August 31, 2008

Why I'm overweight

Yeah, yeah. It's the Internet and I could pretend that I have the physique of Lance Armstrong and look like Mel Gibson. I could even pretend to be smart by plagiarizing smart people's articles, posting them here, and pretending they're my words. In fact, such activity might qualify me to be the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee—it worked for Joe Biden.

But then no one would actually know me. So as promising as the whole putting-on-a-mask concept may seem at times, reality seems the better course of action.

That being the case, I should probably admit that my wife's Rice Krispie Cones are not the true reason for my weight issues. My desire to eat such things because they're just so incredibly good is.

I hope all of you other husbands are jealous. Or you could just come to the Old Forest Road Baptist Church picnic tonight and scarf up a few of these things. They're amazing!

August 29, 2008

Blog Header - August 29, 2008

Okay - I just couldn't help myself. I'm really enjoying watching this one develop.

Slam Dunk!!!!!!

"A politician of eye-popping credentials" – McCain chooses Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for V.P.

Sarah Palin

I can't wait to vote!!!!!!!!!


Does the Bible encourage violence?

With greater frequency and with greater boldness the television talking heads are comparing the Christian scriptures to the Koran and saying that the Bible encourages violence as much as the Koran encourages violence. Some even say that the Bible encourages violence more than other religious scriptures.

Ezekiel 9:3-6

Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist. And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark.

The quote from Ezekiel is an example of what they are pointing to when they make such comments.

My first response to this is that such accounts as what we read in Ezekiel are historic in nature and are not indicative of what we as Christians must do. In other words, we are not to read this account and then go out and kill everyone that doesn't have a mark on their head. I also notice that we are not told anywhere in the Bible that we should force others to conversion under threat of death, as the Koran does.

But that still leaves us with an account of God commanding the slaughter of women and children, with no one to be spared unless they have been given the mark. Even though this is a vision and is not an actual conversation that took place (making it symbolic in nature), it still seems to paint God as an evil character. The events prophesied in this vision were not carried out by men with swords in their hands as was pictured in the vision of Ezekiel, but were carried out by multiple different things including famine, disease, and war with the Chaldeans. But, even so, what are we to make of God commanding the slaughter of women and children along with the men?

I think this is one of those situations in which we have to trust scripture (God-breathed and accurate in every way) over our natural inclinations (limited, sinful and finite). It is hard for us to understand how God could do such a thing. But we must remember, he is God and not one of us. He knows the heart and he created everything. We do not know the heart of others, or even our own hearts, and we do not have the rights and abilities of the Creator.

Verses that tell us of God's nature can help us to come to terms with such seeming problematic portions of scripture:

  • Psalm 11:7For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.
  • Psalm 145:17The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.
  • Daniel 9:14For the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.
  • Zephaniah 3:5The Lord is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.
  • John 5:30I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

To boil it all down—if a clear reading of scripture makes us think that God is evil in any way, it is an indication of our human finite nature and our inability to understand the things of God. God reveals to us the things we need to understand and some things remain somewhat mysterious. If our finite intellects have trouble accepting some things we read in scripture, we must accept scripture at face value. God is righteous—whether we can understand his righteousness or not.


Today's Bible Reading Ezekiel 9-12

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

August 28, 2008

Barboursville Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc
A Virginia classic. With layers upon layers of ripe berries, plum, currant, cherry and cedar elegantly woven together by twelve months of barrel aging. Cabernet Franc's great character combines intense flavors with remarkable softness.

Some folks prefer French or Italian wines. Some prefer California wines. Some prefer red; some white; some dry; some sweet. But certain wines stand so far above the crowd that everyone appreciates them. Such is the case with Barboursville's Cabernet Franc.

The Cabernet Franc grape grows very well in Virginia. In other states, the Cabernet Franc grape is typically mixed with other varietals. In Virginia, Cabernet Franc stands so well on its own that it seems a shame to mix it. At least it seems that way to me after tasting Barboursville Cabernet Franc.

From Gianni Zonin, owner of Barboursville Vineyards
Our story of wine making at Barboursville begins with the timeless beauty of an historic Virginia estate my wife and I discovered in the 1970s. Today, with 120 acres of the 900 acres planted in vine and Virginia's most honored winery a comfortable walk from our door, everything we do is still a new chapter in capturing that beauty. The boxwood gardens and ruins of the neo-Palladian manor house, designed by Thomas Jefferson for Governor Barbour in 1814, are preserved as the family left them.

Our woods, meadows and streams are tended to seem untouched, while our vines are trained for the perfection of their fruit. The elegant simplicity of Palladio Restaurant brings a classic Northern Italian illumination to the freshness of local produce. And, as they achieve the most gratifying honors from vintage to vintage,k we are glad that our wines let us share the place where they come from.

Welcome to Barboursville.

Barboursville's Philosophy

Barboursville's pourer

Barboursville Vineyards was founded to produce wines of the finest quality. Few regions throughout the world of wine offer soil characteristics, climate and growing conditions as auspicious for wine growing as those of Piedmont Virginia. This exciting and unique viticultural opportunity brought to Barboursville a team of professionals of outstanding passion and winegrowing experience from Virginia, Europe, and California. Their vital dedication, knowledge, and experiments in these vineyards led to successful adaptations to site specific circumstances, including the identification of ideal rootstocks, trellising systems, and grape clones. From the beginning, this commitment has been sustained by a tradition of taste and understanding of the character of each grape varietal.

It recalls the passion for a beautiful way of life.

August 28, 2008 reading


Today's Bible Reading Ezekiel 5-8

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

Quote of the day

George Stephanopolous – Genius

"The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep."
—George Stephanopolous

(Clinton aide George Stephanopolous speaking on Larry King Live)

August 27, 2008

Barboursville Chardonnay

When we first began traveling to Lynchburg from Northern Virginia we found a delightful little local wine shop near Keswick, Virginia. In Vino Veritas is a small wine shop situated between Charlottesville on one side and Keswick Vineyards and Winery on the other. The owners are delightful and very helpful for wine newbies (like me).

Barboursville Vineyards

Elinor, one of the owners of In Vino Veritas, has given me some great wine recommendations over the almost three years that we have been visiting her shop. But the one that stands far above the rest of the crowd was an amazing Cabernet Franc by Barboursville Vineyards.

Since I tried that outstanding native Virginia wine, I have been interested in visiting the Barboursville Vineyards. Yesterday, as I traveled home from Washington, D.C., I did just that. And I just have to encourage you to visit this amazing and beautiful place if you're traveling through the Charlottesville/Barboursville, Virginia, area. If you're a wine aficionado who is interested in Virginia wines, you absolutely must visit Barboursville. This is the winery that, 200 years later, fulfilled Thomas Jefferson's viticultural dreams.

Along with a few other wines that I tasted there at the vineyard, I tried the Barboursville 2006 Chardonnay. As with all the other wines from Barboursville, the standard 2006 Chardonnay is outstanding. Barboursville makes two Chardonnays—one aged in oak barrels (the Chardonnay Select) and the other cold fermented in stainless steel. I purchased a bottle of this second Chardonnay and it is absolutely fantastic!

The wine has a good tartness indicative of high acidity levels, typical of steel fermentation. It is crisp and refreshing with flavors of green apple and lemon. The Barboursville Palladio Restaurant chef recommends pairing this wine with gnocchi with sauteed shrimp and cherry tomatoes, carpaccio of swordfish with lime and olive oil, and cornish hen stuffed with chestnut and sage. I can't wait to visit the restaurant to try out one of these recommendations. I personally paired it with a Barboursville wine glass and it was quite good that way.

Baraboursville 2006 Chardonnay

The Barboursville Vineyards are located on a 900-acre plantation that was once the residence of Governor Barbour, a close personal friend of Thomas Jefferson. Many stories are circulated about of the friends who were recipients of vines given to them by Thomas Jefferson—a great lover of wine who desperately wanted to launch the wine industry in the New World. Sadly, none of the vines President Jefferson distributed ever turned into vineyards. They had not yet learned how to beat some of the diseases that attack vines in North America. So Jefferson's viticultural dream was not fulfilled during his lifetime. But in 1976, Gianni Zonin purchased an old estate that included the ruins of a house that Thomas Jefferson had designed for his friend Virginia Governor Barbour. The ruins of that house still stand on this magnificent campus.

I'll try to post a little bit more about this fantastic vineyard in Central Virginia as I have time. This is one that you simply must experience for yourself. Truly outstanding.


2 Peter 1:16-17
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Reading the verse to the right, I am struck with the simplicity of the early evangelistic efforts. When the apostles and other believers first began sharing the gospel message—the good news of Christ's life, atoning death, and resurrection—they "did not follow cunningly devised fables" but simply told folks what they had seen ("[we] were eyewitnesses of His majesty").

How different that seems from what we now proclaim. I think our reverence of the man-made traditions that we have incorporated into our church structure over the years approaches worship. In other words, idolatry. Or, ecclesia-olatry.

Somehow, I don't think the apostles proclaimed a specific musical genre as being the proper form of church music. I don't think they mandated a particular bible translation and I'm sure they didn't demonize the other translations (of course, they benefitted from not actually having multiple translations with which to separate the brethren). I don't think they set up the appropriate dress code for those who would be followers of Christ. I don't think they turned people away from the gospel proclamation because they were deemed too worldly, too tattoed, or too pierced (or, on the other hand, too stodgy, too pretentiously dressed, or too formal).

2 Peter 1:20-21
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The worship wars, the fight between modernistic thought and postmodernism, the demand for certain types of behaviors, the restrictions of what foods and beverages must be consumed or avoided ... none of these should exist in the Church of Jesus Christ. They are an indication that we have lost our focus—proclaiming what we have heard and seen.

People aren't confused by the gospel; they're confused by us. Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus. This world doesn't need my tie, my hoodie, my denomination, or my translation of the Bible. They just need Jesus.

We can be passionate about what we believe, but we can't strap ourselves to the gospel because we're slowing it down. Jesus is going to save the world, but maybe the best thing we can do ... is just get out of the way.

Casting Crowns


Today's Bible Reading Ezekiel 1-4

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

Blog Header - August 27, 2008

I thought I'd go a little whimsical for today's blog header. These two stock photography people holding signs are just kind of fun. I've used them in a few fun graphic projects at work and thought I'd put them to use here too.

August 25, 2008

August 25 reading


Today's Bible Reading Lamentations 1-3

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

Last night as I read Solomon Among the Postmoderns, I came across a concept that captured my interest and gave me cause to consider this interesting new angle on culture and the arts.

As the boundaries between aesthetic and functional have been challenged, cultural products have become commodities, subject to the economic forces of supply and demand. This is partly an effect of easy reproduction. Paintings can be downloaded from the web, and we can play symphonies at will on various musical devices. But culture here also refers to values, aspirations, dreams, and goals, which are now manipulated and employed by companies seeking to sell lifestyles as well as products. Advertisements don't sell goods; they lend lifestyle value to goods, and what they really sell is happiness.

Once the boundary between art and life is breached, the hierarchy of high and popular culture soon collapses. Modernists like [T.S.] Elliot once fondly hoped that poetry would trickle down from Parnassus to refresh the language of the common people, but the language of postmodern commoners is taken from advertising jingles, TV shows and movies, pop music, and news sound bites. Our cultural literacy is not gathered from snippets of Western classics but from ever new surges of popular culture. Treatment of Shakespeare, as always, provides a barometer of cultural trends. On the one hand, the Royal Shakespeare Company advertises Coriolanus with a poster that invokes the film Natural Born Killers; serious Shakespeare adapts itself to popular culture. on the other hand, Disney's The Lion King retells the story of Hamlet—regicide, unscrupulous uncle, temporizing prince, the whole thing—but ensures a happy ending for Simba and his quite sane Ophelia.

Solomon Among the Postmoderns, Peter J. Leithart, pp. 49–50

August 24, 2008

Blog Header - August 24, 2008

This blog header photo is of the WonderWorks Children's Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. You can't tell from this photo, but not just the sign, but the entire building the museum is housed in is upside down. The foundation of the building is at the top of the building with a sidewalk surrounding it. You can see the edge of the foundation up in the sky on the right side of this header photo. There are trees and lamp posts coming out of the sidewalk, all aiming down. And the building is crunched a bit in a way that makes it look like it fell from above and sustained some damage when it hit the earth. It looks like a really cool place for kids.

August 22, 2008

Dilbert nails it again!

Click on the strip to see the full sized version.

Voice's Unstoppable

This is awesome! Take your time and listen to the words. Simply fantastic!

For the Over-30 Crowd, here's the lyrics of the above song - OUTSTANDING!

Man, with no umbrella stuck in the rain, I never knew life was so much pain. And it’s hard to maintain same story different person will falter, where more accurate is same idol different altar. A present day mocker, man, the only time it’s appropriate for me to say I am. The situation gets much darker I’m in the hood, and heard about the Lord but unsure of his plan, you can see how I’m probably in a jam, and that was good for me, cuz it left me - hand against hand. I was like “mmnn, mmnn” Lord now I’m just a man, If there’s ever anyone to help I know you can. At that time, what was certain I thought probable and had no evidence that God was unstoppable. I saw nothing but the wicked everything from murder down to drug use to scalping tickets. I didn’t know what I s'posed to see, what I was looking for, until the day I walked in the local church’s door. I heard the Gospel's power never falls and the Savior who’s crucified covers us all because

He's all-powerful,
  He's unchangeable,
He's immovable,
  He's unstoppable
It's the Gospel, it's the power of
the almighty God, through His holy blood.

Shook off my doubts and I came from the streets poutin back to them same streets like how 'bout them. Reformed essentially, informed more than mentally, I’m living my life’s oddities through God’s sovereignty now. I’m takin all questions when and how, In the hood they like "Cuz, how you change your style." In the church it’s more "grace is so amazing, wow!" and to the enemy it’s more "how you like me now." I been exposed to bright lights - the doctrines of grace, I’m elected, imputed perfected. Becuz of the power of God, resurrected and his gift of faith, that when we see his face we’re not rejected. Cuz nothing can stop his plan, and as far as the east is from the west more than time zones, man, He removes our sins from us even though it’s hard to believe, I plead from Psalm 103 No harm will ever come on we, no harm and that’s from me to you via him to me. We the choice of eternity past, present and next, cuz we the church the unstoppable context and we here as

  He's unchangeable,
He's immovable,
  He's unstoppable
It's the Gospel, it's the power of
the almighty God, through His holy blood.

I'm livin' my life as much as it is hard to cope that it's sin for me to lack faith and have no hope. Look around us, the world is searching for truth, unaware that Truth has already found us. And it's devastating. I'm not a bettin' man, but if I was I'd put it all on the blood with no sweatin', man. I'd bet it right as a million to one ... how can we lose? We serve the unstoppable Son who defied the impossible before it'd begun and trains us to do battle though the war's been won. If you've been saved by the Son, as sure as my name is Curtis, you are the fruit of unstoppable purpose. So, no more laggin', and join with me and the millions of others - it's God's bandwagon where Christ is the agenda so it's never about us. But his plan goes forward whether with us or without us and it's

  He's unchangeable,
He's immovable,
  He's unstoppable
It's the Gospel, it's the power of
the almighty God, through His holy blood.

Quote of the day

Marion Barry – Genius

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."
—Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.

August 22, 2008 reading


Today's Bible Reading Jeremiah 46-48

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

I am continually amazed at the Bible's clear presentation of the sovereignty of God over the purported free will of man. In today's Bible reading I came across the following verse in Jeremiah 46:

15 Why are your mighty ones face down?
   They do not stand
   because the Lord thrust them down.
16 He made many stumble, and they fell.

God is truly in total control and we need to make sure we're on His side of things.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
 — Philippians 2:12-13

August 21, 2008

Olympic Update

The value of a good name

Oh for a good reputation—to be known in a positive light by friends and enemies. I recently read this description of General "Stonewall" Jackson and it made me wish that I had a reputation such as his:

The cause for which General Jackson fought and died, has been overthrown. But it is believed that this fact has not diminished the affectionate reverence for his memory, and interest in his exploits, felt by those who labored with him in that cause. On the contrary, they regard the events which have occurred since his lamented death, as farther evidence of his genius and prowess. Although he who undertakes to write the history of an acknowledged failure usually has a hopeless and discouraging topic, yet the lustre of Jackson's exploits and character is too bright to be dimmed, even by disaster: and his is universally admitted, by his friends and foes, to be a name so spotless that it shines independent of the cause with which he was connected.

August 21 reading


Today's Bible Reading Jeremiah 41-45

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

August 20, 2008

Overcoming the diagnoses

Olympic Superstar – Michael Phelps

My son has been diagnosed with ADHD (as well as quite a few other things). Since his diagnosis, my wife has made it her full-time job to overcome the damage of that diagnosis. No, I didn't say to overcome the problems inherent in his medical condition, but to overcome the fallout of the diagnosis itself.

Every step of the way our son has been told that he has certain conditions that make it impossible for him to accomplish what is normal for other kids. Anytime he has to work hard to accomplish something this excuse comes out and is accepted by essentially all of his teachers and other authorities. Of course, this will not be the case when he becomes an adult. There are no excuses at that point.

Another well-known person currently in the news was diagnosed as having ADHD. Michael Phelps, the record-breaking swimmmer who has earned eight gold medals in the Olympics this year, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was young. His mother has written an article about her efforts at overcoming ADHD.

Blog Header - August 20, 2008

Today's blog header photo is of the Dollywood Express, Engine 192 – Klondike Katy. This century+ old real steam engine train climbs the mountains around the Dollywood amusement park, running through beautiful forested areas and along cliff edges, giving the riders a good sense of the character of the Smokey Mountains. Unlike most amusement park train rides, this is a real train and very little of the ride actually goes through the ride and event portion of the park.

This is one more thing that makes Dollywood stand head and shoulders above the other parks out there. You need to take your family to this park soon. You'll have a blast.

August 20 reading


Today's Bible Reading Habakkuk 1-3

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

August 19, 2008

Landscaping for God's glory

I gaze on beauty and may be myself deformed. I admire the light and may yet dwell in darkness, but if the light of the countenance of God rests upon me, I will become like Him. The countenance of His visage will be on me, and the great outlines of His attributes will be mine. Oh, wondrous glass, which renders the beholder lovely. Oh, admirable mirror, which reflects not self with its imperfections but gives a perfect image to those that are not comely.

If you do continually draw your impulse, your life, the whole of your being from the Holy Spirit, then you will see God and Jesus face to face.

—Charles H. Spurgeon, Daily Help, (January 17)

As I was organizing the photos from our vacation I came across this photo of an absolutely gorgeous flower planted along the entrance path to Dollywood's Splash Country water park. This flower and the myriad other flowers, bushes, trees, and other vegetation at the Dollywood parks made me consider the fact that we can reflect God's glory by seeking to display beauty.

Christians often speak of the need to honor God, but I don't often hear of ways that this may be accomplished. Of course the easy answer is "by obeying His commands." But if we look at God's character as displayed in nature we will see that God loves diverse beauty.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
—Joni Mitchell

The environmentalists argue for the preservation of forest trees, prairie fields, and other natural elements. And in reaction many Conservatives (ironically, the original conservationists) say along with Rush Limbaugh, "the best thing about a tree is what you can make with it."

I think the Christian must come to this issue with a completely different point of view. We must approach the issue of environmentalism from the same angle that we approach everything—seeking the greater glory of our Savior. Edith and Francis Schaeffer dealt with this issue when I was in college in various books about art. More recently Nancy Pearcey has argued for Christians to be involved in the arts and for Christians to have an appreciation of the arts in her book, Total Truth. The Schaeffers and Ms. Pearcey have presented the concept that there should not be a secular/sacred divide. So we Christians should view all the world through the sacred lens, recognizing that this is God's world.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.

So how does that impact our view of the environment? I don't want to get deeply into this other than to say that we should view nature as indicative of God's beauty. We should not throw away the natural beauty around us by allowing deforestation (even on a small scale) without good reason. Good reason would mean that the trees are being put to a specific use that benefits society. We also should not allow nature to run rampant and turn to brambles and thorns that are left to choke out beauty by killing off all the other vegetation.

Replica of Dolly Parton's childhood home

One of the best examples I have ever seen of what can happen when we seek natural beauty is the small home in the middle of Dollywood that is an actual replica of the home Dolly Parton grew up in. This is a simple and modest home. It contains just a few rooms and makes use of a tin roof. But it is beautiful. The porch across the front of the home is covered with vines that have been pruned and maintained to give a decorative beauty to the front of the home. The flowers and other vegetation around the home, the rocks along the path, and the trees providing shade and insulation against the weather all contribute to a beautiful scene.

This is an aspect of the declaration of the glory of God that I think we Christians have lost sight of. Well ... most of us have lost sight of it. Obviously Dolly Parton has not. May we all be encouraged to display God's glory by making proper use of God's creation.

August 10 - Reading


Today's Bible Reading 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

August 18, 2008

The elusive search for control

As the debate over whether man's will is free or bound has been fought desperately and sometimes bitterly for hundreds of years. It seems to me that through the benefit of the Holy Spirit's guidance Christians should be the last people to claim any sort of autonomous free will on the part of man. But we still long to control that which we cannot control.

Today I ran across an interesting quote from an early follower of Sigmund Freud. Freudians are worshipers of science, which tries to place everything in known boxes in order to facilitate man's control of the world. But in spite of that high reverence for science, Ernest Jones said:

We are beginning to see man not as the smooth, self-acting agent he pretends to be, but as he really is, a creature only dimly conscious of the various influences that mould his thought and action, and blindly resisting with all the means at his command the forces that are making for a higher and fuller consciousness.

It seems even Freudians have an understanding that man's will is not totally free.

What I'm reading today


Today's Bible Reading Jeremiah 38-40, Psalm 74, Psalm 79

I'm also reading:
Family Driven Faith   Voddie Baucham, Jr.
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

The vacation is over. I'm going to get back into my somewhat normal reading schedule and I'm going to try to get back to my normal style of blog posts. I may need a few days to get back up to speed—mainly because I have a lot of work to catch up with at my job. But I'll try to get back into the blogging swing of things soon. Thanks for your indulgence as I ruminated on why Dollywood is so great. I'm a true Southern boy at heart I guess.

August 17, 2008

Home again, home again - jiggity jig

Our seven days at Dollywood are now over. We gathered our things, packed the car and headed out of Dodge, er ... headed out of Pigeon Forge in our Dodge on Friday. But before we left we had one last visit to Dollywood. This time we rode just a few rides that David really wanted to ride one last time. We went to a couple of food vendors that looked like they had really good food but that we had not been able to visit earlier in the week, and we took the time to just look around and enjoy the beauty of Dollywood.

We found it interesting to compare the visitors to Dollywood to the folks we saw at Disneyworld. Dollywood seems to draw a much more family-oriented crowd. There are many more grandparents at Dollywood than we saw at Disneyworld and there are fewer teenagers, which is interesting since Disney is known as having a target demographic of the very young children.

Thunder Head roller coaster

We still love Disneyworld, but were quite surprised at how well Dollywood stacked up against the giant that Disney has become. The rides at Dollywood are at least as good and we think they are significantly better than the rides at Disneyworld. This is especially true if you prefer cutting-edge, high intensity roller coasters. Dollywood's coasters are amazing. But Dollywood also has many rides that are geared for those who prefer a less intense experience and many rides that are intended for the very young children. So even toddlers can enjoy this amusement park. They even have a Veggietales roller coaster ride for the kiddies.

We stopped at the Blacksmith's shop and dropped off a few photos I took of him working. It's hard to photograph something that is in darkness (the inside of the blacksmith's shop is very dark) with bright light all around (there aren't very many walls around the shop—most sides being open to the public so everyone can see the blacksmith at work). But I enjoy the challenge of photographing in unusual lighting conditions. And I'm glad that we stopped to drop off those photos because the blacksmith was a delightful man and we really enjoyed talking with him.

We like for David to see workers who do things that are out of the norm—especially artisans. David is blessed with an abundance of creativity and these are his type of people, so we like for him to see them in action. But there was an added bonus to getting to know this blacksmith. He is also adopted, just like David.

So we have now left the paths of Dollywood with their gorgeous overhanging vegetation and beautiful fountains and streams and returned to Lynchburg. David realizes that Tennessee is a wonderful state. David has told us that he wants to go back to Dollywood for every vacation from now on. But we're glad to be back home. We could use some more rain here in Lynchburg. And a few more trees and other vegetation would be nice as well (Lynchburg is growing rapidly). But we love it here too.

God is good!

August 16, 2008

Blog Header - August 17, 2008

Today's blog header is a photo I took at a Lynchburg Hillcats baseball game. I don't understand why this girl is wearing a tennis ball on her head at a baseball game, but I thought it looked kinda cool, so here it is. Go Hillcats!

August 14, 2008

Quote of the day

Brooke Shields – Genius

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
—Brooke Shields

This quote came from an interview
Brooke Shields had to become spokesperson for
the Federal Anti-Smoking Campaign.

Beauty in design - at Dollywood

One of the things we really enjoy about Dollywood is the beauty of the place. Although Kim and I think that it is one of the things that Dollywood is trying to establish itself with, perhaps it simply stems from the fact that Dolly Parton loves this land. This is where Dolly grew up and a replica of her childhood home has even been placed in Dollywood so people can appreciate what Dolly calls "the simple beauty of this area of the country." And it is simply beautiful.

Dollywood's grist mill

The park has a wonderful collection of flowers and other vegetation planted along the paths and walkways and even around and interspersed throughout the rides. And even though this is not the Dollywood water park, there is water everywhere. Water runs down wooden sluices with drops here and there to introduce the sound of falling water. Waterfalls and fountains abound. And the constant murmur of the rippling water brings a peaceful sound cover to the typical noise of an amusement park.

Kim and David strolling along one of the paths

When we visited Dollywood 11 years ago, we were struck with the beauty and design of the place. And this visit has reinforced our impression. In the photo above and to the left, you can see a working grist mill. David loved the waterwheel and the fact that this simple form of energy runs the mill machinery. You can purchase grits and cornmeal that have been ground using this simple energy system, which, by the way, does not damage the environment in any way. In fact, while it doesn't damage the environment, it provides beauty in both sight and sound. I'd love to go back to this form of energy.

Enjoying the rocking chairs

Another great design element at Dollywood is that whereas most parks have thematic benches scattered throughout the park for those who get tired of walking, Dollywood has such benches but also has a large rocking chair area. After hours of walking, folks can sit and rock in these chairs, listening to the sound of the waterwheel from the nearby grist mill. It's really a great experience.

David has proclaimed that he doesn't care to go back to Disneyworld again. He wants to come to Dollywood every vacation from now on. He does tend to overstate his emotional responses, but I think that in this case it might actually not be far from the truth.

At the end of the day, as you can see from the picture to the right, you're kind of worn out. Well, Kim and David are acting in that picture. But we really have been worn out, but happy, at the end of each day.

Today we're planning on going back to Splash Country (as long as the weather doesn't turn on us; they're forecasting storms). And then tomorrow will be our last day here and we're planning on going to Dollywood for one last visit before heading back home.

On the way home, we will stop in Greeneville, Tennessee, and visit Kim's relatives there. It's been a great week. But the end is rapidly approaching.

August 12, 2008

A dark lining in the silver cloud

I guess I should get the "dark lining" explanation out of the way first. I got sunburned—like a lobster! In fact, I think I now glow in the dark. But the "silver cloud" part is that yesterday we went to Splash Country, Dollywood's water park, and had a blast.

Splash Country's Lazy River

Splash Country is very similar to Dollywood in that the scenery and the landscaping is gorgeous. There are a ton of rides, from the mild to the ultra-extreme intensity spectrum. And, of course, there is water everywhere.

Our visit to Splash Country included the perfect day for such a visit. The temperature was in the mid to high 80s, making it warm enough for us to really enjoy cooling off in the water, but not so hot that we were uncomfortable as we strolled around the park or waited in line for the rides. The sky was a deep blue with just enough clouds to give the sky definition and variety. We could not have asked for a more perfect day.

We began the day floating around the park on the "Lazy River." I could have stayed there all day. Other than the splashes from David jumping off of his inner-tube or the sensation of feet kicking our backsides as David swam under our inner-tubes, it was a very peaceful ride.

That's David coming down the left slide

But apparently David's fright from the previous day's Mystery Mine encounter had tempered because he was certainly ready to get back to the high intensity rides. He started with a rafting ride that begins way up high and runs down a tube through a series of twists, turns, spirals and drops and then shoots you out of the end of the tube down a huge drop and into a large pool. David loved it!

Then after some time at the wave pool, David and Kim rode the water drop slide. This thing is huge! It's a simple water slide except that it has a 100-foot drop that remains essentially vertical for three-quarters of the drop. Then it begins to bend to horizontal. By the time you reach the bend, you're traveling at a speed of 63 miles per hour. Again, David loved it. He and Kim both did this slide. I wisely stayed on the ground and photographed them. Kim said lots of water got in her nose. David said, "Woohoo! That was awesome!"

Splash Country also has a couple of large playgrounds sporting a variety of water-themed things for the young children all the way up to the old children (like Kim and me). One of the playgrounds is more gentle and seems to be intended for young children (up to about teen-aged).

Water, water everywhere

The other playground is huge and has the most amazing things in it for the kids to play with and enjoy. It's basically a huge jungle gym with things to climb on, slides everywhere, and all kinds of role-playing, adventure items. But scattered everywhere are twists on these themes that include water. Above two of the slides are large buckets on swivel hinges. These buckets fill with water as long as they remain upright. When the children turn them over, they dump their water on the slide below. So the more devious children (that would be David) can stand up above the slide and flip the buckets over at just the right moment to douse the kids sliding down the slide with about two gallons of water.

But these buckets of water are very small compared to the huge bucket at the top of the whole playground. This bucket holds more than 200 gallons of water. It has a high capacity pipe of water feeding it at all times and the full 200 gallons fills up about every 10 minutes, at which time that huge bucket tips over and dumps the 200 gallons of water over the whole playground. It's like a tidal wave every ten minutes.

Kim and a tired David at Splash Country

At the end of our day, David was exhausted but happy. Kim had gotten a decent tan and some good exercise. And I was burned to a crisp, but had a bunch of great photos.

We got to bed at a more reasonable time last night, so now we're ready to head back to Dollywood and see if I can exacerbate my sunburn some more. Oh, we might also ride some more rides and look around some of the cool shops and take another two or three hundred pictures.

August 11, 2008

Relatives and rollercoasters

Yesterday was our first full day at Dollywood. And we had a special treat. Kim called one of her best friends growing up (also her cousin), Wendy, and we made plans for Wendy to come out to Dollywood with her three kids. And that's what happened yesterday.

We didn't think to get a photo of the group before we became all bedraggled (like you see in this photo), so here is everyone (except me) standing in front of a waterfall and looking wet and tired.

David has always had a very special connection with relatives. He deeply loves his grandparents and his uncles and aunts and cousins. And this visit was no different. Even though Wendy is not truly an aunt (because she's Kim's cousin) and even though the kids are David's second-cousins, David was reveling in the idea of being able to enjoy the park and the day with his cousins. And he kept announcing that with great enjoyment.

White Water Rafting

David directed everyone to the cars that run around the track again. But once we got that out of his system, we got on to the things that the whole group wanted to do. One of the first things was the white water rafting ride. Kim got soaked on this ride when we rode it on Saturday, so we knew there was danger of major wetness in the ride. I wanted to get a photo of the group on the ride so I stayed behind and waited for their raft to come down the section next to the walkway. (It had nothing to do with trying to stay dry!)

When we visited Dollywood 11 years ago, it was fun and had beautiful landscaping, but there were not nearly as many rides as there are now. It's amazing what can happen in a decade.

Kim and David on the Sky Rider

With so many other big-name parks out there (the Disney parks, Six Flags parks, Busch Gardens parks, and others), Dollywood has to try to distinguish itself from the rest. We noticed 11 years ago that Dollywood is beautifully landscaped and that has stayed the same. Another thing that Dollywood has always been known for is that it is very well-suited to families and that characteristic is apparent from the high number of grandparent/grandchildren groups that you see there.

David riding the Scrambler with Haley

But it appears that Dollywood is also trying to distinguish itself through its roller coasters. The coasters at Dollywood are amazing. There's a mix of wooden roller coasters (for the purists) and steel coasters (for those who want more excitement and intensity such as what is provided by loops, inversions, and other things that are not possible on the wooden coasters.

Upside-down on the Mystery Mine coaster

The steel coaster pictured here is the Mystery Mine ride. Kim and David rode this together and Kim (who loves scary roller coasters) said that this was the most intense ride she's ever ridden. It completely freaked David out and he didn't want to ride intense rides for the rest of the day, even though he really enjoyed the Mystery Mine.

So in an effort to avoid intense rides, we went to the River Battle ride. This is a great twist on water rides. Many parks have water rides with water cannons lining the paths so folks on the paths can squirt the people on the rides. It's fun, but just doesn't seem quite fair.

Evidence of River Battle wetness

In Dollywood's River Battle the riders get to fight back. Each seat is equipped with a hand operated water cannon and the riders can fire the water at folks on the walkways as well as people riding in the other boats. There are also many targets along the ride that activate animatronics and larger water cannons and other special effects in the ride scenery.

It's great fun, but you end up very, very wet as you can see from this photo.

We're planning on going to the water park today. I'll update you with more photos tomorrow.

August 10, 2008

Transportation and more transportation

Waiting for the trolley

Most people visit amusement parks for the rides, and I guess that's the same for our son. Except for the fact that, while he loves the other rides, the rides that give him the greatest pleasure are the transportation rides. Kind of like planes, trains, and automobiles.

David has loved anything with wheels ever since he was a tiny baby. He used to lean out of his carriage in order to watch the wheels revolving. He would get off of the small rides outside the Wal-mart, lift up the rubber boot, and look at the inner workings to see what the wheels and gears were doing.

None of that has changed with age. In fact, he loves transportation even more now than he ever has before. He has branched out from trains to airplanes and even to the space shuttle. But his mind is filled with adventuresome fantasies whenever he comes in contact with transportation devices of any kind.

So it was no surprise that when we entered Dollywood yesterday, David's first choice in rides was the little cars that run around a track. These are pretty cool cars—'57 Chevies, early Corvette Stingrays, Packards, and other really cool antique cars.

But when we left that ride, we headed straight for the ride that I knew David would love the most—the steam engine train that rides up the mountains surrounding Dollywood. In the photo of the train, you can see that the tables near the train station are made of train wheels. There are train parts strewn in some areas along the track. All the things that David loves.

David was excited as we boarded. His exitement increased as the engine's steam pressure increased. And he began grinning ear-to-ear when the engine began pulling the train up the mountainside. Riding the train was fun, but not nearly as much fun as watching David enjoy the ride.

We had just a few hours at Dollywood after we arrived here yesterday afternoon. Today we begin our full week here. I'm already tired. But we had a good night and enjoyed the short time we were able to spend at Dollywood. The trolleys that shuttle folks around Pigeon Forge are fun, once you figure out their route (we made a mistake in that regard and ended up on one of the trolleys for way longer than we had intended).

Today some of Kim's relatives will be coming from nearby Greeneville, TN, to enjoy Dollywood with us. David has not seen these relatives since he was about 1 year old. So it will be nice to see them again.

I'll try to keep you posted as the days progress. My camera is getting a workout, as you might have guessed.

August 09, 2008

Retail store etiquette (Tennessee style)

Exhibit 1—John Deere Store

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a tad bit different than Lynchburg, Virginia. And quite a bit different than Washington, D.C.

As an example—I present Exhibit 1, seen to the left. This is the front door of a John Deere store in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I guess the first obvious thing that sets this apart from the typical retail store in Lynchburg is the fact that it is a John Deere store. Those are not all that common. But I'm sure there are some John Deere stores dotting the Virginia landscape somewhere.

But on closer inspection you'll see the small sign that has been attached just next to the door handle (so those who enter the store will be sure to read it). Yes, that sign does read: Please do not bring food, drink, or spit cups into the store. Yep - that was "spit cups."

How's that for different?

Blog Header - August 9, 2008

I'm posting this blog header a little bit early since I'm not sure how often I'll be able to access the blog while we're on vacation.

This photo is from the Maryland Renaissance Festival, which should be starting up just about now. We're planning to go next month and hoping to take some friends of ours with us. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is a blast.

What I'm reading today


Today's Bible Reading Jeremiah 7-9


Other than that, I will be mostly reading traffic signs today. We're headed to Greeneville, TN, and then on to Pigeon Forge. It should be an enjoyable week with lots and lots of photography. What could be better?

Entrance to the Black Water Creek Trail

Yesterday my son wanted to go bike riding together. I don't often get to ride bikes with him because I tend to work pretty late in the day and by the time I'm able to spend time with him it's a little too late to go somewhere to ride bikes. And there's just not enough area around our house that keeps us away from major roads. So I don't like to just take the bikes out and go for a ride.

But the Black Water Creek Trail is not more than a couple miles from our house. So it's quite easy to just load up the bikes onto the back of Suzie-Annie (that's David's name for my Dodge Intrepid) and go to the Trail.

Another family taking a break on the trail

So yesterday we did that. At about 4:00 we loaded the bikes up onto Suzie-Annie and headed to the trail. Because I have a new backpack designed to hold a camera, I grabbed that too. The Black Water Creek Trail is gorgeous—no matter what time of year it is and pretty much all day. I haven't been there at night, but I bet it's beautiful then too. But since we usually ride bikes on the Trail, I have not taken my camera before, except for one time when we walked the Trail instead of riding it.

The Black Water Creek Trail is a 5+ mile stretch of converted railroad track. It is part of a railroad line that is being converted to walking/biking trails between the Peaks of Otter (near Lynchburg) and Virginia Beach. Eventually it will be a 200-mile-long trail with picnic and camping areas dotting the length of the trail. That's going to be great. But for now it is still a wonderful trail to ride between our house and downtown Lynchburg.

There are benches donated to the trail by Dasani (the bottled water people) along the way for the walkers and a few bikers to stop and take breaks at. In the photo to the left you can see my bike leaned up against one of these benches. The trail goes under this fantastic railroad bridge and yesterday when we stopped to take some pictures of the bridge a very long train passed overhead. David was ecstatic. He has always loved trains and I have to admit—it was really cool standing 80 feet under the train as it passed overhead.

Because the trail is a converted railroad track and because Lynchburg is a city in the mountains, part of the trail has been hewn out of solid rock. The trail goes through this tunnel about halfway between our house and downtown Lynchburg. It's always fascinating to enter this tunnel on a warm day because the temperature drops dramatically as soon as you get a few feet into the tunnel. David loves the sensation. There's a lot of dripping on the walls and the tunnel curves so when you're in the middle of the tunnel you can't see either of the ends of the tunnel. That would make it kind of creepy if it weren't for the fact that when they converted the trail they ran electric wires and mounted lights on the top of the tunnel. It's still a little darker than outside and has a very different sound (lots of echo), so David really loves going through it.

Black Water Creek Trail Tunnel

I've posted quite a few of what I've called the "I love Lynchburg" posts. And this is one of those things that I love about Lynchburg. In fact, I've written about the Black Water Creek Trail before. But something that really strikes me on this trail is that the people are friendly and polite. Yesterday we met seven dogs as they and their masters were going for walks. Each person stopped and let David meet their dog. we also saw two cottontail rabbits, who we are sure are relatives of our rabbit, Roger.

If you add the super-long train that we saw on the bridge to the delightful people and animals we saw, you just have a fantastic outing. A perfect was to start our week of vacation.