When Toma and I became friends, he was somebody. I was 16, he was 22. He was a body builder, one of the best in the country, with aspirations and good prospects of becoming Mr. Universe. But then he embraced Christian faith and joined the church where my father was a pastor. He felt that God required him to abandon his athletic pursuits, which until then had been his god. He transposed the dreams of becoming Mr. Universe onto a religious plane: he wanted to be the apostle Paul of Yugoslavia, and maybe a new Billy Graham to the world.
In mid-August I attended the grand opening of the new Al-Farooq Masjid in midtown Atlanta, a complex that includes gardens, fountains, a school and a 46,000-square-foot prayer hall with room for 1,800 worshipers. Along with other guests, I admired the hand-painted dome, the carved stonework, and the custom-made carpet with individual prayer spaces woven in, all pointing toward Mecca.
Pauline Baynes died on August 1 at the age of 85—one more light gone out from the golden age of children’s book illustration, an age that gave us Arthur Rackham’s fairies, Edmund Dulac’s Cinderella, Beatrix Potter’s spirited rabbits and E. H. Shepard’s Toad and Pooh.
In Transforming Church, Kevin Ford tells the story of a scientific experiment involving four monkeys and some bananas at the top of a pole in their cage. At first the monkeys competed against each other for the bananas, and the strongest ones got the most. The weaker ones had to find strategic times to get their bananas. But all of the monkeys were able to eat regularly.
My husband and I found the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and we’ve been staring into the heavens ever since. “Which planet would you like to see first?” he asked me once he'd loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. I’ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto. Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness.
When adjusted for inflation, the dollar amount for charitable giving in 2013 nearly reached the peak for charitable giving before the Great Recession. For 2013, giving in current dollars increased by 4.4 percent. However, giving to religion in the same year was flat and even down slightly when adjusted for inflation. Giving to the arts, health, the environment, and education has been increasing the last three years. During the Great Recession, people tended to give more to organizations that were addressing immediate needs, such as food pantries and homeless shelters. All sectors of giving were up in 2013, except for corporations, with giving by individuals up the most (Giving USA 2014: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2013, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy).