Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom VI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVIII

IMAGO DEI in Faith 
and Craftsmanship

The movie "The Matrix" takes us to a dystopia where man exists solely to feed the machine. Some feel that our present world is moving headlong in that direction as machines more and more surround us, inform us, entertain us and are seemingly attached to us. More young men live alone and spend most of their non-working time playing video games. Have we lost our sense of place as a unique entity in creation? Are we in need of rescuers like Neo, Morpheus and Trinity?

I read a fascinating review of Matthew Crawford's new book--The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Crawford's Book [click to read] laments the "attentional economy" that reduces us to market guinea pigs in a world of technological stimulation. In light of last week's look at The Creative Mandate of Bezalel and Oholiab, I find Crawford's perscriptions most fascinating. He sees the answer in part in a return to the values learned in skilled practices, such as carpentry: "...the development of skilled practices allows us to navigate it in ways that ultimately focus our attention and expand our competence and agency. And since we usually learn these practices alongside others, often under the guidance of experienced teachers, they draw us into relationships with people as well as things. 

To learn a skilled practice like carpentry you have to humble yourself. You must endure failure, frustration, heckling, and perhaps injury, but you end up with expertise, confidence, and objective standards for judging your work and the work of others—all of which entail a truer and more enduring individuality than today’s hollow consumerist self-fashioning. This individuality also provides a surer foundation for democracy." [1.] He also sees the meditative qualities of Faith as essential to this more patient life, out of step with the techno-masters.

Crawford takes the reader inside the organ building shop of local builders: Taylor and Boody [2.] and indeed finds a comradery of craftsmanship. Indeed there is something to be found in the 'old' craftsmanship that is sorely lacking (or so it seems) in our modern world. But consider this; until the dawn of aviation the pipe organ WAS the most sophisticated machine on the face of the Earth. No doubt the dawn of the pipe organ once shook music as man knew it. Was the strong voice of the pipe seen as an encroachment on the gentleness of the string? For centuries, it would seem, each new technology initially rocks the world that receives it.

Indeed, new technologies tend to overpower the qualities of humanity. No doubt, the mills of the industrial revolution initially created a similar reductive effect on human autonomy. No longer did a man labor in concert with seasons and Sun, but rather to the stroke of the factory clock. Farmers needed no time card, for on the one hand, their work was never done. Life revolved around the making of everything from clothing to candles. There was canning to be done. Cows must be milked. But there was also the "laying by time," when one could fish, walk in the woods and follow one's own muse. That was not so easily come by in the first inception of factory life.

Manufacturing allows me to have a perfectly formed plastic flower pot, but replaces the everyday function of hand-formed ceramics. This does not mean the end of hand-formed pottery, but rather that it is now an art form of its own. Its high form still exists.The volume of ceramic goods produced by hand has decreased. There are fewer artisans who work the wheel, but those who remain produce extremely beautiful works of art. Eventually the factory became more friendly to IMAGO DEI. Hours were limited and to a certain degree collective bargaining allowed workers to demand the value they added to the process.

In fact, it could be argued that where workers were able to negotiate a market value for their skills and expertise, freedom expanded. The factory worker of postwar America enjoyed unprecedented leisure time. One could now putter in the garden, if one desired, without fear of hunger if it didn't produce. One of Staunton's finest photographers was employed by Waynesboro's Dupont plant. He was an amateur photographer in the TRUE sense of the word... he did it for the LOVE of it! He didn't have to find ways to sell his work, but he pursued it with a passion! He was famous for suddenly pulling the car to the side of the road to capture an interesting scene, startling his family riding with him. His photograph of Willie Ferguson's giant Watering Can sculpture was used for the city car decal.

A leather worker I met at a craft fair lamented to me that he often was creating the same belt over and over: "because it sells." Seeing that I appreciated good work, he showed me a very artistic piece he had made. He said sadly, I can't afford to make these because there is way more work in them than people are willing to pay for. Still, the man found great satisfaction in the fact that he could produce even a few pieces of such work.

For thirty years, I have produced hand-drawn renderings of architectural projects. The demand for such work has decreased as more and more designers are content to let the computer draw the perspective. Last week a military school embarking on a campaign to builds a new field house contacted me. "We want something MORE REALISTIC than what the construction company gave us," their representative said. I wondered where this was going. Often that desire simply meant they wanted photo-realistic computer renderings. I showed the gentleman my samples and he proceeded to get more interested.

Two representatives of the school came to view  the work in progress. "Wow!," one said: "I see our CADETS walking around the building." It was obvious that the painting captured something of the spirit of the institution and was indeed more "real" than a computer rendering with stock figures would have given them. That is not to say that a computer artist couldn't have gone to such detail, but most don't. The real point is that that extra touch is what sets man apart from the machine he is using. The HAND is what is important, not the brush (or stylus).

And here is where the real challenge lies. Technology changes the game, for sure, but eventually what stands out is the human conquest of said technology. Photography did not eliminate all painting, but rather became an art form in itself. Smart phones may eliminate human interaction... or they may foster it! When I Facetime my Granddaughter on the iPhone, is that device enabling or hindering real interaction? My iPhone lets me read several translations of Scripture on one device and is easier to carry than a stack of paper Bibles. The Notebook has become a place for writing prayers and adding Scripture (easily copied and pasted) to pray over situations.

Here is where I find Crawford's perscription most appealing. Cultivating the disciplines of meditation and prayer open new vistas for their adherents, however sophisticated (or simple) their culture. No doubt, the Roman world in which Judaism and Christianity found themselves, was complex. The fact that the disciplines of Faith and Faith itself, outlasted that great empire should give us cause for reflection.

"The American Flag Glass Organ Pipes" by Xaver Wilhelmy.
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

"The Father's View of His Forests." Photo by Brandy Mason.

Spring Triptych, A Celebration

"Spring Triptych," a collaborative celebration of Spring by three photographers: Texas Bluebonnets by Melissa K. Hand, Virginia Redbuds by Kristina Elaine Greer, Paperwhite Daffodils by Bob Kirchman. Prints may be obtained through The Kirchman Studio.

It all began when one of us saw a picture that the person sharing claimed was obtained by: "...rolling down a hill shooting a panorama." A little experimentation on my part proved that that was not how it was done.. but my uber-creative friends and I did discover the "Tiny Planet" app. THAT proved to be the secret! Using this we were able to manipulate our photographs to create some pretty wonderful images. Presented here are some of our favorites.

"Organ Keys" by Bob Kirchman.

How Christianity Invented Children


This Article [click to read] by Pascal Emmanuel Gobry recalls how Christianity was instrumental in transforming culture long ago.

Christianity's invention of children — that is, its invention of the cultural idea of children as treasured human beings — was really an outgrowth of its most stupendous and revolutionary idea: the radical equality, and the infinite value, of every single human being as a beloved child of G-d. If the G-d who made heaven and Earth chose to reveal himself, not as an emperor, but as a slave punished on the cross, then no one could claim higher dignity than anyone else on the basis of earthly status. That was indeed a revolutionary idea, and it changed our culture so much that we no longer even recognize it." -- Pascal Emmanuel Gobry

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue XIX

The History of Serial Fiction

Serials have existed in fiction for a very long time. Books were expensive back in the 19th century, so they were printed in installments in order to keep the price low. Charles Dickens, often heralded as one of the greatest early self-publishers, was also one of the most successful writers of serialized fiction. Another big name, Alexandre Dumas, was a very prolific serial novelist, publishing both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers in serial format. In fact, serialization worked so well, it was considered the way to go by popular authors during the time." -- Samantha Warren

THYME Magazine presents, in serial form, the story of a man who challenged the proposition that something he wanted to achieve was "impossible." Based on history, depicted in the future, Pontifus is a tale of human triumph in the face of challenges such as face us today.

Pontifus, the Bridge Builder's Tale
By Bob Kirchman
Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

I think over again my small adventures.
My Fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach,
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world."
--Old Inuit Song

Rupert Zimmerman was uncomfortable, to say the least, with the moniker. Perhaps his most trusted assistant and daughter, Elizabeth had struck a nerve. She and her husband Martin were the only ones in on it anyway, but it was an effective device when the old man held the reins too tightly in the conduct of a meeting. To be fair, she used it only on rare occasions and it must be noted that Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley was indeed a compassionate and thoughtful daughter. The old man, like so many who struggle hard before their great work bears fruit, tended to grip things too tightly. The Latin term was actually an apt description of Zimmerman, for it was 'Pontifus,' which simply means; "Bridge Builder." The more used, and more familiar usage of the term refers in no uncertain terms to the Bishop of Rome. Thus a double entendre became a useful tool to the younger Zimmerman. She used it softly and sparingly as a means to help her Father step back into the humility he himself felt more comfortable in.

Mankind has always sought to open up a way to points unreached. First he wore paths to new hunting places. Gradually the paths became highways as trade ensued. Fords and ferries connected the paths across streams and rivers. The building of bridges stretched both the limits of human creativity and the materials employed. Simple logs and planks were laid across streams. Masons crafted stone arches that bridged rivers. Steel beams and cable were spun in the most amazing forms to bridge the largest bodies of water. John A. Roebling's Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, came to symbolize the high art of bridge building. High gothic towers supported an elegant array of cables and stays that gracefully carried the roadway and a pedestrian promenade across the great East River. Throughout the centuries that followed, longer spans connected ever greater distances. But there were a few challenges that remained in the realm of imagination. They remained there, mostly because of geopolitical constraints, but psychological barriers as well. In fact, it was the consensus that something was "impossible" that often stood in the way of the attempt. Rupert Zimmerman would tell you that his earlier projects, far less ambitious than his latest, had almost all defied insurmountable odds. Yet they had been built! Driven to what many considered the end of the world by forces beyond his control, he found a way to go further.


This little book is dedicated to those brave young people, who though I shall not name them here, will likely recognize bits of themselves in the characters I portray. I apologize beforehand for this intrusion into your privacy but feel that the world so desperately needs your story. Your very real dedication and bravery inspired this book and it cannot be written without a foundation of such truth. Most of all it is dedicated to my beautiful wife, of whom the accolade: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" is most fitting. You have stood by me in good times and bad. We have shared in the raising of some incredible young people who inhabited our own home. You have poured your love and wonder into the lives of countless students. I love you with all my being!!!

It is because we both love young people so that I write this. It is but a poor attempt to offer hope and direction to a world so devoid of it. We err, perhaps, in pointing to the hope of the hereafter without providing adequate models and renderings of that Kingdom and those who have labored to bring it into the world we inhabit now. The water that will quench the soul's thirst is dismissed because those who profess to bear it often seem, (to the society around them,) preoccupied with apocalyptic visions and derision for the world as it is now. It is not wrong to love such things, but they are not easily shared with those for whom the flower of life is yet to come. No bride-to-be, having just unwrapped her wedding planner, wants to engage in a lengthy discourse on Eschatology!

Jeremiah of old told those in exile to "Build, Plant, Marry and Have Children, Prosper and Pray!" -- and to be sure, there are many who do. They just don't make the headlines very often. The historical references in this work, and there are probably too many, are essential to understanding how men and women have navigated dangerous times before. They are most necessary to show how one can indeed have vision for one's own times and hope in a greater, unseen reality as well.

Interstate A2 Approaching Wales AK.

Book One: Dinner Stop at the End of the World


OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho' they come from the ends of the earth!" - Rudyard Kipling

The morning sun played upon the flowery tundra of Cape Mountain and Kingigin, the high bluff above Wales Alaska. An arctic fox surveyed the scene as the light played vividly on the Bering Strait. For the years of the Cold War, Soviet and U.S. submarines stalked each other silently beneath the icy waters while fighter jets challenged one another in the airspace above. The Soviets operated a radar station on Big Doiomede Island in the strait. The U.S. Air Force surveyed the scene from an outpost near Wales. Next to the village itself, the U.S. Navy operated a submarine research facility. The hostile environment seemed an appropriate stage for a face-off between the world’s two superpowers.

Captain James Cook named it Cape Prince of Wales in 1778. The Inuit knew it as Kingigin, or 'the high bluff,' and called themselves Kingikmiut, 'people of the high place.' Their ancestors walked into America, it is said, on a bridge of land that once connected Asia to Alaska. Now the icy strait separates the two continents, and as the sun rises on the tip of Alaska, it illuminates tomorrow dawning across the International Date Line. Sunlight gleams upon two thin lines of commerce stretched across the vast strait. The twin spans of the Bering Strait Bridge, completed in 2020, once again connect Asia solidly to America. As morning breaks over the vast landscape, the first trucks begin to roll across the slender spans, carrying the commerce of the world.

Joe fumed inwardly as his rig made its way up the mountainside approaching Wales. He and Chris were in the queue for tonight's hazmat session. The young turk was hauling fertilizer to Siberia from Canada and had missed last night's hazmat hours. Chris and Joe had helped him change a tire that had blown on the merciless road and now he was one of their company. Protocol set him at the front of the convoy, since he was a holdover from last night's roster. Chris, as a senior driver, fell in behind. Joe brought up the rear. "Slow hazmat night;" Chris radioed, "I'm squarely in the 'rocking chair." Joe mumbled: "I hope Abdul does OK with the 'Twenty Questions." He referred to the likely interrogation the man from 'Marlboro Country' faced at the hands of the BSBS personnel who worked security for the span because he'd drawn the hand of hauling a hazmat load. Abdul seemed likeable enough, and had told them about how Turkish customs officials loved to receive cartons of a certain American cigarette in exchange for speedier processing at the border. Still, the retired Israeli Defense Forces personnel contracted to run security on the twin span would likely take some time to get to know him themselves.

Summertime brought a joyful display of color to the arctic hillside. Joe hoped sometime he'd have the opportunity to walk on that landscape, but tonight he just hoped for a rest stop that would time itself so he could SKYPE his granddaughter. 'Kate' as she now proclaimed herself, was in high school now. The child he had had the leisure to watch grow up was quite a wonder now. She would talk about her latest creative endeavor or her latest soccer match with such passion that it seemed to wash the old man with the fountain of youth. These were the men who moved the Bering Strait freight. Younger men stayed for a time, but grew restless. Patient older men and women, for whom time probably moved quicker, made up the bulk of BSB drivers. Most of them seemed to have left their careers in the 'lower 48' prematurely. Castoffs of a struggling economy, they had come to the end of the world to finish their working life making salaries that would make executives jealous. The hours were long, the roads often dangerous, but you had plenty of time to think.

Joe's mind wandered to Willa, a slender brunette with the spirit of a willow tree. She was the love of Joe's life, but life itself had lost much of its flavor in the past few years. Joe had married her in a time when optimism was plentiful and the future had seemed far brighter. He had struggled as a small businessman but their home had been happy. When America seemed to have lost its pioneer spirit and slumped into its economic doldrums, their life together had become tense. Their children had found their own paths in life and Joe found odd jobs to work at, often living in a cheap motel with his colleagues as he worked as a technician in some faraway city. His 'take home pay' often barely covered the health insurance. United States President Barry Soetoro had promised 'free' benefits for all but had only succeeded in making things more expensive. The housing industry, in which Joe had worked, was in shambles. Joe longed to go to Alaska, where opportunity seemed to still reside. Willa resisted. In the end an advertisement for "men willing to endure long hours, dangerous conditions and enjoy huge paychecks" was more than he could resist. A company called Intercontinental Logistics was looking for what they called "Mature Drivers" for the Bering Strait Highway. There was a signing bonus and they trained you. Willa had been devastated, to say the least, when Joe announced that he was headed for the land of the midnight sun. Her dream of happy family dashed by hard economics, she composed herself and tried to win her husband's heart to stay with her in the 'lower 48.' The money didn't matter that much to her. If ever there was a woman who supported her man in crisis, it would have to be Willa. "You are so much more than your career!" she opined. "Look at the lives you have touched..." Indeed their home had been a place where many had flourished in Willa's nurturing love. Joe ached for her sweet presence now, as she did for his! Still, in the end, his faithfulness in sending most of his paycheck to her was a better option than eating up their limited resources. She wished for a simple happy life with friends in their small Virginia community... but the harsh reality was that most of her soul-mates were alone too... their husbands were off working in Alaska!

In the 1950's the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway System was initially planned to include Alaska roads. The designations A1, A2, A3 and A4 were given to Alaska highways and a road was even proposed from Fairbanks to Nome. That road was not built until Rupert Zimmerman needed it and the Interstate designations remained unsigned as traffic, mostly INTRASTATE, did not warrant the necessary upgrades. Now the Alaska Republic was busily widening these arteries and posting Interstate shields to signify their new importance. The opening of the Bering Strait Bridge had ushered in a new age of INTERCONTINENTAL highways. [1.] Like the transcontinental railroads of old, they required men. Good men and lots of them were required to turn the wheels of commerce.

All Trucks Must Enter Scanner" blared an electric sign ahead. Joe and Chris knew the drill. Maintaining a 25 mph speed through the scanner, then a mandatory sampling of the low-temperature liquid adhesive in their tankers, a few questions from the BSBS agents and then they'd be "in the corridor." They would be escorted through the cleared Bering Strait Bridge during the wee hours of the morning. They would be allowed a stop for refreshment at one of the service plazas on the Diomede Islands, but other than that they must keep on moving. The unknown card in their hand tonight was the addition of the Turk to their group. If he was sent to the impound lot, Joe and Chris would roll on. but a delay and further checking could put the whole convoy in a later window. As far as the money, you won some and you lost some, but as they approached Thursday morning, a well timed call would catch Kate at home on Wednesday afternoon. That was Joe's plan anyway. Dinner, he told Chris, should be on one of the Diomedes.

BSB Lamp Maintenance
Maintenance operations on the Bering Strait Bridge. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

Chris, Joe knew, would want to hold out for Big Diomede, on the Russian side of the International Dateline in the Siberian Autonomous Republic. He smiled thinking of the likely reason. Her name was Kris. She was one of the hostesses at the Big Diomede Travel Plaza and the two drivers enjoyed her spunk. Chris noticed her name tag at the moment she read the name on his shirt, beginning an ongoing conversation. Her green eyes seemed familiar with worlds unseen. Joe suspected she was writing a novel behind that hostess stand. Probably something full of wizards and worlds with more than one sun. It was the kind of thing he loved to listen to in the cab on audio books. Joe had known Chris from his younger days. They had found each other again on the Bering Strait Highway. Joe driven by the throws of economy and a failing business, Chris from his restless soul. Chris had retreated from the vibrant faith that had characterized his younger life. A series of disappointments in life had driven him to question his questions. He'd studied theology for a time, but now avoided discussion of things unseen... ...except that Joe noted, an exceptional individual could, it seemed, 'see' that dimension so well that even Chris would let down his guard. Someone like Kris seemed capable of painting a picture of that realm in vivid colors. Joe, who's faith seemed to sustain him longed for Chris to know something of the same peace. It would, Joe mused, require an exceptional guide.

Chris' softening at the thought of such an encounter, however brief, was encouraging. Though the senior driver never allowed such conversations to become personal, he did seem to be allowing them with greater regularity. "Didn't C. S. Lewis once say something to the effect that if you could imagine something wonderful, it was very likely that there existed the possibility for its fulfillment, or something like that?" Indeed, here was a conundrum. If one limited oneself to considering the seen world, there were many unfulfilled dreams… many labors lost... much observed futility! But, on the other hand, if there was more to life than life itself, dreams could be fulfilled in worlds now unknown. Healing and restoration might just be the substance of such places. The junior driver was betting his life on it. The senior driver might just see the possibilities.

(to be continued). [click to read]

Map of Alaska's new intercontinental highway. 
Graphic by Bob Kirchman

The Intercontinental Logistics Liquid Transporters driven by Chris and Joe.

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
[click to read ]


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

THYME Magazine: Prayer for Nepal

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVIIa

Prayer for Nepal

A Missionary friend in Nepal Writes: "I just spoke with one of our pastors in Makwanpur. He said, most of the houses have collapsed and villagers are spending night outside. It has been raining there. Most of the national and international relief efforts are doing something in Capital but Villagers are left out. They have no phone, no leaders for them to get the Govt or international help get to them. I am teaming up with our pastors and planning to take our Bible School guys to some of these villages. The challenge is: How to bring needed supplies to them, since roads are damaged and it is raining. Your prayers are appreciated."

The  BBC reports that at least 3617 people have perished as a result of Saturday's earthquake. Tent cities have sprung up around Kathmandu as people have either lost their homes or are afraid to enter them if they are still standing. In rural areas roads are destroyed. Rain and landslides make matters worse.

Relief efforts are underway in Kathmandu. Climbers stranded on Mt. Everest have been rescued. But it is in the villages that the need is great as well. Missionaries like my friend (a Nepali citizen) have their work cut out for them. If you would like to help, you can send any amount to my friend's home church:

Calvary Chapel Lynchburg, 
742 Leesville Rd. Lynchburg, VA 24502.

Please make a note on your check that this is for the Nepali earthquake relief.

Other ministries getting aid to Nepal are:

Samaritan's Purse [click to read]
Advancing Native Missions [click to read]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom V

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVII

The Kingdom of Restoration

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. -- Revelation 21,22:1-5

Creative Mandate of Genesis 1
The Unique Responsibility Conferred in Imago Dei


And G-d said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d created he him; male and female created he them.

And G-d blessed them, and G-d said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." -- Genesis 1:26-28

New York artist, Makoto Fujimura and others have found in the first chapters of Genesis, a unique charge to mankind. Scripture states that mankind alone bears the Divine image, and as such carries unique responsibility. G-d calls on Man, created in his own image, to 'replenish' the Earth. Many read over this passage and see it as similar to the charge given to fish and fowl... to populate the planet, but read further and G-d involves mankind in something far greater:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." -- Genesis 2:19

Here the Divine does not simply present animals to the newly formed person and tell that person their names... G-d invites Adam into the studio, as it were, and charges him with naming the new creations!

Fujimura and others see in this a Divine mandate: if those gifts of creativity... expressed in the art, culture and industry of mankind, are indeed an extension of 'Imago Dei, their exercise takes on a new importance.

Dr S. Lewis Johnson writes: "One of the scientists who has written on the Book of Genesis has said, “The first introduction of animal life was not a fragile, blob of protoplasm that happened to come together in response to electrical discharges over a primeval ocean as evolutionists believe. The water swarmed with swarms of living creatures.” But we are not to think from this statement, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures” that it is the waters that have brought forth these creatures. It is evident that they are the product of the word of G-d. It is not they, the waters who have created. It is G-d who has created. So when we read, “Then G-d said”, the power of this creation rests in the word of the Lord G-d. So the creation is from G-d, but as a result of his word the waters teem with swarms of living creatures."

Each new phase of the creation account begins with G-d speaking. In Genesis 2:19 the Divine calls Adam to speak... naming specific elements of what G-d has made.

Today G-d calls the artist to an active role in replenishing society. Indeed the artist has always been at the forefront of the cultural discussion. Sadly, in a world that relegates Faith to a position of diminished importance, the artist who is a person of Faith often has taken a back seat in the dialogue.

The secular world itself gives greater weight to the naturalist, who operates in the gritty world that is seen. Beauty and Truth, particularly when seen as the product of Faith's influence, are discounted. In response, artists of Faith have often settled for a less than transformative role, content to produce icons, but unwilling to participate in the transformation of culture.

This does not mean that only a few great names are to participate. For thousands of years, art has been produced by people in the simplest of cultures. Consider the rich tradition in textiles. People have always blended richness and color into their daily lives. Printing presses have made it possible for everyone to have a Rembrant on their walls... but richness is lost when ink replaces real paint. Consider the joy preschool children experience as they apply color to paper! Society seems to dull that, relegating the flow of color to 'experts,' but it can, and should be recaptured as a part of the human experience... especially as a part of our Worship and Wonder!

In her later years, my physicist Mother found joy in creating woven garments and in throwing pots on her wheel, rekindling that Sacred spark. There resides in Imago Dei a deep need to express one's creative spirit. How wonderful when that expression serves the Divine purpose!

How does the creative mandate align itself with the charge to build the Kingdom of G-d? Most certainly! Pictured here are details of very large paintings a young artist has prepared for Vacation Bible School. Just imagine the wonder of children being surrounded by this majestic world... right out of Genesis 1:22! Imagine the power art, writing, theater and music have in the hands of the Faithful to address our culture today!


Top: Swimming Penguins, Center: Whales, Bottom: Dolphins; Details of 9' x 6' Canvases by Muralist Kristina Elaine Greer prepared for St. John's United Methodist Church in Staunton, Virginia

The Creative Mandate 
of Bezalel and Oholiab
Exodus 35 and 36, Skill, Ability and Knowledge

Xaver Wilhelmy's Design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York. The memorial features a 3000 pipe organ to give a voice to everyone who's voice was lost on that terrible day. Rendering by Bob Kirchman

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for a pipe organ enclosure for St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Davis West Virginia. Model by Bob Kirchman and Kristina Elaine Greer.

Bezalel and Oholiab

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills —  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary." -- Exodus 35:30 - 36:3

In Genesis, G-d invited mankind into the studio to name His creation. Mankind was also given the mandate to 'replenish' creation. When G-d chose to work through a specific people as part of his purpose, he again invited those He had created into His work. Bezalel and Oholiab are specifically mentioned by name. Bezalel, it says, is filled with the "Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." Clearly G-d is the giver of artistic gifts. Bezalel and Oholiab both are given the ability to teach by G-d. In the Tabernacle, G-d has these artisans construct the space that He will occupy!

The cubic Sanctuary, the Ark, the tools, fabrics and furnishings were all inspired designs executed by inspired artisans. The Presence of G-d would transform Israel, but Israel participated in building the place for the Presence! Later this same scheme would be repeated in stone and cedarwood for the Temple of Solomon. That form would be repeated in the rebuilt Temple of Zerubbabel's day. The Prophet Haggai again called the people to the work of G-d. Haggai ends his writings looking to a time when G-d will establish His throne in Heaven and on Earth.

In Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21, 22 we see the reign of G-d established and a New Heaven and New Earth. The form of Jerusalem described in Revelation is a cube large enough to encompass all of mankind! Here is restoration of fellowship with G-d and a return to that close fellowship seen in Genesis before the fall. Today the artist who has faith is uniquely equipped -- and called to the building of the Kingdom of Heaven! We possess a mandate to replenish the Earth, to use our gifts in the building of that which G-d is bringing about.

Consider the mission of The Culture House in Kansas City, Missouri. Janie B. Cheaney of World Magazine describes it like this: "an arts organization... that brings a Christian ethos of excellence for the sake of others and cultural leadership for its students." Founded by Jeremiah Enna, the Culture House offers programs in visual arts, dance and theatre... all from a perspective of submitting these gifts to G-d's purpose. In a recent production: Underground, the theatre group tackled the issue of slavery.

The popular narrative often approaches this narrative from the perspective that "America is evil." Underground's producers said instead: "we wanted to show America overcoming evil." Stressing the role of the Church in abolishing slavery, their narrative became: "G-d is the Hero!" In the Centuries past, faith was the inspiration for building great cathedrals and transformative movements in culture. Alvin Schmidt documents much of this in his book: Under the Influence. It is no stretch to conclude that much of our present tolerance for diversity springs from the influence of faith.

In the writings of Moses there are specific protections given to aliens living among the Israelites. In Genesis 12:3 G-d says to Abraham: "...all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you," giving a unique insight into the Divine Heart. The line of David includes Rahab (the woman of Jerico who hid the spies) and Ruth the Moabite. Moses himself had a Cushite wife (she was black). In Isaiah 60 we hear G-d's Heart speak:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." -- Isaiah 60:1-3

Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations -- their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet. The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." -- Isaiah 60:10-14

Looking forward to G-d's transformative work, the artist of faith has a unique place and unique giftings to speak into his or her world.

Mr. Wilhelmy worked out the placement of wind chests and pipes using the model built by the Kirchman Studio.

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for functional stained glass organ pipes embedded in a window. Rendering by Xaver Wilhelmy and Bob Kirchman

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Mandate in Imago Dei

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XVI

What Imago Dei Tells Us

For the past week a disturbing image has been circulating the news of what appears to be cold-blooded murder. A man appears to be fleeing a police officer and is shot in the back by that officer. We don't know the details, and do not offer any 'theories,' but merely suggest that something is terribly wrong here. Most of us recoil at the thought of taking another life. Most of us extend the courtesy of human dignity to those who are different from us -- and yet, I recall when taking my car to a new garage in the town I used to live in, the mechanic said something that shocked me. He was a good mechanic and appeared to be a decent guy. He had served in Korea and was relating the experience to another worker in the shop. He talked about them having a black guy in the unit. They hated him for some reason. The mechanic used the more vulgar term for describing this man and I think I heard him say that they put him in a position to get killed.

I thought of that man's mother. Perhaps there was a wife or girlfriend. Children? I was in no mood for a confrontation that day, so I did not ask for a clarification. The mechanic's tone indicated he was pretty set in his ways. Clarification was not likely to be pleasant. I never went back there. I have not told the story before, but now the garage is gone. We are shocked by such stories but every day people kill people for being in the 'wrong' group around the world. ISIS kills Christians, Hutus and Tutsis are rivals though most outside of their lands cannot tell them apart. One of my friends from school went to Northern Ireland in the 1970's to study the situation there. A car exploded in the street while he walked in Belfast. He actually got an interview with Bernadette Devlin. We awaited his report eagerly.

He said he had met Catholics, Protestants and a few people in both churches who said that they related intimately with G-d, like children of their Father. These were the ones who extended forgiveness and the gift of recognition to those outside their cultural church. They were the 'Blessed Peacemakers.' -- Matthew 5:9 These people had a vision for their country not unlike that of Dr. Martin Luther King in our own. They saw a day in the future when Protestants and Catholics would share their land without oppression or conflict.

The 'Blessed Peacemakers' of Northern Ireland have a lesson for us in our own time. We can see outside the parameters of our own group (and wrongs done to it) and embrace the larger family of G-d's Children. That means we mourn EVERY child's death by violence, be he like us or not. We see the travesty of lives destroyed because they are precious to their Creator. Genesis says that each is made in His Image. To miss this truth is to go the way of destruction like that seen in Rwanda, where the Hutu majority slaughtered the Tutsi and moderate Hutus. [1.]

Corbels and Carillons

Grace United Methodist Church in Middletown, Virginia. [2.]

Photo by Bob Kirchman

Stephens City United Methodist Church [3.]... Photo by Bob Kirchman

...contains this Shulmerlich Carillon, probably built in the 1960's. The instrument was played by punched rolls (like a player piano), and each note was struck on a small rod and amplified electronically. The sound was broadcast from speakers in the belfry.
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom IV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XV

Prayer for the Disciples

The thoughts of a Master towards us are what should stay with us as we labor to build His Kingdom. On the night before He suffered and died to conquer sin and death, Jesus spoke these words.May we remember them as we contemplate the great things we have just celebrated and go forth into this world to be His laborers:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another." -- John 15:1-17 KJV

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true G-d, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." -- John 17:1-26 KJV

Easter Lily. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The forty days that followed saw the disciples move from doubt to sure faith as Jesus indeed showed himself to them, resurrected!

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Easter Lily. Photo by Bob Kirchman

THYME Magazine: Orthodox Good Friday

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Written 1000 years before Jesus died, Psalm 22 foretells His death by crucifixion -- a practice yet to be invented by the Romans. [View Larger] Illustration © 2015, by Kristina Elaine Greer

The Calendar Conundrum

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reworked the traditional Julian Calendar into what came to be known as the more astronomically correct Gregorian Calendar. There is a difference of thirteen days between the Julian and the Gregorian Calendars. As the Western Church adopted the newer calendar, the Eastern Church retained the Julian, thus the feasts overlayed on the modern calendar are celebrated about a week later. Good Friday for the Orthodox Christians will be April the 10th this year and Easter will be on the 12th. Another Orthodox tradition is that Easter, the Pascha, always follows the Passover.

That is why our Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate the great Holy Days on a "different" date!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

THYME Magazine: "He is Risen!"

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XIVaa

The Meaning of the Miraculous

For many Centuries man has acknowledged  the miraculous. This week the Jewish community celebrates their deliverance from Egypt and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land. A dialogue set in a meals has all generations together consider the preservation of their people that could only be seen as a work of G-d. Previous generations always saw G-d, or some miraculous force as Creator. The Patriarchs saw Him as Provider and Deliverer! The relatively recent concept of Evolution (Charles Darwin in the Nineteenth Century) has created a philosophy of Naturalism that either outright rejects or quietly diminishes the Theistic explanation.

I once attended an Easter service at a large church in Richmond. The minister asserted that the Resurrection was not important! I don't remember anything else he said. I was astonished because Christ's Resurrection would seem to be a cornerstone of Christianity. Many voices today denounce Faith. They may not directly denounce it, but in the academy it is the subject of "open discourse" such as that experienced by Ryan Rotella at FAU [click to read]. Rotella was asked to leave a class. His "offense" was refusing to participate in an excercise where students were required to "stamp on Jesus." Dennis Prager [click to read] has more details. Though the school ultimately apologized to Rotella, it justified its so-called "open discourse" in doing so.

Running from the Resurrection

In fact, among many in academia today you are likely to hear some variation of the following: "There are other reasons why I consider Christianity to be an ill-chosen creed, such as the morals actually taught in the Bible, many of which are abhorrent to a compassionate and just man, or other details of its theology which run counter to observable facts." writes atheist Richard Carrier in introduction to his argument against Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Here in his introduction, Carrier gives what I believe is his real reason for being uncomfortable with a physical resurrection. A G-d who can so control the laws of nature can ask 'unreasonable' things of us as well. A 'Compassionate and Just Man,' in Carrier's world can support abortion on demand because it is not 'abhorrent' to his viewpoint that abortion is a kind response to the needs of women with unplanned pregnancies. The beating heart of the unborn child need not be seen here as an 'observable fact.' Likewise, the 'restrictive' definition of marriage as a relationship defined by Scripture in specific terms may be viewed as archaic and discriminatory.If G-d didn't design it, He cannot write the specifications.

The elimination of Christianity as an authoritative source allows us to personalize moral decisions. In a culture that elevates self-actualization, this is virtue. It spares us the heavy lifting required to weigh moral absolutes with human frailty.

Jesus, meeting a Samaritan woman at a well, is a prime example of what I mean by this heavy lifting. Balancing compassion for the woman with his observation that she has not been a faithful wife, Jesus creates a constructive dialogue. He does not condemn her, nor does He overlook the complexity she has created in her relationships. He speaks truth and ultimately the dialogue that results sets her free. Here Absolute Love and Absolute Truth are in no way mutually exclusive. In the end her search for 'Living Water' trumps her desire to live as she pleases. [2.]

A G-d who can part the Red Sea, Create worlds and has power over death is pretty much to be respected. A G-d who changes human lives in intimate communion with his Creation is amazing.

Before Jesus appeared, the concept of Resurrection is found in Scripture. Sometimes it is very clear and other times it is a logical assumption consistent with the text.

Resurrection Foretold

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." -- Isaiah 53:9-12

The famous Messianic text above talks of triumph after death. Other texts that may be seen as prophetic of Resurrection are: Genesis 3:15, Psalm 2:7, Psalm 16:9-11, Psalm 22:14-25, Psalm 30:29, Psalm 40:13, Psalm 110:1, Psalm 118:21-24, Hosea 5:15-6:3, Zechariah 12:10.

Resurrection Documented and Verified

I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better, fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died, and rose again from the dead." says Dr. Thomas Arnold, formerly Professor of History at Rugby and Oxford Universities. Simon Greenleaf, one of the most skilled legal minds ever produced in this nation, top authority on the question of what constitutes sound evidence, developer of the Harvard Law School, after a thorough evaluation of the four Gospel accounts from the point of view of their validity as objective testimonial evidence, concluded:

It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact." [3.] Dr. Henry M. Morris PhD writes more on The Importance of the Resurrection [click to read]. His point is that the foundational truth of the Christian faith has plenty of evidence to support it.

A G-d who can part the Red Sea, Create worlds and has power over death is pretty much to be respected. A G-d who changes human lives in intimate communion with his Creation is amazing.

A Caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Nature itself suggests the possibility of miraculous transformation and new life! Rice Paper Butterfly, or Paper Kite Butterfly, Idea leuconoe.
Illustration © 2013, by Kristina Elaine Greer for HOPE Publications, Pvt. ltd.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

THYME Magazine: Why the Resurrection Matters

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XIVa

Why the Resurrection Matters

In his book 'Miracles,' C. S. Lewis wrote: “The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits,’ the ‘pioneer of life.’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has been opened.”

Modern 'enlightened' man is not so sure. In fact, I once heard the pastor of a large church state that: "The Resurrection isn't that important." The early believers certainly would have objected to this reasoning. Belief in Resurrection is what propelled them to share the Good News. Belief in the Resurrection is what spurred them to rescue babies thrown into the Tiber River. Christianity was not spread by the sword, as other religions have been, but rather it has spread in spite of the very real possibility that you could be killed for doing so.

Could it be that the sure belief that death has been overcome makes the believer stronger in the face of death? Fox's Book of Martyrs would bear that out. Certainly some very ordinary people were propelled to do very extraordinary things through their belief in Resurrection. Brian G. Hedges writes in a piece entitled: Three Reasons the Resurrection Matters [click to read]: " What is unquestionable is that the first generation of Jesus’ followers did believe he had risen, and were convinced that everything had changed as a result.

Consider just three of the ways the New Testament highlights the significance of the resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection means that his sacrificial death on the cross was sufficient, and therefore our sins can be forgiven. Jesus’ resurrection means that death is defeated once and for all. Jesus’ resurrection means that the material world matters."

This is key as we consider the promises in Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21. G-d is indeed able to renew all things, as He promises. Hedges quotes writer: John Updyke:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall."

(to be continued)

Texas Bluebonnets and moon. Photo by Melissa K. Hand

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

THYME Magazine: Building the Kingdom III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IX, Issue XIV

The Ministry of Building Things

I'll bet if I asked you to think of some different types of ministry and ways to build the Kingdom of G-d, you probably wouldn't think of Economic Development. Pastor Tim Keller, in his book: Resources for Deacons, sees it clearly as a part of the Diaconal ministry. Our church helps women in Zambia get sewing machines. To be sure, the gift of the ability to earn their living as seamstresses is an act of ministry to these ladies.

But think bigger! THYME presents the story of how a nation turned from a great evil and one city suffered greatly in doing so. G-d provided a provider! Then G-d provided provision for the provider by inspiring great innovation that came to revitalize that great city. Should we dare to pray for such innovation and inspiration in our own day?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
What a Nineteenth Century Innovator Can Teach Us Now
© 2013 The Kirchman Studio, All rights reserved.

They say that the condition for a miracle is difficulty, but the condition for a great miracle is impossibility” -- Angus Buchan, “G-d's Farmer”

When William Wilberforce [1.] had ended the slave trade in the British Empire, he had thrown the city of Bristol, England into economic depression. The port there was heavily devoted to that wretched business and suffered heavily when it was brought to a sudden halt. The unintended consequence had been a rise in children condemned to a life of poverty. Ending the vile business of enslaving Africa's children had resulting in England's society spurning the needs of her own. Into this world came George Müller [2.], who, relying on faith in G-d alone, provided redemption for thousands of orphans. Many of these children were cast-offs of a society in economic despair.

George Müller [3.] had seen the wretched street urchins most people despised as jewels to be polished. Muller, relying solely on Divine provision, built five large houses for Orphans at Ashley Downs in Bristol, England. He trained the girls to be nurses, teachers, clerical workers and domestics. He apprenticed all the boys in various trades. He was excoriated for training these unwanted children "above their station." He ignored the critics.

Müller looked to G-d alone, but Bristol needed an outfowing of Divine provision to provide for her children. G-d's provision for Bristol was to come in the form of inspiration and innovation, embodied in the work of a young pioneer of civil engineering. He also ignored his critics.

Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge became the symbol of the City of Bristol.

Building the Great Western Railway.

In 1831, 24 year old Isambard Kingdom Brunel [4.] was awarded a contract to bridge the Avon Gorge. It was the dream of a prosperous wine merchant who provided the initial funding. The completed bridge would become the symbol of the city, but lack of funding dogged the project. It took thirty years to complete it. For years only the towers stood completed. In 1833 Brunel began work on the Great Western Railway, which would become the instrument of Bristol's economic revitalization. The nicknames: "Great Way Round" and "G-d's Wonderful Railway" seem to describe well Brunel's great work.

Brunel was an innovator. He probably experienced as many failures as successes in his short lifetime. Born on April 9, 1806, the son of Sir Marc Brunel, he assisted his father in building a tunnel under the Thames. He would later become the resident engineer of that project. At twenty years of age, he designed a suspension bridge to cross the Avon river. A modified version of his plan was actually constructed.

At 26, Brunel was building the Great Western Railway, commissioned to maintain Bristol's importance as a port and position her for  trade with America. This wide-gauge railroad linked Bristol and Western regions of England to London. Bristol's prosperity as a port was assured and the work of Müller created solid citizens with strong spiritual foundations to benefit.

But Brunel was not content to simply build a better railway. He looked across the Atlantic, envisioning fleets of ocean greyhounds -- great steamships that would complete the linking of his Great Western Railway to America! The S. S. Great Britain was his creation. It was the first metal-hulled propeller-driven ocean ship and became the prototype for modern ocean liners.

Building the South Devon Railway as a spur to the Great Western, Brunel experimented with an alternative to steam engines -- Vacuum tube powered trains. Stationary vacuum plants evacuated tubes laid along the center of the track that powered the movement of trains.

Brunel's 'Atmospheric Railway.'

The technology required the use of leather flaps to seal the vacuum pipes. The natural oils were drawn out of the leather by the vacuum, making the leather vulnerable to water, rotting it and breaking the fibres when it froze. It had to be kept supple with tallow, which is attractive to rats. The flaps were eaten, and vacuum operation lasted less than a year, from 1847 (experimental service began in September; operations from February 1848) to 10 September 1848.[45] It has been suggested that the whole project was an expensive flop. In Brunel's favour, it has been noted that he had the courage to call a halt to the venture instead of struggling on with it at greater cost." -- Wikipedia

Like alternative transportation prototypes of our day, the vacuum tube system was more expensive. The accounts of the SDR for 1848 show that atmospheric traction cost 3s 1d (three shillings and one penny) per mile compared to 1s 4d/mile for conventional steam power.Though considered a failure at the time, vacuum powered trains may have been a distant precursor to Evacuated Tube Technology [5.] which is now being developed to move entire transport capsules through large tubes -- essentially powered in the same way as Brunel's South Devon train. Brunel was simply two Centuries before his time on this.

What can we learn from Brunel today? Plenty! Inspiration and innovation are needed now as they were needed then. Brunel teaches us valuable lessons about expanding vision with proven technologies and wisely exploring alternatives (and abandoning them when they do not work as planned).

Praying people see the diaconate role of economic development as an integral part of G-d's provision. In “Resources for Deacons, Love Expressed Through Mercy Ministries,” [6.] Tim Keller states his belief in three “levels” of mercy in diaconal ministry:

The first Level Is Simple Relief: That is taking care of the immediate need.

The Second Level Is Economic Development: That is teaching the poor how to get out of poverty by teaching them how to handle money, property, etc. and furnishing them with the means to do so. “Not handouts, but ownership is the way to break the cycle of poverty.”

The Third Level Is Social Reform: Christians should be involved in the culture in an effort to change the social structure.

We see it very localized in a place like Zambia, where people of faith instruct widows to become seamstresses (and people in America gift them with sewing machines). But, can we believe G-d for ever greater inspiration? What vision would G-d give us for our family, our company of employment, our city and county... and beyond? Müller said "the age of miracles is not past." Angus Buchan [7.], in the turmoil of Zambia and South Africa, looked to G-d for inspiration. G-d met him in a corn field where he learned the power of prayer!

Buchan had packed his family up during the unrest in Zambia in the late 'seventies and moved them to South Africa. A successful farmer in Zambia, he felt that he would be happy if he could acquire another farm in South Africa. It didn't. Experiencing deep depression, Buchan was angry and confused. Wandering into a lay-witness Sunday at the local Methodist Church, Angus heard builders, tradesmen and fellow farmers tell of what Jesus meant in their lives. For the first time he saw men crying, he wept unashamedly himself as he responded to an altar call. He took the Lord seriously about the changed life promise.

Buchan went back to his farm and learned to pray in his own corn field. Then he sought to minister to his Zulu workers. His farm manager, Simeon Bhengu, told him: "that's women's religion..." But G-d met Angus and spoke through his friendship with Simeon. Today the men are brothers in faith and brothers in every way. "My children are his and his are mine." Angus says of his Zulu brother. Angus expanded his farming operations and G-d's miraculous provision was seen at every turn. The movie "Faith like Potatoes" is the true story of Angus Buchan and it is quite inspiring! Buchan used machinery but avoided totally mechanizing the farm, looking to provide steady employment to his Zulu neighbors.

In the early 1980's Buchan became aware of a new tragic development. AIDS was ravaging families and creating untold numbers of orphans. Buchan reached out to these orphans but had no place to house them. A local school had temporary classrooms they were going to demolish and Angus received permission to take them apart and reassemble them at Shalom, which he had named his complex at the farm. At first the children lived in dormitories but gradually Angus was able to create "houses" where one "mother" cared for a smaller number.

South Africa in her recent history has experienced much uncertainty and Buchan's experience is instructive as we look to address the turmoil in our own country today. Isambard Kingdom Brunel should serve as an inspiration as well.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." -- 1 Timothy 4:12

Dogwood Flower. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Passover and Passion
Stories of Divine Redemption

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.

On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.

On all other nights, we don't dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline." [7.]

The meal begins with a child's questions. It is a celebration of Divine Redemption and it is told in the courses of the meal. This time of year is a special time of remembering G-d's hand in delivering his people! Remembering the hand of the Divine in our own lives and passing that knowledge along to our children is a Sacred thing. May this be a time of great blessing and significance for you.

Dogwood Flowers. Photo by Bob Kirchman