April 30, 2010

When people hate their own history

It’s easier to feel shame if those guilty [ones] are centuries dead, especially when such discrediting, by default, confers upon yourself a higher moral standard without having [had to] stand the test in the true environment of the time.

Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell
Soul of the Fire, by Terry Goodkind; p. 380


April 28, 2010

Lest we forget

Deuteronomy 8 was the public scripture reading at church this past Sunday. What a convicting passage of scripture this is!

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth.

Deuteronomy 8 is an encouragement to not allow ourselves to think that we have arrived. We should not look at our successes and puff out our chests with pride saying, “Look what I have done.” I must admit that I have difficulty with this.

It seems that when things are going a little bit rough I turn to God in prayer and plead, “Please help me!” But when I’m doing well I begin to brag to others about my accomplishments and my perceived successes. I have even found myself belittling others at times like these—belittling them because they are not at that particular moment enjoying as much success as I am.

But this is not the way God wants me to act.

The beginning of Deuteronomy 8 reminds Israel that although they went through difficult times while they were enslaved in Egypt, God brought them out to a fertile land and prospered them greatly. Then the passage continues:

Deuteronomy 8:11-20

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

God obviously does not take our braggadocio or bravado lightly. I need to make sure that I refrain from taking the credit for God’s work.


Blog Header - April 26, 2010

My wife used to facilitate adoption support group meetings for United Methodist Family Services’ Adoptive Family Preservation—a Faith Based Initiatives non-profit group. They were a wonderful organization and it gave my wife the opportunity to provide some much needed help to other adoptive families.

The parent organization sponsored a training seminar at the Natural Bridge Hotel in Natural Bridge, Virginia. The hotel is amazing, with out-cottages placed among the hills. And the scenery, including the huge stone "natural bridge" is awe-inspiring.

I took this photo on the very foggy morning of our second day at the Natural Bridge Hotel. I love the eerie feel the fog gives to the stately hotel.


April 26, 2010

If Only I Had Enough Evidence, I'd Believe


n Good Friday, our choir and orchestra presented selections from The Messiah. Then on Palm Sunday, our pastor preached on the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus. On Easter Sunday, the following video was played at the beginning of the service. The original sermon was convicting enough, but melded with excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, it was bone chilling. I’d like to share this video with our readers.


Empathy is a virtue


ur nation has become increasingly polarized. At times it seems to be too large a divide to repair the rift. But as a word-nerd, I have taken a look at the whole situation from the perspective of an editor. And as a lifelong Washingtonian, I have consider it all from the perspective of a consultant. And I believe combining those two perspectives has helped me to gain an insight into how we might be able to bridge the current political gap—we need to develop empathy.

And often empathy is simply a matter of understanding our perceived opponent in context. Or, more accurately, of seeing the world as the other person sees it. This allows us to better understand that person’s point of view. That understanding will encourage empathy in us. And maybe, as the wise sage Rodney King once encouraged, we will be able to learn how to “all just get along,”

The following observations and suggestions are proferred to that end. Can’t we all just get along?

Problem 1: The 10 Commandments

The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is simply a matter of understanding the unique difficulties of the people who work in courthouses—lawyers, judges, and politicians. Carefully consider what the Ten Commandments encourages and then think about how that might seem to people in those professions.

The Ten Commandments include Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit adultery, and Thou shalt not lie.

We may not post the Ten Commandments in a courthouse full of lawyers, judges and politicians because it creates a hostile work environment.

See. That wasn’t too difficult, was it? Let’s try some more.

Problem 2: The Constitution

The allied forces that helped to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein have made much bluster about helping Iraq set up a constitutional democracy and helping them draft a constitution.

Why don’t we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for more than 200 years, and we’re not using it anymore.

Problem 2 solved.

Problem 3: Cows and illegal immigration

This one requires a little bit more thought. But consider this: During the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow born in Canada almost three years earlier right to the stall where she slept in the state of Washington. And they traced her claves to their stalls.

But our government is unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country.

Maybe we should just give each of them a cow.

See how much help a small degree of empathy provides?


April 23, 2010

Blog Header - April 21, 2010

I took this photo at Disneyworld during our family vacation a couple years ago. I love the scenery at Disney. If you could see the full original photograph, you’d be able to see Mt. Everest in the background. This is part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is our least favorite of the four Disney theme parks, but still a great park with loads of fantastic rides. And the roller coaster inside Mt. Everest is phenomenal.

April 18, 2010




April 16, 2010

Tristan and Isolde

I love history. And I love to read. So it is particularly sweet when I find a free history book to read—and when the book itself is historic.

I recently found Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons) by Nennius. This history was published in 796 A.D. and it is fascinating. It actually attempts to show the history of Britain and Scotland beginning with Adam. And does quite a good job of it.

Anyway, reading about the settlements of Britain during the centuries prior to the advent of Jesus Christ has given me a thirst for more of that time period. So I turned to our DVDs to find something to assuage that thirst and I came across the phenomenal movie Tristan and Isolde. This is a fantastic movie and well worth your time, especially if you like period films. This would be a great one to rent this weekend and watch with your sweetheart after you have put the kids to bed.

Tristan and Isolde


April 14, 2010

The horror of it all...

I’ve heard stories that tug on the heartstrings before—stories of pain, stories of loss, stories of abandonment—but never in my life have I heard a story as heart-wrenchingly awful as this. Pull out your tissue box. You’re going to need it.

Imagine having to use dial-up because you can’t afford broadband! The horror of it all!


Blog Header - April 14, 2010

Today’s blog header is a photo I took of my son peaking through a plastic sculpture in front of our local Target store. Of course Target’s color is red, so I obviously adjusted the color of the sculpture from red to the vivid electric green you see in this photo. But I kind of liked the way it turned out along with the graffiti effect of the blog title on the brick wall in the background.

April 13, 2010

Start with God


have thought a lot recently about how important it is to turn things over to God instead of trying to do things under my own power. I seem to have real trouble doing that. So again today I was reminded in my morning devotions of the need to focus on Christ rather than on myself and to turn my efforts over to God rather than fighting the fight alone.

Proverbs 3:3-8

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

I usually use the English Standard Version of the Bible, but today I was directed by an audio devotional to consider Proverbs 1:7 as presented in The Message: Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. I am struck particularly with the first phrase in this verse: “Start with God.”

It makes such sense, and so often I forget God when I begin a new effort. I don’t turn to God first before I take my first step of the new journey. But that’s the wrong way to do it. I should always start with God.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 8:28 seems a perfect summation of the thought: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. So start with God and he will work all things together for good. That sounds like a wonderful deal to me.

I think it’s time for me to get started ... with God.


April 11, 2010

Blog Header - April 11, 2010

Today is the Lord’s Day. I miss the way our parents’ generation called Sunday “the Lord’s Day” so comfortably. In today’s politically correct climate it’s hard to imagine anyone using that term publicly anymore.

So what does that have to do with the photo I’m using as the blogheader for the beginning of this week? Prepare yourself for the frightening machinations of my mind.

The weather turned a bit warmer just before Easter. Spring has sprung in the Nation’s Capitol. The flowering trees and bushes are everywhere. When I go to work in D.C. I see the cherry blossoms and forsythia and hyacinths in large clusters along the highway. The cherry blossoms bloom all around the Tidal Basin and line the streets along the Mall. I see their beauty from our office windows overlooking the Potomac River.

And when I’m at home (in the heart of the apple orchards) I see flowering apple trees everywhere. The mountains have a pebbly appearance caused by the flowering trees interspersed among the trees that are sprouting their deep green baby leaves. That pebbly appearance will soften soon into an amazing panoply of myriad shades of verdant green.

The weather has been near perfect for the past couple of weeks with a wonderful warmth from the sun during the day (not too hot, but warm enough to encourage you to tip your head back, close your eyes, and just feel the warm sun on your face) and a nice nip in the air at night. We have had large, fluffy clouds providing a sense of contrast with the deep blue low-humidity sky.

Today’s blog header photo doesn’t show those details, but it shows what happens when spring hits. I took this photo last Saturday when my son and I went to the local park. It was packed with people out enjoying the day. I cropped tightly on these two girls talking on the playground equipment in this photo, but there were people everywhere.

So.... I have been reminded lately of God’s wonderful creativity. The beauty of his nature never ceases to amaze me. And it makes me realize that every day is the Lord’s Day. We have been told to set aside one day to honor the Lord. But he gives us the gift of his beauty every day—if only we pay attention and notice it.

Have a wonderful Lord’s Day today.

April 10, 2010

There's a Hole In the World Tonight


Martin Luther speaks to deceiving pastors

I have indeed inveighed sharply against impious doctrines, and I have not been slack to censure my adversaries on account, not of their bad morals, but of their impiety. And for this I am so far from being sorry that I have brought my mind to despise the judgments of men and to persevere in this vehement zeal, according to the example of Christ, who, in His zeal, calls His adversaries a generation of vipers, blind, hypocrites, and children of the devil. Paul, too, charges the sorcerer with being a child of the devil, full of all subtlety and all malice; and defames certain persons as evil workers, dogs, and deceivers. In the opinion of those delicate-eared persons, nothing could be more bitter or intemperate than Paul’s language. What can be more bitter than the words of the prophets?

The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretence, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries. What would be the use of salt if it were not pungent, or of the edge of the sword if it did not slay? Accursed is the man who does the work of the Lord deceitfully.

Martin Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty, Chapter 1


April 09, 2010

Forgoing pretentious writing

In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

Walden, Henry David Thoreau


April 08, 2010

Letter from a Floridian

I received this in an email from a coworker and thought I should share it with you. Enjoy.

My neighbor is a "lefty" of sorts (Obama bumper stickers, gung-ho Socialized medicine, "guns should be banned", etc.). So this past spring I put this sign up in my yard after one of his anti-gun rants at a neighborhood Cocktail party. The sign wasn't up more than an hour before he called the police and wanted them to make me take down the sign. Fortunately, the officer politely informed him that it was not their job to take such action without a court order and that he had to file a complaint "downtown" first, which would be reviewed by the city attorney to see if it violated any city, county, or state ordinances, which if there was a violation a court order would be sent to the offending party (me) to "remove the sign in seven days."

After several weeks he was informed that the sign was legal (by a quarter of an inch) and there was nothing the city could do, which obviously made him madder.

I tried to smooth things over by inviting him to go shooting with me and my friends at the hunt club but that seemed to make him even more angry.

I am at a loss how to reconcile our long relationship (notice I did not say friendship). Any suggestions would be welcome.

Anyway, that's life in our neck of the woods, how about yours?

Click photo to enlarge




have always been fascinated by the stories of Atlantis—a fallen empire, an island that sank into the sea, an advanced culture with amazing technology—these theories have always captured my imagination. So when I found an ebook of The Antediluvian World I immediately downloaded it to my phone so I could read it on the bus during my lengthy commutes. And it has been fascinating.

In The Antediluvian World Ignatius Donnelly has theorized that Plato’s description of Atlantis is historically accurate. He theorizes that Atlantis was a very large island located in the Atlantic Ocean somewhat near the Mediterranean Sea, overlapping the European and African continents. The Azores Archipelago, according to Donnelly, are the remaining mountaintops of the sunken Atlantis.

Donnelly wrote The Antediluvian World in the late 1800s, but so far I don’t see anything that could be discounted by recent discoveries or archeological digs or oceanic exploration. It has been a fascinating read.

So I decided to check out the Azores on Google Earth to see what the ocean bed looks like around the Azore islands. And I found these pictures that make me desperately want to visit. I’m sensing a vacation plan here.

Simply amazing. I need to see (and photograph) this before I die.


April 07, 2010

Blog Header - April 7, 2010

This past Saturday our family photographed the Easter egg hunt at our church in Upperville, Virginia. Upperville is an amazingly scenic town and we’ve been hoping for a day when we could just wander the town and photograph its beauty. This past Saturday we did just that.

This blog header is a photo I took of one of the doors of the Upperville Episcopal Church. The large stone buildings that make up the campus of this church are absolutely gorgeous. We had a wonderful time photographing the church from multiple different angles.


A world filled with noise


6:00 AM I sit at my desk in my Rosslyn, Virginia, office—just across the Potomac River from the downtown Washington, DC, hotspots. A mere two hours earlier I was in rural Front Royal, Virginia, where the sounds coming through the open windows included deer foraging in our back yard, birds chirping as they awaken for the day, and the gentle whisper of a spring breeze rustling the curtains. But here at my desk, eight stories above Lynn Street, I listen to bellicose horns honking their anger at other angry motorists. I hear the screeching of brakes, the screeching of tires accelerating too rapidly, and the screeching of sirens tearing down the streets every quarter-hour or so. The contrast is striking, and typically quite unpleasant on this side of the contrast.

But then I remember back to my days in college when I dreamed of a career in music. I remember Dr. Ellsworth’s music history class that began the semester with Gregorian Chant and ended with John Cage [Wikipedia].

If you are not aware of the musician (can I actually use that word to describe John Cage?), this quote may help you to understand how John Cage’s “music” can make the most ardent rock n roller appreciate Gregorian Chant:

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.

I must be ignoring the sounds of Rosslyn, Virginia, because I find them tremendously disturbing. They make me long for the sounds of Front Royal, where I would not ignore the sounds, much preferring to listen to beauty rather than ignore disturbing noise.

Here is an example of John Cage’s philosophy as expressed in music. With full orchestration, this is John Cage’s “4'33"” (prounounced, “Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds”). Enjoy:


April 06, 2010

I’m a failure


hy do I continue trying to control my life when I’ve done such a poor job of it up to this point? It’s a question I have asked myself many times. In fact, I have mentioned that thought to others and found many of them to be in agreement. We seem to run around day after day trying to grab at the fraying fabric of our lives in an attempt to stop the threads from further unraveling and we end up in a huge knotted ball of failure and frustration.

Within the last 24 hours I have been given an expanded perspective on this concept. I still see it the same way—I try and try to control my life, even though I have a terrible track record, rather than giving it all over to God who has a perfect record and is always in full control. That conceptual framework has not changed.

But last evening I picked up one of my books on writing and read this:

...This title jumped out at me from the cover of a thin, unpretentious little volume: How to Peel a Sour Grape: An Impractical Guide to Successful Failure, by Richard P. Frisbie. Nice twist on the old sour grapes cliché, and an arresting oxymoron with “successful failure.” A gimmick, or did this Frisbie fellow really have something to say? I opened to chapter one, “Failure knocks, and knocks, and knocks,” and read:

Every man past a certain age, perhaps thirty-five, knows in his heart that he is a failure. He doesn’t realize that almost everyone else is a failure, too.

Hardly standard self-help fare, which usually features a style perhaps best characterized as cheerleader-on-uppers. Intrigued, but not yet intrigued enough to plunk my money down, I turned to the last page, where I found this observation:

So there it is—you’ve failed in the world, failed at home, failed as a personality. You’re a failure to the marrow of your bone. The ultimate test, then, is whether failure makes you bitter. The truth is that failure is a joke, not for the derision of demons, but the gentle laughter of the saints.

Leads & Conclusions, Marshall J. Cook,
Writer’s Digest Books, pp. 6–7.

The funny thing is the book I read that in is a book on writing—not on attitude adjustment.

Then this morning I was again reminded of this topic through a thoroughly outstanding blog post Head Heart Hand - Failure: the last taboo? One of the opening paragraphs of this blog post said:

But one great taboo remains in America. Failure. Until the recession. In 12 months, more than 4 million workers lost their jobs. On a single day in January 2009, 70,000 people were laid off, and another 50,000 or 60,000 lost their jobs on each of the 10 days that followed. Most of these people were hard-working, reliable, and conscientious - usually guarantees of success in America. And yet most of these 4 million had to endure a deep sense of personal failure, which affected not just their bank balance, but their marriages, their health, and often their relationship with God. Failure is no longer taboo in suburban America.

The author then went on to describe a few folks who have been known for incredible success publicly, but who have also experienced intense failure at times. He mentioned Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Schultz, Apple founder Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, basketball great Michael Jordan and others who have experienced failure along with their public successes.

But the next part of his blog post grabbed my attention—along with my heart:

Learning to “fail well” is a vital part of Christian ministry. A pastor said to me recently, “The first ten years of ministry is all about being broken and stripped!” I must have had a crash course, because it took me only five years to be broken, stripped, and branded a failure! These were dark, dark days. Yet, I know that my 10 months in the school of failure gave me my most valuable degree—a Master’s in how to fail well. Sadly, I keep forgetting what I learned and have to keep going back to that unpopular school for refresher courses.

Read the full blog post. I hope it will encourage you as it did me. And perhaps we can get on with life knowing that God’s success will always overrule our failure as long as we are covered by the blood of Christ.


April 05, 2010

Settling In


ell, we’ve emptied a lot of boxes, and we’re getting fairly comfy. There are still things we haven’t found, and the irony is that I specially packed those things so I could find them right away! But yes, the new house is incredible. Lance is such a talented artisan!

School is back in session. For the present, we have the kids’ school area in the dining room—visible as you walk in the front door. That’s a bit disheartening, as it’s such a pretty house. But I’ve lovingly dubbed the school area as “the call center”—three computers are lined up along one wall, and it’s utterly hilarious. Lance is going to put in countertop soon and dress that area up so it's not quite so dumpy looking.

I’m wonderfully thrilled with the music room, complete with doors. We have so many instruments and music. It’s great to have a place to keep them all. I gave my first lesson there Friday. I’m now adding students here at home, and that's very exciting.

I love the way the kitchen and family room are open to each other—it lends itself well to gatherings. I hope to finally have a teen gathering, which we have nicknamed Fuller Fun Fests, sometime this month. My kids have the greatest group of friends, and I love spending time with them.


April 04, 2010

Blog Header - April 4, 2010

I took this photo at a friend’s last weekend. He was doing a fundraiser for Gonzaga and his house was decorated accordingly. I thought this image of flowers arranged on the piano in his living room just looked like Easter, so on this Resurrection Sunday I am posting this picture to remind us:

He is alive, for he has risen from the dead. Alleluia!

Easter Song


April 03, 2010

April 02, 2010

Sunday’s coming!


It’s Friday, but...


t’s Good Friday today and the newscasters this morning raised the question: “Why do Christians actually celebrate the death of the founder of their religion?” What a wonderful question. What a wonderful answer! What a glorious Savior!

To quote Tony Campolo: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

My non-Christian acquaintances and coworkers have questioned how I could believe such outlandish things as the claim that Jesus died and rose again from the dead. They have likened it to believing in UFOs or conspiracy theories. None of them liken it to believing that humans are descendant from tadpoles, but that’s another matter we should not be distracted by right now.

So on this Good Friday when, yes, I am celebrating Jesus’ death on the cross, I present to you an answer to the question.

Here’s Voddie Baucham—a much more eloquent man than I, answering why he chooses to believe the claims of the Bible. We’re jumping into the middle of his talk, but I’m bringing you in where things really start to get exciting.


Arguments against the Bible

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It’s Friday

But Sunday’s coming!


April 01, 2010

Letter from the boss

Dear Employees:

As the CEO of this organization, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barrack Obama is our President and that our taxes and government fees will increase in a BIG way. To compensate for these increases, our prices would have to increase by about 10%. But since we cannot increase our prices right now due to the dismal state of the economy, we will have to lay off sixty of our employees instead. This has really been bothering me since I believe we are family here and I didn't know how to choose who would have to go.

So, this is what I did. I walked through our parking lots and found sixty 'Obama' bumper stickers on our employees' cars and have decided these folks will be the ones to let go. I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem. They voted for change ... I gave it to them.

I will see the rest of you at the annual company picnic.