term the early Christians used to describe what happens in the renewal of the New Covenant Sabbath Worship! And the term for Shakina glory was a feminine noun, which then made no sense. The Ark of Old led the way in its holiness in scattering enemies and leading God’s people through the Jordan River and to their promised land. It contained the priestly rod of Aaron, the Law on stone tablets, and the Manna which gave life to the Isralites.

 Now the New Ark carries the Way and the Truth on a heart of flesh and the Bread of Life Who Himself enters the Jordan River opening the Heavens and the Way for His people to be One with The Father. Do you see the Glory of God we miss, along with the hope we share together, when we’re more inclined to separate and divide rather than give ourselves to our Lord and His prayer that we be One? Today’s program is sponsored by listeners from the Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Anabaptist and Catholic faith who agree, we want and need revival, and it can’t come until we see, we need each other and a return to common, mutual love and respect for each other. Will you stand with us? Get in touch with me here at A Place of Grace at, or by writing to Donna Lou, PO Box 400, Churchville, VA 24421.

I’ll do whatever I can to help. Let the world one day tell the story, that God brought revival to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, who led the restoration of the entire nation! Because they chose to love, and allowed God to turn their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Let it be said that God heard from Heaven, and healed our land, because in the Shenandoah Valley, where there was repentance, there was renewal and there was God so there was love that could not be stopped! Why not us, beloved? Why can’t it begin here? We’ve heard the problems, what else could be the solution? Who else is with us? Who will commit to a new beginning, in mutual love and respect? I’m sure you have other questions too, and I’ll do my best to answer them, Until then, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will” (Lk 2:14).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

THYME Magazine Epiphany Edition I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VII, Issue II

Epiphany, Another Forgotten Season

Celebrated by the Western Church on January 6th, Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the Nations, as pictured by the visitation of the Magi. Portrayed as three Eastern kings astride camels, they follow the Christmas star to worship the newborn King. Here is a profound telling of truth that is often lost in its cultural wrappings. If ever there was a celebration needed for today, it is Epiphany!

The biblical identification for these pilgrims is Magi. The Magi are an interesting group in temselves, originating in a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (the ancestors of modern day Kurds). They were installed as religious leaders and policy advisors to the Persian court by Darius and here they actually make their first appearance in Holy Writ. Daniel, carried into exile from the fallen kingdom of Judea, is assigned to this group when he surpasses the rest of them in his service to the king. Daniel correctly fortold the return of the exiles seventy years in the future.

Though he served a secular king and kingdom, Daniel never lost his connection to G-d and Jerusalem. His quarters had a window facing Jerusalem and he was 'busted' for praying when the king decreed that all his citizens bow only to him. Daniel's deliverance from this decree's punishment, by a Divine intervention, is an often told story by people of Faith. What must be conjectured, however, is the influence this man of Faith might have had on his fellow wizards.

Daniel never returned to Jerusalem, though he never forgot her. He grew old and died as a stranger in a strange land. Though he walked the halls of power in Persia, his citizenship remained in the Land of Promise. His book ends with descriptions of things far into the future, and is silent about the later life of Daniel himself. One might safely assume that he remained in the company of the Magi and continued to serve the Persian court.

A young spiritually minded person would have sought out men like Daniel as mentors. Thus it is highly likely that the hope of the coming King was wrapped into the fabric of Daniel's life and work in such a way that his apprentices would preserve it. Many years later it propelled some of them on a long and perilous journey to find that King. There is no Scriptural reference saying there were only three. That may be an assumption based on the mention of three specific gifts they brought; Gold Frankincense and Myrr.

And what did they find? A Child and his mother, ordinary in their appearance perhaps, but marked by Heavenly purpose! Picture the scene, if you will, of mighty clerics, who direct the affairs of empire by their counsel bowing before a woman and an infant!

Epiphany compells us to wrap our minds and hearts around ancient truth and promise. Epiphany compells us to fight the myopia of contemporary culture and look for the Hand of the Divine! Epiphany compells us to awaken from our slumber and if we hear the voice of G-d, to LISTEN! Epiphany is that discovery so wonderful it is a sin to conceal it. It is a truth that carries a blessing for ALL who will hear it and heed it.

So, as the world around us marks the beginning of a new year and marks down the merchandise of Christmas past, it is really time to continue unwrapping the wonder of G-d's redemptive relationship with His children. Old truths must be pondered, but the promise we find there demands action. The voice of G-d must be answered. History, you see, is not some endless cycle. It leads us on a journey to find a specific destination. The voice of the Divine speaks of far more than some warm feeling of self-actualization. It calls us to participate in the ushering in of a Greater Kingdom!

C. S. Lewis captured the hope and the message so well in this thought from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:"

"When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone,

Sit at Cair Paravel in throne,

The evil time will be over and done."

Spoken to four rather ordinary children, the extaordinary hope of Aslan's rule creates a feeling of thrilled anticipation. Does the knowledge of the unfulfilled prophecies of G-d's Eternal Kingdom create in us today that feeling as well?

Epiphany's Meaning for Today

Around the world, the hope of Christ's Eternal Kingdom fires the passion of Christians in diverse and difficult situations. Coptic Christians in Egypt share this hope with hidden house church groups in China and North Korea. In Nigeria the faithful watch their churches destroyed, knowing that an Eternal Jerusalem awaits them.

Twelve men hiding in an upper room were propelled outward one Pentecost long ago to share that hope. These reluctant witnesses found themselves empowered by the Holy Spirit as they went. At first glance, history seems to tell us that the church eventually divided into many factions... today many at the tips of these branches hold tight to their distinctives, but miss the branching and rooting of a great tree. Today there are many distinctive groups within Christianity, but has the essential message survived? Next week we will take a good look at how essential truth has indeed flowed like the lifeblood of this great tree.