Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Return of the Small House

Less is More in Today's Housing Market

A Sears Roebuck 'Argyle' home in Fairmont, West Virginia.

The Associated Press [click to read] is reporting on one sector of the housing market that is booming... the market for small houses in the $20,000 to $50,000 range is strong and should remain so in today's depressed economy.

As historical examples, such as the Sears house above prove, small need not mean without dignity. In fact, one who loves historic homes will relish the thought of a whole new generation of craftsman style bungalows.

If you are a contractor looking to tap into this wonderful market, the Kirchman Studio can help you style beautiful small homes for your clients.

Thoughts on the Nature of Theology

Thinking in Terms of Revelation


‎"To think Christianly is to think in terms of Revelation. For the secularist, G-d and theology are the playthings of the mind. For the Christian, G-d is real, and Christian theology describes his truth revealed to us. For the secular mind, religion is essentially a matter of theory: for the Christian mind, Christianity is a matter of acts and facts." -- Harry Blamires ht/Jordan

What 'Wikileaks' Should Teach Us

Israel's Iran Policy Vindicated

Indispensable Ally
US and Israel's flags together...

Guess What?, Israel's Neighbors are Concerned Too [click to read] by Joshua Mitnick in Jewish World Review.

"Wikileaks' release of the documents on Sunday has proved to be something of a public relations coup for Israel: on-the-record confirmation that its Arab neighbors are just as frightened as the Jewish state by a nuclear Iran. The cables confirmed previous anonymous reports that Israel has quiet partners in the region pushing the US to take bolder steps to stop what they consider an existential threat."

U.S. Iranian Policy Challenged

"When Obama decided on negotiating with Iran, he was doing exactly the opposite of what the American allies are thinking,'' says Shlomo Avineri, a political science professor at Hebrew University and a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "Obama has made all of his friends nervous, and the Iranians are spitting in his face."

'Allahu Akbar and Pass the Ammunition'

Another Mysteriously Motivated Attack [click to read] by Mona Charen in Jewish World Review. [caution: truthful discussion of radical islam].

"If a Christian or a Jew suddenly becomes more devout, there is very little chance that he or she will become violent. Quite the contrary. By contrast, religious zeal among Muslims is often expressed with bombs and the blood of innocents. Thousands of imams worldwide preach violent jihad, Islamic schools instill contempt for other faiths, and terrorists actively recruit killers willing to commit massacres for Allah."

Indespensable Ally
...as they should be.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Journey to Fairmont, West Virginia

Historic City on the Monongahela River

Romanesque store front in Fairmont...

...and a mural of a historic street scene in the Middletown Mall (unsigned).

A beautifully preserved Sears Roebuck 'Argyle' home was part of the Holiday House Tour...

...along with the Watson Mansion, home to a coal baron.

Newel post in the Watson Mansion.

Staunton to Fairmont
The drive to Fairmont.

Happy Birthday, Jewish World Review is 13!

I came for the Information but stayed for the Inspiration

Radio host Rush Limbaugh once mentioned a website called Jewish World Review [click to read] on his show. As a resident of a small town in Virginia, I felt deprived of so much good opinion writing. Binyamin Jolkovsky, who writes and edits JWR, opened up a whole new world for me. After reading JWR for a bit, I was hooked.

I came for the Information but stayed for the Inspiration. Here were articles affirming Centuries-old values and ruminations on IMAGO DEI! JWR was packed with writing on every aspect of life!

Binyamin became a treasured guest in my home every morning. He shared from his heart as he struggled through the loss of his Father and his own illness. It was a privilege to pray for his family. Through it all he continued to enrich our lives with JWR.

He only stopped to observe Holy Feasts and that too was an instructive moment. Communion with G-d was more important than the Divine mission itself. The human instrument must remember that he is a human instrument. Binyamin got that one right!

So happy birthday, JWR! Many thanks, Mr. Jolkovsky!

Fragile Urban Families, Loutish Youths

The Decline of Marriage Hurts Those Who Need it Most

THYME [click to read] just reported on TIME reporting on the Pew study's finding that more people are abandoning 'traditional marriage.' Further study might make them want to rethink it. As modern culture seeks to take apart and discard an institution that has served society for thousands of years, the evidence of the destructive fallout of such thinking is already mounting.

Fragile Urban Families [cick to read] by Kay S. Hymowitz in City Journal.

"Poverty is on the rise, according to census data, and now affects 14.3 percent of the population, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. A stumbling economy obviously explains the recent uptick. But those who think that poor urban families’ problems have an economic fix would do well to pick up the fall issue of The Future of Children, a journal jointly published by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution (I sit on its advisory board). The articles in the issue are based on findings from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which has followed 5,000 children and their urban, primarily minority, parents since the kids were born in the late 1990s. The FFCWS now constitutes the most extensive, long-term database on the family lives of the urban poor we’ve ever had, and the dismal picture that it paints of low-income, unmarried couples and their children has nothing to do with the Great Recession." -- Kay S. Hymowitz

Solidarity Forever [click to read] by Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal.

"In these dark times, any sign of social progress is welcome. By social progress we mean, of course, equality between the races and sexes, or—as we must now call them—the genders. The good news comes from Lyon, the second or third city of France, where last month a group of youths, generously outraged by the prospect that their elders and betters will not now be able to retire at 60, but will have to work until they’re 62, decided to throw stones through storefront windows and overturn parked cars as a gesture of intergenerational solidarity. Who says that youth are inconstant? They did it three nights running." -- Theodore Dalrymple

Roman Ruins
Roman amphitheatre and ruins in Lyon...

Santiago Caletrava
...and Santiago Calatrava's futuristic TGV train station next to Lyon's Saint Exupéry Airport. Photos by Bob Kirchman.

Last night I visited STRIVE, a ministry to [and by] young adults in our community. Mark, a local youth Pastor talked about Servant Leadership. It was obvious that this young man was an example of such thinking in his own life and he exhorted those listening to learn to lead by learning to serve.

Outside of the military it is rare to hear young adults being given such a message in our modern culture. Mark spoke of the joy in deferring personal gratification for greater gain. His simple talk, free of theological jargon, covered so many points that I cannot do it justice in the telling. More importantly, we all were listening.

We need to be cultivating the next generation of leaders, praying earnestly that G-d would raise up a new generation of D. L. Moodys and George Müllers. It is comforting to think that I shook hands with one last night!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Architectural Crime Deterrent

Marion County Jail in Fairmont, West Virginia

The four story jail could hold 130 prisoners. Its severe exterior probably discouraged any major crime waves.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Along the Appalachian Trail

Evening Light in November Paints a Colorful Scene

The Appalachian Trail near Sawmill Ridge Overlook in Shenandoah National Park.

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume II, Issue V

Writing History is Always Dangerous
When You are Still Living in It

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] offers their 'TIMEframes' of the past decade. Here at THYME we cover the news with our own special flavor in the way we report it.

Since it is Thanksgiving, we'll leave analysis of modern events for later. We always have the 'year in review' issue to fall back on. Instead, Let's look at a lesson we should have learned from the Pilgrims, and seek not to repeat a mistake that very nearly did in those early settlers of our shores.

Pilgrims' Progressivism
America's First Experiment with Socialism

When the Pilgrims first set up their economic system in Plymouth they opted for a system where all the results of their labor were held in common. All of the colonists then drew from the common store what they lived on. The Common Course and Condition, as this system was called, resulted in some bad feelings on the part of those who produced effectively and some lack of initiative on the part of those who were happy to have the food without the work.

The system produced constant shortages and a man who rose early and worked diligently came quite naturally to resent his neighbor who slept in and contributed less effort. Friction was high among the colonists and in 1623 Governor William Bradford declared the common course a failure.

The colonists were next assigned plots by families. Larger families were given larger plots. Everyone was responsible for the production of his own land and growing food for his own family. The results were noteable. Far more crops were planted and tended. There was plenty instead of shortage and all in response to this new sense of ownership.

Today Rush Limbaugh [click to read] told the Real Thanksgiving Story [click to read] again. It is a story worth repeating to every new generation, as is George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclaimation:

George Washington proclaimed in 1789:

"Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789."

-- George Washington

Thanksgiving for Ingenuity

The Innovators Around Us are a Gift to be Grateful For

Möller Organ with Glass Pipes
This Möller Tracker organ was originally a practice organ at Bridgewater College. It was moved to a private residence by Xaver Wilhelmy who fashioned the unique glass trumpet pipes to compliment the original instrument. Mr Wilhelmy combines the beauty of sound with stunning visual design to create unique beauty in his work.

Michelle Malkin has These Thoughts [click to read] on the seeds of inventiveness.

"Liberty, not "government vision," yields innovation. For this priceless insight bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers, Americans should give eternal thanks."

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

The 'Green Church' in Davis, West Virginia

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran
The church building was built in 1893 and has been painted green on the exterior siding as long as anyone can remember. Shown here is the window dedicated to St. John.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Heavy Trucks on the Haul Road

Alaska's Road to the Arctic Oil Fields

Atigun Pass
Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range. It is a challenge for both men and machinery. Alaska Heavy Haul photo.

"This website was created to share the experience of trucking in Alaska. Alaska Heavy Haul is not a formal organization. We're just here to show you what kinds of situations we face getting the important stuff from here to there. Arctic transport can be quite an adventure!"

Alaska Heavy Haul [click to view].

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume II, Issue XLIX

Who Need's Marriage?

That's what the 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] asks this week. Another paternalistic piece of pap journalism, to be sure. This blog has just dealt with the real problems behind public housing [1.] and the welfare system that discourages marriage and encourages single parenthood certainly deserves mention.

A trio of City Journal articles deal with the problem quite nicely, they are:

Child-Man in the Promised Land [click to read]
The Carrie Bradshaw Lfestyle [click to read]
What Social Science Does--and Doesn't--Know [click to read]

The dissolving of traditional family structures carries with it veryreal costs. Some appear on the balance sheet, such as the increased financial burden on taxpayers to support those who live outside of whole families. Some are unmeasurable, such as the human potential lost when a child's only male role models are non-working gang members.

"It’s 1965 and you’re a 26-year-old white guy. You have a factory job, or maybe you work for an insurance broker. Either way, you’re married, probably have been for a few years now; you met your wife in high school, where she was in your sister’s class. You’ve already got one kid, with another on the way. For now, you’re renting an apartment in your parents’ two-family house, but you’re saving up for a three-bedroom ranch house in the next town. Yup, you’re an adult!" --Kay Hymowitz in City Journal.

Today, Ms. Hymowitz points out, the same young man lives in a sort of adolescent limbo. Society has in many quarters discarded a social order that served it well. In traditonal Faith communities you see a significant number of young people who buck this trend, but outside of such structure there are a lot of young adults "drinking the cream without buying the cow."

One only has to look at the poorest among us, those on public assistance, where marriage has been disincentivized for decades, to see the long-term results of such thinking. Multiple generations of fatherless children find family structure in gangs and generations of women have served as the sole head of households. So much human potential lost... is it worth it?

TIME concludes that marriage only works for the relatively well off, forgetting these observations.

Strong family structure came with the immigrants, who lived in the poorest of conditions to begin with. Three generations later, many of these families had become partakers of the 'American Dream.' They saw their sons and daughters buy homes and send their children into the professions. They watched Mom and Dad struggle to make a living and caught some values from them in the process.

Fragile Urban Families, Loutish Youths [click to read].

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mass Murderer of 224 People 'Not Guilty'

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani Almost Walked Free

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailanis FBI Photo.

Pat in Shreveport [click to read] has some thoughts on the almost disasterous results of Ghailani's civilian trial. The al Qaeda terrorist who conspired to blow up American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, was acquitted of more than 280 charges, including one count of murder for each of the 224 people killed in the simultaneous attacks. The jury found Ghailani guilty of only one charge: conspiracy to destroy U.S. government buildings.

Help Fight Cholera in Haiti [Urgent]

Needed for Immediate Shipment by Equipping the Saints

Please pass the word to anyone who mightbe able to help!

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and help this week not just for me, but our mission and our Haitian brothers and sisters in the midst of this cholera crisis. Our mission had five more deaths today! I am in full go mode on collecting the following items as fast as possible:

lactated ringers (very high priority...running out daily)
Angiocaths 20, 22 and 24 gauge
chux pads
adult diapers
children diapers
infant diapers
Cleaning supplies (powder bleach, buckets, mops, etc)

This is an urgent need from one of our partner ministries in Haiti. We are gathering supplies to ship by air on Missionary Flights International. Hope to ship the first batch Monday or Tuesday. Will be sending more later by both air and sea container. Anything you folks can do will be a great help.


Equipping The Saints
1254 Keezletown Road
Weyers Cave, VA 24486
Tel: 540-234-6222
Fax: 540-234-6262

Email: ets.usa@hotmail.com
Website: www.etsusa.org


Monday-Friday 9-5 EST
Saturday 10-1 EST

Earthquake Damage
Coast Guard photo of earthquake damage in Haiti.

Augusta County Historic Churches

A Rich Heritage of Houses of Worship

Bethel Presbyterian Church.

Augusta Stone Church
Augusta Stone Church in Winter.

The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, designed by T. J. Collins and built in 1924.

Atlanta’s Public-Housing Revolution

Renee Glover's Fresh Approach Transforms Lives

Cabrini Green in Chicago.

Renee Glover is the subject of This Piece [click to read] by Howard Husock in City Journal. Glover took charge of the Atlanta Housing Authority in 1994. "She has drawn national recognition for the fact that during her tenure, Atlanta became the first city in the United States to tear down virtually all its projects. But Glover’s plan is far more ambitious than demolition: she has set out to transform the dysfunctional behavior that condemns people to languish for years in public housing. Her approach is the most dramatic change in any city’s public-housing system since Franklin Roosevelt created the program in 1937."

Massive public housing projects were built in the mid-Twentieth Century. On the outside, they seemed to replace squalid run-down Nineteenth Century buildings with an economy version of the tall buildings of, say, Manhattan's Upper West Side. Tall buildings rose over open plazas. Better housing would improve lives...

Today those buildings that remain are often a nightmare. Encouraged by our welfare system to remain so, single mothers and their kids huddle in their apartments while gangs rule the plazas below. Across the country they are coming down. The whole experiment has only proved that the destruction of the family unit is destructive to society as a whole. Men find family in their association with gangs and multiple generations have grown up now without experiencing the satisfaction of working to improve their world.

Glover has begun to change all that. But better programs alone cannot do the job completely. Here is an opportunity for those who seek a Divine Mission in today's world!

The Church as Transformative Agent

In times past, the Church played a vital role in revitalizing society. As government has increasingly taken over the role of charitable work, it might seem that the Church is no longer relevant. The failure of public housing and welfare policy should make us look again.

It is well documented history that Christians labored to abolish slavery, reform institutions and improve treatment for the mentally ill. You might be surprised to learn that reformer John Calvin helped to set up silk mills in Geneva "...to absorb surplus labor and to make possible the`ending of begging." [G. W. Broomley, Servive in Christ, p111].

Timothy Keller, in a work called Resources for Deacons points to the role of Christians in promoting economic development. We've reduced the charitable ministry to handing out help with the rent, but Keller describes situations where Christian businessmen actually buy housing and create opportunities for both decent housing and gainfull employment by rehabilitating them.

Driving through Waynesboro, one sees the former Virginia Metalcrafters plant and the South River Complex. A few years ago I helped someone create a vision for a high-end speaker assemby operation in one of the South River buildings. What other inspirations might come to us if we prayerfully open our eyes to possibilities others might have overlooked.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"The System Worked" -- Janet Napolitamo

TSA Ignores Reality and Creates Illusions of Security

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The "traveling public is very safe" said Janet Napolitano, even as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's explosive laden shorts were still cooling off after he tried to light them on Detroit-bound flight 253 on Christmas day. The fact is this guy, to use a football metaphor, was tackled inches short of the goal line. Fellow passengers saw him acting suspiciously and tackled him before he could complete his attack.

Then the news came out that this guy's father had warned authorities about him. He was close to being put on a 'no fly' list. Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, 70, former chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, warned U.S. Embassy officials that his son had become radicalized, broken ties with the family and might be in Yemen.

That put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, on the Terrorist Identities Datamark Environment [TIDE] list of more than 560,000 potential terrorist sympathizers - but not the hard-case "no fly" list of 4,000 names and the "selectee" list of 14,000.

The no-fly designation would have barred Abdulmutallab from boarding the plane. The "selectee" list would have subjected him to a body search, which likely would have found the explosives sewn into his shorts.

Contrast this with the Scotland Yard break-up of a terror group in London that planned to go to Heathrow with liquid explosives... remember the 3oz container rule? Getting the terrorists BEFORE they get to the airport is the system working. Getting them BEFORE they board the plane is a near-miss. My wife flew to Hanover, NH that morning afer we had watched London police chase terror suspects "through their gardens" on BBC. The system appeared to be working that day.

Iarael's El Al airline [1.] takes security very seriously [they HAVE to]. They employ a methodology that involves observing passengers and using common-sense reasoning to eliminate people who are potential problems. The rationale must go something like this: "People with bad intentions will tend to act in certain ways." Yes, this involves profiling, but it is very effective. I'd fly El Al over a lot of other airlines in a heartbeat.

TSA needs to learn a few things from El Al, it appears.

The full-body scanners need to be relegated to the background. When three-year-old Mandy [2.] has her teddy bear snatched away and has a breakdown, that is NOT a suspicious behavior. In fact, it is rather normal for most of the preschoolers I know. Manhandling the toddler in a way she has been carefully taught to flee from by her parents, in reaction to her reaction, amounts to child abuse.

It is an invasion into a family's dignity. Why didn't the TSA scanner operator offer 'teddy' a ride and make a game out of it? It would have been quicker? If little Mandy still refused, she's a low risk for terrorism anyway. Let her go on through. The only reason to proceed in this case is for TSA to maintain the illusion that it is in total control.

TSA ought to know better. Transportation security is important, but I'd rather risk upsetting a few Middle-Eastern men than waste my time patting down nuns and toddlers.

Update: Look Who's Already Pushing for a Special Exemption [click to read] from The Blaze. Yep, "According to CAIR, the TSA’s new “enhanced pat down” policy should be limited to searching only around Muslim women’s head and neck if they are wearing a hijab and that Muslims objecting to the enhanced full-body scans have the right to request the pat-down procedure be done in a private place." The rest of us will just have to make the best of it.

Is the TSA Story Real [click to read] from The Blaze. The potential for abuse of the new 'body scanners' is very real. On Family Talk, earlier this week, Ryan Dobson gave a very credible account of his own experience with a TSA screener when he refused to submit to the full-body scan. It was NOT pleasant. I trust Dobson's account but certainly would want to verify some of the other reported incidents. Still, the mistrust surrounding the whole issue makes the argument for El Al type security a good one.

Update: A Simple Solution [click to read] from Jewish World Review. A little common sense could go a long way!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Les Faits de la Vie

Your Tax Dollars at Work, The Nature of Man

Your tax dollars are helping to fund this $3.4 million museum honoring terrorist Yassar Arafat.

When the notion that man is basically good acts in concert with the notion that there are no absolute truths to be had [except that man is basically good, perhaps]?; strange notions abound. Today's Jewish World Review contained two must-read articles. First Caroline B. Glick [click to read] reminds us of what the Palestinian Authority is actually buying with the aid we send them. If that isn't enough evidence to begin a serious discussion on the depravity of man, Dennis Prager [click to read] points out some pretty inescapable 'facts of life.'

Prager writes: "Since the Enlightenment, the secular world has had to believe in man (or "humanity") because if you don't believe in G-d and you don't believe in humanity, you will despair." Indeed the evils that beset the world cry out for an explaination. The Bible is clear about human weakness and strongly asserts that the answer is G-d. Secularists have marginalized G-d, but need to cling to the theory that mankind can perfect itself.

Prager further explains: "I did not write that man is inherently evil. I wrote that he is not basically good. And, yes, that does make the world sad. So do disease, earthquakes, death and all the unjust suffering in the world. But sad facts remain facts."

"A distinguishing characteristic of liberals and leftists is their aversion to acknowledging sad facts." Sadly, this aversion leads to the embracing of national socialism schemes where it is believed the external catalysts for human bad behaviour will be eventually conquered after much suffering. It also leads to the lionization of 'victims' such as Arafat and the Palestinians.

But the fact remains that, other than differing world views, the only observable difference between the Palestinians and the Jews who were forced out of Baghdad in the 1950's is that the Baghdad Jews were assimilated and the Palestinians were not.

The facts of life would seem to say that the Arab nations were all too quick to exploit the dark side of human nature [by keeping the Palestinians in camps], while other solutions that involved meeting basic needs and assimilation were sucessful in promoting healing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Augusta County Historic Churches

A Rich Heritage of Houses of Worship

The Augusta Stone Church at Fort Defiance.

Tinkling Spring Presbyterian Church...

Reconstructed Original Meeting House
...was originally a log structure. Here is the reconstruction.

Mural at Staunton Alliance Church

Meet Kristina, The American Girl

Kristina, American Girl
Kristina, the American girl. Her name means 'Follower of Christ.'

Our mural continues. It attempts depict Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21 where the nations come to our Lord.

"1Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

2For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

3And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

4Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.

5Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee." -- Isaiah 60

Many of the cultures, or 'nations' we know today are actually derived from older cultures. The Japanese language uses Kanji characters from the Chinese, but adds characters that are uniquely Japanese. At first glance, America is simply a composite of European cultures that have intermingled.

But look closer. In our attempt to portray a person who is uniquely 'American' my partner came up with the ideal solution... a person of Irish Cherokee descent. In the painting she is holding hands with the Cherokee boy and the Haitian girl.

What the 'New Atheists' are Forgetting

American Humanist Association Ignores Basic Truths

Sunlight in Autumn trees.

Jeff Jacoby [click to read] has more in Jewish World Review.

"For in a world without G0d, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees "Thou shalt not murder." It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone. One might reason instead -- as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned -- that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause. Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak -- and that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Quiet Hero's Deeds Remembered

Korean War Veteran Survived Behind Enemy Lines

Milestone Monday Guest Post by Lynn R. Mitchell of SWAC Girl

Tom LaBerge receives a certificate from the president of South Korea as well as a case containing military decorations including the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart medal, US National Defense Medal, US Korean War Service Medal with battle-star attachment device, UN Korea Medal, and Republic of Korea War Service Medal. Congressman Bob Goodlatte presented the awards in a ceremony at the Staunton Armory.

Saturday's Veterans Day parade in downtown Staunton, Va, saw many families lining the streets to wave American flags and cheer as floats pass by filled with veterans. The community will honor past and present military members, many who vividly remember the details of war.

One of those local veterans is a quiet, unassuming gentleman, slightly stooped with graying hair. Until last year, few people knew that he had suffered life-threatening injuries during the Korean War.

Now in his 70s, Tom LaBerge (pronounced La-BARGE) does not like to bring attention to himself. That was very evident as he reluctantly gave in to my persistent prodding to talk about his service after a surprise presentation of military medals in 2009 that had been long overdue. Four of his seven grown children had flown to Virginia for the event, and I had been invited to join them.

The ceremony at the Staunton Army National Guard Armory honored the Korean War veteran with Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) on hand to make the presentation. The local television station and newspapers attended as well as soldiers from the Armory's historic Stonewall Brigade.

A Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge had been received in the 1950s. The new medals included a U.S. National Defense Medal, U.S. Korean War Service Medal with battle-star attachment, UN Service Medal, and Republic of Korea War Service Medal. He also received a certificate of gratitude from the president of South Korea.

All those medals were impressive so I wanted to know the story behind the medals. Mr. LaBerge and I sat down at the kitchen table overlooking the back yard and and woods of his Shenandoah Valley home as his wife Millicent busied herself at the nearby counter preparing cookies and tea. She also helped coach the story from his sometimes reluctant lips.

To know Tom LaBerge is to know a man of quiet faith who is very humble. He is not used to being the center of attention nor does he seek it. But as my neighbor, I was able to convince him to talk with me and so he began his story....

It was 1951 and America was at war helping South Korea protect itself from its aggressive communist neighbor, North Korea. Nineteen-year-old Tom LaBerge, whose National Guard unit in Grafton, North Dakota, had been activated, was about to find himself in the middle of war in a way he never imagined.

U.S. troops in conjunction with South Korean troops were holding the 38th parallel of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) where they had been at a stalemate with North Korea. As Mr. LaBerge recalled thoughts of that time, he said the Americans were unable to hold the line against the North Koreans who had been joined by the Chinese Army in a turf tug-of-war. The enemy would battle at night and take a hill, and then the American forces would fight and a week or two later retake the same hill. That was how the war had gone for two years before a young Tom LaBerge arrived.

Sitting in his kitchen going over memories from decades before, he softly chuckled and shook his head, and told me that the dangerous area between the front line of each opposing army was known as "No Man's Land." He emphasized that no man wanted to be caught there. However, during the heat of battle all those years ago, that's exactly what happened to LaBerge and a fellow soldier as the two 19-year-olds found themselves trapped behind enemy lines, alone and isolated from their unit.

During a night-time battle as the war raged with gunfire all around, LaBerge, who was taking cover at the top of the hill, was shot in the leg and as the battle raged on he was again hit, this time by shrapnel that chewed up the other leg and embedded in his back. Nearby, a fellow soldier was also in bad shape with a broken arm and a leg badly injured from shrapnel.

With darkness all around except for the flashes of never-ending machine gun fire and rockets, and separated from their unit, the two young men crawled and dragged themselves halfway down the embattled hill and eventually found shelter in an abandoned bunker. Both hunkered down in the relative safety of the bunker, alone and injured and afraid, and that was where they stayed with no way to alert anyone of their location. They were stranded without food, water, or weapons.

In the course of the battle, American forces retreated from the area as enemy forces took over, and that was when LaBerge realized they were in No Man's Land. Fear seized them. There was no medical help, neither man could walk because of his injuries, and both were scared to death.

After two days hunkered down in the bunker as war raged around them, running high fevers from infected wounds, they had a visitor and it wasn't someone they wanted to see. A Chinese military officer working with the North Koreans was on reconnaissance of the area retaken by communist forces and showed up at the opening of the bunker. Peering inside, he spied the two young Americans. Thirst outweighed their fear, and in Chinese and through parched lips, they asked for water. He stared at them, his eyes taking in their horrendous injuries, and stood watching for a while. Then he turned and left, presumably expecting them to die. It was a miracle he didn't shoot them both.

After the too-close brush with the enemy Chinese officer, they decided it was time to leave. Both men slowly clawed their way out of the bunker and painfully crawled over sharp rocks and scrub down the hill, making their way to a stream in the distance to find water. Their infected wounds were now invaded by maggots, and both were suffering badly and delusional.

Near the stream they found a parachute and tried to make an "SOS" out of it for American pilots to see from overhead. Hungry and weak, they slowly crawled their way into a nearby field and tried to eat raw dried soy beans that only got stuck in their throats. It was October in Korea and cold at night but not unbearable with daytime temperatures in the 60s and overnight lows in the 40s.

Without weapons, they were at the mercy of the enemy. Days passed. Noises would carry in the valleys and hills in the middle of the night and they could hear the voices of Greek troops stationed with the United Nations but were unable to make contact. After so much time had passed, their unit feared they were dead although they were officially listed as missing in action.

Finally, after two weeks, U.S. troops retook that area and found the injured missing soldiers. LaBerge had lost 50 pounds during his ordeal. Both were carried on stretchers by fellow soldiers behind lines to the American-South Korean side where they were deposited at a real-life Swedish M*A*S*H unit that cleaned them up. Before putting a cast on LaBerge's left leg, it was discovered a bullet had gone through his knee.

Two days later, the injured men were shipped to a hospital in Tokyo. After spending a week in Tokyo, LaBerge was flown back to the States by way of Guam and Hawaii to San Francisco and then Ft. Carson where he spent three months in the hospital recuperating from his injuries. After rehabilitation, he went back on active duty.

LaBerge was honorably discharged from the Army in 1952 as a tech sergeant, married, began his career, and together with his wife raised a family of seven children. It was many years later that he and I would sit in his kitchen as I took notes and he recounted the memories of that long-ago time when a 19-year-old went through battles, survived, and then returned to live his life, leaving behind the horrors of war.

In 2008, LaBerge's son-in-law did some research and discovered he was due a number of medals for his service and sacrifice for his country which led to the ceremony at the Armory with Congressman Goodlatte. The medals are proudly displayed in the LaBerge home and are a reminder that there are truly heroes among us.

Friday, November 12, 2010

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume II, Issue XLVIII


The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] is talking about how voters in California rejected the outright legalization of Marijuana,while medicinal use of the drug is gaining acceptance. They've even created a new word: "Amerijuana!" Are they copying THYME now?

But most Americans are not looking for some drug-induced alternative reality. They see serious problems in the country and want politicians to face them head on. Socialism promises such an alternative reality but the fact that the great socialist experiments in the Soviet Union and Europe have become abysmal failures has many Americans asking the question: "Why are WE headed down this road now?"

The 2010 elections must be seen as a clear rejection of much of the liberal agenda. The Tea Party clearly stood against growing government [and growing government debt], increased intrusion into our lives and the takeover of large segments of the economy [healthcare, student loans and the auto industry, to name a few].

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day, November 11, 2010

The Flag is Flying this Morning for Freedom


The American Flag Glass Pipes by Xaver Wilhelmy


Giving Veterans a Voice

PNOVS Center... Help for the Journey Home

At the American Guild of Organists convention this Summer in Washington DC, The design for the Premier Network of Veterans Services Center in Richmond was featured.

See more photos Here [click to view].

Just Saying 'Thank You' Isn't Enough...


Who we are:

We believe that the community plays a significant role in shaping our citizens as well as our veterans. However, when our veterans return from the wars, they are faced with many challenges; many of which they cannot fully appreciate or understand. The world changes and both the community and the veteran are different when they return from the war. Many veterans suffers from illnesses that they may not even be aware of like "post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, alcoholism or drug addiction, etc... PNOVS is here to help. We are creating a national model that will change the "community framework of support" for assisting veterans and their families. PNOVS National Center will be created in the Richmond metro area.

Visit PNOVS on Facebook [click to read].

Helping to Create a Vision for Veteran Services

Depasquale Delph Gentilhomme Group Architects asked me to illustrate the new center for Premier Network of Veteran Services. Photo by E. Strong.

"Dear Bob,

I wanted to thank you again for the amazing job you did bringing PNOVS National Veteran’s Center to life. You have captured the spirit and intent of our vision beautifully. Thank you for your passion and great work!"

PNOVS Center
Depasquale Delph Gentilhomme Group, Illustration by Bob Kirchman.

Some projects just grab you. PNOVS [click to read] was one of those... an opportunity to put some substance to the gratitude we feel for our troops. So, Dear Veterans, thank you for your service. Making PNOVS a reality is an expression of our gratitude. May your journey home be safe and filled with promise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With Ezra and Nehemiah in Modern Iraq

Christians Fear Being Wiped Out Like Jews Before Them

Leaving Iraq in 1951
Jewish refugees from Baghdad in 1951.

A few years ago I was given the monumental task of teaching the Biblical texts of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther in one Sunday school class. The study involves what happened to the people after the Babylonian captivity and the rise of the Persian Empire.

They probably thought the class would be small, but the historical and application relevance kept people coming. One thing we learned was that not everybody went back to Jerusalem. In fact, Baghdad had a fairly large Jewish population right up until the middle of the Twentieth Century. Just as in Daniel's time, Jews occupied important positions managing essential institutions in Iraqi society. The Baghdad Symphony was once composed mainly of Jewish musicians.

At one time almost a third of Baghdad's population was Jewish. During British rule from 1922. During the British Mandate and following independence in 1932, these Jewish residents were instrumental in the development of judicial and postal systems.

In 1941 the Mufti-inspired pro-Nazi coup of Rashid Ali led to the murder of 180 Jews and the wounding of many more in the Farhud pogrom. The British Army reoccupied Baghdad and restored security for the population. Once again Jewish residents managed essential institutions.

In 1948, when Israel was established, anti-Jewish violence once again broke out. In 1950 Jews were permitted to leave the country within a year. They had to forfeit their citizenship, liquidate their businesses and sell their property [at great loss] in order to do so.

In all, 104,000 Jews were evacuated from Iraq in Operations Ezra & Nehemia [named after the leaders who took the people back to Jerusalem from exile in Babylonia]. 20,000 more were smuggled out through Iran. In 1952 the government stopped all emegration.

Persecution heightened again in the 1960's, especially at the time of the Six Day War. Jewish property was seized, bank accounts were frozen. The Baghdad government quietly allowed the remaining Jews to leave in 1970. Only a handful of people remain, most are too old to leave. The entire Jewish population, if evacuated today, would not even fill one motor coach.

The Jews of Iraq [click to read] by Mitchell Bard tells their story in greater detail.

The recent attack on a Christian church and the murder of two priests has Jane Arraf in Jewish World Review Pondering the Situation [click to read] of Christians in Iraq today.

"Iraqi Jews, once an integral part of society here with a history dating back to Babylon, began fleeing in the 1940s. Now only stories of their once vibrant community remain.

Christians, most of them eastern rite Catholics, trace their history in this country to the earliest days of Christianity. Before the 2003 war, there were up to a million Christians here — about 3 percent of the population. Half that number is estimated to have left in the past seven years, continuing an exodus begun after the 1991 Gulf War when Saddam Hussein's secular regime turned increasingly Islamic.

Although thousands of Assyrian Christians and others were killed under Iraq's Ottoman rule a century ago, the attack on the church last week is the worst in the country's recent history. The attack, claimed by an Al Qaeda-linked group, was followed two days later by 16 bombings in Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad that killed at least 70 people."

Update: More Iraqi Christians Murdered [click to read] from Jewish World Review.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Clubhouse at Harbor Village

Painting showing the Building and the Interior

Here the challenge is to show a number of aspects of a very nice clubhouse in one painting. Painting by Mr. Kirchman

Hike on Old Rag Mountain

The View from the Summit

old rag
Boulders and a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge...

...await visitors to Old Rag.


Physical challenges abound...

...as do wonders!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hike on Old Rag Mountain

Many Consider This the Best Hike in Shenandoah

View at the summit of Old Rag.

The Blue Ridge Mountains to the West.

Granite rising above the trees.