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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

'Hoverboard' priest: WW Laughing Jesus Do?

Portrayals of Jesus    (Public Domain)
Although many focus upon the depiction of Jesus hanging on the cross, others have stressed the importance of “Jesus Laughing.”

This jovial portrayal of Jesus, with his head thrown back in a burst of humor, balances the tragedies of life with its joys.  If God did not want humans to experience the joys of life, then why did He create flowers and colorful sunsets?

Humor, therefore, is not inherently disrespectful.  When deliberately used to belittle others, it has no place within a worship service.  When instead used to lighten people’s heavy hearts, even during such solemn occasions as funerals, it can be the best medicine that God ever concocted.

NPR reports that a Catholic priest in the Philippines, who rode a Hoverboard while conducting a worship service, was recently suspended for “attempting ‘to get the attention of the people’ in a personal manner.”  

In a sense, isn’t that what preachers do?  Many include personal anecdotes that illustrate the points being made.  Congregants tend to relate better to such sermons, rather than to straight-up lectures.

If this priest chose to playfully address his listeners in a more physical manner, is that so qualitatively different from verbal humor?  Or is it that we’ve become so far removed from bodily worship that it somehow seems sacrilegious?

Just as God created flowers and sunsets, He also created human bodies.  God valued these bodies enough to place His Son within one.  Why, then, not utilize this precious gift within worship?  Why not dance, sway, stomp, clap, and – yes – even jump on a Hoverboard, in the name of the Laughing Lord?


Copyright December 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

LeBron James: Facts first

Tamir Rice      (Fair Use)
So many people jump on a bandwagon just because it’s going by.

When asked to do just that regarding the Tamir Rice case, James stated, “I haven’t really been on top of this issue.”

If more felt this way, perhaps there would be fewer rash decisions and violent retaliations. On the other hand, being on top of an issue requires a deliberate effort in that direction.

It’s not that James has never spoken up for social justice.  He himself is a living example of what can be done to turn the tide of poverty and oppression.  LeBron has shown “solidarity for murdered teen Trayvon Martin,” as well as for Eric Garner.

Nevertheless, the issues are far bigger than just one “King’s” advocacy.  As James pointed out:  This issue is bigger than me; it’s about everyone.

If all citizens were to lend their powers to worthy causes, rather than relying upon “Kings” to do it for them, the overall playing field would be a lot more equal.


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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

For all the right reasons

(Uploaded by Biblequiz)
Sometimes it seems as though great wrongs occur for all the right reasons.

No one’s saying that it’s right to threaten medical staff at gunpoint, but distraught father George Pickering II recently did just that.  Why?  Because hospital personnel were about to “pull the plug” on his beloved son.

With perhaps the intuition that only a parent can have, Pickering II insisted that his son   was not hopelessly “brain dead.”  Indeed, he turned out to be correct.  Within three hours of this hospital showdown, son Pickering III squeezed his father’s hand upon command.

This story has a joyful ending for all concerned.  Pickering II was quickly disarmed and no hospital staff were hurt.  Pickering III “eventually awoke from his coma, and today he’s fully recovered…”

Pickering III concluded:  The important thing is I’m alive and well, my father is home [from jail], and we’re together again.


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

Monday, December 28, 2015

Will Smith: Keeping an eye on the ball

(Public Domain)
Will Smith was originally hesitant to star in  the movie “Concussion.”  Taking on an organization which “owned” a day that used   to belong to the church seemed quite intimidating.

Besides, Smith was already keeping his eye   on the ball.  He had considered himself a “football dad,” and had avidly encouraged his own son to embrace the game.

Nevertheless, the ball that was thrown   Smith’s way was bigger than all that.  This ball had the potential to smash illusions, illusions worth millions.

Smith had a big decision to make.  He didn’t want this “to be the reality, and, at a minimum,” he didn’t want to be the one to have “to say it.”

Sometimes, however, life's path is marked by direct signals.  One day, Smith literally got a wake-up call.  “Concussion” producer Ridley Scott was on the line, telling Smith:  This is it.  Pay attention.

Smith heeded the call, and now the world is also paying attention.  Although the football season remains in full swing, perhaps compassion will slowly turn the tide in favor of its players.


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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Un-divorce sometimes unattainable

Through the Looking Glass  (Illustration by Sir John Tenniel)
Although Alice was able to attend an un-birthday party in Wonderland, there will be few un-divorce proceedings in New Hampshire.

After 24 married years, Terrie Harmon and Thomas McCarron got divorced in New Hampshire.  Their divorce was finalized in July 2014, but by March they were feeling chummy again. 

Real chummy.  So chummy that they filed a joint motion to vacate their recent divorce decree. 

Although time travel may exist in other dimensions, it apparently has not easily leaked into New Hampshire.  Judges there ruled that although they have the power to grant divorces, they do not necessarily have the power to zap couples back to happier days.

And why not?  The Associated Press reports, “Divorce is a uniquely fraught area of litigation.  For divorced couples, it is often important to have the solace of knowing that their former spouse is indeed former.”

Not all states, however, are quite as strict.  Some, “including Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arkansas, Maryland and Kentucky – will vacate divorces within a certain time frame or under certain circumstances, at the parties’ request.”


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

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Rudolph the Blue-Eyed Reindeer

Golden Days of Summer     (Photo by Nattfodd)    
Nope, not a different song.  Not even a different story.  Just a different part of Rudolph’s highly-publicized anatomy.

People have been so focused upon Rudolph’s nose that they haven’t bothered much with the orbs to the left and right of it.  It’s quite possible
(and somewhat sad) that no one has even asked what color Rudolph’s eyes are.

"Dartmouth College anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Nathaniel J. Dominy” therefore found it within his heart to gaze into Rudolph’s pupils.  Surrounding them were irises of the deepest blue.

Dominy dared to do this just before Christmas, when winter in the Arctic is filled with blue and purple hues.  Reindeer eye color changes with the seasons.  The winter-blue iris tissue helps reindeer to detect light that “is scattered high in the atmosphere.”

Catch Rudolph on an off day, say in July, and his eyes would instead be golden.  But what about his nose?  Perhaps it’s red in the summer, too, especially if he’s been dipping into some fermented eggnog.


Copyright December 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 25, 2015

Glenn Beck’s Christmas inquiry

Glenn Beck   (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
You may heartily agree with Glenn Beck, or you may heartily oppose his views.  Most, however, would admit that Beck reaches for the heart of things.

During late Advent, Beck posed this vital questionHow do you unplug and find meaning at Christmas?  He’s not just
referring to unplugging devices.  He’s mainly referring to unplugging the psyche from lesser distractions.

Beck writes:  I do not feel the joy.  All I have wanted to do is spend quality time with my wife.  Most of our time has been spent stressing lists.

Lists of what?  Lists of what to get whom when.  Lists of events to attend.  Lists of guests to invite.  Lists of recipes to serve.  Lists to thank yous to send.

As one reader wisely commented, there is a “list” that helps to pace all the others.  It’s called “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” 

Advent is for being more than doing.  Advent is for the spaciousness that allows hope to swell. Christmas only begins on December 25th.  There can be plenty of time for doing during those next 11 days.

A Jewish reader from Israel added:  If you get distracted by presents and decorations you are  forgetting the true gift that is in Christmas, the preciousness of life and the gift of hope.


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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Moon over Christmas

(Photo by Michael Gil)
For those who have always longed to see Santa silhouetted against a full moon, this year might just be the ticket.

Although this month’s moon won’t be full until 6:11 a.m. ET on Christmas morn, Santa may still be delivering some last-minute requests before sunup.

You most likely will already be awake by then, anyway.  After all, what human (young or old) can resist the excitement of unopened gifts beneath the Christmas tree?

So have at it.  There won't be another such celestial synchronicity until 2034.  Plus, you can always catch up on sleep during Uncle Ed’s annual monologue.


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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas: Banned in Somalia

Mogadishu International Airport   (Photo by Somaliboy)
Americans sometimes talk about the days when Christmas was banned by the Puritans without realizing that it is still being banned in certain parts of today’s world.

Somalia is an example of one such current situation.  Not content to just ban Christmas, Somalia’s government has also banned New Year’s.  This is because both holidays are intensely disliked by a local Al-Qaeda branch, the Shebab.

Because the Shebab deems these holidays damaging to the Muslim faith, past celebrations have provoked the group “to carry out attacks.”  Last year, for example, “Shebab militants launched a Christmas attack on Mogadishu airport that killed at least 12 people.”

Because the Islamic calendar recognizes a different start to the year than January 1st, New Year’s is far from an official holiday in Somalia.  Private parties, however, will be allowed for “foreign diplomats, aid workers and soldiers living in the fortified airport compound.”  


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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The cake that bit back

Look out now!     (Photo by Selbymay)
What comes around goes around, and Fidelia Ford’s fruitcake has been going around for quite some time.

Since 1878, to be exact.  That’s the year when Fidelia first merged the ingredients. However, this nutty recipe called for a year of aging.  Therein lied the rub.

Although the cake was a newborn, Mrs. Ford was on the other end of life’s relentless spectrum.  That cake turned out to be her unfinished symphony.

When left alone with just the fruitcake and a host of marital memories, Mr. Ford could not bear to slice its innards.  Mental Floss reports that he instead “placed her obituary on top of the cake and saved it.”

“And saved it.  And saved it.”  In fact, ancestors of Mr. and Mrs. Ford are saving it to this day.  But a few could not resist temptation.

Wondering what it might taste like, great-grandson Morgan allowed his Uncle Amos to nibble on the forbidden fruits.  As might be expected, the cake bit back. 

After “jabbing a chunk off of the cake” in 1964, Amos remained silent. It took all of his concentration just to chew and swallow.

Morgan should have known better after that.  But temptation, having once gained a foothold, struck again.  In 2003, Morgan encouraged Jay Leno to bite that fruit.  

Has anyone seen Leno lately?  Perhaps the cake swallowed him whole.


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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Have yourself a Wi-Fi Christmas: Or not

Empty Benches Await...    (Photo by Sjncousin) 
Decking the halls with strands of blinkers might result in Wi-Fi outages.

That’s because old-fashioned holiday lights, especially those which blink, emit radio signals that are strong enough to block Wi-Fi ones.

If you wish to have a Wi-Fi Christmas, it might therefore be wise to utilize LED lights instead.  LEDs (light-emitting diodes) give off low-frequency radio signals that are not apt to interfere with Facebook greetings.

Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for face-to-face encounters, ones that may soon be as outmoded as old-time bulbs.


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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cursing not a sign of limited vocabulary

(Public Domain)
Curse words are like pungent seasoning:  A little generally goes a long way.

Some folks, however, are prone to sprinkling their conversations with one taboo word after another.  Is this because their vocabularies are otherwise limited?

A new study by Kristin and Timothy Jay assures readers that this is not the case. Those who are fluent with profanity are often fluent with everyday language, too.

So what distinguishes those who talk up an off-color streak from those who mingle well in polite company?  The difference has far more to do with personality traits than with intelligence quotients.

Jay and Jay conclude that those who substitute four-letter words for punctuation marks tend more toward “neuroticism and openness,” whereas those who verbally edit such words tend more toward “agreeableness and conscientiousness.”

Do you openly agree with this assessment?  If not, beware!  You may be one of those cursing (but not necessarily cursed) neurotics.


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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Merry Newtonmas

Isaac Newton  (Portrait by Godfrey Kneller)
The great physicist, Isaac Newton, was born on December 25th.  That’s reason enough for some to celebrate this day as “Newtonmas.”

Newtonmas is portrayed as the scientific counterpart of Christmas.  “Publicized by Skeptics Society founder Michael Shermer,” Newtonmas features the exchange of “science books and humanist tracts.”  The fact that Newton himself believed in God is overlooked during such festivities.

According to Stephen Prothero, Professor of Religion at Boston University, those who lean in secular directions need not shun Santa altogether.  He said, “It [Christmas] isn’t just a Christian holiday anymore.  It’s a lot of other things.”

According to American Atheists, these “other things” include being “good for goodness sake.”  In other words, you don’t have to be religious in order to spread some Christmas cheer.

CNN offers this quote from atheist Hemant Mehta:  Christians don’t own December… it makes sense to take a couple of weeks off at the end of the year… this is a nice way to just relax and spend time with your family.


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

Friday, December 18, 2015

Wolf in the Goldilocks zone

Life on Earth    (Public Domain)
Although many are afraid of the “big bad wolves” here on Earth, some are cheering on a “big good Wolf” out in space.

Scientists have now discovered a planet, dubbed Wolf 1061c, which seems very Earth-like in nature.  Andrew Griffin of The Independent reports that this Wolf “has the kind of rocky, solid surface that is thought to be necessary for alien life.”

Not only that, Wolf “sits within the ‘Goldilocks’ zone where it might be possible for liquid water… to exist.”  It orbits a stable star that is 14 light years away (considered to be Earth’s “near neighbor” from an astronomical

Researchers are seeking to determine whether Wolf 1061c will “pass across the face” of its star.  If so, then it may be possible to study this planet’s atmospheric conditions.


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

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Martyrdom in North Korea

Knox Seminary, Toronto   (Photo by SchwerinG)
The Christian lectionary recently contained passages from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Within this epistle, Paul urges congregational members:  Rejoice!  The Lord is near!

What’s amazing about Paul’s upbeat tone is that he is writing this letter from prison.  Not just any prison, mind you, but the harshest of prisons.  He has been arrested for alleged crimes against the state, “crimes” of Christian devotion.

That was then, and this is now.  Surely the world has learned a thing or two about tolerance within the past two millennia.  Surely Christian martyrdom is ancient history by now…

If only that were so.  If only living by the Gospel produced nothing but Fruits of the Spirit.  If only Christians and other devotees were truly free the world over.

The Associated Press recently reported that Hyeon Soo Lim, Pastor of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was sentenced to a life of hard labor within a North Korean prison.  His crime?

Lim is being accused of “threatening the supremacy of its [North Korea’s] ruling regime.”  In reality, he has made numerous humanitarian trips to that land in order to support “a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage.”


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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sikh Captain: Serving faith and country

Sikh Regiment in India  (Photo by Harmanjaspreet Singh)
For male Sikhs, long hair and full beards are ways of showing their faith.  Captain Simratpal Singh of the United States Army explains:  A true Sikh is supposed to stand out, so he can defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Captain Singh has a sterling history of defending the oppressed.  After graduating from West Point, he “led a platoon of combat engineers who cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star.”

All the while, he was told by Army superiors to comply with standard military grooming rules.  For the first time in his life, Singh had to sport short hair and no beard. 

The New York Times reports that Singh’s self-confidence was harmed by this ruling.  “For a long time after, he would shave without looking in the mirror.” Singh himself stated:  Your self-image, what you believe in, is cut away.

After ten years, the Army has finally granted Singh a temporary religious accommodation.  He is currently allowed to “grow his hair and wrap his beard in a turban.”

However, this may be short-lived.  If the Army soon reverses this decision, Singh may then have to choose between exercising his freedom of religion or leaving the Army.

After fighting so valiantly for the freedom of others, why should Singh have to battle on for his own Constitutional rights? 


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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Colin Kaepernick: Making time count

Kaepernick in 2010   (Photo by Kyle Nishioka)
Although some are saying that injured Colin Kaepernick has too much time on his hands, he’s making that time count by standing up for the rights of others.

Caroline Sikes of Sporting News reports that Kaepernick has been posting anti-discrimination messages on Instagram, such as this one:  Racism and discrimination isn’t OK we are all human beings!  Things need to change!

Along with this message, Kaepernick juxtaposed images of an anti-Black sign from 1925, an anti-Japanese sign from 1942, and an anti-Muslim sign from 2015.

He furthermore explained:  You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack.

Kaepernick’s Christmas reminder is equally potent.  He posts that the Nativity is about “a Middle Eastern couple seeking refuge and shelter,” and then asks:  Will you discriminate against the same people you are about to celebrate?


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