From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kepler 186f: Earth's doppelganger?

Johannes Kepler (1610 portrait)
The term “doppelganger” is an amalgamation of two German words:  Doppel (“double”) and ganger (“goer”).  It implies that for every one of us, there are two of us.

Could this include planets, too?  Could Earth have a “twin” (or at the very least “cousin”) somewhere out there in the Universe?

Astronomers are thinking that Earth very well might.  In fact, an exciting candidate was recently discovered a “mere” 500 light-years away in the Goldilocks zone of a red dwarf star within the
constellation Cygnus.  

(Don’t go packing just yet…  Bear in mind that one light-year equals approximately six trillion miles.)

This possible doppelganger, dubbed Kepler 186f after the telescope with which it was detected (in turn named after the great German mathematician Johannes Kepler), could have water on its surface.  The Associated Press reports that this planet is located in “the sweet spot where lakes, rivers or
oceans can exist without freezing solid or boiling away.”

Of course, plentiful liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it…    


Copyright April 19, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 18, 2014

Heaven: News and Views

Paradise  (by Jan Brueghel the Elder)
The movie “Heaven is For Real” recently made its debut.  It tells the story of a four-year-old’s heavenly journey during a near
death experience.  

Throughout the centuries, many traditions have had their own descriptions of Heaven.  Wikipedia ties these descriptions together with this definition:  Heaven… is a common religious, cosmological, or transcendent place from which heavenly beings (such as God, angels, the jinn, and sky deities…) originate, are enthroned, or inhabit.

Although many religions agree that Heaven does exist, they differ (sometimes sharply) as to how one gains entry into this ultimate “Promised Land.”  Some Universalist traditions believe that everyone will eventually get there, no matter how troubled life here on Earth may have been.

Other traditions believe that entry into Heaven depends upon the type of life one has led.  A spiritually “good” life (according to the beliefs of a particular religion) can result in immediate entry upon death.  A questionable life may instead first result in time spent elsewhere.  And a highly questionable life?  According to some doctrines, the result can be eternal damnation.

Ancient Egyptian faith included a rather arduous view of the afterlife.  In order to reach Heaven, the 
deceased person would undergo a weighing of the heart with the feather of truth.  If the heart was heavy with
sin, it would then be devoured.

Ancient Judaism spoke of the shamayim, located above a dome-shaped firmament which covered the Earth.  It was there that Yahweh dwelled in a heavenly palace.  (Yahweh’s earthly dwelling was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.)

Islamic texts refer to several levels of Firdaus (Paradise) for those who do good deeds while on Earth. Even the lowest level of Islamic Heaven is said to be “one-hundred times better than the greatest life on earth.” The highest level is known as “Seventh Heaven.”


Copyright April 18, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rabbi Sasso: Raising spiritual kids

'God's' Paintbrush    (Photo by Jennifer Rensel) 
According to Spirituality & PracticeRabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was the “second woman to be ordained as a rabbi (1974) and the first rabbi to
become a mother.”  She therefore knows a thing or two about raising spiritually-oriented children.

Her well-known children’s book God’s Paintbrush has recently been honored with a Special 10th Anniversary Edition.  During the past ten years, Sasso has also written nine other "multifaith" classics” that focus upon the spirituality of
children and their parents.

In an interview provided to Spirituality & Practice by Sasso’s publisher Jewish Lights, Sasso explains that children have an “innate spirituality” that is often overlooked by adults because it isn’t easily expressed with words.  She therefore advises:  When talking to our children about God, we do not need to simplify the concept, only the language.

Children are often taught specific ways to describe God.  Like coloring only within the lines, this might somewhat limit their ability to creatively understand the vastness of God’s inexplicable nature.

Sasso also recommends that adults try to recall their own spiritual childhood experiences. She feels that this will make parents better able to resonate with the soulful experiences of their children.

Copyright April 17, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Heaven: Coming to a theater near you

The Ascension of Christ  (PD)
People often go to the movies in order to escape everyday life here on Earth.  They are looking for something – anything – to ease their troubles, if only for a little while.

The recent book-turned-movie release, Heaven is For Real, may provide a whole lot of value for the price of one theater ticket.  If its message is also for real, then throngs of theater patrons will be gifted with a preview of coming heavenly attractions.

Based on the story of four-year-old Colton Burpo’s near death experience (as told to his parents, Pastor Todd Burpo and wife Sonja), the movie affords viewers a glimpse of life in Heaven.  While there, Colton met with the sister he never knew he had (a miscarried sibling that he had never been told about), plus a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before.  Bill Newcott of AARP also reports that Colton “heard angels singing and sat on the lap of Jesus.”

Was this just a PK’s (“preacher kid’s”) Sunday School-inspired fantasy?  The Burpos at first thought that it might be.  However, when Colton began stating details about his deceased sister and great-grandfather that he couldn’t have possibly known otherwise, his parents began to sit up and take notice.

Todd Burpo explains that he resisted telling the world this story at first.  However, people began knocking at his door (and it shall be opened), saying: “God told me to tell you that you should write a book...”


Copyright April 16, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cross to bear: Hate begats hate

Anti-Semitic Graffiti  (Public Domain)
Frazier Glenn Cross, the man who allegedly gunned down three victims at Jewish establishments, is no stranger to hatred.

CNN reports that Cross is “the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.”  After being apprehended for these shootings, Cross sat in a patrol car shouting “Heil Hitler!”

This alleged killer has “posted extensively” within online hate-promoting forums that advocate the extermination of Jews.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sued him decades ago for illegally operating a “paramilitary organization” and for “intimidating African-Americans.”   He then went on to plot “the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees.”

For those who think “it cannot happen here,” anti-Semitism is unfortunately still very much alive in America – so much so that the Anti-Defamation League warns Jewish establishments to maintain additional security during this precarious  time of year (Passover – as well as Hitler’s April 20th birthday).   


Copyright April 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ghrelin gremlins: Calming the hunger beasts

Feeding America  (Sterling Communications)
There are certain “hunger hormones” known as ghrelins in the human body.  When these ghrelin gremlins get going, it means that you’ll soon be searching for a quick fix – be it junky or healthy.

Wisdom on the street says that only a calorie-laden choice will truly satisfy these gremlins. However, a recent study by research psychologist Alia Crum suggests otherwise.

Crum, who has a history of investigating the placebo effect, wondered whether food labels could influence the ghrelin hormonal response.  She therefore took the exact same milkshake, poured it into two different containers, then labeled each container in very different ways.

Alix Spiegel of NPR reports that one label read “Sensishake… zero percent fat, zero added sugar and only 140 calories.” The other read “Indulgence” and indicated “enough sugar and fat to account for 640 calories.” Spiegel adds:  In truth, the shakes had 300 calories each.

What ended up happening was that ghrelin levels dropped about three times more when people thought they were consuming the indulgent shake as when others thought they were consuming the sensible shake.

So perhaps the “proof” is no longer just in the pudding…  Perhaps it’s on the pudding label as well.  


Copyright April 14, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Four blood moons heading this way

1504 Blood Moon  (Public Domain)
Wikipedia explains that during a lunar eclipse, “sunlight reaching the Moon must pass through a long and dense layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The shorter wavelengths of this sunlight are especially scattered by the atmospheric molecules they encounter; therefore, the longer wavelengths begin to predominate.  The resulting light appears to be red, thus accounting for the term “blood moon.”

Pastor John Hagee, a televangelist and best-selling author, emphasizes this passage from Acts 2:19-20: And I will show wonders in Heaven above and in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into
darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.

The fact that four blood moons are set to occur, each on a significant biblical holiday, has made Pastor Hagee sit up and take notice.  These lunar eclipses will coincide with the following dates:  April 15, 2014 (during Passover); October 8, 2014 (during the Feast of Tabernacles); April 4, 2015 (again during Passover); and September 28, 2015 (again during the Feast of Tabernacles).

Other tetrads (series of four lunar eclipses) have occurred “while the Jews were being expelled from Spain… soon after the state of Israel was founded… [and] during the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis.”

Could this upcoming tetrad be a sign of the end times?  Hagee certainly thinks so… 


Copyright April 13, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved