Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Gift of Language

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue IX

The Gift of Language
How Sequoyah Gave His People Written Words

Perhaps the most remarkable man who has ever lived on Georgia soil was neither a politician, nor a soldier, nor an ecclesiastic, nor a scholar, but merely a Cherokee Indian of mixed blood. And strange to say, this Indian acquired permanent fame, neither expecting or seeking it." -- H. A. Scomp, Emory College

He was hardly someone you would predict would create such a significant contribution to his nation. George Gist was born to a Cherokee mother, Wu-teh, a member of the Paint Clan, and Nathanial Gist, an English fur trader near the village of Tushkeegee on the Tennessee River. The year was around 1760 but no one knows for sure. Learning the ways of the Cherokee, young George became a trapper and a fur trader himself. He would probably have lived out his days as a man of the forest, but he suffered a hunting accident (or possibly succumbed to a crippling disease, depending on which version of his story you read), but the young man was permanently disabled, unable to earn his living by the skills he had been taught in childhood.

George Gist developed a talent for metal working. He learned to be a blacksmith and silversmith. His disability became both a source of ridicule (Sequoyah means "pig's foot" in Cherokee) and a spur to greater things. The man was a good learner and became a competent craftsman. A man who purchased one of his pieces suggested that he sign his work, but he was unable to. He could not write! And here as well his story might have ended, but events in the greater world were to spur him to his greatest work. Sequoyah married a Cherokee woman and raised a family. They moved to Cherokee County in Georgia where George learned how to write his name from a local farmer. Later he joined other Cherokees who fought under Andrew Jackson against England in the War of 1812. Though he never learned to read or write English, Sequoyah was fascinated by the white man's ability to create "talking leaves" by making marks on paper.

As early as 1809, Sequoyah was exploring the creation of a Cherokee alphabet. Though scholars believe there may have once been a written Cherokee language that was later forgotten, there was no written Cherokee language when Sequoyah was a youth. People suspected that the white man's words "moved around on the paper," and the time was right for Cherokee to be able to read things for themselves. Cherokee soldiers could not write letters home, read military orders for themselves, or record events they wished to remember. When he returned home from the war, he worked in earnest on a phonetic alphabet of 86 letters to write the Cherokee Language. Sequoyah became something of a recluse. His friends and family ridiculed him. Some said he was insane or practicing witchcraft. Moving West to Arkansas, he continued his great work.

He found that his young daughter Ayoka could easily learn to use the syllabary and demonstrated this to his cousin, George Lowrey, who encouraged him to demonstrate the use of the syllabary to the public. In a Cherokee court case in Chattooga, he read an argument about a boundary line from a piece of paper. In 1821 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted Sequoya's alphabet and within a matter of months thousands of Cherokee learned to read and write! In 1824 the Cherokee National Council at New Echota, Georgia presented him with a silver medal. Sequoyah proudly wore it for the rest of his life. He was given a $300 annuity and his widow continued to receive it after he died.

By 1825 the Cherokee had the Bible in their own language along with hymnals and all sorts of educational materials. There was even a large group of Moravian Cherokee. Legal documents and books of every kind were available, all translated into the Cherokee Language. In 1827 The Cherokee National Council funded the printing of Tsa la gi Tsu lehesanunhi," the Cherokee Phoenix. It was the first Native American newspaper printed in the United States. It was produced in the Cherokee Capital, New Echota on a press shipped there from Boston. The paper had parallel columns in Cherokee and English, printed side by side.

Sadly, the discovery of gold in North Georgia, unscrupulous men and treachery in treaty would lead to the removal of most of the Eastern nation. Sequoyah moved to Oklahoma were he served as an envoy to Washington D.C. to assist the displaced Eastern Cherokees. He continued to serve his people as a diplomat and a statesman. Well into his eighties, he traveled West again, looking for a band of Cherokees who were said to have moved to Mexico. He took ill and died in 1843 and the location of his grave remains unknown to this day. Two species of giant redwood trees have been named in his honor, as has Sequoia National Park in California. He gave his people the gift of literacy. His contribution is unique, as he, an uneducated, seemingly undistinguished individual, created a totally new system of writing for his beloved nation. [1.]

J. Lanphier's Journey of Prayer
How A Nation Was Turned to G-d and Restored

Jeremiah Lanphier discovered the power of prayer in his own life.

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, America found herself at a crossroads. Wild speculation and greed had built a house of cards. While a few became incredibly wealthy, the gap between haves and have-nots grew ever wider.   The economic crash had put 30,000 men out of work on the streets of New York City.  Churches languished as people explored Spiritism and other "new" ideas. We, of the Twenty-first Century, would find the condition of the culture strangely familiar.

Political corruption, shady dealings in business and a general moral decline were the norm.  "Atheism, agnosticism, apathy and indifference to God, to the church, and its message abounded on every hand. The decline was fourfold: social, moral, political and spiritual." -- Tom Shanklin

Then came the crash! Factories were shuttered. Banks failed and merchants were ruined. Thousands were destitute. Winkie Pratney, who chronicled the great revival, says: "A near socio-economic collapse jolted America away from her apathy into a national cry for spiritual reality." Chuck Balsamo presents a wonderful concise history of this revival in his book Make Me a Legend [click to read]. The story does not begin with a mighty move and thousands of conversions, rather it begins in a rather small way.

Jeremiah Lanphier was a middle-aged businessman caught in the crossroads. Having no children and no family, he was drawn to minister to the needs of those living in the dark slums of Hell's Kitchen. Leaving his business, he became a lay missionary with the North Dutch Church in Manhattan. Pouring his life into the lives of those he saw caught in hopelessness, he soon came to the end of his own strength. Physically and mentally exhausted, Lanphier discovered that just as the body needs food, the soul and spirit of a man need to be nourished in prayer.[1.]

Each day at midday, Lanphier would seek solace in the Church Consistory Building, where he would cry out to G-d for spiritual strength. He experienced G-d in a mighty way in these times and felt that others would benefit from prayer as well, especially the city's businessmen. He printed up and distributed 20,000 flyers advertising his first noontime prayer meeting, on September 23, 1857.

That day he prayed alone for thirty minutes before six others joined him. The next week there were twenty. The week after that forty people showed up. In time over 100 churches had noonday prayer meetings going throughout the city. G-d's powerful move was felt far beyond New York City. Newspaperman Horace Greeley wanted to get a count of the number of men  praying in New York so he sent a reporter out to the meetings. Racing around the city in a horse-drawn buggy, the reporter was only able to get to twelve meetings in the noon hour, but he counted 6,100 in attendance.

Spiritual awakening followed and Americans found strength in G-d for the turbulent days that followed. This Third Great Awakening not only revitalized the spirit of America's people, but led to missionary outreach around the world.  [2.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VIII

The Mapmaker's Ethic III
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." -- Psalm 100:5

Mapmakers strive for accuracy. Truth in the depiction of many details is essential to their work being trustworthy and safe. A wonderful old road atlas I acquired in my boyhood even went so far as to suggest a traveler make local inquiry before venturing onto some of the more obscure unpaved roads shown. After Hurricane Katrina I traveled to Waveland, Mississippi. The map said that U.S. 90 crossed Bay St. Louis on a bridge. We drove to the barricade at the end of route 90. The bridge had been washed away.

Many scholars, who would INSIST on accurate maps to guide them on the highway, scoff at the notion of "Absolute Truth" in the spiritual realm. They would NEVER seek to drive to Chicago subscribing to the notion that all roads are equally valid. Yet, when it comes to matters eternal, they reject the notion that there might indeed be specific direction available to them. Most likely they would find in Holy Writ some example of "Absolute Truth" similar to the now missing U.S. 90 bridge , and dismiss the veracity of ANY claim to "Absolute Truth." But they would be missing the mark.

No trucker, upon discovering the missing route 90 bridge, would throw his atlas out the window. Instead, he would probably take note that the atlas itself states that while every effort has been made to verify the information contained in the publication, errors or omissions are possible and contact information is provided for those observing such discrepancies to report them. The map, you see, is a hard record of an Earthscape that is changing. These changes are caused both by natural forces and the actions of mankind.

Yet the difficulty of documenting it in no way discredits the truth that an absolute set of conditions exists. Historical maps document well the succession of changes and if one will study maps, it may be argued, they will make wiser decisions as they travel. The very fact that maps are made argues that there is indeed a truth to be recorded. So it is, I would argue, with human history as well. If the Divine has indeed revealed eternal truths to mankind, and scribes have striven to record them accurately, as Jews and Christians have taught for centuries, then there must needs be maps for the world unseen as well.

Dismissing the validity of scripture because you find a prohibition on eating shellfish is similar to discrediting the use of maps because you fail to place it in context. A 1947 map of the United States will lack Interstate Highways, yet it would have shown you how to cross the country on the Mother Road, Route 66! That same route has been renamed I 40 in our times and is wider. Similarly Leviticus mapped a path for G-d's people in a time when eating shellfish was dangerous. In Leviticus 14, detailed procedures are given for dealing with mold in structures. I was tempted to conider such information 'archaic' until I attended a conference of the National Institute of Restoration.

It was there that I met a man who was severely disabled. He had been performing mold mitigation on a building and the work required him to go into many small spaces and resulted in exttended exposure to the mold. There are indeed different strains of mold (Leviticus describes this), and the kind this man encountered was the more dangerous kind. His heart had been severely damaged from his prolonged exposure to it. After meeting him I took the matter of mold in my own house, or that of a friend, very seriously. Scriptural guidelines on diet and hygene are actually quite helpful upon untering an unfamiliar culture.

The fact that Holy Writ comes in a series of books, all building upon previous revelation, might be analogous to the process of refining maps. Stop and think about it. There is so much information contained in historical maps that is still useful today. Moses shows you the beginnings of G-d's interactions with mankind. In Genesis we see the concept of IMAGO DEI, that mankind uniquely bears the image of his maker. Abraham is charged that through him: "All nations of the Earth shall be blessed." Redemption is seen in the calling out of an enslaved people to become a nation for that purpose.

History affirms the work of G-d in establishing a people, and yet read further. Isaiah 60 describes a road unseen that we have yet to travel. Just as Moses brought a promise that was fulfilled, the prophets bring more promise.

Can We Trust Our Maps?

As I was researching this article, I came across a very interesting article about Cartography as Wayfinding for the Soul [click to read]. Some may encounter such an article and scoff: "See, there is much that may be placed subjectively into maps." But consider this, just as my map of Middle Earth, created in my youth, described no actual country; but accurately represented the creation of J. R. R. Tolkien's fertile imagination. Even 'educational' maps may organize very real information in a subjective manner. Creating maps of Ice-Age Europe for CIVITAS, Kristina Elaine Riley and I placed icons of animals on them to describe the fauna of the time. Here the convention of icons might be seen to create an 'untruth,' for there are no Great Auks the size of New Jersey actually lying upon the landscape.

But is it an untruth? No. It is a convention that is understood across many cultures. Thus it may be useful to remember that Divine Revelation was handed to scribes who also inhabit their own set of cultural conventions in the use of language. Sometimes an honest exploration of idioms is necessary. I defy you to understand more recent writings, such as those of Shakespeare, without doing so.

Scripture 'scholars' at our great universities also are fond of "multiple authorship theories," that supposedly discredit Holy Writ. My own work as an artist suggested, however, a more plausible explanation. Looking back at my early attempts, I find they are often very different from my more 'mature' works. A mentor once scolded me for inconsistency. Writers as well will develop as they go along. Realizing that the writers of Holy Writ often began with no concept of the greater work intended by G-d, it is greater evidence for firsthand writing that it has not been 'smoothed.'

In fact, there is an 'Embarassement Factor' present in these works, for there is little or no attempt to smooth over those things that appear in Holy Writ that present a less than flattering picture of Kings, Prophets, Apostles and Patriarchs. You might want to remember this when randomly choosing passages to read to young children!

Importance of Investigation

Granted, there are scholars of the Bible who have taken it apart in their writings and present the conclusion that it is not truth. I would only ask them to go back and honestly check their work. The vast majority of those who resist the notion that faith is important have done little or no exploration on their own. Some honest seekers have indeed found themselves mired by the inexplicable problems of pain and evil. To them I would offer a piece of advice from a wise family member... that someone, somewhere in the household of faith has wrestled with these issues before you. Seek out their counsel.

G-d and Suffering

Isn't human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful G-d must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can "suffering" exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, G-d exists.An objective standard is indeed a solid mark on a map!

Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft.

The Mapmaker's Ethic Restated:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -- 2 Timothy 2:15

Paul the Apostle wrote these words to Timothy, his young apprentice in the Gospel ministry. I am priviledged to know a young man of our age who is not afraid to walk that same path. The young Minister stirs the soul as he clearly presents the Gospel from the classic texts on Faith. He is quick to reference good maps in doing so! Oh, the richness of Martin Luther's Preface to Romans!

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.

To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is no use in reading it." [1.]

The young Minister is concerned today with the matter of Faith. Though Faith is often mentioned, few unroll the great charts to plot its implications. The young Minister has no fear in doing so. He references Luther's thoughts on this great Truth:

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, "Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven." The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, "I believe." This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate." [2.]

Monday, August 18, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Call to Prayer

Hope and Promise for Our Troubled Times

Volume VIII, Issue VIIIa

War is ugly. The news in recent times has brought us it in its full ugliness as it destroys women and children and threatens to revisit dark times of the past century to which we once said "Never Again!" Would we join our hearts with our family in faith around the world in praying G-d's promise of protection, as found in Psalm 91, for persecuted Christians in Iraq. But let us expand our compassion to pray Psalm 91 for the people of Sderot and other towns in Southern Israel, who endure relentless attacks from Hamas. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." -- Ephesians 6:12 But let us pray as well for the children of Gaza, being forced to participate in this dark warfare as human shields. And let us pray for our own youth as well, for they are being warred against as well by a culture that would reduce their purpose in life to self-gratification. It is time to raise our eyes heavenward: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 72

Give the king thy judgments, O G-d, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.

He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.

He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord G-d, the G-d of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."

Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my G-d; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VII

The Mapmaker's Ethic II:
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

No one would in any seriousness suggest that the only place that was significant or real was the part of the landscape he could see from his house, and that the rest, because it was unseen, either didn't exist or was of no consequence. Indeed, if you encountered such a person, you might refer to the most accurate map you could find. Pinpointing his house, you would proceed to show him the main arteries, the rivers, mountains and towns that await him outside of the realm he can see. Yet a scholar like Richard Dawkins can essentially use the same reasoning in writing The G-d Delusion and be lauded as brilliant!

But Dawkins as much as admits that he is 'not sure' if G-d exists in a discussion at Oxford University. [1.] It is time, I would say, to pull out the maps. Dawkins publicly dismisses religion because he feels it is the 'root of mankind's evils.' The problem is that if we look to history, we find a firm challenge to that mindset. In Why Religious Literacy Matters [click to read] we find that the evidence does NOT point us away from faith, rather it shows us instances where mankind has been lifted by something he clearly did not produce on his own.

One who wants to rest his argument on the premise that religion causes wars simply needs to look at the culture BEFORE the arrival of the religion he wishes to impune. In fact,honest history shows us that men's baser instincts resulted in a cycle of raiding and retribution LONG before white Christians ever arrived. Slavery existed for centuries where there was NO Christian influence, and succumbed to the influence of men like John Newton and William Wilberforce [2.] who were MOTIVATED by that faith.

The film: G-d's Not Dead [click to read] takes a look at the rational 'reasonable' men have for attacking faith. Indeed, the notion that unresolved evil discredits the existence of the Almighty is presented in a straightforward manner. The writings of great people OF faith, such as C. S. Lewis actually have much to say about this. The fact is that Lewis was as hard an Atheist as Dawkins, but guided by his friend and mentor: J. R. R. Tolkein, he found himself: "The most reluctant convert in all of England!"

The Catholic Tolkein had at his disposal a vast library of fine maps. The Christian recognizes Moses and the Prophets, just as G-d's Chosen do. Looking first to those texts that claim the authority of Divine Authorship through Inspired Writers, one then overlays them with good history to see what they reveal. It is not at all unlike the exercise employed in creating my historical map of Rockbridge County. [3.] One may wish to question the accuracy of the historic texts, but here more history witnesses to their reliability.

981 texts on scrolls discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank inside caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some on papyrus and bronze, are associated with the Essenes.What is fascinating is the fact that more modern texts are spot-on with these ancient manuscripts, save for a few punctuations and such.

The scribes who copied these documents worked to an ethic as rigorous as that of the mapmaker. A scribe would 'practice' reproducing texts and his work would be rejected for so much as a character omitted or out of place. Dawkins likes to claim that "we are all atheists" concerning most of the gods people have worshiped. Put it in the perspective though, that most such 'dieties' were slimly documented local gods associated with seasons, fertility and harvest. In 1 Kings 18:40 we see the prophet Elijah take on the priests of Baal. There were many such dieties, seemingly demanding that mankind placate them in return for good harvest.

Gods like Molech demanded the sacrifice of children by burning them. Indeed, if the G-d of Creation is like them then Dawkins has a point. But that the great body of revealed Scripture teaches a people that through them: "All the Nations of the Earth shall be blessed." and in a world of raiding and retribution teaches the new concept of kindness toward the stranger who lives in your midst, then we need to reexamine the wholesale dismissal of faith. The map will not allow us to.

Also, quite importantly, the Mapmaker's Ethic requires that we draw an accurate representation of faith as it runs through the landscape that we inhabit. We need to see the true course that it runs. That means we consider accurately the Crusades as well as Dorethea Dix and Florence Nightingale, who motivated by their faith, made strides in the care for the mentally ill and in the profession of nursing, respectively. We need to consider the very real occurrence of hypocrisy: those who speak in terms of faith but do not live as it requires. History is full of these as well.

But it must be noted that people of faith have often stood against the viler things. Slavery was maintained by professing Christians in the United States until the Abolition, but it was the teachings of Christianity itself that led to that Abolition. Martin Luther King's famous demand: "Let MY people go!" is a restatement of Moses' demand of Pharaoh.

Glimpses into a World Unseen

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

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

Moth wing pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

(to be continued).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VI

The Mapmaker's Ethic I:
Why Accuracy Matters

The song still haunts... Gordon Lightfoot's "Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald" has an eerie hold on my generation, especially those of us who considered joining the merchant marine or heading to Alaska to seek our fortunes. I never went to sea on the Great Lakes, but the song became a part of me. I have been in storms on the Chesapeake Bay, so I can imagine somewhat the tempest that raged on Superior in mid-November of 1975. The song chronicles the actual voyage of the ship they called the "Big Fitz" as she mysteriously sank that year. The song talks about an extremely violent storm and a "main hatchway" giving in.  Many of the crew were the same age as I would have been, had I served among them. That such a great ship would simply vanish, and her crew along with her, was the stuff great mysteries are made of.

Discovery Channel Special on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The discovery of this special program rekindled my fascination with this great ship and her lost crew. The assumption (in the Lightfoot song, and by the Coast Guard) was that she somehow took water from topside. The Coast Guard asserted that a main hatch was improperly clamped and the ship took water when the storm somehow caused the great hatch to come loose. That is not a very good explanation, however, and the documentary goes into some detail as to what the more likely cause was. The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was originally built by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The contractor was Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan. Her keel was laid on August 7, 1957 as Hull No. 301. Named after the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual, the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched June 8, 1958 at River Rouge, Michigan. Northwestern Mutual placed her under permanent charter to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company, Cleveland, Ohio. At 729 feet and 13,632 gross tons she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, for thirteen years, until 1971.

The huge ship was built for hauling iron ore pellets from Minnesota to the steel mills on the lower Great Lakes. Lake Superior, known to the Native Americans as Gitchee Gumee, is a great inland sea and known for its fierce Winter storms. Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway ceased in Winter, but tonnage bonuses, paid to ship's captains and crew, tempted them to try to squeeze in trips even as mid-November's harsh weather approached. So it was that the Fitzgerald, captained by Ernest M. McSorley took on a load of iron ore pellets November 9, 1975 at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock No.1, Superior, Wisconsin. She was joined by the Arthur Anderson, captained by Bernie Cooper. The two ships set a course for Sault Ste Marie, at the Eastern side of Superior.

A severe storm caught the ships as they made their way down the main shipping channel in the center of the lake. The experienced captains decided to seek a more sheltered route along the Northern shore. The storm became even more violent as two storm cells merged over the great body of water. Large waves rolled up on the ships. As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, her crew was unaware of the dangerous Six Fathom Shoal beneath her. The map was wrong! Pounded by the waves, her captain probably didn't notice the sound of her bottoming out. At 3:30 pm, however, he knew he was taking on water and had some sort of serious damage. McSorley radioed Cooper:  "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?" The Big Fitz slowed her speed and the Anderson began to close the ten mile gap between the two vessels.

Now the injured Fitzgerald set a course for the shelter of Whitefish Bay. As evening set in two monstrous waves rolled over the Anerson. Cooper reports that this happened about 6:55 pm: "Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water - barrooff - just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under." The First Mate of the Anderson, Morgan Clark, kept in radar contact and voice communication with the Fitzgerald:

"Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"

"Yes, we have."

"Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."

"Well, am I going to clear?" McSorley radioed back.

"Yes, he is going to pass to the west of you."

"Well, fine."

"By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problems?"

"We are holding our own."

"Okay, fine, I'll be talking to you later." [1.]

But the words, "We are holding our own." spoken around 7:10 pm that evening, were the last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As the seas calmed, an ill-equipped Coast Guard asked the Anderson and several other vessels to search for the Edmund Fitzgerald, but she had vanished. Bits of debris and the twisted half of a lifeboat were all that were spotted. The Gales of November had claimed the great ship and she rested in two parts on the bottom of Lake Superior. Her crew was not to be found.

The map used by Captain Ernest M. McSorley showed Six Fathom Shoal one mile off of its actual position.

A mile's discrepancy in a map! That is the most likely cause of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. No doubt, the error lay in obscurity until violent weather forced two great ships into the area that was wrongly depicted. Comparison has been made to the sinking of the Daniel J. Morell in 1966 where the ship was probably slammed to the bottom by a wave as well and broke in two. One man survived the Morell. [2.] No one survived the Fitzgerald.

The fact that lives depend on their accuracy has always been the ethic guiding the making of maps. In ancient times, the far edges that were not very well charted often bore the legend: "there are monsters!" Such was the way of warning that there was no data for those particular waters. Satellite imagery and sophisticated survey methods have put the monsters to rest, but the need for accuracy is ever greater.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." -- Psalm 119:105

As a child I became fascinated with maps. Colorful representations of actual faraway places intrigued me. What lay over the horizon waiting to be discovered? Maps pointed the way. Drawings of places unseen, yet when I got my first car, they reliably pointed the way to many adventures. Sometimes it was fun to just get in the car and drive, but if you wanted to go to Rehoboth Beach or Ocean City, you consulted the map!

When I was in high school, I drew a detailed map of Middle Earth that probably still hangs in a closet in my sister's house. It was the accurate representation of a land in a legend, in my adult career I would go on to accurately represent architectural concepts... but somehow I always returned to the map! Researching for author Rob Hewitt, I discovered that you could overlay old maps on modern ones and that they would tell you a story. Modern roads closely followed old turnpikes. Old turnpikes followed the routes of Native American commerce and migration. The overlay of maps told a very true history of the regions they depicted. [3.]

Our studio produced educational maps for the Core Knowledge Foundation and a few years ago I collaborated with artist Kristina Elaine Greer to produce similar maps for the Civitas Foundation in Great Britain as they reproduced the Core Knowledge Series for a British audience. [4.] Over the years, creating maps, there has come to me an awareness of what I would call: The Mapmaker's Ethic! Simply stated it would be thus:

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

You would never accept as serious advice the notion that you could just get in your car and start driving; for "all roads will get you to Atlanta." Such would be a foolish waste of time and resources. Yet many who would never embarque upon a journey without carefully consulting maps scoff at the notion that there might be solid information about the unseen world as well.

Just as there are a sequence of historical maps and modern ones that tell us important information about the ways we travel, there exists documentation of the unseen world as well. To be sure, some of them are as fanciful as the map of Middle Earth that depicts a land of a story, but are there a succession of historical maps that overlay like those of a historical region, that might indeed point to direction both in our life here and now and in our life to come? And if indeed such charts exist, what is the ethic under which they are produced? Do they build upon prior revelation to provide a complete picture?

If indeed, mankind is eternal, the question is a good one, for if that is indeed so, then most of our 'journey' lies outside of the county we presently reside in! Some will assert that this world is all that is. I would only ask of them: "Are you SURE?" If not, then I would ask them to consider what charts they might need for a longer journey? Some are not ready to consider a journey of such magnitude. They may detrain here if that is so, and are welcome to come aboard again when they so desire. Some may simply be curious. To them I say: "Ride along for a while. It will do you no harm." Finally there are those who feel certain that there is more. To them I say: "Come sit at the head of the train and see where the journey might lead." (to be continued).