Saturday, December 29, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume V, Issue I

Carl Boberg.

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

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

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

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

Maltbie Davenport Babcock.

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

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

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

The Hymns Project.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter Blue Ridge Mountain Majesty

Sunshine on Winter Ice Outlines Hidden Ridgetops




I have walked many of the ridges and coves that were magically highlighted by the Winter storm. As the morning light played along the folds of the mountains, I recalled many a good walk!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

When You Celebrate Up to Epiphany, This Counts

This morning brought snow to Staunton's celebration.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Greetings from The Journey

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas and New Year


Some Children See Him
By Alfred Burt

Some children see Him lily white
the infant Jesus born this night
Some children see Him lily white
with tresses soft and fair

Some children see Him bronzed and brown
the Lord of heav'n to earth come down
Some children see Him bronzed and brown
with dark and heavy hair (with dark and heavy hair!)

Some children see Him almond-eyed
This Saviour whom we kneel beside
Some children see Him almond-eyed
With skin of yellow hue!

Some children see Him dark as they
Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray
Some children see Him dark as they
And, ah! they love Him so!

The children in each different place
Will see the Baby Jesus' face
Like theirs but bright with heav'nly grace
And filled with holy light!

O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering
Come worship now the infant King
'tis love that's born tonight!

'tis love that's born tonight!

Card 2

Creche at the National Cathedral

A Particularly Beautiful Representation of the Nativity

Photo by Laney Riley.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Beloved Christmas Story's Story

With Six Children to Feed, the Author Needed a Miracle

Frances Alexander's 1842 painting of the famous author.

A Milestone Monday Feature

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

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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Color on the Appalacian Trail

Sumac Berries on Bear Den Mountain in Shenandoah

Sumac Berries on Bear Den Mountain overlooking Crozet...

...are just a short walk along the AT...

...from Beagle Gap.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Steve Elliott's Vision for "Thriving in Exile"

How to Build, Plant, Bless and Pray in Tough Times

Encouragement for today from Jeremiah 29.

The despair many of us felt after the results of the 2012 elections was heart-wrenching. Surely momentum had been building for a Reagan-like landslide. For those of us who grew up believing in the promise of America, hope had been rising... only to be dashed as the results showed record turnout in Democrat strongholds and a mediocre turnout in areas that should have gone strong for Conservative candidates.

But a small book by Steve Elliott expounding on the message of Jeremiah 29 will challenge that despair.

For those of you who don't know, Steve Elliott is President of Grassfire Nation, a Conservative public policy organization. I didn't expect such a clear vision for the future... while most were wringing their hands, Steve was getting ready to build. Referencing the Babylonian Captivity as recorded in the book of Jeremiah, he pointed out the command of G-d to the exiles: Build, marry, have children, increase in number. Seek the well-being of the place you have been carried off to. 

Elliott goes on to tell the stories of Ronald Reagan and Steve Jobs (founder of Apple). Like many successful people, they also experienced periods of great humiliation and defeat. Their stories are instructive in our present situation. He outlines a plan to follow that will put us on the path to thrive... even in the worst of environments. The book is concise and easy to read. It may be obtained at [click to read].

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sharing Christmas Joy with Zambia

Grassroots Heroes Bring Gifts that Change Lives

This is the Mango Grove School in Grippis, Zambia.  Rains and winds destroyed the roof and exterior walls of the mud brick school rooms. Classes start again in January! End of year donations can make a difference!

This Christmas we will  search for gifts to give people in our lives who literally have 'everything.' Here is an opportunity to give a gift that will literally change lives. Here are some ideas:

A SET OF CARPENTRY TOOLS $260. 8 more kits needed!
Give a sewing machine and needed sewing equipment. Only 14 more needed!
Feed a very hungry student body for one month for $200 (Or $30 to feed one class.)  8 months still unfunded. 
ONE YEAR OF EDUCATION FOR A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT   $600 Only 5 more sponsors needed which will be matched to fund the remaining 10 teens!
Give the gift of education to an elementary student for one year for $180 per year (or $15 per month).  45 new students still need sponsors! 

Donate on line at and indicate your choice of gifts in the comments box.

Or mail a check to Grassroots Heroes, P.O. 10 Mint Spring, VA, 24463 with a note telling us what gift you want to give.

Your gifts are tax deductible!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue LIII

"...and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" -- Esther 4:14

Last Year THYME's 'Esther of the Year' was Irena Sendler [click to read]. This amazing woman saved the lives of many children during the holocaust. This year, with great sadness, we remember another woman's saving of children. She was not a great public figure, she did not seek fame. Her Mother said of her: "She was not somebody that ever wanted to be famous or wanted her picture in the paper."

So we will simply remember her deeds.

Last week, Pastor Bruce Hankee preached a message on the life of Joseph. A simple, righteous man, he didn't seek fame either. I think he aspired to build a good life for the young woman he was betrothed to... and then history came to him. Pastor Hankee asked: "Do you know who is ministering to the homeless at the Valley Mission right now? Do you know who's teaching childrens' church? Do you know who's in the sound booth?" His point: There is much unheralded love and service all around us. The life of Joseph is a great example of such love.

Her favorite holiday was Christmas. Her favorite color was green. Long before she laid down her life for her students, she gave her life to them. “She was an absolutely amazing teacher. She just was so young and so full of life and educating just got her so excited and teaching those children is what she loved to do,” said one parent. When danger threatened her students, she thought quickly, distracting the shooter and shielding her students with her own body.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." according to John 15:13. All of us might honor the memory of this fine young woman by living this out in our own spheres. Can I die to my own ambitions and put my spouse's needs before my wants? Can I listen to my child today? Can I carry the great stories in my own heart and so give my life to enrich others?

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to this 27 year-old hero.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Man Who Moved a Mountain

Bob Childress, The Pastor Who Tamed Buffalo Mountain

Pastor Bob Childress.

 A Milestone Monday Feature

Today we think of gang violence downtown and forget that once there was gunfire in the small communities of Southwestern Virginia. Bob Childress was a hard-drinking, hard fighting resident of that region where the poverty of subsistance living was made more bearable, it was thought, by escaping to alcohol. Bob's parents drank heavily and fought constantly.

Following in his parent's footsteps, Childress missed a lot of school as a youth. One day he witnessed a massacre at the local courthouse and was moved to quit drinking and pursue a career in law enforcement. This was a noteworthy change in itself. Childress settled down, married and had four children; but G-d had plans for his life that would change the lives of people around him in a way he couldn't imagine.

Childress went to a revival meeting and found something more powerful than the spirits in a bottle. He found G-d and felt called to the ministry. At the age of thirty he returned to school, finishing high school in the same one-room schoolhouse attended by his six year old son.

He sought to bring the Spirit of the Lord to his hurting community. Though his education was pretty basic, he managed to go to Union Seminary in Richmond and struggled through. He became a much sought after speaker and was offered a very comfortable position with a large church... and he turned it down. Buffalo Mountain was his calling from G-d and he returned to his community and started a number of churches. His Sunday was a marathon as he made the journey to preach at each congregation.

Bob faced the daunting task of bringing the message of G-d's love to a community steeped in fatalistic despair. The churches he founded are testimony of what can be accomplished by a life lived for a greater purpose. Childress continued his ministry while caring for his daughter Hattie, who was severely disabled. When Bob's wife died, he took on such tasks as boiling the wash water for diapers. In the 1950's he was preaching in fourteen different churches every week. He died in 1956 at the age of 66.

Richard C. Davids tells his story in The Man Who Moved a Mountain [click to read], a stirring book. Lives like that of Bob Childress should challenge all of us. “Only eternity will tell the tremendous good accomplished in this unusual diocese.” -- The Synod of Virginia.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some Thoughts for Difficult Days

The Times We Live In Deserve Contemplation

Sunset Flight
An airliner streaks across the sunset sky.

Times Like These...

SAM: "It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something."

FRODO: "What are we holding on to, Sam?"

SAM: "There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for."

FRODO: “I wish the ring had never come to me”, I wish none of this had ever happened”

GANDALF: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

I just had to refrain from blogging and pray. I thought a hiatus was in order. This is a time to be still before the Lord, not engage in deep analysis. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. Perhaps as we pray, we might allow ourselves to be challenged. What sort of  a society have we become? If the answer frightens us, what might we do about it? Might it be time for a national period of prayer and reflection? Indeed, the evening of September 11, 2001 found many of us gathered in our churches. The evening of December 14, 2012 probably found too many of us on the internet.

Earlier in the day I was discussing what happened in Benghazi with a friend who said: "surely people will see the wrong in this situation." I shook my head: "No, I'm afraid Dennis Prager describes the fact that there are two Americas now. One, that we recognize and identify with, acknowledges G-d and an individual's responsibility to Him; the other does not, it is secular."

The Academy, the media and popular culture all are, for the most part, aligned with the secular humanists. They will argue that religion causes things like this (suddenly discovering the Taliban they seem to have forgotten). They will rail that G-d cannot be because He allows evil, or that He IS evil. Of course, they will argue that He is nonexistent. They will scoff at the notion of God-defined evil as they use the evil they recognize to invalidate the notion that there is a G-d.

They will be quick to argue for gun control or concealed carry for administrators as the best answer. While these discussions are necessary, they need not happen right now. Rushing for pragmatic solutions might miss what William Wilberforce saw as important as his crusade against slavery; The Reformation of Manners. I don't mean a crusade against elbows on the table here, Wilberforce saw a cruel society... cruel to animals, cruel to the African slaves, cruel to each other. In short, he saw a society that needed a work of G-d. He sought to enact what reforms he could in the English Parliament, but really, revival is a matter of the heart.

Mark Steyn writes of Wilberforce: "What we think of as "the Victorian era" was, in large part, an invention of Wilberforce that he succeeded in selling to his compatriots. We children of the 20th century mock our 19th century forebears as uptight prudes, moralists and do-gooders. If they were, it's because of Wilberforce. His legacy includes the very notion of a "social conscience": In the 1790s a good man could stroll past an 11-year-old prostitute on a London street without feeling a twinge of disgust or outrage; he accepted her as merely a feature of the landscape, like an ugly hill. By the 1890s, there were still child prostitutes, but there were also charities and improvement societies and orphanages."

"What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery, something that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: He vanquished the very mind-set that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive for millennia. He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that had held sway from the beginning."  writes Eric Metaxas.

Wilberforce  was able to craft legislation that built upon the teachings of Christ. Most of his contemporaries acknowledged G-d and could see the morality of his arguments. Today we see a cruel society as well, but steeped in the teaching of moral relativism, it is much easier to justify defying the mandates of Scripture. But, Like Sam, the noble hobbit, we must find a way to hold on to this: "There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for."

Most of all, I want to be party to the healing of hearts in Newtown. The only statistics that matter right now are these: For everyone murdered there are two grieving parents, probably four grieving grandparents, dozens of other relatives, in fact, each life lost creates a hole in many lives. I pray G-d will fill that hole. His Word says "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;" -- Psalm 34:18 and when I see Him so engaged, may I be drawn close to Him in His purpose.

Some Thoughts [click to read] from Pastor Chuck Balsamo.
Remembering the Victims [click to read]
from Lynn Mitchell. Please pray for their families.
The Reformation of Manners [click to read]
from Stand to Reason Blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue LII

The Future, the Babe of Bethlehem

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week asks "Want to Know My Future" [click to read] as it looks at our ability to gain new understanding from DNA testing. The poor little baby on the cover is surrounded by potentially predictable diseases and captioned: "New genetic tests can point to risks, but not always a cure." Sadly, what happens when a central bureaucracy, strapped for healthcare dollars, decides that some individuals are simply too expensive to care for? The potential of early treatment and prevention is overshadowed by the dark specter of arbitrary withholding of treatment... or worse.

DNA is not the ultimate factor in determining a person's success in life, however. We all know of people who have overcome health challenges to become great; and well blessed persons who squandered their advantage. Dare we explore the potential that exists in the unseen realms of human existence...

His parents were poor, coming to the Temple with two turtledoves (the poor person's alternative to a lamb), to redeem the child as required by the Law. Certainly the simple carpenter and his young wife did not command unusual attention. They were simple people meeting a religious obligation from their simple means.

But Simeon, who is simply identified as a righteous man, not necessarily a priest or religious leader, comes forth with an amazing statement. This "righteous and devout" man was "looking for the consolation of Israel." The time was not a time of great spiritual revelations, in fact, there had been 400 years without a major written prophecy. Simeon had the assurance, however, that he would see the Messiah before he died.

Beginning in Genesis 12, G-d promises that: "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Yet, the promise of Isaiah 42:6: "I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles" does not find fulfillment until Simeon recites the promise over the Babe of Bethlehem.

Indeed, the promise of Christ is radical transformation: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." -- 2 Corinthians 5:17. Such a bold statement asserts that in Christ a person can be way more than his genetic code suggests.

A New King... A New Kingdom

Cerainly the promise is seen on a personal level, but there is more as Scripture asserts that Christ shall redeem and rule the World. Modern men may scoff, but in the previous issue of THYME, we see Pilate take this matter very seriously. Herod, the ruler at the time of Jesus' birth, reacted in the following manner:

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” -- Matthew 2:4-6

The Gospel of Matthew goes on to record that Herod took this prophecy seriously. He was willing to inflict genocide on Judea rather than see a threat to his throne. Isaiah 60 talks of this new Kingdom, as does Hebrews 11, where it speaks of the hope the Saints of old had for G-d's rule!

The great hymn Joy to the World [click to read] speaks of the hope of this Kingdom! The link to the Jesus Film Project below will provide even more of the story of the amazing life we celebrate this time of year.

Graphic by Kristina Elaine Riley.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Steeples of Staunton III

Spires Seen Along Market, Church and Augusta Street

Temple House of Israel.

Trinity Church.

Augusta Street United Methodist Church.

Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

Beloved Carol Inspired by a Broken Organ

The pipes of the Trinity Lutheran Church organ in Crimora.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English translation:

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

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

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

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

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

Cateura Slum's Music of Redemption

Unique Vision Recycles Instruments... and Lives

In a Paraguay slum, redemption comes in a unique way.

In his Cateura studio, Nicholas 'Cola' Gomez builds a recycled violin.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Never Never Never... Give Up!

Injured Veteran Illustrates the Essence of Hebrews 11

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. -- Hebrews 11:1

The extended version is even better! ht/Ed Wharton

"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." -- James 2:18

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Steeples of Staunton II

Spires Seen Along Frederick Street...

First Presbyterian Church.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

In the distance, one can see the spire of St. Francis Catholic Church.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue LI

What is Truth? Can This Man Really Save the World?

The 'other' weekly news magazine  features 'The Enforcer' [click to read], asking: "Can NFL Commissioner, Rodger Goodell Save Football?" We at THYME are concerned with somewhat larger issues as we face the 'fiscal cliff,' record deficits and the descent of the much heralded 'Arab Spring' into bitter Winter. What IS humanity's hope? Does G-d care? Are we really to look to ourselves alone for the answers to the problems that vex us?

The message of Christmas is told in Matthew 1:23: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, G-d with us." It builds on a promise given to Abraham in Genesis 26: "And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

The painting 'Behold the Man' by Antonio Ciseri depicts the Child of Bethlehem, now a man, before Pilate, the Roman Ruler. John's Gospel states: "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all." Pilate also asked if Jesus was a King? Indeed, Pilate's demeanor towards this itinerant rabbi and his subsequent attempt to set him free tell us that this hard politician saw something saw something significant in the simple man before him.

In an earlier story, we looked at the song: Joy to the World [click to read]. We discovered that the song  actually was written about the triumphant return of Christ to rule the world, the hope of Christians for Centuries! Indeed, there is much to consider about Jesus. Hebrews 11:6 says: "...he that cometh to G-d must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." What does that entail? How might this journey begin?

The life of Christ has been examined by many since Pilate. Some have dismissed him but men like C. S. Lewis and Josh McDowell, who actually set out to disprove His claims, came to Faith in Him. C. S. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity to explain much of what he learned. McDowell penned Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

This year, at the Holiday Season, I invite you to reflect on the 'Conundrum of Christmas.' Who is the babe in that manger, and what is the significance of His life? Click on the link below to watch The Jesus Film, a very well researched overview of the life of Christ.


The Steeples of Staunton

Spires Seen Along Lewis Street...

Faith Lutheran Church.

Central United Methodist Church.

Second Presbyterian Church.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"What Christmas is All About"

Linus Explains the True Meaning to Charlie Brown

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

Historic Virginia Houses of Worship

Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Haywood, Virginia

The second Mt. Carmel Church building was built in 1895, replacing the meeting house built in 1850. Photo © Albert Aylor Project [1.]

In January of 1714 a group of German miners boarded an unknown ship in London, bound for the New World. They were sailing for Virginia, who's Governor, Alexander Spottswood, would pay their passage in exchange for four years of labor. A second group of Germans would come to Virginia in 1717.

The second group would have to work seven years for their freedom. My Carpenter ancestors were in that group. When their servitude was ended, many of the Germanna miners found homes in the Hebron Valley of Madison County. Here they were able to obtain land for farming and many of the immigrants began working their trades.

Albert Aylor was a furniture maker. His family settled in the Hebron Valley and like many of the immigrants, they found comfort and fellowship in the Church. Many of the Aylor family were members of the Mt. Carmel congregation. A meeting house was built in 1850 and was replaced by the building shown above in 1895.

In the 1950's, a donation from Frank Armstrong allowed the congregation to build this fine classical brick building, which stands today as a testimony of the faith of our Hebron Valley forefathers.

More information may be found at:
The Albert Alyor Project [click to read].
Albert Aylor [click to read] was an Old-world craftsman who not only made fine furniture, but violins as well. He is even known to have built at least one architectural model.


Built in the 1950's, the present church building has a clean classical style.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Child Who Was Never Born

Martin Hudáček Creates Monument to the Unborn

Slovakian artist Martin Hudáček's moving sculpture celebrates love, mercy, reconciliation and peace through the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

By Hannah Rose Allen

This heart-rending sculpture was created by a Slovakian art student named Martin Hudáček. He was moved to create something to draw attention to the devastation abortion can bring to the woman and to the fact that through the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, reconciliation, healing, and peace is possible. His main intention in creating the sculpture was "not to be famous, but to speak about the important value of human life and the necessity to protect it from conception."

The sculpture shows a woman in great sorrow grieving her abortion. The second figure in the work is her aborted child, presented as a young child, who in a very touching and healing way, comes to the mother, to offer forgiveness and love.

Martin named the work "Memorial for Unborn Children" and said that it "expresses hope which is given to believers by the One who died on the cross for us, and showed how much He cares about all of us."

A post-abortion retreat leader, Fr. William Kurz, S.J. said, “It’s a message of forgiveness and healing needed by the grieving post-abortive mother even some years after her abortion...It speaks directly and beautifully both to the intense and profound grief of the mother, and to the dignity of the aborted baby.”

From the Slovak Website [click to read], with the help of Google Translator:

"On October 28, 2011 at 16:00 o’clock in Ves memorial, a dedication ceremony for unborn children was held. The centerpiece of the dedication included the work (pictured above) of young sculptor Martin Hudáčeka of Banska Bystrica. This ceremony was attended by the Minister of Health, Ivan Uhliarik MD.

The idea to build a memorial to unborn children came from within a community of young women and mothers who are deeply aware of the value of every human life and the damage that is inflicted not only from the loss of potential unborn children, but also from the permanent intellectual impairment (sometimes physical) of every woman who chooses to conceive their unborn child.

This memorial not only expresses the sadness and regret of the mothers but also forgiveness and love from the unborn child to the mother."

A Latin American post-abortive woman who was helped in the healing process by the Proyecto Esperanza (Project Hope) program says the sculpture “is simple…marvelous. I got emotional and I stopped to take the time to look at it…I felt many things…the woman with all her pain being concentrated in her face held in her hands. Shame is also conveyed…And the daughter who blesses her, reaching up to touch her, to me indicates the height of forgiveness, the height of that child’s forgiveness, through the love of God. The transparency of the child means she comes from a pure place. It talks to me of the forgiveness we feel after we have worked through the grief… Precious…really precious.”

“This presents a very beautiful image of a core component of post abortion healing,” comments Kevin Burke, LSW, of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, “that the very child that was lost to abortion with God’s grace is now instrumental in calling the wounded mother and father to repentance and healing in Christ.”

Julie Thomas of Atlanta, who has personally experienced abortion and is now active with the Operation Outcry post-abortion program, commented, “I love that the little girl is not a baby - we often talk about that during our Bible study and for some reason a lot of us believe that when we get to Heaven that our children will be a toddler as the child is here. I also like the child being ‘transparent’ almost angel-like in appearance. The mother appears to be in anguish, which is so very real. I love that the child is reaching out to touch the mother’s head. I can imagine the mother sensing the touch and believe that she will stand up, taller than before. I believe that this image is very strong and touching, possibly leading to the first step of healing for the mother who has aborted her children.”

This work powerfully illustrates my experience with abortion and losing my Luke Shiloh. It resonates so much with me and draws out the beauty, pain, sorrow, and hope... It is an extremely effective representation of what it is like to live with an abortion, but also to be set free by the love and mercy of Christ! I am brought to tears looking at it and thinking of my Luke...I am so sorry sweet boy, yet I have tasted the forgiveness and healing of Jesus and I know one day I will meet you and see your precious face and what has happened on this earth will be forgotten.

I also believe that this sculpture beautifully shows what a mother experiences when losing a child...whether through stillbirth, miscarriage, or any other type of loss. A mother brought to her knees in grief, weeping over her devastating loss...and her little one coming to comfort her, almost as if she's promising all is well and they will be reunited again one day. There will be no more aching, no more longing, no more hurting, no more tears...

For anyone who reads this or sees this photo that has had an abortion, I encourage you to check out my After-Abortion Resource Page [click to read] for more resources of hope and healing.

For more information, and to download a mini-poster with this image, go Here [click to view].

Hannah Rose Allen writes at Rose and Her Lily [click to read].


Friday, November 30, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue L

The Most Important Man in the Middle East

This week Egypt's Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat is named the Most Important Man [click to read] by the 'other' weekly news magazine.While we agree, he's important, we still think Binyamin Netanyahu, Bashar Hafez al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are at least equally important. The region's unrest has indeed spanned centuries. Resolving the intertwined conflicts and conflicting interests in the area will require the participation of all her leaders.

THYME looks at the history of the region and concludes that, for people of Faith at least, there is the distinct possibility of someone more important. As Christians prepare to celebrate Advent, their hearts contemplate the life of a simple man who walked this land... simple, and yet bringing to mankind a conundrum of epic proportions. Was he but a simple rabbi with a profound message, or something more?

We sing 'Joy to the World' [click to read] at Christmas time, often missing the implications of a hymn that is actually about the Second Coming of Christ, an event seen in prophecy where G-d's Messiah will establish His Kingdom forever.

"Joy to the World , the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King;

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." -- Isaiah 9:6-7

"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found."

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations." -- Isaiah 61:1-4

Messiah or Madman? The Problem of Prophecy

When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, and said: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing," He caused quite a stir among his contemporaries. When he claimed the role of G-d's Messiah, he was no longer a simple teacher. Was he a fraud, a deluded man or worse?... or was He indeed who he claimed to be?

"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." -- Isaiah 53:1-5

Indeed,  prophecy anticipates this rejection, His death and resurrection and defines it as part of His mission.

"Jesus said, ‘The Father and I are one.” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp." --  John 10:30-39

C. S. Lewis' Trilemma: Who is this Man?

"Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was G-d. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of G-d, or one with G-d: there would he nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of G-d. G-d, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that. you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is G-d, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be G-d.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of G-d: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and G-d. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.

C. S. Lewis was a skeptic and an Oxford scholar. His honest scholarship led him to conclude that Christ is indeed who He says He is. Josh McDowell, a journalist, also set out to disprove the Gospel message. Instead, he ended up writing a book called Evidence that Demands a Verdict. In it he lays out a compelling case for Jesus the Christ.

Here is a challenge as we enter the Christmas season; we should familiarize ourselves with the message of Messiah and prove it for ourselves. Our culture conspires to distract us from such simple contemplation, but the rewards are great for those willing to make the effort.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Story of 'Joy to the World'

A Beloved Hymn Written in Celebration of Advent

Graphic by Kristina Elaine Greer, who writes: "I overlaid the entire picture from photos I took of the music in the most recent United Methodist Hymnal. I simply clipped out the music part and compiled them together then cut and pasted them to the template and changed the opacity."

A Short History of 'Joy to the World'
by Kristina Elaine Greer

Most people think of the wonderful hymn, “Joy to the World,” as Christmas Hymn proclaiming the joy of Christ’s birth, but there is a different history behind this marvelous song. The original words to “Joy to the World” by English hymn writer Isaac Watts were based on Psalm 98 in the Bible. According to Wikipedia “the song was first published in 1719 in Watts' collection; The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship.” Isaac Watts originally wrote the words of "Joy to the World" as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return stated in the book of revelation, instead of as a song celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. This song was meant more for Advent than Christmas and in some hymnals today you will find it in the holiday concordance of the hymnal under Advent instead of Christmas (which is correct). Interestingly, we only sing the second half of Watts' lyrics when we sing this beloved hymn. The music of this song was adapted and arranged to Watts' lyrics by Lowell Mason in 1839. The melody is said to have been from an older melody, which was then believed to have originated from Handel, partially because of the theme of the refrain (And heaven and nature sing...). This appears in the beloved orchestra opening and accompaniment of the “Comfort ye” from Handel's Messiah, the first four notes match the beginning of the choruses “Lift up your heads” and “Glory to G-d” from the same oratorio. Handel, however, did not compose the entire tune. In fact “Antioch” is the generally used name of the tune. As of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America. Today we still enjoy it during the holiday seasons of Advent and Christmas time no matter the history it reminds us to be joyful that we have a Savior, who came to earth as a baby, lived among us, died for us, was raised again victorious, and is our Lord who will come again in glorious acclamation. G-d bless you all during the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunrise Over the Blue Ridge Mountains

A Brilliant Beginning to a Sunday Morning

The sunrise paints the morning clouds.

"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." -- Hebrews 11:8-16

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Discovering Downtown Staunton

Today is a Good Day to Explore Small Shops & Sights

Laurie Gunderson, owner of Appalachian Piecework in the old train station, welcomes visitors to Staunton.

Ox-eye Vineyards' tasting room gets a fresh sign on the brickwork.

Oddfellows' Building
It is always fun to look for Christmas decorations in out of the ordinary places. Here is a wreath on Staunton's Oddfellows Building.

Staunton National Valley Bank
Staunton National Valley Bank.

Staunton National Valley Bank
Staunton National Valley Bank.

Today is Small Business Saturday [click to read]. My friend Lynn Mitchell says:

"Small businesses are critical to the nation’s overall economy. Over the past two decades, small businesses have generated 65% of net new jobs. Small businesses currently pay 44% of total U.S. private payroll."

Today, shop local.