Wednesday, January 17, 2018

JOSIAH Chapter Three, Rockbridge Paintings

Volume XIV, Issue III

By Bob Kirchman
Copyright © 2018, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Chapter 3: Survivors!

Survivors,” Ben-Gurion repeated thoughtfully. “How should we reach them?”

Indeed the presence of survivors presented an obligation to those who pondered it. Simply doing nothing seemed immoral at best but what to do seemed not so cut and dried. An unmanned landing might be best as there would be the ability to send a message without risking more lives. The initial lander could be configured to take back survivors if necessary. “How fast could we prepare a lander mission?” Hannah asked. Theoretically it could be ‘pulled from the shelf’ and launched within the month. It would take nine months to get to Mars. In the event it were necessary, Great Northern could be taken from its defense position and flown with additional landers to evacuate more people.

What if they don’t want to come ‘home?’” Abiyah asked. “Should we be prepared to resupply them?”

That is a good question.” said Hannah. “Since our last contact was aggressive on the colonist’s part, we need to think about this.”

Some of Cape Lisbon Space Center’s best minds were brought to bear to hash out the proper thing to do. There at Cape Lisbon’s linear induction launch canon, they called themselves the “Baltimore Gun Club,” since their device seemed similar to the one Jules Verne first wrote about in From the Earth to the Moon.

It was not a columbiad, as Verne predicted, but rather a linear induction track similar to the high speed transportation system being built to link the world via vacuum tubes. Massive use of fossil fuels was now replaced by electromagnetism. That electromagnetism was produced by tapping the geothermal energy of the earth itself. It was clean, efficient, did nothing to harm the environment and it was cheap!

Some sections of HYPERLOOP between large cities were already in operation and the entire system was going to open by 2059. It was going to usher in new economy in world transportation. The launch canon used the same electromagnetic propulsion as well and it presented the most economical means of sending a craft to Mars.

In the end, a hastily prepared lander was dispatched and flown remotely to the planet’s surface. A ‘rover’ was on board to move about and survey the colony. A message was composed to offer the surviving colonists an olive branch and a radio/video communication device was included. The ‘rover’ carried standard pressure suits and breathing packs. Every effort was made to offer the survivors a remotely piloted ‘ride home.’ The biggest problem was that they had to guess how many there might be.

The unmanned emissary was launched within the month. For nine months the controllers in Cape Lisbon and on SS/AC005 waited.

The lander fired it’s descent engine and arced down to the Martian surface. The engine slowed it as it touched down next to the remains of the Martian colony. The rover was deployed and began its survey of the colony. It approached a door on one of the greenhouses and showed the controllers on Earth a lot of space-booted footprints coming in and out. The rover reduced power and waited.

Discovery was not long in coming. Two figures in space suits emerged from the greenhouse door and seemed to be in quite animated hand-gesture concerning the new ‘visitor.’ In the end they pulled the rover into a bay with a tractor for further examination. The bay was pressurized and the two figures removed their helmets, examining the rover further. They read the message of peace and discovered the camera/radio.

They said nothing loud enough to be heard, however and eventually one of them disappeared for a time. He returned with a third man who deliberately positioned himself in front of the camera and activated the communication device. Controllers on Earth held their breath as he began to speak.

My name is JOSIAH.”
(to be continued)

Rockbridge Paintings
By Bob Kirchman

Mohomony 5
Mohomony 5.

Mohomony 002
Mohomony 2, The Bridge of G-d.

Mohomony 003
Mohomony 3.

Mohomony 1, Remembering the Battle Between the Monacans and the Powhatans.

Mohomony #4
Mohomony 4.

The Natural Bridge of Virginia is not only a natural marvel, it is a sacred site of the Monacan Nation. Monacans are an Eastern Siouan Native American nation that has occupied Virginia for thousands of years.

There is an old Monacan story about the bridge formation. The Monacan men, women and children ran desperately through the forest, chased by a much larger band of enemy warriors, possibly Powhatans. Suddenly they came to a deep, wide chasm. There was no way across, and the enemy was closing in. All seemed lost. They closed their eyes and prayed.

The Monacans opened their eyes to a narrow bridge of rock across the gorge. The braves quickly coaxed the women and children across, then turned to face the enemy. The warriors fought with newfound hope and courage, and the enemy couldn't at all attack at once on the narrow bridge. The Monacans were victorious. They survived. Because this story has been handed down through several generations, the Natural Bridge has been a sacred place for the Monacan people. They call it "Mohomony" meaning "Great Mystery" or the "Bridge of God"

'She's Coming Alive,' Morning Light on House Mountain.

When You Are Jostled, What Comes Out?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22, 23

Here is a really great illustration of a great life principle. It was given by Amanda, my lead teacher at the home school coop where I teach art. It was the students’ morning devotion. She asked for volunteers, warning “you might get wet.” Of course kids don’t really mind a little water so with some eager participants she handed out two cups. One was labeled ‘Coffee,’ the other ‘Tea.’ “Now, what happens when the cup is jostled?” she asked. “What’s inside spills out!” The students now participated in a physical demonstration of just that! (Don’t worry, the cups only contained water).

Now Amanda handed the students a cup labeled with the various fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians. “What happens when WE’RE jostled?” she asked. “What’s inside spills out.” Ouch! That was a very effective demonstration of what should be filling our lives and how it should overflow in our own turbulent moments. I have to confess that sometimes, being ‘jostled’ in traffic, I need to be filled with something other than myself. H/T Amanda Riley


Master of 'Imagineering'
The Vision of Walt Disney

The bedrock of what we do in the future will be shaped by storytelling.” – Allison Perkins


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

JOSIAH Chapter Two

Volume XIV, Issue II

By Bob Kirchman
Copyright © 2018, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Chapter 2: Unto All Nations

On the campus on Big Diomede, young Josiah Zimmerman, Rupert’s grandson, walked with Jonathan Greene, the president of the college and Josiah’s favorite professor. They were discussing Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

What constitutes a nation in the eyes of the Divine?” Josiah asked.

The dictionary says, ‘a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.’ Not too helpful in determining the mind of the Master. The rebirth of freedom in the North has come with a rebirth of fervor to reach the nations, as is evidenced by your presence at this institution. Still, I think we can identify such groups around us with some certainty and we are putting the Bible in their hands. The upcoming World’s Fair in Fairgate, Alaska will no doubt mark a point where we’ve pretty much put the Holy Scriptures in every human language there is. We correspond with believers in every part of the world. I think at this point the burden is on us to identify any particular place of occupation that has NOT been reached. That is where I think our Master’s focus would be.”

That is my frustration, sir. I feel like the work is going to be done before I get there. I read about the Moravians going out into the wilds and reaching the Cherokee and the joy of shining the Gospel where it has never shone before… and I look at the situation today. Even the Middle East is opening up to the message. With the demise of APOLLONIUS, the academy and the media have found new faith quite without our help. They started looking for truth and beauty again. Guess where it led them?”

Is it wrong, Dr. Greene, to be jealous to do a great work for God?”

That is a good one, young friend, and it deserves a thoughtful answer.” The good doctor was silent for a moment, then he continued, “Remember our discussion last week, and how for an artist like Sandro Botticelli the recognition of beauty led to transcendent truth. When he painted ‘The Birth of Venus’ it is evident that his sense of desire has been guided Heavenward. So it shall be with your ambitions to do great works. Think of Ransom in the college maintenance shops. He likes to work with his hands. Building a door gives him great pleasure… but I pray one day he will see who he’s building the door for! He’s an old special forces guy… mind and conscience pretty much seared, but get a planer in his hands and his eyes light up. God does not despise us for our aspirations. He meets us there. But, mind you, He will lead us upward. He has no desire to leave us playing in the mud when he’s planned for us a holiday at the beach! (I’m paraphrasing Lewis here).”

But, why should I feel such a passion to reach the nations if they have already been reached? I mean, should I not be able to find contentment and purpose in a simple task like Brother Lawrence who served most nobly working in the kitchen? Still, if I deny the drive inside me, I feel that I am lying.”

Passion is good, but true knowledge must define it. Remember the 2033 eclipse over Alaska. There was an author who wrote a book about the eclipse signaling the end of the world… nothing new here. The Millerites did it in the 19th Century. They were still waiting after their ‘appointed’ date and refigured it. Then they were still waiting after that. I think the Divine holds his cards close for a reason. We need to serve him like this will be our last day on Earth, but we need to build our works to last for 100 years. Some see contradiction there but it is clear that the tension between the two holds us in place to serve Him. I’m rambling, but I feel like the Lord will inform your passion and make it most profitable. You will indeed hear Him say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ one day. That is enough.”
(to be continued)

Epiphany II.

A Repeat of One of Our Favorite Issues

The Epiphany, It is Important

The traditional celebration of Christmas lasts for twelve days. It begins on Christmas Day with the celebration of the birth of the Redeemer and ends on Epiphany, which celebrates Christ's revelation to the gentiles. The MAGI, or the Wise Men came from Persia seeking a prophesied King. It is very likely that these were men who had studied the writings of Daniel and now saw the signs of the fulfillment of things he had written: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." -- Daniel 7: 27

The revelation of Christ to the Gentiles also fulfills a promise made to Abraham: "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." -- Genesis 22:16-18


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

JOSIAH Chapter One, C. S. Lewis, The Giver

Volume XIV, Issue I

By Bob Kirchman
Copyright © 2018, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Chapter 1: A Mystery Appears

You wanted to see me right away?” Abiyah Ben-Gurion said as he walked into the Zimmerman offices in Wales, Alaska. Elizabeth O’Malley’s assistant Hannah replied, “Yes, I did! I just received this communication from our office on Space Station/Assembly Center 005. It seems they’ve observed something you need to look at on Mars.”

She continued: “As you know, we’ve done periodic flyovers of the abandoned colony ruins… sort of a chance to observe decay in the Martian environment… and, Oh, I am so sorry. I recall how painful that was for you, but please indulge me. There is a mystery here we need you to weigh in on. Let me bring up the images.”

Hannah’s deskpad displayed two views of the colony ruins taken from orbit. The first was a photo Abiyah’s wife Sarah had taken several decades ago. The second was freshly processed from an unmanned probe that was orbiting Mars as they spoke.

See those surviving greenhouses in the shadow of that rock mass. That was all that remained of the APOLLONIUS Colony when you returned to Earth after it had been tragically destroyed by the missile. Look at the footprint carefully. Now look at the view from our probe as it flew over yesterday. See the difference?”

Abiyah’s keen eye caught it at once, “The footprint is different!” he exclaimed. “How can that be?”

We’re perplexed as well. It is BIGGER! We wondered if blast sand had covered some greenhouses and now has blown off, but Sarah’s images of the colony before destruction show no greenhouses there!”

Well, I’m stymied,” said Abiyah, “we scanned repeatedly for signs of life and you know how thorough Sarah is!”

The 3D printers we sent up then were pretty primitive by today’s standards. There was not the AI to self-duplicate anything. As I recall, the greenhouses involved a fair amount of human manipulation to construct. They could manufacture the struts and clear panels from local soils heated in the kiln, but that too required a lot of human oversight.”

So, obviously we have someone… or someTHING adding on to the remains of the colony!”

That’s it sir, we have a riddle on our hands.”

Well, Hannah, let’s use Occam's Razor to begin with. Someone has been adding greenhouses to our colony… or what’s left of it. Who would be the simplest to suspect. We have not tracked any ships from other nations going out to Mars. Space Aliens are always invoked in a case like this… but we’ve never actually seen one… EVER! I would have to say that someone survived the blast that destroyed the colony, incredible as that may sound. The reason we didn’t detect them was that they remained in an underground bunker… perhaps aware of the radiation danger outside. They had no communication ability as that was totally destroyed.”

He continued, “It would have had to have been one of the more technically inclined colonists, to be sure -- Someone who could keep the oxygenation going in the greenhouses and run the 3D printers. I daresay there is more than one survivor.”

So, what do we do next?” Hannah mused.

We need to make contact, if we can. Remember they launched the missile to destroy our ship in orbit. It fell back to Mars and exploded on the colony… we thought it exploded destroying everyone. We don’t know if they are so poisoned by the leadership of APOLLONIUS that they believe we are tainted and they are the enlightened ones.”

Hannah looked up at the painting of Rupert Zimmerman, the mind behind the enterprises that now required their oversight and wondered what Mr. Z would have said at this moment, but it had been some time since Rupert passed after taking pneumonia following the ceremonies to commence construction on the St. Lawrence Island Crossing. Rupert had always been somewhat of an enigma to those closest to him in life, and his painted eyes gazed down at Hannah giving nothing away.
(to be continued)

Sherando Island
The Island in Sherando Lake. Photo by Bob kirchman.

C. S. Lewis on Free Will

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they've got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (...) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

The 2014 movie adaptation of Lois Lowery’s The Giver[1.] is a very instructive portrayal of what Lewis is saying. If you are not familiar with this novel, it is the story of a future world where security and freedom from want is secured by an enforced sameness. Gone are the joys of color and music. People see in black and white. Art is decorative but uninspired. Climate is regulated and people live in a community reminiscent of the ideal New Deal City, Greenbelt, Maryland.[2.] Greenbelt was Eleanor Roosevelt’s experiment in creating a ‘garden city’ to replace the hodgepodge of sometimes chaotic architecture of the time. Americans living in the Depression and Dust Bowl days were quick to embrace such a vision. Down the road from Greenbelt was the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Modern chemical-dependent farming and methods were being developed there.[3.]

In The Giver, emotion is carefully suppressed with drugs and ‘precision of language’ is used to eliminate Love, Anger and any sort of emotion.

But as the film unfolds, the elimination of pain and struggle has come at a cost. Elimination of Love also comes with the elimination of Faith and Hope. Mankind is deprived of those three qualities that Scripture says are the three things that last! Though the book and the film adaptation are classified as ‘young adult’ dystopian fiction the film adaptation is worth note on a higher level. I do not think Lowery set out to write a book about deep truth (she herself says that it is simply an idea that came to her visiting her father in a nursing home – that memories are important) but that makes it all the more intriguing as it explores the value of life and the question of what gives life value. The movie ending is less confusing than that of the original novel in that it suggests that Lewis’s thoughts on what is really important are worth the risk and suggests a remedy. It is a thoughtful message for all.

Ravi Zacharias [click to read] explores the subject further.
Zach Dawes  Explores Love, Human Choice and C. S. Lewis [click to read]

The references to free will in Lewis’s books are one of the most prominent features the reader encounters. Indeed, even a cursory reading of a number of his works would reveal his belief in God’s gift to humanity of a free will to choose between two equally available choices. That is, to choose between good and evil, right and wrong.” – Zach Dawes

'Seeing color' in The Giver.

Future 'sameness.'

Greenbelt, Maryland.

Abortion, From Controversy to Civility
by Stephanie Gray

Stephanie Gray, internationally renowned speaker and author, [4.] applies the Socratic method and storytelling to the debate surrounding abortion. She invites the audience to be "pro-conversation" on a topic that can be one of the most divisive, and demonstrates that it is possible to be gracious and respectful when encountering different ideas.

This talk draws on her experiences of traveling across the world and dialoguing with college students, hearing personal stories of poverty and sexual abuse, and sitting down for coffee to have friendly conversation with debate opponents; it reflects on the United Nations' policies on human rights and examines the insights of psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl.

Stephanie Gray is a Canadian who has spent more than 15 years giving over 800 talks and debates, as well as hundreds of media interviews, on abortion to diverse audiences in the United States, Canada, Austria, Latvia, England, Ireland, Costa Rica and Guatemala. In university settings she has debated Dr. Fraser Fellows, a late-term abortionist, Ron Fitzsimmons, then-executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, Elizabeth Cavendish, then-legal director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Dr. Malcolm Potts, the first medical director for International Planned Parenthood Federation. She is author of "Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth.”


A Repeat of One of Our Favorite Issues

Epiphany, Another Forgotten Season

Celebrated by the Western Church on January 6th, Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the Nations, as pictured by the visitation of the Magi. Portrayed as three Eastern kings astride camels, they follow the Christmas star to worship the newborn King. Here is a profound telling of truth that is often lost in its cultural wrappings. If ever there was a celebration needed for today, it is Epiphany!

The biblical identification for these pilgrims is Magi. The Magi are an interesting group in themselves, originating in a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (the ancestors of modern day Kurds). They were installed as religious leaders and policy advisors to the Persian court by Darius and here they actually make their first appearance in Holy Writ. Daniel, carried into exile from the fallen kingdom of Judea, is assigned to this group when he surpasses the rest of them in his service to the king. Daniel correctly fortold the return of the exiles seventy years in the future.

Though he served a secular king and kingdom, Daniel never lost his connection to G-d and Jerusalem. His quarters had a window facing Jerusalem and he was 'busted' for praying when the king decreed that all his citizens bow only to him. Daniel's deliverance from this decree's punishment, by a Divine intervention, is an often told story by people of Faith. What must be conjectured, however, is the influence this man of Faith might have had on his fellow wizards.

Daniel never returned to Jerusalem, though he never forgot her. He grew old and died as a stranger in a strange land. Though he walked the halls of power in Persia, his citizenship remained in the Land of Promise. His book ends with descriptions of things far into the future, and is silent about the later life of Daniel himself. One might safely assume that he remained in the company of the Magi and continued to serve the Persian court.

A young spiritually minded person would have sought out men like Daniel as mentors. Thus it is highly likely that the hope of the coming King was wrapped into the fabric of Daniel's life and work in such a way that his apprentices would preserve it. Many years later it propelled some of them on a long and perilous journey to find that King. There is no Scriptural reference saying there were only three. That may be an assumption based on the mention of three specific gifts they brought; Gold Frankincense and Myrr.

And what did they find? A Child and his mother, ordinary in their appearance perhaps, but marked by Heavenly purpose! Picture the scene, if you will, of mighty clerics, who direct the affairs of empire by their counsel bowing before a woman and an infant!

Epiphany compels us to wrap our minds and hearts around ancient truth and promise. Epiphany compels us to fight the myopia of contemporary culture and look for the Hand of the Divine! Epiphany compels us to awaken from our slumber and if we hear the voice of G-d, to LISTEN! Epiphany is that discovery so wonderful it is a sin to conceal it. It is a truth that carries a blessing for ALL who will hear it and heed it.

So, as the world around us marks the beginning of a new year and marks down the merchandise of Christmas past, it is really time to continue unwrapping the wonder of G-d's redemptive relationship with His children. Old truths must be pondered, but the promise we find there demands action. The voice of G-d must be answered. History, you see, is not some endless cycle. It leads us on a journey to find a specific destination. The voice of the Divine speaks of far more than some warm feeling of self-actualization. It calls us to participate in the ushering in of a Greater Kingdom!

C. S. Lewis captured the hope and the message so well in this thought from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:"

When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone,

Sit at Cair Paravel in throne,

The evil time will be over and done."

Spoken to four rather ordinary children, the extraordinary hope of Aslan's rule creates a feeling of thrilled anticipation. Does the knowledge of the unfulfilled prophecies of G-d's Eternal Kingdom create in us today that feeling as well?

Epiphany's Meaning for Today

Around the world, the hope of Christ's Eternal Kingdom fires the passion of Christians in diverse and difficult situations. Coptic Christians in Egypt share this hope with hidden house church groups in China and North Korea. In Nigeria the faithful watch their churches destroyed, knowing that an Eternal Jerusalem awaits them.

Twelve men hiding in an upper room were propelled outward one Pentecost long ago to share that hope. These reluctant witnesses found themselves empowered by the Holy Spirit as they went. At first glance, history seems to tell us that the church eventually divided into many factions... today many at the tips of these branches hold tight to their distinctives, but miss the branching and rooting of a great tree. Today there are many distinctive groups within Christianity, but the essential message has survived. Essential truth has indeed flowed like the lifeblood of this great tree.
(to be continued)

Our First Blog Entry from 2008

The Catechism says that the chief end of man is " glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever." Clearly there is more to life than the things that seem intent on filling it up. Here I plan to share some thoughts on life's subtler side. Enjoy the trip!

Crocus 1
Indeed, 2008 began as a period of great uncertainty and our first photo was of Spring Crocus emerging, a statement of hope for the future. Photo by Bob Kirchman.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Christmas Treasury, Story of Joy to the World!

Volume XIII, Issue XXV

A Christmas Treasury

Here are presented some of our favorite Christmas features from all time, collected from past issues.

For Unto Us a Child is Born
Isaiah 9:6,7

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Op. 71

A Beloved Christmas Story's Story
With Six Children to Feed, the Author Needed a Miracle

Frances Alexander's 1842 painting of the famous author.

The Year was 1843 and he needed a miracle. With six children to feed and a large house in London to maintain, his slipping sales as a writer were of great concern. His installment novel: Martin Chuzzlewit, was selling poorly, unlike earlier works like Nicholas Nickleby, which had given him some measure of success.
Christmas was coming as he bitterly confided to a friend that his checkbook was empty. Walking the streets, he came up with a 'Ghost of an Idea' and set to work. He published 6000 copies in time for Christmas distribution. They sold out, but because he had splurged on hand-coloured illustrations by John Leech he barely broke even. [1.] Yes, even in Nineteenth Century England, good illustration cost you something! [2.]

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

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht
Beloved Carol Inspired by a Broken Organ

The pipes of the Trinity Lutheran Church organ in Crimora.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

English translation:

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of 'Joy to the World'
A Beloved Hymn Written in Celebration of Advent

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

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

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

Unpacking The Twelve Days of Christmas

You Will Never Look at this Song the Same Way Again


I always assumed the song: "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to be a simple frivolous song of celebration. Not so!, this song is instructive in basic truths of the Christian Faith! Here is the explanation by Father Edward Dowling:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” celebrates the official Christmas season which starts liturgically on Christmas Day and ends twelve days later on the Feast of the Epiphany. “My true love” refers to God, “me” is the individual Catholic. The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments (or the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit) [click to read]. The “six geese a laying” are the Six Commandments of the Church or the six days of creation. The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God or the three gifts of the Wise Men. The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine or the two Testaments, Old and New. The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself, and the “pear tree” is the Cross."

Here is More Historical Background [click to read] from Father Dowling. h/t Kristina Elaine Greer G-d bless you all during the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons!

Sherando Lake Island and Ice

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.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Special Christmas Edition II, "Behold the Man,"

Volume XIII, Issue XXIV

"Behold the Man!"

-- John 19:5b

Many years ago I celebrated Thanksgiving with our church family. There I met the first Nepali I have ever had the chance to speak with. His name was Prem Pradhan. This Gurkha warrior had served in Britain's Royal Air Force before returning to his native land. An accident had permanently injured him and he walked with a limp; but walk he did. In a land where foot travel is necessary to reach most of the villages, Prem walked. He had learned something amazing and he felt compelled to travel to the ends of this mountain kingdom to share it!

Walking all day to reach some remote village, Prem would seek out the men and elders of the place and say: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Who would NOT be intrigued? Pradhan would go on to share his fresh vision of the risen Jesus... and many put their faith in Christ through the fresh telling of the old old story. Not everyone was thrilled to hear this 'Good News,' however. Prem had run afoul of the country's anti-conversion laws. He was put into prison, where he languished for seven years.

Nepali prisons are notorious. Prem's enemies sent him there knowing that it was a place to die. Like the amazing man Prem spoke of, he too was basically sentenced to death. But here he was, years later, telling me his story. He didn't die. While he was in prison he had a vision of the risen Lord, and was further strengthened in his resolve to tell the story of redemption. When he left prison he became involved in education and took in a lot of orphans. While proselytizers are discouraged in Nepal, educators are revered. Prem became a leader of his town and never stopped telling the amazing story.

The Babe of Bethlehem became a man. We have heard the Christmas story so many times that we fail to appreciate its audacity! Let us listen again to it with fresh hearing: "I have heard a NEW THING! I have heard about a man who died and came to life again!" Let us follow the grown Jesus to that time of his death. We first meet him on a hillside. An unlikely candidate for leader of a world religion, he attracts multitudes nonetheless. He teaches a simple message that "The Kingdom of G-d is at hand," and then withdraws to a lonely place with his disciples.

Children flock to Him. He is often surrounded by them and his disciples want to shoo them away. Jesus rebukes them. The Kingdom of G-d is meant for such as these. I met an Egyptian woman who had visions of this place. She says that in Heaven Jesus is SURROUNDED by children. This Jesus did not seek out the halls of power, but instead sought out the weak and simple people of this world. He was a carpenter. His disciples were fishermen, zealots and a tax collector. He spoke to women (most rabbis would not). He spoke "as one having authority." Indeed, one of the most amazing parts of the story is when Jesus stands before the Roman ruler Pilate, who's reaction to Jesus is worth noting.

The promises of Messiah were well known and many in Judea hoped for the coming of that leader who would free them from the oppression of Rome. There were many who claimed to be Messiah, looking to fire a zealot rebellion, and Rome was especially good at killing people. So when a maligned and fairly ordinary Galilean was brought before Pilate, why should he hesitate? There was the fact that he was not actually inciting any uprising... but something in Jesus caused this tough old Roman to pause. Pilate knew his job, but he also recognized authority and chain of command. This Galilean was not blustering about rebellion, in fact He was holding the details of His true mission close to His heart. Pilate saw more than met the eye about the man from Galilee. There is more searching than sneering in his question: "Are you a king?"

Pilate finds himself drawn into a higher sort of dialogue with this man... even asking Him: "What is Truth?" Already troubled by the man he sees, he is further troubled by his wife's dream of him. Indeed, he wants to "wash his hands" of this matter. The simple execution of a supposed rebel has become something far bigger. Pilate tries to release Jesus but is pressed to release Barrabas, a real insurrectionist, instead. The death and Resurrection of Jesus became the story that eventually captivated the Gurkha from Nepal.

The modern age brought about a dismissal of the unseen. Science and Naturalism pushed for concentration on what can be observed. The spiritual and invisible dimensions of life no longer dominated great thought... except to perhaps be broad brushed as simply unknowable. Had Pilate limited himself to that which was observable he would have quickly executed this ragged Galilean. There would be no need for angst, for though he SPOKE as one with authority, he had no physical evidence of that authority.

C.S. Lewis was a man of the modern age. He dismissed the faith as a young man, embracing the Naturalism of his day. As an enlightened Medieval scholar, he nonetheless dismissed the power of story to convey unseen truths. His friendship with men like J.R. R. Tolkien led him to become: "the most reluctant convert in all of England." Lewis, along with his friend Tolkien, discovered the power of the story to convey unseen truths. Imagination for them became the key to discover and share: "a NEW THING!"

"When the Pupil is Ready, The Master Will Appear"

CS Lewis-1
"Imagination is the organ of understanding." -- C. S. Lewis

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” -- C. S. Lewis


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Special Christmas Edition, Astound the Age

Volume XIII, Issue XXII

Glimpses into a World Unseen
The Amazing Photography of Alexey Kljatov

© 2017 The Kirchman Studio, All rights reserved. 
Photographs © Alexey Kljatov, Used by permission.

When I first saw the work of Alexey Kljatov, I was amazed. He takes these stunning images with a simple point and shoot camera rigged with an old macro lens and employing skillful manipulation of lighting. Snowflakes landing on his Moscow window reveal their full wonder and individual beauty through his sublime images. Mr. Kljatov graciously allowed THYME to share his amazing work. You can see more of his photography Here [click to view].

Just imagine the swirling dance of these beautiful shapes in a snowstorm!













Glimpses into a World Unseen
Act II

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

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

Moth wing pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

The Case for a Creator [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith [click to view] by Lee Strobel
The Case for Christ [click to view] by Lee Strobel

Creche at the National Cathedral
A Particularly Beautiful Representation of the Nativity

Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer.

Astound the Age

Michel Dufrénoy's Guide to Our Past Century
By Bob Kirchman

Copyright © 2017, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Chapter Seven

Jean Dumont stepped off the airship in Montréal and greeted Michel Dufrénoy warmly. “I’ve just a few hours before I must catch my train Westward,” he said, “but I am so glad we could at least spend an evening together for old time’s sake.” Dumont’s wife and children would come later after he had established himself in his new position. “The Northwest Corridor Corporation will eventually connect America to Asia,” Jean continued. “You would do well to come with me to that place where opportunity is in such abundance. I could get you on as a clerk in our Calgory office. The great road to Alaska is already in place but we are widening it to a primary route with multiple travel paths just like our autoroutes in Paris. Astounding things are being done and you and your Lucy can have all the success you desire!”

Dufrénoy quizzed his former colleague relentlessly over dinner about the works in Western Canada. Dumont provided an extremely detailed description, adding: “There are untouched regions out there. It’s a chance to literally build a whole new world!” Dufrénoy pondered that statement gravely: “You mean, one would be able to create the culture from the ground up?” “Exactly,” said Jean, “There will be no relics of the past to impede the progress of mankind to that ‘great big beautiful tomorrow!’ Think of it, Michel, a clean slate on which to chart the future into the 21st Century! Antiquated notions no longer will restrain us. It will be a brave new world!”

There is NOTHING in those lands?” Dufrénoy asked, somewhat amazed. “Oh, there are some small farming communities, the local indigenous people and some old Russian Orthodox communities, but they are small and isolated. I imagine when our great corridor is laid out they will remain small and isolated. When the United States built the first gravel track along the route to Alaska, the local natives had never even seen a white man – Europeans were so completely unknown to them. The United States sent a group of Southern soldiers to build the road in the remotest part of that territory. They were the descendants of Africans who had been sold into slavery in that part of the world a Century ago – now free, but still lacking stature in that society. Their 97th Construction Battalion gave them purpose, and eventually stature as they built that most difficult section of the road.” [1.]

Dumont went on to say that the natives had heard reports that the white men were coming building the road. When one of the advance men for the 97th came into that region, a stunned native announced; “The first white man I saw was BLACK!” Jean went on: “The road was built in the days when Russia and America were still strong adversaries. In our day it is seen more as a way to connect those two peoples.”

Chapter Eight

Dufrénoy pondered the possibilities of true frontier and thought long and hard about the opportunity to fund the community’s relocation into someplace like the Yukon Territory where culture would actually be quite content to leave them alone. The men of the 97th had happily returned to warmer climes when the road was opened. One of them was Nehemiah Atkinson, who returned to New Orleans in Louisiana and became a tennis instructor to young people. [2.] Michel came across a small biography of this man. Indeed it seemed that this Northwestern country offered great opportunity for achievement and recognition, but most who came here wanted simply to do the job and go home.

Thousands of miles of vast wasteland, yet those few who lived there would not be moved. Amish folk were able to farm there, making the most of the short growing season. These were people from a simpler time it seemed, content to live a simpler way of life. If asked, they would cite their religious beliefs or their tie to a particular place. Some of their children did indeed go off to the big cities – but it was to be noted that many of them later returned. Such was the draw of warm pre-industrial society and extended family.

The more he thought about it, the more it became clear to Michel that this great road would always remain a conduit, but would not allow modern culture to spread out much past the required service areas. The Orthodox villages seemed especially appealing, as the very term ‘Orthodox’ seemed to imply that some foundation of the old culture would always be present. “What better place,” thought Dufrénoy, “to preserve and encourage the arts until they are strong enough to inform the culture again?”

And when the arts have rejuvenated themselves,” his mind continued, “the modern highways will be there to carry the renaissance to the ends of the earth!”

Chapter Nine

So it was that Michel Dufrénoy found himself traveling to Calgory along with several of the men of the community to take up work in the Northwest Corridor. The men would work and establish the means to bring the rest of their fellows and families West to a place they would find to settle in. The country they rode through seemed so vast and beautiful that it filled young Dufrénoy with its promise! He thought of the New York Fair and shuddered. It was amazing in its own way but in retrospect it seemed like when children place household items out on the floor in play to create a village. It is interesting but is heavy on large forms and lacks in subtle detailing. It is astounding to behold, but over time it does not evoke a higher appreciation.

Here in the American West, there arose a landscape that never ceased to inspire wonder. It seemed so vast as to resist the forces that had homogenized the great cultures of the world. In it the locomotive seemed small, the track but a line, and man was once more aware that there was more! It was that sense of more, Dufrénoy reasoned, that had informed culture in the past to seek the essence of truth and beauty. In modern thought, materialism and pragmatic utilitarianism ruled, but here in the limitless West, those things were not enough. The march of shadows in setting sun drowned out the songs of pistons and turbines. Here was a world too vast to comprehend coming into being.

The ancients had their cosmology firmly rooted in EX NIHILO Creation – the belief that the Divine had created everything from nothing! That implied that the stuff of creation, the laws of physics, and the creation itself were the product of some beautiful Divine Design. The moderns had in the end of the Nineteenth Century decided that they would only believe in what they could see. “Matter,” they said, “always must have existed and just formed itself through random processes.” Though science described the processes, the scientist no longer saw the sublime nature of the process. Another concept thrown to the wind was the concept of IMAGO DEI, that is the belief that mankind is created in the image of the Divine.

Thus it was that Michel Dufrénoy found himself fleeing a world where man was reduced to a cog – to a world where man was indeed heir to something better. His letters to Lucy were full of such thoughts and she cherished the seed that they planted. Together they would give their children everything that had been thought lost.

Remembering a Special Day

photo 11
Winter scene, St. John's United Methodist Church in Staunton, Virginia. The painting celebrates the wedding of Kristina Elaine and Jonathan Greer three years ago! Happy Anniversary!  
Painting by Bob Kirchman.