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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John Paul II: Guns and roses

(Public Domain)
Back in May 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca was all about guns.  Reuters reports that he “critically injured” Pope John Paul II “after firing several shots in the failed assassination attempt in
St. Peter’s Square.”

While Agca was serving a life sentence for this attack, John Paul forgave him.  Not only that, the pontiff actually visited
Agca in the Rome prison.  

Thus, the roses began.

Exactly 31 years after this compassionate visit, Agca recently arrived in the Vatican.  There he “stood for a few minutes in silent meditation over [John Paul’s] tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica before leaving two bunches of white roses.”

Agca had been “pardoned by Italy in 2000”and “released from jail in 2010.”

Petal by petal, the acrid stench of hatred can truly be replaced by the sweet smell of roses.

Resources
http://news.yahoo.com/man-tried-kill-pope-john-paul-ii-puts-180226217.html

Copyright December 31, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tree getting your goat? Reverse the trend

Help this goat grow!     (Photo by Kuebi)
Many in-house live Christmas trees have seen better days.  If the one dropping needles all over your rug is beginning to get your goat, here’s a way to reverse that trend.

Grand Junction Associated Press reports on how things are done out in Western Colorado.  Goat farmers in that region say “Christmas trees make great snacks for their herds.”

Not only do “pine needles have vitamin C,” but the trees are also “a natural de-wormer for goats.”  

Who knew?

Of course, the decorations should first be removed.
Chemically-sprayed trees are also a no-no.  If your live tree passes on these two qualifications, and you dwell within Colorado’s Grand Valley, just give a holler.

Three of the local ranches (Hopper’s Lil Moo, Top of the Hill and 5-R) will be glad to 
relieve you of this needling burden.

If your trees pass muster, but you don’t live in the Grand Valley, then start a new trend in your own locale.  Goats everywhere will thank you. 

Resources
http://news.yahoo.com/farmers-christmas-trees-great-goat-snacks-224543320.html

Copyright December 30, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Monday, December 29, 2014

'Exodus' banned in Egypt

Semitic Slave   (Photo by Hanay)
Just as the original Exodus was “banned” by the Egyptian Pharaoh, the Hollywood depiction thereof is currently being banned by the Egyptian censorship board.

Greg Gilman of The Wrap reports that the release of the 20th Century Fox film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” was stopped by this board “just a day before” the movie was scheduled to make its Egyptian debut.

The reason given?  According to the BBC, the film was banned because “the biblical adaptation depicts Jews as having built the pyramids,” and because of the “assertion that Moses… [rather than “an earthquake] parted the Red Sea.”

Gilman reports that the film is also being banned in Morocco, although an official reason has yet to be publicized.

Apparently, a slave-promoting mentality still exists in numerous parts of the world.  Censorship is a key method for oppressing populations.

It’s never too late to once again proclaim:  Let freedom ring! and Let people go!

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/news/exodus-gods-and-kings-banned-in-egypt-because-of-historical-inaccuracies/ar-BBhfcTB?ocid=ansWrap11

Copyright December 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Baby Jesus' stolen: How low can you go?

(Photo by Nevit Dilmen)
There are all sorts of ways to legitimately bring Jesus into your life.  Stealing “baby Jesus” from a Nativity display is not one of them.

Unfortunately, this misdeed is not all that uncommon.  The Washington Post recently reported on a number of incidents in which the baby Jesus came up missing.  In one particularly heinous occurrence, “a baby Jesus doll was replaced with a freshly-severed pig’s head.”

That abominable incident took place “Christmas morning at the Sacred Hearts church in Haverhill, Massachusetts.”  At the Greenfield, Massachusetts town square, a $3,000 Italian baby Jesus doll was taken on Christmas Eve morning.

Yet another “baby Jesus” was stolen from Ashville, North Carolina’s Trinity Baptist Church.  It was then replaced with a lamb.

“Baaaa humbug” to all such crimes, nevertheless…

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/people-keep-stealing-baby-jesus-from-nativity-scenes/ar-BBhfnOM

Copyright December 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved




Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tyson's Christmas tweet: No big deal

Neil deGrasse Tyson    (NASA photo)
It seems as though certain corners of Christianity (sharp ones, no doubt) are all a twitter against astrophysicist Neil
deGrasse Tyson’s Christmas Day tweet.

If you’re one of the three people in the universe who hasn’t yet read the tweet, here ‘tis:  On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world.  Happy Birthday  Isaac Newton  b. Dec 25, 1642.

So what's so insulting about that?  Perhaps DeGrasse-Tyson was just flinging a bit of wit in the direction of those who could surely use some.  In other words, if (any) religion is so defensive that it can’t embrace a little highbrow humor, then how is it going to cope with life’s serious stuff?

Isaac Newton is an actual hero of DeGrasse-Tyson’s.  Whether Newton was born on December 25th (Julian calendar) or on January 4th (Gregorian calendar) is not the point.

The point might instead be that there is room for science in religion, for religion in science, and for humor in both.

Those who are reviling DeGrasse-Tyson for making an alleged birthdate “error,” might want to lighten up some.  Perhaps they could then learn to fly alongside the Christmas angels.

Resources
https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/548140622826459136

Copyright December 27, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Friday, December 26, 2014

Bias intimidation: Laying down the law in NJ

NYC Protest   (Photo by Danlev) 
Patch reports that a 45-year-old Lakewood, New Jersey man was recently indicted on one count of bias intimidation in the fourth degree.

This criminal, Scott Cooney, had “verbally harassed and threatened” neighbors for months, “using anti-gay and anti-semitic language.”  He had also “carved a swastika” into their front lawn.

Another New Jersey man, David Smith of Little Egg Harbor, recently pled guilty “to a fourth-degree count of bias intimidation and a count of resisting arrest.”

Smith had “made racial slurs toward an African-American man who was walking past his
home, which resulted in a physical altercation between the two and then with police…”

Attorney Samuel Sachs explains that "a person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation if he commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate
commission of an offense specified in chapters 11 through 18 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes…”

These offences include intimidation regarding “race, color, religion, gender, disability,
sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity…”

Resources
http://patch.com/new-jersey/berkeley-nj/lakewood-police-man-carved-swastika-neighbors-lawn
http://www.samsachs.com/2c16-1-bias-intimidation/

Copyright December 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Borrowed time: Van Dyken and us

Craig Rehab   (Photo by Jeffrey Beall)
It’s one thing to be a celebrity, and quite another to be a heroine.

Olympic gold-medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken is now both, ironically due to a physical paralysis.

Jonna Lorenz of Newsmax reports that Van Dyken “severed her spinal cord… after an ATV accident this summer.”

She is not only “determined to walk again,” but has also gained a whole new perspective on life.

Van Dyken now realizes that she (and we) are on “borrowed time,” and sees the preciousness and fragility of life on this planet.

As a result, she has gained an “increased appreciation” for time spent with friends and family.  Van Dyken explains:  My life, and its meaning have changed dramatically.

Sometimes “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” bring forth the hero within.  
Why not short-circuit some of the angst by beginning life’s heroic journey right here and now?

Resources
http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/amy-van-dyken-accident-2015-awesome/2014/12/23/id/614799/

Copyright December 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'King David' versus Mother Nature

Don't mess with the King  (PD)
Most know that the Bible’s King David successfully went up against the Goliath of his time.

Now it seems that his namesake is going up against Mother Nature herself, a foe even more formidable than the giant of old.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that “more than 250 minor tremors have rattled the Florence region over the past three days.”  These earthquake shocks have alarmed area residents, who have
taken to sleeping in “campers, cars or tents.”

Residents are not only alarmed for themselves, but also for their beloved “David” statue.  This Michelangelo masterpiece was completed in 1504, and depicts King David just before he fought Goliath.  Wikipedia states that David’s “moment between conscious choice and action” was portrayed by a drawn brow, a tense neck and bulging veins on the lowered
right hand.

The citizens of Italy are now showing as much readiness as King David did during that long-ago moment.  Culture Minister Dario Franceschini recently “announced the state is investing 200,000 euros ($245,000) for an anti-seismic plinth” for the statue.

Better than a slingshot, for sure…  
    
Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_%28Michelangelo%29

Copyright December 24, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Salvation Army: Red kettle, gold tooth

Golden Smile  (Photo by Steve Evans) 
There are gold rings, gold coins, gold bars and gold teeth.  Gold teeth are last on this list with good reason.  In the United States, they’re not highly associated with either sentimental or cash value.

Nevertheless, a Salvation Army worker from Kansas City, Missouri found an entire tooth (root and all) within one of the donation kettles.  Because this tooth had a gold filling, its estimated “street value” is one hundred dollars.

If you can get past the “ugh” factor, a donation of that type is quite good (compared to the usual smaller bills).  Nevertheless, the Salvation Army is going to hold it for a while “in case it was put into the kettle by accident.”

Certainly, the tooth fairy has better things to do with her time.  Reuters, however, reports that someone who was carrying the tooth in his or her pocket may have mistakenly thrown it into the kettle along with the intended donation.

If the tooth remains nameless and claimless, it will then be cashed in.  Its monetary value will help “a holiday fund-raising drive” to meet its “$2 million goal for the Kansas City area.”

Resources
http://news.yahoo.com/gold-tooth-lands-missouri-salvation-army-kettle-181011871.html

Copyright December 23, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Monday, December 22, 2014

Secret Santa: Begins and ends with 'W'

"W," is that you?   (by Douglas Rahden)
Secret Santa’s secret is not so secret anymore.

The Washington Times is now reporting that he who “handed out toys at the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas last week” was none other than President George W. Bush (but you can call him “W”).

Not only that, Secret Santa’s Secret Service helpers were the elves who accompanied “W” on this mission of mercy.

Social media was the first to let all these secrets out of the sack.  One Facebook entry read:  Guess who just came and gave Emily a Christmas present dressed in a Santa suit with Secret Service and all?!?!?....... Pres. George Bush.

Christmas:  The season that unites. 

This time around, the “W” stands for “Wonderful.”


Resources
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/21/george-w-bush-dressed-as-santa-hands-out-toys-at-c/

Copyright December 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Break up, break down, break free

Tennyson  (Print by J. M. Cameron)
According to Ashley Mateo of Self, there are three stages concerning the dissolution of an intimate relationship:  break up, break down, break free.

A study featured in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates that young adults often go through these stages within three months.  In other words, it generally takes at least 90 days for suddenly-singles to develop some positive perspectives about the breakup.

These positive perspectives began to emerge within both parties:  the one who initiated the breakup, and even the one who didn’t. They were expressed by such statements as “I have learned a lot about myself” and “I have grown as a person.”

So it appears that Lord Tennyson was right: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Here’s to the poet within us all that’s waiting (breathlessly) to be ignited by love.

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/relationships/here%E2%80%99s-how-long-it-actually-takes-to-get-over-a-breakup/ar-BBgiGEC

Copyright December 21, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Life on Mars? Follow the flatulence

Methane-producing Archaea  (PM Poon)
A spike in methane levels at the Gale Crater on Mars could be a sign of past and/or present life.

That’s because most of the methane gas on earth has been produced by living organisms.  Polite humans refer to such gaseous excretions as flatulence.

Wikipedia explains that human flatulence stems from “gases generated in the intestines or stomach,” along with 
“swallowed environmental air.”  The generated gases include “oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane.”

This methane is produced by the Archaea, which can “oxidise
hydrogen into methane.” These microorganisms live within 
the colons and navels of many people, as well as within oceans, soils and marshlands.

It is therefore possible that the spike in methane is indicative of Martian microbes.  It is also possible that Martian microbes might be “housed” within more complex forms of life. 

Resources
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/12/17/curiosity-rover-finds-methane-on-mars-what-it-could-mean-for-life/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatulence

Copyright December 20, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved







Friday, December 19, 2014

Dark matter: Could it be?

Dark Matter, Tinted Blue   (Hubble photo)
Dark matter, which Wikipedia describes as a kind of invisible matter that exerts a gravitational pull, has remained quite elusive.

Engadget reports that even the most powerful telescopes have been unable to make dark matter observable.  This is because “it neither emits nor absorbs light.”

Nevertheless, a team of scientists recently announced that a breakthrough could be imminent.  They observed a spike within data “from the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster” that corresponds with current theories about the qualities of dark matter.

“The signal’s distribution within the galaxy…[is] concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges.”  If this is, indeed, a sign of dark matter, then scientists now know “where to look and what to look for to observe it.”  They can also customize telescopes to study these signals.

Since it is too early to tell whether or not these unique signals are from dark matter, another question arises.  If not from dark matter, then from what?

Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/unusual-x-ray-signals-could-reveal-dark-matter/ar-BBgLJhX?oci=ansEngadget11

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


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pope's 78th: Cake, cards and tango

Tango Show (Photo by Jenny Mealing-Flickr)
It was a regular fiesta for Pope Francis’ recent 78th birthday.

So what do you give the pontiff who seemingly has everything?  The crowd presented him with cake, cards (many made by children), and dozens of tango dancers.

Lest there be questions about the dancing, let it not be forgotten that King David had a similar fondness for such holy exuberance.

Wikipedia explains that the tango has roots in both European and African culture.  African slaves were 
once a huge part of the Argentine population.  They brought with them their native dances, many of which 
had been associated with worship. 

The Vatican Associated Press offered this quote:  The tango is a dance that unites all people no matter where 
they come from.

Perhaps worship in general should include more dance and less talk…  

Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Argentine
http://news.yahoo.com/pope-gets-cake-tango-chicken-birthday-133336736.html

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


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Who says animals don't feel?

Calf   (Photo by Jim Champion)
The folk song “Dona Dona” has some very sad lyrics.  It contrasts a calf bound for market with a swallow flying freely. 

The farmer in this scenario is unsympathetic to the calf’s plight.  He (or she) says, “Stop complaining.  Who told you a calf to be?” (implying that calves were created in order to be slaughtered).

The lyrics culminate with this assumption:  Calves are easily bound and slaughtered   Never knowing the reason why   But whoever treasures freedom   Like the swallow has learned to fly.

It is highly likely that calves deeply feel their impending doom, and it is highly likely that they treasure freedom every bit as much as a swallow (or a person).

A recent Newsmax article illustrates just how desperate cows are to break free from the death camps we call slaughterhouses.  It tells of the final moments in a condemned cow’s life.

This 1,000 pound heifer “escaped from a meat processing facility by jumping a six-foot fence and racing through the town of Pocatello, Idaho… where it was eventually cornered… [and shot dead].”

The reason given for the shooting was that “the animal might trample someone as it charged through residential neighborhoods…”  In other words, humans don’t want to get hurt.

Apparently, neither do cows.

Resources
http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/idaho-cow-escapes-butcher/2014/12/15/id/613131/

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


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For the physicist who has it all

CERN Offices  (Photo by Gillis Danielsen)
If you’re wondering what to get the “Einstein” in your life, consider this:  A particle accelerator can now be stored on a food-prep counter, right there between the toaster and the
blender (because even physicists have to eat).

HNGN reports that this “tabletop” accelerator is able to excite subatomic particles “to the highest energy ever recorded from a compact accelerator.”

So why bother trekking off to CERN when you can party with particles right within the comfort of your own kitchen?

For those who like to plan ahead, next year’s gift should then be a no-brainer.  In order for the accelerator to get fully (and literally) up to speed, a companion “tunnel” would later be needed.

This tunnel would channel the light pulse in such a way that even “more-energetic electrons” could be handled.

Talk about a holiday light show!  Why it’s enough to brighten anyone’s spirit - and then some.  

Resources
http://www.hngn.com/articles/52282/20141209/tabletop-sized-particle-accelerator-breaks-energy-records.htm

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



Monday, December 15, 2014

Meditation: Your mind on 'rinse'

Sufi Meditative Singing   (PD)
Although most of us wouldn’t want to go a day without washing the body, so many of us go weeks (years?) without “rinsing” the mind.

In an article titled “5 Convincing Reasons to Start Meditating," MSN Lifestyle compares meditation to placing the mind on rinse cycle.  Within the spaciousness of those daily focused moments, the “static cling” of excessive thoughts and desires can be gently swept away.

If you’re thinking that meditation takes time away from an already-overloaded schedule, the facts may be quite different.  Because meditation helps to concentrate the mind, daily tasks can afterwards become easier and faster. Regular meditators have been known to “do less and accomplish more.”

Not only that, entrenched habits that block efficiency will sometimes fade away.  One meditator reported that she “forgot to smoke” after just a few days of practice.

If you've ever gone surfing, you know the powerful feeling of catching a wave and having “the force of nature on your side.”  Meditators sometimes feel as though they are working in conjunction with the force of the cosmos.  This type of alignment can infuse a person with energy.  The Greeks have called it “enthusiasm” (being “infused with the Holy Spirit”).

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/smart-living/5-convincing-reasons-to-start-meditating/ss-BBgBkOB#image=1

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


Sunday, December 14, 2014

'Raccoon selfie gone completely wrong'

Agile Little Guy...  (Public Domain)
When you grab a raccoon off the side of the road in order to wrangle a selfie out of its distress, the outcome can’t be good.

Nebraska DE (Defensive End) Jack Gangwish found this out for himself while “driving around the outskirts of Lincoln” in
his pickup truck.  After coming upon the cute little critter, Gangwish leaped out and coerced it into “an Instagram-optimized position.”

Raccoons, the proverbial Native American tricksters, don’t take to coercion lightly.  “Rocky” therefore did what any self-
respecting coon might:  showed that Gangwish a thing or two by biting his leg.

Now that the tables were turned, Gangwish was one unhappy camper.  Dan Carson of Bleacher Report states that Gangwish “grabbed a crescent wrench” in an attempt to “subdue” the trickster.

Gangwish subdued the raccoon permanently, then made light of the bludgeoning by reporting it as “death by crescent wrench.” 

“Joke’s” on Gangwish, however.  It seems that even if “Rocky” didn’t have rabies, football itself can result in similar symptoms such as aggressiveness and irritability (this according to Gangwish himself
within a now-deleted Tweet of his). 

Resources
http://www.native-languages.org/legends-raccoon.htm
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2290447-nebraska-de-takes-selfie-with-raccoon-kills-animal-after-being-bitten

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


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Zwarte Piets: Free Santa's slaves

(Photo by Tenorio81)
Images of Santa’s helpers have often been presented in a happy-go-lucky fashion.  One can even imagine that elves receive paychecks and Christmas bonuses.

Not so Zwarte Piet…

When Zwarte Piet (aka “Black Pete”) first burst upon the Dutch scene in 1850 (as part of a children’s book called St. Nicholas and his Servant), “the Dutch Empire was not only
deeply involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but dependent on forced labor in plantation colonies in Suriname and Indonesia.”

The image of Zwarte Piet is still modeled after these slaves.  A modern-day Zwarte Piet generally sports a “painted black face and exaggerated red lips,” which to many “instantly evoke racial stereotypes.”

According to Caitlin Hu of Quartz, the Dutch government has claimed that there have been few complaints until this decade.  Hu nevertheless reports that by 2013, “Zwarte Piet had become the subject of multiple civil suits and the threat of an investigation by the United Nations.”

Dutch “people of color” have been offended by Zwarte Piet for long before that.  Social historian Zihni Ozdil points out that the tide is finally turning within the general population.  He stated: It’s become kind of a hip thing to be against Zwarte Piet.

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/the-dutch-don%E2%80%99t-think-it%E2%80%99s-racist-for-santa-to-have-black-slaves/ar-BBgBU6W

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


Friday, December 12, 2014

Kim Kardashian: It's God's fault

Kardashian in 2011  (Photo by Toglenn)
Turns out that Kim Kardashian is quite the believer.  At least in certain aspects of God’s gifts to womankind…

When Kardashian piled on the pounds during her pregnancy, she was not a happy camper.  In retrospect, however, she credits God for this lesson in humility.

Lily Harrison of E! Online reports that Kardashian has stated: I’d think God was doing this for a reason. He was saying, ‘Kim, you think you’re so hot, but look what I can do to you.’ 

Because Kardashian developed early and had “shape” long before knowing how to handle it, many years passed before she become comfortable with her now-famous body.

She recalls a letter that her father sent to her when she was 13.  He wrote that although her body would garner men’s attentions, “the most important thing” is to understand her own self-worth.

A good lesson for all young females, all young males, and adults of any age to remember…

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/celebrity/kim-kardashian-blames-god-for-her-huge-pregnancy weight/ar-BBgCyvt?ocid=ansEonline11

Copyright December 12, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Swastikas for Hanukkah? No way

Ancient Greek Meander Pattern   (Photo by Hannes Grobe) 
Although swastikas might denote “good luck” in some traditions, they certainly don’t connote that among Jews.

It was therefore quite traumatic for Walgreens shopper Cheryl Shapiro “to spot Hanukkah wrapping paper with a geometric border design that had a swastika shape in it.” 

Zoe Mintz of the International Business Times reports that Shapiro wanted the offending items to be removed immediately.  “Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said the company would remove the rolls from shelves.”

Mintz explains that some people were “as outraged as Shapiro,” but others thought that she had overreacted.  Some Redditors commented that the alleged “swastika” designs 
were actually examples of meander art from Ancient Greece.

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/swastikas-found-on-hanukkah-wrapping-paper/ar-BBgvaKU

Copyright December 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chabad-Lubavitch: Love the Jews

Mitzvah Tank   (Photo by Edward Betts)
Witnesses at a Chabad-Lubavitch center in Brooklyn, New York recently reported that a knife-wielding assailant intruded
upon them during the wee hours of the morning.  This intruder repeatedly stated, “Kill the Jews.”

Knife in hand, the attacker then walked up to each of about half a dozen men dressed in Orthodox Jewish garb and asked, “Want me to kill you?”

The answer was obviously “No” because soon the police showed up.  The scene ended violently.  Reuters reports that a 22-year-old Chabad-Lubavitch student
was stabbed in the left temple, and the assailant was afterwards shot dead.

This is what happens when prejudice and hatred instigate.  The philosophy of Chabad-Lubavitch, however, is one of wisdom and love.

Chabad.org explains that "Lubavitch" means “City of Brotherly Love” in Russian.  “Chabad” is a Hebrew acronym for these three qualities: “chochmah – wisdom, binah – comprehension, and da’at – knowledge.”

Chabad-Lubavitch is considered by many to be “ the most dynamic force in Jewish life today.”  The organization is “dedicated to the welfare of Jewish people worldwide.”   

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/new-york-police-shoot-kill-man-who-stabbed-person-in-synagogue/ar-BBgxOFI
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/36226/jewish/About-Chabad-Lubavitch.htm

Copyright December 10, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Theologians, listen up

Pope and Patriarch  (Photo by Nir Hason)
If you want to get a feel for eternity, spend some time with a group of ivory-tower theologians.  Pretty soon you’ll be longing for the nearest exit.

Having had more than his share of such meetings, Pope Francis is urging theologians to change their nitpicking ways. He suggests that they humbly “listen to what ordinary Catholics have to say” rather than just make “pronouncements in an academic vacuum.”

Francis furthermore told members of the International Theological Commission to “open their eyes and ears to the signs of the times.”  In other words:  Get with it!

In keeping with his strong belief that theologians have been “holding back the church in its mission to evangelize and work with other Christian communities,” Pope Francis has been advocating for “a more merciful type of theology” (i.e., “theology on its knees”).

This “kneeling” theology would be far more capable of “meeting the faithful where they are..." than the high-flown kind has been.  

Resources
http://news.yahoo.com/pope-theologians-listen-ordinary-faithful-134542640.html

Copyright December 9, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Monday, December 8, 2014

Cold turkey literally tough

Commercial Turkeys  (USDA photo)
Cold turkey is tough for many reasons other than the “chewability” factor. 

Stopping any habit all at once is difficult, especially when that habit is food-oriented.

It is therefore not surprising to read “that 84 percent of vegetarians and vegans eventually go back to eating meat – 53 percent of them within a year’s time and more than 30 percent
of them within three months.”

The Huffington Post reports that primary reasons for these lapses include the following: lack of social support, squeamishness about being perceived as different, experience of “animal-based cravings,” and difficulty with cold-turkey anything.

Huffpost Healthy Living therefore suggests that vegetarianism need not be an all-or-nothing affair.  Perhaps “vegetarian eating can be a fluid part of anyone’s diet.” 

There can be Meatless Mondays and Fruit-filled Fridays.  Meat dishes can be accompanied by oodles of veggies.  While waiting to do everything, something is often better than nothing.

Resources
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/04/vegetarian-phase_n_6270584.html

Copyright December 8, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mount Soledad: Veterans double-crossed?

(Photo by Will Fresch)
Way atop the La Jolla section of San Diego, California stands a 43-foot high cross. This Mount Soledad cross is part of a federally-funded memorial to all U. S. war veterans.

However, not everyone is pleased with this blatant juxtaposition of church and state.  Kevin Freking of the Associated Press reports, “Last year, a federal judge ordered the federal government and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to remove the cross.” 

This order was partially based on the “pivotal and imposing stature” of this cross.  Because of its size and brightness, the Mount Soledad cross dwarfs “by every measure the secular plaques and other symbols commemorating veterans.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. begs to differ.  He likens this 43-foot high cross to the 3-foot high ones that often decorate grave sites.  In fact, Hunter recently stated:  It’s the same thing.  Our is just a whole lot
bigger.

Can something really be “the same thing” and yet “a whole lot bigger” all at once?  Sounds like Hunter has been watching a whole lot of science-fiction flicks lately…

If the “size doesn’t matter” crowd is so adamant about this quantum theory, then why not simply exchange the existing Mount Soledad cross for a much smaller one?   
  
Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/congress-takes-another-crack-at-war-memorial-cross/ar-BBgpGNE

Copyright December 7, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Empathize with thy enemy': Who said that?

Oliver North   (Photo by Holtocw)
If you’re thinking that Jesus said something like it, you’re on the right track.  After all, “Love thy enemy” might certainly include a heavy dose of empathy.

However, this time around it’s Hillary Clinton who’s doing the peace talking.  What’s interesting is that those who likely identify themselves as devout Christians are condemning her words of empathy for enemies.

Here’s what Fox News host Oliver North (who,
according to Wikipedia, regularly attends church
services) had to sayIf you’re going to run for
president of the United States, you cannot talk that way about the people who intend to kill us…  This is capitulation.

Clinton’s words did not seem to imply surrendering to, yielding to, or agreeing with enemies (all of which “capitulation” connotes).  She merely advocated “trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view.”

Even folk wisdom states:  Know thy enemy.  Understanding and empathy are both means of better knowing who and what the opposing forces are.
  
Resources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_North

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/12/05/clinton-says-america-should-empathize-with-its-enemies/

Copyright December 6, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Friday, December 5, 2014

Bible Belt billboards: Opposites detract

You sure?  (Photo by vastateparksstaff)
Deep within the Bible Belt, Christmas-season billboards are facing off with one another.

Grace Church of Alma, Arkansas – which bills itself as “The Perfect Place for Imperfect People” – is planning on responding to a nearby atheist billboard with one of their own.

The atheist billboard, which has been replicated in key locations throughout the Deep South, shows a child penning this message:  Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to skip church.  I’m too old for fairy tales.   

The Grace Church billboard will soon proclaim:  Questions, Doubts and Curiosity…  All Welcome at Grace Church.

This feisty opposition has come to be known as the “Christmas wars.”  Some think this is simply a healthy reflection of a free and pluralistic society.  Others are not quite as upbeat.

Former Florida GOP congressman Allen West had this complaint about the atheist billboards: “…why use the image of a little child?  Why are adults spoiling Christmas for kids?”

American Atheist Public Relations Director Danielle Muscato offered this explanation to the Memphis media:  The girl on the billboard is a real person, she’s actually the daughter of one of our members.

Resources
http://news.yahoo.com/atheist-skip-church-christmas-billboards-offensive-free-speech-170255553.html

Copyright December 5, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Thursday, December 4, 2014

For 20-20, try 20-20-20

The 'Glasses Apostle' - 1403  (PD)
Those of us whose favorite childhood sport was reading (guilty as charged) might find ourselves wearing thick glasses these days.

It seems that myopia (nearsightedness) is not just a matter of genetics.  Scientists are discovering that it’s also a matter of
lifestyle.

U. S. News & World Report explains that the percentage of myopic Americans in the 12 to 54 age bracket has been rapidly
increasing.  This percentage jumped from approximately 25% in the early 1970s to more than 41% in the 2000s.

In countries “where schooling starts earlier and lasts longer each day,” the incidence of myopia is even greater than within the United States.  In South Korea, for example, a 2010 “large, representative study of 19-year-olds showed that more than 96 percent were myopic.”

Since myopia is described as “a reduced ability to focus on things farther away,” it would be interesting to study whether or not this physical condition also has mental/emotional components. For example, is myopia linked to an inability to “see” life’s bigger picture?

Mark Jacquot of LensCrafters suggests a 20-20-20 rule:  “Every 20 minutes of close-up activity… look at something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.”  Jacquot claims that this not only gives your eyes a break, but also your mind.

And perhaps even your ego, too… 

Resources 
http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/other/is-nearsightedness-an-epidemic/ar-BBgcG2F

Copyright December 4, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

If wishes were horses and life were fair

(Worldly Treasure, Arghhh...)
The problem with most people is that they harbor a secret fantasy that life is fair.

The following clich├ęs reflect this wishful thinking:  Work hard and you’ll succeed.  It’s how you play the game that counts. Good manners are always in style.

Not so,” says Oliver Emberton of Business Insider.  No matter how hard you’ve worked on your song, no matter how artistic it may be...  If the public doesn’t snap it up, then you’re still just a poor struggling lyricist (no matter how nice a person you might be).

As for competition?  Yes Virginia, there really are potentially hundreds (millions?) of others who would love to avail themselves of your home, car, job, spouse, etc.  

Emberton emphasizes that believing “you’re only in competition with yourself, so just do your own personal best” can make it all the easier to lose whatever it is you think you own.

No matter how brilliant your ideas might be, if they don’t translate into worldly achievements, then you’re also dead in the primordial soup.  Emberton concludes:  An internal sense of honour and love and duty count for squat.  What exactly can you and have you done for the world?

Emberton might very well be right about worldly success.  But what if the treasure you seek is not of this world?

Resources
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-problem-isnt-that-life-is-unfair-2014-12

Copyright December 3, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The couple that works together...

Pitt in 2013  (Photo by Eva Rinaldi)
Working together can certainly bring a whole other dimension into an intimate relationship.

Rather than simply complaining to each other about coworkers, the couple now finds that the dreaded coworker is right there across the kitchen table.  Worse yet, he or she is right there in bed.

Now let’s not pretend that “Brangelina” is just any old couple.  When the going gets rough, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may have external support systems that we don’t.

Nevertheless, when they decided to once again work together, the Jolie-Pitts reportedly experienced the same trepidation that you or I might.  Jen Odell of Wonderwall explains that friends
had even questioned the famous couple about whether this venture would be a good idea.

To add to the pressure, this latest Jolie-Pitt movie is “a drama about a bad marriage.”  Jolie stated:  It was very tough material,
so for any actors it was heavy dramatic emotional work.

Kind of like marriage itself… 

Jolie’s upbeat conclusion:  It [was] uncomfortable but we’ve already shot it, we’ve survived it and we’re stronger for it. 

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/movies/celebrity/angelina-jolie-friends-warned-brad-pitt-and-i-about-working-together-on-by-the-sea/ar-BBg6wg4

Copyright December 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Monday, December 1, 2014

Modern slavery: Deeply hidden

(The Old Plantation, circa 1790)
Slaves may not still be picking cotton, but then again they might be.  

According to Sky News, modern slavery is rampant within such countries as the United Kingdom, Poland, Nigeria,
Albania and Romania.

In the United Kingdom alone, an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 people were “trapped in conditions of slavery” in 2013.  These conditions include “women forced into
prostitution, imprisoned domestic staff, and field and factory workers.”  This estimate includes “victim numbers which go undetected by authorities.”

Because modern slavery is so “deeply hidden,” exposing its existence is the first crucial step toward eradication.  “Urgent action” is now being called for by Home Secretary Theresa May of the United Kingdom.

Strategies used to “counter terrorism and fight organized crime” will be employed.  Goals are threefold:  to raise public awareness, to “prevent additional cases,” and to “pursue those responsible” for this hideous practice.

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/up-to-13000-people-held-as-slaves-in-the-uk/ar-BBg8jEp

Copyright December 1, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pope Francis mirrors Saint Francis

Sultan Ahmed Mosque   (Photo by Dersaadet) 
When Pope Francis recently prayed “inside one of Istanbul’s most important mosques,” the Associated Press reported that he was “following in the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI who visited Turkey in 2006.”

However, Pope Francis was also following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis.  It was Saint Francis who long ago set the holy example of Catholic/Muslim peaceful relations.

According to Lawrence Cunningham of Notre Dame, St. Francis of Assisi “ventured into Muslim territory” during the 13th century “to visit the caliph of Egypt and preach the Gospel.”

Earlier in life, St. Francis had been a soldier.  After renouncing that, he instead became a “spiritual crusader – a warrior without arms.”  When St. Francis crossed enemy lines into Muslim turf, it was not as an envoy of war, but rather as brother of peace.

No one knows for sure exactly what was said during that historical meeting.  We do know that the caliph “did receive him kindly.”  We also know that St. Francis visited “in an attempt to engage the caliph face to face and possibly stop the killing and fighting.”

Centuries later, Pope Francis likely has these same holy intentions.  Perhaps it’s time for the world to finally follow suit.

Resources
http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pope-prays-in-istanbul-mosque-in-new-outreach/ar-BBg7wxB

Copyright November 30, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Forgive us our debts, Mr. Anderson

Debtor's Prison  (by Henry Nicholls)
Those who recite The Lord’s Prayer by rote might not stop to think about its implications all that often.

Certainly, one Mr. John Anderson (name changed to protect the guilty) didn’t seem to.

Anderson, who openly admits that he pushes “the edges a little bit sometimes,” has been known as a debt-collector extraordinaire.  He told ABC News that he “follows the law, for the most part.”

His legal lapses recently landed Anderson in a California court of law.  It seems that he was harassing a woman for $350 that
she owed from the 2007 purchase of a used car.

The testimony indicated that Anderson repeatedly told this debtor that “he knows everything” and could find her “no matter where” she was.  Anderson also contacted her boss and “released the information” that she had a debt.

It was also Jesus who taught, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  This has colloquially been interpreted as, “What goes around, comes around.”

So now Mr. Anderson is himself a debtor.  The court determined that he owes this woman $33,000 for his merciless actions.

The Lord's Prayer is not just a plea.  It is also a “contract” of sorts.  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”

Mercy, Mr. Anderson.  Mercy.

Resources
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/debt-collector-owes-33k-making-womans-life-hell/story?id=27093191

Copyright November 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved