July 31, 2010

Being weird – by design


few days ago, Mary and I discussed the absolute reality of our being very much outside the mainstream. We’re not this way on purpose—we’re not trying to be different. We just are. Mary mentioned that we are musicians. And, yes, it’s true. We are both musicians and musicians, pardon the pun, march to the beat of their own drum. But it’s not just musicians.

I believe it is a creative spirit—a desire not for significance but to leave the world an aspect of beauty that was not there before we were there. And after we have lived, we have now left this beauty for others to appreciate and enjoy. Something to make their lives better. That is the life of an artist. That is the creative life. It’s very different from the lives, the desires, the dreams of others. And although we live among those others, we are always quite a bit out of step with them. We are the creative people. The artists. The musicians. The writers. The decorators. The photographers. We are artists—often not appreciated until after our deaths. But that doesn’t stop us.

We are the ones who were advised by our parents to find another career path. We were told that we could not make a living at music, or writing, or design, or photography. We needed to pursue accounting, or pastoral ministries, or education—anything other than art.

But we didn’t listen.

Our parents were right. Most of us can’t make much of a living pursuing our dreams. But that was never the goal. The goal is the art itself.

This is dedicated to those artists like me. Artists who may never be known and may never make a decent living. But who continue to create anyway. Someday, somewhere, someone will benefit from our art. Their life will be made a tiny bit better by what we have created. And that makes it worth it all.

Thank you, God, for the creative gift. I would rather be a starving artist than a famous and well-known (and well-paid) celebrity who doesn’t have an artistic outlet. What a sad place that would be to live.


riting is an act performed in solitude. I am tempted to call it a psychotic act, for we writers construct an artificial reality that only we inhabit and that often seems more real to us than the other world “out there.” After I have holed up for a week on an intensive writing project, I find I must go through something like reentry, having forgotten how to have a normal conversation and conduct the subtle negotiations that comprise human contact. I have been shuffling words and ideas around and, difficult as that may be, it is a far more controlled and orderly process than interacting with live human beings. As a result, we writers tend to withdraw, secluding ourselves, observing life without truly participating in it.

Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor, p. 89


July 30, 2010

It’s Friday - Perpetuum Jazzile

The basis of US law—hypotheticals


nother great political cartoon from Stilton Jarlsberg [Hope n' Change Cartoons]. This guy has a great way of expressing the craziness at high political levels in terms that make it very easy to see how crazy the politicians and other leaders have become. Today’s cartoon is about the pseudo legal ruling that blocked portions of the Arizona immigration law.


Beauty and photography

“Yosemite Valley to me is always a sunrise—a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space. I know of no sculpture, painting, or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of fallen flowing waters.”
—Ansel Adams

July 29, 2010

Return to Joy


o often I experience a rollercoaster life—many hills and valleys, sharp and disconcerting accelerations and decelerations, thrashing from side to side, fear and trepidation about what’s coming around the next bend, exhilaration, fear, excitement, terror, adrenaline, perspiration ... you get the picture. But somehow I don’t think that’s the way life is supposed to be.

From my admittedly short-sighted and myopic vantage point, sometimes things seem to be going well. I get excited. I feel safe and secure. I lie back, kick my feet up, and relax. And then a storm comes in from the periphery, I begin pulling the shutters and latching the hatches, I retreat to the cellar, I whine and complain, I cry out in fear and desperation....

Wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

And repeat.

That’s called an intro. I know, because that blue, italicized text up there (like this) is a CSS class called “intro.”

Slight deviation with some more contextual introductory material:

Quite some time ago, my sister recommended that I listen to the podcasts from Mars Hill Church—Mark Driscoll’s church in Seattle Washington. He’s known as a good preacher with good theology, but quite edgy and sometimes somewhat vulgar. I have heard him say things from the pulpit of John Piper’s church that made me a bit uncomfortable. Not inappropriate things, but things that are not usually said from the pulpit. And I am far more old-fashioned and staid than I like to admit to myself or others.

So finally I took my sister’s advice and subscribed to one of Pastor Driscoll’s podcasts. This morning as I rode the bus in to work I listened to the first message in the series, “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy.” In spite of my staid nature and boring life, I have always been somewhat of a rebel. At least I have at times earned such a reputation.

Driscoll was speaking from the first chapter of Philippians. Good stuff. I may comment on more of it later. It made me think. It made me realize that I have a whole lot of work to do in my personal life. And ... it made me realize that I have been a slave to religion rather than a slave to Christ. Maybe I have been a slave to religion and culture, if you can serve two masters. But I think I have missed the boat on being a slave to Christ.

This is the part of the sermon that made me want to blog about this:

Mark Driscoll: The Rebel's Guide to Joy


In this, I want you to see that Jesus was a rebel who was counter-cultural. I know in our day rebel means sinner—but everyone is sinning, so it’s no longer rebellious to sin.

You’re just a conformist ... if you’re drunk and naked and driving around on a loud motorcycle smoking cigarettes and breaking commandments and getting pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone’s done that. That’s so tired!

If you really want to be a rebel, get a job, cut your grass, read your bible, and shut up. Because no one’s doing that.

That’s rebellion. That’s the only rebellion left.

And we’re going to encourage you to be counter-cultural rebels—like Jesus.

Pretty good stuff, eh?

That portion of the sermon was just an aside and didn’t have a whole lot of meat. It was a bit funny, so I posted it here. But the sermon is outstanding. After I think through all the points of the sermon and try to come to terms with it, I may post a bit more about the meat of the sermon. But if you’d like to hear it for yourself, here are a couple links to get you there:


July 24, 2010

Blog Header - July 21, 2010

I took this header photo of my friend and coworker, Casper, at our Rosslyn, Virginia, office building. The coffee shop is part of the adjacent Palomar hotel and restaurant. Casper is a consultant working in Federal enterprise architecture.

Early Saturday music

Here’s some music to begin your weekend with. This feels like a relaxation weekend and this is a perfect way to begin the relaxation. Sit back, enjoy ... recover.

Perpetuum Jazzile: Africa

 Perpetuum Jazzile - Africa .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine


July 22, 2010

Attitude readjustment

Isaiah 26:3

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.


Music therapy


usic has always filled my life. Or, to be a bit more focused and accurate, I have always had a deep and ongoing love affair with music.

As a child, I would think through musical passages in my head. I could clearly hear each musical instrument playing its own unique part as I thought through a symphonic piece of music. At a very early age I noticed the interplay and velvet smoothness caused by a mix of certain instruments and the harsh cruelty that sprang from other mixes of instruments.

UK: Presto Vivace

I pursued music when I went to college and dreamed of a career doing what I loved best—performing music. I remember driving around the hills of Clark Summit with my friend, Dean, and discussing the pleasant timbre of the drums used in a UK song. I remember being brought to tears as I listened to the intricate harmonies of a choral presentation or the clear, bell-like tones of a soloist singing with passion about the object of her affection. (Okay, that was just last night on the way home from work, so it wasn’t particularly hard to remember.)

1 Samuel 16:23

And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

I guess you could say that music has always washed my world with a tsunami of beauty and emotion. I love music!

So when I watched this lecture from TEDtalk, I fully understood the power of music Mr. Gupta is describing. What a wonderful gift God has given us.

Tears again. It happens all the time. I listen to music and tears start to fall. In this case, I listened to the lecture and the tragic story about Nathaniel. And then I listened to the intense, almost painful beauty of the violin being played by a master. And the tears came again. But these tears are wonderful. They are tears of inexpressible joy.

Or perhaps it’s not inexpressible. Perhaps that joy is actually able to be expressed—just not through words. Only through music!

Only through music.


July 19, 2010

Living small

I saw this video on the news and it just captured my fancy. Very interesting.


New product recommendation


Searching for security


have always feared a loss of security and safety. I have never been homeless and I have usually been able to pay the bills and put food on the table, but this has remained one of my greatest fears for essentially all of my life—especially so after I became the head of the household and responsible for more than just myself.

This morning as I read my bible on the bus I came across Psalm 15, which seems perfectly suited for someone with my fears about safety and security. It seems to answer the question, “what do I need to do to make sure my family is secure and well cared for?”

Psalm 15

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;

who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

It looks like quite a bit, but at least there’s a target. May God grant me the grace to live in this way and may God keep my family safe and secure and provide for our needs.


July 17, 2010

Blog Header - July 14, 2010

This header photo is the view from our bedroom window. The landmarks remain the same but the view looks completely different every day as the weather changes. But it is beautiful every day.

July 16, 2010

Velvet Tear


uring the early days of the World Wide Web, I began to learn about HTML by creating my own web site—and later, producing web sites for various churches in the Stafford, Virginia, area. I had a little bit of trouble figuring out what to put on my web site so I finally settled on a section for each of a few of my interests—photography, philosophy, theology, and poetry.

I collected some poetry that I liked. Some of it struck me because of its cadence or clarity of thought. I was attracted to some of it because of the emotions it described. And much of it connected with me even though I couldn’t tell you why. The following poem fits into that last category, and it was brought to mind by the song in the Youtube video below it. I have been a Mannheim Steamroller fan for almost two decades and “Velvet Tear” or “Interlude V” is one of my favorites.


Carolyn Campbell

Quietly they fall, disturbing nothing.
No trace left behind as they vanish.
Yet their existence holds so much.
A clear morsel full of turmoil.
How can something so light
contain such a heavy load?
Perhaps when there are many
they share an equal portion,
easing the pain they carry
one itself could not bear.
Together they bring strength.
Alone they would surely die.

Velvet Tear

Mannheim Steamroller


July 15, 2010

The valley of the shadow of death

Richard Bachman

There’s a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.


July 11, 2010

Blog Header - July 7, 2010

I took this header photo in the backyard of the house we lived in while we were in Lynchburg. We loved seeing the deer there—it seemed that we were so near to real nature. We had no idea how much closer to unspoiled nature we would be when we moved to Front Royal. We now have a large family of deer that visit our yard each day. We’ve seen the mother feeding the babies and we’ve seen the babies playing in the yard while the mother was lying down on the hill above them to rest while she watched.

We have cottontail rabbits, squirrels, ground hogs, and lots of other wildlife in our yard regularly. We love it.

July 10, 2010

It’s the Dad Life

Sometimes you just have to place a self-serving post. And this one takes the cake—banana bread cupcake, I guess.


Michael Hedges – All Along the Watchtower


few years ago, when I worked for Best Buy, I was given a CD of a relatively unknown guitarist. Michael Hedges studied classical guitar and musical composition in college. He studied at Peabody University where he branched out into other musical genres. The CD I was given, “Torched,” was produced posthumously after Hedges died in a car accident. He was in his early 40s at the time.

I was recently reminded of his music and looked on the internet to locate some of it. I found this great performance, which I hope you enjoy.


July 09, 2010

Energized electorate


uring the last presidential election cycle I found myself completely uninterested in the whole process. I saw a group of career politicians—each claiming their own unique political designation—and they all looked the same to me. They looked like distant, unaware tyrants seeking power, wealth, and fame with the target of surreptitiously forcing their agenda on the American public whether they liked it or not. And if the surreptitious part didn’t work, they quite likely would just dump the spin and platitudes and force their will on the nation through clout and bullying.

I was almost completely uninterested in participating in that election...until Sarah happened.

Sarah Palin’s new ad reminded me of how she energized not just me but the entire Conservative base, which was disgusted by the nomination of John McCain. I hope the people of the United States are ready to make a correction and to recover from the huge error of the 2008 presidential election.

Go Sarah!


July 07, 2010

IN the storm

Our tendency is to run away from the storm. We instinctively flee the peril. We assume that safety is outside the danger that surrounds us, but that is not always true. Sometimes, the way to our comfort is through the storm, not around it:

Matthew 14:29-31

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

I have spent a good deal of my life trying to escape the harm I expect from the trials I face. In my escape, I often run away from God and to something that offers only temporary shelter and comfort. Sometimes God asks me to trust him, and asks me to walk through the storm, in faith, knowing that He has the power to protect me and refine me in my perilous journey.

It takes a good deal of faith and perseverance to point my earthly vessel into the storm and know that He is there, ready to catch me if I falter. I still don't trust Him enough after all these years of Him proving His faithfulness. I guess I have an inner sense of entitlement; that if God really loved me He would never let me suffer. But just the opposite is true—because God loves me, He lets me endure suffering.

David said in Psalm 119:71, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." Sometimes the blast of the fiery furnace refines us by removing the impurities in our character. It may seem as if we've been abandoned to the troubles, but as Job declared:

Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
         And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
         He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way I take;
         When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)

No, we haven't been abandoned. Here is what God told the children of Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
      O Israel, the one who formed you says,
   “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
      I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
      I will be with you.
   When you go through rivers of difficulty,
      you will not drown.
   When you walk through the fire of oppression,
      you will not be burned up;
      the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
(Isaiah 43:1-3)

Here is a beautiful song by Scott Krippayne:


July 06, 2010

July 05, 2010

Blog Header - June 30, 2010

I took this header photo at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor when we visited Baltimore for an Oriole’s game and a day of touring the Harbor. We saw the Titanic exhibit, complete with artifacts from the actual Titanic, we visited the Baltimore Children’s Museum where Kim and David got to lie down on a bed of nails, and we walked all around the Harbor taking pictures. It was a great day full of fond memories.

July 04, 2010

An Independence Day message from our
Founding Fathers

Okay—this may not be an actual historically accurate jam session from our founding fathers, but it’s pretty funny. No offense intended to my British friends.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


July 03, 2010

Signing the Declaration


uly 4th is one of my favorite holidays. Our family has always enjoyed participating in events that honor our nation and its heritage.

When we lived along the Route 95 corridor in Northern Virginia, we regularly visited Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County Virginia. Stratford Hall is probably not one of the primary targets for tourism for most people. In fact, the Northern Neck of Virginia may very well be the lightest traveled portion of Virginia no matter what time of year it is.

Stratford Hall

But we love visiting there.

Kim and David at Stratford Hall
July 4, 2006

Stratford Hall was the birthplace of some men who had a strong impact on our nation. One of those men is a personal hero to my wife and to me—Robert E. Lee, head of the Confederate forces during the War Between the States. He’s also the man who liberated the town we now live in (Front Royal, Virginia) from occupying Yankee forces. But when we began visiting Stratford Hall we found out that there were other very important people born in that house—people who had a strong impact on the course of our nation during its founding and early years.

Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee were born at Stratford Hall when we were an English colony. These brothers were the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. And they had a tremendous impact on the local Virginia area as well as the fledgling nation.

The following passage is from The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is a short biographical sketch of Francis Lightfoot Lee—one of Virginia’s favored sons.

Francis Lightfoot Lee


No less a patriot than his dynamic elder brother Richard Henry and his gifted younger brothers Arthur and William, Francis Lightfoot Lee preferred the uneventful life of a country squire to the public spotlight and chose to follow rather than to lead. Despite his shyness and weakness as a speaker, he exercised extensive political influence, took an active part in the Revolution, and signed both the Declaration and the Articles of Confederation

Lee, a member of one of the most famous families in Virginia and U.S. history and the sixth son and eighth child of planter Thomas Lee, was born in 1734 at the family estate, Stratford Hall, in Westmoreland County, Va. He was educated by a private tutor and never attended college. In 1750, upon the death of his father, he inherited Coton, an estate in Fairfax County. Seven years later, newly created Loudoun County absorbed Coton. At that time, the colonial legislature nominated him as Loudoun lieutenant. The next year, he moved to Coton and became trustee of the newly incorporated village of Leesburg, named after him or his brother Philip Ludwell, both local landowners. For the next decade, Francis Lightfoot represented the county in the House of Burgesses.

In 1769 Lee married socialite Rebecca Tayloe of Richmond County. The newlyweds resided at Mount Airy estate with Rebecca’s parents for a few months until Menokin, a new home that Colonel Tayloe was building nearby for them, was completed. From then until 1774, Lee sat again with the burgesses.

Lee had joined the Revolutionary movement at an early date. From the time of the Stamp Act (1765) until the outbreak of war a decade later, he participated in most of the Virginia protests and assemblies. He rarely debated on the floor in Congress (1775–79), but often opposed the position of his brother Richard Henry, and served on the military and marine committees as well as that charged with drafting the Articles of Confederation.

In 1779, weary of office and longing for the peace and quiet of Menokin, Lee left Congress. Except for a few years in the State legislature, he abandoned public service altogether and lived quietly. In 1797, only a few months after the death of his childless wife, at the age of 62 he succumbed. Burial took place in the Tayloe family graveyard at Mount Airy.


July 02, 2010

Libertarian by design

An Image of Limited Government

I have thought in a Libertarian fashion essentially all my life. I highly value personal freedom and recognize the great societal benefits to granting freedom to the people. Coercive behavior control has always struck me as wrong, especially when it happens within the church.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

When Martin Luther came to grips with the concept Paul described in Galatians 5:1—the freedom Christ purchased for us with his blood—he threw off the shackles of the medieval Roman church, got married, and began preaching the word of God to the people. Luther advised Christians to flaunt their freedom in the face of those who would seek to bind them outside of the mandates of scripture.

The difficult thing about freedom, at least for those who have a degree of authority in society (or in the church), is that you must trust the people to make the right decision or to own up to the consequences of a bad decision. You cannot simply tell them what they must do. You must allow them to decide for themselves.

This is the Libertarian paradigm. It is thoroughly Libertarian. It is thoroughly biblical. And it is thoroughly American. At least it was thoroughly American at the founding of our nation.

I am currently reading What It Means to be a Libertarian by Charles Murray (currently $12.82 at Amazon.com)—an outstanding explanation of Libertarian thought and philosophy. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in what Libertarianism is or for anyone who would like to gain an insight into the thinking of our founding fathers.

To whet your appetite for this outstanding book, the following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book—The Framework:

An Image of Limited Government

What is it, precisely, that libertarians have in mind when they speak of limited government? Privatized roads? Privatized police forces? A world in which every personal obligation has to be in the form of a written contract? A society of Ayn Rand characters?

A few do have this kind of world in mind. Libertarian visions of the ideal society are as various as socialist visions, and some of them are extreme. Most are not, however. The country has moved so far from its origins that it is hard for mainstream libertarians to get across how close our politics are to the politics of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Their vision of the role of government is essentially the role we see. The size and importance of the official Washington, D.C., they hoped would develop resembles the Washington, D.C., we have in mind. The rights of property and economic freedom that they upheld are the rights we uphold. Limited government is a traditional American concept, not a utopian one.

I encourage you to get a copy of this book and read it. Consider the current state of our nation and what it would mean to our nation were we to espouse a Libertarian point of view and institute a Libertarian form of government.

And in November—vote your conscience.


July 01, 2010

Thomas Jefferson – Patriot and Genius


ftentimes we look on the people of prior generations with contempt. Perhaps it makes us feel better to think that we have arrived at a higher state of enlightenment than those who came before us. So we apply today’s societal standards to those who did not live in our time; we take those people’s actions out of their context and we force them into our own context—and then claim that we know better than they.

It may make us feel better, but it is not true and it is not fair. It will, at best, allow us to ignore the areas where we need to pursue personal growth and, much the greater harm, it is slanderous.

Thomas Jefferson

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Traveling in primarily Christian circles, I have often heard disparaging statements made against some of our nation’s founding fathers. Rather than taking the time to read the actual writings of our founding fathers, many folks fall for the Secularist’s line that our founding fathers were all Deists. This is simply not even close to the truth. One of our recognized founding fathers was a proclaimed Deist (Ben Franklin), but most of the others would be described as Christian based on their writings and their statement of personal belief. That does not mean that they all had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some of them, who fully accepted the social teachings of Christianity did not bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So while they were Christians in belief, they were not of the “househhold of faith.”

One such founding father was U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson recognized the societal benefits of adherence to the teachings of Christ, but he did not like the concept of Christ having to die to reconcile man to God. So in Christian circles it is well-known that he physically removed references to the blood of Christ from his personal bible. He also cut out some of the miracles from the bible.

Thomas Jefferson

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

This is not a good thing, and a disbelief in the sanctifying and reconciling blood of Christ clearly places Thomas Jefferson in an unbelieving stance with regard to Christianity.

However, we do our children and each other a disservice when we paint Jefferson as a bad man. He was wrong with regard to the blood of Christ, but he was an absolute genius with regard to human liberty, politics, and government. And, after all, that is what he should be known for as one of our founding fathers.

President Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)

So as we approach the celebration of the United State’s Independence Day, here are a few quotes from one of my heroes—our third president, Thomas Jefferson:

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property—until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Wow! We need a president like that again.

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans. Never forget the efforts and the sacrifices of our founding fathers and the generations that have preceded ours. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Happy birthday, America!