A new crater now scarred the Martian surface. The colony was gone! In the shadow of some rock formations there remained some greenhouses and solar panels but it was clear that the missile intended for Great Northern had fallen and detonated so as to kill the colonists instead. Sarah wiped her eyes frequently as she manned scanning equipment. “Had ANYONE survived?” she wondered. But if they did, what would become of them. All of the landing craft appeared to have been destroyed along with the colony and as this was a contingency unforeseen, there was no landing craft left with the Great Northern capable of going to the planet’s surface and returning. If indeed anyone had survived the blast they would be marooned. It would be two years before Great Northern could return and if a smaller craft were readied it would probably take six months to do so. Sarah anxiously scanned the surface each time the ship orbited above. Nothing! No sign of life appeared. No radio call for help ever came. The radiation readings from the planet suggested there would be little chance of survival anyway. Finally, with great regret, Ben-Gurion gave orders to burn the main engine and insert Great Northern into Earth Return Trajectory. It was a lonely feeling as the craft slowly gained escape momentum. Sarah was reminded of a similar moment portrayed in the movie version of an old James Michener novel where an apocryphal Apollo 18’s lunar lander crashed into the lunar surface and the command module pilot returned to Earth alone as James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” played as background music. In reality the lunar program had ended with Apollo 17 and LEM pilot Gene Cernan, aware of the risky nature of this craft, uttered the last words spoken from the surface of the moon: “Let’s get this mother out of here.”
If the truth be known, Abiyah Ben-Gurian must have said something similar as he eased the starship out of orbit. Only his wife knows what he said though. In communication with Earth he was cool and emotionless… but his eyes flowed with the emotion his voice covered. Sarah and Abiyah could read each other’s subtle voice inflections and facial expressions. They mourned together unashamedly.
Although their communications with Earth were crisp and professional, life aboard Great Northern eased into a relaxed sort of waiting. Sarah’s female colleagues surprised her with a baby shower and their inventiveness in creating infant clothing and toys from space supplies knew no boundaries. The good doctor moved out of the crew quarters so a nursery would be created. All would be found out upon return docking anyway so the sparse cabin became a study in pink and blue. Major Johnson even painted a little mural of children running and doing cartwheels under an apple tree as birds flew overhead. The good doctor started experimenting with a concoction of a sort of formula made from space foods should it become necessary. The due date approached as the ship traveled along the free return trajectory. Abiyah and Sarah actually enjoyed the suspense of not knowing the gender of their baby. Then one day Sarah, after a long and difficult labor, laid eyes on her son! The boy was a good nurser and the formula concoction was not needed. The two decisive pilots had discussed names, but now they gave themselves the luxury of time in deciding what to call him. Abiyah even jokingly assigned him a number but his wife ended that with one look. Now the crew flowed in the sequence of tasks necessary to begin braking into the same orbit they had left from. ‘Katherine,” their faithful trajectory computer whirred and spit out instructions to the retro engines. Soon the great mission to Mars would be over. Debriefing was planned to take place at Cape Lisbon and extended debriefing would occur at the town of Shalom inside the biosphere complex at Big Diomede. This would provide the astronauts with some privacy as they tried to make the transition back to Earth life. No doubt, there would be ticker tape parades and tours to be done but that could wait. A fairly curt press release would suffice for now.
After Apollo 11 returned from the moon, the press became bored with space exploration and did not even bother to cover the shuttle missions. They remained in this frame of mind until two shuttles were destroyed in terrible accidents and then they pretty much lobbied the shuttle program out of existence. Cape Lisbon’s linear induction launcher marked the true beginning of regular and safe transfer to orbit even though its Northern location meant that the heavy unmanned payloads and parts of space stations were still delivered by large boosters from launch sites closer to the Equator. Being sequestered on Big Diomede would give the astronauts time to think. Book contacts were already put forth and the crew would be hard at work for the next year to meet them. Sarah wondered to herself about the change. Abiyah would not take well to retirement. She was now taking on motherhood with the same energy she had poured into her work as a pilot and astronaut. What bothered her was the probability that once they stepped out of the biosphere they would be living in a fishbowl.
The Lindberghs could travel in the end and get away from it all for at least a while. Anne was able to raise five children. I just don’t see how though.” Sarah opined.
Ben Gurion thought for a minute: “The only thing left for us really is to somehow find a way to quietly pass along the things we’ve learned. Please note my emphasis on QUIETLY, if you will dearest.”
I sure don’t want to end up in some walled compound full of diplomats!” Sarah answered. “I do think there is a place where we might be useful, but not on public display.”
Sarah was ambivalent, however, about the possibility of assignment to Cape Lisbon, though that was certainly isolated. She had a child now and that changed her desires as to where she would live. Childless, she would probably not have thought twice about herself and her husband joining the ‘Baltimore Gun Club,’[1.] as the linear induction launch team called themselves. This was not a reference to their love of outdoor sports. The name came from Jules Verne’s novel ‘From the Earth to the Moon’[2.][3.] and it referred to the munitions experts who built the large cannon from which Verne’s fictional spacecraft was launched. The Cape Lisbon team lived in a fairly austere environment. “No place to raise a child,” she mused to herself.
Between the little college with the community church and parsonage and the Zimmerman family compound there were some as yet unoccupied faculty houses for the college. Here the astronauts were to finalize their debriefing and writing. Ben-Gurion and his wife were given the one closest to the college where they would have access to people and resources as they finished their work. Sarah carried her infant son into the garden to calm his crying one afternoon. She was at first startled when a lady filling her hummingbird feeder with clear nectar looked up and saw her from the adjoining yard. “May I try holding the little fellow?” the neighbor asked… “Oh, please excuse the paint on my hands… I assure you it is dry and nursery-safe non-toxic. Mural painting today, if you must know”
And so, the copilot of the Great Northern happily surveyed a little place with very down to earth beauty and simplicity and thought: “I think I might just like it here.” (to be continued)
The Spirit of Saint Louis Lindbergh's Transatlantic Flight
When I was a boy, I remember reading Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of Saint Louis. It is a hopeful book and sets a young person to thinking about his or her own goals and aspirations. We watched men go to the moon. Amazing achievements, rooted in IMAGO DEI – our creation in the Divine Image, served to inspire us. Sadly, we’ve lost that part of the great story. At the end of today’s issue John Stonestreet will talk about the message young people often hear today. Nihilism has replaced the optimism that characterized the fiction of our day.
For our part, I believe people of Faith have been all too quick to accept the pessimism of our day. We look forward to future bliss, but forget that the Divine promises to restore all things and that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. We forget that our inventiveness is part of the Salvation message. We are made in the Divine Image. That includes the creative spark that drives us to invent new technologies and solve problems. It makes us work to fight starvation and dig wells. It leads us to do great things.
To be sure, it can be overworked into pride and arrogance, but in that regard it is like any good thing pushed to excess. I once read a Christian book where the author said that primitive societies were ‘better’ because people were not pushed as they are in Western society. They had more time for family and contemplation the author continued. The more I pondered the author’s point, the more I wondered: “has he actually LIVED in such a culture?” As a Western missionary, he had indeed inserted himself into such a place but it was clear that he was a visitor and his Western support gave him the leisure to enjoy it.
Had he truly lived as one of such a culture, he would have seen the reality of a failed hunt and hungry children. He would have known the pain of infant mortality, often caused by contaminated water that a modern well would have eliminated. He might have experienced the terror of tribal war. In the end I determined that I was happier with the ‘problems’ of my own culture. I bring this story up merely to point out that we may not truly appreciate much of what inspiration has done to enrich our own lives. If we do not appreciate it, we probably do not pass the baton to our children.
We as a people need a good shot of hope. An honest study of our history might just give us more of that than we might imagine. In light of the latest acts of evil in our world, the need to teach hope and goodness is imperative! To that end I present the stories that I do.
In the 1957 film, The Spirit of Saint Louis, Ryan Aircraft employees are depicted signing the cowling.
Leaves in a stream, Shenandoah National Park. Photo by Bob Kirchman.
Seven Days Photos byBob Kirchman
Ithink the thrill of the Pagan stories and of romance may be due to the fact that they are mere beginnings—the first, faint whisper of the wind from beyond the world—while Christianity is the thing itself: and no thing, when you have really started on it, can have for you then and there just the same thrill as the first hint. For example, the experience of being married and bringing up a family cannot have the old bittersweet of first falling in love. But it is futile (and, I think, wicked) to go on trying to get the old thrill again: you must go forward and not backward. Any real advance will in its turn be ushered in by a new thrill, different from the old: doomed in its turn to disappear and to become in its turn a temptation to retrogression. Delight is a bell that rings as you set your foot on the first step of a new flight of stairs leading upwards. Once you have started climbing you will notice only the hard work: it is when you have reached the landing and catch sight of the new stair that you may expect the bell again. This is only an idea, and may be all rot: but it seems to fit in pretty well with the general law (thrills also must die to live) of autumn and spring, sleep and waking, death and resurrection, and ‘Whosoever loseth his life, shall save it.‘” – C. S. Lewis, Collected Letters
We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word "love", and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. "Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest "well pleased".”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
What are your teens reading these days? You really should find out. Especially if they’re into the newest trend in young adult fiction.
For the first decade or so of the 21st century, the hottest trend in young adult fiction was dystopian novels. Book series like “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner,” and “Divergent” sold tens of millions of copies, were turned into successful film franchises, and spawned so many imitators that the genre became, as Vox.com put it, a “cliché.”
While there are still plenty of young adult dystopias being written, a new genre seems to be emerging—one that will make us look back on the young adult dystopia boom as the “good old days.”
That genre is teen suicide.
In a recent article in Vox, Constance Grady pointed out that young adult dystopias have been “a license to print money” for publishers. Though there are many theories about why the genre exploded, virtually everyone agrees that the popularity of the books, like pop culture in general, reflects the readers’ concerns and moods. [read more]
Eternal life cannot be overcome by death. And over that church will be a cross."[read more] ht/M. K. Hand
An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bed- room where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life—what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor
Volume XVI, Issue XIIIa
Phantasies ByGeorge Macdonald, Chapter 22
No one has my form but the I."
~ Schoppe, in Jean Pau's "Titan".
Joy's a subtil elf. I think man's happiest when he forgets himself."
~ Cyril Tourneur, "The Revenger's Tragedy".
On the third day of my journey, I was riding gently along a road, apparently little frequented, to judge from the grass that grew upon it. I was approaching a forest. Everywhere in Fairy Land forests are the places where one may most certainly expect adventures. As I drew near, a youth, unarmed, gentle, and beautiful, who had just cut a branch from a yew growing on the skirts of the wood, evidently to make himself a bow, met me, and thus accosted me:
Sir knight, be careful as thou ridest through this forest; for it is said to be strangely enchanted, in a sort which even those who have been witnesses of its enchantment can hardly describe."
I thanked him for his advice, which I promised to follow, and rode on. But the moment I entered the wood, it seemed to me that, if enchantment there was, it must be of a good kind; for the Shadow, which had been more than usually dark and distressing, since I had set out on this journey, suddenly disappeared. I felt a wonderful elevation of spirits, and began to reflect on my past life, and especially on my combat with the giants, with such satisfaction, that I had actually to remind myself, that I had only killed one of them; and that, but for the brothers, I should never have had the idea of attacking them, not to mention the smallest power of standing to it. Still I rejoiced, and counted myself amongst the glorious knights of old; having even the unspeakable presumption--my shame and self- condemnation at the memory of it are such, that I write it as the only and sorest penance I can perform--to think of myself (will the world believe it?) as side by side with Sir Galahad! Scarcely had the thought been born in my mind, when, approaching me from the left, through the trees, I espied a resplendent knight, of mighty size, whose armour seemed to shine of itself, without the sun. When he drew near, I was astonished to see that this armour was like my own; nay, I could trace, line for line, the correspondence of the inlaid silver to the device on my own. His horse, too, was like mine in colour, form, and motion; save that, like his rider, he was greater and fiercer than his counterpart. The knight rode with beaver up. As he halted right opposite to me in the narrow path, barring my way, I saw the reflection of my countenance in the centre plate of shining steel on his breastplate. Above it rose the same face--his face--only, as I have said, larger and fiercer. I was bewildered. I could not help feeling some admiration of him, but it was mingled with a dim conviction that he was evil, and that I ought to fight with him.
Let me pass," I said.
When I will," he replied.
Something within me said: "Spear in rest, and ride at him! else thou art for ever a slave."
I tried, but my arm trembled so much, that I could not couch my lance. To tell the truth, I, who had overcome the giant, shook like a coward before this knight. He gave a scornful laugh, that echoed through the wood, turned his horse, and said, without looking round, "Follow me."
I obeyed, abashed and stupefied. How long he led, and how long I followed, I cannot tell. "I never knew misery before," I said to myself. "Would that I had at least struck him, and had had my death-blow in return! Why, then, do I not call to him to wheel and defend himself? Alas! I know not why, but I cannot. One look from him would cow me like a beaten hound." I followed, and was silent.
At length we came to a dreary square tower, in the middle of a dense forest. It looked as if scarce a tree had been cut down to make room for it. Across the very door, diagonally, grew the stem of a tree, so large that there was just room to squeeze past it in order to enter. One miserable square hole in the roof was the only visible suggestion of a window. Turret or battlement, or projecting masonry of any kind, it had none. Clear and smooth and massy, it rose from its base, and ended with a line straight and unbroken. The roof, carried to a centre from each of the four walls, rose slightly to the point where the rafters met. Round the base lay several little heaps of either bits of broken branches, withered and peeled, or half-whitened bones; I could not distinguish which. As I approached, the ground sounded hollow beneath my horse's hoofs. The knight took a great key from his pocket, and reaching past the stem of the tree, with some difficulty opened the door. "Dismount," he commanded. I obeyed. He turned my horse's head away from the tower, gave him a terrible blow with the flat side of his sword, and sent him madly tearing through the forest.
Now," said he, "enter, and take your companion with you."
I looked round: knight and horse had vanished, and behind me lay the horrible shadow. I entered, for I could not help myself; and the shadow followed me. I had a terrible conviction that the knight and he were one. The door closed behind me.
Now I was indeed in pitiful plight. There was literally nothing in the tower but my shadow and me. The walls rose right up to the roof; in which, as I had seen from without, there was one little square opening. This I now knew to be the only window the tower possessed. I sat down on the floor, in listless wretchedness. I think I must have fallen asleep, and have slept for hours; for I suddenly became aware of existence, in observing that the moon was shining through the hole in the roof. As she rose higher and higher, her light crept down the wall over me, till at last it shone right upon my head. Instantaneously the walls of the tower seemed to vanish away like a mist. I sat beneath a beech, on the edge of a forest, and the open country lay, in the moonlight, for miles and miles around me, spotted with glimmering houses and spires and towers. I thought with myself, "Oh, joy! it was only a dream; the horrible narrow waste is gone, and I wake beneath a beech-tree, perhaps one that loves me, and I can go where I will." I rose, as I thought, and walked about, and did what I would, but ever kept near the tree; for always, and, of course, since my meeting with the woman of the beech-tree far more than ever, I loved that tree. So the night wore on. I waited for the sun to rise, before I could venture to renew my journey. But as soon as the first faint light of the dawn appeared, instead of shining upon me from the eye of the morning, it stole like a fainting ghost through the little square hole above my head; and the walls came out as the light grew, and the glorious night was swallowed up of the hateful day. The long dreary day passed. My shadow lay black on the floor. I felt no hunger, no need of food. The night came. The moon shone. I watched her light slowly descending the wall, as I might have watched, adown the sky, the long, swift approach of a helping angel. Her rays touched me, and I was free. Thus night after night passed away. I should have died but for this. Every night the conviction returned, that I was free. Every morning I sat wretchedly disconsolate. At length, when the course of the moon no longer permitted her beams to touch me, the night was dreary as the day.
When I slept, I was somewhat consoled by my dreams; but all the time I dreamed, I knew that I was only dreaming. But one night, at length, the moon, a mere shred of pallor, scattered a few thin ghostly rays upon me; and I think I fell asleep and dreamed. I sat in an autumn night before the vintage, on a hill overlooking my own castle. My heart sprang with joy. Oh, to be a child again, innocent, fearless, without shame or desire! I walked down to the castle. All were in consternation at my absence. My sisters were weeping for my loss. They sprang up and clung to me, with incoherent cries, as I entered. My old friends came flocking round me. A gray light shone on the roof of the hall. It was the light of the dawn shining through the square window of my tower. More earnestly than ever, I longed for freedom after this dream; more drearily than ever, crept on the next wretched day. I measured by the sunbeams, caught through the little window in the trap of my tower, how it went by, waiting only for the dreams of the night.
About noon, I started as if something foreign to all my senses and all my experience, had suddenly invaded me; yet it was only the voice of a woman singing. My whole frame quivered with joy, surprise, and the sensation of the unforeseen. Like a living soul, like an incarnation of Nature, the song entered my prison-house. Each tone folded its wings, and laid itself, like a caressing bird, upon my heart. It bathed me like a sea; inwrapt me like an odorous vapour; entered my soul like a long draught of clear spring-water; shone upon me like essential sunlight; soothed me like a mother's voice and hand. Yet, as the clearest forest-well tastes sometimes of the bitterness of decayed leaves, so to my weary, prisoned heart, its cheerfulness had a sting of cold, and its tenderness unmanned me with the faintness of long-departed joys. I wept half-bitterly, half-luxuriously; but not long. I dashed away the tears, ashamed of a weakness which I thought I had abandoned. Ere I knew, I had walked to the door, and seated myself with my ears against it, in order to catch every syllable of the revelation from the unseen outer world. And now I heard each word distinctly. The singer seemed to be standing or sitting near the tower, for the sounds indicated no change of place. The song was something like this:
The sun, like a golden knot on high, Gathers the glories of the sky, And binds them into a shining tent, Roofing the world with the firmament. And through the pavilion the rich winds blow, And through the pavilion the waters go. And the birds for joy, and the trees for prayer, Bowing their heads in the sunny air, And for thoughts, the gently talking springs, That come from the centre with secret things-- All make a music, gentle and strong, Bound by the heart into one sweet song. And amidst them all, the mother Earth Sits with the children of her birth; She tendeth them all, as a mother hen Her little ones round her, twelve or ten: Oft she sitteth, with hands on knee, Idle with love for her family. Go forth to her from the dark and the dust, And weep beside her, if weep thou must; If she may not hold thee to her breast, Like a weary infant, that cries for rest At least she will press thee to her knee, And tell a low, sweet tale to thee, Till the hue to thy cheeky and the light to thine eye, Strength to thy limbs, and courage high To thy fainting heart, return amain, And away to work thou goest again. From the narrow desert, O man of pride, Come into the house, so high and wide.
Hardly knowing what I did, I opened the door. Why had I not done so before? I do not know.
At first I could see no one; but when I had forced myself past the tree which grew across the entrance, I saw, seated on the ground, and leaning against the tree, with her back to my prison, a beautiful woman. Her countenance seemed known to me, and yet unknown. She looked at me and smiled, when I made my appearance.
Ah! were you the prisoner there? I am very glad I have wiled you out."
Do you know me then?"
Do you not know me? But you hurt me, and that, I suppose, makes it easy for a man to forget. You broke my globe. Yet I thank you. Perhaps I owe you many thanks for breaking it. I took the pieces, all black, and wet with crying over them, to the Fairy Queen. There was no music and no light in them now. But she took them from me, and laid them aside; and made me go to sleep in a great hall of white, with black pillars, and many red curtains. When I woke in the morning, I went to her, hoping to have my globe again, whole and sound; but she sent me away without it, and I have not seen it since. Nor do I care for it now. I have something so much better. I do not need the globe to play to me; for I can sing. I could not sing at all before. Now I go about everywhere through Fairy Land, singing till my heart is like to break, just like my globe, for very joy at my own songs. And wherever I go, my songs do good, and deliver people. And now I have delivered you, and I am so happy."
She ceased, and the tears came into her eyes.
All this time, I had been gazing at her; and now fully recognised the face of the child, glorified in the countenance of the woman.
I was ashamed and humbled before her; but a great weight was lifted from my thoughts. I knelt before her, and thanked her, and begged her to forgive me.
Rise, rise," she said; "I have nothing to forgive; I thank you. But now I must be gone, for I do not know how many may be waiting for me, here and there, through the dark forests; and they cannot come out till I come."
She rose, and with a smile and a farewell, turned and left me. I dared not ask her to stay; in fact, I could hardly speak to her. Between her and me, there was a great gulf. She was uplifted, by sorrow and well-doing, into a region I could hardly hope ever to enter. I watched her departure, as one watches a sunset. She went like a radiance through the dark wood, which was henceforth bright to me, from simply knowing that such a creature was in it.
She was bearing the sun to the unsunned spots. The light and the music of her broken globe were now in her heart and her brain. As she went, she sang; and I caught these few words of her song; and the tones seemed to linger and wind about the trees after she had disappeared:
Thou goest thine, and I go mine-- Many ways we wend; Many days, and many ways, Ending in one end.
Many a wrong, and its curing song; Many a road, and many an inn; Room to roam, but only one home For all the world to win.
And so she vanished. With a sad heart, soothed by humility, and the knowledge of her peace and gladness, I bethought me what now I should do. First, I must leave the tower far behind me, lest, in some evil moment, I might be once more caged within its horrible walls. But it was ill walking in my heavy armour; and besides I had now no right to the golden spurs and the resplendent mail, fitly dulled with long neglect. I might do for a squire; but I honoured knighthood too highly, to call myself any longer one of the noble brotherhood. I stripped off all my armour, piled it under the tree, just where the lady had been seated, and took my unknown way, eastward through the woods. Of all my weapons, I carried only a short axe in my hand.
Then first I knew the delight of being lowly; of saying to myself, "I am what I am, nothing more." "I have failed," I said, "I have lost myself--would it had been my shadow." I looked round: the shadow was nowhere to be seen. Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood. In nothing was my ideal lowered, or dimmed, or grown less precious; I only saw it too plainly, to set myself for a moment beside it. Indeed, my ideal soon became my life; whereas, formerly, my life had consisted in a vain attempt to behold, if not my ideal in myself, at least myself in my ideal. Now, however, I took, at first, what perhaps was a mistaken pleasure, in despising and degrading myself. Another self seemed to arise, like a white spirit from a dead man, from the dumb and trampled self of the past. Doubtless, this self must again die and be buried, and again, from its tomb, spring a winged child; but of this my history as yet bears not the record.
Self will come to life even in the slaying of self; but there is ever something deeper and stronger than it, which will emerge at last from the unknown abysses of the soul: will it be as a solemn gloom, burning with eyes? or a clear morning after the rain? or a smiling child, that finds itself nowhere, and everywhere? (to be continued)
Stones of Remembrance Short Story byBob Kirchman
Did I ever tell you the story about my Great Grandfather?” Rupert Zimmerman said casually to Pastor Jon Greene as they sat in Green’s office in the little chapel on Big Diomede.
The two often talked regularly now after the events on the great Bering Strait Bridge that had taken a driver’s life and had cemented Zimmerman’s decision to put his faith in one far greater than himself. The way the story was often retold by Zimmerman’s descendants, the transformation had been a complete and sudden one. Again, the real story moves a lot slower. Zimmerman himself had moved on from frequent dinner guest to disciple. In Jon Greene’s wildest dreams he never thought that the business of multiplying faithful followers of Jesus Christ would include the ruthless builder of bridges, but that it did. Healing Zimmerman’s war wounds took a long time. The battle of Anchorage and a kidnapping on the Taiga had left raw open wounds in the man that Zimmerman himself thought impossible to heal.
But at Greene’s insistence, Rupert opened doors he feared to open. It was there that he met his own Great Grandfather who would become a part of his own journey.
My Great Grandfather Tolbert Saunders Dalton was born in Robertson County, Tennessee, close to Nashville. He was seventeen When the War between the States started. He joined the 49th Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers and had a long and distinguished career as a soldier. He saw many battles, some of them quite fierce, and the sight and sound of men dying around him led him to preach the Gospel. By the light of many a campfire, my Great Grandfather shared the simple message of redemption in Christ.
He served under General Nathan B. Forrest and saw action in some of the battles for control of the Mississippi. When Union troops advanced on Memphis, preparing to attack at dawn the next day, General Forrest was outnumbered ten to one. He did not have the artillery to protect the city, but he did have at his disposal a fair number of farm wagons and many willing workers like young Dalton, who had lied about his age to join the army. All night long, the boys hollowed out the ends of tree trunks and blacked them to look like cannon. Then each ‘cannon’ was positioned on a set of wagon wheels. The faux cannon were positioned for maximum effect along the banks of the river and then General Forrest demanded surrender! In a dangerous bluff Forrest’s 300 men captured 3,000 would-be attackers.
Tolbert Dalton was later assigned to spy duty. He once carried a message to General Forrest through enemy lines by pretending to be a deaf and dumb farm boy. Seeing an unexpected checkpoint, he quickly stuffed the message in his mouth and made signs to the soldiers. He was quick-minded enough to sign for clarification when one of the soldiers said “go ahead.”
Wounded in action, Dalton spent several months out of action and then joined the Seventh Kentucky Volunteers. In one battle the flag was shot down and young Tolbert rose to replant it in the breastworks. When it was shot down again, Dalton rallied the troops by standing to hold the flag in place. Enemy fire ripped his shirt but miraculously he was unscathed. His courage under fire earned him the rank of Major. The experience affirmed G-d’s calling in the young soldier’s heart. When the war was over, Dalton went to Medical School and became a doctor but the needs of men’s souls called him to the work that had begun around the campfires of his regiment. Preaching became Dalton’s sole vocation and he eventually settled in the town of Stanley in Page County, Virginia. One of my most treasured possessions is a copy of Wilmore’s New Analytical Reference Bible that my Grandfather once used.
Ikept it solely as a connection point to my past, but after my discipleship began, it became so much more. After the war, Dalton sought to bind the nation’s wounds, but his journey took him beyond physical healing to the spiritual. Reading his war experiences and his subsequent “Life and Labors of a Poor Sinner,” I saw how his Citizenship had been transferred again. He was now not longer a Tennessean or a Virginian, or a Confederate, but a man of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is what propelled the best season of the man’s life.
But there was more to Dalton’s life than one might imagine. He became a minister of G-d and raised eight children! Probably the most interesting of these was his son, Tolbert Percy Dalton, known as ‘Jack’ who played professional baseball in Detroit from 1910 to 1916. He mysteriously vanished on July 4, 1948, from Catonsville, Maryland, while walking to a church service. Speculation abounded as to what happened to him. We all suspected that he had gone to Alaska to seek his fortune or something like that. “G-d has no Grandchildren,” and I suspect it was too much to follow in the old man’s footsteps. Years later we learned that he had died of a heart attack in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania two years after he disappeared.” Rupert went on to examine how a life that G-d used was not always something that read as a beautiful novel. Life did not always make sense… but the comfort was always that there was more to life… always, than what you could see.
It was growing late. The work of two great bridge builders pressed upon them. The man who brought together continents embraced the man who brought together men and the Kingdom. The conversation would be continued.
A powerful scene alludes to an even more powerful reality.
The Doctor:Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Curator:Well... um... big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
***** And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
-- Revelation 21:3-5
Worldview is everything. In Christ we have the one who actually transforms the pain and torment of this life into something beautiful. Here is a great truth that is beyond our understanding, yet the Divine Himself is the Master who completes the tapestries of our lives… inverting them to reveal His beautiful hand. This is a beautiful story, but may I suggest that it is beautiful because we yearn for what the Doctor and Amy were able to show Vincent and it is beautiful because Christ promises to show us the same. From C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald we learn that great story conveys great truth. Lewis shows us that those longings in us that this world cannot fulfill point to the fact that we were created for a better world.
History is not quite kind to Van Gogh, in fact the brief version often leaves you the memory of his madness. Yet here are some thoughts from the man himself. I think he is worthy of some study:
Ifeel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.”
I wanted to know more, and in researching this I discovered William Havlicek, Ph. D , who wrote “Van Gogh’s Untold Journey” (Creative Storytellers). I knew that Van Gogh had some Faith because I had used a quote of his about church steeples a while ago. What I didn’t realize was the depth of his Faith.
Havlicek points out that the current drive by the academy toward secularization makes Van Gogh’s Faith practically unknown. Yet the man himself sought to serve God with his art: “…to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God. One man wrote or told it in a book, another in a picture.”
And about his relationship with prostitute, Sien Hoornik, consider the man’s own writing: “I met a pregnant woman, deserted by the man whose child she carried. A pregnant woman who had to walk the streets in winter, had to earn her bread, you understand how, I took this woman for a model and have worked with her all winter. I could not pay her the full wages of a model, but that did not prevent my paying her rent, and, thank God, so far I have been able to protect her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my own bread with her.”
Van Gogh struggled to support himself, but he was generous to a fault.
And about that suicide, Havlicek says that there is strong evidence that some boys were target shooting nearby and accidentally hit him. That he would not accuse them was entirely in line with his character. “He had a very sacrificial aspect to his personality. There were several times in his life when he took the blame for someone else.”
He loved Christ enormously at the end of his life,” Havlicek says. “He said Christ alone among all the magi and wise men offered men eternal life. In spite of a broken life, something glorious emerged.”
A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum. (read more)
The Red Vineyards near Arles is an oil painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, executed on a privately primed Toile de 30 piece of burlap in early November 1888. It is reported to be the only piece sold by the artist while he was alive. Savhanna Herndon
“I don’t hide from you that I don’t detest the countryside — having been brought up there, snatches of memories from past times, yearnings for that infinite of which the Sower, the sheaf, are the symbols, still enchant me as before.” (Letter 628 to his friend and painter Émile Bernard, on or about June 19, 1888).
Vincent Van Gogh, Le semeur (The Sower), Mid-June 1888. Oil on canvas, 64 x 80,5 cm. Kröller-Müller Museum,The Netherlands
So why do nations fail? While a case can be made for institutional integrity, it is also clear that simply transplanting working institutions (such as the U. S. Constitution) into other societies does not necessarily guarantee success. Post-Colonial Africa testifies starkly to this, as do the wreckages of a succession of Socialist Utopia/Dystopias. If better institutions can be constructed, what are they to be made of? Acemoglu and Robinson argue for good institutions, but cannot tell us what the foundations should be. Even those who would argue that the "American" solution is the right one need to confont the reality of America today. America is in Decline. As her leaders saddle her with $17 Trillion in debt, she becomes increasingly weaker as an agent for providing for the basic security of the society. Her leaders are content to entrust our energy production to unfriendly regimes in the Middle-East, our financial and manufacturing security to unfriendly regimes in Asia and our physical security to a despot-heavy United Nations. How did we get to this point? In this conclusion to the series: A Case for Vision, we will look at some possible reasons.
As America grew increasingly secure in its prosperity, it turned its energies increasingly towards a 'consumer mentality.' Note that this is in stark contrast to the earlier mindset that America was to be a blessing to the rest of the world. The drive to send missionaries, provide clean water and cure disease took a back seat to building bigger houses and bigger televisions. Now we could outsource our manufacturing, enjoying more and cheaper goods. No longer would we have to live next to 'dirty' old factories. They could be converted into trendy botiques, lofts and coffee shops. Sadly, those jobs they created went away too! No worry!, everyone can go to college now. The problem is that the Professional sector grows only insofar as it is the supportive branch of the creation of real productivity. No problem. After college you can work/hang out in the trendy coffee shop. Gratification became a larger motivating force than the securing of Faith and Freedom. The Mall and the Multiplex Theater replaced the church and the armory at the center of the commons. Manufacturing centers could be re-purposed as shopping areas too. Religion diminished as a force for living everyday life, becoming an inspirational hour for refreshment rather than a challenge to be lived throughout the week. Hillary Clinton carefully crafted her own description of Religious Freedom to narrowly define it as the 'private practice of Faith.' Her description actually perscribes its exclusion from the public square! [1.]
Next came a sense of 'entitlement.' How else do you explain unmarried Georgetown University student Sandra FlukeDEMANDING that her school, a Faith institution run by the Jesuits, provide HER with recreational contraceptives? [2.] That she was invited to speak at the Democrat Convention and now is exploring a run for Congress speaks volumes to this new sense of 'entitlement!' There is something fundamentally wrong here... far more than the economic reality that she, as a law student, can anticipate far more income than I will ever see. She does not NEED Georgetown University to provide her with recreational contraceptives. The real travesty is that while the church is being told that it has no place in the commons, those in the commons are all to eager to place such limitations and demands on the house of Faith! A major retailer, a major furniture manufacturer and a chicken sandwich restaurant who seek to live their faith in the marketplace are all under attack. This is not an accident. The inclination of mankind towards morality has been repackaged in electric cars, cloth grocery bags and tilting at the windmill of 'Global Warming.' Stewardship of the earth, a noble thing in and of itself, can attain the status of civil Religion. Traditional Religion can get out of the way of our pursuit of Hedonism. Why should we cry out to G-d if we can make government our provider?
Finally, there is a wrongly placed national pride. This is the arrogant assertion that we somehow no longer need to rely on Divine Providence, humbly petitioning Heaven for our daily bread. We can do it all ourselves if we somehow correctly organize the commons. Thus we eschew the functions of Faith and Defense rightly performed in the commons as the commons takes upon itself to do the work of G-d! But what is the result? May I suggest it is nothing but a high-tech serfdom. Because 'we' can change the climate, we will do so by strangling the very engines of industry and ingenuity that have actually improved man's stewardship of the world (actually we've simply placed our manufacturing offshore. Our 'clean' Priuses receiving toxic batteries from a Chinese factory that would not meet the standards of our own EPA).[3.] We come to the conclusion that 'we' must alone end Acquired Immune Deficiency and balance the temperature of the planet. We will pay carbon taxes to despot regimes while stifling the energy production that will free us to advance to the next generation of propulsion! We forget the wisdom of Samuel Morse, who telegraphed: "What hath G-d Wrought?" upon the successful operation of the telegraph. We forget humility.
And yet, if you are reading this, you might realize that we might indeed pursue a better course. We might look to Bless future generations rather than feather our own nests. We might pursue our science with humble faith as opposed to arrogance, looking to a G-d who I believe is all too eager to reveal new secrets to trustworthy men and women. We might, as we realize the roots of our prosperity, seek to share those roots with our fellow man. We will not kick against Constitutions that limit institutions, seeing that the limitless resource of Divine Revelation can indeed fuel our aspirations. What drew me to Asmus and Gruden's work was their optimism in presenting a universally implementable strategy for improving the human condition. What compelled me to write this series was the burning sense that I was holding in my hands a map, if you will, showing the location of treasure far greater than the Count of Monte Cristo's map to the lost treasure of Sparta. Like the old priest, I want to press it into the hands of someone who will use it for good.
Unplanned Movie Opens
Based on the true story of Abby Johnson, this film tells the story of how she rose to become the youngest director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and then she actually saw what goes on in the ‘procedure rooms.’ Asked to assist in the actual procedure, Johnson saw the tiny baby struggle to get away from the abortionist’s tool on the ultrasound screen. The film tells of this life-changing moment. Thinking she was pursuing a career to ‘help women,’ Johnson was not only disturbed by the disregard for the unborn but also by the abortion industry’s full-out ‘marketing’ of abortion while claiming they wanted to make it rare. In fact, her supervisor explains that abortion services are the profit center for the clinics. They pay for the red Miata and the Lamborghini (along with the generous 401K).
Jack Dorsey of Twitter suspended the @UnplannedMovie promotion run by Lila Rose of 4o Days for Life. Other media outlets refused advertising for the film outright. The MPA slapped an ‘R’ rating on the film, which though it shows some blood, is far more restrained than some PG-13 offerings. The media cabal wanted it to go away. It opened to people who went to see it in droves anyway.
There is an important lesson here. Media outlets can become non-benevolent “gate keepers” and thus render the internet (and any other source, for that matter) a “less than complete” source for people wanting to know the truth. The problem is not a new one, but for younger people who “do everything on their phone” it begs the argument for deeper sources, more thoughtful dialogue and the sharing of ideas in other places. We can talk about the hard issues in church and in person to person interaction. We can learn to go to the source and think for ourselves. That is how you conquer the problems that vex society.[1.]
I've always considered myself pro-life but certainly not an activist. I had no idea who Abby Johnson was when I first auditioned to play her in the biopic “Unplanned.” I was given just six pages. Six pages that ignited my curiosity. There was something about Abby that stuck with me. How could this incredibly passionate woman one day change her mind about everything she believed in? There had to be more to the story.(read more)
Once in the history of our Commonwealth our health system promoted a public policy that promised to deliver advancements in the betterment of the human race. In Staunton, Virginia it was promoted by the director of Western State Hospital, Joseph Spencer DeJarnette (September 29, 1866 – September 3, 1957). As the director of the mental hospital located in Staunton, Virginia from 1905 to November 15, 1943 he was a vocal proponent of racial segregation and eugenics, specifically, the compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill. He was considered a pillar of the community and Adolph Hitler greatly admired his work. Today we shudder at the thought of the forced sterilizations that took place under Dr. DeJarnett’s directorship. The practice only ended in the 1970s. (read more)
Spring Crocus. Photo by Bob Kirchman.
Spring 2019 Areopagus Lecture
They taught me longing - Sehnsucht; made me for good or ill, and before I was six years old, a votary of the Blue Flower.”
— C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
We are pleased to announce that theologian Alison Milbank will be presenting the next Areopagus Lecture. Dr. Milbank’s talk will address the formation of the imagination as part of the vocation of the Church. Alison Milbank was a guest on the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal on Volume 99 when she talked about her book Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians. She is a professor in the department of theology and religious studies at the University of Nottingham.
Christian apologetics is often understood as a rational defense of belief presented to unbelievers on grounds other than faith. As John Milbank has put it in his forward to Imaginative Apologetics, these grounds reside “on one’s opponent’s territory, where one risks remaining in a weak or even a false position.” In other words, reasons and rationality are understood in terms already inclined to make belief in transcendence less plausible. What if, however, the “apology” offered remained intact and faithful to its original setting? What if the defense of truth relied on the conditions of goodness and beauty?
The famous apologist and fantasy writer, C. S. Lewis wrote that “reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.” In other statements and in his poem “Reason,” Lewis suggests that not only are reason and imagination distinct from each other, but that they are opposed and that we experience this opposition internally as in irreconcilable tension. How is it that such a superb writer of imaginative fiction seems to maintain a contradictory view of imagination in his non-fiction? Are we to take Lewis’s more direct statements about the imagination literally? Or can the imagination — and Lewis’s admitted love for beauty and longing — be incorporated into our understanding of reason and rationality?
In her talk, Alison Milbank will investigate these questions in light of the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. With the help of some other thoughtful observers on the role of the imagination, Milbank will examine whether the Church can adopt an imaginative apologetic that does not deny the claims of reason.
When: April 4 at 7:30 PM
Where: The Haven - 112 West Market Street, Charlottesville, VA 29902
What:“Imaginative Apologetics beyond C. S. Lewis”
— Lecture: free and open to the public
RSVP: Please register here [click to register] for the lecture