December 27, 2011

Natural or exhibitionist?

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Tim Challies, one of my favorite bloggers, posted an interesting article about breastfeeding in public. I have not had to deal directly with this issue, but found the discussion quite interesting.

I was not breast-fed and we adopted our son, so my wife did not breastfeed him either. So we have not had to even consider the whether-or-not-to-breastfeed-in-public topic, although my libertarian bent would probably put me in the leave-the-decision-in-the-hands-of-the-mother camp.

Read the article. See what you think.

December 24, 2011

Silent Night - Sleep in heavenly peace

Luke 2:1-14

1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Stille Nacht by Mannheim Steamroller on Grooveshark

8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

December 23, 2011

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I took this impromptu photo of our group’s chief of staff at the Christmas party the week before last. Usually everyone looks goofy wearing antlers and weird Christmas ties and sweaters, but I thought Kristin actually looked pretty good in this picture.

Merry Christmas to all.

December 21, 2011

My dream for the New Year

I know my messages should be about Christmas right now, but this video made me hope for everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions. Please... do this:

What have you done today to make the world a better place for someone else?

I love life! Thank you, God, for this short time on earth.

UPDATE :Okay... This is my New Year’ resolution: Improve the world for at least one person—every single day. Whether I know them or not. It’s not about me. It’s about the Savior who redeeemed me. Here I come, world!

December 14, 2011

A tribute to a great lady - Joan Barb

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his past Sunday evening, December 11, a very bright light that had shone for only 66 years expired. It was her birthday, but it was also the last day she was to be with us. It was as if a star had winked out. At least, that’s how my wife put it. I was simply at a loss for words.

My memories of Mrs. Barb include the fact that she was the only person I ever knew who actually looked stylish in an AWANA uniform. You could knock on the front door of their house at any time of the day or night and the whole family (including all 8 kids) would come out to sit and talk with you as if they had nothing else to do in the whole world except devote all their attention to you. On those unexpected, crazy-hour visits their house was always in perfect condition. It seemed unnatural—and I believe it was. The Barb home was a Spirit-filled home.

1 Thess. 4: 13–17

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

It began at the head—Bob Barb—a quiet and unassuming man, but a man who exuded character and strength. And he has continued to display that character and strength over the past six years as his wife, Joan, suffered with dementia.

All of us know adults who try to manipulate teenagers. They sit and watch, ready to pounce with venomous intensity. But few people knew of such a woman as Joan Barb. She sat and watched the teenagers. She looked at the worthless collection of angst, hormones, and dissatisfaction and saw through all of that to the diamonds that were buried down deep inside. Once she spotted the diamond, she made her move—encouraging each teenager to pour all of their effort into those areas of good that lay buried and often dormant beneath the ugly surface.

Joan Barb was a true encourager and she impacted more people’s lives than can be counted.

She left behind 8 wonderful children and almost 20 grandchildren... and a husband who loved her every step of the way.

Yes, it’s true. A star has winked out. But perhaps that’s because stars don’t belong here on earth. They belong in heaven, where Joan Barb is now—shining brightly as she enjoys the company of the one she loved more than her grandchildren, more than her children, even more than her husband—Jesus Christ. She had to leave us because Jesus really wanted her to be with him. He’ll bring us along one of these days too. And I hope that when I go I will leave this earth with the grace with which Joan Barb left this mundane place to be with the divine.

Goodbye, our dear friend, Joan. We love you and we will miss you.

December 09, 2011

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I walked out the front door of our house last week to this scene. I love living in Front Royal!

Cello Wars

I love the Star Wars movies. I love the cello. I love creative musicianship.

This video combines them all and adds a large dollop of fun.

December 01, 2011

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I went for a short ride around town the day after Thanksgiving to find a good scenic place so I could photograph an amazingly beautiful sky. Not far from my house I passed this shed on the side of the road, so I stopped and took a few pictures and made this HDR composite. It really was a beautiful day.

November 30, 2011

Where are they now?

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The picture my sister swooned over

n 1976 my 17-year-old sister was madly in love with a 26-year-old man. I remember her staring longingly at his picture, which was inside my favorite album of all time—Frampton Comes Alive. I was amazed to hear that this year marks the 35th anniversary of the release of that album. I remember standing in line at the record store, waiting to buy my first record album—The Singles: 1969–1973 by The Carpenters. A very cool looking hippie-type at the front of the line said, “Hey, do you have that new Peter Frampton album?” The clerk said, ”We did, but it sold out as soon as they delivered it.”

That album was Frampton Comes Alive. I was 15 years old. And the Carpenters album got thrown away because the back cover had a quote on it from someone who called the Carpenters’ music “rock,” so a group of crazed fundamentalists convinced my parents that it must be bad stuff.

Peter Frampton–now

Now I’m 50 years old, I probably shouldn’t mention my sister’s age, and Peter Frampton is now 61. As I remembered those years long ago I became curious to know what Peter Frampton is up to now. So I went on a search and found out about an album I had not even heard about—Fingerprints. Released in 2007, this album has some awesome jazzy guitar and shows a new side to Peter Frampton’s amazing guitar playing. Here’s a sample:


While I was looking up the video I came across this wonderful ad:

I might have to buy that game just because of the ad!

November 26, 2011

Young love

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ront Royal’s Annual Festival of Leaves brings a flood of people into the Shenandoah Valley to visit our quaint little town and to enjoy Skyline Drive as the leaves begin to show off their fall colors. It’s a wonderful time to live in the Shenandoah Valley.

At this year’s Festival of Leaves, I took quite a few pictures that got lost in the shuffle of the next few days, when I had a ton of other events to photograph. So today, as I was trying to wrap up things for another one of those photographic events, I noticed this picture that had fallen through the cracks. I just think it’s precious.

November 25, 2011

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Edgar Alan Poe visited our library a few weeks ago. Well... an actor playing Poe visited our local library. And he was fantastic.

The photo in this blog header is from that event. Poe was known to have enjoyed red wine, so they put out the decanter with grape juice for effect and so the actor could sooth his throat as he presented a phenomenal and emotional recitation of quite a few of Poe’s poems and stories.

It was a very enjoyable event, which our son completely loved. And now he is a full-blown fan of Edgar Alan Poe. So the presentation did some good.

Just a barn

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ometimes photography is as simple as just keeping your eyes open and having your camera always at hand. This past Wednesday was one of those days that proved the truth of that statement.

The cloud-covered sky was absolutely beautiful all day—and I had been admiring it all day and thinking, “I really need to take some pictures.” The clouds were heavy, but they were broken up so that the light shone through, creating wonderful highlights along the edges of the clouds and sending sunbeams through the cloud cover.

Living in the Shenandoah Mountains made it all the more beautiful as the dappled sunlight hit the mountain peaks and created a wonderful animated effect as the cloud patterns changed.

So in the early afternoon I headed down a road along the edge of the Shenandoah River and just looked at the scenery—hoping I’d stumble across a particularly picturesque scene. After a short drive I saw this barn on the side of the road. I parked the car, set up my tripod in the middle of the road and took these pictures.

I really love photography. And I really love living in Front Royal, Virginia.

Laughter—the best medicine

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emember “Laughter—the Best Medicine”? It was always the first thing I looked up in those Reader’s Digest magazines that my mother got in the mail. I loved it because it pulled me out of the drudgery of life and let me see the humor that exists all around.

From the perspective of 2011, it also shows me that life has always been difficult. As business guru Tom Peters said, “live is a mess.” But he didn’t stop there. The full quote from Tom Peters is: “Life is a mess... embrace the mess!” I love that philosophy. It’s true. And it’s beneficial.

Here is a wonderful video from a wonderful man who embraces the mess.

Have a fantastic day! This video will help.

I promise

November 21, 2011

Evolution? Really?

 

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? Isn’t it clear that God created the world?

God is the one who rules the whole earth, and we that live here are merely insects. He spread out the heavens like a curtain or an open tent.

Isaiah 40:21–22

November 19, 2011

Tales of mystery and imagination

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or my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words with even more distinctness than that which I conceived it. There is, however, a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which as yet I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt to language. These fancies arise in the soul—alas, how rarely—only at epochs of most intense tranquility when the bodily and mental health are in perfection. And at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams.

Dream Within a Dream by Alan Parsons on Grooveshark

And so I captured this fancy... where all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

A Dream Within a Dream

—Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

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My son loves carving pumpkins, so this year for Halloween we went online to find a good pumpkin carving pattern#0151;triangle eyes and a toothy grin just wasn’t going to cut it this year. We found this great creepy house pattern and attacked the pumpkin. It actually turned out pretty well. It’s great to know there is more than just one medium for art. Well... kind of art. At least I’m going to claim it’s art.

Kicking up the HDR

HDR

is my current full-blown fanaticism! I absolutely love what HDR can do to photography. But it takes a long time. I typically take at least 5 exposures of each scene in order to create the composite HDR photo.

This video is a compilation of HDR photos, each of those comprising at least three different exposures. The HDR composites were then treated as single images in stop-motion photography, resulting in an animated time lapse photography video. It must have taken a year to do the HDR composites for this entire video. But what an amazing video it is.

Hdr skies from Tanguy Louvigny on Vimeo.

November 10, 2011

My plans... God’s plans

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hen I graduated from high school, our principal gave a book to each person in the graduating class—Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest. I read snippets from time to time, but never really absorbed what I read because I didn’t engage the thoughts—I didn’t weigh the message and consider the ramifications. I simply read in a dutiful manner and then put the book back on the shelf.

And now... 35 years later, I picked the book up again at the recommendation of a friend. And I’m glad I have done so. I can now see why this book has become a classic.

Today’s reading:

Fellowship in the Gospel

Scripture

1 Thessalonians 3:2.

After sanctification, it is difficult to state what your purpose in life is, because God has moved you into His purpose through the Holy Spirit. He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself, thinking, “God has called me for this and for that,” you barricade God from using you. As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world. Your understanding of your ways must also be surrendered, because they are now the ways of the Lord.

I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, “Lord, this causes me such heartache.” To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. Doing this creates for me my own cozy “world within the world,” and God will not be allowed to move me from it because of my fear of being “frost-bitten.”

I have a long way to go.

November 07, 2011

For those who are called according to His purpose

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od works in mysterious ways, or so the saying goes. I guess the saying is trying to capture the indisputable fact that in God’s omniscience, he does things we would never consider. He brings events into our lives and leads us down paths that are totally unexpected. We can then become disquieted because these events and paths are scary and not of our own choosing, or we can rest quietly and watch in anticipation to see what God has planned for us.

Psalm 50:15

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good to those who love and are called by God. Not just the things that are the result of my feeble attempts at goodness. Not just the things that other people will see and praise. Not just the things that align with my knowledge, skills, and abilities. All things.

Thank you, God, for guiding my paths and my events. Now... may I trust in you instead of concerning myself so much with the daily grind.

November 06, 2011

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After a very early fall snowstorm, I took this picture from our back porch. The unusually early snow was beautiful against the leaves that had just hit their peak of fall color.

October 31, 2011

What happened to fall?

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oday is Halloween—October 31. I remember going out on Halloween night and collecting candy from the neighbors. We used to rake in the candy. My sister and I used pillow cases—large pillow cases—to collect the candy. And we typically returned to the house to dump the candy out onto our beds when the pillow case was full. Then we headed back out to the place where we had left off to continue our tour of the neighborhood. We usually filled the pillow cases three times before our parents told us that it was getting too late to head back out again.

Another thing I remember about Halloween was the hope for a brisk, chilly fall evening. We knew we’d be dressed up in our costumes and would get hot pretty easily, so we always hoped for a cool evening to help dissipate some of that heat. Our hopes in that regard were seldom realized. In Virginia, the daytime temperature in late October is quite often in the high 70s and the evening temperature usually falls off to the mid 60s—not what you’d consider cool or crisp.

But fortunately for today’s kids, my generation has created enough of an impact on the world to develop global warming. You might have noticed global warming’s impact in the weather patterns. The indications of global warming are:

  • warmer temperatures than normal
  • increased storm activity
  • volatile weather patterns

Additional indications are:

  • cooler temperatures than normal
  • decreased storm activity
  • more stable weather patterns

An extensive study into the causes of these life-threatening changes/lack of changes in the weather has revealed that there are two primary causes for global warming (known as global climate change during cooler weather patterns):

  1. President George W. Bush
  2. people voting Republican

A third likely reason that is mentioned only when it has been proven that the other two reasons have no meteorological impact at all is George W. Bush. Although the third reason might seem like it’s the same as the first reason, it is usually stated as, “Bush’s fault,” thereby rendering it a completely different reason and who are you to question the obvious evidence of science anyway? you probably also believe in the 2nd amendment and God.

Anyway, it’s cold this year. So cold, in fact, that Virginia had the earliest snow storm I recall us ever having. And I’m really old, so I have a good collection of data on this. Here are some pictures I took this past Saturday morning showing the evidence of the damage George W. Bush has had on the environment.

My son standing in stunned amazement

The fall decorations on our front porch against the winter backdrop

The view from our back porch

My son’s tire swing (from the side porch)

Another beautiful fall tree (across the street)

October 30, 2011

People pictures

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nother portrait from my collection of my favorites. I met this wonderful young lady at Deloitte's IMPACT Day last year. At just 23 years of age, she established a college grant for orphans and has already helped to raise the needed funds to send many of those children to college. A truly inspiring person.

I took this photo in the hall as we were changing rooms to introduce her organization to a new group of people. I asked her to give me a quick smile and I snapped the shutter with very little attention to exposure, focus, lighting, etc. But the radiance of her personality shines through, in spite of the lack of attention to photographic detail.

October 28, 2011

Jerusalem

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s the air turns brisk, the nights and shadows lengthen, and the leaves become brightly colored, I near the end of a year that has been a unique leg on my pathway of life. It is probably good that this year is coming to a close—it has been a year of upheaval and odd twists and turns. But as the year draws to a close, I sense the sun rising on new frontiers. And this is good. God is good. God loves us even though we are so unlovable. Perhaps, because we are so unlovable.

This poem has nothing whatsoever to do with that introductory paragraph—it is simply a poem I read this morning and found interesting. Some Britons have expressed a desire for this poem and its accompanying hymn to become their National Anthem.

Jerusalem

William Blake (1757–1827)
Sir Hubert Parry (1848–1918)

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

October 17, 2011

Perpetuum Jazzile - Happy Monday!

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t’s Monday, and we’re all in need of some great music to kick off the work week. So, with that in mind, I present my favorite choir: Perpetuum Jazzile:

October 01, 2011

Here Is Our King

David Crowder Band - Here Is Our King


Powered by mp3skull.com

September 23, 2011

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I took the picture of this delightful humming bird while we were at Dollywood this summer with my parents. My son noticed the humming bird hovering near these flowers along the bank of the stream. I took pictures and then the humming bird started buzzing me. I think he was upset about me taking his picture.

A little Friday fun

My wife thinks this video will not make mothers happy—but it sure is fun to watch.

September 14, 2011

Blue Letter Bible

I am a true nerd! I love technology and get all excited when someone comes up with something cool to make our lives easier.

Many years ago I found a great little bible program that allowed the user to hover over a scripture reference and get an instant pop-up window containing the reference’s text. I lost that program when my computer crashed about four years ago and have not been able to find it again.

But I just found a great little script that accomplishes a similar thing for web sites. It’s called Blue Letter Bible and it allows me to place bible verses (John 3:16, for example) into my blog post and without having to apply a link, the script will automatically generate a hover-over pop-up as well as a link to that verse in the bible version of my choice. Cool, eh?

Give it a try: Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 8:28-30, John 17:9.

September 11, 2011

What to pray for on 9/11

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oday is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and the attempted attack that was thwarted by brave Americans ending in the airplane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Because these attacks were perpetrated by Muslims, many Americans have developed an animosity toward Muslims. Most people hold this animosity in check in order to demonstrate the cherished American quality of love for diversity. But it bubbles below the surface for many of us.

But this is not how Christians should view Muslims. While Islam is clearly a religion of hatred. Christianity is a religion of love, and we Christians must show that love even when dealing with those who hate us and hate our God.

This excellent video from Pastor John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota) presents the proper response. May we Christians hold to the love Christ showed to us when we, too, were his enemies.

August 19, 2011

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This photo was taken two weeks ago when New Hope Bible Church’s worship bands recorded some original music written by church members. My family thanks God regularly for leading us to this outstanding church and I thank God for blessing me by allowing me to sing and play with these great musicians.

What a great God we serve!

August 01, 2011

Improve your listening

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like to interrupt. That’s not a good thing. I think the essence of the problem is that I always think that I’m right. Perhaps I interrupt because I simply assume my rightness. Or, at a more sinister level, perhaps I interrupt because I’m afraid that in listening to someone else I will have to give up my firmly held beliefs and engage my brain on a new journey of discovery. I’m not sure which of those two reasons is true but probably both of them are in play at different levels throughout the day.

Not a good thing.

My friend, Diane, pointed me toward Ted Talks—a wonderful collection of short lectures and presentations given by some of the world’s leading thinkers in myriad disciplines. I subscribe to the Ted Talks podcast and have greatly enjoyed these talks over the year or so since Diane introduced me to them.

The current Ted Talks presentation is on listening—something I need to get much better at. Here it is:

July 30, 2011

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Crepes from the stovetop of my wife. No wonder I have trouble with my weight.

July 24, 2011

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I took this picture at Camden Yards stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, when our family spent the day at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and cheered on the Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards is a gorgeous stadium and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is unique and wonderful.

This was about five years ago, but our family remembers this day well. We hope we can do it again soon.

July 23, 2011

Espresso

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love espresso, but espresso is not all that easy to brew. The regular coffee machine/espresso makers do a terrible job of brewing espresso. The super expensive espresso makers require a specific grind in order to perfectly match the water pressure and temperature for the extraction of the coffee bean’s oils. Even my Bialetti Moka Pot (stovetop espresso maker) requires an exact grind and brew rate.

So... to help those who would like to brew good espresso at home, with thanks to Coffee Research, here is a guide to brewing espresso:

Espresso

The best espresso should be extraordinarily sweet, have a potent aroma, and flavor similar to freshly ground coffee. The crema should be dark reddish-brown and smooth, yet thick. A perfect espresso should be enjoyable straight with no additives, yet bold enough to not disappear in milk. A pleasant and aromatic aftertaste should linger on the palate for several minutes after consumption.

The following steps describe in detail how to make espresso. You will also learn about the various factors and problems with espresso that limit its perfection. If any of these factors are off, you will not achieve a high quality espresso.

Making Perfect Espresso

Blending Espresso

Without a good espresso coffee blend you cannot have a good espresso. The best espresso coffee beans are blended to achieve the sweetness, aromatics, and smoothness desired in espresso. The espresso blend must also be fresh. We recommend using espresso within four days of roasting. Please see the espresso blending section for help on creating your own blends or order some excellent espresso blends from roasted coffee suppliers, such as Caffe D'arte or Espresso Vivace.

Roasting Espresso

Too often you will find espresso roasted very dark. This results in a bitter, charcoal tasting brew. People that know how to make an espresso will roast light to preserve the aroma and sugars. For more information, read the section about espresso roasting.

Grinding Espresso

The grind must be continuously monitored throughout the day to achieve an extraction time of 25-30 seconds. Do not change the pressure you tamp with to compensate for a grind that has become too large or small. For more information, read the section about espresso grinding.

Espresso Grinder

A high quality burr grinder is essential for espresso. A conical burr grinder is preferred to flat burrs since the particle size is more even, they last longer, and the coffee is not heated during the grinding process. If the burrs become hot the coffee aroma will be diminished. A conical/parallel hybrid blade is considered the best design by many coffee professionals.

Dosing Espresso

Coffee must be freshly ground to achieve peak flavors. Grind and dose on demand. When someone orders an espresso grind only what is necessary for one shot, dose properly, tamp, and brew. Discard any espresso grounds that are not used within 30 seconds. For more information, read the section about espresso grinding and dosing.

Distribution in Portafilter

Distribute the coffee evenly after dosing in the porta-filter before tamping.

Tamping Espresso

Tamp the coffee once very evenly with 5 lbs of pressure, then once with 30 lbs of pressure, and polish 720° with 20 lbs of pressure. For more information, read the section about espresso tamping.

Water mineral content

The water used for espresso must be filtered. Some cities must even compensate for the mineral content of their water. Over time oxygen will be forced out of the water in the espresso machine leading to off tasting water. Try filling a small glass with water, letting it cool, and tasting it for off flavors. If the water tastes strange you may want to dump the tanks daily and begin with fresh water.

Water temperature

The water temperature should be stable and somewhere between 92-96°C. Choosing the best espresso machine is very important to both water temperature and temperature stability.

Temperature stabilizing

A stable temperature helps ensure that you prepare excellent espresso. For more information about stabilizing the temperature of your espresso machine, read about espresso temperature stabilizing.

Water pressure for Espresso

The pressure of the water forced through the espresso should be between 9 and 10 atm. This pressure is responsible for the development of the crema.

Boiler pressure

The boiler pressure determines the amount of water to be incorporated in the steam. If your milk is not foaming correctly as described in the section on latte art, you may want to experiment with different boiler pressures. Boiler pressure, however, should only be altered by professionals. You can check your boiler pressure by looking at the boiler pressure gauge on the front of most espresso machines.

Extraction time

Extraction time to fill two 1-oz cups should be between 25-30 seconds. Despite the time the pump should be turned off if the espresso becomes slightly lighter in color. The goal is to have a dark red espresso take approximately 25-30 seconds to brew with no change in color. Fore more information, read the section on extracting espresso.

Porta-filter and basket

The porta-filter should always remain the same temperature as the water used to brew the espresso. Therefore it should always remain in the group head. The basket should hold 16-18 grams of coffee and must be straight walled. Curvatures in the basket will lead to uneven extraction.

Timeliness

Act quickly, but carefully. You should spend no longer than 30 seconds for the time it takes to dose, distribute, tamp, pre-heat, and brew the espresso.

Espresso machine cleanliness

Coffee machine cleaning is probably the biggest problem with espresso today. If the machine, basket, and porta-filter are not cleaned regularly, the espresso will always taste rancid.

Espresso grinder maintenance

Everyday the burr blades should be swept clean. Between shots you may want to brush out the excess espresso that gets stuck between the burrs and the dosing chamber. The burrs must be replaced at least yearly so that they continue to produce coffee granules with a maximal surface area.

Environmental Factors

The humidity and temperature will change throughout the day. Since coffee is hydroscopic (absorbs moisture), the grind size must be changed throughout the day to achieve a brew time of 25-30 seconds. The temperature will not affect the espresso like the humidity, but it is important to avoid exposing the coffee to any high temperatures until brewing.

Espresso cup

The espresso cup should be pre-heated from a source other than the espresso machine. Filling a cup with water from the espresso machine prior to brewing the espresso will lower the temperature of the water in the boiler and the espresso extraction will be uneven. The espresso cup should have thick walls and a narrow mouth to retain heat and aroma, respectively.

Practice makes perfect

If you want to learn to make espresso, it is essential to practice and experiment. The key to making espresso is to realize that it always has further potential. By changing any one of these factors you can improve or diminish its potential. Espresso preparation is an art that demands the precision and dedication of science. I have never achieved, nor have ever seen anyone make a perfect espresso. A perfect espresso is more of a concept than an actuality. The beauty is that espresso is volatile and difficult. If it were easy, we would develop a machine that knows how to make a perfect espresso every time. There are so many factors involved in espresso preparation that only a human mind and a passionate heart can begin to understand and control its complexity.

A Dream

In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed–
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.

Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?

That holy dream- that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.

What though that light, thro' storm and night,
So trembled from afar-
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star?

Edgar Allan Poe

July 19, 2011

When you own an old car

Our car has almost 200,000 miles on it. It’s almost as old as our son, and he will be graduating from high school next year. But it still runs relatively well, even though people laugh at us as we pass by. (At least I think they do.)

We’ll quite likely drive it until this happens to it:

July 08, 2011

Cross processed color

I

love Photoshop! This week is a vacation week for me and although I have spent quite a bit of time trying to keep work things under control, I’ve also been playing with some new Photoshop techniques and thought I’d post a few pictures.

The first technique I worked on this week is a digital version of cross processing. Cross processing was used extensively in advertisement photography during the film days. Negative film required processing in a specific set of chemicals to create the negative that would then be printed. Slide film required a different set of chemicals for processing. Processing slide film in negative film chemicals or processing negative film in slide film chemicals was known as “cross processing.” The technique produces images with intense and vivid colors and extreme contrast. Color labs providing this service had to be very careful with skin tones to keep them from turning green or blue when using this technique. The resultant pictures are amazing.

I took this photo at work during a planning session for a community involvement event.

This was the original photo (taken at the 2011 Front Royal Celtic Festival)
The cross processed version is below:

This next photo is from the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal, Virginia. I loved the picture prior to cross processing, but the cross processed version (below the original) is wonderful.

Prospect Hill Cemetery – taken this past November

Here’s the cross processed version

These next two photos involve a new technique I just tried today—adding lightning to a stormy scene. I don’t quite have the technique down just yet, but it’s still fun to look at the results.

Both of these photos were taken on legitimately stormy days, but there was no lightning and the clouds were not nearly as dark as they seem in these examples

July 04, 2011

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I took this photo of my son’s girlfriend a couple weekends ago. She’s wearing my Harley Davidson Motorcycles cowboy hat and looks far better in it than I do.

July 02, 2011

David Potter

My son loves Harry Potter. And he loves carving things out of sticks and tree limbs. So yesterday he found a relatively straight stick and as he waited to be picked up to go to the pool with some friends, he used my pocket knife to remove the bark. Instant wizard’s wand. Well, almost instant.

After he left for the pool, I smoothed the knots and sharp edges with sand paper. He couldn’t seem to put it down. Eventually he said he wanted to update his Facebook profile picture with a photo of him holding his new wand. So I pulled out my camera and took a picture of him holding the wand. I focused on the tip of the wand so he would be out of focus in the background. The picture looked kind of cool, but wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

So I opened it in Photoshop and applied the lumos spell to it. Now it’s quite cool!

July 01, 2011

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This is our good friend, Stephanie as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She was absolutely amazing!

And the guy she’s talking to is our son.

June 28, 2011

What the church needs

W

hen I was in college, I loved intellectual conversations! I loved to sit around the flagpole in front of Jackson Hall and discuss philosophy and theology with my compatriots. As I look back on my life, I realize that my best friends have always been those who spurred me on to deeper thought and who made me consider things from a new perspective.

In those days I began to read the writings of Francis Schaeffer [Wikipedia | L'Abri Fellowship]. I began to devour the publications of Intervarsity Press. I developed an intentional world-view.

Nowadays I don’t know who is impacting the intellectual exercises of our young people. I love to read John Piper, Voddie Baucham, Alistair Begg, Nancy Pearcey, and others in their style. But I don’t know if young people are interacting with them. The Pyromaniacs blog is another potential forum for intellectual conversation. Hopefully, these conversations are taking place.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite early intellectual mentors, Francis Schaeffer, more true and important today than it was when I first read it in college in the early 1980s:

The church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution.

At times men think of the two words, reformation and revival, as standing in contrast one to the other, but this is a mistake. Both words are related to the word restore.

Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian’s life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.

The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.

Such a combination of reformation and revival would be revolutionary in our day—revolutionary in our individual lives as Christians, revolutionary not only in reference to the liberal church but constructively revolutionary in the evangelical, orthodox church as well.

May we be those who know the reality of both reformation and revival so that this poor dark world may have an exhibition of a portion of the church returned to both pure doctrine and Spirit-filled life.

Francis Schaeffer, Death In the City, p. 12

June 27, 2011

Striving for contentment

“I

have ADHOLS” said the status message I read yesterday on Facebook. “ADHOLS, what is that?” you may ask, as I did. And so I read the comments under the status message. Eventually the syndrome’s acronym was spelled out... Attention Deficit Hyper Oh Look Shiny. Yep... I have that one too.

I’m rolling along, feeling pretty good about how things are going, and then I think I see something shiny and my focus immediately shifts. Not a good thing!

1 Timothy 6:6

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

I have found that when I focus on Christ and on other people my mental attitude stays buoyant. When I think about the awesomeness of our God, gratefulness wells up inside me. When I consider the blessings I and my family have been showered with, I want to shout for joy.

But when I think about the things that aren’t going as well as I wish they would, I begin the downward spiral to unhappiness and depression. When I think about how I wish things were (always, it seems, focused on how those changes would theoretically impact me), the world begins to seem to be a very heavy place.

So then, I need to maintain my focus and not get distracted by things that, as it turns out, are not so shiny after all.

“The gospel of Christ is the fountain-head of contentment. In the gospel we have access to infinite blessings. But if we don’t drink often we will always be thirsty. The moment I feel the saltwater-like thirst of discontentment, I need to plunge again into the gospel. I need to stop and stare and wonder and laugh at the goodness of God in the gospel. I need to spend time working on my gospel math, calculating the infinite distance between what I deserve and what I’ve received. To marvel that a prodigal like me could be embraced by the Universe Maker as a son. To imagine the gutter of misery I would by lying in if Christ had not rescued me. If I want to overcome discontentment, I need to spend time wallowing in the gospel.”

Stephen Altrogge, The Greener Grass Conspiracy, p. 70

June 26, 2011

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I took the picture of this adorable little girl getting her face painted last week at Front Royal’s Celtic Festival. The face painting artist was her mom.

June 12, 2011

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I took this picture of beautiful bonzai trees at the Delaplane Strawberry Festival last weekend. The trees were gorgeous. I wish I had taken more pictures of them.

June 10, 2011

Crossroads - Don McLean

Can you remember who I was?
Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain?
Can you heal it?
Then lay your hands upon me now
And drive this darkness from my soul
You alone can light my way
You alone can make me whole... once again

We’ve walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together
So there’s no need for turning back
’Cause all roads lead to where we stand
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned

June 07, 2011

Time for a vacation

These are scenes from the New Zealand locations where Lord of the Rings was filmed. I would love so much to visit this gorgeous place (with my camera).

A gift for your friends (or you)

O

ne of my favorite blogs/web sites is The Sacred Sandwich—a fun, tongue-in-cheek parody of topics related to Christianity.

I thought I’d share one of their advertisements to get your interest up.

Introducing PoMo, the Bear:

June 06, 2011

Am I a tree hugger?

I

’ve always produced great consternation for those who have tried to pigeon-hole me. My more liberal-leaning friends consider me a right wing nutjob. My conservative friends think I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. My non-religious friends think I’m a religious fanatic. My fundamentalist Christian friends worry that am too accepting of different people’s lifestyle choices. This is nothing new. I don’t think I try to be a cause for consternation, but I am not willing to be false. If I think it—I’m likely to say so. If I feel it—it is likely to come out in some way.

So when our neo-conservative friends find out that Kim and I like trees and would prefer that they be left standing, they express shock and dismay. We have even seen friendships dissolve when we had the audacity to say that we liked the trees that blocked some of the view of such beautiful scenery as the highway or the black-top parking lot. Go figure.

But we have never experienced a neighbor who would go to these lengths to kill trees on our property. We’ve had landlords who would do it. Um, excuse me... We’ve had landlords who did it regularly. But the property belonged to them so their antipathy toward vegetation on the property was not truly our concern. But when this neighbor poisoned this woman’s tree, he reached a new low in un-neighborliness.

Read for yourself: Man accused of poisoning neighbor's tree through root on his property.

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Memorial Day 2011 at the pool. It was massively hot and it was the first day the pool was opened. So the place was packed out. But it sure felt great to be in the water.

Our friends Tiffany and Stephanie are on the right side of this picture. The others are friends of theirs.

June 01, 2011

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It’s June! Almost halfway through 2011. It’s hard to believe.

I took the photo of this couple holding hands and walking through the town of Front Royal, Virginia, last week. I’ve always had a strange fascination with hands and with human touch, so I often take photos of couples walking hand in hand.

Since my camera took a dive off the top of my car at 25 mph the day after I took this photo, it may be difficult to come up with a whole lot of new blogheaders in the months to come. But I have a few waiting in the wings.

May 30, 2011

Those overly emotional Type B people

I

am a musician! I don’t see any need to hide from that. I am also a graphic designer—another part of my personality that I do not run from or try to hide. So... I am definitely a type B personality. I am laid back, accepting, creative. I don’t feel the need to judge other people. I don’t get overly concerned with deadlines, rules, regulations, or boundaries. I cherish creativity. I adore people who see the world from a different perspective. I don’t much care how you get there; but I love what you produce when you reach your goal. I understand the meaning of the lyrics to “The Climb.”

This personality type does great with some people. It does not do as well with others. And quite often I have wondered why I have to live in such an emotionally charged world. Often, my emotional overload has scared people. When I burst into tears during a hymn or in the middle of a movie, some of my friends wish they weren’t sitting in such close proximity. Some of those “friends” are no longer friends, after experiencing one of those emotional tsunamis.

One of my friends, a coworker who is married to a bass player, loaned me a book written by one of the best bass players ever—Victor Wooten. I am thoroughly enjoying the book. But a passage I read recently really jumped out at me and I wanted to share it.

From the phenomenal book, The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music, here is Victor Wooten:

“Anyone who can get another person to express himself freely is powerful because it allows all involved to recognize their collective and individual power. Again, this is beautiful to some and frightening to others.” He smiled and spread his hands. “Welcome to the world of the musician.”

“The world of the musician.” Wow, it was exciting! Hearing that information made me understand the importance and potential power of music. I thought about how I would use this kind of power if I had it. I could be like Elvis. I could be the Bass King. I playfully fantasized. I liked the idea of using music in a powerful way, but it bothered me that music or musicians could be frightening to anyone. I just couldn’t fully understand it. The possibility of being watched by the government, the way Michael described, disturbed me. This couldn’t happen in this day and age, could it? The thought of another King who had been assassinated because of his power brought me back to reality.

“Michael, I don’t want to frighten anyone with my music, but I do wanna know more about ‘the world of the musician.’ If music really is powerful, how can I develop it to the high level you speak of? You talked about emotion. If this power is developed through emotion, how do I develop it and express it through my music in a positive way?”

“Intention!” he answered without hesitation. “Intention is the key to everything.”

“What do you mean?”

“Emotions are natural. You have always had them and you will never get away from them. I look at my emotions the same way that I look at musical mistakes. Trying to get rid of them or control them can seem an impossible task. Learn to recognize and understand what they have to tell you. Only then can you effectively work with and use your emotions. How they are used is up to you. This is where intention comes in.

“Pure, honest intention can bring out the beauty of any emotion. And like notes, there is a world of beauty residing inside each one. The proper technique can bring you to the understanding and use of each emotion. Now you can start to see how the different elements of Music relate to and help each other.”

“But how do I use intention?” I asked. “You haven’t told me that yet.”

“Just have a good heart. That is all.”

I expected a more complicated answer. Michael paused in order to allow the simplicity to sink in. Sometimes he could discuss a concept for hours, and other times, just a few words did the trick. After I smiled and nodded, showing him that I understood, he continued.

“It is like trusting the river current to take you where you want to go. To fight the current could be disastrous. In each situation, whether it be in Music or in Life, take a moment to close your eyes and feel the current of your heart taking you where you need to be. After your awareness develops, you will no longer need to close your eyes. You will feel the pull of your heart’s current and ride it with open eyes, allowing you to view all the astounding scenery around you. I tell you this: If you can follow the current at all times, you will not have a thing to worry about, ever.”

Victor Wooten, The Music Lesson

Galatians 5:1
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Thank you

T

oday is Memorial Day—the day we remember those who paid the ultimate price in the defense of our liberty. I’m glad our nation takes this day to thank our fallen heroes. Sometimes it’s difficult to say, “thank you,” so this day helps those of us who don’t know how to put our feelings into words.

So thank you. Thank you to all of those in the military now, military veterans, and to all those POWs, MIAs, and KIAs who over the years have served and sacrificed so that our country may remain free and safe.

May 28, 2011

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Mystery. Style. Color. I love this photo that I took last Saturday at the Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival. A little bit later we got a picture of this woman and her friend in their hats and then had someone else take a picture of the two of them with my wife and me (because we were wearing hats too).

Hats aside, I love the emotion of this photo.

May 27, 2011

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

May 22, 2011

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This is my son loving up on a chicken. He loves anything that can be cuddled. After he played with these chickens he kept saying, “chickens are so lovable!” Go figure.

May 20, 2011

What’s in a name?

Often parents try to choose their childrens’ names by looking at the meanings of those names. For example, my name is Richard, which means "powerful ruler." Of course, my parents weren’t trying to make any particular statement with that name choice other than the fact that my father is also named Richard. And my name didn’t really predict my eventual outcome—at least not so far.

But some names do. Really. And not even necessarily given names. Last names... family names, sometimes tell the whole story as well.

For example, what do you think you could glean about a person whose last name is Stoner? If you haven’t figured anything out yet, let me help you with an excerpt from the most recent news snippet about this guy:

In 2007, Stoner was ordered into a pre-trial intervention program after a December 2006 arrest on charges of possession and manufacture of marijuana.

Yeah... that kind of Stoner. Oh—and why does every bizarre thing that happens in the United States happen in Pinellas County, Florida?

Read about this perfectly named dude here: [Man Named Stoner Arrested on Drug Charges]

Got gas?

May 19, 2011

What Fifty Said

L

ast night I called my parents. They had tried to call to wish us a happy 25th anniversary and a storm prevented us from taking their call. So I called them back last night and we talked about 25 years of marriage and fifty years of life. And I am reminded again of how old I am.

Fifty is a different age than all those milestones that have been passed before. I remember when I didn’t trust anyone over the age of 20. And then I was 20. And I remember when 30 sounded very old, until I turned 30. After that, 40 sounded really old—until I turned 40. Throughout all those years 50 sounded ancient. And now I’m just a few months away from turning 50. And it still sounds very old. And made older all the time when I look at those around me. Most people are younger than I am. And the people who are my age are far, far more accomplished than I am.

Last night my parents reminded me of their 25th anniversary. They celebrated by touring Europe for multiple weeks. For our celebration, Kim and I walked around the town of Front Royal, walked through a few stores where we couldn’t afford to buy anything, and then went to an inexpensive restaurant for dinner.

I’m beginning to see why this 50-year milestone has been more difficult to swallow. I’m not sure how it will end, but it has been a roller coaster year and doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. I guess the only thing I’ve learned so far is that I’m not nearly as smart as I used to think I was.

What Fifty Said

When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can't be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I got to school to youth to learn the future.

Robert Frost

May 18, 2011

They'll know we are Christians by our...

R

emember the song from the 60s, “We Are One In the Spirit”? I remember singing this song with full-on lack of attention to the lyrics, even at a time when I was urging everyone to pay attention to lyrics instead of to musical styles. My ulterior motives of wanting to enjoy rock music notwithstanding, I have always had a problem following my own advice.

We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love

So there we were, at the apex of the “Love” movement, the era of the hippies, joining with our culture in crying out for peace, kindness, and calling on everyone to make love, not war! What a sad and total failure we have produced.

When I sang that song with my well-intentioned friends, we saw the Christian community split into a few groups that didn’t mix well. At a high level there was the split between Catholics and Protestants. The Catholics had declared at Vatican I that non-Catholics were “anethema”—cursed. I was brought up in yet another faction—a subdivision of the Protestant collective known as Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are known outside the Christian community as angry and bitter people—sort of the current iteration of the Puritan witch-hunters. That’s a much kinder view of Fundamentalist Christians than the view most Christians hold of Fundamentalists. In the Christian community Fundamentalism is most known for its total rejection of any person or group who behaves in a slightly different manner than they tell their own people to behave. It is known for its total rejection of any person or group who differs in the slightest regard (including semantically) from the doctrines they proclaim, in the manner they proclaim them, using the grammar, spelling, and syntax they use to proclaim them, or defending the exact same doctrines using a different bible version or hymnal than they would use. Not a pretty sight.

The Fundamentalists I knew growing up explained to us that Catholics were not to be called “anethema,” because that means that they are cursed and only God can curse someone. But they are definitely unsaved and headed straight to hell unless they repent of their Catholicism, make a profession of faith in the Baptist Faith & Message, and get full-body dunked before a crowd of onlookers. As for the rest of Evangelicalism/Protestantism, most of them are not truly Protestants because they still hold onto vestiges of Roman Catholicism. After all, the line went, Presbyterians talk of “sacraments” rather than “ordinances.” And some so-called Protestant churches actually observe more than two of those ordinances/sacraments. Clearly these people are more Roman Catholic than Protestant, and therefore will eventually end up in hell along with the Catholics.

I’m stating this a bit more strongly than the way it was presented to me as a child, but the message I heard was most definitely what I have just written.

Francis Schaeffer

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.

So, we young’uns sat around and sang in a minor key about how great the world would be when “all unity will one day be restored and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It was our version of “What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love.”

How are we doing now?

Perhaps I was unaware of the number of factions within Christianity back in those days, but it seems to me that we young idealistic Christians have become older, angrier, and less unified than our forebears. I remember the various Protestant denominations that seemed, quite clearly, to show a lack of unity. So our generation left the denominationalism of our parents and began our ministries under the monikers “Bible Church,” or “Community Church.” We told ourselves that we rejected the denominational groupings because that only divided people. When we couldn’t defend our theological position against someone well-armed with scripture, we belittled their understanding of scripture by saying, “well, I believe what I believe because I’m a Biblicist; I don’t follow a man-made systematic theology!”

Jump forward about 25 years to today. I see many people who proclaim themselves Biblicists who are not associating with many other people who proclaim themselves to be Biblicists. One of the primary leaders who decried the Fundamentalist movement of yesteryear has a blog that regularly pounces on perceived enemies in our midst. In any given month this blog will likely attack Peadobaptists, Amillennialists, New Paulists, Rob Bell, the Emergent Church, Preterists, Calvary Chapel, Franklin Graham, Dispensationalists, Pentacostals, those who believe in a continuation of all spiritual gifts, John Piper, Douglas Wilson, R.C. Sproul, Jr., and on and on. I hear the same things from almost every corner of the Christian world (at least the part of the Christian world I am familiar with).

Erwin W. Lutzer

Christianity demands a level of caring that transcends human inclinations.

I don’t think we’re doing a better job than those who raised us and taught the faith to us. I think we have thrown out many of the good things we were taught and kept the same vices. And then we have developed those vices in our own way. We have turned our guns to fire at different perceived sins, but we’re still firing away at the people who commit those sins rather than firing away at the sins or at the attitudes and beliefs that motivate people to commit those sins. We no longer say, “those people are terrible because they drink alcohol” (or go to movies, or dance, or dye their hair, or swim with people of the opposite sex); now we say, “those people are terrible because they vote Democrat” (or read books written by Norman Geisler, or graduated from Liberty University, or send their kids to public school, or associate with homosexuals). We did hold onto the stated defensive position of prior generations: We hate the sin but love the sinner, but we don’t demonstrate that love to people other than ourselves any better than did previous generations.

Mary Carolyn Davies

If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.

I am as guilty of this as we all are. My rambling thoughts today are not directed at anyone other than myself. But I hope that we all can turn this around and begin to be known by our love instead of by our hatred of others.

And not everyone demonstrates this problem in the obvious ways I have stated here. God recently led our family to join together with a local body of believers that strives to demonstrate the love of Christ to everyone. New Hope Bible Church is a very unique church. Our pastor often comments that he is “living his dream as a pastor” because this church is filled with such wonderful people and God is doing such an obvious work among us. He’s right. And I praise God for directing our path to this church. Now I pray that I will become one of those wonderful people our pastor is talking about that have made his job such a pleasure. Not because our pastor wants it, but because Christ demands it.

May 15, 2011

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I took this picture one week ago when our family headed to the Shenandoah National Park to have a picnic along the Shenandoah River. My wife noticed these cows wading in the river. It’s so great to live in the country!

May 12, 2011

Wouldn’t be fun to say this?

S

ometimes you just get the desire to let other people know how illogical they are. Not that I always show myself to be intelligent, but sometimes I just wonder how people manage to put one foot in front of the other.

And on those occasions, it would be great to be able to say something like this:

May 06, 2011

It's Friday... and time for music

A

fter a long and very busy week, during which I posted nothing at all, it’s finally Friday! And now it’s time to kick back and relax with some amazingly awesome music.

I present to you... Michael Hedges:

The only difference [between sports and music] is that [sports has] competition built in. That can cause disunity between athletes and their fans. Just as in politics, it can pit one person against another, based solely on which team each supports. Although a great athlete can cause a person to rise above this disunity, there is no built-in negative quality like that in Music.

...

When we attend a Music concert, we do not go in order to compete. When we put on a recording, we are not trying to win. Music is more significant than that.

Victor L. Wooten, The Music Lesson:
A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music

May 01, 2011

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I took the photo of this beautiful flowering tree a couple weeks ago as I walked around the neighborhood. I love springtime in Virginia. It’s just so gorgeous!

April 30, 2011

April 27, 2011

Distinguishing features of a Christian life

Psalm 40:3

He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

From my early teens I have been telling people that song lyrics are vitally important and the musical style only important insofar as it supports and contributes to the message of the lyrics (or detracts from that message). But, many years ago the group 4Him put out a song called “The Roller Coaster Ride.” As I often do, I ignored the things I had repeatedly asked others to do. I enjoyed the music, but did not pay a lot of attention to the words.

I’m not sure how I missed the lyrics of this song because they talked about how the ups and downs of life can overwhelm us if we don’t keep our eyes focused on Christ. Great advice.

Great advice that I continually need to remember.

This morning I decided to listen to sermons instead of music as I began my day, so I pointed my MP3 player to my sermon collection and began listening to one of the sermons in Arturo Azurdia’s “Distinguishing Features of a Gospel Congregation.” And like those lyrics that I had missed over the years, apparently I had missed something in one of these sermons when I listened to them before.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Dr. Azurdia tells the story of a conference he preached at. He told one of the host pastors that he was thoroughly enjoying the singing there at the church. The pastor responded, “Here’s our approach. We sing when we’re happy, and we sing when we’re not happy. And when we’re not happy; we sing until we get happy.

God knows that our lives are going to be roller coasters. Some people cower in fear and close their eyes when they’re on roller coasters. Others cringe and hang on to the bar in front of them with a death grip, then sigh in relief when the ride is over. And then there are the others...

When I was a teenager, I remember going to King’s Dominion with my sister and our friends. I remember getting onto roller coasters and preparing for the ride. If I focused on the ups and downs of the ride I became a cringer. If I focused on the ups and downs of the ride, but I was afraid to look weak to my friends I became a hang-on-for-your-life-and-sigh-when-it’s-done rider. But... when my sister, who has no fear about anything, would break into song—and then the rest of us would join in—I would raise my hands in the air, sing along as loudly as I could, and have a blast for the duration of the ride. Then, at the end of the ride, we would get off, run as quickly as we could around to the entrance and jump back into the line again so we could do it all over. At the end of the day we went home happy and still singing until we got to the meeting location where all the parents would pick up their kids and take them home.

That’s how I want to live my life. I want to throw my hands up in the air, abandon my fears, and sing with gusto because, after all, he has put a new song in my mouth—a song of praise to our God!