December 30, 2010


Happy New Year!


have fallen down on my blogging in recent months. I supposed I should resolve now to be a bit more consistent in my posting. Okay—a lot more consistent.

But according to the London Daily Mail, New Year’s Resolutions Barely Last Longer Than a Week. If my resolution lasts just one week, I will not be doing very well. So I have to determine if I should forget the whole thing and not make any resolutions for improvement in the new year or if I should find a way to commit myself to my resolutions in such a way that I can actually carry through.

The article from the Daily Mail gives some advice, but I think mirroring someone who actually managed to hold to his resolutions for far longer than a week might be the best course of action.

Jonathan Edwards

In 1722, a young Jonathan Edwards wrote a list of resolutions. He wasn’t satisfied with just a single resolution and his list was not intended to be a one-year shot. His list was seeking not a small change to improve himself in a small increment; his list was intended to be the foundation for a full personally reformed and transformed life.

As the Daily Mail pointed out in the article, humans don’t seem to have the willpower to follow through on resolutions. So Edward began his list of resolutions with two support systems. He resolved to remind himself of his resolutions by reading through them every week. And he sought the help of God.


“Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing with out God's help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

  1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the l good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
  2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the fore-mentioned things.
  3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
  4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.
  5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
  6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.
  7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
  8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.
  9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
  10. Resolved, When I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
  11. Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
  12. Resolved, If l take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
  13. Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.
  14. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.
  15. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
  16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
  17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
  18. Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.
  19. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last bump.
  20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
  21. Resolved, Never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
  22. Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
  23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God's glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.
  24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
  25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.
  26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.
  27. Resolved, Never wilfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
  28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
  29. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope god will accept.
  30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
  31. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.
  32. Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. 20:6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.
  33. Resolved, In do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
  34. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
  35. Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question wee Resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
  36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.
  37. Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself; —also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
  38. Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
  39. Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
  40. Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
  41. Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 1, 1723.
  42. Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion Or the church, and which I have solemnly remade this 12th day of January, 1723.
  43. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.
  44. Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.
  45. Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
  46. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
  47. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.
  48. Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of May 26, 1723.
  49. Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.
  50. Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
  51. Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
  52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
  53. Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
  54. Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
  55. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
  56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
  57. Resolved, When 1 fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.
  58. Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
  59. Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as world be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
  60. Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.
  61. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
  62. Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. 6:6–8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.
  63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14, and July 13, 1723.
  64. Resolved, When I find these “groanings which cannot be uttered,” of which the apostle speaks, and those “ breathings of soul for the longing it hash,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
  65. Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz.with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton's Sermon on the 119th Psalm. July 26, and Aug.10, 1723.
  66. Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
  67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what l might have got by them.
  68. Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
  69. Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
  70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Something makes me think that the world in general (and Evangelicalism in particular) would be much better off if some of us would make similar resolutions.

Perhaps I should work on this myself. And maybe, with God’s help, I can manage to keep after it for more than one week.


December 24, 2010

Blog Header - December 22, 2010

I took this photo of my friend Shawn at the last concert my band Remembrance played. We joke that Shawn is our roadie. He’s at each of the concerts and helps set up the equipment. Or, more accurately, he sets up the equipment and we help him a little bit. He is able to lift pretty much anything without breaking a sweat. It’s really amazing!

December 22, 2010

Blog Header - December 19, 2010

I took this picture after Remembranceplayed a recent benefit concert to raise funds for Explorers, a special needs little league group. This young man was one of the Explorers. I love his smile.

December 17, 2010

Blog Header - December 5, 2010

Front Royal’s recent Christmas parade gave us another reason to love this town. We went to the Christmas parade a couple weeks ago. (Yes, I said Christmas parade. That’s what it’s called here—not “Holiday” parade or “Parade That Must Not Be Named,” but “Christmas Parade.”)

At the end of a traditional Christmas parade, typically Santa comes riding in a horse and carriage to launch the Christmas season. But the town’s horse and carriage had come through earlier—carrying the mayor’s wife or someone. But as the photo here shows, when the end of the parade came Santa Claus was there. Except in Front Royal Santa rides in a monster truck.

I love this town!

December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas in DC

Those who know me well know that I would prefer to stay out of Washington, DC, as much as possible. I’m not a city boy. However, Washington is a beautiful city (as cities go), and when you have time to actually look at the city instead of trying to drive in the traffic, it can actually be enjoyable.

For the past few weeks I have been working on a project that has taken me inside the city limits. My normal office is just outside the city, just over the Potomac River from the Kennedy Center. We can see the major landmarks from our office window. The Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Tidal Basin, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House are all directly in our view from the office windows. We get to see the sun rising over Capitol Hill each morning—so the view is great and I don’t usually have to actually go into town to see the sights.

But for the past two weeks I have come to my office just outside of DC and then caught the metro train into one of our downtown offices on the corner of G and 10th Streets. This means I don’t have to drive in the city traffic and I still get to see the beautiful Christmas decorations all over the place.

Deloitte’s G Street office is in a beautiful office building attached to the Grand Hyatt DC hotel. The office’s lobby is a large square of marble and it extends all the way to the top of the building where it terminates in a huge skylight. The lobby has four large palm trees in huge marble boxes. There are fountains flanking the entrance to my office.

Because of the long nights we have had recently, I have been staying in the Grand Hyatt DC hotel. My office building’s lobby opens to my office and also to the hotel, so I don’t even have to go outside to get to the hotel. In fact, the Metro Center subway station I get off at has an escalator that goes directly into my office lobby—so I don’t have to go outside at all.

Anyway... I was heading out of the hotel yesterday morning to go back to the office. I stepped into the lobby, which is decorated for the season. Christmas presents are filling the boxes that hold the palm trees, ribbons decorate the tops of the boxes, and lights spiral up the palm tree trunks. It’s quite beautiful. So I stopped, put down my backpack, set up my tripod and camera and took these pictures.

Washington, D.C., is a beautiful city with some very beautiful buildings. And sometimes it just requires us to stop for long enough to notice.


December 08, 2010

Peace on earth; good will toward men


confess to having a melancholy spirit. Happy and carefree on the outside, deep down I am often a scared child trying to fight off fits of anxiety. Due to the masks we all wear, I don’t know that I am any different from anyone else—although I suspect that I am.

One of my friends told me that I have the personality described by research studies into “evolutionary intelligence.” Mary-Elaine Jacobsen calls this everyday genius in her book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius [Amazon] (It is an outstanding book, by the way, and I highly recommend it.)

I don’t know that I’m willing to claim the title “genius,” but I definitely fit the description in the book. And part of that description is a trend toward a melancholy nature.

So now we are heading into Christmastime—my favorite time of the year. I love the way many concentrate on showing good will to their fellow man. People are a little bit nicer, a little bit friendlier, a little bit kinder. It’s a great time of year.

But some people are not quite so nice. Santa Claus is getting fired for having a sense of humor. Our government is asking us to spy and report on each other. And there are terrorists out there who would love to wipe us off the face of the earth. And there are ax murdering homeless people in the town Disney built. None of that indicates good will. In fact, it indicates a lot of hate out there in the world.

The Melancholy is encroaching.

When I get this way, it helps if I try to see things through another person’s eyes—another person who went through a similar melancholy moment at Christmastime. It helps me realize the similarities we all have and maybe not feel so sorry for myself and for my nation. So as I rode the subway to work this morning I listened to Christmas carols on my Zune, and my favorite Christmas carol began to play. Before the song was over there were tears streaming down my face. The girl in the seat facing mine gave me an odd look, but didn’t say anything—interaction with others is frowned on in the subway. Let me tell you the song’s story...

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this carol on Christmas Day 1863. It was during the War Between the States and Longfellow, who had lost his wife just two years prior, had just learned that his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, having suffered wounds as a soldier in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. He considered what was happening in the world and was thrown into a melancholy state.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

But as he considered the overarching truth of God’s sovereignty he penned these words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Here are the words for the entire song, including two verses usually not included in church hymnals because of their highly personal nature and their obvious reference to the current events at the time of the war.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So the melancholy is here, but so is my love of Christmas and of Jesus, whose birthday is the reason for all of this. In my mind it is the promise that it will all end well, even when it seems like things just aren’t going as they should. It’s okay. Our God has always won; he is winning; he will win in the end.


December 06, 2010

Blog Header - November 28, 2010

Blog header from November 28, 2010. I took this photo at our church’s Thanksgiving feast.

December 04, 2010

Grammar rules to remember


fter a long and extremely busy week of writing, editing, and performing all manner of literary futility, I have finally reached the weekend. It is now time for photography and music.

This week commemorated the 27th wedding anniversary of my good friends John and Arlene Coulter. I remember sitting with my girlfriend (now my wife) at their reception and thinking about how great it would be to get married.

So, in honor of John and Arlene’s anniversary, I present Arlene’s grammar rules for grammarians.

Grammar Rules for Grammarians—and the rest of us

  • Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  • And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  • Avoid clichés like the plague.
  • Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
  • Be more or less specific.
  • Remarks in brackets (however relevant) are (usually) (but not always) unnecessary.
  • Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  • No sentence fragments.
  • Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.
  • Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  • Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  • One should NEVER generalize.
  • Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  • Don’t use no double negatives.
  • Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  • One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  • Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  • The passive voice is to be ignored.
  • Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
  • Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
  • Kill all exclamation points!!!
  • Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  • Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
  • Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
  • Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  • If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
  • Puns are for children, not groan readers.
  • Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  • Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  • Who needs rhetorical questions?
  • Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.


November 30, 2010

Making melody in your hearts to the Lord

As a practitioner of the communicative arts, I love a good turn of a phrase. I love the rare and precious expression that gives a simple clarity to a deep concept and helps people understand.

Carla (Jeff’s wife) and Corliss (Jeff’s mom)
Carla–flute; Corliss–keyboards

I have often mentioned an example of such clear communication from the movie “The Color Purple.” Although not one of my favorite movies, the scene from which the movie derived its name is a powerful scene. Two young ladies are walking through an open field filled with tall grass. As they walk and talk one of the girls stops to look at a purple wildflower. The other girl urges her on, but she lingers at the flower. Finally she says (in somewhat cruder language than I will post here), “I think God gets mad when we don’t notice the color purple.”

In the context of the movie, this young lady was making a profound statement. God loves us and has showered us with blessings—but it is up to us to notice, appreciate, and praise God for those blessings.

Stephanie (Jeff’s daughter)–vocals and keyboards

Yesterday my wife called me—very excited—to tell me that God had stretched our available budget for food beyond all imagination. Our finances were quite tight and we were concerned about putting food on the table. We knew we wouldn’t go hungry, but we thought we might be eating beans and rice for all three meals every day for the next few weeks. But my wife had made a list of all the things we needed for the next two weeks’ worth of dinner recipes and headed to the store to see how much of this we could manage. Unfortunately, she needed to buy some cleaning supplies as well, which further cut into the available food funds.

Wyatt (Jeff’s son)–guitar, drums, vocals

As my wife excitedly told me about her visit to the grocery store, in which seemingly each item on her list was on sale, she became very emotional as she explained that she had picked up a box of very inexpensive breakfast sandwiches. She sends these to work with me in the morning so I don’t have to spend time preparing breakfast before heading out to the commuter lot. She had removed any “luxury” items from the food list in an effort to keep the costs under control—so there were no desserts on the list. But she was hoping to get these sandwiches for me and had decided that she would put them back only if the total cost for absolute necessities exceeded the money she had.

Tiffany (Jeff’s daughter)–vocals, bass, drums

As she picked up the box of sandwiches a coupon fell from the box to the floor. This coupon was for our son’s favorite breakfast food—cinnamon rolls. This was definitely a luxury item that had not been on the list. But the coupon was for those cinnamon rolls if you purchased the breakfast sandwiches. My wife immediately saw the color purple. This was a gift from God. This was a blessing we don’t deserve, and could not afford. But God gave it to us anyway.

As my wife mentioned this color-purple experience, I was reminded that I, too, need to look for the color purple and thank God for his continual blessings.

When we moved to Front Royal just over one year ago, we knew no one from this area. I had no idea if I would be able to get involved in music in the community or in our new church. And music is my cinnamon roll—it is the dessert to my life. I love music.

Jeff–guitar, vocals, leader of the band

For half a year, no musical opportunities presented themselves. My guitars rested forlornly in the corner of my library. My bass guitar amp became a credenza to my desk. Eight months after we moved to Front Royal I began commuting to work by bus. After another month or so I was riding home on the bus one evening and the bus manager sitting in front of me was looking through some pictures. I could see over his shoulder that each photo was of a guitar. And they were very nice guitars. I asked who owned them and the bus driver said, “they’re mine.” As we began to talk about the guitars I found out that the bus driver (Jeff Blakely) is the leader of a Christian rock band (Remembrance) in Front Royal. I told him that I had played bass guitar in a few worship teams but was not playing at the time. (Warning: Huge color purple moment coming!) Jeff said, “my band just lost its bass player, would you be interested in playing with us?”


It is now half a year later. Many things have happened during those intervening months. Jeff no longer drives that bus. I no longer commute on that bus. Jeff’s daughter, Tiffany, decided to play bass for the band just after Jeff mentioned the position to me. But then Tiffany headed off to Lynchburg, Virginia, to attend Liberty University. A whirlwind of events that seem, in my mind, to all point back to that short window of opportunity—the few months during which Jeff was driving and I was riding ... and the fortuitous conversation around the pictures of Jeff’s guitar collection.

Oh yeah, that’s me on the bass
(No relation – just a lot of the color purple)–bass, vocals, drums

God crossed my path with Jeff’s And now I am playing in a wonderful Christian band. We’re doing a benefit concert on Saturday, December 11, to raise money for a local little league team. We have played in Jeff’s church multiple times. And along the way, my family has gotten to know Jeff’s family. And we really enjoy this friendship. They’re a delightful family and they mesh well with ours.

Thank you, God. Sometimes the color purple can be overwhelming.


November 26, 2010

Orianthi Panagar at Crossroads Guitar Festival

I just recently learned about this incredible guitarist. Orianthi is a young Australian female guitarist who blows away almost every guitarist out there—no matter what genre. Carlos Santana was recently asked who would be his replacement now that he’s heading into old age. He said that he can’t imagine a better replacement than Orianthi. She’s every bit as good a guitarist as Carlos, even though she’s barely out of her teens. And she’s quite a bit easier on the eyes than Carlos too. ...Well, maybe that doesn’t matter so much in the world of guitar playing. But it’s a nice bonus.

And here’s a bonus, but this time with another one of my favorite guitarists—Steve Vai:


November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner and giving thanks

Kim & David at the dinner

appy Thanksgiving! I have always loved this holiday—and not only because of the massive quantities of good food. I have always enjoyed getting together with family and friends and thanking God for his blessings.

This past Sunday, our church had its Thanksgiving dinner. We gathered together this past Sunday evening and cooked over 200 pounds of turkey. That’s a whole lot of bird.

My childhood friend, Whit,—now known as “Bill”—and his family go to the church also, and we sat with them as we chowed down on Thanksgiving food. Of course, David did all the talking and no one else could get a word in edge-wise, but it was great fun.

Bill, Abigail, and Lois Whittaker
Bill’s daughter Abigail

This year, I am very thankful that God brought us to Front Royal, reconnected me with my friend, Bill, and put us into a house that we love. Tomorrow we will be spending Thanksgiving Day with my wife’s parents, who live very close to us now. It is good to be one of God’s children.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 22, 2010

Blog Header - November 17, 2010

I took this photo at the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia. My wife and I were on a photo expedition, looking for the grave stones requested by various genealogy researchers. It’s a fun way to help people out and we made a family event of it.

November 19, 2010

Joe Walsh - Funk 49

This is one of the first songs I played in the first band I was in. Joe Walsh is a nut case and seems to have no brain cells left, but he sure can play the guitar. I’m not sure what that says about guitarists, but...

Here it is—Joe Walsh playing “Funk 49” from the James Gang.


November 17, 2010



Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried.
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I plead and I wept for a clue to my fate,
The Master gently said, “My child, you must wait!”

“Wait? You say wait!” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By FAITH I have asked and am claiming your Word.

“My future and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to WAIT?
I’m needing a ‘yes,’ a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

“And, Lord you promised that if we believe
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
Lord, I’ve been asking and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply!”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate.
Once again my Master replied, “You must wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So I’m waiting…for what?”

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes wept with mine,
And he tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

All you seek I could give, and pleased would you be.
You would have what you want – but you wouldn’t know ME.
“You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint;
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint;

You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there;
You’d not know the joy of resting in me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

“You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of my Spirit descends like a dove;
You’d know that I give and I save…(for a start),
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of my heart.

“The glow of my comfort late into the night
The faith that I give when you walk without sight,
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God, who makes what you have LAST.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.
’Yes, your dreams for your loved ones overnight would come true,
But, oh the loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

“So be silent, my child, and in time you will see
And though oft may my answers seem terribly late,
my wisest of answers is still but to WAIT.”

Anonymous (this guy’s prolific!)


November 16, 2010

Blog Header - November 10, 2010

This portrait of my friend, Sophia, was actually taken by another photographer. We are trying to arrange an opportunity for us to do some portrait photography soon. If I end up capturing anything this nice, I'll share it with you.

Think before you speak

Thomas Jefferson

When making a powerful political statement one must use meaningful well thought out words. The use of profanity is a major loss of rare opportunity to express one’s thoughts when such opportunity arises.

It is so very easy for me to respond quickly and unthinkingly, launching into a tirade if I feel offended or attacked. I lose the opportunity to make a considered argument. I lose the opportunity to advocate or defend. And then I find myself telling my son to consider his words before he just jabbers. Perhaps he has learned his verbal technique from his father.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
—Psalm 19:14

Ephesians 5:4
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

November 15, 2010

Get out of debt – NOW!

Important and sage advice to launch your work week. Get out of debt with this unique program:


November 12, 2010

Larry Carlton - Josie

Larry Carlton is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. I loved him as the lead guitarist for Steely Dan and then closely followed his solo career after Steely Dan. I was especially pleased when I noticed more and more Christian songs on his albums. It’s great to have a Christian guitarist out there demonstrating solid musicianship.

Here’s Larry Carlton playing the Steely Dan song “Josie” at a concert in 2004.


November 09, 2010

Blog Header - November 7, 2010

This blog header is the result of a whole bunch of Photoshop manipulation. The original (seen below) didn’t have an old enough feel to it (being a knight and all), so I attacked it in Photoshop.

November 08, 2010

Be still, my soul

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

What is sustaining grace?

Not grace to bar what is not bliss;
Nor flight from all distress... but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

—Pastor John Piper


Blog Header - November 3, 2010

One week ago I headed out to get something at the grocery store. As I walked out of our front door I took one look at the sky and turned around, went back into our house, and grabbed my camera. This photograph shows the late evening sky that I saw when I stepped out of our front door. Simply marvelous.

November 07, 2010

I photograph dead people

When my wife got into genealogical research about 20 years ago I never expected that I would end up photographing grave stones of people we’re not even related to. But that’s exactly what we did yesterday. And it was a lot of fun.

Twenty years ago my wife spent many hours at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., pouring over census reports. She hung out in libraries, researching records compiled and published by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. And from time to time she made a discovery that pushed our knowledge of our ancestry back another generation.

One of the graves related to a request we responded to

But times have changed. With the advent of the Internet, a world-wide community of genealogy researchers has formed—and along with it, a new spirit of cooperation and mutual help. It was the spirit of cooperation that took us to Front Royal’s Prospect Hill Cemetery to photograph tombs of people we don’t know who lived and died more than a century ago. produces an unspoken cooperation, and it has proven quite useful from time to time. But recently my wife came across a new genealogy collaboration site called Find a Grave. Among other things, this site allows you to request help in locating a grave. Researchers are able to post what they know about the burial location of a relative and then people who live in that area, if they are so inclined, may go to the cemetery and try to find the actual grave site. They can then post any new information that has been discovered, descriptions of the site in question, photographs, and even tomb stone rubbing facsimiles. It’s a great service and could be quite helpful for researching relatives from long ago who lived in a location a little too far away for a quick jaunt on a Saturday afternoon.

Another grave we photographed by request

So yesterday we headed up to Front Royal’s Prospect Hill Cemetery to take photographs of grave stones that had been requested through Find a Grave. With the help of one of the cemetery workers, we were able to locate the general area of quite a few different graves and then we headed out, map in hand, to try to locate the actual individual graves markers.

We managed to locate only a few of them. We took a photo of one stone that had the correct name and the correct death date, but the date of birth was off by 11 years from what had been requested. We’re quite sure that this was the correct grave marker, but that at some stage in the process some incorrect information had been recorded. The photograph of this grave stone, with its different birth date, may prove to be of great value to the researcher who may be having trouble finding more information due to the discrepancy.

Boy scouts placing flags on the veteran’s graves for Veteran’s Day 2010

I really love being a photographer. And I love being able to help people out in this unique and interesting way.


Yours To Break

Ever get tired of having heartaches? Tempted to wall off your heart so you can't care anymore? Here's a poem I wrote this morning in the AM service, thanking God for a heart that can break:

Thank you, Lord, for a heart that loves,
That hurts, and sometimes bleeds.
That gets itself wrapped up around
Some folks who have great needs.

Sometimes that means my heart will break
Or have a cause to grieve,
If some of those I've learned to love
Should one day have to leave.

But Father, this tender heart is Yours
For You to mold and make.
And if it brings You glory, Lord,
My heart is yours to break.



November 05, 2010

Thank you, God, for our nation


say can you see?

I remember singing this verse of the Star Spangled Banner when I was younger. It’s something we need to bring back into the public consciousness.

Truth and the artful dodge

A recent study reported in the Harvard Business Review revealed that people trust eloquence more than honesty.

In his excellent blog Head Heart Hand, David Murray comments on this study and draws applications for those in ministry. You can read Murray’s blog post here.

Posterous has recently become one of my favorite blogs. His posts are consistently thought-provoking and demonstrate a love for Christ and his kingdom. I highly recommend making Head Heart Hand one of your regular stopping points.


November 04, 2010

Oh my goodness!

This is truly amazing:


November 03, 2010

Election results


he Election is over. Now it’s time for the wrap-up. How do the results of this Election impact us?

During coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, I watched a TV news interview with a woman who extravagantly proclaimed, “Obama is going to pay my mortgage!” And if that had been the case, that certainly would have been a cause for excitement—although I was sure at that time that if she were to not pay her mortgage someone else (other than the president) would have to or else she would find herself looking for a new place to live.

But I am now prepared to make some bold statements of my own. Because of the Election, No one will be able to attack us. They may as well give up—in fact, they won’t be able to attack us or even say anything against us. I will also go so far as to say that as a result of the Election we will be the recipients of everything! I’m not done yet. I will also say, with full assurance of the truth of this statement, that as a result of the Election, we will be loved forever!

How can I make such bold statements? Here’s how:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (Romans 8:31–33) thought I was talking about the recent U.S. election? I agree that the U.S. election was important. But I’m talking about a much more important election here. The results of the national election will not save us. And the results of the national election will not destroy us. Again, these are bold statements, but here's the proof:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord
(Romans 8:35–39).

Now that’s a bold statement worth holding onto!

The results of the national election are important. And it is very important for those of us who are American citizens to be involved in the political process. But we must remember that our national politics are not a savior and we should not look to them as a savior.

The much more important election than the one in which we elect our representatives is the one in which God elects to save his people. That election actually saves us. That election actually makes us children of the almighty God. That election makes us conquerors. And we didn’t even have to campaign for that election. We didn’t have to spend money on advertising or on robo-calls. We didn’t even have to answer any questions.

We were elected to salvation because God had a personal relationship with us—he knew us intimately. And then, in spite of our frailties, our lack of competence, and our sinfulness, he elected us to become members of his family—the very brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:29-30).

So the election, based on his intimate knowledge of us (“those whom he foreknew”) is just the beginning of what he is doing for us. As a result of his election, he called us to salvation, and he justified us (so that we could have a relationship with the righteous God even though we are vile sinners), and he glorifies us (which won’t actually happen until we enter his presence in heaven). So the whole thing is a done deal. He chose us and set our destiny to become Christ’s siblings. Then he effects every step of the way what must be done to result in our arrival in heaven at the great family reunion in the sky.

Galatians 3:24-26

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

So celebrate or mourn yesterday’s national election. That is good. But as you do this, throw a loud and boisterous party that God has elected you to salvation. Nothing could ever be as important. And nothing should be as worthy of celebration.

Are you not sure that you are one of the people who won election? Find out how you may be reconciled with God. If you have been reconciled with God according to the information set out here, you are one of those who were elected. Praise God!


November 02, 2010

We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

Whatever the wrap-up to the polls, the people of God can rest in Him. After all, we walk by faith and not by sight.


November 01, 2010

Time to vote - get out there!

Be prepared to do your part!

Ecclesiastes 10:2
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.


October 31, 2010

Skyline Drive and John 3:16


utumn is here! So last Friday morning I grabbed my camera and headed up Skyline Drive to see if I could get a few pictures of the fall leaves in full color. I left early in the morning, shortly after the sun rose over the edge of the mountains. The low angle of the sun cast long and deep shadows, emphasizing the contours of the rolling hills in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a wonderful expedition.

Early morning sun hitting the valley

I didn’t stay up in the mountains for long. In fact, I was back home within two hours. But within those couple of hours I saw spectacular views with vivid colors, and I captured a few of them with my camera.

As is usually the case when I photograph beautiful natural scenes, I thought about how much God loves us to create so beautiful a world as the one we live in—even though we are sinful and undeserving of his love.

Although the colors of the leaves were amazing,
when the sun hit the leaves they burst into fiery colors that were hard to believe

When I turned my car back toward home, I began to think about this concept of God loving us so much that he put us into a beautiful world even though some would idolize the beauty and worship the creature rather than the creator. I considered how I might make sure that I am not placing my love of natural beauty above my love of the almighty God who created that beauty. And suddenly my thoughts took an odd turn—a turn I believe was prompted by God the Holy Spirit.

My son’s high school mascot is the Skyline Hawk – so I had to take this picture

There is no doubt that God showed his love to us in many ways. The beauty of the natural world is arguably one of those ways. And we should recognize this and praise God for this intense beauty that surrounds us all the time. But this was not the pinnacle of God’s display of love for us.

As the day turned brighter, the leaves simply glowed

To understand someone’s intentions, it is best to go to that person. So to understand what God sees as his ultimate show of love for his children, we must go to his written record about him, his plans, and his affections and intentions—we must go to the bible. And to find God’s mind regarding this situation we need to find out in which way God intended to show his love for us. Was it by creating a beautiful world for us? Was it by inventing music and poetry and the creative gifts that we love so much?

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could look up in the bible a phrase that said something like, “God loved us just so...” and then went on to tell us what “just so” was? Well, in fact, it does.

I considered John 3:16 and 17 first:

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Here’s a verse that says “God loved us just so....” And it described the “just so” by saying that he gave his only Son. And he goes on to describe the intention of this incredible concept, the incarnation of the holy God in human flesh, as not being what we would expect—an angry God coming to condemn sinful man— but in actuality being “that the world might be saved through him.” What wonderful and glorious news.

The view from the Front Royal ranger station

Sometimes we are not particularly bright—at least I’m not. So quite often the bible has to be abundantly clear or else I’ll miss the point.

Romans 5:6–9
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

There’s a whole lot about God’s love for us in those verses. God sent his son to die for us—and he didn’t die for us because we were such great people. He died for us in spite of the fact that we were still (at that time) enemies to him. We were sinners, in active sinful rebellion against him. And he died for us anyway.

And the result of this death is that we will be saved from his wrath. We won’t have to live under the anger that we would expect if God were to come to earth to deal with us. We won’t have to live (or die) under that anger because Jesus bore that anger against our sin himself. And he is God—the Creator of the universe.

My son’s high school (Skyline High School)
with the Shenandoah River running behind it

So I drove home, through the intensely beautiful leaves, I considered that this amazing display of love pales in comparison to the true way—the supreme way—that God displayed his love to us.

Thank you, Jesus, for your great love. I can’t wait to be with you and to spend eternity with the one who purchased for me the ability to enjoy this lesser display of your love—to enjoy it until I am able to experience the reality of my personal relationship with the ultimate expression of love.


Reformation Sunday

Reformation Sunday - Back by Popular Demand

Click here for last year’s post.


October 30, 2010

Blog Header - October 27, 2010

I took this photo at the middle school playground near our house in Lynchburg, Virginia. It was a great playground that our son thoroughly enjoyed, so we spent quite a bit of time there. Of course, that meant that I got a ton of photographs of the playground while he was playing.

October 29, 2010

I was recently reminded of a difficult trial that really shook my foundation. What follows was written in the front of my Bible after a long conversation with a good friend way back in December of 1982. He helped me gain and maintain my perspective when I had been greatly misunderstood. Amazingly, just a couple years later, God restored the relationships that were broken, and let my true heart and motives be seen. In the hurt, I learned that I had to rest in Him, cling to Him, and WAIT for Him!

While enduring a trial, I must remain:

1. Simply Secure
    a. in my relationship to Christ
    b. in my relationship to others
    c. in my own self-assessment

KNOWING that my residence is not here but in Heaven,

APPLYING all I know about God to my life, to help me keep perspective in the situation I am in


2. Supremely Satisfied in the mundane things of everyday life

KNOWING that every trivial moment of my day is a stepping stone to becoming like Christ,

APPLYING to my life the simple fact that I do not serve men, but the living Christ.

So that no matter what circumstances may cross my path, what stakes may be uprooted in my life, or even if I am someday totally alone and misunderstood, that I may maintain a stable, consistent Christian life until the appearing of Christ.


It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown


October 28, 2010

October 27, 2010

Conquering fear


ear. If I had to choose one word to summarize my life I would likely have to chose the word fear. That’s not a good thing; it’s not something I am proud of. But I think it’s accurate. My life has been filled with fear.

Even as a child, I remember fear impacting my thoughts when my parents came home late. I remember imagining that they had been in a terrible car crash or had been mugged by roving, murderous lunatics. The fact that they always showed up safely didn’t stop me from producing this unhealthy level of fear the next time they were late. Or a few years later when my wife got stuck in traffic and arrived home late. Or when the boss said, “I need to talk to you.” Or when I saw a police car on the road with me. Or when the political campaigns were in full swing and I wondered about who would be elected.

Fear. All the time.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

But this is not God’s intention for our lives. We are not to be characterized by fear—especially not fear of what other people can do to us. God is in control. God promises to not test us beyond what we are able to withstand. God is loving and gentle; his yoke is easy and his burden is light. These are not things that should produce fear.

Thinking about these things, today I decided to look up some verses about fear in the bible and found a gold mine of verses containing the phrase, “do not be afraid.” I also found many other verses that dealt with inordinate fear and the fact that God’s people should not be governed by it.

Here are a few that I found particularly encouraging:

Genesis 15:1
“Don’t be fearful, Abram, for I will defend you. And I will give you great blessings.”

Notice that God gave two reasons why Abram should not be afraid. 1) God would defend Abram, and 2) God would give Abram great blessings.

Joshua 1:9
Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

We should not fear because God is with us wherever we go.

Proverbs 29:25
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

If we trust in the Lord, he promises to keep us safe.

Sometimes my fear arises from my knowledge that I have sinned. I am afraid of the results of my sin, and sin will produce unpleasant things in our lives. But we are still not to live in fear.

1 Samuel 12:20-22
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people.”

May today be the day that marks a turning point from fear of men, which causes me to be paralyzed, to fear of God, which liberates me and produces boldness.


October 26, 2010

Blog Header - October 24, 2010

I took this photo during the Front Royal Festival of Leaves. This was part of a dining room display in one of the historic buildings in town. I love the colors and the mix of straight lines and curves in this photo.

October 24, 2010

Front Royal tourism


hen we moved to Front Royal we knew it was an attractive town. We knew the mountains were beautiful and we knew that we loved it here. What we didn’t realize was how much of a tourist destination Front Royal becomes in the fall.

Line of cars backed up along Royal Avenue

I guess we should have known when one of the first town festivals after we moved here was The Festival of Leaves. The Festival of Leaves celebrates the coming fall colors that burst out in small patches on the mountains all around Front Royal. The forest begins to look like there are patches of red and yellow fire and the lush green that surrounds our town all summer long begins to rapidly change—almost daily—until the green is completely gone and the leaves are vibrant colors on the red/orange side of the color spectrum.

Cars lined up in the entrance to Skyline Drive

The leaves have just begun to turn, so yesterday we decided to go to the library for an hour or so and then head up Skyline Drive to check out the colors. On the way to the library we had to pass the intersection just before Skyline Drive. The traffic was amazing—at least for Front Royal. And we realized that it was a line of cars extending out from Skyline Drive and backing up a considerable portion of the road leading to Skyline Drive (and to the library).

An hour and a half at the library did not diminish the line. We entered the line and sat in the backup for another hour or so as we drove the quarter mile to the entrance gate. Fortunately, since we are season pass holders, we didn’t have to wait for long at the gate.

Every single overlook we passed was jam-packed with visitors. The cars completely filled the overlook parking spots and a couple dozen cars were parked along the roadside before and after each of those overlooks. People with cameras were crowded along the edges of the overlooks. It made us very proud of our town and very grateful that God saw fit to put us in this beautiful place.

The leaves are not yet at their peak, but will probably get to that point within the next week or so. And I have the next week off of work. So I hope to take a few more trips up Skyline Drive. It’s great to live in Front Royal.

The line of cars entering Skyline Drive as we headed home


October 23, 2010

Blog Header - October 20, 2010

I took this picture at the National Zoological Research Center for Endangered Animals in Front Royal about a month ago. This is a bird’s egg and the tour guide was showing us that this egg contained an embryo. They had an incubator nearby that kept these eggs warm and even turned them automatically. It was pretty cool.

If you want a good spouse - do it yourself

I’ve heard the saying, If you want something done right—do it yourself, but I think this story may take that idea to an unadvised extreme.

Taiwanese bride marries herself


October 22, 2010

Portrait Professional


love photography! I love Photoshop! I love portraiture! None of this will surprise anyone who has read this blog for any length of time. But what happens when these three great loves come together?

Click the pictures in this post to see the high resolution version.

Last year my mother- and father-in-law gave me photographic software for my birthday. The High Dynamic Range (HDR) software has been a blast to experiment with and it has given me a real love for HDR photography. So this year my in-laws decided to repeat the success of that birthday present and they gave me another piece of software that I had been very interested in—Portrait Professional Studio.

This software takes my love of portraiture and combines it with my love of photo manipulation (typically done in Photoshop). And I absolutely love it. Once I open a portrait in Photoshop I need only to launch the Portrait Professional filter and the software places a few points on the face, allows me to make any adjustments according to my preferences, and then outputs an amazing portrait. It subtly adjusts the skin, lips, eyes, and hair by comparing the photo I’ve taken with a database of information about perceived human beauty. It sounds a bit crazy, but it works great!

After the initial settings have been applied, the software presents a battery of sliders allowing me to make tweaks to the changes it has recommended. I can adjust such things as skin blemishes and wrinkles (reducing or even eliminating them), the shape of the nose, head, mouth (even adjusting the expression), and will even lengthen the neck if that is desired. And it does all of this without removing the pores and texture in the skin—a common characteristic of portraits that have been adjusted in Photoshop.

Some subjects are not changed very much, with just a diminishing of the blemishes and wrinkles. Other subjects receive a more thorough treatment with subtle adjustments to the shape of the head, the positioning of the eyes, the length and width of the nose, and other adjustments. It is simply amazing.

Check out Portrait Professional. It is a great piece of software. If you like portrait photography, you’ll love this. And so will your portrait subjects.

Get it here