December 18, 2012

I

love photography. I guess if you read this blog even only once a year you already know that. But here is another reminder to me of why I love photography so much.

The awesomely gorgeous
Harpers Ferry railroad tunnel

This past Saturday we did a road trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to see what it’s like during the Christmas season. It was beautiful, as always. And the crisp weather and rapidly approaching holiday cleared the streets of tourists, allowing us to stroll the streets in relative privacy. The serenity that covered the town paralleled the beautiful Christmas decorations that lined the avenues. When the bells on the church began ringing the hour, the scene was almost complete. The only thing remaining to make this the perfect scene was falling snow. But in West Virginia in early December, that’s not a common thing. Maybe we can go back when the next snow storm hits. After all, it’s less than 30 miles from our house.

David...
under the railroad trestle bridge

But back to photography... The day was beautiful, with clear skies and light, wispy clouds. And most of my photos from the day show that. But when I wanted to take pictures of the grand Catholic church in Harpers Ferry, there was a family taking a great amount of time take family portraits on the steps of the church. I don’t blame them—it’s a beautiful place for portraits. But, it meant that there were people in the way of what could have been a beautiful picture of the church from where I was standing. So I lowered the exposure to cast the church as a silhouette and discovered that increasing the exposure just slightly past the point of silhoette allowed me to get some detail in the picture while rendering the people somewhat dark so they would not be a distraction.

Houses from the early 1800s
with Christmas decorations on the fence

I added these first three pictures to give you an idea about the way the day actually looked. Later in the day, the shadows were long and made the streets a little dimmer, but overall the day was quite bright and sunny. In the early afternoon, some wonderful clouds rolled in behind the church. The were not dark at all, but gave a great texture to the sky. It was quite beautiful. But as I underexposed the picture of the church to eliminate the distraction, I found that the clouds became wonderfully ominous.

Then, in keeping with the somewhat ominous look of the underexposed clouds, I reduced the color saturation in one of the resulting photos and ended up with a wonderfully ominous and other-worldly scene. Not Christmassy at all... but very cool.

December 10, 2012

Two more weeks...

T

he Piano Guys are fantastic musicians. I have loved their videos ever since I saw the hilarious Cello Wars video. Today, I am sharing their wonderful “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

December 09, 2012

Magic man

I

remember being a bit of an attention hog when I was a teenager. My hobbies all seemed to be performance-related... music, drama, ... magic!

I remember standing in lines at restaurants and entertaining the other people in the line (at least I thought I was entertaining them) with sleight of hand tricks. I remember performing a sponge ball routine for my best friend’s neighbor who had just recently immigrated from Korea. When I made one of the balls seemingly jump from my closed fist to hers, she threw the balls down and ran away screaming that I had a devil. I remember showing a trick to a child in a car dealership while his parents were negotiating with a salesman. I made a quarter appear out of thin air and then pushed it through my cheek before spitting it out of my mouth. I age the quarter to the child and a few minutes later he was crying because he had tried to push the quarter through his cheek and had actually cut himself by pressing the quarter into his cheek so hard.

Ah... such wonderful memories.

But I was never as good as this apparent homeless guy with a serious water and fruit problem:

December 05, 2012

I will rise

I
have not posted here for more than a month. The world has been crushing in... threatening to overwhelm. Apparently, I had begun to focus on the threatening monsters rather than on the Overcomer.

This past Sunday New Hope Bible Church [Facebook page] had a baptism. Quite a few people followed the call of God on their lives. Their ages ranged from relatively young children to adults. All equals in Christ. They entered the waters to proclaim their union with Christ... symbolically dying with him and rising again, overcomers. “Death, where is your sting... Grave, where is your victory?”

I have the humbling joy of being part of the New Hope Bible Church worship team. My band played this past week, and our leader Jesse introduced a new song to the team and to the church to go along with the baptism. And this song brought tears as we worshiped and praised our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

During the opening verses of the song, Jeremiah played the djembe, Garret played a simple shaker and high-hat cymbal, Michelle’s beautiful voice carried this message of praise, strength, and hope. And the congregation joined us as we sang, “I Will Rise.” When the music swells with the joy of what Christ has done for us the music built and we proclaimed:

I hear the voice of every angel sing,
    “Worthy is the Lamb!”
And I hear the voice of every longing heart,
    “Worthy is the Lamb!”

Praise God!

November 01, 2012

Will you cast a vote for eternity?

E

very adult American citizen has the right to vote. That right may be thrown away through illegal activities, through casting a “principled vote’ for someone who is not electable, through skipping the privilege altogether, or by simply voting the wrong way.

This message from former Governor Mike Huckabee calls on Christians to consider their vote in light of the teachings of scripture. Don’t drop the ball, Christians.

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween - Democrat style

I guess maybe it’s not just those racist TEA partiers who want to keep what they’ve earned. There is wisdom in youth.

Happy Reformation Day!

Martin Luther
O

n October 31, 1517, a young Catholic monk walked to the door of Wittenburg church and posted a message written in Latin. This monk, Martin Luther by name, was presenting his thoughts about the religious current events of his day for discussion and debate among theologians. But... he didn’t count on a civilian who could read Latin walking by, reading his 95 Theses, translating them into the common language (German) and using Gutenberg’s printing press to publish and distribute them to the masses.

And this simple, innocent act began a firestorm among the common folk, which led to anger among the religious leaders. And in the process Martin Luther became the focal point for a religious revolution—a revolution that returned the bible to its proper place as the source for everything the Christian needs to know for faith and practice.

Luther nails his 95 Theses
to the door of
Wittenberg Castle church

Before Luther left the church and started the first recognized Protestant denomination, he was called to stand before a tribunal of Roman Catholic religious leaders to answer for the things he had written... such things as: salvation by faith alone... man’s total inability to conform to the righteousness demanded of us... God’s effectual plan to save sinners through faith in Christ... allowing marriage for the clergy... rejection of any statements of mere men if they contradict the bible. When this tribunal demanded that he recant his beliefs and declare his loyalty to the teachings of the Popes, he said:

Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

Luther’s teachings so greatly angered the religious leaders of the Roman Catholic church that they put out an international death warrant on Luther. He was snatched up and taken away into exile for his own protection by his friend Prince Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony. While he lived in exile, Luther translated the entire bible into the common language so the common folk could read it. This was something that had been forbidden by the Catholic church, so anyone not trained in Latin could not read the scripture for themselves and was forced to accept whatever the religious leadership told them was contained in the bible.

Wittenberg Castle church

During this time, Luther also wrote my favorite hymn—perhaps my favorite song of all time, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” A careful reading of the words of this hymn coupled with an understanding that, as he penned these words Luther was under an international death edict, always brings me to tears as I listen to this incredible hymn.

May we have the courage to live for Christ as Martin Luther did. May we honor his sacrifices and his life by carrying on the faith taught in the bible.

Happy Reformation Day!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
through him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

October 30, 2012

Politics... sheesh!

T
he presidential election cycles have always been a great source of stress and frustration to me. Negative campaigns and intentional lies create an unpleasant atmosphere and pit Americans against Americans. It’s like fighting a civil war every four years.

But this year President Obama has taken us to a new low. His actions as our nation’s leader have often been immature and crass and not worthy of the respect due his office. Four years of this have apparently emboldened his supporters and encouraged them to find the lowest possible ground on which to spread their lies, distortions, and rude behavior.

This first video is an appalling production put together by the advertising group responsible for the Got Milk? ad campaign. There is not one single tiny bit of truth in this video and they used children to give voice to these lies. And then on top of all the lies, they had the children say that they blame their parents for all of these incredible and false fantasies. If these children truly were the children of the future, they would be thanking their parents who voted against Obama for protecting their liberties and for protecting them from a socialist dictatorship.

The next video was produced and published by the president’s campaign. This video should be a tremendous cause for embarrassment, and would have been under any prior administration, but the Obama administration has stood by this ad and has even sent a follow-up fund-raising/get-out-the-vote email drawing attention to this ad and reminding young people that “voting is like doing it.”

Here’s the repulsive ad:

Of course, those who oppose the current administration have access to video equipment as well. Here are two responses to Lena Dunham: Your First Time:

Doc 2

Doc3

October 27, 2012

Halo – with a twist

M
y son loves Halo and he loves the Disney movie, “Brave.” So tonight he asked me to put halo armor on Merida for the album cover for his band “White Docks.” His original name for the album title was “Winter Breeze,” but, fortunately, I convinced him that such a gentle and sweet title did not fit the Halo theme. So now the album is titled “Death & Destruction.” Yeah, he got that new title from me—not his mom.

Here’s the fictitious album cover:

October 18, 2012

When you hit rock bottom

Tony Robbins
In life you need either inspiration or desperation.

Some people sabotage themselves with great frequency. I am one of those people. I suppose a therapist could help me figure out why I do this, and I’d love to know why. But more than why, I’d like to know how to stop doing that.

The quote at the top right is from Tony Robbins, whom I have a great deal of respect for. He also said, You are now at a crossroads. This is your opportunity to make the most important decision you will ever make. Forget your past. Who are you now? Who have you decided you really are now? Don’t think about who you have been. Who are you now? Who have you decided to become? Make this decision consciously. Make it carefully. Make it powerfully.

Today is a day for decisions. Who am I now? Who have I decided to become?

I certainly don’t want to repeat old patterns that have not worked.

Psalm 121

  1. I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
  2. My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
  3. He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
  4. Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
  5. The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
  6. The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
  7. The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
  8. The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Lord... don’t let this be the end.

October 11, 2012

Pavane

P
avane. The word pavane simply means song. I’m not sure then why so many classical pieces with the title of Pavane are so beautiful. If it’s just a song...

Here’s an example. This is Pavane pour un infante defunte or Song for a dead princess. Ravel wrote this song for the funeral of the princess at the request of the king. It is a hauntingly beautiful piece and I have loved it since I first heard it almost 30 years ago (thank you Dr. Ellsworth).

So I was pleased to see the most recent video by The Piano Guys, Titanium / Pavane, mixing David Guetto’s Titanium with Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane. First, listen to Fauré’s Pavane:

And, finally, the Piano Guys with Titanium / Pavane:

Where would we be without music?

October 09, 2012

W
hen I was in college—about a hundred years ago—a professor inadvertently introduced me to a fantastic musical group called the Sweet Comfort Band. I loved their music, and especially loved the lead vocals performed by Bryan Duncan. Bryan later went on to a solo career in the 90s, but has been doing his own radio show for the past couple of decades.

Until now...

Today I saw that he has a new album out... and you can listen to it here with this awesome embedded music player below! Cool, eh?

I hope you enjoy it. It’s good stuff!


October 06, 2012

Worship In the Park - 2012

It’s fall!
and time for New Hope Bible Church’s annual Worship In the Park. This is a special event for us. This will be our third Worship In the Park. The first one was our first week attending New Hope Bible Church. And we have come to love this church.

Instead of gathering together to worship God in our church building, on this day we gather in a community park just down the street from our house. After the church service we have a huge picnic and fellowship with each other for a few hours while the young kids play on the playground equipment. It’s a great time of fellowship, praise, and worship of our great God.

I had the privilege of playing with the worship team last year. There’s something very special about playing worship music in an outdoor setting. But because our church has three worship bands I would not be playing again for two more years. Until I got a call from our worship leader last night. This year’s band had already practiced and was preparing for the event when the bassist’s pregnant wife went into labor (Congratulations!). So Jesse called me to see if I’d be willing to play with the band tomorrow.

I have been greatly blessed by God to be able to play with the great musicians he has brought to this church. I was so pleased to be asked to play this year and am looking forward to tomorrow’s event. Here’s the worship set for tomorrow morning:

No One Like You

The Power of Your Love

Rise

Forever Reign

One Thing Remains

Wrap Me In Your Arms

With Everything

September 29, 2012

Preparation for the upcoming elections

This quote is out of context, but it’s fun anyway:

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

Of course if you take verses out of context you can prove anything. Here's one that proves the existence of Santa Clause (KJV only):

Zechariah 2:6
"Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD"

Cold-hearted orb...

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bed-sitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy spent

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one—
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens with they were young

Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colors from our sight
Red is gray... and yellow, white
But we decide which is right

And which is an illusion

September 20, 2012

Wow!

H
ave you ever seen those karaoke machines they sell at Wallmart and other retail stores? They’re pretty cool. They do a pretty good job of removing the vocals from pre-recorded music and if you have actual karaoke discs and MP3s, they will even display the words on a screen so you can sing along.

But most people are not quite as good as this girl who decided to try out the machine in this retail store... Wow!

Oh well... it was fun while it lasted. Bet you wish you had come to see the video earlier. :-)

September 18, 2012

Got endorphins?

I posted this a few hours ago, primarily to remind myself that I need to focus on my health and keep exercising, even when it’s storming outside (which it is right now). But then I got a great comment from Dixie, a fellow blogger from North Carolina. Here’s her comment:

Hugging boosts endorphins also. Which makes it really great going to a church where everyone gives hugs. Thanks.

[Dixie’s blogs: Artful Blogger | DC RELIEF]

LOL! Gotta love it!

September 15, 2012

Proverbs 16:1-4

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Help me, Lord, to know the good and the right... and when I understand the correct path, to walk in it. My plans will end in disaster. Your plans will be established.

September 12, 2012

S

eptember 11! Yesterday we remembered the terrible September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the foiled attack that ended up crashing in the Pennsylvania field. That attack—11 years ago yesterday—was a terribly difficult time for our nation, but showed how strong our nation was at the time. I hope we would show such strength and determination now.

The sunrise coming up over Washington, DC,
as seen from my office

Yesterday was a beautiful day, much like September 11, 2001. The cool air and a beautiful sunrise I noticed through the office window made me head out to the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge. I needed the exercise and wanted to enjoy the beautiful morning.

Walking back to my office I noticed that many of the office buildings had hung very large American flags to honor those fallen on that day. It made me proud—similar to the way I felt shortly after the attacks. God has greatly blessed this nation. It is time that we the people turn back to him.

Key Bridge over the Potomac River
Rowers from Georgetown University practicing on a very steamy Potomac River
The Deloitte office building in Rosslyn, VA

August 17, 2012

Last thread

That's all I'm saying - last thread

August 15, 2012

Gaining ground (well... maybe losing?)

I have now been on this new diet, which really isn’t a diet, for almost one month. Thirty days, to be exact. And in 30 days, I have lost...

Well, I’ll let the app speak for me. Straight from My Fitness Pal:

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Okay... I know I still have a long way to go. But I’m inspired. I’ll get there.

August 01, 2012

Sustaining grace

W

hat is “sustaining grace”? This is the question Pastor John Piper posed to his congregation as they celebrated the anniversary of the founding of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The sermon that followed this question is inspiring and motivating, and the poem that served as the introduction has become one of my favorite poems.

Psalms 37:4-5

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.

Life can be terribly difficult at times. Sometimes we travel through incredibly deep and turbulent waters and the undertow threatens to pull us beneath the surface of the water as we desperately try to reach the shore. During these times we Christians have a loving and faithful God to hold onto. Only he is able to provide the grace to sustain us through these difficult times.

What is sustaining grace?

Not grace to bar what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress—but this:

The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

Pastor John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church

This is something I often forget—sometimes until after the troubled waters have passed and I look back to see the signs along the way that God was sustaining me the whole way. Perhaps next time I hit those troubled waters I will remember to trust God along the way. He is always faithful.

July 27, 2012

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

The Gods of the Copybook Heading

Rudyard Kipling

AS I PASS through my incarnations
  in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations
    to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers
  I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings,
    I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us.
  They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us,
  as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift,
  Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas
  while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed.
  They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne
  like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress,
  and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield,
  or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on
  they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton;
  they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses;
  they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market
  Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming,
  They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons,
  that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us
  and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
  ”Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones
  we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour
  and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children
  and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
  ”The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch
  we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter
  to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money,
  there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
  ”If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled,
  and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled
  and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters,
  and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings
  limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future,
  it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain
  since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit
  and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger
  goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished,
  and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing
  and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us,
  as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
  with terror and slaughter return!

Happy Friday from the Piano Guys

I love these guys; they’re so creative!

July 19, 2012

“Words mean things”

When Rush Limbaugh began his radio career he regularly said, “words mean things.” That seems kind of obvious, but a lot of times people overlook or simply miss the meanings of the words people say.

Without providing any commentary, this cartoon accurately quotes two presidents. What do these quotes say about each of these men? And what do each of these say about the state of our nation under those men’s leadership?

Please be prepared to vote for a stronger America this November.

July 18, 2012

July 17, 2012

Time to lose weight

I

went to the doctor yesterday and heard the typical doctor speech for a 50-year-old: “You need to lose weight!” Well... perhaps it wasn’t completely typical because I need to lose a lot more weight than most men... of any age.

I have struggled with my weight all my life and over the years my excessive weight has contributed to a variety of health problems. But now I’m 50 years old and need to get control of this before it takes complete control of me.

Everyone says accountability is vital for weight maintenance, so I have put in place a few things to help with that. I began by downloading the FitnessPal app for my iPhone (also available for Android, Blackberry, iPad, and Windows phones). It’s a pretty cool app that had tens of thousands of 5-star ratings—and it’s free. FitnessPal also has a web site, so I can now track my caloric intake and my caloric output online and through my mobile phone. And FitnessPal has a huge database of foods to make tracking your caloric intake easier. You can even put in your own recipes and then add them to the database if you’d like to do so or keep them private if you prefer.

It can also be tied into a really cool digital pedometer called the FitBit. This tiny pedometer tracks how many steps you’ve taken, how many stairs you’ve climbed or descended, how many miles you’ve walked or run, how many calories you’ve burned, how many calories you burn while sitting or sleeping, and even how many times you get up at night and the exact times when you did it. All of this transmits the FitnessPal web site and mobile app via either wifi or a docking station that comes with the FitBit pedometer.

All of that is awesome, but still does not provide accountability. The accountability comes in with the Reports feature at FitnessPal. All of this tracked information is put into a printable report, which can also be emailed (perhaps to your family doctor), and it generates the cool little widget you see on the left side of this blog post. This widget is going to remain in my bar to the right, close to the top of the page, so my blog readers will be able to keep track of my weight. There’s the accountability.

I have a lot of weight to lose. I’d better get up and walk around. Sitting at this laptop isn’t helping at all.

July 08, 2012

Got beef?

Our family loves good steak, so we grill out often—at least once a week during the spring, summer, and fall. But when the temperature rises above 100° Farenheit we have to figure out other options. Today was one of those days.

Our initial plan was to pull out my wok and cook some Chinese stir-fry. But when we went to the grocery store yesterday to get the ingredients, I was swayed by a book we found at the store, The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A treasury of timeless, delicious recipes [Amazon.com]. I began flipping through the pages of this unique cookbook and soon decided to buy it. The recipes look fantastic.

About 20 years ago, Kim and I purchased two cast iron skillets from Cracker Barrel—one with very low sides and the other about 3.5" deep. Our two skillets closely resemble the ones pictured at the top of this post and are, in fact, made by Lodge Cast Iron. We have used the low-sided skillet regularly since we purchased it, but have not used the deeper skillet very often. It’s large and it’s heavy and it just hasn’t been one of our regular pieces of cookware... until now.

I love cooking with cast iron cookware and have used the skillet for burgers, hash-brown potatoes, fried tomatoes, sausage, and many other foods that benefit from the even temperature across the cooking surface and from the ability of cast iron to retain heat. And I used the low-sided skillet because at 14" in width, the low sides of the skillet reduce the weight by quite a bit. The 14" high-sided skillet is incredibly heavy.

So... we chose a recipe, collected the short list of ingredients and after church today I made the best steak I have ever had. The recipe is in the box below. If you have a cast iron skillet (like the one with the high sides pictured at the top-right of this post). You need to try this recipe. It is truly amazing and will leave your taste buds in an elevated state of nirvana.

Seared Pepper Steak with Bourbon-Shallot Sauce

  • 2 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
  • 4 10-oz. beef top loin steaks, about 1" thick
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

   

  • 3 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1/2-cup bourbon
  • 1/2-cup beef stock
  • 1/4-cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. Rub the salt and cracked peppercorns on both sides of the steaks.
  2. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook the steaks 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare or to desired degree of doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate and loosely cover with foil.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet and sauté 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and turn off the burner. Add the bourbon (there will be a lot of steam all at once). Carefully light the liquid in the skillet with a long match. Allow the flames to burn off on their own.
  5. Return the skillet to the heat. Add the stock, bring it to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer 3 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until totally incorporated into the sauce. Stir in the parsley. Taste and add additional salt to taste, if desired.
  7. Place a steak on each of 4 plates, top with the sauce, and serve.

Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook, Oxmoor House, p. 126

July 07, 2012

Steve Vai - Gravity Storm

N

o one can make a guitar scream, wail, and sing like Steve Vai. Today it’s intensely hot outside (currently 101°F, but the forecast is calling for 106° before the afternoon ends) and hot weather calls for hot music. So here’s Steve Vai’s “Gravity Storm” from his upcoming album “The Story of Light.”

I love this guy’s music!

July 06, 2012

“His spirit has gone but his stench remains”

From time to time you read something that you simply must share. This would be one of those times:

2 Maccabees 9:9–10

“...and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to the army. And the man that thought a little time before he could reach the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench.”

You gotta love it.

The US Military presents our National Anthem

Let’s wrap the week up with a performance by those who keep us free. A huge thank you to all our military! God bless America!

July 05, 2012

Carrie Underwood

I love Carrie’s voice—and her passion. Here she is with our National Anthem:

July 04, 2012

Happy birthday, America!

We saw Bill Press on the news disparaging the National Anthem. He called it “an abomination.” Then an unknown comedian named Daniel Tosh responded by saying, “no one has The Star Spangled Banner on their iPod.”

Apparently these guys (Madison Rising) heard those comments too. I don’t have an iPod, but now The Star Spangled Banner is on my Zune. This is great!

Happy Independence Day!

Download your copy here: Madison Rising

July 03, 2012

Faith Hill

Only one day left to go. Faith Hill is going to sing for us today:

July 02, 2012

The Cactus Cuties again - my new favorite band

The Cactus Cuties

This group of young ladies were asked to sing the Star Spangled Banner at a basketball game when the oldest was 10 years old and the youngest was only four. Their family posted a video of that performance to YouTube and they became a singing sensation. Now they perform at many sporting events. They are absolutely phenomenal.

The Cactus Cuties from Lubbock, Texas

And here’s one from quite a few years earlier:

ADDENDUM: I received a comment from someone who seems to know. So I need to make a correction. During their first performance, they ranged in age from 13 years old to 8 years old. Thank you to the person who informed me of that. Although, it doesn’t change a thing. These girls are amazing!

July 01, 2012

Martina McBride – God Bless America

Today is the Lord’s day. And it is the first day of the USA’s birthday week. America’s 236th birthday. Happy birthday to my nation. And may God bless America!

June 30, 2012

9-year-old kicks off National Independence Week

Holiday weeks begin with the prior weekend and last through the next weekend—at least in my mind. So... we begin the birthday celebration of The United States of America today. In honor of our great nation, I present:

June 21, 2012

A

s I get older, I find myself dealing with a whole new set of issues—things I never even considered when I was younger. And I frankly do not find them any easier than the things I dealt with as a teenager. I know we like to talk about how difficult the teenage years can be, and it is important for us to show that understanding to our teenage children and friends, but the simple fact is: life is hard! Very hard! No matter what the stage in life, it really is not a beach.

So I’m paying attention to the scriptures that provide encouragement, such as the passage I referenced yesterday (Psalm 37). But I’m also paying attention to the saints who have gone before... including some who are still living but who passed through my stage of life more than a decade ago.

As always, one of my favorites is John Piper, pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, and author of the phenomenal book, Desiring God – meditations of a Christian hedonist. I decided to pick this book up and read it again. I first read it about 10 years ago when I was at a very different place in life. So I’m going to see how it applies to my new context.

Here’s an appropriate quote from the book’s introduction:

The older I get, the more I am persuaded that Nehemiah 8:10 is crucial for living and dying well: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” As we grow older and our bodies weaken, we must learn from teh Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (whoe died in 1691) to redouble our efforts to find strength from spiritual joy, not natural supplies. He prayed, “May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives.” When delighting in God is the work of our lives (which I call Christian Hedonism), there will be an inner strength for ministries of love to the very end.

John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), 11

June 20, 2012

C

urrent events are enough to drive you crazy! But I guess you’ve noticed that—you don’t need me to tell you. I tend to be a worry-wort. I worry about my family. I worry about my job. I worry about politics. I worry about my friends, my church, my car, my lawnmower. Worrying seems to be one of my favorite pastimes.

But it’s not supposed to be that way—at least not for those of us who claim the name of Christ. I am not supposed to concern myself with things I have no control over. And, frankly, I have almost no control over everything.

When I compare my worries to the worries some other people might have, I realize mine are not so bad. I am not homeless, which is a great relief on a day like today when the temperature is forecast to reach 96 degrees. I am not a shut-in or bed-ridden. I have a family, reasonably good health, a great church, a good job, and I live in a beautiful location in a nation that has been truly blessed.

Perhaps I should see what God tells me to do when I am inclined to worry:

Psalm 37

  1. Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
  2. For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
  3. Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
  4. Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  5. Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
  6. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
  7. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

...

  1. The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
  2. The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

If, like me, you are prone to worry, click on Psalm 37 and read the entire psalm. It’s a wonderful salve for a worried soul.

Now... I need to just make sure that I do as the psalmist says.

June 06, 2012

Waaaaahhh!!! The liberal dream dies

I don’t mean to gloat, but when liberals get themselves this worked up it shows that something is going right in our nation. Let’s keep it going this coming November.

Hopefully, now we can say good riddance to democracy and get back to the representative republic our nation’s founders set up to protect us from the mob rule of democracy.

And here’s a video response to recall election:

May 19, 2012

Photographer Tadas Černiauskas

You gotta love photography. In what other profession can you have fun like this and get paid for it?

Photographer Tadas Černiauskas captured portraits of willing subjects who posed for the portrait as a photographer’s assistant aimed a running leaf blower at their faces. Check them out here: Blowing in the Wind - Leaf Blower Portraits! They’re pretty amazing (and fun).

Now I’d like to see him do the same type of series, except with the subjects being members of Congress and the Obama administration. Now those would be popular!

May 06, 2012

Rewriting human history

I

have always been fascinated by antiquity. This fascination began early in high school when I learned about the ancient Sumerian civilization. I was later taken with Egypt and then Plato’s Atlantis. And this fascination continues today.

So I was delighted to find this interesting and informative documentary on Hulu, narrated by Charlton Heston—Mysterious Origins of Man: Rewriting Human History.

April 07, 2012

Blog Header - April 7, 2012

Happy Easter!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday—the day we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead and ultimate triumph over evil. I’m looking forward to church tomorrow. What a great God we worship!

The above blog header doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Easter. It’s a picture I took during heavy cloud cover up on the mountains. I love the picture. But this header photo is being replaced by the new Easter header, which will become a blog post when I replace it. But for now, I am posting a photo of spring apple blossoms, signifying the life giving power of the resurrected Christ.

Let the whole world rejoice! He is risen - indeed, he is risen!

Aleut (Sugpiag):

Kriiiiistuusaq Ungwektuq! Pichinuq Ungwektuq!

Albanian (Tosk):

Krishhti Unjall! Vertet Unjall!

Anglo-Saxon:

Crist aras! Crist sodhlice aras!

Arabic:

Al Maset’h ahm! Hat’em ahm!
and El Messieh Kahm! Kakken Kahm!
and Al Maseeh Qam! Haqqan Qam!

Amharic:

Kristos Tenestwal! Bergit Tenestwal!

Armenian:

Christos harjav i merelotz! Orhniale harutjun Christosi!

Byelorussian:

Khristos Uvoskros! Zaprowdu Uvoskros!

Chaucerean Middle English:

Crist is arisen! Arisen he sothe!

Chinese:

Helisituosi fuhuole! Queshi fuhuole!

Cantonese:

Gaydolk folkwoot leew! Ta koksut folkwoot leew!

Church Slavonic:

Christos Voskrese! Voistino Voskrese!

Coptic (Egypt):

PiKhirstos af tonf! Khen o methmi af tonf!

Coptic (Sahidic, not the Bohairic dialect which is the Coptic church's liturgical language):

Pchristos aftooun! Alethos aftooun!

Czech:

Kristus Vstal A Mrtvych! Opravdi Vstoupil!
and Kristus vstal zmrtvy'ch! Skutec~ne~ vstal!

Danish:

Kristus er opstanden! Ja, sandelig opstanden!

Dutch:

Christus is opgestaan! Ja, hij is waarlijk opgestaan!

Eritrean (Tigre):

Christos Ten-si-OU! Ba-Ha-ke Ten-si-OU!

Esperanto:

Kristo Levig^is! Vere Levig^is!

Estonian:

Kristus on Oolestoosunt! Toayestee on Oolestoosunt!
and Kristus on surnuist ülestõusnud! Toesti ülestõusnud!

Ethiopian:

Christos T’ensah Em’ Muhtan! Exai’ Ab-her Eokala
and Yasous Taustwal! Aown Tasous Tanastwal!

Finnish:

Kristus Nousi Kuolleista! Totisesti Nousi!

French:

Le Christ est ressuscité- il est vraiment ressuscité!

Gaelic:

Erid Krist! G'deya! n erid she!

Gaelic (Irish):

Tá Criosd ar éirigh! Go deimhin, tá e ar éirigh!
(Phonetic -- Taw Creest Ereen! Taw Shay Ereen Guhdyne!)

Gaelic (Scotch):

Tha Crìosd air èiridh! Gu dearbh, tha e air èiridh!
and Hah Creeist air eh-ree! Goo jeh-ruv, hah eh air eh-ree!

Georgian (IveroPontian):

Kriste aghsdga! Cheshmaritad aghsdga!

German:

Christus ist auferstanden! Wahrhaft auferstanden!
and Christus ist auferstanden! Wahrlich erstanden!
and Christus ist auferstanden! Wahrhaftig auferstanden!
and Christus ist auferstanden! Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!

Greek:

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Hawaiian:

Ua Ala Hou ‘o Kristo! Ua Ala ‘I ‘o No ‘oia!

Hebrew:

Ha-Mashiah qom! Be-emet qom!
and Ha Mashiyach qam! Ken hoo qam!

Hungarian:

Krisztus feltámadt! Valóban feltámadt!

India (Spoken in):

Malayalam:

Christu Uyirthezhunnettu! Theerchayayum Uyirthezhunnettu!

Indonesian:

Krisuts Telah Bangkit! Benar dia Telah Bangkit!

Italian:

Cristo e’ Risorto! Veramente e’ Risorto!

Iyaric Patwa (English dialect used by the Rastafarian subculture of the West Indies):

Krestos a uprisin! Seen, him a uprisin fe tru!

Japanese:

Harisutosu Fukkatsu! Jitsu Ni Fukkatsu!

Javanese:

Kristus Sampun Wungu! Saesto Panjene Ganipun Sampun Wungu!
and Kristus Sampun Wungu! Tuhu Sampun Wungu!

Kikiyu:

Kristo ni muriuku! Ni muriuku nema!

Kpelle (Liberia, West Africa):

Korai aa mu su Saa-yeei! Toya ma, E mu su Saa-yeei!

Korean:

Kristo Gesso! Buhar ha sho Nay!

Latin:

Christus Resurrectus Est! Vere Resurrectus Est!

Lugandan:

Kristo Ajukkide! Amajim Ajukkide!

Micronesian:

Pinglapese—Kreis Isadar! Oh ketin kalowehdier!
Palauan—Kristus a mla mekiis! Ngiima dingar!
Chuukese—Kristus a manaau sefan! A fokkun manan sefan!
Carolinian—Lios a melau sefal! Meipung, a mahan sefal!
Chamorro—La'la'i i Kristo! Megahet na luma'la' i Kristo!

Nigerian:

Jesu Kristi Ebiliwo! Ezia o’biliwo!

Navajo:

Christ daaztsáádéé' náádiidzáá! T'ááníí, daaztsáádéé' náádidzáá!

Norwegian:

Christus er Oppstanden! Sandelig Han er Oppstanden!

Polish:

Khristus Zmartvikstau! Zaiste Zmartvikstau!

Portugese:

Cristo Ressuscitou! Em Verdade Ressuscitou!

Quenyan (Language of the elves in J.R. Tolkien's writings):

Ortanne Laivino! Anwa ortanne Laivino!

Romanian (Vlkah):

Hristus A Inviat! Adeverat a Inviat!

Russian:

Khristos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!

Sanskrit:

Kristo'pastitaha, Satvam Upastitaha!

Serbian:

Hristos Vaskrese! Vaistinu Vaskrese!

Slovak:

Kristus vstal zmr'tvych! Skutoc~ne vstal!

Slavonic:

Christos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!

Spanish:

Cristo ha resucitado! En verdad, esta resucitado!

Swahili:

Kristos Ame Fu Fuka! Kweli Ame Fu Fuka!
and Khristos amafafouka! Kwaeli amafafouka!

Swedish:

Kristus är Upstånden! Ja Han är Sannerligen Upstånden!

Syriac:

Meshiha qam! Bashrira qam!
and Qom Msheeho (men qabro)! Shareeroyith qom!

Turkish:

HristosDiril-Di! Hakikaten Diril-Di!

Ugandan:

Kristo Ajukkide! Kweli Ajukkide!

Ukrainian:

Khristos Voskres! Voistinu Voskres!

Welsh:

Atgyfododd Crist! Atgyfododd yn wir!

Yiddish:

Eybershter undzer iz geshtanen! Avade er iz ufgeshtanen!

Zulu:

Ukristu Uvukile! Uvukile Kuphela!

Project 365+ Day 2

Day 2 of my Project 365+

I decided to use my long telephoto lens today—a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens. I actually never made it past my front porch before I saw these adorable birds looking for food around our neighbor’s bush. The bird in this picture really seemed to want his portrait taken. I guess he heard about my project.

I obliged him.

April 06, 2012

Project 365+

I

have always enjoyed going out on photo expeditions looking for odd things. At various times I have headed out with my camera looking for pictures of common things taken so closeup that it is hard to identify them, pictures of contrasting light and dark, pictures of complementary or contrasting colors, candid pictures of people touching, crying, and showing various emotions, and pictures of unique architectural elements. That kind of focus on a specific topic of interest always seems to unleash my creativity.

But today I came across a concept I had not heard of before—Project 365. This project is a commitment to take at least one picture every day for a full year. There’s even a web site dedicated to this project [365Project.org]. I liked the idea, but I’m calling mine 365+ because I know I won’t be able to limit myself to just one picture per day.

It ought to be fun.

So today, during my lunch break, I headed out into my yard to get the first of 365 straight days of photography. I wanted to up the ante, so to speak, so I also limited myself to using my Canon EF 80mm f/1.8 fixed focal-length lens. It’s a great lens, but the lack of a zoom makes me carefully consider the shot, rather than just twisting the zoom dial until the picture is cropped properly in the camera. I hope you enjoy these. I enjoyed taking them.

My son’s tire swing with our beautiful flowering Dogwood tree in the background
The Dogwood is the Virginia State Tree and one of my favorites. This is a closeup of the Dogwood flowers
These flowers are from our apple tree. The peak of color for the blooms was almost a week ago, so the flowers are not nearly as plentiful. But everytime a breeze blows, the whole backyard looks like it’s snowing because of all the white apple petals in the air.
Dandelions are weeds, but they’re beautiful when they’re flowering. This one is just under our apple tree and is surrounded by apple blossom petals.
This tree is actually in our neighbor’s yard. I love the deep red leaves.

March 27, 2012

What's that in the sky?

T

here are not many reasons why getting up at 3:45 am in order to leave the commuter parking lot at 4:45 am is a great idea. In fact, perhaps only two:

  1. We leave early enough to beat some of the traffic
  2. We get to come back home at a reasonable time in the evening

But I think this morning gave me a new reason.

We were driving along at about 5:15 am and our driver asked me if I saw the luminous could shapes in the sky. I bent down for a better view out of the windshield and, sure enough, there were two large "Z" shapes glowing brightly in the night sky. After a while we noticed another long, wispy luminous shape a bit further east. It was an impressive and beautiful display, although somewhat frightening at first.

We speculated on what it could be. We considered the aurora borealis (Northern Lights), although it’s highly unlikely that the Northern Lights would ever be spotted from Virginia. The more fearful among our van riders wondered if it might be military in nature and even a potential attack.

Finally I pulled out my iPhone and went to Space Weather.com where I found an article NASA’s ATREX mission for conducting experiments on space weather. The article said that on March 27th, between midnight and 6:00 am NASA was firing off 5 rockets that would leave plumes in the upper atmosphere, just shy of space. These plumes would then be watched to track the movement of space weather. Cool stuff.

So... getting up at 3:45 am to see something this unusual and beautiful is actually kind of cool.

March 26, 2012

Photographing the Shenandoah Mountains

I

took the above picture of my son leaning on the roots of an overturned tree on the Shenandoah Mountains. It was bright and sunny that day and easy to take beautiful pictures in such a scenic location.

But this past Saturday I decided to take a ride up into the mountains to photograph some different weather. When my son and I left our house, the sky was cloudy and somewhat ominous looking. But just five miles from my house, as we ascended the mountain, we entered cloud cover with heavy rain, dense fog, and eerie mist slowly making their way across the landscape. I parked the car and took pictures just before we entered the clouds and then I parked at the Skyline Drive Front Royal Ranger Station to take pictures in the fog.

Because of the somewhat rough weather, there weren’t any other photographers around—at least not any that I saw. But the scenes were great. I may make this a regular happening. If there’s rain, it’s time to head up into the hills.

As we approached the cloud cover I decided to pull over and take a few pictures before we entered the clouds. Spring in Virginia is beautiful and the redbud trees (the purple blooms) are in abundance on the mountains
At this height, we were above some of the lower wispy clouds, so I took this picture of the valley through a few of those clouds before heading on into the fog.
On the outside edge of the fog the woods began to get misty. I love this look.
The mist reduced the contrast and the color saturation of the redbud trees, but they were still gorgeous.
I loved the way this redbud tree forms a frame around the mossy rock.
The Front Royal Ranger Station is about five miles from our house. I usually stop at the overlook there to take a few pictures. It’s amazingly scenic—usually. But on this day the view was only of rolling dense fog, and no one was sitting at the overlook bench.
When we arrived at the ranger station, the fog was a bit thick, but much denser fog was rolling in. A few minutes after I took this picture the ranger station totally disappeared and I could barely make out the bench and tree from this same distance.
As I headed back down the mountain towards my home I drove in and out of the light rain, mist, dense fog, and torrential downpours. I stopped to grab this picture in one of the heavy rain areas. My son wisely stayed in the car.

March 25, 2012

A joke from a preacher’s kid

Three boys are in the school yard bragging about their fathers.

The first boy says, “My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50.”

The second boy says, “That’s nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.”

The third boy says, “I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon, and it takes eight people to collect all the money!”

March 21, 2012

CCM and Steve Taylor

W

hen I was but a lad... Okay, I know that was a dorky introduction, but.... In my mid- to late-teens I began to formulate my Libertarian bent. I hated being forced into any mold. And there seemed to be a tremendous amount of coercion coming from just about every imaginable angle.

Because I was a musician and loved music, the coercion surrounding music was particularly irksome to me. I struggled to throw off the chains I felt from the older generation that just didn’t quite understand the appeal of drums and electric guitars. And I struggled to throw off the chains of the people my age who thought anything other than FM rock -n- roll was unworthy of our time.

My music philosophy formed well before I even comprehended the aversion I had to fundamentalist legalism. But by my late teens I was beginning to develop a philosophy against that as well.

Into this volatile mix came Steve Taylor, a Contemporary Christian artist who seemed to have lived through many of the same things I was going through. He was a committed Christian who held firmly to important Christian principles such as the sanctity of life and the need for personal evangelism. But he also spoke out against the legalistic tendencies of so many conservative churches and against the apathy of young people who were turned off by that legalism.

Steve Taylor’s name came up in a conversation today and it reminded me of his music and how much impact that music had on my developing music philosophy and ecclesiology in the midst of my emerging adulthood. So, I searched Grooveshark and came up with some of Steve’s music. I hope you enjoy it, as I have.

March 20, 2012

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

E

vents are transpiring so rapidly it’s easy to allow them to fly past without recognizing the warning signs—but we do so at our own peril.

Just a few decades ago the concept of the Jews gathering together in their homeland in the last days simply made no sense. The Jews were dispersed in 70 AD and had not had a homeland for almost 2,000 years. But then in 1948 the state of Israel was re-established. [Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel] Now “the gathering” at least seemed a possibility, however unlikely because the Jews had been scattered all over the globe. Why would someone uproot his family and move them back to their ancestral homeland? Perhaps unemployment or death could prompt such a move, but it just did not seem likely that large percentages of Jews would be willing to uproot their families after having lived in other lands for generations.

But I believe we are rapidly heading toward what theologians call the End Times. Current events seem to be spiraling rapidly toward the final events we read about in the bible. And today’s issue of The Times of Israel printed a story that is a clear indication of this trend: After attack, MK calls on Jews to leave France.

Here’s an excerpt:

“There is no Jewish future in France,” Katz, of the National Union party, said, adding that the state of Israel is the future of the Jewish people, and that Jews should not trust their fate to “Sarkozy, Obama or other world leaders.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, by contrast, expressing shock over the attack, said Israel was confident the French authorities would do “everything possible” to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Time to get ready. It’s getting hard to ignore.

Baruch ha Shem ha Mashiach, Yeshua! Baruch ho Shem Adonai!

March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a Celtic holiday, and as my family lays claim to Celtic ancestry through Scotland I present the Scottish Declaration of Independence on this holiday.

The Declaration of Arbroath 1320

To the most Holy Father and Lord in Christ, the Lord John, by divine providence Supreme Pontiff... we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown.... Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.... The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles—by calling, though second or third in rank—the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter's brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.

The Most Holy Fathers your predecessors gave careful heed to these things and bestowed many favours and numerous privileges on this same kingdom and people, as being the special charge of the Blessed Peter’s brother. Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy. The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom—for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

...

Given at the monastery of Arbroath in Scotland on the sixth day of the month of April in the year of grace thirteen hundred and twenty and the fifteenth year of the reign of our King aforesaid.

Endorsed: Letter directed to our Lord the Supreme Pontiff by the community of Scotland.

March 03, 2012

The Odyssey and a new camera

O

ne of my creative passions is event photography. I have enjoyed the challenge of event photography for more than 20 years, but hadn’t learned many useful techniques until about seven years ago when the company I work for asked me to photograph an event after the contracted freelance photographer got sick just a couple days before the event. That was an interesting night as I attempted to photograph about 200 people packed into a dark room lit primarily by a laser light show.

Since then I’ve had many opportunities to take pictures in less-than-desirable lighting conditions and have learned to relish the challenge—not that I always succeed. But I’m learning and enjoying it more and more.

So when our immensely talented friend, Stephanie, played the part of Circe, the Enchantress, in Warren County High School’s production of Homer’s Odyssey, I took my camera along to see what luminous roadblocks I could overcome. The play was great. Stephanie was awesome (as usual). And I got some nice pictures.

This one is of our friend, Stephanie. She’ll be famous one day.

But these were all taken with my old Canon 30D camera—the first digital camera I owned. And then, just a week later, I received my new camera: the Canon 7D. This new camera is a significant step up from the 30D and I can’t wait to give it a good workout. But so far I haven’t had the chance.

Not that I haven’t tried—I took the camera with me to the store two days ago and when I stepped out of the car to go back into the house I put it in the crook of my arm and it began snapping pictures on its own. I ended up with four pictures before I pulled the camera out of my bundle of packages. The picture below was one of them. Kind of cool! I can’t wait to see what this camera can do when it’s actually intentional.

Unintentional – but still kinda cool.