Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Building Bridges

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue IX

Building Bridges

One of my favorite scenes in the movie: 'Remember the Titans' is the one where Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell realize that they are indeed brothers. Though they are of different cultures in segregated Virginia, they come together as teammates and develop bonds that are far deeper. The film is one we should perhaps dust off in these difficult days and pause as well at the scene where the team runs at dawn to the battlefields of Gettysburg.Coach Herman Boone speaks:

Anybody know what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the Battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin' the same fight that we're still fightin' amongst ourselves today.

This green field right here was painted red, bubblin' with the blood of young boys, smoke and hot lead pourin' right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men:

I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.'

You listen. And you take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed -- just like they were. I don't care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other. And maybe -- I don't know -- maybe we'll learn to play this game like men."

Indeed, upon learning of the death of the Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney and eight of his congregation, I read his biography on the church website. I grieved a brother. The man and I held dear the same things. He died loving the people of G-d and building the Unseen Kingdom. Reverend Pinckney and his little circle were co-laborers in my most cherished work.

Surely that would be a brief thought, only to be lost in the onslaught of politicized news to come in the days to follow.

But I had made a fatal miscalculation. I underestimated the G-d that Reverend Pinckney and I serve (the present tense in intentional, for I believe he stands in the Presence of our shared Master today). To know the true greatness of a man, look at his pupils! As the members of the congregation who had just lost loved ones at the hands of a depraved gunman stepped forward to extend forgiveness to him, I recognized the hand of the Divine in their lives.

As thousands lined the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, arms and hands joined,to remember and pray; the Divine was at work! Dr. Henry Blackaby tells us to look for G-d at work and join him in that work. That call is clear today.

The Magic Garden
Magic Garden Morning.

Once, I looked up and I saw Heaven, a world above me brightly shining. My heart cried for wings. I looked around me and saw pain and suffering. The world was grey. I looked down and I saw a child with tear stained cheeks I reached out and grabbed his hand he looked at me and smiled. I saw a flower bloom red and full of life. The child picked the red flower and turned to his mother. She stood alone sad and cold. The child gave the red flower to his mother and her hard face softened I looked and saw a blue rippling stream. The mother saw an old crippled man, who could not move his legs to get a drink. She carried the man to the stream and gave him water to drink. He cried tears of joy. I saw a yellow bird sing. The old crippled man learned the yellow bird’s song and shared it with all he could see and everyone who heard it would feel happy. I saw rainbows shoot across the sky. I went on my way reaching out, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, seeing for the blind, hearing for the deaf, befriending the friendless, singing to bring happiness, and loving the loveless. Then one day I looked back and realized I had wings all along. My wings had been the love reached out to heal others who were broken. My heart burst with joy.

-- Kristina Elaine Greer

A MagicGarden
Rainbows Over the Magic Garden.

Builders and Blessed Peacemakers

There is much news in these days. Not all of it is good, yet I firmly believe that beyond all the distractions there is great reason for hope. We have faced dark and troubling times before, yet we have seen the hand of the Divine work through ordinary people... and history was changed by it. So please join me in praying for the hand of the Divine to "give us wings," as my friend Kristina says, to do His bidding. We can, inspired by the Spirit of G-d, build His Kingdom! Here are some stories to spur us on.

Making a Country Great
[click to read]

In the early 1860’s there were two Americas. There were the Eastern states who would all too soon divide into Union and Confederacy, but then there was California. Although America stretched from “sea to shining sea,” California was isolated from the East by what many considered miles of uninhabitable desert. To get to California, one often took passage on a ship to Panama, made a short trip overland and then boarded another ship for San Francisco. California, in time, could have easily become another country. (Read More)

The Gift Horse
[click to read]

If there was anything that bothered Rupert Zimmerman it was 'impossibility' created solely by bureaucratic convolutions. When the family packed in the car during his youth to visit the extended family in Michigan, they were inevitably faced with the Breezewood Interchange on Interstate Seventy. On Summer road trips the mighty highway's brief diversion to the old Lincoln highway resulted in gargantuan traffic jams, boiling radiators and often as many boiling tempers. Zimmerman's father REFUSED to stop at the roadside businesses who's continual lobbying fended off many a reasonable attempt to build the connection. (Read More)

I am repeating this issue because it is what I want to think of and practice as yet another American city descends into chaos. May we all find our 'wings' today!

The America I Love

Not long after Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin, Cyrus McCormick invented another significant agricultural invention that revolutionized farming: the mechanical reaper. In the shop of this mill in the Great Valley of Virginia, McCormick built the prototype for his mechanical harvester. His invention would revolutionize agriculture around the world.

McCormick was the eldest son of Robert McCormick, a farmer, blacksmith, and inventor. McCormick’s education, in local schools, was limited. Reserved, determined, and serious-minded, he spent all of his time in his father’s workshop.

The elder McCormick had invented several practical farm implements but, like other inventors in the United States and England, had failed in his attempt to build a successful reaping machine. In 1831 Cyrus, aged 22, tried his hand at building a reaper. Resembling a two-wheeled, horse-drawn chariot, the machine consisted of a vibrating cutting blade, a reel to bring the grain within its reach, and a platform to receive the falling grain. The reaper embodied the principles essential to all subsequent grain-cutting machines." -- Encyclopedia Britannica [1.]

Cyrus McCormick Mill Wheel

Cyrus McCormick Mill Wheel

Cyrus McCormick Mill Wheel
At Robert McCormick's mill and shops, his 22 year old son Cyrus invented the first practical harvesting machine.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Republic, if You Can Keep It

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue VIII

The American Promise is succinctly presented in a new book by Eric Metaxas: If You Can Keep It which begins with the famous exchange between Benjamin Franklin and a Mrs. Powell in Philadelphia as Franklin emerged from the Constitutional Convention. Mrs. Powell is said to have asked: "Well, doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?" to which Franklin responded: "A republic, madam -- if you can keep it." Metaxas goes on to examine the unique promise of this new republic, which was founded on the idea of liberty rather than simply arranged around a nationality or a people group. Though a number of reviewers chide Metaxas for passing quickly over the more mercenary elements in our nation's founding, he is holding the magnifying glass squarely over those elements of America's founding that enabled a diverse group of colonists and subsequent immigrants to become a great nation.

There was no internet in the days before independence. There were a number of very local newspapers. Thus the arrival of George Whitefield [1.] and his great revivals laid the groundwork for a shared dialogue among the colonists that was rooted in Divine principle! Those who would emphasize the mercenary elements of our founding are all too quick to dismiss the effect of men like Whitefield and the Wesley Brothers. Metaxas does us a great service by emphasizing the place of Faith and the colonists who indeed came seeking religious freedom. It is worth remembering that the very universities that rail against such notions as noble founding were originally founded to bring Faith to the New World, emphasizing the education of Native Americans in the principles of Faith and freedom. That Dartmouth and William and Mary's mascots are American Natives today is silent witness to this profound truth.

Metaxas explains a concept known as the Golden Triangle of Freedom which is all but forgotten in modern thought: Freedom Requires Virtue, Virtue Requires Faith, Faith Requires Freedom. Franklin, the 'least religious' founder understood this. He said: "As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." Toqueville observed: "Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country."

One should be asking hard questions then of a modern media that quickly derides Tim Tebow for admitting to the place his faith plays in is life, especially as they laud multimillionaire athlete Colin Kaepernick for his supposedly 'principled' stand -- er -- KNEEL in protest of what he sees as the unjustice of America. Indeed the First Amendment gives him the right to have his tantrum, even as he draws his enormous salary, but that same First Amendment protects those athletes who donned special cleats in memory of those who died in the attacks on America on September 11, 2001. The NFL fined them. I guess that is their 'right' as an employer, but when the Redskins and the Steelers joined American servicemen in holding the flag, they speak for a lot more of us than the 'Politically Correct' do. Modern media and the academy selectively ignore this country's noble beginnings as they are quick to point out its faults.

In fact, if one is honest with history there is indeed injustice and human failing in our country, but it is the principles of Faith that have elevated our response in answer to it! Metaxas goes on to point out the importance of moral leaders and that it is important to recognize the unique place and promise of America.

In his final Narnia book, The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis talks about loving not England but God's England. What is God's idea of England?  Because that is what God calls us to love in England. And what is God's idea of America? Because it is that in America and that alone that God calls us -- nay, commands us -- to love. Because the love of what is good and true and beautiful in anything will become the portal through which we love all that is good and true and beautiful beyond it. If we do not love America and teach our children to love America -- as God loves her -- we can never love the world beyond our shores and can never teach our children to do the same. And that, precisely, is our promise. That is the promise of America. It is why we came into existence and it is why we have flourished and why we must continue to do so." -- Eric Metaxas.


Undoing the 'Peculiar Institution'
[click to read]


With five simple words in the Declaration of Independence—“all men are created equal”—Thomas Jefferson undid Aristotle’s ancient formula, which had governed human affairs until 1776: “From the hour of their birth, some men are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce ...this assemblage of horrors,” a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberties.” As historian John Chester Miller put it, “The inclusion of Jefferson’s strictures on slavery and the slave trade would have committed the United States to the abolition of slavery.” -- Henry Wiencek [1.]

Jefferson also penned, borrowing from John Locke, the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. Locke's original list was actually "life, liberty and ESTATE," not simply 'property' as is often reported. Estate meaning a good deal more than one's physical possessions and 'pursuit of happiness' more an idea of Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus and referring to the pursuit of 'true happiness' or 'virtue.'

Whether or not the author of America's founding document saw ahead to an eventual abolition of slavery is debatable, but it is quite clear that this editorial choice bode well for the struggle for freedom. Wiencek has documented that Jefferson retreated from his more abolitionist notions in later writings, but the foundation had been laid in the subtle direction taken by the Declaration. (read more)

The America I Love 

The Lawn, Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Here is imagined the view first designed by the patriot before the construction of Old Cabell Hall closed in the lawn.
Overlay of open lawn by Bob Kirchman. 

Thomas Jefferson also designed the Virginia State Capitol.

Fountain at the Virginia State Capitol.

Jefferson's home at Poplar Forest near Lynchburg.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Surprised by Joy

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue VII

Cover: Addison's Walk (originally called the Water Walk) is a picturesque footpath around a small island in the River Cherwell in the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford, England. There are beautiful views of Magdalen Tower and Magdalen Bridge from along the walk. The walk is named after Joseph Addison (1672–1719), a Fellow of the College from 1698 to 1711, who enjoyed walking there and wrote articles in The Spectator about landscape gardening. The path most likely dates from the 16th century, although the name "Addison's Walk" has only been in use since the 19th century. Addison's Walk originally finished at Dover Pier, an old Civil War gun position on the River Cherwell. It was made into a circular walk in the 19th century. The walk is referenced frequently in Justin Cartwright's novel The Song Before it is Sung. Addison's Walk was a favourite walk of the author C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), who for much of his life was another Fellow of Magdalen College. He regularly frequented Addison's Walk with friends who included Hugo Dyson and J. R. R. Tolkien.
-- Wikipedia 

Our childhoods shape how we see the world. Our early experiences help define for us the struggle and the place of Faith in our lives. Here is an excellent piece on C. S. Lewis's observations on his own childhood and what he learned.

C. S. Lewis's story of his own journey to Faith.

Lewis describes the discoveries of his own childhood and how they coloured his coming to Faith. The simple creation by his brother Warnie of a garden in a box opened up the perception of joy and natural beauty to the young 'Jack,' who in his earliest days combined his love of knights in armor and 'dressed animals' to write fanciful stories.

Years later, he and his fellow 'Inklings' would return to such fancies to write the literature they felt no one else was writing. Their work forever enriched the literature of modern times, giving us Middle Earth and Narnia! Their work overlaid the modern 'world of reason' with the proper workings of Imagination and Meaning.

The Life of George Whitefield
[click to read]

by Josh Nielsen

George Whitefield was born in the Bell Inn in Gloucester, England on December 16, 1714. His father, Thomas, was the innkeeper there and was also a wine merchant (Anglican Library). Whitefield often made use of the events of his birth in his sermons later on in his life to “magnify” (Ruttenburg 437) his humble beginnings, though far from being prideful, saying that his nativity followed after “the example of [his] dear Saviour, who was born in a manger belonging to an inn” (Lambert 228-229). Lambert also says that Whitefield defended his autobiography against those who thought it presumptuous to parallel himself with Christ, declaring that “‘the Circumstance of my being born in an Inn has often been of Service to me’ in introducing men and women to the new birth” (229).

George was the youngest of seven children in his family. His father died when he was only two years old and his mother then struggled to provide for her family and run the inn (Anglican Library). George went off to St. Mary de Crypt Grammar School when he was twelve where he “earned a reputation as an actor and orator, but also a[s] a persistent truant” (A short biography of George Whitefield). Believing he would never make a use of his education, at age 15, he talked his mother into allowing him to drop school and help work in the inn (ibid).

One day a student from Oxford visited the inn and spoke to his Mother about how he worked his way through college, and it encouraged George to return to grammar school so he could attend Oxford (Anglican Library). After another year he then went on to Oxford where “he was enabled to attend despite humble family circumstances… by acting as servitor to a number of wealthy students” (Ruttenburg 432). Going to Oxford turned out to be a life changing experience for Whitefield. (read more)

"Safe Danger," The Studio Path
[click to read]

Creating a Journey in a Garden Walk

"Kirstien Tower"

Phillip Johnson, the architect famous for his 'Glass House' also created on his Connecticut estate a monument to his college friend Lincoln Kirstien. Kirstien was a poet, connoisseur, philanthropist, and cultural figure in New York City. He helped found the New York City Ballet. Johnson's monument to his friend, the Kirstien Tower, is a steep stairway of stepping stones into the Heavens. A fitting tribute to a creative spirit!

In describing the tower, Johnson refers to the term 'Safe Danger.' Indeed the steep ascent requires stepping into the unknown and creates a feeling of excitement. Every venture into the creative world should. Thus the pathway to my studio, originally created by the need for an economical solution became a similar stairway into creative wonder. I don't think the Kirstien Tower was a direct inspiration so much as a wondrous connection to my own bit of 'Safe Danger.' (read more)

The Soldier Bear

Wojtek, the Soldier Bear actually fought in World War II with a unit of the Polish Army!

The America I Love

Claudius Crozet
Bas relief of Claudius Crozet, engineer of the Blue Ridge Tunnel, at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.

Traveller's Grave
The grave of Traveller, Robert E. Lee's war horse, beside Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia.

Massanutten Waterslide
Waterslide, Massanutten, Virginia.


Saturday, September 10, 2016


Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue VIa

Remembering September 11, 2001

Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to G-d
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Lower Manhattan, New York, New York. Photo by Detective Greg Smedinger
Arlington, Virginia.
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Preaching about Political Policies

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue VI

Four Reasons Christians
Should Care About Politics
[click to read]

By David Closson

During the course of a presidential campaign, it is common to hear evangelicals, especially younger ones, quip, “I’m just not that interested in politics,” or, “Politics just aren’t my thing.” These dismissive remarks are often delivered with a veneer of piousness implying that political engagement is inherently defiled, occupying an arena unfit for those serious about the gospel. For those inundated with television ads, robo-calls, campaign mail and the overall negative tone of politics, this might be a tempting position to adopt. However, it is not a position Bible-believing, gospel-loving Christians can or should accept as congruent with Scripture. (read more)

Dr. Wayne Grudem at the Watchmen on the Wall Conference in Washington DC, a conference for pastors and church leaders.

The gospel is a holistic message with implications for all areas of life, including how Christians engage the political process." -- David Closson

Public Service as a Holy Calling
William Wiberforce and the Abolition of Slavery

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
William Wilberforce (1759-1833).

A Milestone Monday Feature

Born to priveledge and prone to enjoy the pleasures his status afforded, William Wilberforce would have seemed an unlikely candidate for world changing reformer but G-d in his wisdom had bigger plans for the young dandy. He prepared himself for a life of politics while studying at St John's College, Cambridge.

Then, as now, religion was something considered good 'but not in excess.' Still Wilberforce found himself spiritually hungry and found faith. He sought out the council of John Newton, former slaver turned clergyman. Wilberforce was ready to forsake his place in Parliament to serve G-d but Newton convinced him that his service in Parliament could indeed be a great service to his Creator!

Wilberforce became convinced of two great missions: "the abolition of slavery and the reformation of manners." That is to say reform of society's priorities and treatment of people.

Wilberforce labored for almost half a century to end slavery in the British possessions. He pressed himself to exhaustion and stressed himself to the detriment of his health, but eventually he prevailed. The movie "Amazing Grace" tells of his life and gives a broader picture of the man. He was concerned about mistreatment of animals, healthcare, prison reform and a host of issues that press mankind still.

His work is far from finished. Human Trafficking [click to read] is an issue that modern day persons desiring to follow the lead of Wilberforce must step up to address.

The Next Supreme Court Justice

Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, discusses the issues surrounding the appointment of the next supreme court justice at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center in Washington, D.C.

A Bridge Builder's Tale
[click to read]

James B. Eads and His Amazing Bridge at St. Louis

When looking down on the Mississippi River from the top of the Gateway Arch, many visitors remark upon the graceful-looking bridge to the north. It is hard to imagine that this bridge is the product of immediate post-Civil War engineering, that it was the first bridge built with structural steel, or that 15 men died of a mysterious illness while constructing it. Even more amazing is the fact that it was designed by a self-taught genius who had never built a bridge before.

The designer was James Buchanan Eads, born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in 1820. (read more)

The Eads Bridge under construction in the 1870's.

The Flight 93 Election
[click to read]

By: Publius Decius Mus

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees. Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. (read more)

An Author's Courage
[click to read]

By Lela Markham

Ray Bradbury writes: "Two weeks ago my mountain of mail delivered forth a pipsqueak mouse of a letter from a well-known publishing house that wanted to reprint my story “The Fog Horn” in a high school reader.

In my story, I had described a lighthouse as having, late at night, an illumination coming from it that was a “God-Light.” Looking up at it from the view-point of any sea-creature one would have felt that one was in “the Presence.”

The editors had deleted “God-Light” and “in the Presence.”

How did I react to all of the above?

By “firing” the whole lot.

By sending rejection slips to each and every one.

By ticketing the assembly of idiots to the far reaches of hell." (read more)

The America I Love

Mary's Rock
Tunnel through Mary's Rock on Skyline Drive in Virginia.

White Rock Falls
White Rock Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

The Russian Bishop's House, Sitka, Alaska.