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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Homeless neighbors: A biblical solution

Homeless Veteran  (JMSuarez)
Mother Theresa often emphasized that it's not necessary to do great things, only small things with great love.

The building of tiny houses for the homeless seems to be right in keeping with this biblical philosophy.  Since "neighbor," as defined in Luke 10:37, is one with whom merciful acts are shared - those who "love thy [homeless]
neighbors" are those who offer hospitable shelter to them.

NBC News reports on "small-scale individualized shelters" for the homeless that are being built in Texas, New York, Utah, Florida, Wisconsin and
California.  These survival pods often contain enough space for a narrow bed, a small sink, and a toilet. 

The sink can be fed by rain water, and the toilet can empty into a disposable plastic bag.  Some pods even come equipped with electrical outlets for small TVs, computers, air conditioners, etc.  They are inexpensive to build, and lightweight enough to easily maneuver from place to place.

These pods often provide homeless people with levels of privacy, safety, independence and dignity that public shelters generally can't offer.  In terms of "loving thy neighbor," they seem to be a giant leap forward.


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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bethenny Frankel: Priorities in order

Yogic Meditation (Photo: Kalyan Kumar) 
It's rare to hear the star of a cancelled show say (out loud) that she or he is relieved about how things went.  When stars do admit some relief, gossip generally deems it to be "sour grapes."

Nevertheless, Bethenny Frankel, former Bravo star, sounds mighty convincing when she speaks about the recent cancellation of her talk show.  She described her time with the show as "a bit diluted, filtered and somewhat constricted" - and then confessed:  I am a free spirit.

Frankel further explained to Wonderwall that she had only agreed to continue with the show if she could be true to herself, and if it were "genuinely a good fit and marriage which it turned out not to be."

She then graciously gave kudos to those talk show hosts who make it all look so easy:  stars like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Plus, she's got her priorities right in order.  Frankel mentioned that she looks forward to spending more time with her daughter, doing yoga, writing, and getting "a rest from the grind."

She refreshingly concluded:  I'm a little over myself and wouldn't blame anyone else for being over me as well.


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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Self-help books: God helps those...

A worried look...  (Public Domain)
Those who believe in utter predestination might want to stop reading this article now.   All others might wish to take a peek at some of these self-help teachings.

MSN Living reports on a potpourri of books that claim to help you help yourself.  Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start
Living is a classic in this genre.  Beyond simply "winning friends and influencing people," it gets to the root of why some folks would rather just hide:  they are filled with anxiety.  This book provides
some "old-timey" tips for relief from this gnawing fear.

The Secret, of course, is no secret.  Ever since Oprah's promotional campaign, this title has been on everyone's lips. The book's message is quite straightforward:  "if you think about something reeeeallly hard, you'll get it."

Then there's Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.  Author Jonathan Fields invites readers to "embrace the unknown."   He knows whereof he speaks, having quit his "corporate gig to open a yoga studio…"

There are many more such books – books that not only entertain you, but also educate you to the possibilities of co-creating a life filled with miracles.


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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

'The Message' seems clear

(Photo by Dave Bullock)
Ohio bus driver Rickey Waggoner has proven that if you keep the Bible close to your heart, it just might save your life.

Waggoner, who was recently "shot twice in the chest at close range" by teenage gang members, survived because the bullets were absorbed by a Bible he was carrying called The Message.

The Message is a 2002 version of the Bible by Eugene Peterson.  Now 81 years old, Peterson currently lives in Lakeside, Montana.  He told Fox News that "he was thrilled to know his book stopped bullets."

Pastor Peterson had studied the New Testament in ancient Greek, and had sensed that his Bible students weren't getting the full experience of earlier manuscripts.  Wikipedia reports that he therefore attempted to "bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language."

Here is Peterson's version of The Lord's Prayer:  "With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.  Like this:  Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.  Set the world right; Do what's best— as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You're in charge!  You can do anything you want!  You're 
ablaze in beauty!  Yes. Yes. Yes."      


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

Ambiverts: Best of both worlds

Ambivert in action?  (Photo by ThePlaz)
Professor Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business not only dispels myths about introverts and extroverts, but also extols the virtues of ambiverts.

In an article for The Huffington Post titled "5 Myths About Introverts and Extroverts at Work," Grant points out that introverts are often unfairly described.  However, Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking has begun to change all that.

Introverts are now "coming out of the closet," and society is discovering that they are indeed sociable, as well as a great asset to professional undertakings.  They are no more anxious than extroverts are - and can be excellent leaders, orators, and salespeople.

Nevertheless, on a scale of one to five (one being "extremely introverted" and five being "extremely extroverted"), the average in 2013 was 3.39.  This indicates that many are actually ambiverts – part introvert and part extrovert.

According to Grant, ambiverts have the best of both worlds.   They can be "quiet in some situations and loud in others."  They alternate between spotlight and background.  In other words, "they have the flexibility to adapt to the demands of the situation."   


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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blemished grapes? Numbers knew

(Photo by Dragonflyir)
In Numbers 6:14, it is emphasized that sacrificial lambs must be unblemished.

A few verses before that, Numbers 6:4 exhorts that those who take Nazirite vows shall "eat nothing that is made of the grapevine, from the pressed grapes even to the grapestone."

Many have wondered about this passage because grapes and their byproducts are often thought to be quite healthy. For example, who among modern-day Americans has not seen commercialized images of California raisins dancing in the sun?

Suddenly, however, this misunderstood Torah commandment (one of 613) has been vindicated.  USA Today reports that Propionibacterium acnes type Zappae (aka P. acnes) is lurking within grapevines.  Some strains of P. acnes have been linked with human blemishes.

The Italian scientists who discovered these grapevine critters are theorizing that they originally migrated onto the vines from the skin of human agriculturists.  This migration was thought to have occurred approximately 8,000 years ago.  Therefore, by the time Numbers was written, these grapevine bacteria were all settled in.

Given the numerous Torah taboos against blemishes, it is not surprising that grapevines - and all that they yield, have been deemed to be forbidden fruits.  


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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swastika: Often holy, sometimes twisted

Church Mosaic   (Etan J. Tal)
Chances are that the four Oregon teenagers who forcibly carved a swastika into another teenager's forehead had the wrong idea about its true symbolism.

Wikipedia explains that the swastika is actually regarded as holy by many a tradition.  In Sanskrit, svastika literally means "it is good."  In Jainism, the four arms of this symbol correspond to these four destinies:  "heavenly beings, human beings, animal beings (including birds, bugs and plants), and hellish beings."  In Hinduism, four other aspects are represented:  essence, wealth, desire and liberation.

In ancient Tibet, the Buddhist yungdrung (swastika) was associated with eternity.  In Daoist China it symbolized "the myriad things" (i.e., "the whole of Creation").  In Japan swastikas have been used as family emblems.

Long before the Nazis co-opted this symbol for their own evil purposes, the swastika had been widely known throughout Europe.  Christians there had used it as a "hooked version" of the cross.  Swastikas can be found at the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan (Italy), the Cathedral of Our Lady at Amiens (France), and the Church of St. Laurent in Grenoble (France).  .    


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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Your jazzed-up brain

(Photo by KarlKunde)
Music is not just a series of sound sensations, but rather a language all its own.

In the jazz world, "spontaneous back-and-forth musical exchanges" between two players are called "trading fours."  Health Day reports on results from a Johns Hopkins study that monitored "the brain activity of 11 male jazz pianists" while they traded fours.

This study indicated that improvised jazz communication takes place within different brain areas from those which focus upon spoken language.  Jazz messages instead center upon "brain areas that process language structure."  Head author Dr. Charles Limb concluded:  We've shown in this study that there is a fundamental difference between how meaning is processed by the brain for music and language.

So instead of saying it with words, try saying it with music.  Go ahead - jazz up your life. Your brain will buzz with delight.


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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sister Megan Rice: Sacred all life

First Day of Creation (1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)
Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, was recently sentenced to approximately three years in federal prison.  Her crime?  Staging a nuclear-weapons protest by breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee…

People reports that at one point during her hearing, Rice asked the judge whether she and those so moved could sing a short song in order "to lighten the atmosphere." After permission was granted, these words were sung:  Sacred the land, sacred the water, sacred the sky, holy and true…

These are not new-age proclamations.  Genesis 1 makes it perfectly clear that in God's eyes Creation was blessed and good. It therefore makes sense that a nun and two fellow Catholics would protest the potential destruction of God's precious planet.  In fact, Rice's codefendant Michael Walli stated:  was acting upon my God-given obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Wikipedia explains that Rice's parents were good friends with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement.  Rice herself "joined the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus at age 18."  She has served this world tirelessly and graciously ever since.

While awaiting sentencing, Rice spent the past nine months in jail.  This experience "opened her eyes to the suffering of prisoners" within a society "that invests in weapons instead of people." 


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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Commandments: Two, ten or 613?

Moses &Ten Commandments (Rembrandt)
Because humans get easily confused with too many dos and don'ts, God had the wisdom to make the commandments more user-friendly. 

The 613 Torah commandments were distilled into ten - and were further distilled within the New Testament into these two:  Love God and love one another.

Mendy Hecht of presents a listing of the 613 commandments, along with their biblical sources.  These include the following:  Not to make human forms even for decorative purposes (Exodus 20:20), Men must not shave
their beards with a razor (Leviticus 19:27), He must not eat raisins (Numbers 6:3), and Pay wages on the day they were earned (Deuteronomy 24:15).

These are some milder examples of what following each and every facet of Mosaic Law could mean.  Some more serious examples, such as the following, can be found within The Daily Beast article titled "Christian Sharia Law in America":  If a woman is found not to be a virgin on her wedding night, 'she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death' (Deuteronomy 22:20-21).     


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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Seeking Sobek: Try looking up

Sobek   (by Jeff Dahl)
If you wish to worship the ancient Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, try doing so with your neck craned upward.  According to Barbara Liston of Reuters, you just might
have more luck (and longevity) that way.

It turns out that these gnarly old critters - the likes of which seem perfectly suited to water and land only - can shimmy up trees faster than the blink of a terrified eye.
Liston explains that there have been documented reports of crocs climbing six feet high, and anecdotal reports of them reaching 30 feet.

Although crocodiles seems to lack the climbing apparatuses that, say, monkeys have – what they lack in foot and toe structure, they more than make up for in
agility and persistence.  Those that can't take the express route straight up the tree can instead wind their way around incremental branches.

Now this may be great news for Sobek devotees who are seeking his fierce protection.  As for the rest of us, tropical treetops aren't looking quite as soothing as they used to…


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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jane Goodall: No sharp line

Goodall in 2006    (Photo by Jeekc)
Soon-to-be octogenarian Jane Goodall recently proclaimed: There's no really sharp line dividing us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Some might interpret this to mean that humans act like beasts. Others might interpret this to mean that beasts act like humans.  Then there are those who calmly point out that we're all God's creatures.

Goodall, a decades-long primatologist, has painstakingly "documented the relationships and other behavioral patterns of chimpanzees, finding parallels with human conduct that spurred debate about evolution."

Her "22-page resume" also includes the following achievements:  gorilla studies, grand marshal of a Rose Parade, tree-planting in Singapore, over 100 honorary awards and degrees, book authorship, and continually speaking out for those furry ones who can't.


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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vatican Valentines: 'Yes Forever'

(Public Domain, Circa 1910)
For the very first time, the Vatican hosted a Valentine's Day celebration in honor of "The Joy of Yes Forever."

This event was hosted for thousands of heterosexual couples enrolled in
"Catholic marriage preparation courses."  These engaged couples came from 25 different countries.  They were each gifted with "white silk cushions" (for future ring bearing) that displayed the pope's Latin 
signature "Franciscus."

There was singing, dancing, storytelling and general merriment before the pope himself arrived.  Francis then offered these words of marital wisdom:  Living together is an art, a patient, beautiful and fascinating journey…  Don't build your house on the sand of sentiments that 
come and go, but on the rock of real love.

This event is one more example of Pope Francis' leadership style.  Rather than harangue the crowd about what is forbidden, he instead focuses upon the joys that are currently sanctioned within his tradition.


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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kohn to Kerry: Re-rooted and transplanted

John Kerry  (Public Domain)
Okay, so according to Lisa Katz of, John Kerry has some European Jewish ancestry.

His paternal grandfather, Friedrich "Fritz" Kohn, had chosen to change his own name and religion.  He then became Frederick Kerry, a convert to
Roman Catholicism.   Katz contends that Kohn picked this new identity rather randomly, "by dropping a pencil on a map" and watching it land on Ireland's County Kerry.  The motive?  Allegedly, the anti-Semitism that was rampant in Europe at the time…

Frederick went on to marry Ida Loewe, a Jewish musician whose siblings were killed in Nazi concentration camps.  Ida also became a baptized Roman Catholic.

Fred and Ida had three children:  Erich, Mildred and Richard.  Richard, born in America in 1915, became John Kerry's father.  John's mother was originally Rosemary Forbes, "the beneficiary of the Forbes family trusts."

Richard and Rosemary had four children:  Margery, John, Diana and Cameron.  Cameron, John's younger
brother, wound up marrying a Jewish woman and converting to Judaism.  John, however, has been a lifelong practicing Roman Catholic.

Does having these Jewish roots make John Kerry Jewish?  Some might say so; others are saying so.  It's all in how you define Judaism, a task that has been debated for centuries.

Wikipedia explains that John himself has said, "I'm a Catholic and I practice, but at the same time I have an open-mindedness to many other expressions of spirituality that come through different religions…"


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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Frederick Douglass: Told it like it was

(Frederick Douglass, c. 1860s) 
When Frederick Douglass was invited to speak at an 1852 Fourth of July celebration, he did not mince words.  Like the prophets of old, he told it like it was – and reserved some of his harshest comments for those who defended slavery in the name of Christianity.

Douglass' famous speech, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?, contains elements of Paul's famous exhortation to the Corinthians.  In I Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul pretty much calls that congregation a bunch of babies.  He tells them:  Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ.  I
gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.

Douglass mirrored this sentiment when he pointed out that, at the time, America was a mere "76 years old."  He followed with these
double-edged words:  I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young.  Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation…  According to this fact, you are, even now… still lingering in the period of childhood.

Having established that America was also in its infancy, Douglass went on to scathingly expose its childish morality.  In the name of religion, America's "Me first!" mentality had not only embraced slavery, but also condoned it.

Because of that, Douglass concluded that he would "welcome anything! In preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines!  They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty…"


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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine history: Muddy and bloody

(Photo by blackfish)
Although the real history of Valentine's Day isn't quite clear, gory theories abound.

According to The Huffington Post (which never met a scandal it didn't like), the most plausible of these theories is the one about the Saint Valentine (there were allegedly three) who "was a Roman priest during the 3rd century A.D. under Emperor Claudius II."

Now Claudius II wasn't the kindest kid on the block (chopping block, in his case).  Not that he didn't have a lot on his mind…  The Roman Empire was splitting apart, and the "threat of invasion" was imminent.

This called for action – military action - which in turn called for soldiers, and lots of them.  Because Claudius (mistakenly or not) believed that single lads are somehow fiercer, he went ahead and
banned marriage.

This did not sit well with then-Father Valentine (with a name like that, how could it?).  He therefore "began officiating marriages in secret…"  Claudius, being Claudius, had him imprisoned and beheaded.

Because marriage is a holy sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Valentine later became Saint Valentine for defending this tradition with his life. 

So there you have it – love hurts.    


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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sid Caesar: Once was enough

Sid Caesar in 1961    (Public Domain)
When Sid Caesar was interviewed by Barbara Paskin of The Jewish Chronicle a few years ago, she asked him whether he would consider having a second bar mitzvah like Kirk Douglas did.

Caesar replied, "I had one and one was enough.  For me, it's enough to be a man once in my life."

Caesar's one and only bar mitzvah turned out to be "a very big deal."  Even at that tender age of 13, he was already showing signs of being a "master of his own words."  Rather than run with the rabbi's prepared speech, Caesar wrote his own.  In it, he conveyed "how being Jewish has affected me."

Being a Jew continued to affect Caesar throughout his long lifetime.  He felt that "Jews appreciate humour because in their life it's not too funny."  Caesar's amazing team of writers (Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks) were each Jewish too - not because Caesar planned it that way, but because "they were genius."

Nevertheless, Caesar was careful not to become too steeped in "the kind of Jewish neuroticism that Woody Allen exhibited…"  Although Caesar incorporated traditional Jewish humor into his act, he did not wish to "make fun of being Jewish."


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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple Black: Religious ties

(Shirley Temple Black in 1990) 
When people think of Shirley Temple Black, they often associate her with entertainment and politics. 

Relatively few are familiar with her religious ties.  Nevertheless, Temple
had been a Protestant throughout her entire life - one whose leanings were interdenominational.

According to, Temple's "maternal grandmother was a staunch Lutheran."  Although Temple's mother had identified their immediate family as Presbyterian, she and Shirley also regularly attended a nearby Episcopalian church.

When Shirley grew up, she continued this tradition by frequenting
St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.  She also later married
Episcopalian Charlie Black.

Shirley Temple's autobiography, Child Star, includes mention of
prayerful and contemplative visits to St. Alban's.  Temple explained that one such visit had "helped her
immensely in her personal life."


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

Monday, February 10, 2014

Religious geography: Q & A

(Author:  debaird)
Brad Knickerbocker of The Christian Science Monitor recently reported on the results of Gallup and Pew surveys.

Answers to the following questions that these surveys addressed might somewhat surprise you:

Which U.S. state has the smallest percentage of those who identify strongly with religion?     (Answer:  Vermont)

Which U.S. state has the largest percentage of those who identify strongly with religion?    (Answer:  Mississippi)

What is the current religious makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court?   (Answer:  Six Catholic justices, and three Jewish ones)

What percentage of Alabama's population is Protestant?    (Answer:  77%)

What percentage of the United States Congress is Jewish?    (Answer:  6%)

What fraction of U.S. adults under 30 have no religious affiliation?    (Answer: One-third)

What percentage of Americans consider prayer to be an important part of daily life?    (Answer:  76 %)

What percentage of the U.S. Congress is Protestant?     (Answer:  56 %)

How many Buddhists and Hindus are currently serving in the U.S. Congress?      (Answer:  One of each)   



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Caesar 'lives on' at Copenhagen Zoo

Bust of Caesar (Photo by Andrew Bossi) 
When it comes to animal rights, it seems as though we haven't progressed all that much in two thousand years.

Back when Julius Caesar ruled (from 49 to 44 BC), the Egyptians gifted him with a giraffe. tells us that Caesar named it "cameleopard."  You might suppose that naming this animal indicated a growing attachment of some sort.  Not in the least.

Instead, Caesar prioritized self-glorification of the basest kind.   He first paraded the giraffe around Rome for all to admire, and then "stuck the poor animal in a circus arena and fed it to the lions to show his power."

A recent occurrence at the Copenhagen Zoo seems not that far removed from this ancient scenario.  BBC News Europe reports that this zoo not only "put down" (deliberately shot) a young healthy giraffe against the wishes of "thousands of people" - but then made a public spectacle of skinning its carcass, cutting it up and feeding it to the lions.

This showmanship (all in the name of duty, of course) was not only broadcast live on the Internet, but also took place in front of young children.  A zoo spokesman stated the following:  I'm actually proud because 
I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo.

These children might have also been given "a huge understanding" of another sort:  that it's perfectly okay to sensationalistically butcher innocent creatures.  After all, Caesar did…


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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Pass it forward: Bible stories too

Jonah and The Whale   (by Gustave Dore)
Whether today's children will be better or worse off than their parents depends very much upon what we as a society pass forward.

A recent study that was commissioned by the Bible Society reveals that today's youth are only about half as familiar with Bible stories as their parents were back when.  Classic stories such as Jonah and The Whale can therefore become lost to future generations unless decisive action is taken.

Graeme Paton of The Telegraph reports that 20 percent of the 800 children who were surveyed "could not identify Noah's Ark or Adam and Eve as a Bible story."  Almost a third of them were unaware that the story of the Nativity was also in the Bible.

Even from a non-religious standpoint, the Bible has played an enormous role in Western history, literature, and overall society.  To be unfamiliar with its contents is therefore to be missing out on an enormous trove of cultural treasure.


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

Friday, February 7, 2014

Creation debate: Not just about evolution

(1871 Caricature of Darwin)
Media has been abuzz about the recent debate between Bill Nye the Evolution Guy and Ken Ham, founder of Kentucky's Creation Museum.

The focus of many reports has been the arguments for and against the teaching of evolution.  However, there is another issue that this debate brings to mind, and that is the false dichotomy between religion and science.

In an article for The Week, Elizabeth Stoker states:  Thanks to so-called literalists like Ham, much of the secular world thinks there are irreconcilable differences between Christianity and science.  There aren't.

She goes on to explain that many Christians oppose Ham's "staunch" biblical interpretations, as well as his mission to rid the schools of lessons on evolution.  In fact, Ham had been "disinvited" from a number of Christian-oriented homeschooling conventions because of his hard line personality and theories.

Stoker also points out that the Roman Catholic schools have taught about evolution for quite some time.  The
Anglican Church also "maintains that evolution is wholly compatible with a faithful view of the world," as do numerous other Protestant denominations.

She also urges Christians to keep a close eye on Ham, and warns that the success of his exclusivist agenda would entail the marginalization of many established forms of Christianity.


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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

White lion triplets: Blessings times three

(Photo by Gary Whyte)
A rare stroke of good fortune has taken place at a private zoo in Borysew, Poland.  Not one, but three white lion cubs were recently born there.

Head zookeeper Andrzej Pabich reported to The Associated Press that "white lions often have defects that prevent giving birth, or mothers may reject the cubs."  However, "2 ½-year-old white lioness Azira" has been lovingly caring for her three cubs ever since they were born. Sahim, the white lion that fathered these cubs, lives "in a neighboring cage."

Wikipedia explains that the coloring of white (and sometimes tawny) lions is due to a recessive trait which is less severe than albinism.  Their native land is thought to be the Timbavati region of South Africa. further elaborates on the spiritual dimension of these lions.  Such wisdom tells us that the white-lion gene surfaces when "humankind seems to be facing some natural peril which inaugurates a shift in human consciousness."

African Shamans and Egyptian historians have spoken of the White Lion's deep connection with the stars, especially the constellation Leo.  "As with the Lion of Judah, the Lions of God bring a message of Christ Consciousness…"

We have only to listen.


Copyright February 6, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Minimalism: Declutter your life

Thoreau's Cabin  (Photo by Namlhots)
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself this:  If the real treasures of life are not material, then why are my closets so full?

Joshua Fields Millburn did - but not until he "had watched his mother die and his marriage dissolve in the span of a month."  It was then that he decided to declutter his life in order to make room for the truly important things.

Over a relatively short period of time, Millburn went from being a six-figure (yet debt-ridden) corporate director to being a small-town writer who "surrounds himself only with things that are functional and bring him joy."

Jenna Goudreau of Business Insider reports that Millburn and a friend began a website called (what else?)  They also published a book titled Everything That Remains.

Millburn has these three suggestions for those who wish to pare down:  Focus upon how your life would be better with less material clutter; declutter incrementally by ridding yourself of one item per day; and work together with "an accountability buddy" who also wants a simpler life.


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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Papal privacy: Or anyone else's

Pope John Paul II   (Public Domain)
History might rightfully dub this the "Age of Omniscience" in which everyone knows everyone else's business. 

Between people willingly funneling their blow-by-blow scenarios to such media as Facebook, and people unknowingly being watched by such organizations as the National Security Administration, there's hardly a secret left in this nosy noisy world.

Is that good, bad, and/or just plain ugly? 

Now it's true that omniscience has long been considered to be a holy quality of God's.  However, this type of omniscience has been protectively coupled with God's perfect benevolence.  Omniscience without such sacred protection can run quite amok, especially when coupled with all-too-human fallibility.

Just recently, Pope John Paul II's secretary and "trusted confidant" went against the late pope's clearly (and probably legally) expressed wishes and published John Paul's "personal notes."  This secretary, the Rev.
Stanislaw Dziwisz, claimed to be "having them published as a precious insight into the inner life of the beloved pontiff, who will be declared a saint in April."

Was this the right thing to do?  Is such insight worth the breaking of trust and confidentiality?  Although The Associated Press points out that Dziwisz did "not go against papal infallibility…which applies only to matters of church doctrine," he might have heavily contributed to the rapid demise of a cherished value:  privacy.   

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

Monday, February 3, 2014

Groundhog: Prognosticator or arbiter?

Groundhog Day   (Photo by Aaron Silvers)
Caught between two calendar traditions, the beginning of February can be a confusing time. 

On the one hand, the Christianity-rooted Gregorian calendar says that we're still in the midst of winter.  On the other hand, the Earth-based Celtic calendar says that it's time to celebrate spring.

According to Wikipedia, today's Neopagan traditions follow a loosely-based medieval Celtic calendar that celebrates "the four
Gaelic festivals of Samhain (November 1, winter begins), Imbolc (February 1, spring begins), Beltane (May 1, summer begins), and Lughnasadh (August 1, autumn begins).

In this ancient system, the solstices mark the mid-seasons rather than the seasons' beginnings.  Shakespeare's "Midsummer" would have therefore occurred on June 21st, rather than during July or August.  Groundhog Day (along with Imbolc and St. Brigit's Day) would have marked the beginning of spring.

All of this confusion – spring, not spring/winter, not winter – might have led to some intense bickering along the way.  Therefore, an arbiter of some sort was needed.  No human in his or her right mind would have
wanted that kind of responsibility.  It took a gutsy little groundhog to begin settling the matter centuries ago.

That groundhog was Punxsutawney Phil.  He and all of his similarly-named descendants have been burrowing their way to fame ever since.


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

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Papa Houphouet's 'Basilica in the Bush'

Felix Houphouet-Boigny  (PD)
In the Ivory Coast village of Yamoussoukro, birthplace of 'Papa' Felix Houphouet-Boigny, stands "the world's largest church."  The Daily Beast reports that it towers "above a lush sprawl of grazing cattle and ramshackle buildings."

Although this first president of the Ivory Coast was born into the animist tradition of the Akoues tribe, Houphouet-Boigny later converted to Christianity.  Wikipedia explains that he "considered it a modern religion and an obstacle to the spread of Islam." 

Nevertheless, Houphouet-Boigny (then a practicing Catholic) married "the daughter of a wealthy Muslim from Senegal."  Their interfaith union was "the first ever celebrated in Cote d'Ivoire."  However, their children were all raised as Catholics. Houphouet-Boigy later divorced his first wife and married a much younger woman.

Over the years, Houphouet-Boigny amassed a great fortune.  He decided to gift Jesus and then-Pope John Paul II with the Basilica
of Our Lady of Peace (later dubbed "Basilica in the Bush").  After moving the country's capital to his home town of Yamoussoukro, Houphouet.Boigny had the basilica built there.

The Daily Beast reports that "due to the country's ironically small Catholic population… the thousands of seats in the largest church in the world have gone mostly unfilled."


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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Digital ministry: Rapidly growing

(Author:  GreySmallHorse)
Once upon a time, worship was highly interactive. 

People didn't just sit there quietly in their pews, hoping to catch some words of wisdom from the clergy leader.  No!  They sang and danced, clapped and swayed, ate and drank, talked and listened, made merry and lamented together as a face-to-face interactive group.  Such were the primary modes of worship for

Nowadays, religious and spiritual interactions are occurring more and more over the Internet.  Technology is not only expanding, but also shaping such encounters..

Keith Anderson of Religion Dispatches writes about "5 Must-Reads on Religion and Social Media."  His own coauthored (with Elizabeth Drescher) hands-on guide "for religious leaders and practitioners" is titled Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible.  He also recommends The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould.

As can be expected, along with new approaches come new questions like this:  "Should I friend my pastor?"  Guides such as those mentioned above "anticipate deeper questions religious communities will be asking about social media and the practice of religion…"     


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