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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nefertiti: 'Queen of Monotheism'

Bust of Nefertiti   (Photo by Philip Pikart)
The ancient Egyptians had many endearing titles for their beloved Queen Nefertiti.  These include “Lady of Grace,” “Sweet of Love,” and “Great of Praises.”

She also might as well have been titled “Queen of Monotheism” because Egypt underwent a religious transformation under her influence. Wikipedia explains that Nefertiti and her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten, “worshiped
one god only, Aten, or the sun disc.”

This one god, Aten, is said to be “a synthesis of very ancient gods viewed in a new and different way.”  It was believed that all of Creation not only emanated from Aten, but also existed within the sun disc.

Because Aten was said to encompass both masculinity and femininity, this new god was not depicted in an anthropomorphic way.  Instead, Aten was represented by the
sun’s “rays of light.”

Some have contended that Nefertiti and Akhenaten did not practice monotheism because the existence of other gods was not fully denied.  The favoring of one god over others is known as monolatry, rather than as monotheism.  


Copyright September 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Mars biologically worth its salt?

Mars    (Hubble photo)
Scientists recently announced that there might be flowing water on Mars, at least seasonally.

They believe this to be possible because of “dark narrow streaks” which appear on the slopes of Mars “every warm season.” 

These streaks (aka “stripes”) indicate that salty water flows there during the warmer parts of each Martian year.  The streaks may well be trails of salt that were left behind as the brine evaporated.

Ahoy mates!  Does this mean that some sort of aquatic life might exist on Mars?  It could. Whales and squids are highly unlikely suspects. Microbes, on the other hand, have been known to survive within extremely harsh and salty conditions.

Although the salts on Mars (“magnesium perchorlate, magnesium chlorate, and sodium perchorlate”) tend to “break down organic material,” it is possible that some types of microbes can handle this challenge.  Sarah Fecht of Popular Science therefore holds out a “longshot” possibility that life on Mars exists.

Copyright September 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dream themes: What they might mean

The Knight's Dream  (by Antonio de Pereda, 1655)
Some dreams seem either so vivid or so recurrent that we figure they must mean
something.  What that “something” is, however, can be difficult to discern.

Psychologist Ian Wallace has made it his business to study thousands of dreams during decades of practice.  Dina Spector of Business Insider reports on Wallace’s interpretations and advice regarding nine of the most common dream themes he has encountered.

For example, many people have dreams about falling.  Wallace interprets this to mean that they are “hanging on too tightly to a particular situation in waking life.”  He advises these individuals to “relax and let go of it.”

Then there are the dreams about flying.  Wallace explains that this theme indicates that “you have managed to make a weighty decision or risen above the limitations of a heavy responsibility.”

Others, of course, have analyzed dreams from a spiritual perspective.  They might interpret a theme about flying to mean that the dreamer’s soul had been temporarily freed from the body, perhaps as a “dress rehearsal” for what Heaven might be like.


Copyright September 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Thank God for winning and losing

Tebow in 2012   (Photo by Clemed)
David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel makes a valid point about those athletes who publicly thank God after games.

Whereas it might seem as though they are thinking that God roots for one team over another, or that God is a sports fan,
Whitley offers another interpretation.

Perhaps they are thanking God for all that came before these shining moments.  All the wins, but also all the losses…  As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson explained:  I’ve been through a lot in life and had some ups and downs.  It’s what led me to this day.

Quarterback Tim Tebow, who is certainly not shy about public demonstrations of faith, “has repeatedly said he believes God doesn’t care who wins.”

Greenbay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers concurs, saying:  I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome.  He cares about the people involved…


Copyright September 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 26, 2015

ID card: I carry, therefore I am

FDR signs Social Security Act in 1935   (Public Domain)
These days, the struggle for existence does not primarily take place in the jungle.  Nor is it primarily an ontological affair.

It instead occurs in bureaucratic settings such
as the Social Security Administration, where people are issued strings of numbers which allegedly validate states of being.

Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel reports
that a man who has suffered from retrograde amnesia for 11 long years was recently issued a state ID card.  Due to the vigorous efforts of IDignity, an organization that works on restoring legal identities, Hudak is now an acknowledged entity.

IDentity's director, Michael Dippy, explained that without a government-issued ID, a person “can’t apply for a job, collect government benefits, sign a lease, enroll in school, get a library card, write a check, cash a check and, in some places, you can’t even stay at a homeless shelter.”


September 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kirk Douglas: First shall be last

Kirk Douglas in 1969  (Public Domain)
No matter how important we seem to be, life often reminds us that the first shall be last (and, equitably, vice versa).

Kirk Douglas recently received one such reminder firsthand.  When the high school that he graduated from inaugurated inductees into its new hall of fame, Douglas wasn’t one of them.   In fact, he wasn’t even in the running.

Who did make the cut at Amsterdam High School in upstate New York?  ABC News reports that, in most cases, the community-selected nominees were “star athletes for the school.”

Nevertheless, Douglas can rest assured that probably none of these nominees have, or ever will, “receive three Academy Award Nominations.”

Such is life:  the great balancer.


Copyright September 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A pumpkin may be somebody's brother

'Woodstock' for Pumpkinheads     (Photo by Frenchtowner)
Ever wonder where that guy you used to see all
the time ended up?

‘Tis the season to wonder whether he’s morphed into a pumpkin.  After all, the recurring motif of a morphing pumpkin has shown up in story after story over the ages.

Take L. Frank Baum’s story, Jack Pumpkinhead, for example.  Lucky Jack, who originally had “a pumpkin for a head on a wooden body,” was later “brought to life.”

Then there’s Cinderella, a tale in which a pumpkin is turned into a carriage, and then back again at the stroke of midnight.

Harry Potter students are often imbibing pumpkin juice, perhaps to keep their morphing magic alive and well.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Feathertop, pumpkin-oriented witchcraft is also practiced.  Wikipedia explains that “a witch turns a scarecrow with a ‘pumpkinhead’ into a man.”

So check carefully before slicing into that big old orange squash.  You never quite know where, what or who it’s been before.


Copyright September 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Yogi Berra: What's in a name

Young 'Yogi'    (Public Domain)
Way before yoga became an American national pastime, “Lawdie” Berra (who was raised as a Roman Catholic) was dubbed “Yogi” by a friend.

Now the name “Lawdie” was unusual enough.  His parents, immigrants from Italy, had actually named him “Lawrence” or “Larry.”  These American names were somewhat difficult to pronounce at first, so his mother called him “Lawdie.”

When Berra was playing in the local American Legion baseball leagues, he met a fellow St. Louis resident named Robert George Hofman.  Robert, who had the nickname “Bobby,” decided that his friend needed one also.

According to Wikipedia, Hofman had noticed that Berra tended to sit with “arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after losing a game.”  Hofman therefore said that Berra “resembled a Hindu yogi.”

The name stuck, although Berra’s sayings more often resembled those of a Zen monk.


Copyright September 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Giants in the Ice: Going viral

Siberian Permafrost Zone  (Photo by Victor M. Vicente Selvas) 
What’s been frozen for about 30,000 years, yet still going strong?  A giant virus, that’s what.

Stephanie Pappas of Live Science reports that deep within the Siberian permafrost lie “potentially infectious” (although not necessarily to humans) giant viruses.

One that was recently discovered is called Mollivirus sibericum.  Pappas explains that this particular virus had “infected single-celled amoebas during the Upper Paleolithic, or late Stone Age.”

Mollivirus is just one of four known families of giant viruses.  The other three are Megavirus, Pithovirus and Pandoravirus.  Some of these giants are so relatively huge that they can be seen with an ordinary microscope.

The good news is that these ancient viruses may provide clues as to how early earthly life evolved.  That’s because viruses may have “roots in the very origins of DNA and RNA.”

The less-cheerful news is that we might inadvertently (through drilling, mining, etc.) “resurrect” some giant threats to humanity.   


Copyright September 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 21, 2015

How Russell Wilson 'found God'

Transfiguration of Jesus  (by Carl Bloch)
Because an omniscient God knows exactly where we are at all times, it is we who actually need to find Him.

This is sometimes accomplished within the dream state.  Quarterback Russell Wilson had this happen to him at age 14.

During a video titled "The Making of a Champion,” Wilson explained that Jesus came to him in a dream saying, “Hey,you need to find out more about me.”

Unfortunately, this dream also included a foreshadowing of Wilson’s father’s death.  The dream was so powerful that Wilson went to church and “got saved” that very same Sunday morning.

His young life then turned around remarkably.  Wilson was no longer the “bad kid” who “beat up kids…”

The football star then went on to use “the talent God has given him.”  Wilson continues to firmly believe:  No one can stop what God has for you.


Copyright September 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Martin Luther: Vatican's 'Prodigal Son'

(Luther as an Augustinian Friar)
These days, exciting reversals are occurring in both science and religion.  Physicists have been learning to unboil eggs, and Vatican officials have been learning to welcome back Martin Luther.

Having been excommunicated by Pope Leo X nearly half a millennium ago, Luther does not seem to be a likely candidate for having a namesake “central Roman square.”  

Nevertheless, this supreme challenger of the Catholic Church’s authority is about to have “a park area that overlooks the Coliseum” officially named “Piazza Martin Lutero” in his honor.  Rosie Scammell of RNS reports that the Vatican has “given its backing” to this ecumenical endeavor.

After all, the original term “catholic” (from the Greek katholikos) meant “concerning the whole” (i.e., “universal”).


Copyright September 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Slave trade: the ‘Deep North’

Cathedral of St. John    (Photo by Max Binder) 
We hear many wonderful stories about New England’s role in religious freedom.

What we don’t often hear about is New England’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Rhode Island, in particular, has been called the “Deep North.”  Katharine Q. Seelye of The New York Times reports that 58 percent of the total United States slaving voyages “between 1725 and 1807...
left from Providence, Newport and Bristol.”

Worse yet, religious institutions played a prominent part in these sinful practices.  For example, “many of the shipbuilders, captains and financiers of those slaving
voyages were Episcopalians.”  Seelye also points out that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were “notable
Episcopalian slaveholders.”

To their credit, some Episcopalian dioceses have been “holding services of repentance and starting programs of truth and reconciliation.”  The Diocese of Rhode Island “has been slow to respond,” but is now taking big steps to atone for its past.

Under the current leadership of Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely, The Diocese of Rhode Island is establishing a museum focused on the North’s complicity in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  This museum is being housed in the Cathedral of Saint John in Providence, “seat of the Episcopal Diocese.”


Copyright September 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 18, 2015

Body positivity amidst Boise bustle

Beautiful Downtown Boise   (Photo by Patrick R.)
Amidst the hustle and bustle of America’s heartland stood one lone female in a bikini. She was not some rail-thin supermodel; in fact, she described herself as “fat.”

Determined to promote the message that “all bodies are valuable,” Amy Pence-Brown had propped up a sign in front of her which read:  I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with a self-esteem issue like me…

Passersby responded beautifully.  One woman immediately rushed over to tell Pence-Brown that she was “brave and powerful,” and to give her a hug.  Many offered written, verbal and non-verbal affirmations.

The human body is a precious one, a gift to be cherished.  Anyone who seeks a miracle might just want to look in the mirror.  No matter what the fashion world promotes, all bodies are works of art, science and so much more.


Copyright September 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Relationship yoga: Reaching out

Sun and Moon Bay    (Photo by Zhangmoon618)
Perhaps if the principles of yoga were applied to relationships, more of them would stretch rather than break.

As social workers Linda and Charlie Bloom point out, “Yoga” embraces far more than just physical postures. There is jnana (knowledge) yoga, bhakti (devotion) yoga, karma (service) yoga, and raja (meditation) yoga. 

So why not add “relationship yoga,” a practice which could easily include elements of all these other forms.  Since the core meaning of “Yoga” is “Union,” this would seem to be a natural fit.

Because the term “Yoga” can also refer to the yoke that enables two oxen to pull together in the same direction, “relationship yoga” may strengthen commitment bonds as well.

Just as Hatha Yoga allows people to relax into previously-untenable physical positions, relationship yoga could also help soften their psychological defenses.

Since the term "Hatha" encompasses both the masculine (“Ha” or “sun”) and the feminine (“tha” or “moon”), a yogic approach might assist with balancing masculine and feminine energies.


Copyright September 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Extroverts: Not always ‘on’

Childhood Friends   (Photo by Squelle)
Just as introverts often get a bad rap (i.e., too shy, quiet, cold, etc.), so do their counterparts.

Extroverts may be portrayed as loud, egocentric and boorish, but MSN Lifestyle asserts that these alleged traits are more mythological than they are factual.

There is a huge difference between an extrovert and a “blabbermouth.”  Extroverts do enjoy lively conversations, but are often as adept at listening as they are at speaking.  Blabbermouths, on the other hand, will not let you get a word in edgewise.

Although extroverts do have a large capacity for socializing, they also need their downtime.  This includes doses of solitude, which allows them to process all the stimuli that they are so adept at gathering.

Rather than being overly self-absorbed, many extroverts are intensely interested in others.  They are the “icebreakers” at parties, conferences and other group situations.  Ideas are exchanged, humor starts flowing, and crowds loosen up when extroverts begin to work their magic.

Extroverts, in fact, are “the last people in the room to not care what you think.”  As human as anyone else, they can be nervous about what kind of an impression they’re making.  Since they thrive on social situations, that impression can become all the more important.   


Copyright September 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

‘Preppers’ believe End is Nigh

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse   (by Viktor Vasnetsov)
For some, the phrase "no end in sight" is welcome news.  They are the ones who cherish life here on Earth.

For others, Judgment Day can’t come soon enough.  Among the self-professed righteous, there may even be those who are hoping that this month is IT.

Cristina Silva of International Business Times reports that so-called Mormon “preppers” believe that the apocalypse could begin on September 28, 2015. 

Their beliefs are allegedly based upon “biblical prophecies, the Hebrew calendar, an unstable economy, world politics and astronomical occurrences.”

As part of this “prepping,” sales of survival items such as freeze-dried food and tents have recently skyrocketed within certain regions of Utah.

“Officials with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, remain unconvinced. NASA has also debunked such speculation, affirming that the heavens seem void of any such imminent threat.


Copyright September 15, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 14, 2015

Judaism minus Zionism equals what?

Theodor Herzl, 'Founder' of Zionism   (PD)
Subtract Zionism from Judaism, and what are you left with?  The answer to that depends greatly upon who’s being asked.

Sara Weissman of Religion News Service recently reported on Tzedek Chicago, a new synagogue “that identifies as non-Zionist.”

This synagogue’s rabbi and congregants explain that “nationalism-infused Judaism” is “not only unnecessary but harmful.”

Tzedek Chicago’s (thus far) 85-member congregation takes issue with “the human rights abuses and other problems… in modern-day Israel.”

There has been some pushback from other sectors of Judaism.  Some say that “you cannot cut off Israel from Judaism… the word ‘Judaism’ was the religious affiliation of the people who lived in the land of Judea.”

Some further explain that having “a spiritual and a covenantal relationship with the state of Israel” does not necessarily mean agreeing with all of its politics and policies.


Copyright September 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pope Francis: Work-life balance

Francis at the Western Wall    (Photo by Matanya)
Pope Francis recently spoke out against the growing trend to “consider the family as an obstacle, a weight, a liability, for the productivity of work.”

He emphasized that “children and the elderly” are particularly vulnerable to exclusivity of this kind.

When “work is sacred,” it reaps benefits for all concerned.  The pontiff stressed:  Work gives dignity to a family.

The Pope is therefore calling for “a more human approach to the world of work.”  He called upon employers and managers to exercise “social responsibility” when making job-related decisions.

Ending on an upbeat note, Francis praised those government leaders who aim “for everyone to have a job.”  He explained that unemployment causes “serious social damage.”


Copyright September 13, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 12, 2015

9/11: Dust still settling

(National Park Service photo)
Sinful actions are not encapsulated within brief moments of time.  They tend to linger on, sometimes for generations.

Nowhere has this been more evident than within the aftereffects of war. 9/11 has become a literal and symbolic reminder of all that is wrong with such murder and mayhem.

The dust from this tragic event is apparently
still settling.  Samples from its billowing blanket of burnt particles have been analyzed in research laboratories for years.

Journalist Michael McAuliff was there at the scene back in 2001.  A decade later, he brought his own personal envelope filled with the “clumpy, powdery gray dust” to be tested.

In an article for The Huffington Post, McAuliff stated, “It had a pH of 10 or 11, which is why the stuff burned people’s eyes and noses and respiratory tracts and the esophagus.” Today this effect translates into what is known as the “increasingly deadly ‘Trade Center cough.’”  Cases of cancer, GERD and sinusitis have notoriously multiplied.  

Components from McAuliff’s analyzed dust sample included the following:  carbon soot, fiberglass, chrysotile asbestos, polystyrene foam, and lead.  Plus there were less lethal, but decidedly grimmer, “very fine fragments of photographs, fingernails, bones, hair and tissue.”  


Copyright September 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11th: All God's creatures

Noah's Ark    (Public Domain)
Mary Ann and Frederic Brussat, founders and ongoing nurturers of Spirituality & Practice, are no doubt taking some time today to contemplate the far-reaching effects of 9/11.

As New York City residents at the time of this attack, the Brussats experienced its impact firsthand.  They began sharing some indelible impressions on the very afternoon of the tragedy.

Inspired by the poetry of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Frederic and Mary Ann wrote these words on that fateful day:

I am a New Yorker still hearing media warnings of new attacks, feeling vulnerable and insecure in my hometown, and I am an Afghan refugee still fearful that my village is not safe from the bombs and fighters in the war on terrorism.  May I know peace.

From God’s perspective, it is likely that the “side” we are on is not nearly as important as what’s in our hearts, minds and souls.

After all, both sides within the American Civil War prayed to the same God.  Due to wise and sensitive leadership during the aftermath, North and South were able to eventually make peace by focusing upon their commonalities.

As the hymn goes:  All God’s creatures got a place in the choir…


Copyright September 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pope conveys love to American nuns

Pope at Western Wall     (Photo by Matanya) 
In a moving tribute to the dedicated faith of American nuns, Pope Francis recently extolled the help that Sister Pimentel and her colleagues have been giving to immigrants in McAllen, Texas.

During a recent satellite communication, Francis made a point of asking Sister Pimentel to step forward.  He then said:  I want to thank you, and through you to thank all the sisters of religious orders in the U.S. for the work that you have done and that you do in the United
States.  It’s great…

This in itself was a wonderful affirmation.  However, the Pope then continued with these more personally-validating words:  I’ll tell you one other thing.  Is it inappropriate for the Pope to say this?  I love you all very much.

According to the very heart of Christianity, this type of love is not only appropriate, but also highly essential.


Copyright September 10, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Smarter than Einstein? In what sense?

Einstein in 1921    (Public Domain)
Kudos to Lydia Sebastian, a 12-year-old who recently scored higher than Albert Einstein (and Stephen Hawking, to boot) on a Mensa IQ test.

The Economic Times reports that she “achieved the highest possible score of 162” on this exam, whereas the IQs of
Einstein and Hawking are allegedly only (italics mine) 160 each.

Nevertheless, does this make Sebastian any smarter than these renowned physicists?  It seems that the answer to this would depend upon the challenge at hand.

For example, Sebastian “has been playing the violin since aged four.”  Perhaps her musical intelligence far exceeds that of either physicist.

Intelligence seems to be quite multifaceted, as proposed by Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  One woman’s genius might be another man’s learning curve.

Yet, calling one person “smarter” than another might need quite a bit of qualifying explanation.  Besides, such overall judgments are often more debilitating than they are uplifting.


Copyright September 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Stonehenge revised: New discoveries

Stonehenge in 2014     (Photo by Diego Delso)
Much of what has happened at any location thousands of years ago remains a mystery. 

It is therefore understandable that the bulk of what we’ve theorized about Stonehenge is now subject to revision.  

Ian Sample of The Guardian reports that archaeologists have recently discovered
fragments “of a massive stone monument buried under a thick, grassy bank only two miles from Stonehenge.”

Ground-penetrating radar revealed “about 30 intact stones measuring up to 4.5m tall.” They are thought to have been part of a “ritual arena.”

This discovery, plus earlier nearby ones such as Durrington Walls and the Cursus, have been fundamentally changing many views about Stonehenge. 

Stonehenge is now seen as just part of a larger “Hidden Landscape Project.”  The overall site appears to be “one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe.” 

Copyright September 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ben Carson: Underneath it all

Dr. Carson in 2013   (Public Domain)
Presidential candidate Ben Carson is nearing the top, mainly because of his emphasis upon what’s underneath it all.

During the first GOP debate, Carson’s astute reply to a question about race relations gained him much popularity among conservatives.

Here is a partial quote from that reply:  I was asked by an NPR reporter once, why I don’t talk about race that often.  I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon…  you see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are.  The hair doesn’t make them who they are…

Dr. Carson went on to emphasize that America is called the United States rather than the divided ones. He cautioned against those who would divide America by overly focusing upon racial tensions.

A dedicated member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Carson is often praised for his character and faith.


Copyright September 7, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ciara and Russell Wilson: Doing it Jesus' way

(Photo by Toby Hudson)
According to Ciaro, she and quarterback Russell Wilson are doing it Jesus’ way.  The singer was referring to being celibate outside of marriage.

And they’re allegedly far from the only ones.

Ciaro told Marc Malkin of E! Online, “For what it’s worth I think there are so many people like us.”

Perhaps.  But perhaps not in the entertainment and sports industries.

Wilson, who initiated this decision, confided:  …God spoke to me.  He said, ‘I need you to lead her.’

He then approached Ciara with this request:  What would you do if we took all that ‘extra stuff’ off the table…

Apparently Ciara agreed, and she now says that Wilson is “the best guy in the world for me.”


Copyright September 6, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Freedom walk: The need ‘to be human’

Angela Merkel   (Photo by Muller/MSC)
Fleeing from inhumane conditions in their native lands, hundreds of thousands are desperately seeking asylum in Europe.

Many feel justified in this quest, as they blame Europe and the United States for “a Middle East made intolerable by wars.”

Sky News reports that many have resorted to making their way on foot from Hungary, through Austria, to Germany.  “Children in pushcars and disabled people in wheelchairs” have been part of this mighty freedom walk.

Some are carrying pictures of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and referring to her as “Mother.”  Merkel has declared that “her country would be setting no limit to the number of people who could seek asylum” in Germany.

This year alone, Germany is expected to welcome a total of 800,000 refugees.  These migrants are not seeking fortune and fame, but simply the basic right to live as “human beings.”


Copyright September 5, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar   (Public Domain)
More than 40 years ago, a young American who was raised in Catholic schools converted to Islam.

Lew Alcindor wasn’t just your average youth.  He was a 7-foot-2, African-American star of the basketball world.  The media had even pegged him as a “poster boy” for racial equality.

Alcindor, however, knew better.  For every 7-foot-2 star athlete there were hundreds of other African Americans who were struggling to even survive.  

Seeking a truth which resonated with his life experience, Alcindor read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”  Malcolm X had converted from Christianity to Islam, feeling that Christianity had supported “the racism that permeated society.”

Inspired by Malcolm X’s “transformation from petty criminal to political leader,” Alcindor then began studying the Quran.  After serious reflection, Alcindor converted to Islam in 1971.  With this came his new name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (i.e., “the noble one, servant of the Almighty”).

In an article for Aljazeera America, Abdul-Jabbar stated that his name change was not some celebrity stunt, but rather a “manifestation” of “African history, culture and beliefs.”  He further explained that “an estimated 15 to 30 percent of slaves brought from Africa were Muslims.”

Abdul-Jabbar recently emphasized that being Muslim in America is no walk in the park.  He also emphasized the following:  One world does not have to mean one religion, just one belief in living in peace.    


Copyright September 4, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bison conservation: Steeped in politics

American Bison     (Public Domain)
Once upon a time, there were about 30 million American buffalo that roamed the Great Plains.

After years of government-led extermination, 23 (that’s twenty-three, not a typo) were still alive in 1920. 
After subsequent years of “sophisticated management practices,” 400,000-plus bison exist today.  Note the term “bison.”  It often denotes an animal that has been bred by ranchers for meat, containing “a mix of bison and cattle DNA.”

Joby Warrick of The Washington Post reports that today’s “largest population of wild bison anywhere” can be found in Yellowstone National Park.  This might be good news, except for the political overtones.  Whereas “wildlife enthusiasts” and some Native American groups wish to extend the home in which the bison roam, others are adamantly against such expansion.

Naysayers include many cattlemen, who fear that free-roaming bison can infect their herds with the dreaded brucellosis.  They oppose any such talk about “re-wilding the West” with bison and/or wolves that can infiltrate their ranches.


Copyright September 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Statue on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount   (Painting by Carl Bloch)
High above the hills of Montana stands a familiar figure:  Jesus.

Now this isn’t the very same Jesus who gave a Sermon on the Mount, this is just a statue.  Nevertheless, a controversy is brewing about whether or not it should remain standing on federal land.

Amy Beth Hanson of Associated Press reports that although this statue has been there for 60 years, “a group of atheists and agnostics” have recently asked that it be removed on the grounds that “it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.”

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen instead ruled that “the statue’s secular and irreverent uses outweighed its religious uses.”  What she’s saying is that because “Big Mountain Jesus has been the subject of much frivolity over the years,” the statue gets to stay.

Can’t win for losing here.  Since the statue was originally meant to be a reverent reminder of World War II soldiers who gave their all, such frivolity seems highly dishonorable (from both secular and religious standpoints).

All the more reason to move it to where it can be spiritually appreciated, and adopt another type of memorial in its place.  This will not only honor First Amendment intentions, but will also enhance overall decorum.


Copyright September 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tetrad: Blood moons rising

Passover Seder Table    (Photo by datafox)
Not only will a blood moon soon be rising, but the number of blood moons has been on the rise since April 15, 2015. explains that the term “blood moon” refers to the “dusty, coppery red color” that occurs during a full lunar eclipse.

There will be such an eclipse on September 27, 2015.  Three more have occurred over the past year, resulting in "what is known as a tetrad.”

This very rare astronomical series has given rise to a number of theological predictions.  Two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee, say that “the tetrad of lunar eclipses is a sign of the end times according to Joel 2:31 (The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes).”

What lends even more momentum to their theory is that this series of blood moons “coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover" (as well as with the Feast of Tabernacles).  Passover is a time of year that is traditionally associated with lamb's blood, death and salvation.


Copyright September 1, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved