Saturday, February 28, 2015

THYME Magazine: Lee Jong-Rak and IMAGO DEI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VIIIa: Lee Jong-Rak tenderly lifts an abandoned baby.

Living in Light of IMAGO DEI

In the earliest days of the Christian church, child abandonment was a problem too. Unwanted children were simply cast into the Tiber River. Understanding the preciousness of human life, the Faithful pulled as many of these young souls as they could from the water and raised them as their own. Pastor Lee Jong-Rak of Seoul, South Korea is a man who lives in light of that great Truth today, the Truth that man is created in the image of G-d according to the Holy Scriptures. Each life is precious.

Pastor Lee was moved by the sight of abandoned babies that were simply left on the streets of Seoul. Most of these infants died, so the man of G-d came up with a solution... a heated "mailbox" where infants could be left anonymously. It is estimated that about six hundred childrens' lives have been saved through this unique ministry. Many of the abandoned children are handicapped, having conditions like Down's Syndrome. They are seen by many in that part of the world as a curse and a burden.

Pastor Lee's own son is handicapped, and Pastor Lee sees him as a blessing, noting that such children increase our capacity to love.

The Drop Box” was directed by Brian Ivie, a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. “Through this movie, we’re hoping that people would see more than Christians working on behalf of orphans,” said Ivie. “We’re hoping that people would see a G-d who has always and will always love the broken and the lost.” Ivie was personally impacted as he directed “The Drop Box.” As he accepted the “Best of Festival” award for the documentary at the 2013 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, Ivie told the audience: “I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it, and I saw all these kids come through the drop box it was like a flash from heaven. Just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And G-d loves me still.”

The Drop Box [click to read] will be shown in theaters on March 3, 4 and 5. Click on the link to learn more.

The film: The Drop Box will be shown March 3, 4 and 5.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

THYME Magazine: Winter in America II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VIII

Scenes of Winter Wonder

One of my favorite memories from my youth was the Baltimore Sun's Sunday magazine, the Brown Section. Each week it came filled with wonderful photographs by A. Aubrey Bodine, Baltimore's Photographer Laureate. He worked for the Sun for fifty years and his work continues to inspire my own. 

Japanese Maple
Japanese Maple in the snow. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Catalpa in the cold and snow.  Photo by Bob Kirchman

Sycamore Snow. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Skyline Drive
Ice on Skyline Drive. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Ice along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Parkway Ice. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The past week's Winter storm inspired the photographs of trees, ice and snow. It also inspired a visit to some images captured in past storms. Some people see Winter as a drab and colorless time. I just wanted to celebrate the beauty to be found there.

Leadership in Winter
Fifteen Ideas for 2015 -- Mercatus Center

In the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville, we must reawaken understanding and respect for cultural democracy, which is to say communities, lest we allow political democracy — the government — to continue trampling the people’s will in the people’s name." -- Veronique de Rugy

Addressing everything from education to healthcare reform, scholars from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University present a vision for reviving innovation and true seeking of solutions. The fifteen ideas presented here present a refreshing alternative to the media narratives such as: "We have to pass the bill to see what's in it!" -- Nancy Pelosi. Wonder of wonders, here are a whole plethora of ideas to make things better. Government, we discover, often needs to simply get out of the way. Sadly, the political narrative and the media narrative would lead you to believe that there is no hope short of massive Federal involvement. The great growth this country experienced in her first one hundred years actually occurred with minimal taxation (there was NO Federal Income Tax prior to 1913)! Government didn't necessarily build it.

Unleashing the forces of independent inventiveness might just spur a new era of American innovation. The scholars at Mercatus write:

At the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, we think ideas change the world, so our scholars produce ideas honed by the criticisms and challenges of peers within the university — not inflated or elevated by partisan politics. We’re committed to bridging academic ideas to solve real world problems — working with policymakers at the state and federal levels that promote free enterprise and limited government — so that when politicians find themselves staring into the face of a crisis, they have the best ideas available to them: ideas with the power to create real change.

Are our ideas any good? Judge for yourself. Our scholars lay out ideas they think could create a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful society. See if you agree."

Fifteen Ideas for 2015 [click to read]

Sycamore Snow II. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Sycamore Snow III. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Sycamore Snow IV. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The View from Wachovia Tower

"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 God; in him will I trust." -- Psalms 91:1-2. Sunset as seen from the Wachovia Tower in Roanoke, Virginia... Photo by Bob Kirchman. 

...which is the tallest building in Western Virginia. It is 21 stories high. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The pyramidal top of the Wachovia Tower gives homage to the Hotel Roanoke. St. Andrew's Catholic Church may be seen to the left of the hotel in this photo taken from Wachovia Tower's tenth floor. Photo by Bob Kirchman

His Eye is on the Sparrow

"Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" -- Matthew 6:26. 
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Saturday, February 21, 2015

THYME Magazine: Winter in America

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VIIa

Winter in America

I for one am tired of seeing images of the President playing golf. I have a feeling I am not alone. The litany of problems our country faces have been mentioned many times in these pages, and Americans are right to feel frustrated and discouraged. But is this our Valley Forge, where our endurance and perseverance will lead to another time of triumph? I hope so, I dare to believe so. David Barton writes, in an article entitled How America Can Reclaim Greatness [1.]

It’s difficult to get Americans to agree on many things today, but there are a few exceptions. Three of four are unhappy with the direction the country is headed. Two of three think America is in a state of decline, and more than half believe that we’re no longer a country where anyone can get ahead and have a better standard of living.

This dismal outlook includes every major American institution. Strikingly, the one that enjoys the greatest public support is the military – but even at that, only four of ten adults have “a great deal of confidence” in our military. Next highest are churches, but only one of four has a high level of trust in our religious institutions. Only one in five has the highest degree of confidence in the presidency; one of seven in public schools; one of eight in the U.S. Supreme Court; one of ten in banks; and only one out of twenty in Congress."

Barton has teamed with George Barna to write: U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots. [2.] These two writers do not deny the serious problems that face us, nor do they ignore the urgency of our collective action. As the President fiddles (or tees off), our country burns. But it is not time for us to retreat to inaction. There are foundations to be remembered and restored. Barton says:

Over the last generation, we’ve largely destroyed our uniquely American culture, created an activist government that pursues its own agenda, no longer serving the people or following the Constitution, banished organized religion to a place of public irrelevance, and reconstructed the traditional family into something never before known in the history of mankind.

Exacerbating these problems is the paralysis that citizens feel as a result of our continuous national news inundation. We routinely hear of maddening decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court, the president’s use of his phone and pen to enact unpopular policies and the Senate’s refusal to take up over 300 common sense bills passed by the House (more than 200 of them passed unanimously), and we know there is nothing we can do to reverse any of these things."

But we have faced dark times before. A study of our nation's beginnings shows how perilous the pursuit of our freedom was. Many times it seems that but for the Hand of Providence, our nation would not have survived.

In tough and frustrating times, there is a tendency to look outside for help – for something to relieve the pressure, to solve the problem, or simply to give hope. For those in the religious community, the pressure-relief valve is often eschatology (the theological view of the final events of history, commonly described as the “end times”) They tell themselves that what is going on now is what was prophesied millennia ago – that current events were decreed by G-d and are beyond any human control."

That is not to ignore the serious problems we face, but rather, it is a call to see them from the perspective of what history can teach us. The authors reference the American Revolution. Only one third of the colonists were in favor of independence. One fourth were clearly against it. The remainder just wanted to be on the winning side. Here it was not an overwhelming majority who prevailed, but a persistent and dedicated core. The cause was taken up personally by those in communities across the land who stepped up and did their part.

The rogue ideology imposed by those in power in Washington is NOT that of the majority. Indeed it has been systematically imposed by encroachment into institutions of higher learning, the media and government itself. In the 1950's, Senator Joseph McCarthy [3.] pointed it out. It is telling that those opposed to McCarthy successfully painted him as an alarmist. The fact remains that the New Deal administration was packed with left-leaning bureaucrats. The seeds of our undoing were already planted. The President golfs, knowing his underlings enact his policies for him. They preceded him, beginning their careers many years ago, but have gained much traction in our present age. [4.]

In future issues of THYME we will look closer at how ideologies so opposed to the foundations of our freedom became ensconced in our national fabric. We will examine how the role of the Church, family, local community and the traditional foundations of our country have been deliberately eroded. For now, we must become well versed in the Truths upon which this nation was founded. We must teach them to our children and hold accountable the academy and the media, who have departed from their ordained purpose and now perpetuate the lies that threaten to destroy us.

A sign on a heavy equipment dealership in Fishersville, Virginia says it clearly: Pray for recovery.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

David Barton. Wallbuilders Photo

2. Suggested Reading: "Venona" (Yale University Press); "The Secret World Of American Communism" (Yale University Press); "The Haunted Wood" (Random House); "The Venona Secrets" (Regnery); "The Secret History Of the KGB" (Basic Books); "Whittaker Chambers: A Biography" (Modern Library); and "Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the life and legacy of America's most hated Senator" (Free Press).

The Museum of the Bible
Coming in 2017

The Museum of the Bible. Model by Smith Group JJR

Scheduled to open in 2017, the yet-to-be-named museum would welcome people of all faiths and include rare Torahs as well as historic Bibles.” -- The New York Times, July 16, 2014

A museum collection of such great cultural significance will likely be a sought-after destination for the visiting public.” -- Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 12, 2014

The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, have a new project. Just two blocks from the National Mall, On Virginia Avenue, the Museum of the Bible is beginning to rise. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the new museum will contain historical artifacts from the Greens' own collection and will present an often overlooked part of our national fabric -- the Sacred Texts and their influence. Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, is overseeing the project and has an ambitious vision for the eight story complex.

Biblical literacy is at an all-time low as secularists demand a civil society that makes no reference to the Scriptures, but this was not always the case. Our first President stated that it was impossible to govern the world without them.

Critics of the new privately funded museum decry the lack of 'diversity' in the museum's board (most are Evangelicals) and the fact that the museum will present the Scriptures as reliable Divine Revelation rather than simply as study artifacts. [5.] But it must be remembered that though Scripture is indeed referenced on the friezes of Washington's classical edifices, The National Museums themselves often diminish the role of Faith in our nation's story or leave it out altogether. A replica of the aluminum capstone for the Washington Monument in one such display was deliberately placed against a wall to obscure the text: LAUS DEO (Glory to G-d) inscribed upon it.

Thus it could be said that the Museum of the Bible simply tells the story that others won't. It promises to be a sophisticated experience. The building is designed by Smith Group JJR, Washington, D.C., who's portfolio includes the International Spy Museum, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.The display floors themselves are being designed by firms such as The PRD Group in Chantilly, Virgina, who have crafted many displays for the Smithsonian. [6.]

Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby.

David Green began Hobby Lobby as a $600 start-up in his garage...

...which grew to become a national company providing art supplies, craft supplies and fine art framing. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

THYME Magazine: Thoughts on Leadership

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VII

The Challenge of Leadership

It was just over a week ago that Jordan's King Abdullah II, learning of the execution by terrorist group ISIS of one of his pilots, cut short a visit to the White House and returned to his own country to oversee the air attack on ISIS militants. The king, who is a trained pilot, was rumored to be manning one of the planes leading the attack. Though official sources denied it, the king does regularly participate in military operations and flies his own helicopter to remote parts of his kingdom. Many Americans lauded this quick and decisive response, especially in light of our own President's ambivalence. Certainly it was a breath of fresh air to see a leader take it to the terrorists rather than lecture us on the Crusades.

No doubt, America's tepid response begs the question of qualification when it comes to Commander-in-chief of the greatest military power in the world. Should we require a potential President to have military experience? It seems logical, but though it would have disqualified a number of inept Chief Executives, it would have also deprived us of the leadership of Ronald Reagan! Someone opined to me recently that Reagan was so effective because he had been a Governor. As Chief Executive of a state, he would have already learned to build teams and draw expertise from the members who in many cases would have a far better understanding of the issues than he did. The commenter said that Governors, upon becoming President, had the ability, not only to work with a team, but often brought some of their best people with them to Washington.

That said, it might be better to look for a deeper level of leadership qualification. Yes, military leadership is an important part of it, but there is more. Also, it is important to remember that the principle of civilian oversight is a deterrent to military coups. Thus it falls on the citizens and the media to make informed judgements on candidates. An educated electorate would never put a largely untested and unvetted Junior Senator's finger anywhere near the red button. Is it reasonable to expect some resume from a potential candidate so that we may know something of his policies, world and domestic?

King Abdullah showed the proper resolve in dealing with terrorists, but it is worth noting that this warrior-king is unelected. He is known to govern by playing various factions in his kingdom against one another. He is a vocal critic of Jordan's neighbor Israel and is indeed more complex than the noble knight that he has come to be seen as. Speech in the Hashemite Kingdom is closely regulated. It is a crime to speak out against the crown. The General Intelligence Department is highly feared. His kingdom has massive unemployment and as many as two thirds of the citizens are on the public dole.

To the West, another model of leadership is in play. A true representative government exists in neighboring Israel, where members of the Knesset are elected, as is the Prime Minister. Binyamin Netanyahu serves at the pleasure of the voters, and he has a pretty impressive resume. When our own President was running with the Choom Gang, PM Netanyahu was serving with IDF Special Forces. He is a student of the world he must lead his people in. His own advertisement for his reelection says volumes about the subject of leadership in a lighthearted way.

Meet the 'Bibi Sitter'

Leadership: "Taking care of the children."

In the ad, the prime minister mentions the other choice for "taking care of the children": Isaac "Buji" Herzog and Tzipi Livni, the leaders of the left-wing political alliance in Israel's upcoming elections.

Buji? Our children will have to take care of him!" says the father, according to a translation.

By the time we get home, we won't have a house left," the mother says.

He'll even give away the carpet," (the Hebrew word for carpet can also be translated 'territory', so there is a double entendre here) the father jokes.

When the parents return from their night out, they greet Netanyahu with a "shalom," which means "peace."

Not unconditionally," Bibi responds.

The polls in Israel seem to be moving in Bibi and Likud's direction. Meanwhile, PM Netanyahu's government has received pushback from the White House after the Israeli prime minister accepted an invitation from House speaker John Boehner to speak to Congress in March. What is illustrated well here is the true challenge of leadership... providing security for one's people and working to do so in a very dangerous world! The media, in turn, MUST move away from its simplistic victim/oppressor narrative and provide leadership as well.

The Challenge of Leadership

"The Prayer at Valley Forge" by Arnold Friberg is one of the best known paintings of the American Revolution. It depicts George Washington at Valley Forge.

No doubt, George Washington knew the challenge of leadership well. He began his career without a full college degree, but at the age of sixteen he obtained his surveyer's certificate from The College of William and Mary. At an age when most modern young men are playing video games, he was out discovering and marking an actual country! He did do something akin to the actions of modern young men when he discreetly carved his initials into Rock Bridge County's natural wonder, Natural Bridge!

Washington is noted for his military career, but historian James Hodges, us some unique insight into the man's character:

At the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777, a particularly brutal battle with much carnage on both sides, a fox terrier got lost between the lines. The little dog was captured by the Americans, who saw inscribed in his collar: “Property of General Howe.” Washington made sure the little dog was fed, cleaned and treated well. Under a flag of truce, Alexander Hamilton delivered the dog to General Howe, who had suffered great mental anguish thinking his little terrier had been lost to him forever.

Washington had been passionately fond of horses from early boyhood, and owned his first horse at 17. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, was a skilled horsewoman who taught young George how to train horses using only the gentlest of methods, and to never resort to any cruelty. Washington learned that harsh training methods were counter-productive, because horses treated with respect are eager to please their riders." [1.]

At the second battle of Trenton, on January 2, 1777, it was clearly evident that Washington's great charger Nelson returned the affection of his rider. Though cannon shells were bursting around them, man and horse stood firm. To those men Washington led into battle, they stood together as a symbol of strength. A soldier writes: “As I crossed the bridge crowded with fellow soldiers, I brushed up against the boot of the man and flank of the horse. Both seemed to exude courage.”

After the great war was over, Washington indeed became President of the nation he had helped to create. His leadership skills would be tested in the days of the Newburgh Conspiracy, where he would avert a military coup. The young nation's coffers were empty. The Continental Army had not been fully paid, and an uprising was brewing. There was talk of taking up arms against the Congress. Washington went to his officers and appealed to them in an emotional address on March 15, 1783.

Cool heads prevailed and Congress voted on a plan to pay the men. Interestingly, Washington distrusted the notion of political parties. He never aligned with one himself, though those around him were crafting the foundation for the two party system we have today. Perhaps the man's own sayings tell us volumes about his life and its motivations: [2.]

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without G-d and Bible."

The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained”

Make sure you are doing what G-d wants you to do---then do it with all your strength."

What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty G-d, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors."

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."

The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."

If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The rest is in the hands of G-d."

No people can be bound to acknowledge the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency"

I am sure that never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that G-d who is alone able to protect them.”

Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”

I earnestly pray that the Omnipotent Being who has not deserted the cause of America in the hour of its extremist hazard, will never yield so fair a heritage of freedom a prey to "Anarchy" or "Despotism"."

Stones of Remembrance
Remembering G-d's Mighty Works in Our Lives

Angus Dei (Lamb of G-d), by Kristina Elaine Greer. [1.]

One of the greatest challenges to our Faith is our forgetfulness. Pastor Seth Hankee preached our sermon one Sunday about how the people were instructed to remember the great things G-d had done for them. G-d separated the Jordan, as He had the Red Sea, for the people to walk across and gave them the following command:

And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your G-d into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.

And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day." -- Joshua 4:1-9

The Passover meal had already been instituted as testimony to G-d's redemption, so that a child would ask: "Why is this Night Different from all Other Nights?" The story in a meal gave illustration to the miracle that had carried the people out of Egypt.

For the Christian, remembering deliverance from sin is the greatest miracle. In preparation for Easter, the Church observes Lent, reminding us of the deliverance Jesus brought us by way of the cross: 

Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: our sinfulness before G-d and our human mortality. The service focuses on both themes, helping us to realize that both have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. Historically, ashes signified purification and sorrow for sins."-- —Adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship

So it is very important to tell our stories of redemption, using reminders that will stir our minds to recall times when we were vividly aware of the Divine reaching out to touch our lives. Pastor Seth showed us a little children's book he had saved from his first house... on closer examination you could see the tire print on the page, a reminder of how when a car careened into his living room, it had narrowly missed hitting his wife and young child. Certainly G-d had protected his young family and that little book now told a much bigger story!

So now it is time to commit ourselves to the telling of the great stories, the ones that end in redemption and deliverance from our present condition. The Book of Judges follows the Book of Joshua and gives a sober warning: "And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel." -- Judges 2:8-10

The importance of stories and their redemptive narrative cannot be emphasized enough. Passing the torch must always be a priority in every generation.

1. "I did this with a sheet of 8.5"x11" computer paper some ashes from my fireplace and canola oil. I mixed up some of the oil and ashes similar to how they are mixed on Ash Wednesday and painted them on the paper in a cross then sprinkled the rest of the dry ashes on top. I then found one of the music compositions for "Agnus Dei," Latin for Lamb of G-d, on [click to read] and cut out strictly the music overlaying it and changing the opacity over the picture of my ash cross. Then I added the Latin words meaning, "Lamb of G-d, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us, grant us peace." This piece is to remind us that we are sinners made up of dust, but G-d loved us so much, he took mercy on us sending His son as a sacrificial lamb, to take away our sins. If we believe and accept his sacrifice we are granted this eternal peace and life with Him. May the Lord bless you all and lead you closer to Him during this season of Lent, looking forward to the promise of Easter. Amen." -- Kristina Elaine Greer

Ash Wednesday and Lent
A Time For Reflection and Redirection

Sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Guest Post by M. K. Hand

You might notice people walking around with cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads. There is no "mystical" attribute assigned to this practice. The ashes are a physical reminder of our need for repentance, and a symbol of the dependency of humans on G-d's mercy through Jesus Christ.

Why ashes? The Bible speaks of man returning to dust and ashes (from whence he came), and Job smeared himself with dust and ashes as a symbol of atonement. Also, in the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed to G-d for atonement, and they were burnt to ashes. When Jesus came as a living sacrifice, the Law was no longer applicable, and animal sacrifices were no longer needed for atonement. Jesus was the final sacrifice...He ushered us into a time of Grace through Faith, once and for all.

Lent, the season leading up to Easter, is a time of increased attention to charity (love), prayer, and fasting for Christians. It is a special time to reflect, repent and rejoice. It prepares our hearts to fully take in and celebrate the sacrifice, atonement, and grace made possible by Jesus' crucifixion, and the restoration of our relationship, broken by our sin, with the Father. Many people fast, give up something meaningful to them, or turn away from a sin that has taken hold of their life; fasting is also a way to identify with the sacrifice made by Jesus at Calvary. May this time leading up to Easter be a time of reflection, repentance, and rejoicing for you!

Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your G-d: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." ~ Joel 2:12-13

Saturday, February 14, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Man Behind the Day

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VIa

The Patron Saint of Love has been advertising nonstop for the past week. Today is the day we celebrate young love and romance. But the day we celebrate has special significance for the Christian church as it is a remembrance of a man who upheld the sacred institution of marriage and paid the ultimate price for doing so. In the days of Roman Emperor Claudius II, there lived a priest named Valentine. Believing that unmarried soldiers fought better, being unencumbered by thoughts of family, Clauias issued an edict forbidding young people to marry. In a decadent empire, this would not necessarily require celebacy, but cleaving to another in lifelong commitment was forbidden!

This would most affect the young Christian church, who upheld the sacredness of marriage and family. Valentine felt that young people should be encouraged to marry within the Christian church so he secretly performed the marriage ceremonies for young couples anyway. Eventually he was caught, imprisoned and tortured for doing so.

One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result." -- Father Frank O'Gara  [1.]

A cruel execution was ordered for Valentine. In 269 AD he was beaten, stoned and finally decapitated. Before he died, it is said, he was able to write a last letter to Asterius' daughter.  He signed it: "From your Valentine," inspiring the notes of affection we send our loved ones today! His is a very real story of sacrificial love and devotion to G-d's ways. Though much of his history is not clear, and several churches claim to have his bones. One is Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, where Father O'Gara (quoted above) is the Pastor. He says: "Love -- human love and sexuality is wonderful, and blessed by G-d -- but also the shadow of the cross. That's what Valentine means to me."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THYME Magazine: Perley Albert Thomas

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue VI

The Genius of Perley A. Thomas

One of my  heroes is a man born in Chatham, Ontario in 1874. He trained as a millsmith, primarily working in wood, and went to Cleveland, Ohio to work in a factory manufacturing streetcars. In 1901 he moved to Detroit, where he attended night courses at Case Institute of Technology. There he studied technical drawing, design skills, and structural engineering. In 1910 he accepted a position with the Southern Car Company in High Point, North Carolina. Perley A. Thomas became chief engineer, draftsman and designer for the company. In 1916, the company folded. Thomas, now unemployed, undertook a contract to renovate streetcars for the Southern Public Utilities Company of Charlotte, North Carolina. He signed on a lot of his old colleagues from Southern and was able to obtain the use of Southern's shuttered shops. A year later he would organize the Perley A. Thomas Car Works.

The Thomas Car Works would become famous for their streetcars. Tennessee Williams would write a play, A Streetcar Named Desire, about a route named Desire in New Orleans where Thomas streetcars ran. But as the 1930's transportation began to move from Rails to Roads [click to read]. The Great Depression slowed business. Perley A. Thomas and his two sons struggled as they reinvented the company to make buses. When there was no work, Thomas returned to his woodworking skills. Many a fine home in High Point, North Carolina boasts a fine mantlepiece carved by Perley Thomas!

The company was eventually reorganized as Thomas Built Buses and became one of the United States' three largest manufacturers of buses in the Twentieth Century. Today the factory in High Point, North Carolina is a sprawling subsidiary of the Freightliner Group of Daimler AG. Thomas was inducted into the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame in 2004 and the North American Railway Hall of Fame, St Thomas, Ontario, in 2010.

The True State of the Union

Here’s something that many Americans -- including some of the smartest and most educated among us -- don’t know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading. -- Jim Clifton

In an article entitled The Big Lie [click to read], Jim Clifton debunks the government's claim that unemployment is now at a new low of 5.6%! He continues: "And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory."

Clifton points out that if you left the labor force and after four weeks you are not looking for a new job, the Department of Labor doesn't count you. Even more misleading is the knowledge that if you are unemployed in your main area of expertise, but working -- even part time at something else, guess what, you are counted among those employed! As Perley Thomas found other sources of work, so have many of us affected by the 21st Century Depression.

That is why Thomas is a hero to those of us who know what is going on in America. We may not be counted... but we intend to make our service count!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

THYME Magazine: Henry 'Red' Erwin

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue Va

An Extraordinary Hero

Henry Eugene Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama in 1921. His coal miner father died when he was ten. Gene, as he was called then, was the oldest child and he went to work in the company store to help his struggling family. At the height of the depression, Erwin joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and later went to work in a steel mill in Birmingham. He was now his family's main breadwinner. In 1943 young Erwin joined the army. He qualified for the Air Corps and after training on the B-17 Flying Fortress he became a radio operator on the new B-29. This new Superfortress would soon strike deep into Japanese territory in the Pacific.

After getting married to his wife Betty on furlough in 1944, Erwin and his crew were assigned to Guam. Here their plane, the City of Los Angeles would make bombing runs on the main islands of Japan. On April 12, 1944, the City of Los Angeles led a formation of B-29s striking Koriyama.  Part of Irwin's job was to launch phosphorous smoke bombs to lead the other planes in to their targets. As Erwin pushed the smoke bomb into the chute, something went terribly wrong. It either jammed or was blown back, exlpoding in Erwin's face. He was blinded. His flesh was burning and the plane filled with smoke. The smoke bomb, burning at 1300 degrees, had lodged itself among the bombs in the plane!

The pilots could not see. The plane began a dive. It was certain that death would come, but would it be from the certain crash or the explosion from the munitions? Then the crew saw what had to have seemed to them an apparition as Irwin, totally aflame, located the burning phosphorus bomb and grabbed it with his right hand! Holding the white-hot canister against his rib cage, he somehow made his way towards a plane window by the navigator's station. The navigator's table blocked his progress and the seconds it took to raise it must have seemed like an eternity. Fellow crewmen remember Erwin saying: "Excuse me." as he stumbled past them into the cockpit to throw the bomb out the window.

Henry 'Red' Erwin then collapsed to the floor. He was totally aflame and his distinctive red hair was burned away. The crew put out the fire and administered morphine to the man they thought to be at death's door. But Erwin never lost consciousness. In agony, he asked: "Is everybody else alright?" The plane flew to Iwo Jima where there was a hospital.

"I Don't Say I'm a Hero"
-- Henry Eugene 'Red' Erwin

'Red' Erwin talks about the events of April 12, 1944.

Now began the most difficult set of challenges for Erwin. The doctors did not expect him to live, the phosphorous in his eyes would eventually blind him if he did. He was burned over most of his body. Ironically, his Mae West (life jacket) protected his chest as he clutched the red hot bomb. He was required to wear the life jacket during missions because he couldn't swim! Doctors began removing the phosphorous from his eyes. It was a painful process as the substance had a tendency to ignite when exposed to oxygen.

Major General Curtis E. Le May rushed a recommendation for the Medal of Honor through channels, hoping to present it to Erwin while he was still alive. There was only one problem. The only Medal of Honor in the Pacific was in a locked display case in Honolulu. General Le May had been awakened at 5:00 am to sign the Medal of Honor Citation. A special plane had been dispatched to obtain the medal. Finding noone to unlock the case, the airmen assigned to the mission broke the glass, absconded with the medal, and slipped back to their waiting plane.

Erwin had been flown to the hospital on Guam, where General Le May personally pinned the medal on him, saying: "Your effort to save the lives of your fellow airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know." Through the bandages covering his wounded face, Erwin responded: "Thank you, sir."

Erwin would go on to endure 43 surgeries in the next thirty months. But what might be his greatest giving of himself was yet to come. He did survive. He and Betty raised four children and he lived to see seven grandchildren. Henry 'Red' Erwin, his right arm permanently disabled, could not go back to the steel mills. Harry Truman had issued orders that any Medal of Honor recipient, otherwise qualified, was eligible for a veterans' benefits job. Erwin went to work for the Veterans Administration as a veterans' benefits counselor. For thirty-seven years he worked with wounded veterans, especially burn victims. Though the sight and smell of burned flesh brought back memories of his own intense pain, Erwin took a special interest in encouraging these heroes.

His son, Henry E. Erwin Jr. says of him: "Dad was a man of manners; He was always polite and courteous. He rarely got angry, but when he did, he meant business. He never yelled and screamed, but he had a firmness to his voice when he was angry. ...He embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well pressed suit. He was honest, thrifty, and patriotic. ...He never owed a debt, never got a ticket, never was sued. He obeyed the law, attended church, and treated everyone with courtesy and respect." On January 16, 2002, Henry 'Red' Erwin died at the age of eighty.

Henry Erwin with his wife Betty and his mother.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Good Lie

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue V

Sudan's Lost Boys' Story

ISIS is late to the Caliphate-building party. Long before the “Islamic State” was on the scene slaughtering Christians and other infidels by the thousands with inconceivable violence, the government of Sudan was well into implementing its version of Islamic/Arab supremacism in Africa’s largest nation. Sudanese schoolbooks prophesy the coming Caliphate and Mahdi." -- Frontpage Magazine [1.]

The film: The Good Lie tells the story of Southern Sudan's tragic destruction through the eyes of four young people: Theo, Mamere, Paul and Abital. It begins in their beautiful little village, where Theo and Mamere are children playing a game remembering the names of their ancestors. They tend the village cattle as their people have for centuries until the brutal civil war destroys their village and leaves the adults dead.

The youth begin walking to find safety. They walk 400 miles to the Ethiopian border, then they must walk to the Kenyan refugee camp at Kakuma. They face the perils of thirst, starvation and wild animals. Thousands of them will die. At Kakuma they eventually learn that they will be resettled in America. The Good Lie unfolds the story of these rural village children, now young men and women, as they negutiate urban America.

[Spoiler Alert]

The film's title: The Good Lie is explained as the young people sit in an English class where they are discussing Huck Finn's lie to protect Jim, eventually freeing the man he had been taught to view as property. It was a moral dilemma for Finn, but indeed had precedent in history. The Hebrew midwives of Exodus 1 [2.] had protected the babies. In Exodus 1: 20, saying that the babies came before they got there, it says that: "Therefore G-d dealt well with the midwives."

Likewise, Rahab was praised for hiding the spies in Jericho and was rewarded with a place in the lineage of David. [3.] The 'Righteous Gentiles' of the Twentieth Century hid their Jewish neighbors and did so at great cost to themselves. The fact is that those who feared G-d and not man are commended for the 'lie.' But there is more, as portrayed in the film. As the children trudge on, they bed down in a field of elephant grass. They awake to rebel forces and Theo stands up and says that he is alone and lost.

He is conscripted by the rebels, and his sacrifice allows the others to escape. They trudge on. Theo, being the oldest, had assumed the role of Chief when the parents had been killed. Mamere is haunted by the image of his brother being hauled away by the rebels. He and his remaining siblings, Paul and Abital, make it to America. Mamere uneasily fills the role of elder and struggles as authorities separate Abital from the boys and younger brother Paul has a difficult time.

You're not Theo." Paul defiantly reminds Mamere, who one day learns that his older brother may have indeed survived. Mamere returns to Kakuma where he indeed finds Theo. He wants to arrange a visa for him to come to America but is told that that is now impossible. He goes to the airport with Theo and as they arrive he hands Theo his passport and his plane ticket. "You are now to only answer to the name Mamre," the younger brother says.

As Theo (now known as Mamere) makes his way successfully through the checkpoints, his brother watches... happy that he has given life to him, as he has been given the gift by Theo so long ago in the elephant grass. But there is a wonder to the story that is even greater, for it is but a representation of what the Christian has been given by Jesus, who became a man (our brother) and gave us His Identity as He took ours. He suffered the punishment that we so rightly deserve. He gave us life!

When it comes to righteousness, we have no 'papers' of our own. Indeed we travel to Heaven only by the righteousness of Christ. What is the 'Good Lie' for us? That we have been counted as righteous before we fully experience the sanctifying work of G-d in our hearts. Arnold Oceng, the Sudanese refugee who portrays Mamere, says of his character:

I think he's happy because as you've seen from the film, he has an emotional arc. From a very young age, he had to be the chief. So he had to look after everybody. That's a huge responsibility for a child. And especially a child who's been suffering from trauma from losing his father, his mother, his brother. That's a lot of trauma."

He's been fighting with it. He just wants to repay him, And he's got Paul there, digging at him every minute, like 'You're not Theo, you're not Theo,' and I think he's at peace with his decision. All he's ever wanted to do is just give back to Theo. And the whole film is about sacrifice and that's one of his sacrifices. Hence why The Good Lie."

Lynchburg's Maier Museum

Lynchburg Trip
The museum is located on the campus of Randolph College.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

In the Winter of 1951, as the cold war escalated, the campus of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College was quietly chosen to be the site of a confidential storage facility for use by the National Gallery of Art in the event of a national emergency. In exchange for the ownership and eventual use of the structure the College agreed, in a contract signed in March 1951, to maintain the facility and to make it available for emergency use by the National Gallery of Art for a period not to exceed 50 years. Fortunately Project Y, as the secret agreement was known, never had to be implemented.

Today the storage facility and its fine gallery rooms are home to one of the finest collections of American Art from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. The collection began as a project of Louise Jordan Smith, who began the Art Department at the then all-women's school. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the study of art was not considered essential to higher education. Smith not only made it part of the curriculum, but she set to work acquiring fine examples. Though her collections grew quite impressive, as each class participated in the tradition of giving a piece of artwork to the school, it was the never-used Project Y building that gave it a fine home.

The gallery space was renovated in the 1970's and provides a rich experience for experiencing art. There is a portrait by Gilbert Stuart, who painted the famous portrait of George Washington. There are magnificent landscapes, richly framed. There is a Paris scene painted by Winslow Homer, a fine composition by Edward Hopper and a Thomas Hart Benton painting of politicians "preparing the bill" authorizing a mural Benton was to paint in the Missouri Capitol. Robert Vickery's stunning painting of his son discovering his own pulse is seen close to the end of your visit.

The Maier offers a rich gallery experience for those who desire one without the need to travel to a large city. Admission is free and the staff are helpful and friendly. The gallery rooms are spacious and inviting. The collection has been digitized, but those images (viewable below) give only a hint of the richness of the actual works.

Browse the Collection [click to view].

Lynchburg Trip
The Arboretum at Lynchburg's Old Cemetery.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Sun, Ice and Mountains II

The island in Sherando Lake. This photo is displayed in the Virginia Blood Services Waynesboro Facility.
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Photos from THYME and The Journey are available through The Kirchman Studio [click to read]. Please contact them directly if you are interested.