Wednesday, December 28, 2016

THYME's 'Esther of the Year'

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue XXII

The Unsung Hero

A new movie debuts this Winter about the unsung heroes of our space program... the WOMEN of Langley Research Center's West Computing Division. They were the ones who performed the mathematics that allowed our astronauts to go to the moon and return safely to Earth! When NASA needed the best mathematicians it could find, Katherine Johnson and her colleagues at Langley were ready! My Mother had done similar work for the Martin Company in Baltimore as they built seaplanes in their Middle-river Plant. I believe she mentioned these ladies once or twice but I never really learned their story. The movie Hidden Figures will help to correct that oversight.

The fact that a group of largely African-American women were paving the way for mankind to travel to the moon in Massive Resistance Virginia should be a story every schoolchild learns... as one should learn of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers. The America we know is built on the contributions of many diverse hands. E Pluribus Unum takes on new significance when you realize that there are times in our history that it really shined! We need to make these stories a part of our culture, first of all in order to better appreciate each other, and secondly, we need to encourage our young people to prepare for such opportunities in the future!

Katherine Johnson was blessed with parents who valued education as a preparation for opportunity. Her father worked extra shifts as a handyman at the Greenbrier Resort in the hopes of giving his children an education. His daughter showed herself early-on to be brilliant at mathematics. But she might have still become discouraged were it not for some great mentors who came her way. Her high school principal opened the wonders of astronomy to her... lifting her eyes to see the stars.

Her college professor saw her potential and created classes just for her, knowing she would need them to pursue positions in research... which he nudged her to pursue as a career. Sometimes the class was only her, but with a wonderful mentor, Katherine learned much for the future she could not even imagine awaited her! Upon graduation from college, she became a math teacher (my Mother did the same) until Langley reached out to find the best mathematicians they could.

It is a great blessing and a sacred trust to be able to teach and guide young people. That is why, while acknowledging Ms. Johnson as an unsung hero, we must also give honor and place to the wonderful parents and teachers who showed her the way.

Dorothy Vaughan is one of the ladies who made up Langley's West Computing Division.


Unsung Heroes of the Highways
Virginia Department of Transportation
Workers' Memorial

VDOT Workers' Memorial
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

VDOT Workers' Memorial
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

VDOT Workers' Memorial
Photo by Bob Kirchman.

On the side of a mountain in Albemarle County, Virginia there is a scenic pullout on Interstate 64 overlooking the Southwest Mountains and the Rockfish Valley. Here stands a most fitting tribute to the workers who keep our roads safe and moving... and have sacrificed their lives in that work.

The simple memorial concept is a collaboration between VDOT Design Engineer Harry Lee and his daughter, Stephanie. It was not built with public funds, being financed wholly by donations from VDOT workers and their friends.

The wall is inscribed with the names of highway workers killed in the line of duty. The silhouette of a hard-hatted worker is repeated at the Eastern edge of the wall, reflecting the diverse group of people who work together to keep our roads safe. The Eastern edge creates a silhouetted void to honor the 'missing man.'

Driving to Charlottesville, I receive a call from the client I am rushing to see... she is running late. I pull into the overlook and pay a visit to the memorial. It's message is simple. Every road worker is someone's son or daughter, father or spouse. We should pass through the work zones like they are our own. Every day highway workers go out to keep us on schedule and safe. When we slow down and move over, we return them the favor.

'Citizens' Sculpture
Tennessee Welcome Center on Interstate 81

Sculpture by Joe Falsetti at the Tennessee Welcome Center on Interstate 81. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

The sculpture at the Tennessee Welcome Center is a visual representation of the people who make up a great state and a great nation. It inspires us to see what noble men and women have built and given to us and to aspire to do the same for our children and grandchildren.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Christmas Treasury

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue XXI

A Christmas Treasury

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

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 14, 2016

Special Christmas Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XI, Issue XX

A Repeat of One of Our Favorite Issues

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.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The American Pioneers

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XIXa

America mourns the passing of Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to fly in Earth orbit. He was born in Cambridge Ohio in 1921. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1942. Commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1943, he flew 59 combat missions. He then served in the Korean War.

He was selected as one of the original seven Mercury Astronauts and was the first to fly on the Mercury-Atlas into orbital flight. Originally cleared for a longer mission, his flight was cut to theree orbits when a warning light indicated that the heat shield had possibly come loose. The heat shield was supposed to do that after reentry as their was a cushion sack to soften the landing into the ocean, but if it came loose before reentry, the craft could be burned up.

NASA engineers decided to keep the heat shield in place by not jettisoning the retro-rocket pack, strapped over the heat shield, that slowed the craft from orbital velocity for reentry. Glenn describes the glow of the melting retro pack outside the spacecraft window as: "a real fireball!" Glenn landed safely. The American space-age had fully begun.

But the Astronauts, like John Glenn, were simply the most visible heroes in a team of thousands who worked together to achieve a new leap in human exploration. There were other pioneers as well, such as the women of Langley Research Center's West Computing Division such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

These ladies broke barriers not only in their calculation of launch windows and trajectories, but in pushing new frontiers in opportunity for achievement. Their story is told in the upcoming movie: Hidden Figures [click to read] coming out this Winter. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why We Love Rocky!

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XIX

Why We Love Rocky!

It has been forty years since the release of Sylvester Stallone's classic movie about a washed-up fighter taking his unexpected opportunity and 'Going the Distance.' Here is some insight into the making of the film and Stallone's daring to tell his story:

The long shot story of Stallone and his alter-ego: 'Rocky.'

Everyman's struggle! Rocky Balboa has come to represent the struggle we all relate to. Unknown actor Sylvester Stallone Stallone quickly wrote out the eighty page screenplay in a spiral notebook and pitched it in a last-ditch effort to make his mark in movies. The rest is history.

Who hasn't intensified a workout to the music of 'Gonna Fly Now?' The song captures something of the American Spirit... the drive to overcome in the face of unbeatable odds. It is a quality we need to nurture.

Gonna Fly Now!

Rocky I

Rocky II

Rocky III

Dr. Katherine Johnson
Part of the Inspiration for 'Hidden Figures'

Dr. Katherine Johnson. NASA Photo

A new film debuts at the end of this year about the ladies who made up a special mathematics group at Langley Research Center. I must confess that I had heard discussion long ago about a group of women who had actually calculated the launch windows and trajectory information for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, but I never knew much about them. Fortunately their story was too good to be left untold and the film is based on a nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, who grew up near NASA's Langley Research Center, where Johnson and her colleagues worked.

As a girl, Johnson says that she loved to count. She was fascinated by numbers. Her father worked at West Virginia's Greenbrier Resort and wanted his children to go to college. He worked all the overtime he could to pay for it. Johnson Graduated from High School at fourteen, college at eighteen. Her High School Principal would walk her home and show her the constellations above. He literally showed her how to 'reach for the stars!' An article in 'Business Insider says: "Later, she was mentored by Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor, who suggested she aim to become a research mathematician. He created the classes he knew she would need to succeed, including one in which she was the only student. Throughout her education, she says she succeeded in part because she was always asking questions — even when people tried to ignore her, her hand stayed up."

After college, Katherine became a math teacher. She was hired in 1953 to work for NASA — then called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In those days, human mathematicians were essential to aerospace engineering. My Mother had done the same kind of work at the Martin Company in Baltimore in the 1940's. Computers would take a while longer to catch up with these slide-rule wizards. Dr. Johnson and her colleagues performed the calculations that literally paved the way for man to go to the moon.

Hidden Figures [click to read] debuts this Winter.

The Place of Faith in Education
A Unique Perspective on the Issue from CIVITAS


Education is only adequate and worthy when it is itself religious… There is no possibility of neutrality… To be neutral concerning G-d is the same thing as to ignore Him… If children are brought up to have an understanding of life in which, in fact, there is no reference to G-d, you cannot correct the effect of that by speaking about G-d for a certain period of the day. Therefore our ideal for the children of our country is the ideal for truly religious education." -- William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942.

Here is a very interesting report from CIVITAS [1.], on The Place of Faith in Schools [click to read] by Professor David Conway. It adds a new dimension to the debate now raging in America between those who would impose a strictly secular criteria and those who consider Faith an essential component of learning.

A nation which draws into itself continuously, and not merely in its first beginnings, the inspiration of a religious faith and a religious purpose will increase its own vitality… Our own nation… has been inspired by a not ignoble notion of national duty to aid the oppressed – the persecuted Vaudois, the suffering slave, the oppressed nationality – and it has been most... characteristically national when it has most felt such inspiration…

We offend against the essence of the [English] nation if we emphasise its secularity, or regard it as merely an earthly unit for earthly purposes. Its tradition began its life at the breast of Christianity; and its development in time, through the centuries… has not been utterly way from its nursing mother… [I]n England our national tradition has been opposed to the idea of a merely secular society for secular purposes standing over against a separate religious society for religious purposes. Our practice has been in the main that of the single society, which if national is also religious, making public profession of Christianity in its solemn acts, and recognising religious instruction as part of its scheme of education." -- Ernest Barker, Cambridge Philosopher

Professor Conway  Concludes: "All would stand to benefit from such committed forms of religious education in the country’s state-funded schools, not simply because it would be likely to improve the educational performance, behaviour and well-being of the nation’s schoolchildren. They would also all benefit because, I believe, only by continuing to provide it can this country be assured of remaining the independent and united liberal polity that it has for so long been and from whose continuing to be such all its diverse inhabitants would derive benefit, even those who do not share that faith or any other."


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Interview with Neil Armstrong

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XIII

A Repeat of One of Our Favorite Issues

Interview with Neil Armstrong!

The first man to set foot on the moon!

In this rare series of interviews, Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, tells the story of the historic mission from his own perspective. [1.] Alex Malley of Australia's EvoTV's The Bottom Line looks at the life and leadership of the lunar mission's commander. Fascinated by aircraft, even at a very early age, Armstrong obtained his pilot's license at the age of fifteen!

He went on to fly combat missions during the Korean War and later became a test pilot. He then became an astronaut as NASA geared up to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon in the decade and return him safely to earth.

The Russians had already orbited the first satellite, Sputnik, on October 4, 1957 and subsequently orbited cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin as the Americans struggled to develop a dependable booster. After Alan Shepard's short suborbital flight in 1961, President Kennedy challenged the fledgeling space agency to go to the moon.

Armstrong is refreshingly honest in his discussion with Malley. The interview is presented in four parts and is worth watching to the very end. Neil Armstrong expresses very real concern that the space agency lacks the vision and sense of purpose it had in those early years. He ends with a challenge that we as a people would do well to heed and pursue in our own time!

Forty-seven years ago two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it.

Solving an Age Old Problem

At Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, items left on a plane are returned quickly as Sherlock sniffs out their owners!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Special Advent Edition

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XVII

A Repeat of One of Our Favorite Issues

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!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Special Thanksgiving Issue

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XVI

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.

Not be anxious? In today's world? That is precisely the direction given the believer. We live in a stress-filled world and we are not commanded to shut ourselves away but rather to interact with it... becoming a conduit for G-d's Love to reach it. Indeed History shows us people of Faith fighting plagues, caring for the helpless and generally DOING things, often navigating the best course we can in unclear situations. We are NOT helpless, though we often seem to labor in insufficient light.

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.

Church Found where 
Pocahontas 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]

The First Thanksgiving... in VIRGINIA!

It wasn't a grand feast, but rather a time of giving thanks! on December 4, 1619, almost 2 years before the pilgrims held the feast with their Native American benefactors, Captain John Woodlief came ashore near the present site of the Berkeley Plantation. He had sailed from Bristol, England in the Good Ship Margaret with 35 men. They had survived a harrowing storm on November 29th and felt great gratitude for their deliverance. Here is Their Story [click to read].

Lessons from Squanto for Today

The Man Who Taught the Pilgrims Offers Wisdom

Squanto teaching
In this 1911 illustration, Tisquantum teaches the settlers how to plant maize.

Here is an interesting ebook: Squanto's Garden [click to read] from Off the Grid News. Most of us know some snippets of Squanto's story... how he taught the settlers how to successfully cultivate the soil of their new home, but Bill Heid actually shares some practical gardening tips and garden layouts that Squanto might have shared with the Pilgrims. He also fills out Tisquantum's story, giving us insight into a man who's unusual life uniquely equipped him to teach others.

The Sun burns through a morning mist on Thanksgiving Eve.

A Native American's Amazing Story

" ... a special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations ..." -- William Bradford

Today millions of Americans will dine on turkey and celebrate Thanksgiving. Most people will realize that it has some connection to the Pilgrims in Massachussetts, but the story of G-d's provision and the reason for the celebration seem to have faded in our collective memories.

The Pilgrims came to the New World for their kids. They were a Christian group who sought to live for G-d rather than be seduced by the culture around them. They lived in Holland for a while but they saw their children falling away from the faith.

So they moved. They sought passage on a ship bound for Virginia. The ship went off course and they landed in Massachussetts instead. They had a rough time of it their first winter and almost half of them died. Still, when offered the chance to return to Europe, they declined. Then one of the indigenous people walked into camp and spoke to them in English!

The man's name was Samoset, and he introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who taught the Pilgrims many things to help them survive in the new world. Squanto spoke even better English than Samoset. His story is amazing.

Squanto had first met Europeans around 1605 when Captain John Smith made his famous voyage. He travelled to England with him but when he returned to America he was captured into slavery and returned to Europe. Spanish monks bought his freedom and sent him to England where he found passage back to America. Sadly, his village was now gone, the people wiped out by disease. He found people nearby to live with but one day heard that a new group of people were living where his old village had stood. What's more, they spoke that funny new language that he had learned.

Samoset made the introduction and the rest, you might say, is history. Thanks to Squanto the Pilgrims survived and began to do quite well in the new world. Their relations with the Native people were quite good and their Thanksgiving was for the amazing provision they found in Squanto, of whom it was said:

" ... He desired honor, which he loved as his life and preferred before his peace ..."

Factory stacks in Waynesboro, Virginia. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

Something to Think About
[click to read]

Hate Didn’t Elect Donald Trump; People Did
By Victoria Sanders

Over the summer, my little sister had a soccer tournament at Bloomsburg University, located in central Pennsylvania. The drive there was about three hours and many of the towns we drove through shocked me. The conditions of these towns were terrible. Houses were falling apart. Bars and restaurants were boarded up. Scrap metal was thrown across front lawns. White, plastic lawn chairs were out on the drooping front porches. There were no malls. No outlets. Most of these small towns did not have a Walmart, only a dollar store and a few run down thrift stores. In almost every town, there was an abandoned factory.

My father, who was driving the car, turned to me and pointed out a Trump sign stuck in a front yard, surrounded by weeds and dead grass. “This is Trump country, Tori,” He said. “These people are desperate, trapped for life in these small towns with no escape. These people are the ones voting for Trump.”

My father understood Trump’s key to success, even though it would leave the media and half of America baffled and terrified on November 9th. (read more)

Corridor H, U. S. 48 through the mountains of West Virginia, promises to bring commerce and jobs to the region. Photo by Bob Kirchman.

A billboard between the towns of Thomas and Davis in West Virginia asks: "Got Faith?" Photo by Bob Kirchman.