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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Emotional fitness: Happify ever after

(Public Domain)
These days there’s an app for practically everything, including happiness. 

According to the gleeful folks at “Happify,” this app can be used “anytime, anywhere – on your computer or on your mobile phone.” No need to listen to Pharrell Williams anymore, just click right on and feel the joy.

Happify purports to be solidly rooted in scientific principles.  Happiness has been psychologically defined as a combination of how satisfied you are with your overall life, and “how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.”  Happify therefore provides activities designed to improve both parts of this rollicking equation.

Organized around a S.T.A.G.E. (“Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, Empathize”) framework, the app aligns with these five “happiness skills.”  For example, “Savor” involves the art of “making a pleasurable experience last for as long as possible.”  “Aspire” includes hope, purpose and optimism.

Here is a gratitude-based Happify activity:  Before bed, spend 15 minutes writing a list of things you’re thankful for…  Sounds rather simple?  Perhaps.  Nevertheless, it can also be quite profound.     


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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bi-vocational clergy: A growing trend

(Public Domain)
Gone are the days when a seminary graduate could pretty much count on a full-time ministry job, complete with benefits and housing expenses.

Unfortunately, the days when a seminary graduate could count upon heavy student-loan debts are still all too present.

Which doesn't add up to a financially viable situation...  Nor does it entice would-be clergy into the profession.

David R. Wheeler of The Atlantic explains that “more and more seminary grads are taking on secular jobs to supplement their income”  (a practice that is euphemistically referred to as “bi-vocational ministry”). 

More and more Protestant churches are downsizing from full-time to part-time pastors.  Some pastors are being subsidized by friends and relatives, while others are serving more than one congregation.

More than a quarter of the 2011 Masters of Divinity graduates are carrying over $40,000 in educational
debt, and five percent are facing over $80,000.  The median wage of those full-time pastoral jobs that do exist is $43,800.

Struggling graduate, Justin Barringer, states:  …I would love to see denominations and seminaries work out new and creative ways to train clergy at a more reasonable financial cost.


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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bowling: Shades of Sisyphus

Sisyphus  (Painting by Titian)
As the stories go, bad King Sisyphus was just plain mean.  Because of this, divine King Zeus ordered him to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a mountain.

This vertical form of bowling was also endlessly frustrating.  As soon as Sisyphus would score a strike by reaching the top, gravity would pull the boulder back down to the bottom again.

Then one day someone must have said, “How about we change things up a bit?  How about we start rolling our boulders

And so bowling was born…

These days, this ancient pastime (calling bowling a sport could only invoke the wrath of football fans everywhere) is in danger of dying.  Or, at the very least, of morphing into practically unrecognizable forms…

Patrick Clark of Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “blue collar” bowling alleys are fast becoming extinct.  In their place are the new ritzy centers, complete with “indoor go-cart tracks, laser tag games, and rock-climbing walls.”

Rock-climbing walls?  Perhaps Sisyphus isn’t as extinct as we thought.  Perhaps he lives on in the hearts and minds of modern-day bowling magnates throughout our fair land.   


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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Woody Allen: A mixed bag

Allen in 2006    (Photo by Colin Swan) 
What with all of his highs and lows, it’s no wonder that Woody Allen's outlook on life is also a mixed bag.

AP National Writer Jocelyn Noveck does a good job of presenting Allen’s divergent views.  On the one hand, his overall
stance sounds something like this:  In the end, you realize that you’re just… an insignificant agglomeration of cells and neurons, and eventually that expires, and eventually everything expires…
On the other hand, there are some welcome distractions within this inexorable march to oblivion.  Allen’s films have been gifts of distraction for the past 50 years, gifts that he hints may even originate “in the lap of the gods.”

Allen's spiritual outlook has long been somewhat split.  Here are two of his ambivalent quotes about God:

To you I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the loyal opposition.

If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil.  But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This little piggy menaced children

Sizzling Mad  (Photo by Roboscreech)  
The Associated Press recently reported that a pig on the loose in Maine not only “menaced two children walking through the woods,” but also “scared another passer-by.”

According to Chinese astrology, this sounds really out of whack.  Wikipedia reports that those born during a Pig year “are artistic, refined, intuitive, intelligent and well-mannered.”  One would surmise that these astrological qualities were extrapolated from those of the animal itself.

This Yankee pig must not have read the Beijing memo, for he was seen “screaming at the kids and chasing them.”  Either that, or this is massive payback for bacon.

In any event, this feral creature is not at all like the Porky we once knew and loved. Why it's enough to make a would-be astrologer throw in the cape and say: That’s all folks!


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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Physicist and Creationist agree on this

Stephen Hawking  (NASA Photo)
While even NASA is now openly saying that “they expect to find evidence of alien life within the next 20 years,” Creationist Ken Ham is having none of it.

Ham, who is mainly known for his highly-publicized debate about Genesis with Bill Nye the Science Guy, insists that “aliens probably don’t exist – and if they do, they’re going to Hell anyway.”

This makes it sound as though aliens could be a rotten bunch, which seems right in line with some of Stephen Hawking’s own statements.

Hawking, the renowned physicist and mathematician, has repeatedly warned the public against courting the attention of space aliens.  With a “watch what you ask for” line of reasoning, he has surmised that aliens might not be our new best friends.

Enter Pope Francis, who has stated that he would be open to baptizing some aliens…  After all, why not?

The Huffington Post explains Ham’s take on such hospitality:  Jesus did not become the ‘GodKlingon’ or the ‘GodMartian’!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.    


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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Zoo wildlife: Inside and outside the cages

London Zoo, 1835  (Public Domain)
The behavior of some beer-sloshing humans at the London Zoo is enough to make a Creationist become an instant Darwinist. 

And it certainly is enough to make most folks wonder just which species should really be locked inside those cages…

Kristina Bravo of writes about “more than a few disturbing incidents at this year’s Zoo Lates.”  These recipes for disaster (just add alcohol) include the following:  a man “pouring beer over a tiger,” a woman attempting to enter the lion’s den, and another man wanting to waddle with the

At first, these Zoo Lates fundraisers seemed like a brilliant idea.  The plan was to invite London’s “finest” in for a nocturnal walk on the wild side at $35 a head. 

Apparently, though, ferocious beasts weren’t enough of a sensory stimulation.  Stilt-walkers, comedians, and “fantastic food from around the world” were added to the mix.  Still not enough…  Bring on the beer!

One attendee (after noticing fellow frolickers "crushing butterflies on the ground”) concluded:  I don’t think partying, alcohol and animals are a good combination.

A zoo spokesperson, however, begged to differ by pointing out that “only three people have been thrown out of the facility since 2013.”


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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Planet of the Ants: Not a typo

Here they come...  (USDA Photo)
Just because we have all watched endless Planet of the Apes movies doesn’t mean that they will translate into reality.  In fact, it is much more likely that ants will continue to dominate Earth.

Notice the phrase “continue to.”  Mark W. Moffet of the Smithsonian Institution emphasizes: “Ants already control the planet.  They just do it under our feet.”

Moffet further explains that ants greatly outnumber humans, and “their total weight… equals or exceeds that of humans.”

Live Science reports that ants are collectively military geniuses.  They wage war masterfully, using the very best techniques that humanity thinks
it invented.  When swarming their enemies with “Shock and Awe” tactics,
ants put their weakest members up front, while preserving their mightiest in the rear.

Cows, and even some humans, have proven to be no match for millions-
strong armies of African ants.  Such an army of teeth-toting insects can devour mammalian prey within minutes.  That is one compelling reason why “women in equatorial Africa carry babies on their back.”

Although each individual ant might not be all that intelligent, in unity there is superhuman strength.  So people beware...  Payback for all those cans of Raid may soon begin.


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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

McEntire and thousands of her closest friends pray for peace

McEntire in 2012  (Photo by Angela George) 
Reba McEntire is praying for peace, and she wants you to also.  So much so that she has begun a campaign (complete with video and a potential hit song) asking others to join in on this sacred endeavor…

Gayle Thompson of The Boot explains that McEntire strongly
believes “in the power of prayer.”  McEntire herself has stated,
“Every time I watch the news, I’m just waiting for a story with
a happy ending…  I find myself praying for peace, and a better
outcome for the world.”

This is not the first time that McEntire has proclaimed her spiritual leanings.  During a 2008 interview with Alan Petrucelli of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McEntire revealed that she believes in reincarnation and “has been here before as a man.”

She told Petrucelli that these disclosures would likely shock her many Christian fans.  Her response to their potential condemnation?  “…I’m sorry, but this is how I live my life, this is what I believe…  Who knows?  Maybe I’m part Buddhist.”

Famed Buddhist Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, also publicly prays for peace.  While
spiritually advocating for “humble sentient beings, tormented by sufferings without cease,” the Dalai Lama has repeatedly requested:  May all their fears from unbearable war, famine, and disease be pacified…   


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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What is black and white and was orange all over?

1903 Chain Gang  (Public Domain)
Walking past an upscale tailor's the other day, I couldn't help but notice an orange-as-orange-can-be tuxedo in the window.  Orange is indeed “the new black,” and seems to pop up just about everywhere these days.

Back at the Saginaw County Jail, however, “black and white are the new orange.”  Inmates there have had to trade in their “cool” orange jumpsuits for more punitive-looking attire:  zebra-striped uniforms.

When some of the inmates complained about this new unfashionable statement, they were basically told by the sheriff:  “If you don’t like these outfits, then don’t show up at my door.”

Nevertheless, it is understandable that these inmates miss being enveloped in orange. explains that orange can strengthen a person’s self-confidence, creativity and independence.  Lack of orange, on the other hand, can
lead to reclusiveness, destructive behaviors and difficulty in communication,

As for black-and-white stripes?  These might evoke chain-gang images, especially for those who have watched one too many such movies.  Not exactly what you'd wish to dwell upon when living behind bars…

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Trash Islands: Plastic hideaways

In memoriam...  (Photo by Daderot) 
Whereas once there was a bountiful Turtle Island upon which indigenous people thrived, nowadays there are stark Trash Islands upon which sea creatures wither.

If your seafood dinner tastes a bit different than it used to, that could be due to some trashy additions in the aquatic food chain.  Tia Ghose of Live Science reports that “about 35 percent of the fish they [Captain Charles Moore’s team of Pacific Ocean researchers] sampled have swallowed some plastic.”

If chewing on Tupperware doesn’t appeal to you, consider this:  Moore has previously noted that these Trash Islands also contain a smorgasbord of eel traps, toothbrushes, floating nets, etc.  Something for anyone whose molars are cutting-edge.

All this has caused Moore to issue a dire warning:  There will soon be “a new floating world in our oceans if we don’t stop polluting with pastics.” 

And chances are, it won’t be fit for God, man or turtles…


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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Siberian crater: Gateway to Hell?

Dante's Hell  (by Gustave Dore)
Those who believe in the literal truth of Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia might not wish to purchase a ticket to Siberia any time soon.

Eric Pfeiffer of The Sideshow reports that the existence of “a mysterious 260-foot crater” in a remote region of Siberia known as the “end of the world” has now been confirmed by Russian officials.

This crater was recently discovered by a helicopter pilot flying above the Yamal peninsula.  Recorded footage of this hole makes it appear “to descend infinitely below the surface.”

Theories abound regarding the cause of this crater.  Because it is not too far from “Russia’s largest gas fields,” some wonder whether an underground explosion occurred.  Others believe this hole to be a “pingo” (aka “hydrolaccolith”), a natural result of ice
pushing up “from underneath the ground.”

Perhaps these scientifically-oriented folks haven’t yet read Dante’s descriptions of Hell’s geography.  Wikipedia explains that it consists of “nine concentric rings leading deeper into the Earth and deeper into the various punishments of Hell…"  (That’s Hell with a capital H.)

Hell has often been described as an “underworld.”   If it is indeed under our own world, then this crater might best be approached very gingerly – if at all.


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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Domestic drones: Neither bird nor plane

Eye of Horus  (Image by Jeff Dahl)
Hospitals were never much known for their privacy.  However, what little there was just got a whole lot less.

Colin Lecher of The Verge reports on the use of a domestic drone “to film outside a medical exam room.”  Never mind that your proctologist’s office is seven flights up.  A drone can easily get there before you do.

This drone’s owner, David Beesmer, not only flew his DJI Phantom 2 within 15 feet of an exam-room window, but then went ahead and
“posted videos of the hospital” to his Facebook page.  His DIY surveillance stint yielded Beesmer a date in court with a possible felony charge.

As legal and ethical debates drone on, the skies are filling with more and more of these “I spy with my high-tech eye” flying cameras. 

All-seeing eyes, such as those of Horus and Ra, were traditionally fraught with protective powers that warded off evil.  Drones, on the other hand, are only as benevolent as their manipulators’ intentions.

Seems time to trade in that flimsy hospital gown for an opaque (and perhaps bulletproof) suit of armor...


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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stereotypes bad for dogs and other living things

(Photo by Ildar Sagdejev)
Some people cringe at the very thought of being near a pit bull.

However, the exact definition of “pit bull” is often up for grabs.  Although this name technically refers to the Pit Bull Terrier (a cross between Old English Terriers and Old English Bulldogs), it has become a catch-all term for breeds with a variety of genetic backgrounds.

So how did pit bulls come to strike terror into the hearts of those who otherwise love dogs? That can be blamed far more upon human influences than upon the breed itself.

Although some pit bulls have been “selectively bred for their fighting prowess,” many have simply been trained by people to engage in such “bloodsports” as “bull baiting, bear baiting and cock fighting.”  Wikipedia
explains that pit bulls have also been “used for illegal dog fighting.”

What people don’t usually know is that pit bulls can also make wonderful companions and/or therapy dogs. The Associated Press recently reported on a pit bull that saved a deaf boy’s life by alerting him to a house fire. 

When this pit bull smelled smoke, he began frantically licking the sleeping boy’s face.  The boy awoke and got out in time, taking the dog with him.  Firefighters were afterwards able to save his cat.

Although the house suffered approximately $175,000 worth of damages, its occupants were all fine – thanks
to the efforts of a concerned and loving pit bull.

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

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Marveling at Thor's new chromosomes

Thor of Old   (by Marten Eskil Winge)
Not since Thor’s oak was felled by Saint Boniface back in the eighth century has there been so much hoopla about the hammer-wielding god.

These days, Thor himself is undergoing a mighty blow – perhaps to his male ego.  Eliana Dockterman of TIME reports that “a woman will take up Thor’s mantle – err, hammer.”

Although there has never been a female Thor before, there have been plenty of damsels within his thunderous circle.  However, the identity of Thor’s successor remains a mystery for now.

Axel Alonso, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief will only say this much: “She is worthy.”  And well she should be…  After all, it would take a veritable goddess to fill those mighty iron gloves of her soon-to-be predecessor.  

Wikipedia explains that Thor’s domain has traditionally included
“thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind… hallowing, healing and fertility.”

Will this new leading lady be up to all that?  Fan “Ryan Penagos” seems to think so.  He writes:  “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor.  This is not Thorita. This is THOR.”


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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pain in Spain stays mainly in the brain

Ahh... relief!   (Photo by Lusilier) 
Ever wonder why some people seem better able to endure pain than others?

Researchers at the University of Luxembourg did also, so they embarked upon a series of experiments to help discover why. 
MSN Healthy Living reports that their findings had to do with the brain’s ability to assist the body in dealing with pain.

This research was based upon Pavlov’s successful conditioning of dogs to salivate at the ringing of a bell.  The human brain’s ability to mask pain (in Spain and elsewhere) can be strengthened by a somewhat similar method.

The Luxembourg researchers utilized painful electric impulses and icy pain inhibitors as part of their experiments.  Human participants that were given painful electric jolts were afterwards asked to place their hands in ice buckets of water while bells were ringing.

In this way, the participants were trained to associate the ringing of bells with the pain relief of ice-water therapy.  Eventually, the sound of bells alone served as a pain-reduction stimulus for them.

Unfortunately, this brain/pain connection can also work in reverse.  Lead researcher Raymonde Scheuren explains:  …similar learning effects may be involved in the enhancement and maintenance of pain in some patients. 

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swastikas for Rael

Ancient Necklace  (Photo by Maksim)
If you had hoped for pure relaxation on New York City beaches this past weekend, you might have been sorely disappointed.

Just below the lazy hazy summer clouds, there floated a banner that was anything but soothing to most.  Dylan Stableford of Yahoo News reports that this banner flaunted a combination of the following symbols:  swastika, peace sign, heart, and Star of David.  More specifically, the swastika was merged with the Star of David as an alleged equivalency of peace plus love.

For many of these beachgoers, the swastika invoked feelings quite the
opposite.  They equated it with Hitler’s Nazi regime and were outraged that the International Raelian Movement had deliberately flown it over the Rockaways and Coney Island.

The Raelians, for their part, “believe the swastika was co-opted by Nazis, and that it is time to ‘rehabilitate’ the symbol.”  Wikipedia explains that the word “swastika” literally means “well-being,” and has been revered within “ancient civilizations around the world including Turkic, India, Iran, Armenia, Nepal, China, Japan, Korea and Europe.”

Brooklyn City Councilman Mark Treyger remains unconvinced.  He stated:  Try explaining [that] to someone who witnessed their loved ones who were butchered by people under that Nazi symbol…


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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Katherine Heigl 'difficult,' but then again who isn't?

Jacob and Esau  (Velasquez)
So the news flash for today is that Katherine Heigl is "difficult." One can only imagine this being said with a grin and a grimace by those who are, of course, never difficult.

Kristin Dos Santos of seems to delight in stating that Heigl was converged upon by a room full of reporters who “did not tread lightly” when it came to addressing “rumors of her ‘difficult’ reputation.”

Did these reporters “not tread lightly” because of their sterling allegiance to truth in all of its many manifestations, or did they not tread lightly because of some less-than-easy aspects of their own characters?

Those who study the Bible may notice that some of God’s leading lights have difficulties of their own.  Take the story of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, for example.  Isaac learned dysfunction early on from one of its masters:  his dad, the great patriarch Abraham. 

Isaac then passed some difficulties of his own on to subsequent generations by grossly favoring one twin son, Esau, over the other, Jacob.  Wife Rebekah, in turn, did the same with Jacob over Esau.  As for Esau and Jacob?  They perfected the art of sibling rivalry while still in the womb.

Biblical stories like these simply beg the question:  Why does God choose such folks to be His own?  Scholars have wondered about this for centuries.

The going answer is this:  God chooses such folks because they are just like us.  If there is hope for them, then perhaps we (along with Katherine Heigl and those inquisitive reporters) can also be transformed by grace.


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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Plant to caterpillar: Leaf me alone

Arabidopsis thaliana  (Photo by Roepers)
Although leafy green plants might not be able to speak, they sure have a way of warning hungry caterpillars to lay off.

Ashley Feinberg of Gizmodo reports on plant research from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  These researchers have discovered that “plants respond to the specific sounds caterpillars make when eating them,” and that these chomping noises “even prompt the plants into putting up additional defenses.”

Scientists measured the movements of Arabidopsis (“a small cabbage-like plant”) in response to a caterpillar that was nibbling at its leaves.  The researchers then recorded the sound of this chewing critter and played it back to the plant after the caterpillar was gone.

The Arabidopsis responded to the recorded sound as if the caterpillar were actually still present.  The plant then produced additional mustard oil in order to fend off the perceived attack.

We always knew that corn has ears.  This research indicates that other plants may also...


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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Catholic confession: Sin vs. crime

Modern Confessional  (Photo: Adam Smith)
The confession of sin has long been an integral part of the Catholic Church.  However, when sin is also a crime, how secret should this confession be?

That very question is being hotly debated in both religious and legal circles.  Melinda Deslatte of The Associated Press reports that a recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision “revives a lawsuit that contends a priest should have reported allegations of sexual abuse disclosed to him during private confessions and opens the door for a judge to call the priest to testify about what he was told.”

This stance could put priests in the position of having to choose “between prison and excommunication.”  It could also make
parishioners quite wary about what they choose to confess.

Determining whether or not disclosures are confessions or “just the relaying of abuse” is another growing edge of this dilemma that reaches into the very core of Catholic doctrine.  


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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Aubergine aura: The GOD within

GOD's own...  (Photo by Joydeep)
Anyone who doesn't believe in God's immanence might need a good dose of eggplant parmesan to set things straight.

At least that’s how it might seem to Jermarcus Brady, a line cook at Gino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. UPI’s Evan Bleier reports that when Brady recently sliced open an eggplant, God’s presence became very palpable.

There, within the very depths of the blessed aubergine, were seeds that spelled out the word G-O-D.  Brady concluded that it was the hand of God Himself that caused this divine Boggle move to occur.  

Before cynically snickering, just ask yourself this:  What are the odds?


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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Claustrum: Consciousness 'switch'

Claustrum in Cerebrum  (Gray's Anatomy)
Recent scientific findings about “a thin, sheet-like component deep in the brain” called the claustrum have lent new meaning to the phrase “turning on and tuning in.”

UPI reports on a study from George Washington University in which neurologist Mohamad Koubeissi “and
his colleagues were able to turn a woman’s consciousness off and on by stimulating her claustrum.”

Consciousness, loosely defined as "a combination of thoughts, sensations and emotions,” is thought to be
orchestrated by the claustrum, which has been compared to the ignition switch within a car.

Koubeissi's findings are particularly significant because the woman whose claustrum was stimulated “remained
awake while she was apparently unconscious.”  Her eyes were wide open, yet she was “seemingly unaware of the world around her.”

According to researcher Christof Koch, knowing which parts of the brain are integrally involved with consciousness can help us to understand “who has it and who doesn’t” (e.g., dogs, fetuses, robots, worms, etc.).


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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Teller fired: Banking on the First Amendment

Bill of Rights   (Public Domain)
When do an employee's First Amendment rights begin conflicting with those of coworkers and customers?

This key question came up when a U. S. Bank employee in Walton Kentucky began wishing customers a “Blessed day” and warning some against using the Lord’s name in vain.

After working for the bank for over 24 years, Polly Neace was then fired because of these types of actions.  She now has a First Amendment lawsuit against the U. S. Bank, claiming that she was persecuted because of her religious beliefs.

The bank, in turn, claims that Neace consistently broke its Code of Ethics regarding the treatment of coworkers and customers. Neace is also being accused of attempting to religiously convert others while on the job.

The question here is:  Who’s on First?  When the First Amendment seems to apply to all concerned, whose freedoms should be honored the most?


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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Warren G. Harding: Higher 'love affairs'

Harding at 17  (Public Domain)
With details of Warren G. Harding’s extramarital affairs being splattered throughout national news outlets, isn’t it time to switch gears from his alleged love of women to his alleged love of God?

Wikipedia tells us that Harding’s paternal ancestors were “mostly ardent Baptists,” and that his mother was “a devout Methodist.”  Both parents practiced medicine, and Harding himself was a journalist.

Harding was known for his racial and religious tolerance.  During the 1920s, “an age of severe racial intolerance,” Harding made it a point to advocate for the civil rights of African Americans.  He appointed some African Americans to federal positions, and supported the federal anti-lynching Dyer Bill. Harding also appointed well-known Jewish and Catholic leaders to high-ranking positions, and was in favor of “a Jewish homeland in Palestine.” lists Harding's religion as “Baptist,” and offers these quotes from his speeches:

It is my conviction that the fundamental trouble with the people of the United States is that they have gotten too far away from Almighty God.  (1920)

In the experiences of a year of the Presidency, there has come to me no other such unwelcome
impression as the manifest religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens.  I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish.  (1922)


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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stoats and coats

Standing Stoat   (Public Domain)
For PETA-allergic folks, stoats and coats are practically synonymous.  What is commercially called “ermine” has been coveted by socialites for centuries.

Even Catholic popes and cardinals have gotten in on the ermine act. Wikipedia tells us that they have traditionally used this luxurious fur for “the mozetta cape, and devotional images such as the Infant Jesus of Prague.”

Mary Magdalene was also a fan.  She allegedly wore “a white stoat pelt as a sign of her reformed character.”

Other religions also incorporated stoat coats into their heritages. The Zoroastrians considered these animals to be sacred because of their pure white winter fur.  European legend had it that a stoat would rather be instantly killed by hunters than risk soiling its coat
during the chase.  The Komi people of the Ural Mountains considered stoats to be “symbolic of beautiful and coveted young women.”

However, not everyone was enamored by these short-tailed weasels.  The ancient Irish viewed them as “noxious animals prone to thieving.”  Stoats were also believed “to hold the souls of infants who died before baptism.”


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

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Solitary thinking: Simply unbearable

Playground  Distraction   (Photo by Chris Darling)
During the hustle and bustle of daily life, many adults might long for an escape from it all.  However, most people could not last longer than a few minutes without longing for distractions from solitary thinking.

Gregory Barber of NPR’s “all tech considered” blogs about the irony of this situation.  He cites a University of Virginia study in which participants were simply asked to “step into an empty room, sit down, and think.”

Allegedly due to their “mammalian” brains which require a steady stream of “physical engagement,” these participants were soon reaching out for a nearby shock device, which they were warned about in advance.

This “rudimentary shock device” contained a 9-volt battery that administered a “severe static shock” when touched.  Even while knowing this, many participants reached for this “sole form of electronic entertainment in the room.”

In other words, they would rather be negatively distracted by a harmful device than relegated to focusing solely upon their own thought processes.

University of Virginia’s Timothy Wilson explains that this tendency stems from “animal instincts.”  He explains that people therefore think best when mildly distracted by a physical activity such as walking or driving.


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

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unalienable Rights: Period or dash?

Let’s face it:  Grammar, especially the nuances of punctuation marks, is not everybody’s favorite subject.

Nevertheless, the placement of one tiny squiggle can make or break the essential meaning of an historic document.  That is why historians are still quibbling over whether or not Jefferson’s pen popped a period after the famous phrase “pursuit of Happiness.”

If his “unalienable Rights” sentence ends with “Happiness,” then Jefferson likely prioritized individual rights over governmental roles.  If the word “Happiness” was directly followed by a dash, then Jefferson likely wished to equalize individual and societal rights.  So the debate goes…

Why doesn’t someone just whip out a copy of the original and settle things once and for all?  According to Abby Ohlheiser of Wire, the 1776 original “is in really, really bad shape.”  Although stored in a “complex
preservation system along with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution,” the Declaration of Independence has seen better days.

Apparently, in more ways than one…


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

Friday, July 4, 2014

Will Durant: Declaration of Interdependence

Durant and Students  (Public Domain)
According to his wife and coauthor Ariel, Will Durant’s “spiritual chemistry” consisted of a “sentimental, idealizing blend of love, philosophy, Christianity, and socialism…”

This was a mix that Durant not only wrote about, but also put into practice. Case in point: Durant’s “Declaration of Interdependence.”

This groundbreaking 1944 document contended:  “…just as no state can now survive by its own unaided power, so no democracy can long endure without recognizing and encouraging the interdependence of the religious and racial groups composing it.”

The Declaration was formulated after Durant was approached by then-leaders of the Jewish and Christian communities.  They were seeking to “raise social moral standards,” and Durant suggested that they specifically work toward eliminating “racial intolerance.”

When this Declaration of Interdependence made its 1945 Hollywood debut, “Durant escorted his black housekeeper, Bleeker McGlendon, to the gala.”

Durant’s document was later incorporated into the United States Congressional Record, “influencing the civil rights movement that emerged in the 1950s.”


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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Garbage in, garbage out: But to where?

(Michelangelo's Jonah)
Along with all the other mysteries of the deep lies a new one:  Where has all the garbage gone?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the “Great Pacific garbage patch” seems to be shrinking.  Since plastic debris continues to be dumped into the ocean at an alarming rate, scientists had assumed that this “Pacific trash vortex” would instead “grow twice as big every decade.”

This incredible shrinking effect amounts to “99% less plastic waste in the world’s oceans than previously thought.”  Since an estimated “45,000 tons of plastic” enter the oceans each year, this shrinkage is simply baffling.

Before indulging plastic-bag habits once again, consider this possibility:  Are the fish gobbling them up?  If so, what happens when we gobble them up?  

Could it instead be the leviathan effect?  After all, today’s “Jonahs” might need something to wrap their
sticky pride in while trying to conquer life’s greatest mysteries.


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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Elton John: From God's lips

Hear ye, hear ye...   (Public Domain)
Sometimes it seems as though celebrities (and/or preachers, teachers, parents, friends, fill in the blank…) have a direct pipeline to God.

Perhaps they do, but when people talk as if they absolutely know what Jesus (Buddha, Muhammad…) would do (say, advise…) in any given situation, it’s time to be a bit wary.

Are these folks speaking from divine revelation, or are they projecting their own hopes (dreams, agendas…) onto God?

Greg Gilman of The Wrap reports that Elton John recently speculated upon what Jesus would do about gay marriage between priests. 

John was quoted as saying:  If Jesus Christ was alive today [Note to John: He’s not?], I cannot see him, as the Christian person that he was [Note 2: Can Jesus best be described as either a Christian or a person?], and the great person that he was, saying this could not happen.

John then goes on to make the blanket statement that Jesus was “all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together.”  Certainly, Jesus commanded us to “Love one another…”  But “love” has been humanly defined in so many ways that its meaning here on Earth has become quite amorphic.

Mind you, this writer’s reaction to John’s proclamation is not particularly focused on the issue of gay marriage.  It is instead an “allergic response” to what appears to be the pretense of being God’s mouthpiece.


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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flying reptiles: Friends or foes?

(Photo by Caseman)
Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  About 145 to 100 million years ago, it was most likely a pterosaur (“flying reptile”).

Star Tribune recently reported that approximately 40 male and female pterosaur fossils were discovered at a site within China.  This indicates that these flying reptiles were probably “gregarious, meaning that several lived together, perhaps nested together.”

Pterosaurs also lived alongside dinosaurs.  But would they have successfully coexisted with humans?

If Chinese dragons, their legendary “cousins,” are any indication, this answer could be a resounding “Yes!”
Wikipedia tells us that these serpentine beasts “traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods.”

However, you'd better be worthy of such intense friendship.  The Chinese emperor evidently thought that he was - “having used the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power and strength.”  Parents traditionally wished that their “son would become a dragon.”

This might be a classic case of “Watch what you ask for.”  Chinese astrology explains that children born during Dragon years can be vigorous and self-assured - but they can also be arrogant and tyrannical.


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