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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Beyond Loaves and Fishes: Matthew Week 13

We returned to Matthew, but only after a discussion of both how to view the Bible through particular lenses of interpretation and how to work to make sure we do not provide fuel for the hatred of the weaker minds out there in the wake of the mass murder at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. I stand with all those who grieve following this massacre and pray for them and their families and friends. Prayer is never complete without action, so pray and act. Help make a better world in a hate-filled era. Be light in the darkness. Hug your family, love God, love neighbors, welcome strangers, and love your enemies. There ... that's the work of a lifetime ... a lifetime well spent. 

Be Kind Online

Following the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Rogers original neighborhood, the killer stated his hate had been stoked online until he decided to kill as many Jews as he could. He picked a synagogue, he picked his day--a day of worship, and he murdered more people of Jewish faith than anyone in American history ever had in a single day.

From this, I have come to a determination. As a practicing Christian and a pastor, I pondered what I could do to help in any way prevent future terrorism of this sort. Here's what I have been inspired to do. Moving forward, my presence online will be helpful, my posts peaceful, my content reflecting Jesus' command to love God and neighbor, enemy and stranger. I am not giving any future weak minds fuel for hatred. I refuse to help anyone head down a dark path toward terror and murder.

When you start on a thing like this, it inevitably leads to other things to be done. This is my starting place down a road that only God knows where it will end ... and I mean that literally. How many of you will commit to that adventure. I know it is satisfying to vent our spleens online, to raise a little hell. But, when it leads to hell on earth, it just isn't worth the momentary, fleeting satisfaction, The apostle Paul warned us not to lead the weak astray by what we say and do. I'm following that admonition. I'm following those two great commandments. Will you join me?

Have a blessed day.

For a supporting affirmation, see:

Happy Halloween

Here we are, another Halloween. As I have done all my life, I will celebrate the night. I'm long past my costume years, running door to door for sugary treats, but I love seeing the little costumed people who do show up.

Now, in recent decades people have looked suspiciously at this night. So, I did some research. The origins of Halloween go back several thousand years. From the beginning, it was a time to protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors. It was the night adults dressed up to scare the demons out of their community. Over the centuries it evolved into what it is today. Over all that time, the devil gets a single, solitary mention ... tricked by a ne're-do-well named Jack to be stuck up a tree. Upon his eventual release, the devil held a grudge against Jack (who tried to correct his life after that meeting but was insufficient in repentance to end up in heaven and ended up at the devil's doorstep). Jack was not allowed into hell. He asked for and received a single hellish coal, which he carried in a turnip to warm himself ... and that was the origin of our Halloween Jack O' Lantern. It was not until 1984 that a leader of the "moral majority" who will not be named on this blog declared Halloween to be satanic (with no evidence to back up the claim ... seems very modern). Many pulled nervously away and rumors began of deadly devices stowed in apples and candy. Halloween was diminished for many, ruined actually.

I have a stubborn streak. I will continue to enjoy Halloween all my life. I particularly like the image of all those watchful pumpkin faces flickering in the night, candle lit, looking out for evil, sentinels for the families behind their doors. It's a pleasant, peaceful, and slightly spooky image.

So, tonight enjoy the trick or treaters, dispense candy and smiles, and if you are so inclined, throw on a costume and attend a party. Happy Halloween.

For more on the history of Halloween, see my 2013 blog post:

Here's what one of our neighbors has been up to:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Looking At The End?

Well, with the announcement that Google+ will go the way of the dodo, it may now really be time to draw down the curtain on this blog experiment. Google+ has been the source of the majority of my support. I've enjoyed writing about a wide variety of interests here. I've had fun sharing with the Google+ community and everyone else.

However, here on the Blogger platform, following an unorthodox approach, J.S. Brooks Presents never really took off. It's been through several iterations, but now I believe it really may be done. I may start up one or more blogs on Wordpress now. I'll pull material from here to launch. A religious blog would be a natural. I might want to keep up with my adventures in N scale model railroading and exercise or finding highest geographical locations across the contiguous 48 states as well. We shall see.

Thanks for reading and for stopping by. I hope I've been able to entertain you now and then. If the jig is really up for J.S. Brooks Presents, I'll let you know where I'm going next before I bring down the curtain and turn out the lights.

Have a blessed life, everyone. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Halloween Is Coming

October is here. I was walking through the neighborhood (I have to walk half an hour a day, every day now, doctor's orders) and came across this "lively" decoration for Halloween. I particularly like the skeleton person walking the skeleton wiener dog. That's a nice touch! 

Enjoy October and prepare for a spooktacular Halloween. 

And just in case you have some qualms, I've done some studying. The origins of Halloween are not Satanic. In fact Satan only appears in one Irish tale related to Halloween ... long after its origins ... and that deals with the origins of the jack o' lantern. All in all, every culture that has added to what we understand as Halloween today, was trying, in their own way, with their understanding of how the world works, to protect the family and friends they loved from malevolent forces. When fear got the best of them, it could take a dark turn, but the original intent was always protection of loved ones. It wasn't until the 1980s that a moral majority leader from the far right declared Halloween to have hellish intent. I've enjoyed celebrating the holiday all my life. I don't intend to stop, as long as I live. 

Beyond Loaves and Fishes: Matthew Week 10

On Tuesday, October 2, 2018 (October already?) we plunge into Chapters 13-22 of Matthew, including some compelling parables ... stories that have a great deal of life advice packed into very small packages. Come join us on this journey together. See what there is to learn and enjoy some time with this new community.

Part of the point of this live stream Bible study is to see if we can grow a community outside the church walls. It has started with a small group of working professionals from my church, Lansdowne Baptist, in Lansdowne, PA. I'm hoping to see it extend outward from there, including people from all over who are looking for God and wanting to delve deeper into the Bible. 

Let me tell you a little something. We baptists believe in the priesthood of all believers. That means we each believe each and every one of us is personally responsible for developing a relationship with God and spreading God's good news around. Digging deep into what the Bible has to say and how to properly interpret that word, understanding what the details meant to the original hearers (the context of the text) helps do that. 

One thing you won't get from me, which I hope is clear from the recorded live stream, is edicts about how you MUST live your life. Nope. I'm giving you what I believe is useful insight and ways to apply Scripture to daily living. What you chose to do with that information is up to you. Just so you know. 

Join us. Most of society has given up on the idea of community groups (churches, social clubs, etc.) where we support each other. I want to reverse that trend in a modest way. I'm hoping this growing group will be able to support each other in life's ups and downs ... and even provide some guidance from time to time from our pooled expertise. We'll see. Go find my J.S. Brooks channel on YouTube and subscribe. Hit the bell and you'll receive announcements when the next episode will air (Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m.).

Oh, by the way, this is a work in progress. It is far from polished at this point. Have a little patience, but come along, and help us grow. If you like what you see here, share it with friends as well. It all helps, especially at this fledgling stage. 

Adventures in Fitness 25: One Guy's Attempt to Knock the Rust Off: Now It Gets Serious

Life changes. Sometimes it gets a little more real than we'd like it to. I won't go into the details here, but let's just say, I've had a shot across the bow. I've had a little brush with mortality, including a trip to the emergency room. I have some new doctor friends, one I'll see every six months. It all started with a murmur early this year and snowballed from there. Medicine will keep things under control, for the time being, but there's some body work in my future. Part of it I can't do anything about, the part that will require future repair. But part I can, a part that includes reducing my body mass by 10%. I've been told to walk every day for half an hour. It'll take some of the pressure off my system ... and for reasons of personal ego as well as health, I'd like to recover some muscle mass, thank you very much.

With that, I now walk a local trail when the weather is good. It's a wonderful experience. It is hard to believe things can change so much from one walk to the next along a river.

But, that's not going to be enough. I'm getting back to the gym. The gym and I have had an on again, off again relationship since 2012. Well, it's on again with a vengeance. I'm adjusting my sleep schedule, getting to bed early enough not to be sleep deprived at 5 a.m. when the alarm goes off. I head into the gym by 5:30 a.m. and spend an hour there. There is a dedicated group there at that early hour. I see the attraction. It gives a real jump start to the day.

Before you think I'm all virtuous ... I've done it once so far. I'm batting 100 since the one attempt was the first, on Friday. Today, I walked three miles on that local trail. As God has given me a speed governor at this point, that's longer than half an hour for me. At this point, the elliptical machine, my former favorite, has been replaced by the treadmill, which allows me better control of speed, which is important because of that aforementioned governor.

My major concern, as someone born with a couple complicating conditions, is that when I get sick, that sickness lasts longer and tends to knock the exercise at the gym out the window for longer than usual. It's irritating and sets things back, just when I start getting to really enjoy the routine. I guess a consult with my regular doctor is now in order.

So, if you feel so inclined, toss up a prayer for yours truly that my health remains and exercise is a constant. I can use all the help I can get right now.

So, trying to knock that rust off in earnest this time. And attempting to be a little more open about it ... even though that's never really been my style.

Good luck to everyone out there struggling as well. We're in this together for the long haul. I'll be pulling for you out there, wherever you are. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Hobby Time: Track Ballast, First Scenery

For me, this is exciting. The railroad is taking shape, one little piece at a time. The track bed and track are in place, the wiring is complete, and now the track ballast (which covers the track bed) is down. One concern I had was that the ballast would not cover the exposed wiring, but that was not an issue. The wiring was covered beautifully. Since I'm building the layout on a door, there are some special considerations. I had to use a fairly large drill bit to punch through both door panels for the wiring. Filling those holes (really  big by N scale standards) was a concern, until I discovered some of the foam track bed would do the job admirably without
any damage to the wires.

Placing the ballast is straightforward, but like anything, requires some practice. You see the liquid glue from Woodland Scenic (suppliers of the ballast and turf as well). Make sure you shake it up prior to use and as you use it. Things get a little tricky when working around the switches. Don't spray glue on the switches or you will literally gum up the works. Instead use a medicine dropper to get a little ballast in between the ties. Keep the amount low to make sure the switches remain clear.

I put down the ballast with a large brush on the tracks. Pour a small pile of ballast onto the track in one spot and spread it out with the wide brush. The brush will distribute the ballast both along the track, down between the ties, and will push extra ballast onto the roadbed where you want it. You'll need to pour extra ballast along the edges of the roadbed to cover them. I used an angled foam brush to push the ballast gently into place along the slopes. Spray the liquid glue across the ballast. Use the medicine dropper to firm up the gravel among the track ties. Use the track rail cleaner when you are done. I chose also to use colored pens to add color to the ties and rust to the rails. I also chose the ballast color based on the color of ballast in western Maryland, as Cumberland, Maryland, is the inspiration for this layout.

I decided to use the turf to give depth between the two road beds and along the outer edges. I liked the shadowing effect and sense of additional depth. You do as you see fit. One of the great things about this hobby is that the person you have to please is yourself. You be you in this hobby and do what feels right to you and follows your interests. For instance, as you can tell from the layout, the running of the trains is not my primary concern. I'm passionate for the modeling, the scenery, the atmosphere. So, my track design is incredibly simple, leaving me all the room I want to concentrate on the development of the town. I'm always impressed by those who develop elaborate track plans, but that's not for me.

Happy modeling. I'll get back to you when the foam levels of the elevated town are in place.

Each step requires new reading and new experiments. It keeps things interesting. See you then. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


I walk a lot these days for my health. I also walk as a spiritual discipline called the walking prayer. Out on a local trail Saturday, I was struck by the sounds coming off the Brandywine and its tributaries. It amazes me how much I miss in life's busyness. "Be still and know that I am God" came to mind. Just sharing some basic enjoyment. Hope you like it.

Beyond Loaves and Fishes: Matthew Week 9

Last week's live stream had a crazy start. Dealing with health issues and a doctor's consult, my wife realized we were forgetting the live stream right at 8 p.m. We got it set up within five minutes (we had torn down the studio so our visiting son would have a place to sleep) and our loyal viewers were there, ready to go, when this discombobulated introduction began. Hopefully, tonight will have a smoother start. Go to the J.S. Brooks YouTube channel, click the red subscribe rectangle, hit the bell, and join us on Tuesday evenings. It's located here:

If you like what you see here, share with your friends. We are looking to share good news far and wide.