Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up

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I have one apple tree, but it is prolific and drops more apples than I can keep up with. They are usually picked up, placed in a bucket and composted. Last August, I was fascinated by the flies, being attracted to a bucket of the fermenting apples.

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While following a fly deeper into the bucket, I saw antennae emerging from a leaf among the apples.

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Finally, the grasshopper emerged for a better look.

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Not sure if it was the same one from the apple bucket, but a month later, I found this guy sunning himself on the underneath side of our deck steps.

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Close Up.”

Preparing to See the “Ivory Palaces”

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Saying goodbye to two of the hospice nursing team members as she “graduated” in March.

I sit in a hospice family room this afternoon, hearing the raspy breathing of my mother in the other room. We’ve already been through this once when back in January she was placed in hospice for palliative care because of uncontrollable seizure activity. After a two month stay, she improved enough to “graduate” to assisted living.

In one way this was a step-down from her earlier independent living, but it was two steps-up from hospice. She adjusted well, but the seizure activity began again, resulting in a nursing home placement for 10 days. She showed some improvement with rehab but with another round of seizure episodes, she was ready to return to hospice for tender loving care, almost exactly three months from her previous discharge.

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“Bunny” holding #31 of 32 great-grandkids

We were grateful for those three months. It allowed us to celebrate her 95th birthday (see Celebrating the Gift of Our Matriarch); she made new friends and caught up with a few old ones, who had moved from her retirement apartment to assisted living; and, she got to meet her newest great-grandchildren, my daughter’s twins. Additionally, she continued to serve the Lord through her witness of faith in church and community. I am on a rotation of ministers who go to the nursing homes, and though I usually accompany myself on the guitar when we sing hymns, she played the organ for me at assisted living while she was a resident. It was nice to have her play for me one last time.

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The “Proposal” recreated!

Mom was a music teacher. A graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa, her first teaching assignment was in Seymour Iowa, where she taught music. It was there she met my dad, who taught business classes in the high school. He joined the Navy in 1943, and they were soon married. She never taught school after that, having begun to raise a family of five, four daughters and a son. However, her music training was not wasted as she sang in church choirs and ensembles and played piano and organ in a several churches.

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Mom and “Chucky Baby” (not to be confused with Chucky’s baby)

Additionally, she supplemented the family income by giving private piano and voice lessons in our home for a number of years. Almost every day, I came home from elementary school to hear the sound of inexperienced pianists playing their scales and struggling through simple songs.

Her playing and singing, however, were exceptional. I remember lying under the baby grand piano while she played, watching the action of the pedal as it moved the dampers up and down and letting the melodies cascade down from the sound board onto my ears. There were other times when I listened from my room to her rehearsals with my sisters, who formed a gospel quartet and occasionally sang at the local V.A. hospital chapel services on Sunday mornings. She even accompanied me as a child, though never for public consumption as I recall. My earliest recollection was at age 5, singing the chorus of the ragtime love song, “O, You Beautiful Doll”:

Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
Let me put my arms about you,
I could never live without you;
Oh! you beautiful doll, You great big beautiful doll!
If you ever leave me how my heart will ache,
I want to hug you but I fear you’d break
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Oh, you beautiful doll!

I’m sure I would have been a YouTube sensation if it had been around in 1961.

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“Bunny” giving a great-granddaughter a piano lesson.

As my voice matured, she encouraged me to sing a few songs at church with her as my accompanist. One of those songs was on my mind as I awoke this morning after spending the night close to her bed at the hospice house – “Ivory Palaces.” Before singing it with her

I had never heard the song, but it became a favorite. The writer, Henry Barraclough, wrote this song after hearing a sermon on Psalm 45, a royal wedding song with a secondary application to the Messiah. As with most hymns, there is a progression – a story told. The song speaks of the glorious nature of Christ, but acknowledges the suffering He bore on the cross because of humanity’s sin. However, the new life in Christ brings salvation from sin’s bondage and leads to an everlasting presence before the Jesus Christ the Lord. The last stanza speaks of that ultimate hope and reward for the believer. These are the words to which I awoke and hope for my mother’s imminent awareness:

In garments glorious He will come,
To open wide the door;
And I shall enter my heav’nly home,
To dwell forevermore.
Out of the ivory palaces, Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love Made my Savior go.

And so life goes. We prepare for the death of our “great big beautiful doll” of a mother, for whom our hearts will ache when she leaves. However, we know that we will sing together with her again as we look forward to the fulfillment of our hope in Christ Jesus and His promise of eternal life.

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.

1 John 3:2-3 (HCSB*)


*Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half

These “half and half” pictures were taken on our annual trip to Florida last October. Returning from a day excursion to see my sister on the Alabama Gulf coast, I passed this cotton field with cottony clouds overhead.

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Back on the Florida beach the next day, we found that the coastal dune lake, Alligator Lake, had breached the dune and was emptying into the Gulf. Its brackish water provided a real contrast with the clear Gulf water.

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That evening, our last vacation sunset provided a beautiful contrast between sky and sea.

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For more examples of “half and half” click HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

When my wife and I were married almost 38 years ago, we had a jeweler place diamonds from her grandmother’s ring in both of our wedding bands. Believing that Christ was to be the central part of our relationship as husband and wife, we chose to have the symbol of his sacrificial love – the cross – as a constant reminder of the type of love we should have for one another.

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Because I lost my band about 25 years into our marriage, I wear what we felt was a suitable replacement; a band that has three crosses and diamond chips. Though we now wear different styles of bands, the common symbol of the cross serves as a reminder of God’s significant role in our lives as individuals and as a couple.

“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,” and He also said: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one fleshSo they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”    Matthew 19:4-6 (HCSB)

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Symbol.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: ROY G. BIV (II)

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I didn’t plan to submit another post this week, but it is not often that you have the opportunity to view the rainbow of the night. When it was reported yesterday that there was a high probability that the Aurora Borealis would be visible early this morning, I was determined to stay up, travel a few miles north to get away from light pollution, and try capturing this rare summer sight in southern Iowa.

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This is only the fourth time I’ve seen the Northern Lights. The previous times have been during the winter and the hues were visible to the naked eye. This morning I could see what looked like clouds rising vertically on the northern horizon. It was only after a 30 second exposure that the colors became visible.

While I was waiting on each shot to complete, I was also watching the southern sky as a thunderstorm was lighting up the sky about 100 miles away in Missouri. First time I’ve seen Northern Light and Southern Light on the same night.

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “ROY G. BIV.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: ROY G. BIV

Our kitchen window faces east, and so the morning sun passes through both a cut glass piece my sister made, as well as an ornament with prisms. A sunny morning always results in rainbows on the walls and cabinets. wpid-img_20150620_094155.jpgThis morning, I used my Moto X phone to capture the light emanating from the prism. Didn’t capture the entire spectrum of Mr. ROY G. BIV, but five of the seven were captured.

Anytime I see a prism through which light waves pass, breaking apart the beautiful colors,  I’m reminded of a conference I attended with a former seminary professor, the late T.W. Hunt. He told of a dream he had in 1973. In the dream, Jesus took him to “deep space” (recounted in the book, The Hope of Glory: Seeing the World from Heaven’s View.) Dr. Hunt, who usually dreamed in black and white, was immediately aware of the vivid nature of his dream, witnessing beauty beyond anything he had previously experienced in sight and sound (he was a professor of music); his senses engulfed in pure pleasure. However, the most captivating feature of all were the eyes of Jesus; eyes that emitted the most powerful and yet most tender love he could ever imagine.

Somehow Jesus’ eyes fulfilled every need I had ever experienced in my life. All my previous needs would never be as essential as I thought they were. I realized I had never wanted anything but Him, and I have never wanted anything else since. At that moment, He seemed to be fulfilling every ambition, every desire, every need I have ever had – just Him in His incomparable, transcendent love.[1]

Unfortunately, in his awakened state, the vividness of the colors he beheld dissipated within 30 minutes. He longed to see those colors again, God’s temporary gift of “unusual senses.” However, what never faded were the penetrating eyes of Jesus, a love that “overwhelmed me, captured me, and changed my life forever.” The same love that motivated Jesus to go to His death on the cross, therefore, would motivate Hunt to do whatever He asked.

After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was set there in heaven. One was seated on the throne, and the One seated looked like jasper and carnelian stone. A rainbow that looked like an emerald surrounded the throne. Revelation 4:1-3 (HCSB*)

Knowing that Dr. Hunt is now experiencing that beauty beyond comprehension, I look forward to being with him and my other loved ones who have trusted in Christ. But, more importantly, I can’t wait to look into those eyes of my Savior and Lord. I hope to join you there.

Check out these other examples of ROY G. BIV.

1 T.W. Hunt and Melana Hunt Munroe, The Hope of Glory: Seeing the World from Heaven’s View, NavPress, 2013. (Kindle Version, Chapter 4, Location 1157). *Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Off-Season 2

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This little Boyds Bears & Friends Folkstone ‘Windy with Book’ figurine sits atop the piano, somehow over looked when all the other snowmen were being packed away after winter. With temps above freezing, the little snowwoman must practice the power of positive thinking as it reads “The Book of Frosty” and the message “Thou shalt not melt.”

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Off-Season

October is technically off-season for tourism on the Florida panhandle, but it is the best time to be there to avoid the crowds and still have warm enough weather to get in the water.
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And…solitary walks on the beach can be truly solitary!IMGP0403 (2)In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid

It’s my birthday! It was a low-key celebration and probably would have been sans candle had not the bakery owner overheard a conversation with a friend who wished me a happy birthday. The yellow candle she added, the celebratory flame and the colorful sprinkles made these drab but delicious chocolate cupcakes a bit more “vivid.”

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This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid.

Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way

I will never again make a trip to the Grand Canyon from Iowa in only two days. There are just too many things to see on the way. However, because we were on a time crunch with last-minute reservations in Grand Canyon Village for Saturday night and a long-standing commitment with friends to go to a concert, we left our home on Thursday afternoon and went a little out of our way, west and north to Sioux City, Iowa. However, it was well worth the detour as we were able to see Crosby, Stills and Nash in concert!

Crosby, Seals, and Nash in concert at the Orpheum, Sioux City, Iowa

Crosby, Seals, and Nash at the Orpheum Theatre, Sioux City, Iowa

We spent the next day driving through rain in Nebraska and Colorado, arriving in Colorado Springs in time to see prom goers arriving at our hotel. However, our unexpectedly upgraded room, far from the revelers, gave us a refreshing night’s sleep after a 12-hour drive. We awakened to watch the sun rise on Pikes Peak.

Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs, Colorado

Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs, Colorado

From there we began our trek across Colorado on Highway 160, passing the Four Corners into Arizona and seeing mountains and natural monuments as we pressed on to arrive at the Grand Canyon that evening.

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Blanca Peak and Mt Lindsey, Hwy 160 near Ft Garland, CO

Coming down from Wolf Creek Pass, we rounded a bend and drove past Treasure Falls. Fortunately, I was able to make a quick u-turn and spend a few minutes enjoying the beauty and the wildlife.

Treasure Falls, San Juan National Forest

You can tell these chipmunks are often fed by humans since this one came right up by my leg as I focused my camera on the hoary comma butterfly.

We missed the turn to the Four Corners (the point at which Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet), but I wouldn’t have seen Chimney Rock if I had followed directions. By the way, I left my GPS at home and was relying on my smart phone that was having battery issues. So, it was not the only detour we took.

Chimney Rock near Cortez, Colorado

Chimney Rock near Cortez, Colorado

Once we made it into Arizona, I took lots of windshield photos, wishing we had time to stop

Red Point Mesa, Dennehotso, AZ

Red Point Mesa, Dennehotso, AZ


Baby Rocks Mesa, located 15 miles from Kayenta.

Baby Rocks Mesa, located 15 miles from Kayenta, Arizona.


Church Rock

Church Rock

Finally, we were on the home stretch, only about 30 miles to the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon. Seeing the Little Colorado Gorge gave us a little twinge of excitement for what was about to appear.

The Little Colorado Gorge east of the Grand Canyon

The Little Colorado Gorge east of the Grand Canyon

Well, those were the sights “on the way.” For a few of our Grand Canyon pictures you can check them out at the Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature.

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”