Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Future of Humanity

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue Ia

Where are the Christians setting out the huge constructive vision of what the Gospel means for the human future?" -- Oz Guiness

What is the Future of Christian Faith?
by Intervarsity Press

Is it possible for society to have redemption and renewal? Is the Christian faith still relevant in the very global world of today? Os Guinness, in his new book Renaissance, declares a hopeful yes. We are in a time of renewal, of change, of continuous reformation, and, as Os writes in chapter one, “a movement that is led by the Spirit of God, which involves the people of God returning to the ways of God and so demonstrating in our time the kingdom of God, and not in word only but in power and with the plausibility of community expression.”

Although we are in a time when the problems of western worldliness — exploitation of the poor, prevalence of prosperity gospel, to name a few — seem to be overtaking the church and the world more broadly, Os believes there is hope for the future. Throughout the book, he describes how the Christian faith influenced and shaped culture over the last two hundred years. Christians have established universities, built great cathedrals, brought literacy to cultures, and generally displayed God’s goodness through art, literature and science. Drawing on great thinkers like John Baillie, Christopher Dawson, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Cahill and others, Guinness shows that the church is in a moment of great transition, but it has been here before. In light of this, readers will see that now is the time to rely wholly on God’s provision, knowing that with it the Christian faith can continue to be the cultural influence it’s always been.

For decades Os Guinness has been one of the most nuanced, realistic, yet hopeful voices calling Christians to engagement with culture,” Tim Keller writes. “This latest volume from him should not be missed by anyone. Os summarizes some of the most helpful recent discussions, updates many of his own lifelong challenges to the church, and provides many fresh insights.”

Renaissance leads readers back to a center point and challenge for the faith of the future. Os writes, “[This challenge] is, I believe, that we trust in God and his gospel and move out confidently into the world, living and working for a new Christian renaissance and thus challenge the darkness with the hope of Christian faith, believe in an outcome that lies beyond the horizon of all we can see and accomplish today.”

Os closes each chapter with thought-provoking discussion questions and brief, stirring prayers that challenge and motivate readers to take action, however dark the times may seem.

Skye Jethani, executive editor at Leadership Journal, declares this book an essential resource: “Os helps us see our present circumstances in the right light. He illuminates why the catastrophizing done by many Christians amid cultural change is unwarranted, but also soberly addresses the genuine challenges we face with new clarity and gravity. Most helpful of all, Os directs our sight back to Christ, the author and completer of our faith, in whom we find both the courage and the resources to be his people in our time. You will not regret a single minute invested in this book.”

Interview with Oz Guinness [click to listen]


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Epiphany Edition I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue X

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 temselves, 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 extaordinary 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.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Special Christmas Edition II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XIX

"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


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Place of Boundaries

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XVIIIa

The place of Boundaries

Thomas Alva Edison is among the greatest minds of American invention, but had one of his teachers had the final say, the boy, who probably suffered from what we now call ADHD, might never have made the pages of history. The young Edison was sent to a one room school house where the overworked teacher quickly became exasperated with the boy's inquisitive and energetic nature. She wrote a letter to his mother Nancy.

Nancy told the boy that the letter said that the boy's school was "too small for him." He was brilliant and needed education that was beyond their ability to provide. So Nancy took young Thomas out of school and home-schooled him. She taught him Bible and the "three R's" and his father paid him to read the Classics. The boy grew up to be the great inventor of devices like the phonograph and the light bulb.

Years later, Edison would learn the true content of that letter. The teacher called him 'addled' and essentially unfit for schooling. Fortunately Nancy wisely created a boundary that allowed for her son's success. Thomas Edison's mother knew the place of boundaries.

The Place of Boundaries II

Years ago , my daughter who was home-schooled in 10th grade, wanted to go to 'real' high school so we let her visit Riverheads High School in Augusta County, Virginia with every intention of sending her there if she liked it.

Midway through the morning, she called me from the school office: "I am not feeling well, could you come pick me up?"

In the car riding home she explained that a teacher had shown a rather graphic and violent video in a history class... that making us feel that the teachers there did not understand boundaries. We chose to cross districts to a high school where my daughter had many Christian friends through our church. The principle of that other county high school had a strong sense of the place of parents. He understood boundaries and we found him very responsive to parent concerns and I believe he did create a school culture that reinforced that.

I relate that incident only because I believe that is at the heart of a current situation that is being blown out of proportion by both administrators and troublemakers who want to paint some decent and concerned parents (like my wife and I were) as 'extremists.' Meanwhile, they miss the real issue; Boundaries.

The issue begins with a World Geography teacher at Riverheads High School requiring the girls in the class to don the hijab and the students to participate in a 'calligraphy lesson' in which the unknowing students copied the statement of affirmation of the Muslim Faith. This would be akin to forcing Jewish students to write the Apostle's Creed. This is not an informational lesson on world religions, this is a requirement to participate in a particular one.

The Place of Boundaries III
Savhanna Herndon, Who's brother is a student who was forced to participate writes:

No one is naive here, people. Obviously there is a big world out there! Learning of other religions is important. It is necessary. Learning of other religions even makes me feel stronger in my own faith- Christianity. The problem doesn't lie with learning of other religions. The problem lies with a teacher deliberately handing out an assignment that had a very weighty meaning, knowing good and well what it translated into. The problem lies with a teacher who withheld vital information, causing students of all kinds of faith to go against their values. The problem lies with a teacher betraying the trust of parents and students. The problem lies with a teacher forcing a Christian student to wear a burka, after the student told her that she was not okay with it, and WHY she was not okay with it. Take religion out of it. Forget about the written statement for a moment. Let's focus on the burka, or hijab, whichever one it was. It is a symbol of oppression. The teacher should have shown pictures of Muslim women in them, or explained why they wear them and what they look like, she could've done both. However, forcing a Christian student to wear one and when they said "no" calling them "racist," is NOT sound teaching. In fact, it's irresponsible and immature. I would not expect a Muslim student to wear a cross while learning about Christianity. Why should you expect a Christian student to wear a head scarf while learning of Islam?

Now, let's go back to the written assignment. By handing out this assignment, Laporte excluded all other religions by making them denounce their "gods." The statement "There is no other God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger," carries quite a lot of weight with it, especially for those not of the Muslim faith. I would not expect a Muslim to write John 3:16 or the statement "G-d is Lord. His name is to be praised." I wouldn't expect a Buddhist to do so, and I wouldn't expect a Jewish person to write the statement "Jesus is the Messiah." Why? Because of the freedom of religion, and because the law of separation of church and state. There are boundaries set in place by the school board to avoid sticky situations such as this, and Laporte brought this on herself when she deliberately went against them. Some of you are saying that my family should have kept quiet, due to the fact that Muslim people could potentially be upset. You're afraid. Why are you afraid? I'll tell you why: the terrorist threat is very real. We have all seen it. You're afraid of this religion, and yet you're okay with sitting back and letting your kids wear hijabs and write such statements. Get over your double standards! "Not every Muslim is a jihad, but every jihad is a Muslim." This statement is something that cannot be ignored. I'm sorry if this topic scares you, but just because you're too afraid to see what's happening around you, doesn't mean it's not happening.

Yes, as Christian people we are to be G-d's light. We are supposed to preach the gospel, but even Jesus Christ flipped a table when they belittled the House of G-d (church). Your feel good "peace and love" Christianity needs to be put in check if it turns you into a doormat. You are to stand up for G-d's will! This is my family standing up, and flipping a table or two. You don't have to like it, but you need to acknowledge it.

C. S. Lewis' childhood included a very traumatic experience at a boarding school. The headmaster beat the boys and after Lewis was removed from that particular institution the headmaster was committed to an insane asylum. Lewis' father had a friend, W. T. Kirkpatrick, a brilliant teacher, who tutored Lewis and perhaps rescued his academic career. Our point in all of this is that involved parents are to be welcomed into the process as guardians of the boundaries. Unfortunately there are too many modern educators who see their mission as that of 'enlightening' their students 'beyond' their parents. This notion is quite dangerous. Think of the 1930's where German schoolchildren were made to sing praises to Hitler!

In another incident at that same Augusta County high school, another teacher was reported to have shown yet another violent video. The teacher was caught telling the students NOT to tell their parents about it.

One must conclude that the original group of parents who complained about the Geography 'lesson' are well within their rights, and quite reasonable. One must also conclude that the reasonable oversight of parents is being obfuscated by overreaction by both administrators and certain elements wanting to bring discredit to the original group of parents.

Also present are those who would overreact by making this about more than boundaries. By that I mean those who would blow the issue out of proportion by making more of it than they should. Unfortunately the whole thing has become not unlike the Scopes trials in Dayton Tennessee where H. L. Mencken, journalist for the Baltimore Sun, was quick to make it a mockery of the Creationist argument as attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan squared off in the case of John Scopes. Scopes had violated then applicable Tennessee law by teaching evolution in his classroom. The problem came when national reporters moved in to make this about science vs. religion.

Two things came out of Scopes. The popular press, and Mencken in particular, were instrumental in discrediting legitimate discussion of Creation/Intelligent Design in the classroom and a College was founded, named after William Jennings Bryan, which promoted the teaching of much that the popular press had discredited. 

It is time to bring the discussion back to concern for the students. It is necessary to keep the process of education open to parental oversight, and when educators step over the boundaries that are reasonable to have in place, it is not only the parents' right, but their duty, to lead their children to those who would be their Kirkpatricks.

Brietbart Has More on this Story [click to read].


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Special Christmas Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XVIII

Glimpses into a World Unseen
The Amazing Photography of Alexey Kljatov

© 2015 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.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Imagination, the Organ of Meaning

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XVII, Rainy Overlook. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Vision: the art of seeing things invisible."
-- Jonathan Swift,
Irish Poet and Satirist

Photo by Bob Kirchman

As another horrific event played out in San Bernardino, California, the media were quick to scold those leaders who offered 'prayers for the victims.' "G-d isn't Fixing This" [click to read] blares the New York Daily News. Set aside the obvious political agendas to be advanced and the desire to show certain people as 'insincere,' and you will see the larger problem. We have lost the language of the larger unseen realities that sustain us. We can access more news sources than ever before but we hear more: "This happened, this happened..." and although we are quickly told what it "means" by the keepers of information, we are denied the greater dialogue... that which would lead us to see that G-d INDEED moves through human history! [1.] [2.]

We are told by the keepers of information that our greater beliefs are relatively unimportant. They are "all the same..." but use that logic to say that Mother Theresa's Faith and that of the Mumbai terrorists are "all the same," and you will stumble upon the inconvenient truth that things mean something in and of themselves, far beyond our stated opinions of them. A dialogue based only on the recitation of facts may indeed limit us in our quest for deeper truth, but I would suggest that Swift's fellow Irishman, C. S. Lewis, offers us the means and the language to serve us in the deeper quest.

Lewis tells us of his childhood, where he abandoned Faith, largely because his Classical school educators told him: "Christianity is true. The myths you are reading are false." Such black and white thinking led Lewis to conclude, as many do today, that truth only lies in the telling of  'facts.' But Lewis went on to study Medieval literature and became friends with men like J. R. R. Tolkien, who helped him to see that the myths, far from being untrue, delve into the realm of imagination to give us a far richer and broader picture of the human experience! Inspired by Tolkien, Lewis embraced Faith and became one of the greatest apologists for Christianity.

Seeing now that myths and stories conveyed powerful truth, even if it was incomplete or missed the mark (as in the case of those Classical and Pagan ones), Lewis became a great storyteller in his own right. In works like Mere Christianity, he skillfully uses metaphor to help us grasp the unseen treasures. In stories such as the Chronicles of Narnia and the Space Trilogy, he gives us a treasury of story in which reside the great truths of our Faith.

Photo by Bob Kirchman


Thru Hikers and Trail Magic

Forrest and Stephanie Greer
Meet Forrest and Stephanie Greer, Appalachian Trail thru hikers who hail from Homer Alaska.

I met them coming back off of the Skyline Drive after a very wet trip to the mountains. I was enjoying the solitude and the wet wonder and frankly did not expect to see thru hikers. Forrest and Stephanie are bush pilots. They fly float planes line the Beaver and they are hiking now because the tourist season is through. They started in Maine and are hiking South, unlike most thru hikers who start at Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Standing at the Skyline Drive entrance at Rockfish Gap, the couple was looking for a ride to Waynesboro, where they planned to re-provision themselves. I was delighted to learn that they were from Homer, and I am sure they were surprised when I started asking them if they knew friends of mine who had moved to Homer! They didn't know them, but said that since Homer is not that big, they probably had seen them in town.

They were familiar with Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, so we had a good laugh as we remembered the particular episode in that book which happened in Waynesboro.


Special Book Section

Several months ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [3.] The entire work may be found  Here [click to read].

Saturday, December 5, 2015

When Earth's Last Picture is Painted

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XVIa

Rudyard Kipling
When Earth's Last Picture Is Painted

L'Envoi To "The Seven Seas"

When Earth's last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it -- lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.
And those that were good shall be happy; they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets' hair.
They shall find real saints to draw from -- Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the G-d of Things as They are!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Abolition of Man

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue VI

Hillsdale College is offering an online course on the works of C. S. Lewis [click to read].The first lecture is by the President of the College, Dr. Larry Ahrnn, who takes us rather rapidly into the basic premise of The Abolition of Man, a short (three chapters) work by Lewis. He cites the authors of a book on English grammar, who observe two men observing a waterfall. One calls it 'pretty,' the other says that it is 'sublime.'

The authors make a statement that one who says that the waterfall is beautiful is not making a statement on the intrinsic value of the waterfall itself, but rather to the feelings about the waterfall that reside inside him. This is key, because Lewis goes on to say that the authors are not making an observation about grammar now, but are putting forth a certain philosophy.

Lewis' larger point is that the authors are really making a pretty sweeping statement: they are claiming that there are 'facts', and there are 'mere feelings'. By 'facts', they mean, anything that doesn't contain a value judgement. So, anytime someone has an opinion about something, that person isn't actually talking about anything that is 'true' or 'real', he is just saying fluff, just speaking meaningless words. Lewis disagrees and says that things in the real world have certain intrinsic qualities about themselves, and that everyone knows and recognizes this. Two people argue whether a painting is beautiful, because both of those people are trying to grasp the true nature of the thing. In fact, people wouldn't argue about anything unless they had some external, objective reference to which they were both referring, both trying to ascertain." -- Sam Selikoff [1.]

Lewis observes a fundamental problem that we who believe in truths have in today's world. As Selkoff points out: "Things either have an objective nature or they do not; and if they do not there is no way to argue the point." Lewis, who calls the true nature of all things the Tao, observes that all societies and peoples will agree to SOME notion of objective reality, even as the textbook writers seek to deny it. Lewis points out that the writers actually are picking and choosing parts of the Tao arbitrarily, based on their own feelings.

Taking a point from Horace, Lewis suggests that man, stepping outside the guidance of the Tao, now has no 'grammar' of moral guidance to hand to future generations. Predicting that such rudderless philosophy will lead to "the Abolition of Man," Lewis predicts, rather frighteningly, modern education and popular culture's descent into discussions of self-proclaimed identity and 'tolerance/tribalism' over timeless truths. In fact, the selective reasoning is quick to dismiss any truth that is 'inconvenient' (such as a moral absolute), and replacing it with more 'timely' issues such as 'climate change.'

In light of Lewis' observations, one can easily see how someone might argue that there is no judgement to be placed on refugees before they are admitted to this country. Horace's noble point about protecting one's own countrymen is relegated to the ash heap and the one invoking Horace's ideals is indeed seen as 'uncompassionate!' (remember: you get to pick and choose now). Such is the landscape before us as we attempt to lead our fellows toward that Celestial City. We cannot expect them to follow the signs they have been told are meaningless. Those they see as the 'keepers of the Tao' have already selected for them.

That is the challenge before us, as people of Faith who are artists and writers. The challenge to once again lead our fellows to the sublime waterfall! "To Narnia and the North!," I say.

A sublime waterfall.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Special Advent Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XV

The Forgotten Season

The turkey leftovers were still cooling when the much media hyped 'Black Friday' events began. In a Long Island Wal Mart, a young associate was trampled to death as bargain hunters literally broke down the doors. A young man had to die because twenty dollars could be saved on flatscreens. Managers closed the store and someone actually was irate that he couldn't get in. Come on, if a colleague has died, its 'Game Over' on the shopping frenzy. Close the store and try to help the poor man's significant others. To hell with reopening for the remainder of the day! Management reopened the store at one o'clock that afternoon. Satirical publication 'The Onion' came out with a story where thousands were 'reported' to have died in Black Friday shopping. I did not find it funny. One death to satisfy the greed gods is too many. Our prayers go out to the family and friends of this young man. May they find comfort.

Lost in the madness of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and yes, even Small Business Saturday is the wonderful celebration of Advent. The high churches still celebrate it. It is a time of waiting and preparation for the miracle to come. It is so un-modern! It ties us to history. The traditions of Judaism are full of waiting. Abraham and Sarah saw the child of promise when they were way past the age of child bearing. I sometimes think of one-hundred year old Sarah as a preschool parent and join her in her laughter! Then there was Joseph and his imprisonment, followed by hundreds of years of exile in Egypt. We often think about the Promised Land, but we forget that all Promised Lands seem to require a prep!

In fact, there came a time when people forgot the lessons of the brick kilns and lost the Promised Land to the Babylonians and the Persians. The Temple, center of worship, was destroyed. But it was in this time of living as expats that the community of the Synagogue strengthened the people anew. Ezra and Nehemiah presided over a return to the land of promise. Again, the promise required a prep. As the exiles built the prosperity of Persia, they prepared themselves for the time when they would build their own.

A second Temple was built. The exiles returned. Then came the great empires of the Greeks and the Romans. The Temple was rebuilt, but the heavy hand of Roman rule presided over a time of trouble. Many looked to the future Messiah to put things aright. Indeed, there were many who claimed to BE Messiah. They came and went. But in a time when Heaven seemed so distant, there came another child of promise... to a couple way past child bearing. John the Baptist, a "Voice crying in the wilderness," came saying: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." At the same season of history, his mother Elizabeth's cousin Mary came to visit.

Mary had been visited by an angel and told that she, a virgin, would bear the child of promise. Though this was an incredible blessing, she faced the prospect of unwed motherhood... in a culture that stoned you for it. Her betrothed, however, had also been given a message from Heaven, that he should take her for his wife. What incredible faith and love! When I chose my Confirmation name, as a boy, I took the name Joseph. It was not that I ever thought I could match such selfless love, but that I so admired it! Even to this day, some of the people I admire the most are those men who have stepped into the lives of children they did not physically father, and yet have earned the name Dad nonetheless! These men live as both an example and a challenge to me. Some of them are my juniors in years, but they far surpass in their maturity!

Such are the lessons we miss if we merely content ourselves with instant gratification. There is an old saying: "Rome wasn't built in a day." Indeed our own nation cast off from its sure position as an English colony to pursue an uncertain future. In 1812 England returned to burn the young country's capital. The White House is so called because its sandstone outer walls had to be painted after the burning left them permanently blackened. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, however, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building great ships to strengthen Bristol's trade with America. A hundred years after barely surviving her revolution, the nation we know had taken her place as a world power.

Why Advent is Important to Artists [click to read]

Advent is a celebration of the incarnation. It is perhaps the greatest of Christian mysteries, that the Creator G-d would voluntarily and willfully become Man. The Infinite would clothe Himself in the finite. G-d would love us to such a degree that He would become one of us, G-d with Us, Emmanuel." -- Manuel Luz

We do well to celebrate Advent, though it is largely forgotten in the popular narrative, because it causes us to pause and prepare. In a world where preparation is limited to four years it does us good to remember the lessons of centuries. Advent allows us to step back from our busy lives and ponder timeless truths... like the man that the Bethlehem baby grew to be. He too died, some say on a Friday, but his death was not just his own. Did He indeed carry the sins of the world? The account of His Resurrection causes us to ponder mysteries far greater than ourselves and our puny wants. We should indeed consider the life of this man.

Art is incarnational by nature. Art is the incarnation of concepts and ideas and emotions onto a canvas or a page or a stage or a screen. The act of art is to take these ideas and flesh them out in our artistic mediums—the visual arts, the literary arts, dance and movement, cinema and videography, music, theater. In the same way, our Artist G-d takes His love for us and fleshes it out by entering into the universe by becoming human. Jesus, “through Him all things were made,” becomes man." -- Manuel Luz

Photos Around Staunton

Snow highlights this house in Staunton, Virginia, designed by noted architect T. J. Collins. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The firm of T. J. Collins also designed The Church of the Good Shepherd which was built in 1924. The sanctuary originally had oil lamps. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Isn't this a great message! When I saw this, I smiled back!  
Photo by Bob Kirchman

Paul Smith's Typewriter Art

A man with severe cerebral palsy creates amazing compositions on a typewriter!


Special Book Section

Several months ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [3.] The entire work may be found  Here [click to read].

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Special Thanksgiving Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XIV

Thanksgiving is Good for You

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” -- Psalm 100:4-5 NIV

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] once featured the story: "Why ANXIETY is Good for You." We at THYME see this one a bit differently. In the Bible, Philippians 4:6 exhorts us NOT to be anxious. Rather we are to view our needs in light of our relationship to a loving G-d. Indeed, our requests are presented in light of the gratitude we feel as we consider the goodness and provision to be found in the Divine.

Fitting thoughts as we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving. These are indeed anxious times, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the general angst of the period we live in. History tells us of Divine promise and fulfillment. The Patriarchs piled up stones to remind them of G-d's faithfulness in the past and to keep them faithful as they waited to see His faithfulness in their present lives.

And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee." -- Deuteronomy 27:2-3
Indeed, one must recount the stories of how G-d met needs in times past. One must also tell of the promises of G-d. Faith needs fuel, and Gratitude is the substance that makes our faith burn bright, even in the darkest of times.

Standing on the Promises [1.]

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of G-d.
Standing, standing,
standing on the promises of Christ my Savior;
standing, standing,
I'm standing on the promises of G-d.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of G-d I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of G-d.

3. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love's strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword,
standing on the promises of G-d.

4. Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit's call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of G-d.

The staff of THYME wish you a most blessed Thanksgiving!

The 'Common Course and Condition' 
America's First Experiment with Socialism

When the Pilgrims first set up their economic system in Plymouth they opted for a system where all the results of their labor were held in common. All of the colonists then drew from the common store what they lived on. The Common Course and Condition, as this system was called, resulted in some bad feelings on the part of those who produced effectively and some lack of initiative on the part of those who were happy to have the food without the work.

The system produced constant shortages and a man who rose early and worked diligently came quite naturally to resent his neighbor who slept in and contributed less effort. Friction was high among the colonists and in 1623 Governor William Bradford declared the common course a failure.

The colonists were next assigned plots by families. Larger families were given larger plots. Everyone was responsible for the production of his own land and growing food for his own family. The results were notable. Far more crops were planted and tended. There was plenty instead of shortage and all in response to this new sense of ownership.

First Thanksgiving in Virginia

On September 16, 1619, 38 English colonists lead by Captain John Woodlief set sail from Britian aboard the ship: Margaret. Ten weeks later they landed at Berkeley Hundred. The settlers, sent by the London Company, established Berkeley Plantation. In a message from the company that accompanied the settlers were the following instructions:

We ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty G-d." 

On December 4, 1619 Woodlief and the settlers celebrated what may very well be the first Thanksgiving in America. [2.]

Church Found where 
Pocohantas was Married

Her eyes meet yours as you enter the Virginia Executive Mansion. A young girl from days long ago, yet her presence in the foyer immediately captured my attention. There are two portraits of Pocahontas in the room, one in English clothing (below) and the more familiar rendering seen above.

Pocahontas's formal names were Matoaka (or Matoika) and Amonute. Pocahontas is a childhood name that perhaps referred to her playful nature. After her marriage to John Rolfe, she was known as Rebecca Rolfe.

Archeologists say that they have Discovered the Church [click to read] where Pocahontas married Jamestown planter John Rolfe.

Harvest Hymn Written 
in 1844 by Henry Alford

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” is a harvest hymn written in 1844 by Henry Alford. It is often sung to the tune “St. George's Windsor” by George Job Elvey. So I created this in light of Thanksgiving to remind us of what we should really be thankful for. Two of my photos are overlayed with the text of the hymn added." -- Kristina Elaine Greer Photo Graphic by Kristina Elaine Greer

View Larger Image [click to view].


Special Book Section

Several months ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [3.] The entire work may be found  Here [click to read].

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Power of Prayer

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XIIId

The Power of Prayer

Monday, November 23, 2015

Books to Inspire Young Hearts

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume X, Issue XIIIc

The Power of True Stories

When I was thirteen, my uncle gave me a copy of Endurance to read one Summer. The heroic story of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and his men surviving the entrapment by ice and crushing of their ship riveted me. The men pile supplies into lifeboats and drag them like sleds across the ice, then set to sea in the hopes of reaching land hundreds of miles away. Finally the men reach land... but it is a harsh land, and they live under the shelter of the lifeboats as they ponder what to do next. The story of the aptly-named Endurance is one EVERY thirteen year old boy should have handed to him. In it are many lessons for life ahead.

Unbroken, the story of Olympian Louie Zamperini and his wartime comrades was written by Laura Hillenbrand. Her telling of Louie's story was as riveting as Endurance had been so long ago. Unbroken follows Louie through his troubled childhood to a place where he finds purpose in running. It follows him through the trials and terrors of the great war in the Pacific, to a place where he finds a far greater place of redemption. The story deals with the powerful theme of human dignity... given and taken away. It deals with the place of hopelessness and resources unseen.

It is a story that must take its place in literature for young adults and indeed for all of us. I am sure that I am not alone in seeing much of myself in Louie Zamperini. His turbulent youth, his disappointments and his struggle will resonate with a lot of us. Follow this great story to this conclusion and you will indeed find a 'Pearl of Great Price.' -- Matthew 13:45-46

B-24 Liberator
B-24 cockpit.

B-24 Liberator
Ball turret.

The plane's radio.

Louis Zamperini Honored

Greg Laurie interviews Louis Zamperini.

The Power of Forgiving

The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormenters suffer." -- Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken, p. 373.

Ouch! Louis Zamperini delivers a blow to the ego. Having suffered the most dehumanizing and degrading treatment at the hands of his captors, he finds the strength to forgive. In doing so, he reflects the best in humanity... IMAGO DEI, and the inference is powerful! Any of us can find that place of strength that Zamperini discovered. The freedom Louie Zamperini found is there for the taking! Here is a story where the end is truly the beginning.

The Power of Giving

The story of Dr Prajak Arunthong. ht/Kristina Elaine Greer.

Sir Ernest H. Shackleton

Glass plate photo of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton.


Special Book Section

Several months ago we began the serial presentation of "Pontifus, The Bridge Builder's Tale in Three Parts." [3.] The entire work may be found  Here [click to read].