The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, September 26, 2016

Plume Observations at Europa NASA Says

Europa. Courtesy of NASA
At the 2 p.m. news conference today, NASA's team states they believe they have recorded plumes coming intermittently from Europa. The plumes were seen in the infrared spectrum using an instrument of the Hubble Space Telescope to its limits to observe the plumes. They believe the broadband imaging technique has recorded plumes, strongly indicating a subsurface ocean envelopes Europa below miles of ice. What makes this an exciting announcement is that such plumes would allow for an analysis of water coming from the ocean below (and its potential for life) without needing to find a way to burrow through unknown miles worth of ice to reach that ocean.

It's technically exciting, opening up tantalizing possibilities ... but not as exciting as finding a monolith on Europa would be.

For all the details, see:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

American Baptist Response to Unrest

I'm an American Baptist and proud to be part of the most diverse denomination in the US. In the past few months, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies has taken on some really volatile topics and done it with a great deal of compassion and grace. What you read in their work is the very opposite of what you so often hear in the mostly bungled and often confused reports centering on extremists that are always dredged up when some inflammatory quote is needed with which to tar all of Christianity.

Let the following readings counter some of that nonsense and give you some balm and encouragement in the face of the turmoil we currently face. See: for a digital magazine, the Christian Citizen, dealing with the current unrest in the U.S.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies also had a powerful response following the Orlando night club shootings:

Surprising Discovery at Europa Says NASA

Europa. Courtesy of NASA
I love this kind of story.

Tomorrow, Monday, September 26, at 2 p.m. NASA will hold a news conference to discuss surprising new finding from the moon Europa with all the water believed to be held in a massive ocean beneath its frozen surface. It is believed that Europa's gravitational interplay with Jupiter keeps the moon warm inside, creating a massive ocean with more water than that covering the earth.

With much hullabaloo upon the initial tease from NASA, they had to come back with a statement that, no, it isn't aliens. No, they haven't received a warning to steer clear of Europa from some alien super race, as in the novel 2010.

What we do know so far is that the Hubble Space Telescope has made some mighty interesting observation of that icy moon, something that may well have to do with better proof of the watery realm below the icy shell. One thing scientists have long said is that where there is liquid water there is likely to be life. We may well be on step closer to finding life outside of our bright and shining earth. Tomorrow we'll know for sure.

If you want to see for yourself what little there is to know today, check out the following:

We'll return to this subject when the big reveal is made. I expect the information to be more "sciencey" than spectacular ... but you never know.

Your Life Is Too Important to be Eaten Alive!

We live in a society that tells you over and over again that you are your work, your work is vitally important, and very little else if anything comes first. Go to a party and what do people ask? "What do you do for a living?" they ask, or some variation of that.

Well, if you let it, that attitude will allow your work to eat you alive. How do you know this is happening? It's a lot of little things combined. You start putting in longer and longer hours at the job. You begin to fret when you can't solve each and every problem everyone brings to you. You stop doing the things you love and replace those things with work. Family life, social life, and private down time suffer as work consumes you whole. If you take solace in writing, the writing stops. You convince yourself that caffeine is an adequate substitute for sleep.

It is something that is insidious. The increased work load gives you a false sense of importance and a correspondent bloating of the ego, In time your health begins to suffer, your mental and emotional resources wane as well ... and in time some major physical damage is done as the body demands the abuse ends (either temporarily with a hospital stay and some return to sanity or permanently).

It has been a near thing with this blogger my friends. I caught myself before the physical symptoms could take hold, but am now forcing myself to take the time for all that I enjoy and truly need (including books on disc during my commute to and from work instead of a diet of news), novels and favorite shows at home, purposeful downtime now jealously guarded, and adequate sleep at night (well, truth be told, I'm still working on that one).

So, take heed, please. Don't let your job eat you alive. Or your worries, your fears, or whatever else is taking every greater control of you each and every day. Pull yourself back from the brink, while there is still time.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Threatening Fortune Cookie?

Is this another vaguely threatening fortune???

The other day I opened a fortune cookie and got the sneaking feeling I'd just been vaguely threatened. It was a weird feeling. I cracked open the cookie, took out that fateful strip of paper, and it read:

"Life is an adventure or nothing." Or nothing? If I wasn't adventurous to the writer was I targeted for removal? If I am not living a life of extreme action, am I worthless?

It is enough to make a person look over a shoulder now and then. Of course, perhaps that puts a little adventure into every life. Hmm. I'll have to give that some more thought.

Here's to the adventure.

Alternatives When US Senate Fails to Act on Gun Control

The U.S. Senate, Republican led, seems bound and determined to live down to expectations. Four bills seeking to provide better background checks for gun purchases and to keep guns out of the hands to people on the terrorist watch list utterly failed today. Our bought and paid for by the NRA Senators, almost every single Republican and a handful of Democrats, refused to do anything constructive even after the worst massacre in U.S. history in Orlando, Florida.

The American Baptist Home Mission Societies has a couple of suggestions of organizations to join to seek action by joining your voice with others. See: for details. The organizations are Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence (FUPGV) and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA). 

Of course, you can also vote out of office all the do nothing congresspeople and senators. I'd love to say there were politicians in office who actually listen to their constituency rather than the lobbyists. Good luck to us all.  

For a list of U.S. senators who refused to vote in favor of wanted gun control regulations, see: or Don't forget their names this fall during the elections, when it's OUR turn to vote. 

My Epiphany After Pulse Nightclub Murders in Orlando

Up front (full disclosure): if you haven't read my blog before, cards on the table, I'm an American Baptist minister with a complicated background, having been a editor and author, along with a professional archaeologist. I've been a Baptist all my life, starting with the Southern Baptists long ago when things there were different and now having moved on. I was trained at Palmer Theological Seminary, which taught working for others all over the world, treating all God's children (everybody just so we're clear) humanely, and serving humbly. I was raised to help others too. There you go. That's what you need to know where we are going next.

I believe in the power of God's Holy Spirit to give us good hard pushes when needed. I had never understood the phrase I'd heard over the years "the power of the Spirit burning within you." I understood when the earthquake in Haiti left so many people suffering back in 2010. Seeking what could be done, I ran across an article from the American Baptist Women's Ministry on creating shoe boxes filled with basic supplies or infant supplies that would be gathered at a central collection point and sent on the Haiti. For the first time in my life, I burned to do something in response. I felt an excitement in my chest unlike anything I'd ever felt. I didn't know exactly how every bit of the process was going to work, but I barreled forward anyway. Working with many people in my church, we all got to work and created a whole lot of those shoe boxes, which we sent on to help others. 

Well, on Sunday when the mass murder in Orlando first hit the news, I started to burn again. I was guided by the Spirit once more. I was schooled in the idea that just railing against this on social media would not get the job done. With the convergence of mass murder against one community based on hate speech, ridiculous laws, and loose canon mouths on politicians and media pundits inflaming the minds of those prone to violence, I was convicted to do more with my faith. Since then, I've written senators and congresspersons on a range of issues, joined several peace and justice organizations working against hate speech, violence, injustice, etc. and signed numerous petitions.

In a cynical world, you might ask what any of that will accomplish. Well, I firmly believe we are here to be agents for good in this world. Every act for justice, mercy, peace, and love makes a difference that is cumulative. I will always assert that in the long run, love will win out over evil. I will work for love. 

One of my pet peeves is fanatical fringe groups attempting to redefine my Christian or Baptist faith in twisted hateful terms of their own making, terms that have nothing to do with being a Christ follower. I have been infuriated that the news media have turned to such hate-twisted fringe speakers when needing a "Christian" voice for their story. So, when Faithful America (an advocacy group I joined some time ago) sent around an electronic petition calling for ABC This Week not to feature Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (which has been offering a great deal of false, vitriolic anti-LGBTQ disinformation) as representative of Christianity. 

It is a relief to see one of my many new efforts to work for love and justice pay off so quickly. It is affirming of the Holy Spirit's fire burning within me and my lifelong path working for justice from now on. 

If you wish to work against gun violence, please reference this article from my denomination and the organizations mentioned, join them, and let your voice join with many others as a powerful force working against violence, hatred and murder (sigh, and no, I don't want to take all your guns away, but I DO insist on sensible, reasoned ways to move forward in lowering the gun murder rate at home and abroad):

Update: Shame on MSNBC for picking up Tony Perkins after ABC dropped him. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified him as the head of a hate group. MSNBC allowed him to represent Christians on the issue of Donald J. Trump and evangelicals. Let me state for the record that I do not recognize anyone as a Christ follower who peddles hate. That's not what Jesus stood for. Please find a way to let MSNBC know this is not acceptable behavior.

American Baptist Statements Following Shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida

I am an American Baptist. I'm very pleased with the statements coming from my denomination, American Baptist Churches USA. We American Baptists are a diverse bunch, the most diverse denomination in the US as a matter of fact. We are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, we come in all races, and each church has a startling level of autonomy. So, we have a wide range of views in regards to current hot button cultural issues. However, as it states in the following released, we do not wish our LGBTQ brothers and sisters to think we do not love them while we work through competing interpretations of Scripture. We most certainly do. We also cannot stand by silently while any of God's children around the globe (and big hint here, everybody is a child of God as we see it) are injured or murdered in acts of hatred. In part, this response was encouraged by American Baptist pastors across the nation writing in to the national headquarters requesting statements dealing with this tragedy and our stance directly. Speaking up really does make a difference.

Here's the latest release:

A few highlights:

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible tragedy in Orlando. We extend love to those of our family directly affected. We grieve with our American Baptist brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community. My message to them is, never mistake our debates and disagreements with the depth of our love for you as part of our family. To the rest of the ABC family my message is, even in the midst of profound disagreement, let us love as Christ loved. 
~Interim General Secretary Dr. Susan Gillies

Following Gillies remarks, Rev. Judy Fackenthal said, “As President of ABCUSA, I concur with Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies that any act of violence against any part of the human family is fully outside the vision of God’s gracious love for all people. While American Baptists may not agree on a wide variety of issues, we claim God’s love as a just and all-encompassing love. I pray for the people of Orlando, particularly the LGBTQ community as well as the Hispanic community that has been particularly affected by this horrific violence. May we work together to seek to end hate and the outcomes associated with it.”

“The events of last week hurt me deeply, as a Christian, Baptist and as a Puerto Rican,” said Dr. Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president of ABC. “At this time I would like to express my solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of violence, misconceptions and separation. In the end what we discover in the depth of love is that we find our essence and human reality, our claim to the dignity of the human being and our real choice to reflect Jesus in every step.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Scholarship Funds Being Raised By Favorite Church

My favorite church, Lansdowne Baptist in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, is currently raising funds via Go Fund Me (they like to try new things) to provide scholarship money to local high school graduates. They've been offering up $500 to $1000 scholarships annually to two deserving students for many years and want to continue in this mission to their community.

If you're interested in helping and/or sharing the word, please go to the following blog post:

Or you can cut to the chase and go straight to the Go Fund Me site if you are so bold:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

For All Who Can't Resist Telling Others They're Doing It Wrong

A friend and colleague of mine told this beautiful little story about someone who just couldn't resist nibbing in on somebody else's business and the results. According to the "Little Book of Celtic Saints" around 640 AD the travel weary Corman, Celtic Bishop of Northumbria, came back to his home monastery in Iona. There he complained bitterly about the Angles of Northumbria, who were far too stubborn to receive the gospel's good news. Aiden, an Irish monk, just couldn't resist and critiqued the irritated Bishop's work, declaring Corman had been too harsh and suggested a better option. Corman, Aiden pontificated, should "as the Apostle taught us, offer them the milk of less solid doctrine." The historian, Bede, wrote that this went over like a lead balloon and Corman, along with all the monks at Iona, immediately resolved to make Aiden a bishop and send him packing to serve in Northumbria.

Let that be a lesson to us all. Better to keep our mouths shut than to offer unsolicited and unwanted critiques, especially to aggravated people with the power to send us off to the hinterlands to demonstrate just how brilliant our critiques are in practice.