Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

Humanity is perhaps at its highest when it moves beyond selfish pursuits and comes together to care for the needs of others. Last spring, our church helped coordinate a community-wide “Mobile Hunger Fight” sponsored by Meals from the Heartland of Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Since 2008, the faith-based organization has packaged over 40 million meals for the hungry in Iowa and around the world. With over 150 volunteers from churches, schools, businesses and health-care facilities, the event packaged over 60,000 meals.

It was a joy to see our community come together and make our light shine beyond ourselves. Isaiah 58:10 “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”

Click HERE for more examples of humanity.

To the Twins, 13 Years Later

As the United States pauses today to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack, I re-blog my daughter’s fitting remembrance of twins, who lost their father on that day. May we never forget the sacrifice made that day by ordinary working people, whether in an office or in roles of fire and rescue, and the resulting absence of those lives from their families.

Original post: To the Twins, 13 Years Later.

There are days sketched on my parents’ and grandparents’ minds forever. Pearl Harbor, crowded around the family radio, hearing the unimaginable. The day JFK was shot, my mom’s lunch lady was crying as she went through the line. The day that Martin Luther King was shot and there were curfews and chaos and sadness in their city.

In my mind…it’s this day. 22 years old and fresh to Texas, the second week in grad school, I was walking down the curved marble stairs after my 8 o’clock class. At the bottom, stood a mixture of students and professors, huddled in disbelief, eyes glued to the TV in the foyer. And the Trade Towers were on fire. And the world has never ever been the same; our innocence was lost in a moment.

That next summer, the youth group I was interning for took a trip to New York. There we were, over 100 of us, fumbling with subway cards, walking miles and miles in matching tee shirts (not exactly the way I wanted to experience NYC for the first time), and searching for bathrooms that weren’t to be found. I was feeling embarrassed.Ugh, why are we here? We look like tourists! Until we arrived at Ground Zero. Suddenly, there was reverence. Even among the 7th grade boys.9:11

There’s something about standing on ground where people have fought for life and lost, that sends chills through your bones.

In the summer of 2002, there was a huge makeshift memorial at Ground Zero. A wall, with words from loved ones and total strangers scribbled all over it, US flags, balloons, pictures. There was too much to look at. I read a few messages and then took in the scene in its entirety.

But then something caught my eye that has stayed with me clearly for 13 years: a snap shot of 2 babies in matching high chairs, with the words, “look how big we are now, daddy” written on the picture. And there I stood, and cried for those twins who didn’t have a daddy and their mama who didn’t have a husband anymore. And now, 13 years later, I think of them. They are much bigger now. Maybe they started 7th or 8th grade last week. Maybe they’ve moved to the Midwest, maybe they are still in Manhattan. Maybe they have an adopted dad, who loves them as if they were his all along. I don’t know. But every year I think of them and pray for them. While my false sense of American invincibility was forever rattled about this time on September 11, 2001, they were losing their dad. And now that I have twins growing strong within me, I think of their mother, who lost her best friend, her help, and likely her joy. And I remember. I can’t remember everyone who lost their lives that day. But I can remember the twins and their mama and one daddy who walked into work on a normal September day and never came home.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure

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Getting a jump on the competition, we were airborne.

I would not consider myself a very adventuresome person. I’m not the most athletic person and not much of a thrill seeker. However, I have flown with a friend in his tandem ultralight, a risk my late father, a Navy fighter pilot (from Hellcat props and to Fury jets), admitted he would not take. And, last September, I took my first hot air balloon ride during our town’s annual balloon race.

Perhaps some of my favorite adventures are kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico in the pursuit of a close encounter with dolphins. Three years ago, my sister and I were treated to a sighting of a pod of about ten dolphins close to the shore. With kayaks on the beach, we quickly ventured into the waters to get a closer look. I took my Canon Power Shot, but after taking about a dozen pictures I noticed the display said, “No Card.” I was sick and too far from the beach house to go back and retrieve an SD card, so we just continued watching the dolphins breach, while staying a safe, non-intrusive distance from them.

There are few, non-essential requests that I make of God, but this is one time I prayed that He would let me have another opportunity to see and share a similar experience through the lens of my camera.

The next day, with my camera by the door our beachfront condo and card in slot, the same dolphin pod swam past. Over the next hour, they treated us to the occasional sights and sounds of surfacing (chuffing/exhaling), but also some spectacular jumps, including two breaching simultaneously in what looked like a choreographed SeaWorld show (see thumbnail below – 1:58 on video). Because of the uncertain and sporadic nature of the dolphins’ surfacing, I chose to take shoot video instead of photos. Below is a compilation of that adventure.

Click HERE for other interpretations of this week’s theme – adventure

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dialogue

This week’s challenge allows for different interpretations. This might be a “cause and effect” composition. For my interpretation of the story, display the caption by running the cursor over the photo.

Click HERE for more examples of Frédéric Bever’s challenge:

 With an intuitive approach, I considered the photos’ subject matter and graphic attributes and chose those that resonated with each other, creating cross-dependencies and visual analogies. They’re combinations that tell a story. The resulting dialogue — they story they tell — is the creation of each viewer’s individual perception. It’s your turn now: for this week’s challenge, bring together two of your photos into dialogue. What do they say to each other?  – Frédéric Bever

In reality, the squirrel on the left (not sure it’s the same one on the right) is doing what God has programmed it to do. As I watched it this past Saturday, the squirrel went from one place to another in the yard, placing food away for winter. It, however, binged to prepare for winter. The squirrel on the right looks as though he was well prepared for winter, displaying a fat belly.

Nature has some things to teach us about being ready for times of leanness According to the Bible. Solomon observed:

Go to the ant, you sluggard;consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8 (NIV)

In practical terms, we must prepare materially for the “winter seasons” of life, that are in some ways as cyclical as the seasons. Whether it is in the order of shelter, provisions or finances, we should be ready for those occasional periods of hardship.

But there is the “winter season” of our lives, too, for which we should be spiritual prepared. I just received notice of the death of a friend in my last church. He was advanced in age and had declined physically and mentally. However, he was prepared for this season of life for spiritually, having stored up treasures in heaven that first came by placing his own life in a secure, eternal, loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ (John 14:1-6). Secondly, he had set his affections on those that God has His heart set on…the world. (Acts 1:8)…loving them as God had loved him.

Summer is fading…don’t be caught unprepared!

Vote for Your 3 Favorite Charles Gabriel Songs

A local colleague in ministry and prayer partner, William Richardson, also blogs on WordPress, highlighting the lives of past followers of the Christian faith. If you love Gospel songs, like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” then you know Charles Gabriel. Take a moment to cast your vote for your top three Gabriel favorites. Click this link: Vote for Your 3 Favorite Charles Gabriel Songs.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

Sunsets at the beach are always a family viewing event. Last October, I caught this “last of the day” beach stroll of my sister and her husband, who celebrated fifty years of marriage that year. I love seeing them still go through life hand-in-hand,

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Silhouettes at Sunset

Click HERE for more examples of “silhouette.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Zigzag

I attended a concert last night… the first day of the annual Iowa State Fair. The Newsboys performed in Grandstand, an open-air pavilion built in 1909. Some 900 tons of steel went into the building of this historic venue, including this support beam with a little “zigzag.”

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Steel beam in the Iowa State Fair Grandstand

Click HERE for more example of zigzag.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers – 2

Dammed lakes are containers of water for multiple uses: drinking water, recreation, flood control. McKinley Lake in our town’s primary public park was originally dammed to supply water to the local rail industry in the late 1800’s*, covering over 40 acres. It now serves the sole purpose of public recreation.

Help me out if you can identify the wild flowers that grow on the bank of the lake.

Here are a few more containers I saw on my morning walk.

HERE is a link to how others are interpreting the theme, “containers.”

*History from the McKinley Lake Restoration Project website

“The lake on the west edge of Creston was originally built in 1874 by the C.B. & Q Railroad. The lake was forty-five acres in size and was created by damming up a creek that drained thirty thousand acres of land. The entire land area including the lake was an 80 acre tract.  They built it with the purpose of creating a Holly System of Waterworks. A 7 inch water main brought water directly to the center of town from the Lake. It provided water to the Round Houses and Machine Shops as well as many downtown businesses. A communication system was developed so the yard manager could tell the waterworks supervisor when more water must be sent up. In the winter ice was cut from the lake for railroad use between Burlington and Council Bluffs. All the ice used in Creston was also cut from the lake.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

I was mowing around a tree in early June when I noticed a plethora of insect skins around the tree’s base. The arrival of the 17-Year Cicada (Brood III) had been announced by the media, but I was not expecting it in my backyard.
IMGP9006As I looked up the trunk of the tree, the tiny, empty casings of the morphing nymphs covered the branches and leaves as the winged cicadas had shed their skins for their short adult life.
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Though I did not witness the cicadas’ emergence (nor manage to photograph a live one), each decaying skin had the same hatched opening like a two-sided convertible top being retracted for their release.

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There were often thread-like ribs that appeared to have been stretched from the exoskeleton as the cicadas came out.

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With so many cicadas winging their way into my neighborhood, I expected a cacophony of buzzing. Surprisingly, they must flown to other areas since I would only hear an occasional “love call” in the afternoons…not that I missed it.  The decibel levels (up to 120 dB) produced by a male are the loudest of all insects and have been known to create permanent hearing loss when  in direct proximity to the human ear.

The adult cicada’s short life-span now complete with mating and the laying of eggs in slits made by the female in deciduous tree leaves, the eggs hatch after 6-7 weeks. Then, the nymphs fall to the ground, burrowing two feet down to start the 17-year cycle all over again.

For more examples of this week’s photo challenge of “containers,” click HERE. Additionally, HERE is a link to the local newspaper’s reporting of this “buzz.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

It’s sweet corn time in Iowa! When I came to preach in view of a call in Iowa 20 years ago next month, one of the pulpit committee members hosted a dinner in which massive quantities of sweet corn were served. I took one ear while others took two or three. I soon found out why…it was like dessert. Therefore, between mid-July and mid-August folks line up at local farmers’ roadside stands to buy a baker’s dozen of these exquisite ears.

The Gates family always brings their daily distribution of fresh picked sweet corn in this 1954 Chevy pickup. This “relic” is always a sign that good eatin’ is just a shuck and a boil (or microwave) away.

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Check out the article in our local paper that ran today…”How Sweet It Is.

Donncha Ó Caoimh makes this week’s photo challenge:

Share a photo of what “relic” means to you — it could be your still-running 1979 Honda Accord Hatchback, a historic building in your town, or an old, rusted farm implement poking up through the long grass in a field.

Click HERE for more examples of “relic.”