Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Books to Inspire Young Hearts

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XII

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.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thoughts on Civility and Citizenship

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XI

Thoughts on Civility

America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham has just traveled to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’s be urged Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Sadly, we live in an age of ugliness. We have much rebuilding to do. The recent news that a Presidential candidate has been caught on videotape making very inappropriate remarks (albeit eleven years ago) causes us rightly to recoil in disgust. We have daughters and granddaughters, wives and nieces... you get the picture. We do not want this ugliness in our places of leadership. We cannot tolerate it. We want better from those we choose to represent us.Some of us really want to leave a better world to our children and grandchildren.

But it must also be said that the latest revelation is hardly the only instance of tawdry revelations from high places. Even the glory of Kennedy's Camelot was tarnished by the hard reality of the President's unfaithfulness. Fast-forward to the 1990's and the uncomfortable need to explain to our children certain things previously not necessary to talk about that are mentioned on the nightly news. This did not happen overnight. We cannot fix it overnight.

Excuses do not make it right. It does not matter if it is "your guy" or "my guy," we cannot excuse it. We can forgive it but it calls for repentance on the part of the one who brings it. Our young people cannot remember an age of civility, at least a form of polite assent to it. That is a poverty of culture that we must address. All of us have become desensitized to a coarseness our elders would not have tolerated. Our society is very much the poorer for it. Not surprisingly, history tells us that men and women of Faith have lifted decadent cultures before. It happened in ancient Rome where Christians fished the discarded babies from the Tiber River and nurtured them.

It happened during the plague, when Christians cared for the sick when others would not go near... a phenomenon seen again in Philadelphia during the 1793 yellow fever epidemic where two free black men; Absalom Jones and Richard Allen [1.] volunteered to nurse the victims of the fever. In 1794 Allen would become one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is easy to see that our present culture needs to be lifted. It is quite a challenge to step forward in the calling to lift it.

Yet history teaches us that it can be done, and the effort and risk are well worth it for the sake of our sons and daughters. Here are some thoughts on how our culture has declined, what we have lost, and how we might indeed begin to restore true dignity to the America we love.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Photo.

“Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.” -- Nehemiah 1:6
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Photo.

Franklin Graham [click to view] at the final stop of his Decision America Tour, Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Decline of Civility
[click to read]

By Walter Williams

One of the unavoidable consequences of youth is the tendency to think behavior we see today has always been. I'd like to dispute that vision, (read more)


'Civility and Tolerance'
[click to read]

By Michelle Malkin

They told us if Barack Obama were elected, the nation would come together. Souls would be fixed. Spirits would be healed. Public discourse would be elevated. Welcome to civility and tolerance in the Age of Obama: (read more)


[click to read]

by Paul Greenberg

Albert Speer, the technocratic master of Adolf Hitler's war machine, busied himself churning out custom-made excuses for his war crimes as that conflict ground on to its bloody end. But what if, in his rush to misjudgment about himself and his motives, he had accidentally stumbled on a truth?

If only he had had a good classical education, Herr Speer sighed, and had paid more attention to each citizen's responsibility for what was being done in the name of We the People, the Reich!, he might have avoided his sad fate. Yes, he might have found himself a martyr to conviction in any case, but that conviction would have been based on something more worthwhile than his own self-promotion.

Is it possible, in today's shrunken little world of American politics, even to imagine such ideals? In the tiny universe bordered on the right by Donald Trump's egotism and on the left by Hillary Clinton's career-long history of dissembling, is there room at all for seriously weighing the merits and demerits of any course of action?

Too many of us are reduced to being watchers, not actors. The worst of it is that, in the end, there is no end in sight. Of course there would be a modern word for this endless emotional boredom: anomie, or the absence of any emotion at all. Depression, the shrinks call it, but it is something much more: a soul-sickness that doesn't even recognize the existence of the soul. (read more)

8200 people gathered in Richmond, Virginia's Capitol Square to pray for our nation. Franklin Graham led them.

Thoughts on Citizenship
OCTOBER 10, 2016

(remarks as prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Jerry, for that very generous introduction. I am privileged and honored to be associated with Liberty University, if only for this occasion and on this day. Jerry Falwell, Sr., the founder of this university, was a dear friend who encouraged and supported me in my early forays into the political arena. He inspired me, in the words of the Apostle Paul, to “follow me as I follow Christ.” To see Liberty University grow from its humble beginnings as a Baptist Bible college nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural western Virginia to become the largest Christian university in America is a testament to the promises of God, the faithfulness of its founder, and the leadership and managerial gifts of Jerry, Jr.

In 29 days the American people will go to the polls in one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes.

Not only is the presidency on the ballot, but today as we gather there are probably eight Senate races within the margin of error, and control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance. And because of the vacancy created by the untimely death of Antonin Scalia, a vacant seat on an evenly divided Supreme Court will be filled by the next president. So all three branches of our national government are on the ballot.

Today I wish to discuss our call as Christians to be effective citizens both of the United States and of a heavenly kingdom that is both here now and is yet to come, offer a Biblical model for that citizenship, and more specifically how that call requires us to think and act as believers with particular reference to the 2016 election.

As Christians, we are dual citizens---first of the nation in which we reside, and secondly of a heavenly Kingdom. In effect, we carry two passports: one for the America, and the other for the Kingdom of God. We are in a spiritual sense not unlike those Jews who hold dual citizenship of their country of origin and of the state of Israel. Each of these citizenships carries with it certain obligations, duties, and responsibilities that we should take very seriously.

As heavenly citizens, we should pray, read the Bible, attend worship services, tithe, give to the poor, and serve others. As earthly citizens, we should pay taxes---but only what we owe---there is nothing wrong with taking legal deductions. (Laughter) We should be informed, be registered to vote and vote, and contact our elected officials to make our views known on timely issues and legislation.

Jerry Falwell used to say his mission was to get people born again, baptized, and registered to vote. There was some humor in that statement, but as you will see when I walk through what the Bible teaches us about citizenship, there is some sound theology as well.

I believe there are four main elements of effective Christian citizenship.

First, we should participate. Based on census tract data and exit polls, my organization, Faith & Freedom Coalition, estimates that 17 million evangelical Christians did not go to the polls in 2012 either because they not registered to vote or because they were registered but did not bother to show up and cast a ballot.

Nor is this phenomenon limited to Christians. In 2012 only 57 percent of adult eligible voters cast ballots and, according to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 61 million adult eligible citizens who are not even registered to vote. Christians should act differently.

As believers, we should treat our citizenship as a gift from God and exercise it in a muscular and robust manner, both as a witness to power of our faith in Christ, and to advance righteousness and oppose evil.

We see a dramatic example of this in the Book of Acts, when the apostle Paul is detained in Jerusalem after creating a public disturbance while preaching. When Roman soldiers take him into custody, they tie him up and are about to flog him, when he turns to the officer in charge and asks one simple yet profound question: “Is it lawful for you to do this to a Roman citizen?” Filled with fear, the soldiers immediately untie him, apologize profusely, and escort him to their commander. Later, when his enemies attempt to have him convicted in a show trial and executed, Paul asserts one of the most cherished rights of a Roman citizen: he appeals his case to Caesar. We can’t appeal our legal cases all the way to the president, but a Roman citizen who believed their rights were being violated and justice was being denied could request that their case be heard by Caesar. By this political and legal act, the Gospel message reached the courts of the emperor of Rome.

Paul was willing to die for the Gospel, and ultimately he did. But he was not willing to surrender the rights that were his as an earthly citizen. Neither should we.

This is not about the moral character of a given government or leader. The Romans were infamous for their wanton cruelty, brutality, and barbarism. That was beside the point. Paul was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ---and he used his citizenship as a tool to share his faith in Christ and build God’s Kingdom.

Like modern-day Pauls, we are followers of Christ and citizens of the most powerful nation on earth in our time. Now more than ever, people of faith must use their moral imagination when it comes to both the possibilities and limits of politics. Politics cannot save the lost or force moral sentiments upon the unregenerate heart. But politics can defend the innocent and vulnerable , advance righteousness, establish the common good, it can protect the rights of the poor, the alien and the sojourner, restrain evil, resist tyranny, and expand the boundaries of liberty and freedom. It also sets the tone for a culture. As former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett has rightly noted, the law is a teacher, acting like white chalk marks on the field of a culture, establishing boundaries of right and wrong, morality and justice. Martin Luther King said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Which brings us to the 2016 elections. Some claim that the choice in this election is between two deeply flawed individuals who represent merely the lesser of two evils, and that as men and women of faith and conscience we have no real stake in the decision.

Some, including brothers and sisters in the faith, point to the recently unearthed comments by Donald Trump in a 2005 interview in which he made demeaning comments about women as evidence confirming this argument. Those eleven-year-old comments were offensive and inappropriate. As a father of two daughters, including one who is with me here today, I did not appreciate them. I am glad that Mr. Trump has apologized for them. As a Christian, I believe, as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, that we should treat older women as our mothers and younger women as our sisters, in all purity.

I also believe that someone who is faithful in small things will be faithful in large things, and one who is unfaithful in small things will be unfaithful in larger things. As Secretary of State, Trump’s opponent set up a home-brewed email server and, according to the FBI, was careless and negligent in handling classified material. After a year-long investigation, the FBI assessed that Mrs. Clinton’s email server was hacked by foreign intelligence services, exposing our nation’s most vital secrets to our worst enemies. Hillary Clinton also deleted over 33,000 emails, including thousands of emails involving official State Department business, in clear violation of federal law. She then lied to the American people and Congress about doing so. At the time, she was the third highest ranking official in the Cabinet, behind only the president and vice-president. If someone violates the public trust and mishandles classified material as a member of the Cabinet, there is no reason to believe they will be more faithful in the weightier, solemn and higher responsibilities of the presidency.

Given this choice, it may be tempting to sit on the sidelines. One friend of mine says he will write in Peyton Manning for president. (Laughter) But I’m not in favor of wasting our votes by casting them for Santa Claus or retired football players, or others who have no chance of becoming president. We must confront the choice before us and vote for someone who actually has a chance to become president. We dare not and we cannot surrender our vote during such an important election. Retreating to the stained-glass ghetto from whence we came, refusing to muddy our boots with the mire and muck of politics is not an option for followers of Christ. We are called to put away our “my way or the highway” pride, forsake cynicism and negativity, and participate fully as citizens, always cheerful, always winsome, always ready to defend our faith. We should focus not on the negative, but on what is true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely, anything of excellence and anything worthy of praise, fully prepared to confront the hard choices that Providence presents us in our mission to advance the good and resist evil.

In one of the most famous speeches he ever delivered as a candidate or as president, often called the “Evil Empire” speech, Ronald Reagan urged when he addressed the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983 to “beware the temptation of pride---the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault,” to declare a pox on both houses “and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

Reagan spoke of Christians at the time who pretended that because capitalism and communism were both flawed systems that both were equally to blame. The same basic principle could be applied to the two options in this election. As I will get to in a minute, on issue after issue on matters involving grave and intrinsic moral evil, there are stark differences between the two major-party nominees for president.

So we must participate. If we do, we can make a difference. According to exit polls, self-identified evangelical Christians comprise roughly 27 percent of the electorate; faithful, frequently Mass-attending Roman Catholics made up another 10 percent of the electorate. Together they are the largest, most vibrant, and most dynamic single constituency in the electorate today; a larger force than the Latino, the African-American, and the union vote combined.

Second, we must persuade. We cannot enter the civic arena armed only with a King James Bible and an appeal to Biblical morality. Teddy Roosevelt said a thorough knowledge of the Bible was more important than a college education. Perhaps he said that because he attended Harvard. (laughter) But that is certainly not the case in today’s culture. For much of our history, the raw material that formed our common language could be found in the Bible, Shakespeare, and the classics of Greek and Latin literature. Today the common reference points are films, popular music, social media, and television, including the Kardashians. So we must learn as believers to speak in the language and dialect of our audience. In that same episode in the Book of Acts I alluded to earlier, the crowd in Jerusalem threatened a riot. But when Paul began to speak to them in their own Hebrew dialect, they fell silent and listened. If we will speak to our listeners in a voice and language they can comprehend, we will gain their hearing, if not always their assent.

To persuade, we must know and understand public policy, appeal to the social sciences for evidence of which policies work and why, we should develop a broad policy agenda that deals with jobs, growing the economy, income inequality, education, immigration, human trafficking, criminal justice reform, and ameliorating poverty. And we must do so while reaching out to those who have not always have felt welcome in our ranks: women, African-Americans, Latinos, and young people.

Honey attracts more than vinegar, and a winsome attitude wins our fellow citizens more than harsh language or angry words. The book of Proverbs says, “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable,” and “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Bill Rusher said that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan believed in the same things, but Barry said them with a frown and Reagan said them with a smile, and that made all the difference.

Third, we must persevere. Bringing our faith to bear to bring social change through political action is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter what happens on November 8, we will not restore America to repentance or moral renewal in a single election or a single generation. It will take my entire lifetime and perhaps yours as well.

Consider the cause for civil rights. The first slaves arrived on this continent in 1619. They did not gain their freedom until 1865, and even then their rights were violated by segregation, the doctrine of separate but equal, and what historian C. Vann Woodward called “the strange career of Jim Crow.” The NAACP was founded in 1909. But it was not until 1964 and 1965 that equal accommodations and voting rights became federal law. That struggle spanned over three centuries, and it is still not over today.

The same was true of social reform movements from suffrage to temperance to progressivism.

The pro-family, religious conservative movement is only about 40 years old. We are not even in adolescence in terms of the maturation of our movement. We have much to learn, much to do, and much more to share about who we are, what we believe, and our aspirations for American society.

Fourth, we must pray. The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in authority, not just for those who share our political views. Paul exhorted that “prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” be made for “kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:2) He wrote this at a time when the bloody and venal Nero was Caesar. “All those in authority” literally means “all”---liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat. Contrast the relative quietude, peace, and prosperity that America has enjoyed with the civil unrest, bloodshed, ethnic strife, and general unrest of the rest of the world and ask yourself if our obedience to pray and intercede for all our leaders has not played some role in the success of the American experiment in self-government.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” That is true of not only our current president, but his successor, whoever that may be. Let us pledge to always pray for their protection, their wisdom, and the counsel of their advisors.

Now, a final word about 2016. On the issues that matter most to the Christian community, the differences are quite clear, they are dramatic, and they are undeniable.

On the issue of the sanctity of innocent human life, Donald Trump has pledged to protect life from conception to natural death, and he is running on the most pro-life platform in the modern history of the Republican party. Hillary Clinton has vowed to do all she can to insure that Roe v. Wade, which imposed the most liberal abortion regime in the Western world on all 50 states, remains the law of the land.

She is the first presidential candidate ever be endorsed in a primary by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, and she is the first candidate in 40 years to shatter the bipartisan consensus that taxpayer funds should not be used to take unborn life by calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Doing so would allow federal taxpayer funds to be used for the first time to pay for elective abortions under the Medicaid program. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, this would result in hundreds of thousands of additional abortions over the next decade. These are unborn children who will never know what it means to be held by a loving parent, to be cherished and valued, and to be welcomed into the world.

In a speech last year, Hillary Clinton even said that in order to guarantee access to abortion on demand, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Imagine an individual aspiring to our nation’s highest office arguing that religious beliefs must be adapted to allow for the taking of life made in God’s image. This is open hostility to faith in advance of a political agenda, pure and simple.

On the issue of religious freedom, Donald Trump supports the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case giving closely-held businesses and corporations the right to reflect the deeply held religious beliefs of their founders. Hillary Clinton criticized the decision. Trump also is the first candidate of either party to call for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, an amendment to the tax code inserted by then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson that prohibited all political speech by churches. This provision has been used by the IRS to intimidate, harass, silence, and persecute churches and ministries for six decades, violating the First Amendment right to political speech of millions of Americans.

On the issue of judges, Donald Trump has released a list of 20 outstanding conservative jurists who would likely form the top candidates to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, as well as fill future vacancies. No nominee of either party has ever released such a list prior to the election. Hillary Clinton has said that the only people she would even consider for the Supreme Court are those who agree that Roe v. Wade is settled law. She reiterated that position last night in the televised debate.

And finally, Donald Trump opposes the Iran nuclear deal, which would allow the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world to keep its uranium enrichment program and eventually obtain weapons of mass destruction. This is the bloodiest and most dangerous regime in the bloodiest and most dangerous region of the world, a regime that funds and trains the command structure of Hamas, bankrolls Hezbollah, props up Bashar el Assad’s bloody regime in Syria, which has killed over 400,000 innocents, and funded militias that killed U.S. soldiers in Iraq. I believe this agreement poses an existential threat to the survival of Israel. Hillary Clinton not only supported it, she helped to negotiate it. Donald Trump promises to revisit the agreement as president. As a supporter of Israel’s right to exist, I want a president who will revise, amend, or strictly enforce this agreement in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

On these issues, as well as taxes, the repeal of Obamacare, education reform and school choice, the redefinition of marriage, and rebuilding our hollowed-out military, the contrast is stark and undeniable. The choice is clear. In my view a third party or write-in candidate is simply not a viable option. And I thought that before Gary Johnson said he had no idea what Aleppo was.

Let me close by quoting the prophet Isaiah, who faced even darker and direr times in ancient Israel. Surrounded by political leaders who were corrupt and unfaithful, he still offered a vision for Israel filled with hope:

Make ready the way of the Lord

Make His paths straight

Every valley will be filled

Every mountain and hill brought low

The crooked will become straight

And the rough roads smooth

And all flesh will see the salvation of God

If we will see our citizenship as means to witness for our faith, to stand for the right and oppose evil in its many ugly forms, and not just a way to advance our own partisan or personal preferences, then Isaiah’s words can become our prayer, it can lead us to the noble deeds of moral actions, and then with God's help we can heal our land and restore America to greatness. Thank you, and God bless you.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Photo.



Praying for our nation in Richmond, Virginia.

The America I Love

Richmond, Light and Glass

Richmond, Light and Glass

Richmond, Light and Glass
Light and Glass, Richmond,Virginia.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Thoughts on WONDER

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue XI

Thoughts on WONDER

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” ― G. K. Chesterton

There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes.” -- C. S. Lewis

This coming Saturday, October 15th marks the 'official' opening of my show: WONDER in the gallery space at Tabor Presbyterian Church (directions) in Crozet, Virginia. The artist reception is from 3:00pm to 6:00pm that day and if my family previews have been any indication, you will enjoy the show. I already have a lot of great photos of guests interacting with the show, but will only publish them after the show has opened lest some think that they've 'seen it' and miss the actual experience.

WONDER is not, as some might suppose, a  retrospective show, nor is it simply about the photography that I have taken up of late (though some is certainly included). Nor is it a collection of old architectural renderings (though some of those can be seen as well).The show is really about WONDER (as its name suggests), VISION, IMAGINATION and DISCOVERY. This issue of THYME is sort of a companion piece, if you will. The articles that follow are a bit of the thought that lies behind this creative journey. Enjoy them!

A Case for Vision

The day was growing long as the evening light outside was fading away. I was installing the model our studio had built of a major resort in the welcome center. At 1" = 500' the physical model showed ski slopes, golf courses and a wonderful water park on a most amazing mountain location. The staff had quietly slipped in and out to look at the artistic rendition of the resort's majesty and many had expressed their admiration. I was hurrying to place the identifying numbers for the map key when I first noticed that I had an audience. Two teenagers had come in to look at the model up close. Their parents were already headed in to the indoor pool area but even the wonders of a world-class resort couldn't stop youth from being intrigued by a statement of vision.

One of the girls gazed at the model with what appeared to be skills of observation beyond her years. There was no need for the admonition: "Don't touch anything!" In fact, I would have considered it an insult. Both sisters displayed incredible respect for the work taking place before them. Though the first girl was quite conversant in literature (how many kids can use the words 'Utopian' and 'Distopian' in their conversation); Homeschoolers? Perhaps, but I didn't ask. Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling were better topics for conversation. The girls had clearly been raised to treasure literature and thought. That they lingered when a really fun moment awaited them through the next doorway spoke volumes to me. Young people (and I have been priviledged to work with the best in our studio) want to see vision and deserve to be shown our best efforts at it.

Most of my life has been spent in the field of visualization. It has involved constructing hundreds of little models of proposed projects, the drawing and painting of innumerable renderings and as the economy recently crumbled, some really interesting publishing projects. Vision is as essential to the soul as food is to the body, so, as S. Truitt Cathy says: "Make it good!" It is in our blood. It is a part of our history.

Michigan at the turn of the Century was poised to become a center of vision and innovation. My own ancestors fled Bavaria in 1870 as Otto von Bismark 'unified' Germany. They came to the American Northwest to settle in that cold land, finding employment on the growing railroad. The men set out first, seeking their fortunes, and saved their money to bring their ladies to the New World. When Oma arrived, she quickly decided she didn't like the boys working on Sunday, so they found work in Bay City's growing sawmill industry. Eventually Bay City would become known for pre-manufactured houses as Aladdin Homes and Lewis Homes would enter the market that Sears Roebuck is most famous for. The companies grew well into the Twentieth Century, but faltered during America's Great Depression.

Ironically it was during this same Depression, South of Bay City in Detroit, that Henry Ford's assembly line was creating an American version of the 'Industrial Revolution.' For a good portion of the Twentieth Century, Detroit was the automobile production center of the world. Across the 'glove,' in Benton Harbor, the Heath Company [click to read] began manufacturing a 'build it yourself' airplane kit. Expanding into consumer electronics, Heath offered a whole range of kits for enthusiasts who wanted to build their own radios and electronic devices. Heathkit became a legend as scores of people assembled and enjoyed these products. My father and I must have assembled dozens of them in my youth. My two brothers went on to become NASA engineers!

As Detroit diminished and Asian and European auto makers grew, one of my uncles worked for John Portman creating the great towers of Detroit's Renaissance Center. Today those gleaming towers preside over a city in decline. As Japanese and Korean companies remade the assembly line, Detroit's 'Big Three' were hobbled by antiquated methodology and union work rules. They had operated without fear of competition for so long that they came too late to the world of robotics and subcompact cars.

Great minds like that of Lee Iococca might have remade her, but Detroit was stubborn about resisting change and forgot about the deep well of her inventive past. It was not so much that they were 'stuck in the past' but that they were 'stuck in their own Century!' Had they looked to the past, they might have seen the transformation wrought in previous times by men like I. K. Brunel [click to read]. If some day we find ourselves gliding rapidly between cities in pneumatic tube transit systems, we will do well to remember that Brunel was there first. He used a pneumatic tube and piston to propel trains on one of his innovative railways in the Nineteenth Century!

The time was growing late. I asked my young observers a loaded question: "Why are there no books on how to teach your baby to walk?" They looked at me with a serious rumination I had often seen in the countenance of my studio assistant when I'd pose such a problem. "You don't need them!" one of the girls thoughtfully answered. She went on to explain that babies naturally want to stand and reach out to their full potential. "Why do we lose that?" I pondered. "Does it get 'taught out of us' as we move on to more formal instruction?"

And yet, it can be rekindled! It can be nurtured! As a boy I spent hours in the woods observing the wonders of the natural world. In 1964 the New York Worlds Fair inspired me to draw impossible built environments. Men walked on the Moon. My grandfather designed and built his own machinery for his mill. My grandmother was a great painter and designer. My mother loved mathematics and designing sweater patterns. My father wrote the procedures for testing spacecraft in the 1960's. Once Mom took me to visit a friend of hers who sculpted in white marble. Her friend encouraged me to work in Ivory Soap!

I do not consider my childhood to be all that out of the ordinary. This world is FULL of beautiful creative souls, most of whom LOVE to share their vision with young people. If it IS at all out of the ordinary, then I believe we are to blame for not allowing our children to come alongside and be infected by our brightest and best. History offers us even more. Consider the Wright Brothers [click to read]. Too often we've turned history class into: "What's Wrong with America" and neglected the stories of inspiration and greatness. That is not to say we should ignore the dark parts, but we must never create a picture of hopelessness and despair. There is too much evidence to the contrary!

My wife is an educator of young children. She once shared with me some research about early childhood development that focused on infants in an orphanage in Tehran. The staff was spread so thin that the children were merely fed and changed. There was no time to hold and cuddle the infants. Far too many of these precious souls never rose to crawl. They never pulled upright to walk. They simply died. The study affirmed the importance of nurture in young lives, and begs us to ask: "As we push our children to conformity and 'productivity,' do we unwittingly cease to nourish some essential part of the soul?" Could Vision be the essential food for human aspiration?

As much of the media has been all too ready to report the demise of the American experiment, THYME looks at these fine young people and looks to offer them far more. We'd like to present a vision that is rooted in history and faith, that dares them to dream big dreams. The world needs them to do so, We can offer them no less!

The Creative Mandate of Genesis I and II
The Unique Responsibility Conferred in Imago Dei


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Purpose in Life's Work
Every Person's Calling to Build G-d's Kingdom

Glass 1
Painted glass vase by Carmen Rose Shenk.

I came upon this quotation which seems to recast significantly the purpose we so diligently seek for our lives. It is worth reflecting on these truths in a world where our retirement funds are disappearing, our masterpieces fade and our trophies tarnish. There is a better place to invest our time and treasure... that Kingdom that was the hope of the faithful in Hebrews 11:

But what what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings me back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do for the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that's shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that's about to be dug up for a building site. You are -- strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself -- accomplishing something that will become in due course part of G-d's new world. Every act of love, gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of G-d and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one's fellow human beings and for that matter one's fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world -- all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of G-d, into the new creation that G-d will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of G-d." -- N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, page 208.

A view of the show 'WONDER' at Tabor Presbyterian Church in Crozet, Virginia.


The America I Love

Ravens Roost
Raven's Roost, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

Sherando Lake
The Island in Sherando Lake, George Washington National Forest in Virginia.

The Monacans, an eastern Siouan nation, who lived in the area for an estimated 10,000 years called the Natural Bridge of Virginia “Mohomony,” or “The Bridge of G-d.”


Saturday, October 8, 2016

In a Broken World, Be Beauty

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue Xa

Be Beauty!

No one needs to remind us that this world is often a dark and troubled place. As Hurricane Matthew has already done much damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the media drives us on to see the outrageous things they want us to see, and ignore the outrageous things that they don't want us to see.

But the fact remains. We are called to be salt and light. Perhaps that is why the Divine often speaks most clearly in the small voice of a child. Here is a beautiful thing in the midst of all the ugliness. The children of local journalist Chris Lassiter decided to be beauty... upon learning abut the devastation in Haiti, they drew pictures to sell so that they could send the money for Haiti relief. If you are coming to my show next weekend, I will have contact information, or send me a message that you are interested. Let's show these fine young people that their creative energy can indeed make a difference!

'Pray for Haiti' by the Lassiter Children.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Making America Great Again

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XII, Issue X

Post card of a wire mill in Allentown Pennsylvania.

Revival and Renaissance in America

The 'other' weekly news magazine once featured the cover: "How America Learned to Sell Cars Again." We at THYME are a bit reluctant to see car sales as a barometer of a society's greatness. Economic indicators are important in measuring a society's health, to be sure, but they are not the truest measure. Politicians are quick to offer their prescription for a return to a robust economy. But many around us are looking for deeper answers to deeper problems. Of times like this it might well be said: "Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." -- Luke 10:2. Now more than ever, those who would stir men's hearts to higher, nobler aspirations are needed... men and women who understand where a society's true greatness really lies.

Concerned about the materialistic, acquisitive, corrupt world of an affluent society, they sought to confront her sins and establish her again as a light to the world. The year was 1769 and under the preaching of George Whitefield the English beginnings of the Great Awakening had their start. Soon it would change the fabric of American life as well. Following John and Charles Wesley to America, Whitfield joined his old Oxford classmates in changing the fabric of America.

Men like Jonathan Edwards took the message of redemption and made it personal. His sermon: "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God" moved many to see the Gospel message in a personal way, not simply as academic material. The personalization of faith led men and women to change their ways and live in light of a redemptive message. Scholars may debate the amount of influence this movement had in the creation of the United States of America, but the fact that it had an influence is clear!

The late Eighteenth Century saw waves of revival. Camp meetings organized by preachers like James McGready brought the far scattered settlers together to confirm their commitment to personal and life-changing faith. Itinerant preachers spread the movement through the South among both those of both European and African ancestry. A massive interdenominational meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801, marked the high point of the movement.

but by 1830 the movement had waned.

America's failings are well documented. Dark times such as the Cherokee Removal and a host of local rebellions show us that America was often prey to the baser nature of man. Modern historians tend to forget the perilous course of America's journey.

Our nation might have ended early in its founding when Continental Army soldiers, who had not been paid, were set to march on Philadelphia. They might have killed the representatives but for the intervention of their beloved leader, George Washington, who rode out to meet them.

The shots fired on Fort Sumpter might have been the end of our United States as well. Indeed the 1860's saw a divided landscape and untold carnage at places like Antietem. Great cities such as Richmond and Atlanta were destroyed, their citizens displaced, their economies ruined.

Men like Dwight L. Moody spoke into the darkness. Moody's revivals are legend.

Mill building in Allentown as shown on an old post card.

Modern times saw two great wars in Europe that threatened to engulf all of human civilization. Untold horrors were seen by the liberators of the death camps. Men like Billy Graham and his son Frankin rose to speak into our times. Local Pastor Chuck Balsamo just published his book: Make Me a Legend [click to read]. Troubled times are nothing new. Pastor Balsamo seeks to inspire today's generation to step up and pray and participate in the dream of a better tomorrow. Indeed, a historical thread exists that suggests that the great American nation was built largely by a lot of people who, in the words of Hebrews 11 [1.], were "seeking a better Kingdom."

A factory in today's Allentown as American industry awaits renewal.

The America I Love

Crozet, Virginia
Historical Mural, Crozet, Virginia: The Monacans were the first inhabitants of the region...

Crozet, Virginia
...followed by the settlers of the Big Survey. The railroad, engineered by Claudius Crozet, for whom the town is named, linked the region to the West.

Crozet, Virginia
Today Crozet is a growing community in Central Virginia. Venerable institutions such as Crozet Hardware continue to serve the people of an ever changing town.