September 30, 2008

Dodge Charger - What a car!!

This past weekend we went to a craft fair in Bedford, Virginia. It was a lot of fun and we got to see another wonderful town here in Central Virginia. But one of my son's favorite things was getting to meet some of the Bedford police.

We met a very nice policeman who even started his police cruiser, turned on the lights, and let David sit in the driver's seat. It was a dream come true for David. And the dream was made all that much better by the fact that the police cruiser was David's favorite car—the Dodge Charger. We wanted to purchase this car ourselves until the gas prices started sky-rocketing. And our decision not to buy it was confirmed by the police officer who told us that it gets about 6 miles per gallon in city driving.

But it's still an awesome car!

September 29, 2008

The Justice of God – Part III


Does justice on earth involved the final human penalty of death? Whether or not we think there should be capital punishment today, it is important, in any discussion of war, to examine the Scriptures' teaching on the death penalty. Many pacifists reject all war because it involves the taking of life. I refer to the human penalty of death here, for of course the final penalty is the eternal judgment of hell, which onlhy God can pronounce (Luke 12:4, 5). God has, however, given to men the responsibility to pronounce the death penalty in certain circumstances. "From each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Gen. 9:5, 6).

Our society teaches us that the death penalty is cruel, abnormal, and barbaric. Human beings are so precious that no one ever has the right to set himself up as a judge and deprive another of life—so the argument goes. It is true that human life is precious. the Christian above all people shoudl regard every human life as sacred whether born or unbor, handicapped baby or fragile old person, weak or strong. However, it is this very dignity of the human person, the fact that we are the imag-bearers of God, which is the basis for God's decision that the life of a murderer, who despises this image, should be forfeited.

The requirement of the death penalty for certain crimes is repeated many times in the Mosaic law, for example in Deuteronomy 19:11–13:

But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood£ from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

Christians will often point out that the Ten Commandments forbid killing. However, it is clear that the commandment "You shall not kill" means "You shall not murder." In the context of this commandmen in Moses' law, judicial killing is also commanded. So the death penalty is not prohibited by the law; in fact it is required.

Just Vengeance and Punishment

In our culture we are taught that the primary purpose of punishment is the regabilitation of the offender, and a secondary purpose is the protection of society; all notions of requital or avenging are ergarded as vindicative, barbaric, and uncivilized. We need to reeducate ourselves according to Scripture. Neither the punishments that God requires men to hand out, nor those that God himself imposes, are primarily educational. They are seen rather as just vengeance required by God.

This is a difficult idea to grasp in these times, but we have only to consider the plagues with which God punished Egypt, the destructino of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the perishing of the whole human race (apart from Noah's family) in the Flood, to see that God as judge of all the earth is acting rightly and justly when he takes life. Human wickedness in some situations becomes so great that God will no longer tolerate it, and he consequently judges with terrible judgment.

War in the Old Testament

The death penalty is prescribed by God not only in casess of individual wickedness, but also in the case of war between nations. Israel suffers unjust attack and oppression at the hands of other nations; God sanctions wars of self-defense, to relieve oppression and to punish wickedness. For example, Joshua's army was required to destroy the Canaanites in the land of Palestine because of their great wickedness (Joshua 6:21; 8:1, 2). When Israel was oppressed by the Midianites, God raised up Gideon to lead the people to overcome their oppressors (Judges 6:7). There are many examples of such wars of self-defense and wars against oppression throughout the nation's history.

Justice within and between nations is so important to God that unjust governments are not immune from attack, even though government was established by God. To maintain justice, even at the cost of civil war, authorities who despise the rule of law are overthrown. When Israel's own rulers became wicked tyrants, God sanctioned revolution against them. (Jezebel and Athaliah provide two examples of this, 2 Kings 9 and 11.)

Because God so clearly sanctions war in certain circumstances the Psalmist could write:

Prasie be to the Lord, my Rock
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.

May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
and bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them.

This is the glory of all his saints.

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

September 28, 2008

Another foot in the grave

My son being fitted for
rock wall climbing

Yesterday was my birthday. I am now 47 years old. That's almost 50. That's really, really old!

And just in case I hadn't noticed that it was old, my son helped me out yesterday as we were heading out to Peaks of Otter to spend a day exploring. David sat in the back seat in thought and then asked, "Mom and Dad—since you guys were really old when you adopted me, does that mean that you'll die sooner than most parents?"

So now I realize that I'm not just old now that I am 47, but I was really old 13 years ago.

It's good to know where you stand.

September 27, 2008

One foot in the grave

When I direct my readers to a news article, I usually comment on it a bit. But I just can't think of anything reasonable to say about this article.

I will, however, give you a few choice quotes from the article to whet your appetite.

“I am in excruciating pain right now,” [the victim] said. “I have a long road to recovery.”

When dealing with severed body parts at an accident scene, it is the Fire District’s policy to take the part with the patient to the hospital if there is any chance of reattachment, or the body part goes to the medical examiner’s office.

“It’s not normal for remains or pieces or parts to be removed from an accident scene other than by the appropriate authority,”

“What she was going to use this specific foot for, I can’t confirm.”

"In 27 years, this is the first time I have ever heard of these accusations. It’s highly unusual."

September 26, 2008

Encouraging words in tough times

The economy is struggling greatly. Banks are failing. Loans are hard to obtain. Gas stations have no gas. Christians are attacking each other over their choice of presidential candidate.

The world is a scary place.

But this world is not my home. Here are some important verses to keep in mind during these troubled times:

We will not die apart from God’s gracious decree for his children.

  • James 4:14-15 – “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
  • Matthew 10:29-30 – “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
  • Deuteronomy 32:39 – “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (See Job 1:21;1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7)

Curses and divination do not hold sway against God’s people.

  • Numbers 23:23 – “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”

The plans of terrorists and hostile nations do not succeed apart from our gracious God.

  • Psalm 33:10 – “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”
  • Isaiah 8:9-10 – “Take counsel together [you peoples], but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (See 2 Samuel 7:14; Nehemiah 4:15)

Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us.

  • Psalm 118:6 – “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
  • Psalm 56:11 – “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

God promises to protect his own from all that is not finally good for them.

  • Psalm 91:14 – “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

God promises to give us all we need to obey, enjoy, and honor him forever.

  • Matthew 6:31 – “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
  • Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God is never taken off guard.

  • Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble.

  • Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Isaiah 41:13 – “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”

Terrors will come, some of us will die, but not a hair of our heads will perish.

  • Luke 21:10-11, 18 – “Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘. . . there will be terrors (!) and great signs from heaven.... and some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.’”

Nothing befalls God’s own but in its appointed hour.

  • John 7:30 – “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (See John 8:20; 10:18)

When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees.

  • Hebrews 13:6 – “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”
  • Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

God’s faithfulness is based on the firm value of his name, not the fickle measure of our obedience.

  • 1 Samuel 12:20-22 – “And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.’”

The Lord, our protector, is great and awesome.

  • Nehemiah 4:14 – “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”

HT: John Piper

Blog Header - September 26, 2008

We love the Maryland Renaissance Festival!

This blog header photo was taken outside the Renaissance Festival gates as we waited for them to open up for the day. I spotted this girl sitting on a lion statue and took the picture. I liked the picture but thought that the brown hair needed to be blond, so I gave her a Photoshop hair coloring. I also added the overdone pink lip gloss. She really wasn't quite that flashy in person, so blame me for the odd-looking makeup.

The Justice of God – Part II

Justice on Earth?

Does God require justice to be practiced here on earth? As we look at the Bible, we have to answer yes to this question and disagree with the early Anabaptists who saw the practice of justice as carnal and worldly. Government is not merely a human invention organized by men to preserve order in society, or to give power to a few. God himself established the institution of government so that there might be some reflection of his character as judge in human society.

The Institution of Government

In Deuteronomy we are told how Moses appointed wise and respected leaders, chosen by the people, to rule and judge.

So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ (Deut. 1:15–17)

Moses makes a direct analogy in this passage between the judgment of God and the justice he requires human beings to practice. Because judgment is God's prerogative, the God of perfect justice demands that all human judgment should be fair and impartial to all people, whatever their place in society.

Israel's Kings

Later in Israel's history, the people demanded a king like the nations around them had, for they were dissatisfied with the Lord as their king. God gave them first Saul as king, and then the line of David. Some have argued from this that all human government and practice of justice is a "second-best," a "carnal" alternative, permitted by God because of the unspirituality of the people of Israel. This argument is then used to reject any Christian involvement in the armed forces, the police force, the government, or the judicial and penal systems. It is argued that Christians in any situation which involves the administration of justice by force are thereby going the way of the "world." However, this argument has no foundation, for, as we have seen in Deuteronomy, God had appointed judges long before the Israelites asked for a king. It was their desire to be like the nations around that was unspiritual, not the fact of government, or its forceful administration with penalties of various kinds.

The king, in fact, was called, like the judges, to revere God, to read and obey God's law himself, and to rule by it (Deut. 17:18–20). God delighted in those kings who loved him and who ruled justly according to his commandments (2 Sam. 7:8–16; Psalm 89:1–4, 19–37).

The Old Testament often spells out the relationship between divine and human justice. For example, Jehoshaphat appointed judges after a period of wickedness and lawlessness.

and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes" (2 Chronicles 19:6, 7).

The Purposes of Government

What were the purposes for which God established human government? There are three which stand out in the Old Testament, or they are repeated many times.

  1. Maintaining justice in the fear of God according to his holy law and his wisdom (Deut. 16:18–20, Prov. 8:15, 16).
  2. Punishing disobedience to the law justly and impartially. "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the Lord detests them both" (Prov. 17:15; see also many passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, especially Deut. 17:8–13).
  3. Defending the poor and needy who have no advocate against aggression and injustice, and ensuring equity for them. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Prov. 31:8–9). God requires this attitude to the poor and oppressed from those in authority, because it is his own attitude (Psalm 146:7–9).

It should be clear from all these passages that God values justice on earth very highly, and that those who rule wisely and punish wrongdoers are honored and approved by him. So highly does God place the maintenance of justice that human rulers are given the title "gods" in Psalm 82. This psalm pictures God presiding over the assembly of human rulers from all the nations, calling them to account for their failure to judge justly and rescue the poor from the wicked who oppress them. It is because of passages like this that Calvin could write: "Civil authority is a calling not only holy and lawful before God, but also the most sacred and by far the most honorable of all callings in the whole life of mortal men."

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

Freudian slip?

I'm trying to avoid political discussion, but this was just funny.

Fox News' Megyn Kelly

I am working from home today and have Fox News on in the background to provide ground cover to block out the sounds of traffic or anything else that might distract me.

So in typical distraction free style, Fox News caught my attention when Megyn Kelly [bio] made what appeared to be a Freudian slip. But it was a good one ... well, at least it was a funny one:

"The president has just made a statement on the economy from the Awful Office... er, Oval Office.

"I'll only kiss my wife"

I've always liked Kirk Cameron. I loved "Growing Pains" when it was a popular sitcom. I thought Cameron's role as Michael Seaver was great. But he has come so far from those days.

Cameron is starring in the current movie "Fireproof," which looks like it will be a great movie. The movie was produced by the same church that produced "Facing the Giants"—a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

In this Today Show interview with Kirk Cameron, he reveals another admirable aspect of his character—he refuses to kiss anyone other than his wife, even when the movie script calls for a kiss. In fact, the script for Fireproof called for Cameron's character to kiss his co-star. In the interview, he described how he was able to keep his commitment to kiss no one but his wife and still star in this movie.

Fireproof trailer

September 25, 2008

The Justice of God – Part I

One o f the problems that troubles Western society is that of distinguishing between good and evil. Many thinkers today have recognized that it is meaningless to speak of good and evil or moral responsibility if we are only developed animals, complex biochemical organisms. We do not accuse computers of criminal behavior, though the complexity of our brain is compared to them, nor do we bring animals to trial, though we are said to have evolved from them.

The inability to distinguish finally between good and evil has produced terrible results throughout the world. In the West it has been one of the major factors leading to the breakdown of sexual morality and of family life, and also to the uncertainty about what constitutes human life. In the Communist world we see this “lawlessness” in the very fabric of government, because the rejection of absolute moral standards is a fundamental aspect of Marxist-Leninist teaching. Leonid Brezhnev repeated in 1970 some words of Lenin:

Our morality is completely subordinated to the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat…. Morality is that which serves to destroy the old exploiting society…. We deny all morality that is drawn from some conception beyond man, beyond class. We say that it is a deception … a fraud.

The consequences of this can be seen most clearly, and perfectly consistently, in the Cambodian revolution in which between one-third and one-half of the population were killed in order to bring about a new society.

God's Righteous Character

Christians should not have this problem of uncertainty about good and evil. God's own character gives us a definition of what is right and good, and all human behavior must be measured against his character. God's law, given to us in the Bible, expresses God's righteousness; and man, made in the image of that righteousness, is called to obey the law and judge his life against it. All human beings are created with a moral conscience, the "law of God written on the heart," but this can become confused or hardened, either by cultural tradition or by the individual's sinful choices. Beyond this, however, we have an absolute basis for knowing what is good and evil, for we can check all human ideas about morality against God's revelation of his character and law in Scripture.

As well as having an answer to the dilemma of moral uncertainty in our culture, the Christian also has a firm basis for determining what to do in his own life. Furthermore, he has a basis for withstanding the immorality of those in power, either in a democracy or dictatorship, and for withstanding "the will of the 51 percent" in Western society where morality changes with the consensus of the day.

Knowing with certainty the principles for human life which God has given in his law, we ought to provide a living example of righteousness to our society. And we ought also to bring these principles to bear on our society to improve its laws and institutions.

The Judgment of God

The doctrine of judgment follows on necessarily from God's revelation of his righteousness. As his character is the moral foundation of the universe, so any failure to meet God's perfect moral standards is known by him, exposed for what it is, and judged. Christians are often embarrassed by the doctrine of the judgment of God, in this age where evil is explained away and excused. But we ought rather to glory in it! Judgment means that in the end it really makes a difference whether we are kind or cruel, merciful or brutal. The Book of Ecclesiastes portrays the judgment of God as the one factor which makes sense of a world in which the wicked often prosper and the righteous perish.

We are taught in the twentieth century that any kind of judgment is cruel and vindictive. As Christians, however, we ought to reeducate ourselves according to Scripture and see punishment as good and right. God's judgment is a revelation that evil is evil, and is destructive to human life, and therefore it must be exposed and dealt with according to its nature. We ought to lament, as Christ does himself, that people are so foolish as to turn away from him and live their lives in disobedience (Matt. 23:37). We ought to imitate Jesus by giving ourselves in service to others, so that they might be moved by our love and come to repentance and faith. Yet we must, in a sense, but glad for the doctrine of judgment which declares once and for all that good and evil are different, that it does finally matter how people live their lives. God's punishment of sin, God's just wrath against the evildoer, must be seen as right and good.

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

Quote of the day

Bonnie Bedelia – Genius

"Sure the body count in this movie bothers me, but what are you gonna do? It's what everybody likes. At least it's not an awful body count—it's a fun body count."
—Bonnie Bedelia

Actress Bonnie Bedelia, star of Die Harder,
in a Movies USA interview.

September 24, 2008

Christians and Pacifism - Part III

Biblical Wars?

To return to the pacifist position, all Christians ahve to acknowledge that in the Old Testament God sanctioned the use of the sword in civil justice, and sometimes he even sanctioned war. The pacifist deals with this in one of two ways.

Either he declares that God revealed his perfect will only gradually, that wars were a condescension to Israel's limited understanding, God's perfect will being revealed in Christ; or he regards the "holy wars" of Israel as battles which demonstrated God's power by miracle—battles in which Israel's military efforts were either unnecessary or purely incidental to victory. On this latter view, the only lesson for us today is that we should abandon any confidence in modern weapons and put our trust in God for our defense.

A further argument sees the wars of the Old Testament as the result of a primitive understanding of God; they can therefore teach us nothing for today. Such a view sees the Old and New Testaments as conflicting. Later, we will examine whether there is in fact any contradiction between the Old and New Testaments' teaching on this issue.

"Mercy Only

Some argue that judgment is God's strange work, and mercy his most fundamental characteristic. Therefore, the child of God should never be involved in the application of justice. The taking of human life, in particular, could never be justified, for our desire should be only for the repentance and conversion of the criminal or the nation which practices aggression. Besides, they continue, every nation is evil; we have enough to be concerned about with injustices at home. We should simply trust God to vindicate our cause if it is right.

Others acknowledge that the Bible approves of the sword of justice both to punish evil at home and to defend a country against attack from abroad. However, they say, modern warfare in general, and nuclear weapons in particular, are so indiscriminate in their destruction and so appalling in their nature that we ought to abandon the prudence of nuclear deterrence. We should please God by laying down our nuclear weapons in a unilateral gesture, whatever the outcome. If we were fined by any persecution which followed. This view of nuclear weapons leads us in practical terms to a pacifist position, for conventional arms provide no deterrent to an anemy with nuclear weapons.

Basic Issues

These arguments of the pacifist are, I believe, mistaken from beginning to end.

The discussion raises some fundamental questions. These are: the place and importance of justice and judgment, both for God himself, and among us as humans; the question of whether justice involves death; the relationship of God's commandments to mankind in the Old Testament and New Testament, particularly the teaching of the two Testaments on personal vengeance and judicial punishment; the calling of the Church in the world; and the biblical understanding of peace.

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

September 23, 2008

Christians and Pacifism - Part II

Traditional Christian Pacifism

The Christian pacifist takes as his starting-point Jesus' statements: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God," "Do not resist an evil person" (Matt. 5:9, 39). He argues that these statements by Jesus rule out the possibility of a believer taking up arms to resist evil, whether on a personal, national, or international level. Jesus taught nonviolence in the Sermon on the Mount, says the pacifist; he practiced nonresistance to evil in going to the cross. The consistent pacifist teaches that if we want to remain "in the perfection of Christ" we must never be involved in the use of physical force to restrain evil. The use of force is regarded as essentially carnal and worldly; and Christians (it is argued) are called as individuals and as communities to show the world a different way.

The early Anabaptists understood that taken consistently this position meant that no Christian ought to accept any office in the State, for all States back up their power and laws by force. The Anabaptist Articles of Schleithiem (1527) state that the office of magistrate is "carnal" and "outside the perfection of Christ." The Anabaptists also totally rejected war and taught that rulers of nations should not resist sedition or invasion.

Modern Pacifism

Some modern pacifists take a rather different position. They accept the need for the use of force within nations: law enforcement, the police, magistrates, judges, juries, and punishment by fine or imprisonment. Some insist, however, that the only "forms of coercion" that can be used are those that are "fully compatible with love and respect for the other person as a free moral agent.... Lethal violence is different. When one engages in lethal violence, one cannot lovingly appeal to the other person as a free moral agent." The only form of justice Ronald Sider will allow on the human level is justice which is restorative rather than retributive. This means, of course, that the modern pacifist, while accepting some forms of nonviolent coercion within the State, will continue to insist that war can never be right. Kenneth Greet, for example, writes: "War is contrary to God's will. These are the basic convictions with which the Christian sets out to discover how he responds to the vocation to be a maker of peace." Successive Lambeth conferences of Anglican bishops have endorsed the statement, "War as a method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ." However, the writers of the recent report to the Anglican Synod, The Church and the Bomb, seem to be somewhat inconsistent in quoting this as "unquestionably consonant with Christian faith," for elsewhere they admit that "armed force in self-defence is of course an inherent right of any State."

Later, the claim that "war is always contrary to God's will" will be examined in light of Scripture, but here it needs to be pointed out that this type of pacifism is inconsistent and basically unreasonable. If one concludes that the use of force to protect citizens against criminal aggression within a nation's boundaries is not only allowable but a duty of the State, and if one also concludes that it is entirely compatible with the teaching of Scripture for the Christian to be involved in such law enforcement, then it seems absurd to deny that the State (and the Christian) has a duty to protect citizens from criminal aggression from outside a country's borders. Unless one comes to the strange conclusion that only internal evil can ever be bad enough to require resistance by force, or unless one concludes that the principles of justice only apply between individuals and not between nations, one must inevitably accept that the use of armed forces and the waging of war will sometimes be necessary to protect people against evil. Once it is acknowledged that justice within a nation is important, to be consistent it must be agreed that wars fought to uphold justice are justified. Any other conclusion is either irrational, or hopelessly romantic about human nature.

One might say the same about Ronald Sider's demand that the State be only allowed to use nonviolent means of coercion. This demand needs to be tested against Scripture, as also does his more basic claim that human justice can only be restorative.

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

A certain hope in uncertain times

1 Peter 4:12–13

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

The banking and lending debacle has been a big concern of mine in recent days. I work in an industry that is closely related to the banking industry. I was concerned about what this might mean for me.

Yesterday a memo was sent out to our entire firm letting us know that a reduction in personnel is on the rapidly approaching horizon. God is in control and I don't know if this reduction in force will hit me or not. But this has reminded me that I must trust in the grace and mercy of the Sovereign God and not think that I am in any way in control of events.

These are frightening times, but I look to that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Candidate selection tool

ABC News has an election tool to help you decide who you should vote for to be our next president. Pretty cool. Check it out.

September 22, 2008

Christians and Pacifism - Part I

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

But who are "the peacemakers"? More and more Christians today argue that the only people who deserve such a title are outright pacifists or campaigners for unilateral disarmament. Those who insist that deterrence is more likely to maintain world peace are increasingly dubbed "warmongers." They are described as those involved in "the big sin"; written off as "McCarthyites," "unacceptably right wingers," or "cold warriors." One popular book condemns the arms race and, by implication, dependence on nuclear deterrence, as "a huge evil which flagrantly breaks the laws of God. It is in a sense the sum of all evils." Nuclear pacifism, according to this argument, is the only option for those who wish to obey god and be called his children today.

Quite apart from its arrogance in claiming a monopoly on righteousness in the struggle for peace and justice in the world, pacifism cannot, I believe, stand up to biblical scrutiny. Nor do I believe that gestures of unilateral disarmament by Western powers would contribute to the security of the world. On the contrary, they would lead to a massive increase in injustice and human misery.

Fears about the outbreak of war are understandable. Every Christian ought to be filled with horror at the thought of nuclear holocaust. Many sincere Christians have wrestled with the appalling possibilities of destruction and have come to the conclusion that total pacifism or nuclear pacifism are the only option for the Christian today. They are right in their passionate longing for peace: Jesus commanded us to be peacemakers. But what are the things that make for peace in our world? To come to grips with this question we will look first at some of the arguments of the Christian pacifist and examine them in the light of biblical teaching. Then, after seeking to establish a biblical understanding of our human responsibility to "seek peace and justice," we will turn to consider the specific issue of the ethics of nuclear deterrence.

Who Are the Peacemakers?, Jerram Barrs

Bearing with the Faults of Others

Thomas à Kempis,
The Imitation of Christ

Until God ordains otherwise, a man ought to bear patiently whatever he cannot correct in himself and in others. Consider it better thus—perhaps to try your patience and to test you, for without such patience and trial your merits are of little account. Nevertheless, under such difficulties you should pray that God will consent to help you bear them calmly.

If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure.

I find that when someone rubs me the wrong way, I put them on a blacklist in indelible ink. I find it very hard to get past my early impressions of this person. I hold them to an unattainable standard and tend to point to every fault and say, "see, I told you."

But I know that I rub people the wrong way at times. And I certainly don't want for them to put my name on a blacklist for all of eternity, no matter what I do to try to make amends.

The passage from Thomas à Kempis quoted in the callout box to the right brought this to the forefront of my mind today. This is something I need to work on. I need to show others the grace that I would like for them to show me.

May God grant His grace and mercy to all of us to see ourselves and others through God's eyes.

Blog Header - September 22, 2008

Today is the first day of Fall, but I'm still posting a summertime blog header photo. Sorry, I love Fall, but in Virginia everything still looks green and summery.

This photo is of a couple of benches on the side of the creek bed that runs the length of the driveway approaching Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest retreat house. I have shared some other photos from this wonderful place, but all of those were of the house itself or of the immediate property surrounding the house. This photo is quite a distance from the house and has a different sort of beauty than the more formal beauty of Poplar Forest. I just found this scene to be very peaceful.

What I'm reading this week


Today's Bible Reading Zechariah 1-7

I'm also reading:
American Political Writings During the Founding Era   Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, editors
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

September 21, 2008

How out of touch can you be?


A few weeks ago the Obama/Biden campaign's investigative team discovered that John McCain is not able to send email. We dutifully revealed this to the American public who simply cannot go through four more years of email incompetency.

But further investigation has revealed an even more troubling aspect of the McCain/Palin ticket. Governor Sarah Palin has made statements in her private emails (no longer so private, eh? hehe) that she favors vanilla and chocolate ice cream. In spite of the fact that Rocky Road is the clear favorite of the American people, Ms. Palin refuses to do the right thing by the American public and holds to God, guns, and neopolitan.

We simply cannot allow the United States to be overrun by vanilla-eating, gun toting, radical religionist. Not to mention the fact that this stuff tastes awful.

This message has been approved by
Barack Bamama & Joe O'Biden


Why war? Why nuclear defense?

Although this preface was written a while ago when the world was a different place, the concept and philosophy presented are applicable to today's world. This is Francis Scheaffer's take on the pacifist movement and where they are wrong.

This article's focus on the Soviet empire was a valid focus in the days when this was written. One of our United States presidents who was described as a "warmonger" put an end to the Soviet empire by standing strong and by not being lured by the Siren song of the pacifists and peaceniks.

Francis Schaeffer's preface to Who Are the Peacemakers?

As history moves on, issues arise which Christians must think through and pray about with care. In doing so, there are always Pied Pipers who lead the unsuspecting astray with their tunes.

In the present discussion on defense there are two books which, to my thinking, are for Christians especially mistaken Pied Pipers: Nuclear Holocaust and Christian Hope by Ronald J. Sider and Richard K. Taylor and Freeze! How You Can Help To Prevent Nuclear War by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Senator Mark O. Hatfield....

In considering the book Freeze! my own observation is that it makes various mistakes, but the primary one is the cavalier treatment of Europe. It sets forth the idea that the United states is strong enough to be safe with the atomic weapons it now has and therefore should freeze! But a careful reading shows little or no care for Europe. This is really a modern form of shortsighted isolationism.

First, this is heartless. Looking across the iron curtain anywhere as it spreads its terrible length of wire, guns, guard dogs, and land mines leaves us with a callous mind and heart if it does not cause us to cry out that this tyranny should not spread. Humanness demands an adequate deterrent so that the rest of Europe will not be so tyrannized. This is so in general but especially as we regard the Christians who live in the Soviet bloc [or today in Muslim nations]. We must not be like the World Council of Churches, or any others, who minimize the oppression of Christians where the Soviets have power.

Second, even if the West were totally heartless towards those in Western Europe who are vulnerable to pragmatism demands that the fate of Europe not be treated in a cavalier fashion. If Europe were militarily or politically dominated by the Soviets, the United States would be on a shrinking island—and a shrinking island is a most uncomfortable place to be.

Each of us in thinking through present Pied Pipers' calls for peace should have in mind the details of the peace movement of the 1930s which raged at top speed and with a shrill cry until Germany attacked Russia, and then overnight came to a dead halt. These details are set forth by Vladimir Bukovsky in the book Who Is for Peace? His essay is entitled "The Peace Movement and the Soviet Union" and is one of three essays; there is also one by me and a third by Professor James Hitchcock of St. Louis University entitled "The Catholic Bishops' Search for Peace."

Pied Pipers lead to sorrowful calamity, no matter how beguiling the melody and no matter if played in secular, Catholic, or Protestant tunes.

To understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves in our day is deeply needed in many areas, and in this area of defense the need is acute.

This book by Jerram Barrs is an important one to read and then hand out in large numbers to those whom Pied Pipers' notes have begun to deceive.

Francis Schaeffer

September 20, 2008

Why we don't pay attention to the British news media

I tend to follow the major media news outlets with less than blind loyalty, but this quote from an LBC British television news anchor is just one of the reasons:

"He [Francis Bacon] was probably our greatest living painter—until he died."

That's almost as bad as the standard Greta Van Susteren-type questioning that results in questions such as: "So the storm has wiped out everyone in your family—that's four generations of family members all dying in one day—how does that make you feel?"

It makes me glad that I have solid news sources outside the major media—news sources such as Saturday Night Live and the blogosphere.

Who are the peacemakers?

Europeans, Asians, and others are increasingly interested in our Unites States' elections. Many have made the claim that people all over the world should have the right to vote in our presidential elections because the outcome impacts them so greatly. I have discussed why the U.S. must maintain the exclusivity of its elections before.

This continuing discussion has caused me to notice another common characteristic among those who argue that outside people should be involved in our elections—a strongly Liberal or pacifistic view of foreign policy and international affairs. I believe that this is a reflection of the bias in the media these Europeans and Asians are subjected to. We have enough of this bias in our own media, but I think it is more prevalent with fewer dissenting voices outside of our nation's airwaves.

I have heard many foreign nationals accuse our leaders of being "warmongers" or of being "pro-war." I don't believe that any of our leaders throughout our nation's history have been pro-war. And the most recent accusations against John McCain are ridiculous in the extreme. As a former POW who was tortured during war, McCain certainly understands what war means and cannot be considered "pro-war" or a "warmonger."

So on Monday, I will begin a series of posts that will be a republication of a book no longer in print that directly addresses the question of what defines a "peacemaker."

A politically correct alphabet primer

A   is an Activist itching to fight
B is a Beast with its animal rights
C was a Cripple (now differently abled)
D is a Drunk who is "liquor-enabled"
E is an Ecologist who saves spotted owls
F was a Forester, now staffing McDonald's
G is a Glutton who says he's "food-centered"
H is a Hermaphrodite skirting problems of gender   
I is an "Ism" (you'd better believe it)
J is a Jingoist—love it or leave it!
K is a Kettle the pot can't call black
L is a Lifestyle not bound to the pack
M is a Mindset with bias galore
N was a Negro, but not anymore
O is an Oppressor, devoid of self-love
P is the Patriarchy (see "O" above)
Q is a Quip that costs someone a job
R is the Reasoning done by a mob
S is a Sexist, that slobbering menace
T is a Teapot that's brewing a tempest
U is for Umbrage at the slightest transgression
V is a Valentine, tool of oppression
W is for "Woman," however it's spelled
X is a chromosome we share in our cells
Y is a Yogi for the easily led
Z is a Zombie, the differently dead


The traditional order of the letters in an alphabet is, of course, completely arbitrary. In spite of its association with excellence in archaic, competitive, literacy-obsessed school grading programs, A is no better or more deserving a letter than X, Y, or Z.

Therefore, to deflect any criticisms of a noun-centric bias, I employed a random-letter generator before working on this new alphabet. Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone that, despite the tremendous odds, the random-letter generator spat out the alphabet in the exact order shown above.

From Once Upon a More Enlighteneed Time,
by James Finn Garner

September 19, 2008

Lies and the liars who tell them

In American politics spin is ever present. We understand that and to a degree we accept it. But at least for most Republicans, out-and-out lies are completely unacceptable. They say something about the candidate that we believe disqualifies them from holding political office in our land.

Joe Biden – Liar
Perhaps that's his vice

I say "at least for Republicans" because I have watched Democrats grow more and more accepting of spin, half-truths, innuendo, and bold-faced lies over the past 20 years or so. It came to a head with Bill Clinton who lied under oath and admitted it and was still defended by the Democrats—both those in official positions with the Democratic Party and at the grassroots level. It's a shame that they have sunk so low.

But even though those who plan to vote for the Obama/Biden ticket this year will not likely be bothered by the hurtful and manipulative lies of their candidates, I thought it best to cast the spotlight on one of Joe Biden's most recent lies—that his wife was killed by a drunk driver.

Biden has stated this consistently on the campaign trail in spite of the fact that the police who investigated the accident found the driver of the truck to have no fault at all in the accident. In fact, the accident appears to have been caused by Biden's wife—not by "a truck driver who preferred to drink his lunch instead of eat it," as Biden has repeatedly claimed.

Read Inside Edition's Report about this matter. Simply disgraceful.

Avoiding Rash Judgment

Turn your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of other men, for in judging others a man labors vainly, often makes mistakes, and easily sins; whereas, in judging and taking stock of himself he does something that is always profitable.

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost. If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed so easily by opposition to our opinions. But often something lurks within or happens from without to draw us along with it.

Many, unawares, seek themselves in the things they do. They seem even to enjoy peace of mind when things happen according to their wish and liking, but if otherwise than they desire, they are soon disturbed and saddened.

Differences of feeling and opinion often divide friends and acquaintances, even those who are religious and devout.

An old habit is hard to break, and no one is willing to be led farther than he can see.

If you rely more upon your intelligence or industry than upon the virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will hardly, and in any case slowly, become an enlightened man. God wants us to be completely subject to Him and, through ardent love, to rise above all human wisdom.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

September 18, 2008

The sad state of U.S. journalism

I have wondered how journalism has sunk to such a sad state. I had considered many possibilities, but most of them centered around the fact that the journalists had an agenda. But perhaps the greatest blame for journalistic laxity should be placed on the educational institutions that are putting out such gems as Briana Monasky who wrote the following about Gov. Sarah Palin's nomination:

I should be incredibly proud to finally see a woman on the stage. Instead, I am ashamed that my country is letting her run. When I hear that women are pro-life I simply don't understand. Beyond that, as a victim of sexual assault I consider it devastating to think that a woman may have to carry a child to term conceived from an act of hate. I hope her dad rapes her and she has to carry that child to term. I bet you she wouldn't. I bet she'd grab a coat hanger herself and take care of it.

Briana Monasky |Email| writes for the State Hornet, California State University's newspaper. You may read the full article here.

After people began responding to her journalistic tirade, Briana defended her statements with this:

Words are powerful. Believe me, I get it. I am a journalism major with a capital 'J.' However, to think that in any way, shape or form I could actually literally mean harm upon Sarah Palin is ridiculous. Were you joking with all of these comments and letters? You had to be. No one could really think I would mean that, right? Apparently not. Apparently I need to clarify what I meant.

As the sister of a stand-up comedian, I think vulgarity can be useful to demonstrate a point, whether it be humorous or shocking. In this case, I was simply saying that Palin, under a tragic circumstance such as rape, and worse, the incestuous variety, would not choose to carry the child to term. Did it come across well in the piece? Absolutely not. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

So this journalist "with a capital 'J'" is such a poor communicator that she has to explain her lack of journalistic integrity while at the same time defending her original indefensible statement.

If you would like to combat the rapidly declining state of journalistic integrity, check out Spin Spotter. Spin Spotter currently works only on the FireFox web browser, but software is being developed for Internet Explorer as well. Spin Spotter loads a menu bar on your web browser that allows you to flag journalistic spin in news articles. It even offers the opportunity for you to identify what type of spin is being used (lack of balance, presenting opinions not born of the facts of the story, etc.) and to rewrite it if you are so inclined. After you have done this, other users of Spin Spotter will be alerted to the potential journalistic spin and will be able to read the edits you are proposing. It's pretty cool software, and I think it is something we really need today.

You could have heard a pin drop

My wife received the following in an email. I thought it was worth sharing.

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building' by George Bush.

He answered by saying, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

You could have heard a pin drop.

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?"

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S., English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, "whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English." He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?"

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied "Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German."

You could have heard a pin drop.

Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously, "then you should know enough to have your passport ready."

The American said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."

"Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France!"

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, "Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to."

You could have heard a pin drop.


Quote of the day

Duffy Daugherty – Genius

"Not only is he ambidextrous, but he can throw with either hand."
—Duffy Daugherty

Duffy Daugherty, former Michigan State coach turned sports analyst, providing on-air color commentary

September 17, 2008

More political humor

Todd & Sarah Palin

I recently came across this fun list: Top 10 Reasons Why Liberals Hate Sarah Palin. I have to warn you that a few of the reasons are a bit crude and some of the comments are somewhat rough, but the list is funny and many of the comments are even funnier.

Check it out.

Meditate wisdom

The mouth of the just one shall meditate wisdom,
and his tongue shall speak judgment.

The law of God is in his heart,
and his steps shall not falter.

No man is an island

Rev. Abraham Williams addressed an assembly of politicians in the days prior to the American Revolution. He preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 12:25: That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another. In his sermon, Rev. Williams tried to impress on the minds of these men that we all need each other and that whatever our disagreements may be, we should not seek to live separately. It's an interesting sermon when viewed through the lens of another 200+ years of the progress of our civilization.

Here's an excerpt

An election sermon by the Reverend Abraham Williams

As to the origin of civil Societies or Governments; the Author of our being has given man a nature fitted for, and disposed to society. It was not good for man at first to be alone; his nature is social, having various affections, propensities and passions, which respect society, and cannot be indulged without a social intercourse: The natural principles of benevolence, compassion, justice, and indeed most of our natural affections, powerfully incite to, and plainly indicate that man was formed for society.

To a man detached from all society, man essential parts of his frame are useless—are troublesome: He is unable to supply himself with man materials of happiness, which require the assistance and concurrence of others: Most of the conveniences of life require the concurrence of several. If we suppose a man without exterior assistance able to procure what is barely necessary to his being—at best it would be with diffiulty—but in sickness and the decline of life would be impossible: yet allowing it possible, all the elegancies and comforts of life would be wanting. If we examine the materials of our temporal happiness we shall find they chiefly result from society: from hence proceed the pleasures, of books, conversation, friends, relations, and all the social and relative virtues. So that the social nature of man and his natural desire of happiness strongly urge him to society as eligible—to which, if we add, the natural principle of self-preservation, the dangers men’s lives and properties are exposed to, when considered as unconnected with others, society will appear necessary.

Rev. Abraham Williams (1727–1784), addressing the Governor and General Court of Massachusetts on the eve of the Stamp Act

September 16, 2008

One of the jobs of the community organizer

Community Organizer Man

A Chicago preacher found a dead mule on his lawn one morning. He called the local community organizer and said: "I want you to come and bury this mule."

Barack  The community organizer said: "I thought it was the business of the Preacher to bury the dead."

Replied the preacher: "But we always notify the nearest relatives first."

Today's reading - September 15, 2008


Today's Bible Reading Daniel 7–9

I'm also reading:
American Political Writings
during the Founding Era
  Charles S. Hyneman and Donald S. Lutz, editors
Solomon Among the Postmoderns   Peter J. Leithart

When I was in college I had one of those professors who launches your mind into gear and guides your path into a whole new universe of thought. Dr. Rembert Carter was that professor for me.

Dr. Carter taught Western Civilization, among other things. When discussing history he quite often opened the class up to discussion of the philosophical or political thought of the time we were studying. We discussed what we thought the people at the time believed and why we agreed or disagreed with those people.

Time after time, once we had drawn lines in the sand and chosen sides on the historical issues, he would direct us to primary source documents and tell us to learn not from history books written after the events in question but from the writings of the people who lived through the times. He explained to us that these documents give a glimpse into the beliefs and motivations of the people who actually lived through and were impacted by the times we were studying.

Much of the time we began the discussion with essentially all of the students standing self-righteously on one side of the issue. After reading the primary documents, the class tended to divide over the issues and reasonable interaction ensued. But typically the majority of the class eventually ended up on the opposite side than that which we had taken at the beginning of the discussion.

So when we visited the Too Many Books Bookstore in Roanoke last week and I saw the two-volume set American Political Writing during the Founding Era I snatched it up. I was especially excited when I arrived at the register to find out that this two volume set was selling for $3.50. What a treasure!

I can't wait to dive into it and to learn about the minds of our founding fathers and the people of the time.

September 15, 2008

Blog Header - September 16, 2008

It's time for the Maryland Renaissance Festival. This is our family's longest standing tradition. Shortly after we got married, my wife saw the TV ad for the Maryland Renaissance Festival and thought it looked like fun. So she took me to this wonderfully fun event. That was about 20 years ago and we have returned to the Festival almost every year since then. In fact, our son's first year at the Maryland Renaissance Festival was when he was one year old.

In this picture, behind the pretzel seller, you can see my son David walking arm-in-arm with my wife Kim. (By the way, if you click on my wife's name you'll see another photo of Kim and David at the Renaissance Festival in her blog header.) I painted out a few people so they would stand out in the picture as they head toward the jousting court.

If you get a chance to attend the Maryland Renaissance Festival, make sure you set aside a weekend to do so. It's loads of fun.

The Lying King

Apparently the Europeans can see our media meltdown as well.

Barackbook - Facebook parody

This is just hilarious.

And another parody for Joe Biden.

Media meltdown over Sarah Palin

The extreme liberal rag known as the New York Times has lost all composure in its rabid and outrageous attacks on Governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Noel Sheppard writes:

The New York Times is clearly in full meltdown mode concerning the popularity of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and is having a hard time covering up its obvious state of panic.

In its popular Sunday edition, the Gray Lady published four hit pieces about the Alaska Governor: a 3,100-word article prominently placed on the front page; two scathing columns by Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd, and; an article questioning Palin's husband's role in their state's government.

Read Sheppards entire story at NYT's Palin Panic: Four Hit Pieces On Alaska Gov in One Day

Acquiring Peace

We should enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

September 13, 2008

Why I love Lynchburg - it's not Roanoke

Too Many Books Bookstore
and Kim with "too many books"

Today our family took a much needed family outing to Roanoke. Roanoke reminds me of the city I work in, Washington, D.C., in that it is a nice place to visit—but I wouldn't want to live there. The surroundings are gorgeous, with beautiful mountains all around, but it is too cityish for me. The way the people drive, the attitudes of those who live there, the lack of parking spaces—it all adds up to the things I don't like about cities.

But on the other hand....

We went to Roanoke to take our son to the Roanoke Transportation Museum. This museum is built near the Norfolk & Southern Railroads and there are a ton of trains in the museum. There are steam engines, diesel trains, and electric trains aplenty. There are trains in all sizes from the relatively small to the super huge. They even have the engine that was dubbed "Big Boy" because of its immense size.

Making David's cherry soda

After we left the museum we headed for an area of Roanoke that has been restored to its 1930s heyday glory. It's a simple single city block restoration, but it has a wonderful collection of shops there and even a wonderful old restored theater. One of the shops was the delightful "Too Many Books" used book store. They had a ton of books (hence the name of the store, I guess) and the mix of books was eclectic and delightful. We found way too many books there that we ended up purchasing and taking home. Kim got quite a few books to use for our son's homeschool civics class plus a few that she wanted to read for herself. I came away with a two-volume set Political Writings During the Founding Era 1760–1805 and a unique book dealing with the War Between the States. Creative Minds in Desperate Times by Webb Garrison is a collection of "the Civil War's most sensational schemes and plots." It looks fascinating and I can't wait to dive into it.

We then walked down the street (after depositing our new books in the trunk of our car) to Pop's Ice Cream & Soda Shop. This is a for-real early 1900s soda shop, with soda jerks and all. It was outstanding! In fact, if all we had done today was visit Too Many Books and Pop's we would have felt the day's outing was very successful and enjoyable. Kim ordered a watermelon soda pop; David ordered a cherry soda pop; and I ordered a licorice soda pop. They were all outstanding, as were the sundaes and the shakes that we also ordered.

Roanoke Weiner Stand cook

We then headed over to one of our favorite restaurants in Roanoke. Just around the corner from the Roanoke open air market is a hundred-year old hotdog store called Roanoke Weiner Stand. It sounds like a small hotdog stand such as would be on the side of the road in Washington, D.C., but it is actually a brick & mortar shop with the most amazing hotdogs ever—and for great prices as well.

So we had a great day and enjoyed some good food and some much needed time together as a family. But we were very glad to return to Lynchburg because Lynchburg is a nice place to visit and a fantastic place to live.

Tilting at windmills

No one likes negative campaign advertisements. But negative campaigning works. So when Barack Obama decided to drop his promise to not delve into the old-style campaign techniques and to launch a negative advertisement against John McCain, of course he chose McCain's worse characteristic to highlight in this ad. Barack realizes the it is very, very important for a Commander in Chief to know how to send email. After all, I can't imagine that the president of the most powerful nation in the world would actually have staff that can do these things for him while he concentrates on the real duties of running the nation.

I thought Jimmy Carter was clueless. I thought John Kerry was out of touch. Michael Dukakis didn't seem to have a grip on reality. And I won't go into the shame that Bill Clinton heaped upon our nation or upon the office of the presidency.

But Barack Obama is so unbelievably unqualified to become president that it boggles the mind. Here is his latest example of not understanding the needs of our nation and the world, straight from his campaign web site:

"I'm Barack Obama, and I'm not very bright."

Further lipstick stuff

Why did the blonde put lipstick on her forehead?
She wanted to make up her mind.

Why did the blonde put on green lipstick?
Because red means “stop”!

A Jr. High School in Oregon reportedly had problems with teens putting on lipstick and blotting it by kissing the mirrors in the restroom. The custodian was pretty upset about how difficult it was to clean. So they called all the girls in to show them how difficult it was. They had the custodian show them...

He dipped the squeegie in the toilet and then proceeded to clean the mirrors with the water from the commode bowl. They had no problems thereafter!

HT: CindyK - Under Much Grace

September 12, 2008

Demographic sampling

My father sent me this in an e-mail. I just had to post it. I'm pretty sure I'm not a Democrat or a Republican in this sampling:

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Redneck?

Political Test

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, a terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you.

You are carrying a Kimber 1911 cal. 45 ACP (BIG pistol), and you are an expert shot.

You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Democrat's Answer

Well, that's not enough information to answer the question!

  • Does the man look poor or oppressed?
  • Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
  • Could we run away?
  • What does my wife think?
  • What about the kids?
  • Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
  • What does the law say about this situation?
  • Does the pistol have appropriate safety built into it?
  • Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
  • Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?
  • Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
  • If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?
  • Should I call 9-1-1?
  • Why is this street so deserted?
  • We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.
  • This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for few days and try to come to a consensus.

Republican's Answer:


Redneck's Answer:


Click..... (Sounds of reloading)


Daughter: 'Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?!'

Son: 'Can I shoot the next one?!'

Wife: 'You ain't taking that to the Taxidermist!'

September 11, 2008

Blog Header - September 12, 2008

Today's blog header photo is an example of my favorite lighting. This photo of one of the students from Liberty University who attended our church for a while was taken at one of our church picnics. The lighting is always great at these evening picnics and I've been able to capture some gorgeous images during these picnics.

I also love black & white photography and about a decade ago I had developed a detailed understanding of the unique characteristics of the different available black & white films. I had a favorite black & white film for portraits, another favorite for black & white landscapes, another for still photography, a different one for portraits taken with studio lighting—pretty much a different favorite film for essentially every different type of photography I enjoyed.

But thankfully the days of negative (film) photography are now gone. My camera has multiple black & white settings as well as settings for sepia toned and even blue, green, and purple toned photography. But I tend to take most of my pictures in full color mode and then play with them in Photoshop. In that way, I can try a high contrast type of black & white, and if I don't like it I can adjust it and try a soft glow type of black & white. If that doesn't suit the photo I can try a grainy type of look. And at the end of it all, if I prefer, I can still go back to full color and even try a cross-processed look, should the creative desire arise.

I really love digital photography. Oh ... and pretty models never hurt either.

Do you remember?

Tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, I was working on some financial statements when one of the ladies in my office announced that her radio had just reported that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Over the next hour very little work was done as we all gathered around her desk and listened to the reports of the next two attacks.

When the Pentagon was hit, they immediately dismissed us since our office was about 3 miles from the Pentagon and they realized that there was a high likelihood that our friends and relatives may be dead or strongly impacted by this attack.

I remember driving home from the office that day down the Interstate 95 corridor. The central HOV lanes had been closed off to traffic and many large black official-looking SUVs drove down these lanes at a very high rate of speed into Washington, DC. These SUVs carried officials from the outlying military bases including Quantico Marine Base, which was about a mile from my house. We have since moved from that location near the Quantico Marine Base to a town that is at a somewhat safer distance from the FBI Training Grounds and from the primary terrorism target: Washington, DC. I still work in DC.

I remember the surreal feeling of that beautiful but tragic day. I remember the sense of pride in our nation and the determination that we all developed over the next few days to not allow the perpetrators to go unpunished. I remember the fact that every single bridge had a flag hanging from it. I remember that every single car had a flag flying from the side of it. I remember that every single house had a flag hung at the door or in the yard. I remember people clapping every time they saw a police vehicle or a firetruck drive by. The tragedy had brought a clarity of thought to us that is not common and has, unfortunately, not lasted.

September 11, 2001, was a day of national tragedy. But we are a strong nation. We are a nation that as a whole has an understanding of and a belief in almighty God. We are a nation that has not allowed international intrigue and international pressure to dissuade us from protecting our people and the freedoms that we hold dear.

May we all remember what happened on that day. May we remember that our nation is strong and has the right to defend itself. May we remember that it is up to us to keep our nation strong and not to allow this sort of attack to ever happen again.

God bless America – land that I love.

September 10, 2008

"Take up your bed and walk"

While Barack Obama was referring to Sarah Palin as a "pig," his running mate Joe Biden was asking parapalegics to stand up in front of the audience. What a team this one is.

For your further enjoyment—a compilation of genius:

September 09, 2008

Lynchburg's Old City Cemetery

Tomb of the Langley sisters

Yesterday I posted about the Confederate memorial cemetery that is part of the greater Lynchburg Old City Cemetery. Today I want to talk about the rest of this beautiful cemetery.

About two years ago, when we first moved to Lynchburg, my wife and I were driving around the city just checking out what was there. We saw a neighborhood of beautiful old Victorian-era homes and turned down the street to take a look at the variety of gorgeous architectural examples. At the end of the road was a stone and iron gate—the entrance of the Lynchburg Old City Cemetery.

Re-appropriated bank column

We were out without our cameras that day (a very unusual circumstance for us), so we determined to head back to the cemetery on another day. This was before we realized how much Lynchburg has to offer. So it has taken us two years to finally make it back to the cemetery.

When the rains stopped and the clouds receded, we decided to head to the Old City Cemetery—this time fully armed with photographic utensils. The cemetery is truly amazing. It is very old, containing graves that pre-date the War Between the States. And the mix of residents who have found their final resting place there is unique as well. Three-quarters of the graves in the Old City Cemetery are occupied by African Americans—slave and free. One-half of the graves contain the bodies of children.

Greek styled statue in the park

Just touring the grave sites and reading the stones is an education in the love the survivors had for these people. There are beautiful grave stones of slaves with inscriptions such as "Faithful and loving Mammy, in the family of L.S. Moore for 40 years." There is a grave just inside the entrance of a distinguished member of the Lynchburg community from pre-Civil War times. Reverend Phillip Morris was the founder and first president of what eventually became known as Virginia Seminary and College. Just a little further along the line is a beautiful tomb that houses the remains of Agnes and Lizzie Langley—two sisters who ran a "sporting house" where both races were employed and served in Lynchburg's Red Light District at about the same time that Reverend Morris was establishing his seminary.

The road winds through the beautifully landscaped hills, strewn with grave stones, monuments, and tombs of myriad design and style with the Appalachian mountains rising on the horizons all around. It is the most beautiful cemetery I've ever been in.

Table and chairs with
the chapel in the background

But the beauty increases greatly as you approach the lower area of the cemetery, past the Confederate section. There is a house that once belonged to a doctor that houses a display of the state of medical technology during the mid-18th Century. Another set of buildings houses a museum that includes examples of mourning clothing and jewelry, instruments for embalming, and stories from the Lynchburg mortician who operated the longest running funeral business in our nation's history. Dr. Dooguid's hearses are on display. The upscale stage coach that was used for the more wealthy people is leather lined with heavy black curtains surrounding the casket area. This carriage was drawn by white horses if the deceased was a child and by black horses for deceased adults. The less wealthy families caskets were drawn in a simple utility carriage to the grave site. This carriage is also on display in the museum.

Angel-topped grave stone

As the road heads back uphill past the museums, there is an old chapel on the hillside. This is the location of the first public hanging ever to take place in Lynchburg. This hanging did not go well. The rope broke when the trap was released and the convicted man fell to the ground. After receiving a drink of water, he had to march back up the gallows to be re-hung on a new rope. Because they did not think his neck had broken this second time, they left him hanging at the end of the rope for more than an hour. This whole event so bothered the 2,000 plus Lynchburg citizens who had gathered to watch the execution that there were no more public executions for another 30 years. In other words, not until the next generation did the city of Lynchburg attempt another public execution.

Just past the chapel is a beautiful park. The path the leads through the park is marked by a gorgeous marble column that was removed from the Lynchburg bank when it was remodeled. On the other side of the path is the old horse trough that was originally used in the center of the city for travelers to water their horses when they stopped to do business.

The path through the park winds around through trees, flowering shrubs, and bushes, past a Greek styled statue, a large tree with a chain swing that must be at least 30 feet high (the chain - the tree is much higher), and tables, chairs, and benches allowing people to sit and enjoy the beautiful setting.

I really do love Lynchburg.

Slime from the video

Frank Zappa wrote a song in the 70s from the point of view of a television set talking about the garbage that it spews to its viewers. This was before the days of blogging and other internet rumor-mills. Some of the lyrics are:

I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious with the stuff that I say
I'm the best you can get, have you guessed me yet?
I'm the slime oozing out of your TV set

Well, nowadays we get to deal with slime from much more than just the television. And the slime that has been thrown at Sarah Palin has been amazing and vicious. But here are two investigative news outlet's web pages that deal directly with many of these rumors:

Even though they discuss some of the same rumors, I encourage you to read them both. They'll help you to put the whole liberal attack mill into perspective. And we should also remember that no matter which candidate we support and no matter which side of the congressional aisle we tend to agree most with, we should not pass along rumors of dubious nature about any candidate (or anyone else, for that matter).