December 31, 2013

It’s New Year’s Eve and I figured while everyone else is out partying, I’d organize my music files and create some playlists for my car. And as I was doing it, I came across some music that I haven’t listened to in years—really good music. The song posted here is “Along the Road” by Dan Fogelberg, one of my favorite artists from way back when I was in high school. This song was on his album, “Phoenix,” so here, also, is a Phoenix:

December 30, 2013

Blog header - December 30, 2013

This image is from the wonderful Michie Tavern at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The dining room was decorated for Christmas and this area of the dining room was empty, so I was able to take my time and take a long exposure in natural light.

By the way—the food at the Michie Tavern consists of original recipes from the 1700s and is absolutely outstanding.

Which sins do you find important?

We are ravenous beings. We embody bottomless cravings that constantly paw at the next attractive thing. Our appetites are as strong as death, Proverbs 27:20 tells us. We are always on the move for the next thing that can satisfy and slake our restless thirst. This endless pull is the engine of gluttony. It propels our souls ever toward excess.

Over the past couple of weeks, since A&E put Duck Dynasty’s patriarch on hiatus for comments he had made regarding his religious beliefs and his personal experiences growing up, I got involved in a discussion on another blog. One of the commenters there was determined to find out if I found other sins as reprehensible as homosexuality.

For the record, I do. And I pointed to this blog to corroborate that.

I guess my primary concern over the years has been tendency of people to try to force others into their way of thinking. That has been presented over and over, dealing with many different issues, here on this blog. I spent about a year dealing with the “modesty” issue as presented by patriarchal types. During that year, I was accused by many of the people opposing my way of thinking as being to willing to allow for improper behavior and not standing against it.

With this recent Phil Robertson flap, I have been accused of being arrogant in my stand against sin.

But my position has been the same thoughout—that no one should be forcing another person into their own mold. The patriarchy tries to force their preferences in dress on young women. GLAAD tries to force those who disagree with homosexual marriage to accept it unconditionally. In both cases, I have opposed the use of force.

My dessert at The Chocolate Bar
a few months ago

But the recent conversation has made me consider one of the items targeted by a few of the other commenters in the forum I was frequenting this past week—the sin of gluttony. Those of you who know me are aware that I have had a problem with this particular sin all of my life. I am overweight and have cycled through the ups and downs of weight gain and loss all my life. Since I have been an adult I have never reached a weight considered proper by the medical community.

I lifted the quote at the top of this blog post from an outstanding article that looks at the sin of gluttony and considers that gluttony is not just the way we view food, but the way we reach for excess in all areas of our lives. This is something I definitely need to consider as I head forward into the New Year.

Read “The Socially Acceptable Sin” from Relevant magazine.

December 29, 2013

Am I Shrek?

T

he year is coming to an end—only two more full days in a year that most Americans say was a pretty bad year. According to a recent Econimist/YouGov poll, 66% of Americans identify 2013 as “a bad year”—40% say 2013 was a disaster for their family. Personally, when I begin thinking that things are really bad, I am typically thinking of all the other people who have made it that way. But if I step back and look at the situation thoughtfully, I usually find that I was the one piling troubles up all around me.

A friend of mine posted the following picture and story to Facebook today. It made me think about how often I worry about things over which I have no control whatsoever. And if I do this enough, I get myself into a hole pretty quickly.

I think this is something I should change in the coming year. But... I need to start now and not wait for two more days to begin.

Shrek the Sheep - Wikipedia

This is Shrek the sheep. He became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shave it. When he was finally found and shorn, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just under ten pounds, with the exception usually reaching fifteen pounds, maximum. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece. Simply because he was away from his shepherd.

This reminds me of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think Shrek is much like a person who knows Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ’s constant refining of our character, we’re going to accumulate extra weight in this world—a weight we don’t have to bear.

When Shrek was found, a professional sheep shearer took care of Shrek’s fleece in twenty-eight minutes. Shrek’s sixty pound fleece was finally removed. All it took was coming home to his shepherd.

I believe Christ can lift the burdens we carry, if only we stop hiding. He can shave off our ‘fleece’—that is, our self-imposed burdens brought about by wandering from our Good Shepherd.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

December 27, 2013

The year in review

My house... in the snow
I

always turn off all automation on my cameras, my stereo systems, and even on my car. I just don’t like releasing that amount of control to a computer processor. But I guess if the computer app has been programmed very well, it might actually be kinda cool to have that automation.

Google recently launched an app called Auto Awesome that tries to improve some of your photos and then offers them to you for use on your blogs, web sites, Facebook, or other social media. They have offered me two different automatically adjusted photos and then yesterday they offered up a video created from randomly chosen photos and a video I have uploaded over this past year. I think it’s really cool.

One of the photos Google automatically awesome-ized is the photo at the top right of this post. I guess their software realized that was a snow picture, so they added the falling snow. I kinda like it. The second photo is the group photo above. It’s not a great photo, but I took three versions of that group portrait. Google looked through those three images and chose the best smile for each person in those three photos, then they created the photo above, which combines the best smiles from each photo into one single portrait. But this video that they created yesterday is, in my opinion, really cool. I hope you like it. This is the year in review, as seen by Google.

Okay - one more Christmas carol (of love)

I

didn’t find this one until the day after Christmas, but I simply have to share this one with you. This is quite an amazing quartet. And for such young guys, they really have great voices!

December 26, 2013

The Great Divide (between red and blue)

My son with his new
Uncle Si blanket
C

hristmas is over and we now have one week until the New Year. This is the week when many of us think back on the year—and on prior years—and try to make adjustments that will improve our lives going forward. Usually these adjustments are considered very personal New Year’s Resolutions. But the past few weeks have brought clarity to my mind about how far our nation has fallen from the great God-honoring nation it was when it was first founded.

I had a discussion with a good friend for whom I have the greatest respect about the Duck Dynasty/Phil Robertson flap. This friend sees things from a much more liberal point of view, but does not walk in lock-step with the Democrats. I see things from a Christian viewpoint with a strong conservative/libertarian bent. So our conversation was interesting and fun.

My family obviously falls in the
Duck Dynasty and not
Pajama Boy camp

Through the course of that conversation, I began to recognize that much of the difference between those who support Phil Robertson (typically traditional conservatives) and those who oppose him (typically liberals) is simply a difference in what we find laudable and what we find reprehensible. It has very little to do with who Phil Robertson is and it has very little to do with federal protected rights, such as freedom of speech. It is much more about the propensity of conservatives to respect those who are strongly religious and to find behavior that violates biblical commandments reprehensible contrasted with the propensity of liberals to find anti-biblical behavior to be a laudable exercise of personal freedom and to be abhorred with anyone who seeks to limit their own passions according to scriptural mandate.

I found myself at a loss for words when trying to address this apparent divide, but then I read the following blogpost, which I am reproducing in its entirety here to encourage you to read it. But please visit the original site if you get the chance.

Why We’re Raising ‘Duck Dynasty’ Boys,
and Not ‘Pajama Boys’

By Trevor Thomas

After Phil Robertson told the truth to GQ Magazine (though in a rather colorful way) about homosexuality, liberals went into their predictable hypocritical hyperventilation. While slamming Robertson’s (and essentially the Bible’s) views on homosexuality and sin (which are shared by tens of millions of Americans), liberals completely ignored (read: had absolutely no problem with) what were by far the most offensive things in the GQ interview.

Authored by Drew Magary, the column is replete with dripping sarcasm along with plenty of vulgar and foul language. In the very first paragraph, referring to Mr. Robertson’s large crossbow, Magary says “It looks like you could shoot through a god-mn mountain with it.” Of course, if one doesn't believe what the Bible says anyway, what harm is there in swearing with God’s name?

Just two sentences later, Magary writes, “The bow is cocked and loaded, just in case a deer stumbles in front of us and we need to do a redneck drive-by on the poor b-stard...” The f-bomb is dropped more than once, along with several other foul words and crude references. Seemingly, none of this bothers the left. No, they are offended by Scripture quotations that contradict their liberal worldview.

As Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller points out, such a worldview much prefers “Pajama Boy” to the boys of “Duck Dynasty.” As Lewis noted in his column, “There is a huge schism between red state America and blue state America, and these two stories seem to symbolize the yawning chasm.” However wide this chasm, as a father of four, three of whom are boys (ages 5, 9, and 11), one thing is clear to me: I’m raising “Duck Dynasty” boys, not “Pajama” boys.

Now, my boys love their cozy pajamas and hot chocolate, but they are also learning to shoot (guns and bows), hunt, and fish. Last Christmas I gave my two older boys junior compound bows. This year they have fished for and caught crappie and trout. My two older boys also won a "Turkey Shoot" with BB guns -- the prize being a frozen turkey -- at a local fall festival this year. Below is a recent photo of our boys with our only daughter Caroline, which my wife proudly posted on Facebook along with the caption shown.

“You may come calling boys, but you must meet my brothers first.”

Don’t worry, libs, along with our children’s outdoor exploits, our home has an extensive library of hundreds of books. My wife, who is in charge of homeschooling our four children, has made sure of that. Each of our three older children, including our daughter, also takes karate and piano classes. So along with learning how to clean a trout, this year Caleb, Jesse, and Caroline learned to play a “Mozart Themed” Sleigh-ride.

I have an undergraduate degree in physics and two graduate degrees in mathematics education. I have taught mathematics in public and private schools for 20 years. My wife has an undergraduate degree in sociology, graduated summa cum laude, and was valedictorian of her college class. She has also recently authored a book. Our children will receive one of the best K-12 educations of any child in the country.

I’m not nearly the outdoorsman that the Robertsons are, and my wife can’t stand camouflage, but whether my children prefer sipping hot chocolate (like Uncle Si, I prefer sweet tea) or shooting a gun, most importantly, our children are being taught from a Christian worldview.

Yes, that means that among other things, they are learning that, along with adultery, fornication, and bestiality, homosexual behavior is sin. They are also learning that they are created in the image and likeness of God, and that all human life, from the moment of conception, is especially precious. And they are learning that in the world today, both abortion and homosexuality are uniquely heinous.

Why the focus on these two particular issues? Because the greatest lie ever told is that there is no God. The second greatest lie ever told is that the devil does not exist. The third greatest lie ever told is that your sin (and mine) is not really sin, and this is exactly what is happening with homosexuality and abortion.

For decades in the U.S. there has been a movement spearheaded by many well-funded organizations devoted to preaching the value and legitimacy of abortion, homosexuality, and a redefining of marriage. In other words, tens of millions of Americans have been preached the lie that homosexual behavior and killing a child in the womb are not sin. My children are learning the truth in these grave matters.

As Joel Belz of World Magazine noted several years ago, it is time for conservative Christians to “stop apologizing” for the attention we give the issues of homosexuality and abortion. Like Phil Robertson, it is time for more Christian celebrities to take on these issues. Time and again we see homosexuality portrayed in music, movies, and television as nothing but normal, acceptable behavior.

There is virtually nothing in the secular media that portrays the other side of homosexuality and similar issues. Such absence impacts our culture. There is no doubt that public opinion on homosexuality and same-sex marriage has been swayed toward a more liberal view of these matters in no small part due to the media campaign that favors them.

If we stay silent, what happens? Television networks will pull the Phil Robertsons (and the Craig Jameses) from the air. Of course, supposedly networks such as Fox and A&E have the "right" to make such decisions, but photographers, bakers, and florists with Christian views on homosexuality and marriage don’t. Such small businesses are sued and even held liable by our courts for refusing services to same-sex couples.

Even worse, once the homosexual agenda (which, we must not forget, includes those who are "transgendered") has the full force of the law behind it, public schools will teach that homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage are good and right. In school systems like Los Angeles, it’s already happening. Likewise, schools (certainly public, probably private as well) will be forced to accommodate “transgendered” children. [Link 1 Boston Globe | Link 2 Fox News | Link 3 - Christian Newswire]

What’s more, state constitutions that have amendments defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman are proving to be not enough to stop the homosexual agenda from progressing on the marriage front. Just days ago, a federal judge ruled Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Like almost all of the 28 other states with similar bans, in 2004 the citizens of Utah passed the ban by an overwhelming 66% to 34% majority.

If America wants to stop this madness where good is called evil and evil is called good, we must change our culture. This fight begins with our families. Liberals know this. This is why almost exclusively the "culture wars" being fought in the U.S. are an attack on the family. In other words, if we want to change our culture, we better start raising our kids with a worldview like that of the cast of "Duck Dynasty" instead of the worldview that govern "Pajama Boy" and his big sister, Julia.

December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas...

M

erry Christmas! Noel! Christ has come! Emmanuel! Here’s a two-hour video of fireplace logs burning with jazz and classical Christmas songs playing. So when you’re done with your Christmas morning routine and have finished watching your favorite Christmas movies, settle in with a warm blanket, a good book, and this video.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Thank you, Jesus, for coming into the world as a baby. Thank you for being Emmanuel—God with us! Thank you for coming to die so that we might have life.

December 24, 2013

Silent Night

A

s the sun sinks low, the world grows still. It is Christmas Eve. O come, Emmanuel. Christ the Savior is born... Christ the Savior is born!

A Hallelujah Christmas!

I

loved this song when it was in Shrek, but I think this new version is absolutely wonderful! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Merry Christmas!

The season of love

P

eace on earth, goodwill toward men! My recent blog post about the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (Tragedy at Christmastime) mentioned how that phrase struck the writer of that song. His response was:

And in despair I bowed my head.
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

But the story didn’t end there for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his song continued:

Then rang the bells more loud and deep,
“God is not dead, nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail; the right prevail
with peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

About the time I posted those two videos and the lyrics of that Christmas carol, the news carried the story that A&E had suspended Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family in A&E’s tremendously successful reality show Duck Dynasty. They had suspended him for some comments he had made that were described by GLAAD and by the NAACP as hateful. These two groups called on A&E to do something about Phil’s statements.

Over the few days that have transpired since then, about one week, our nation has exploded with this story. People are choosing sides and stating their case. The media, from the liberal networks as well as the conservative networks, have misrepresented the statements Phil made and have missed the fact that much of what he said was direct scripture.

Without rehashing the whole mashup here, this story has made me consider the meaning of love and hate. GLAAD described the following quote as “hate speech.”

Phil had mentioned sexual sins, so an interviewer from GQ magazine asked him, “What do you think is sinful?”

Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph from there, Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.

1 Corinthians 6: 9-10

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

A&E put out a statement about Phil’s comment saying, “ Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.” News commentators then picked up the story and repeated the strong statements against Phil and what he had said. They didn’t seem to recognize the fact that he was calling out more than just homosexuals. He also called out the sins of promiscuity and adultery. The least angry statements came from FoxNews, but still called Phil’s comments “abhorrent” and “vile.” It was obvious that none of these newscasters and no one on any of their staffs had the slightest clue that most of what Phil had said was a paraphrase of scripture. The actual scripture is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in the box to the right.

If scripture is considered by our society to be “hate speech,” and if love is defined by agreeing with whatever a person says or does, then our society is simply wrong. God and his word are always right.

In that interview Phil also said that he loves everyone and doesn’t condemn anyone—“that is up to the Almighty.”

The true essence of love is speaking the truth to people—even when what we have to tell them is that their behavior is sinful. The reason this is loving is that it gives them an opportunity to correct their behavior before it’s too late. And if we allow people to continue in sin, we are, in fact, demonstrating hatred for them.

So at this Christmas season, when we Christians proclaim God’s ultimate show of love for we sinful creatures, what will bring actual peace to this earth? Only Christ... only truth... only love. But we must know what love is in order to demonstrate it. It is essentially the opposite of what our society says it is.

Phil led a bible study at his church this past Sunday—just four days after this whole thing exploded in the news. The news crews were welcomed and allowed to join the bible study. And here is what Phil said regarding this flap (courtesy of Young Conservatives).

  • I have been immoral, drunk, high. I ran with the wicked people for 28 years and I have run with the Jesus people since and the contrast is astounding.
  • Sexual sins are numerous and many, I have a few myself. So what is your safest course of action? If you’re a man, find yourself a woman, marry them and keep your sex right there.
  • Commonsense says we are not going to procreate the human race unless we have a man and a woman. From the beginning Jesus said, “It is a man and a woman.” Adam was made and Eve was made for this reason.
  • If you give them the bad news, they’ll start kicking and screaming. But you love them more than you fear them, so you tell them.
  • Jesus will take sins away, if you’re a homosexual he’ll take it away, if you’re an adulterer, if you’re a liar, what’s the difference? If you break one sin you may as well break them all.
  • If we lose our morality, we will lose our country. It will happen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all walk around without stealing from each other and killing each other?
  • Why don’t we just love each other enough that we wouldn’t want to do these things to each other?
  • We are a bunch of rednecks from Louisiana, but I am not uneducated, I have a degree from Louisiana Tech.
  • Are you kidding? I have been traveling to and fro spreading this message.
  • I have made hundreds and hundreds of speeches and you can pick them apart and the center has always been Jesus Christ.
  • Do many people get up and walk out? Yeah, all the time, do I hold it against them? No. Anybody can get up and stop listening.We are all just humans on this planet.
  • Jesus Christ was the most perfect being to ever walk this planet and he was persecuted and nailed to the cross, so please don’t be surprised when we get a little static.
  • I will not give or back off from my path.

 

December 23, 2013

Andy Williams - The Osmonds - Johnny Mathis - Merry Christmas!

I

remember, as I was growing up, my family grew to love certain Christmas albums. One of our absolute favorites was the Andy Williams Christmas album. All these years later, I still love Andy Williams’s Christmas music.

I also loved the Osmond’s television show. Their musical talent was mind-boggling.

Here’s a great little compilation of the Osmond brothers performing some Christmas music with Andy Williams.

My sister and I were also particularly fond of Johnny Mathis. As I was looking for the Andy Williams video, I came across this one from Johnny Mathis. Great memories!

December 22, 2013

Duck Dynasty and apologetics in action

T

his past week has seen an explosion of fed-up Christians finally standing up for their right to speak truth into the culture. Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson made some statements to GQ magazine that caused a huge uproar. I won’t rehash what transpired here because the purpose of this post is not to support or defend Phil Robertson, although let the record show that I am in full support of what Phil Robertson said, his right to say it, and the right of the people of this nation to respond to actions by A&E and Cracker Barrel as a result of those statements.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson

As a friend pointed out to me, A&E is quite likely violating the EEOC’s protections against workplace religious discrimination, so I am not going to say I support A&E’s right to suspend Phil.

But this post is about some conversation that resulted from this situation.

Rather than explain that conversation, I will simply post it here for you to read. The final comment in this thread is absolutely outstanding.

LeanneZeck: There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. But it seems that people of faith often disagree in a very unholy way. We do not hear each other and we judge someone's intelligence, motives and worst of all, someone's love of God.

Thanks for the reminder that we are all made in the image of God. How we respond and speak to other human beings reflects our faith more than where we stand on an issue.


JohnNLizP: @LeanneZeck said "How we respond and speak to other human beings reflects our faith more than where we stand on an issue."

Really? Do you have anything to back up this statement? or does it just feel right?


LeanneZeck: @JohnNLizP Jesus said people would know we are his disciples by our love not by where we stand on some social issue. I believe that is Scripture. The beatitudes are more about our character instead of where we stand on issues. The teaching on the letter of the law versus the Spirit of the Law. Joseph was considered righteous not because he followed the letter of the law and stood on the side of the law but instead had mercy. Have the same mind that Christ had, who laid down his rights and was obedient to death. Just a few of the places I have been challenged by God to be more Christ like in responding rather than just quoting scriptures at someone ;)

Perhaps I missed somewhere in Scripture where God says where we stand on issues matters more than how we respond? You could probably enlighten me on that though.


JohnNLizP: @LeanneZeck I would be glad to assist. "They will know we are Christians by our Love" is a song lyric. Jesus actually said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35) In this passage He is commanding the Disciples (His followers) to love each other, and be unified. He doesn’t say “never offend people”, In the context of "people knowing you are Christians"... He says Love your Christian brothers and sisters.

As for where we stand on issues... Jesus commanded.. "go and make disciples of all nations... Teaching them to OBEY EVERYTHING I have commanded you." Matt 28:19-20). First, that requires us to know and agree on everything He commanded, and then to tell everyone they need to Obey Him. The Scripture tells us this about Christian Leaders... "They must also be sensible, fair, pure, and self-controlled. They must stick to the true message they were taught, so that their good teaching can help others and correct everyone who opposes it." (Titus 1:8-9).

Not everyone is going to want to hear this.... because being convicted of sin is painful... Listen to what Jesus said about this... "I came to set fire to the earth, and I wish it were already on fire! I am going to be put to a hard test. And I will have to suffer a lot of pain until it is over. Do you think that I came to bring peace to earth? No indeed! I came to make people choose sides.A family of five will be divided, with two of them against the other three. Fathers and sons will turn against one another, and mothers and daughters will do the same." (Luke 12:49-53). What you believe really does matter. Faith in some experience devoid of theological or biblical content–no matter how powerful–is not New Testament Christianity.

In our current culture people think that it does not matter what you believe as long as you have faith. Paul warned Timothy about this... "The Spirit says clearly that in later times some believers will desert the Christian faith. They will follow spirits that deceive, and they will believe the teachings of demons. These people will speak lies disguised as truth." (1 Tim 4: 1-2). Obviously in order to avoid being deceived, you must know the truth. Paul ends the chapter this way... " Be careful about the way you live and about what you teach. Keep on doing this, and you will save not only yourself, but the people who hear you." (1 Tim 4: 16)

I will leave you with more of Paul's words to Timothy "Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths." (2 tim 4: 2-4)

Now that is apologetics in actions. Fantastic!

Tragedy at Christmastime

Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife have three biological sons and three adopted daughters. When Chapman released his second Christmas album, his youngest adopted daughter, Maria, was on the cover. Shortly after the album was completed in the studio, a tragic accident took Maria’s life. This is part of the report from People magazine:

Grammy-winning Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman suffered an unthinkable tragedy Wednesday when his 5-year-old daughter was killed in an accident involving her brother.

Chapman’s youngest daughter, Maria Sue, was hit in the driveway of her family’s Franklin, Tenn., home by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, the Associated Press reports. The brother, whose name was not released, apparently did not see the girl.

Several family members witnessed the accident, according to the AP. Maria Sue later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Laurie Holloway said.


I never really liked the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day—until I heard the story behind it. I have heard that the best poetry and the best music come from intense pain. I think in a lot of cases that is absolutely true, and it certainly rings true for this song.

M

any musicians and writers of poetry will admit that some of their finest work comes when they have experienced a death or a tragedy of some kind, that the writing of poetry has an almost cathartic effect on the writer.

Such is the case of one of the best known and most beloved carols associated with Christmas, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which came from the pen of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) and was written on Christmas Day, 1864.

His had been a tortured life in last few years before that day. On July 11, 1861, his wife Fanny had clipped some long curls from the head of her seven-year-old daughter, Edith, and wanting to save them in an envelope, melted a bar of sealing wax with a candle to seal the envelope.

Fanny Longfellow and two of her sons

Somehow the thin fabric of her clothing caught fire, and she quickly ran to Longfellow’s nearby study for help. He immediately tried to extinguish the flames with a small rug, and when that failed, he threw his arms around Fanny to smother the flames, causing him to sustain serious burns on his face, arms, and hands. His heroic act did not suffice, and Fanny died the next morning of her injuries. Longfellow was unable to even attend the funeral.

Photographs of Longfellow taken or made after the fire usually show him with a full beard, since he was no longer able to shave properly due to the burns and scarring.

The coming of the holiday season in the Longfellow house became a time of grieving for his wife while trying to provide a happy time for the children left at home. It was during Christmas 1862 that he wrote in his journal, “A ‘merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

He had also suffered another disappointment when his oldest son, Charles Appleton “Charley” Longfellow, quietly left their Cambridge, Mass. home, and enlisted in the Union Army much against the wishes of his father.

In mid-March, Longfellow had received word from Charles, saying, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave, but I cannot any longer.” The determined young man continued, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”

He was 17 years old and went to Capt. W. H. McCartney, who was in charge of Battery A of the 1st Mass. Artillery, asking to be allowed to enlist. McCartney knew the boy and knew he did not have his father’s permission, so he contacted the senior Longfellow to see if he could obtain it on his behalf. Longfellow conceded and acceded to the request.

Charles Longfellow

It was only a few months later that Charley came down with typhoid fever and malaria and was sent home to recover, not rejoining his unit until August 15, 1863.

Following the Gettysburg battle, which Charley had fortunately missed, the conflict made its way into Virginia, and it was at the Battle of New Hope Church, in Orange, VA., part of the Mine Run Campaign, that the young Lt. Longfellow sustained injuries, which seriously disabled him. He was hit in the shoulder and the ricocheting bullet took out some portions of several vertebrae. It was reported that he missed being paralyzed by less than one inch. Longfellow traveled to where his injured son was hospitalized and brought him home to Cambridge to recover.

The war for Charley was over.

And so at Christmas of 1864, a reflective and sad poet sat down and began to write the beautiful words that we sing each Christmas:

December 19, 2013

Body evolution - Photoshop - and St. Nick

Y

ou gotta love Photoshop! And I do!

A while ago a woman posted a video of a model’s photo shoot and the resultant pictures after they had been manipulated in Photoshop. It was a fascinating process to see. And that video is here, for reference purposes.

People can never leave well enough alone. So an ad agency decided to take this video a little bit further... just in time for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Greetings from Chuck

I must admit, when Jean Claude Van Damme did the split between two trucks Volvo commercial (see video to the right), I was pretty amazed. After all, I had always known that Jean Claude Van Damme was no big deal. The real tough guy has always been Chuck Norris. So I knew that although Van Damme might be creative, if Chuck Norris ever did the same stunt, he’d probably be doing it on wild boars or whales or something.

Well... I was wrong. Chuck Norris doesn’t ride on the backs of wild boars—that would be far too cliché.

Chuck Norris doesn’t ride on the backs of whales—a fall into the water is not scary at all.

Chuck Norris must ride and present his Merry Christmas greeting at the same time, so everyone can see how simple this all is for him. And Chuck Norris must ride on...

December 18, 2013

One more week - ringing the bells of Christmas

M

y sister discovered jazz when we were still in high school. There was something about jazz, fusion, big band, and funk that just seemed to speak to us. She and I have had a deep love for jazz ever since.

A few years later I discovered Larry Carlton, a phenomenal jazz and blues guitarist. Larry Carlton has produced a wealth of great jazz and blues albums and has alternated between electric and acoustic on each album for many years. As I collected these albums I began to notice that he includes a hymn or other worship-related piece on almost every album. So when he released his Christmas album I was excited to hear it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s now one of my favorite Christmas albums.

Here’s “Ringing the Bells of Christmas” by Larry Carlton.

P.S. Only one week until Christmas Day!

December 16, 2013

Stille Nacht -

C

hristmas has always meant peace to me. Peace on earth, to men of good will. And as the years go by and I see less and less peace, I find myself longing for the peace that passes all understanding. Even so, come quickly, Lord!

From joyfulheart.com, some thoughts on why this Christmas carol has become so popular.

Why Is "Silent Night" So Popular?

Why has "Silent Night" become our most beloved carol? Is it the words—tender, intimate, gentle? Or the tune—so peaceful, so memorable, so easy to play or pick out with one hand on the piano?

It is not a joyous, fast-paced carol like Handel's "Joy to the World" or theologically-rich like Charles Wesley's "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Nor does it have a complex tune like "Angels We Have Heard on High."

"Silent Night" is quiet and reflective, calling us to meditate on the scene. It is the ambience conveyed by both the gentle words and melody that create from this carol an oasis of peace.

"All is calm, all is bright."

It calls us to dwell on the Madonna and Child—

"'Round yon Virgin, mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace."

You feel as the "shepherds quake at the sight." You can imagine as "heavenly hosts sing Alleluia." And you begin to sing "Alleluia to the King" right along with them.

Rays of backlit brilliance highlight many a religious painting, but here the picture of light is painted in words:

"Glories stream from heaven afar...."

"Son of God, love's pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face...."

Just Who is in this manger? What is the significance of this birth? What is Christmas about — really? Perhaps most of all, "Silent Night" is beloved because it reminds us in its simple, but exceedingly clear way, the truth behind it all — the truth that changes everything:

"Christ, the Savior is born!"

Sing it again this Christmas and let its gentle peace wash over you and its bold assertion renew your soul.

"Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!
"Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!"

December 15, 2013

Singin' Sweet Home Alabama all summer long!

Southern Rock... youth... warm weather... Ah! the memories!

In this video, the awesome Kid Rock is playing to an upscale audience where everyone is obviously into the concert and having a good time. But... when he introduces his guests in the middle of the song the audience goes nuts with excitement.

Watch this video fullscreen... with the volume cranked! Turn it up!

Pentatonix Christmas!

P

entatonix is an incredible acapella group from Texas. I love it when young people perform such great music. And I really love this group. Here is a collection of their Christmas videos ordered with my favorites first.

Little Drummer Boy

Carol of the Bells

Angels We Have Heard on High

Silent Night & Mistletoe

The actual singing begins at around the 3:00 mark.

December 14, 2013

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring / Joy to the World

I love the flash mob idea; it seems like such an altruistic and giving and I think our society needs a lot more of that sort of behavior.

This flash mob is actually the United States Air Force Band and they are at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. I absolutely love this!

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring / Joy to the World

And... because I love this concept so much... here’s another one:

Hallelujah Chorus

December 13, 2013

Glennon Doyle Melton

I

was always taught to put on a bright face... to say, “I’m doing fine” and to make sure the world never knew who I was. And now I am in my 50s. I am lost. I don’t know where to turn. I have zero friends. I am a failure.

Georgia O’Keefe
Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant... there is no such thing! Making the unknown known is what is important.

So what do I do?

Tonight... as I was wallowing in pity... I turned to one of my pinnacles of success and stability, TED Talks.

And I found Glennon Doyle Melton... a woman not much different than I, but much further down the road to recovery.

Whatever you’re going through... whoever you are... please, please... please listen to Glennon. Give this some thought. And let’s move forward into a better world.

Together

Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas, Darling

M

y favorite music is Christmas music. And my favorite Christmas album of all time is the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait.” But every Christmas I get a twinge of sadness when I hear Karen’s beautiful voice and remember that she is no longer with us.

I’m sure she’s singing away with the angel choirs in heaven today.

December 11, 2013

All I want for Christmas...

W

hat do you get when you put Jimmy Fallon (& company) and Mariah Carey in a room full of kindergarten music instruments? I guess you get this fun video of All I Want For Christmas (Is You)!

December 10, 2013

O Holy Night

W

hen I was in high school I played trumpet in the high school orchestra. My music teacher and orchestra conductor was Mrs. Rodgers, an outstanding cellist and composer/arranger. The Rodgers were a delightful family of four, having two daughters. Their daughter Lori has become something of a sensation as an incredible violinist.

Any of you who have ever tried playing the violin probably know what a difficult instrument it is. And once the budding violinist gets past the screeching sounds typical of newbies, there is still so far to go. Very few ever make it to the point where they can move people emotionally, but no class of instruments can move the emotions like strings. My favorite is cello... oh, how I love cello! But the violin comes in a close second. And Lori is a master.

And... a very cool sidenote... her husband is an outstanding photographer. Photography and music... how could a couple like that go wrong?

Here is my friend from days long ago playing the opening to a Singing Trees Christmas presentation. O, Holy Night... Lori Jean Smith:

And, some pictures Tim Smith has taken during Lori’s concerts (and other stuff):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 09, 2013

No War on Christmas?

I

have been hesitant to get into the weeds of the culture wars. But each Christmas I see new reasons to defend the traditional celebration of Christmas and point out the hypocrisy and falsehood in the liberal attack on Christianity at Christmastime.

Many people on the so-called “political right,” such as Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly, have pointed out evidence of the “war on Christmas.” Then comes the response from the defenders of all things evil, the American left, by such notables as Jon Stewart, to say that there is no such war on Christmas. In stereotypical liberal form, these folks mock the conservative side and destroy staw men, but they give no evidence, no rebuttal, no proof of their statements—only mockery and bluster.

And while there has not been an organized battle plan to attack Christmas, the powers of political correctness have been leveraged heavily to dissuade the public from mentioning Christmas at all. This is clearly displayed in our general society, as evidenced by this legitimately cute video from Disney’s Victoria Justice and Max Schneider. Give a listen to Holiday Medley:

I’m sure you heard the lyric change from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays. And maybe that’s okay because, as we are perpetually reminded by the liberals, many different holidays are celebrated at this time. After all, there’s Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, World AIDS Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve, and even Festivus (for the rest of us). So to honor all of those multi-cultural holidays that occur the same month as Christmas we are advised to say happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

But if we are actually talking only about Christmas, we should say Merry Christmas, shouldn’t we? And if we don’t say that, isn’t that evidence that there is an actual “war on Christmas” and we are falling victim to that war?

So let’s consider this Holiday Medley. Here are the songs in the medley:

  1. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
  2. Baby, It’s Cold Outside
  3. Santa Baby
  4. Last Christmas
  5. Sleigh Ride
  6. The Christmas Song, reprise, but with “Merry Christmas” changed to “Happy Holidays”

With one exception, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, every single song in that list is a Christmas song, not a generic holiday song. And Baby, It’s Cold Outside has been a traditional Christmas favorite for many generations. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this song is not a popular one during December in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or Turkey. So, if it is not, it is a Christmas song as well. And yet, at the end of the medley, these two young singers changed the words, “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.”

I like this video. And I understand what pushed these two young people into this mold. It is, without a doubt, the war on Christmas.

Emmanuel – God is with us!

C

hristmas is almost here. And it is my favorite time of year. I confess to listening to Christmas music all year long.

And now that Christmas is just about three weeks away, it’s time to open up the shutters and let the music ring out to the rest of the world. It’s Christmastime! And Christianity has one glaring difference from all other religions—our God came to dwell among us. And he came to do that so that he could die for us because without the death of Jesus, we could not have a relationship with God. And this is what Christmas is all about.

O come! O come, Emmanuel... God, with us.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - by John Mason Neale

London-born John Mason Neale (1818–1866) was a scholar, hymn writer and co-founder of the Society of Saint Margaret, an order within the Anglican Church dedicated to nursing the sick.

Throughout his dedicated Christian life, John was both revered and persecuted for his desire to bring a unity of ideas between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. He was best known for his hymn writing, and his translations of existing hymns from Latin, Greek, Syrian and Russian, into English.

Neale’s original hymns include Good King Wenceslas and Good Christian Men Rejoice. Among his translated hymns is the beautiful O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, which he adapted from a Latin text. The haunting melody of this song still hints of its Gregorian chant origin.

December 08, 2013

The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

I

recently discovered Lifehack, a web site with a wealth of unique, creative, and diverse how-to articles. I have added this web site to my iPad Flipboard magazine and check the new articles at least two to three times a week. As I write this post, Lifehack has these articles (among others) listed on its main page:

I have bookmarked www.lifehack.org and loaded it into my iPad’s digital magazine. But I found the following article a couple days ago and thought I should share it.

There are a lot of discussions going around about what actually makes people happy. In fact, in the last two decades, an entirely new field has been created around this question. We refer to this new area of psychology as “Positive Psychology.”

While the scientific world is discovering the many different factors which go into determining how happy a person will be, throughout history we have been told by the greatest philosophers and religious leaders what to avoid in order to be happy. I’ve compiled what I consider the deadliest attacks on our happiness. These “sins” are so deadly that we often don’t notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror.

1. Comparing yourself to others

“Comparison is the death of joy.”
Thank you, Mark Twain, for starting our list today.

He’s absolutely right. Whenever you begin to size yourself based on what you see others achieving, you have no choice but to feel unhappy. Either you will feel guilty because you see those less fortunate struggling while you live in relative comfort, or you will feel inadequate because others seem to be better off than you are. It’s kind of a lose/lose scenario.

Instead, focus on making yourself a little better every day.

2. Talking about your dreams instead of going to work on them

“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.”
—Nicolas de Chamfort

This brilliant French playwright knew a truth which eludes many to this day: acting will always make you happier than speaking.

Although it is a great idea to talk about your passions and dreams, if all you are doing is talking, you will find yourself depressed in a very short time. In fact, you will begin to feel like a fraud. You will start to question if you will ever achieve these dreams you speak about, and slowly you will stop speaking about them.

The best way to cure this is to start working on your dreams, while you talk about them. I like to say something to the effect of “I’m building up my readership to become an international best-seller. Right now I’m spending some time building up a loyal fan base on Twitter.” Do you see what I did there? I made a large statement about my end goal, as well as what my current action step is. I may not be able to claim to be a best-seller yet, but I can start to build a fan base on Twitter. By following up my words with actions, I’ll avoid feeling like a fraud.

3. Listening to people with nothing positive to say

“A complainer is like a Death Eater because there’s a suction of negative energy.”
—Barbara Corcoran

Who doesn’t love a good Harry Potter reference? All fictional character allusions aside, you would be much better off taking this wisdom to heart.

Negative people are a drain on you. It’s impossible to become immune to someone complaining in your presence—even when you diligently ignore them, simply being in the same room with someone spouting negatives will affect your mood. The only way to really combat negative people is to avoid them. It is nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, and even if you succeed for the moment, the chances are high your former sour-puss friend will go back to his/her old ways in short order. The best you can do is go on about your business and stay around positive people.

4. Focusing on the news

“The bad news is that only the bad people reach the news, because they are noisier.”
—Javier Bardem

When was the last time you finished watching the news and felt good about the world? I don’t believe this has ever happened to me.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey points out that the majority of successful people spend very little time watching the news. The primary reason behind this is that we really can do nothing about what we are watching, which leads us to feelings of helplessness and negativity. By focusing so much on problems in other parts of the world, we forget how much good we can do in our local communities.

Instead of worrying what is happening on Capitol Hill, why not focus on what you can do in your neighborhood? Are there local kids you can mentor? Can you deliver meals to the elderly? Perhaps you can organize a neighborhood beautification project, which will help everyone around you. By focusing on what you can influence locally, you will create a much greater impact on the world than by simply watching the world news and then talking to your friends about how bad things are. Plus, you’ll be much happier.

5. Deciding someone else needs to change

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
—Jesus (Matthew 7:3)

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s no denying the wisdom of Jesus.

Have you ever thought about how much better your life would be if your spouse/coworker/child would just fix themselves(or let you fix them)? You’re not alone. As we can see, this phenomenon has existed for at least 2,000 years, and for much longer, I would wager.

It’s so easy to look at someone else and see exactly what they are doing wrong; the difficult thing is to look at ourselves and see how we can improve instead. As I draw closer to the date of my own wedding, I find myself repeating a simple prayer: “God, please help me be the husband I tell her I am.” I know I don’t always live up to my own expectations of others, but the best place to work is myself.

Instead of thinking about how others can improve, ferret out your own shortcomings and go to work on them. Trust me, you have plenty of work on yourself to keep you too busy to correct others.

6. Thinking “happiness” is a destination you can reach

“Joy has nothing to do with material things, or with man’s outward circumstance…A man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched, and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.”
—William Barclay

Many people walk around saying things like “I will be happy when I get my house paid off” “I’ll be happy when we are finally married” or sometimes “I’ll be happy when we’re finally divorced.” That last one stings a little, but I have had clients tell me that.

You may have the idea that once you accomplish a goal, you will be happy. I’m sorry to tell you, this will never be the case. Whenever you set out to achieve something and base your happiness on that achievement, you have set yourself up for disappointment.

History is full of people who scrambled madly for money, power, fame, or any other accolade or possession we can think of, only to finally achieve their goal and discover a deep sense of disappointment. The wisest people realize that happiness is only achieved during our journey, not at the end.

Discover what makes you happy on a daily basis and create goals that line up with those activities. If your greatest happiness comes from teaching and working with children, setting a goal to be CEO of your company doesn’t really line up. You might eventually make CEO, but you won’t feel happy about it; a better goal would be to create a lifestyle business which allows you to teach and work with children as often as you like. Maybe you will make less money, but trading money for true happiness is always a good trade.

7. Forgetting to say “thank you”

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
—Cynthia Ozick

This last sin is probably the most commonly committed. Regardless of what your situation is right now, there are things you should be grateful for.

Do you have someone who loves you? When was the last time you told them how much you appreciate their love? Do you have a job and receive an income? When was the last time you thanked your boss or company president for providing you this opportunity?

Let’s say you are completely alone, broke, and in poor health; you can still read the words written in this post. Have you thought about how lucky you are someone took the time to teach you how to read, and now you have the opportunity to learn and better yourself because of that gift? Forgetting to stop and say thank you for the blessings you receive keeps you from receiving more blessings. Worse, the blessing you do receive won’t be recognized because you have learned to focus on what you lack, instead of what you have.

Take a small notepad with you throughout the day and write down any little thing you can think of to be grateful for. I promise you, within 24 hours, you will feel happier than you have in years.


Avoid these sins like the plague, and you will be well on your way to a very happy life.

Blogheader - December 8, 2013

My new Camaro is freezing out in the driveway with about two inches of snow on top right now. So I thought I’d post a picture from when it was a bit warmer out. I’m not sure why the cat liked the car so much.

December 05, 2013

Santa Claus is on his way

I’m getting in the Christmas spirit! I really love Christmas!

 

The renter’s curse

W
e have been renters for most of the time we have been married. It wasn’t really a choice—just the way it worked out. And we have rented a wide range of residences—including apartments, duplexes, and single-family homes.

Our house

Our current house was built in 1940 and has wonderful charm and a great view of Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah Mountains.

But, like all residential rental units, this house is the product of the owner’s decisions.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just give a small snapshot of rental life... a snapshot covering this past week—beginning the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and running through today, one week after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday evening, after commuting home, I picked up my son from the restaurant where my wife works and then drove home. As we walked through the door we both smelled propane. Our furnace runs on propane and the only time you can actually smell the gas is when the tank runs so low that the pilot light goes out. So I knew we had no heat and that due to the Thanksgiving holiday we would not be getting a propane delivery until the following Monday. And we were, at that moment, getting the first snowflakes of the season. Fortunately, we have a few space heaters.

Wednesday morning I noticed that the water temperature in the shower was not quite as hot as usual. I thought, “It must be very cold out to cool our indoor water this much.” When my wife took her shower, the water was actually not warm at all. And by early afternoon, it was ice cold.

My wife checked the breaker and found it tripped, but could not reengage it. So I went down to the cellar to take a look. I was able to reengage the breaker and the water warmed up a slight bit... but then began cooling again. By Wednesday evening it was clear that we have no hot water, even when the breaker was engaged.

Due to the holiday, we struggled through the next few days, but reported the problem with the water heater first thing Monday morning. Without going into great detail about the next few days, it is now 2:00 pm on Thursday and we finally have a new water heater that is, hopefully, in the process of heating the water right now. Our neighbors will be very pleased to find out that we are, once again, able to take showers.

Old houses, rental units, contractors... It’s a wonderful life!

December 04, 2013

Blogheader - December 4, 2013

It’s been a long time since I posted anything to this blog. I should probably get back to it. So... I’ll begin by changing the header.

I took this photo at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. I loved this girl’s shirt with the camera and the Smile on it, so I asked her to pose for me. She very cheerfully struck a pose and I took the picture. But... it was too closeup to allow the for the blog header cropping to show her face and the t-shirt. So... here’s the full picture:

August 06, 2013

Random Intentional acts of goodness

S

ometimes we need a boost to get us through the difficult times—just a small sparkle of hope, a small glimmer of kindness—to remind us that there is still good in the world. And if I let myself get too focused on the bad things going on around me, I just might miss those small glimmers.

But sometimes the glimmer isn’t just a glimmer. Sometimes the small spark of a glimmer builds into a huge explosion that captures everyone’s attention. And this is just such a story.

Yesterday a Wisconsin family visited the Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park to enjoy a baseball game—complete with their three young children. And the act of kindness shown to them at that game is so heartwarming the story has been on the news, picked up on internet news radio, and the mom’s blog post [The Mystery Man at Miller Park] about what happened has gone viral. The story is so good and so heartwarming, I will say no more about it.

If you would like to have your faith in humanity restored, please go to the Arena Five blog and read the story. It will warm your heart!

July 21, 2013

Daguerreotype photography

P

hotography has experienced many changes as it has evolved from Thomas Wedgwood’s early experimental captures of light and shadow in 1790 into today’s high-speed advanced digital capture.

In 1826, Joseph-Nicephore Niépce captured a picture of the street from his window. That exposure took eight hours to capture and is considered the earliest example of an actual photographic image.

Niépce became friends with an artist named Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre. This artist grew very interested in photographic capture and by the time of Niépce’s death in 1833, Daguerre had learned quite a lot from his friend. By 1837 Daguerre had figured out a method by which images could be captured and produced consistently. This process known as the Daguerrotype consisted of treating silver-plated copper sheets with iodine to make them sensitive to light, then exposing them in a camera and “developing” the images with warm mercury vapor. This process allowed for the widespread production of photographs.

Now that almost everyone carries a high resolution camera with them in the form of a cell phone, these historic things are being forgotten through the ease of digital photography. But some hearty souls are helping to keep this history alive. One such artist is Dan Carrillo:

July 11, 2013

Any questions?

July 07, 2013

Blog header - July 7, 2013

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.

July 01, 2013

A message from Pastor Gelina

FYI - for context

For those who are unaware of the context of this post: Dale City teacher charged with raping student

I am posting this private email from my father to help answer some of the questions that have arisen around the recent news of Chuck Stallard’s arrest. May God bring healing and justice to this situation.

Please pray for both the perpetrator and the victim(s). And may the name of Christ be glorified always.

Dear Rich,

Thanks for contacting us this morning to alert us about Brother Stallard's arrest.

Both of us are deeply distressed and disturbed by this news. He was a dear brother and a well respected teacher. But to tolerate such sin is to invite the wrath of God upon our school and the entire church assembly. Let's pray for him and pray much for his victims.

As you know, we were already in South Africa when this broke open. We had resigned in 1984 and left for the field in 1986. It was only in 1990 when we learned that he was fired because of his inappropriate behavior. We heard nothing more until this morning when you told us that this began in the days of my leadership at Evangel Baptist Church. I can assure you that had we known that this was happening during my tenure, I would have stopped it immediately. God frowns on any such evil. What is now known goes far beyond anything I had heard or imagined. Oh, how sad!

God bless!

Dad (and Mother as well)

Please remember that this is a personal email from my father to me after I had informed him of the situation. He was as shocked and taken by surprise as many of us in this situation and would probably like to address things much more deeply if he knew more details and had the proper forum to do so.

Under my father’s administration of Evangel Christian School, the school was fully compliant with local, state, and federal laws and pedophilia would not have been swept under the rug.

May 17, 2013

Blog header - May 17, 2013

This image has a wistful look that I really love. In these crazy days when the world seems to be encroaching in ways it never has before, this image seems so peaceful and happy.

May 12, 2013

Blogheader - May 12, 2013

I love the expression on this young girl’s face. I have always been particularly interested in spontaneous portraiture and candid photography. Kids are among my favorite impromptu models.

May 10, 2013

Mmm Bop!

It’s Friday and we need some music and some comic relief. Maybe we should combine them. Here’s Hanson:

May 09, 2013

Psalm 73

God Is My Strength and Portion Forever

A Psalm of Asaph.

  1. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
  2. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
  3. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
  4. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
  5. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
  6. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
  7. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
  8. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
  9. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
  10. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
  11. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
  12. Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
  13. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
  14. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
  15. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
  16. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
  17. until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
  18. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
  19. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
  20. Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
  21. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
  22. I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
  23. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
  24. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
  25. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
  26. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength£ of my heart and my portion forever.
  27. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
  28. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

May 08, 2013

Hump Day - Some music to get you through

Gravity Storm ... this one will get you through tonight into Thursday

 

And my all-time favorite from Steve Vai—“Tender Surrender”. This one will get you through the rest of the week and into the weekend. Just listen to it over and over and over!

May 05, 2013

Glenn Beck's call to stand against tyranny

G

lenn Beck has become a hero to those of us who stand against tyranny. That would make him a favorite of our founding fathers as well. Unfortunately, many years of propaganda and misinformation from our public schools and a culture that has gone completely nuts have produced a terribly misinformed electorate. And this lack of understanding has, in turn, produced the current administration—the most anti-American and anti-Christian administration this nation has ever seen. I pray that God allows us another chance to recover.

But recovery will be difficult. And it will require those of us who know and understand American history to take a very strong stand.

Glenn Beck’s address to the members of the NRA this weekend touched on one aspect of the stand we must take. May God forgive us. May God intervene and heal our land.

Blog Header - May 5, 2013

I haven’t been posting my blog header photos for quite a while. And... I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I used to a few years ago. But I decided to post this header photo that has been up for the past few weeks. I am particularly fond of this one, even though I did not take this beautiful portrait.

My interest in angels began about five years ago when I began photographing tombstone angels in graveyards. There is something fascinating about the angels in graveyards. They seem to carry a tremendous amount of emotion. Some are sad... some are young and playful... some are introspective... some are flamboyant. There's a tremendous amount of variety, but so many of them are beautiful.

I’ve even considered doing some angel photography myself and creating a series of photographs of angels. I’d love to get input on this concept as I work toward a good focus in my mind about what I’m trying to accomplish with this series. But, for now... this photo is one of quite a few I have collected for inspiration.

May 01, 2013

Everyday brilliance

I
have noticed recently that when I focus on the negative stories in the news or the things in my own life that I perceive as negative, my quality of life drops precipitously. I have also noticed that when I focus on the positive stories and the good things... the blessings God has given me... the beauty of nature... the brilliance of my fellow man, my attitude and my quality of life skyrocket.

Perhaps it’s best to follow God’s guidance on this:

Philippians 4:8
...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

And so, I commend to you the following:

April 30, 2013

Virtual Choir - from TED Talks

M
usic! I don’t know what it is about music, but it reaches my soul. Life without music is death. Music inspires me. Music feeds me. Music makes me want to live!

And some music blow my mind... some music, such as this:

April 22, 2013

Down fell an angel renegade

F
rom his Wikipedia bio:
Michael Hedges:

In late 1997, Hedges died at the age of 43 in a car accident along State Route 128 in Mendocino County, near Boonville (about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of San Francisco). According to his manager Hilleary Burgess, he was driving home from San Francisco International Airport after a Thanksgiving visit to a girlfriend in Long Island, New York. His car apparently skidded off a rain-slicked S-curve and down a 120-foot cliff. Hedges was thrown from his car and appeared to have died nearly instantly. His body was found a few days afterward. After his death, his record Oracle won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Hedges' unfinished last recordings were brought to completion in the album Torched, with the help of his former manager Hilleary Burgess and friends David Crosby and Graham Nash.

And this is how this world lost in incredible talent of Michael Hedges who takes me to worlds away. He takes away the cares and scares of this world and ushers me into a land of music... the Fantasy genre of life.

Thank you, Michael, for your music.

The song posted at the top is from the album Torched, produced posthumously. Spring Buds...