March 27, 2012

What's that in the sky?


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 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


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


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


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


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.

March 02, 2012

iPhone posting

Perhaps I would post more if I could post directly from my phone. I just downloaded the Blogger iPhone app, so I guess we'll see.