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.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Music has been an important part of my family’s life. Just as I remember sitting on the piano bench with my mother, it’s pleasing to see my granddaughter’s hand between my daughter’s as they “tickle the ivories.”

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Find more examples of “between” HERE.

As I processed this picture, I thought how beautifully it represents the process of discipleship. As my mother passed on a love for music to me, I passed that down to my daughter, who is now sharing that passion with her own daughters. When we recently visited their home, the two-year old sang “let it go” (just that phrase) repeatedly for about 30 minutes. I know that my mother is blessed to see her grands and greats follow her example.

In a similar fashion, the Apostle Paul shared with his spiritual son, Timothy, a pattern for discipleship; the passing down of spiritual truth to future generations. He said:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB)

Much as a parent imparts truth/skills to a child, every follower of Christ should embrace the role of being a spiritual parent to the point that they are able to see at least spiritual great-grandchildren – four generations (Paul – Timothy – Faithful Men – Others) – following them as imitators of Christ Jesus.

For some more thoughts and suggested resources on this topic, check out a previous post “Me, Disciple Someone.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

The “Honey Moon” was visible in the Northern Hemisphere on Friday the 13th.The name comes not from the traditional wedding month, but from the moon’s yellow tone as it seen through more atmosphere, traveling a path closer to the horizon in opposition to the sun’s higher path as the summer solstice approaches. Because my amateur photography is characterized by a lot of trial and error, I was searching for moon photography tips online. I discovered this site and app, The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It allowed me to add the extra, extra for which I was looking. While the full moon was beautiful in its own right (extra), I was wanting the moon’s reflection in water (EXTRA, EXTRA).

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The app gives the times of sun/moon rises and settings, as well as the coordinates of each with a compass feature. Knowing the angle of the moonrise, the app enabled me to do a map search on my phone of various lakes in my area to find a place to set up for the shot with the most water in the foreground.

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The TPE app will prove to be very valuable in calculating sunrise/set pictures, as well. Check out the video to see some of the additional features.

There are few things in the visible, celestial realm as enthralling as a full moon. To think that it has no light of its own but is just a reflection of the sun brings to mind so many spiritual applications. The example that I like the most has to do with Jesus’ words to His followers that we are to let our lights shine.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16 (HCSB)

As followers of Christ, we have no natural spiritual light but only a reflective light of the glory of God in our lives. When we are living fully in His grace and under the control of the Holy Spirit, we are motivated to show His loving kindness to others. They see our good works and begin to get a picture of God’s love for them as we radiate a bright reflection of Him.

However, just as the earth begins to cast its shadow on the moon, eclipsing and even blocking out the sun’s reflective light on the moon, worldliness in the life of a Christian diminishes the reflected glory of God in our lives. The less of Christ the world sees in His followers, the more unlikely they are to grasp the glory of God.

May the full moon be a reminder to you, follower of the way, to shine brightly the way for others!

Click HERE for more examples of “Extra, Extra.”

My Birthday Present

I’ve gotten to the point in life that when asked, “What do you want for your birthday,” I usually respond, ” Nothing.” I know this is a frustration to my wife and kids, but stuff is not as important to me, now. So, when my wife asked me THE question on Wednesday in anticipation of my birthday today, I got on Amazon.com and ordered a few camera accessories that should arrive in time for my birthday…not spending much because I’m not sure how much more I want to tie up in my current camera.

My birthday was shaping up to be a low-key affair with some lunch and supper plans with a few friends and family. However, as we know, plans can change in a second. Late last night, we got a text from our middle daughter, Katie, letting us know that she was having some issues with her pregnancy and that she was going to the hospital. Only about seven months along, her water had broken.

The news of her pregnancy originally came to us as she traveled back to Texas after having spent Christmas with us. She had not felt well the entire holiday, so she bought a pregnancy test in Kansas. It was positive. However, her feelings about the pregnancy were never really positive. After delivering her first child last September, this was an “unexpected” pregnancy. But beyond that, something didn’t feel right.

So, when at ten weeks the sonogram technician exited the exam room, saying she needed to get the doctor, my daughter’s feelings were confirmed. She was told that there appeared to be only fluid where the brain should be. While it was too early to conclusively diagnose, the couple was told that it was either anencephaly (absence of all or major part of the brain) or acrania (partial or total absence of the skull).

At that point the question had to be asked… terminate or carry this baby. We sought to instill in our daughters a respect for the sanctity of life and they have personally embraced that tenet of faith as their own. So, Katie and her husband, Daren, didn’t wrestle with that question; she would carry this child and trust God. We were grateful that the healthcare professionals truly supported them in this decision. As Katie sought God’s direction on how to pray for this child, she wrote:

The Spirit has only revealed to me to pray for Life… which could mean spiritual life for my non-Christian friend, life for another child from my baby’s organs, or life for my child.

As the months passed, a clearer diagnosis emerged; acrania, the skull was not forming, a condition that results in death at birth or soon afterward. They also discovered the child was a boy. Soon afterward, they met with a transplant specialist to consider options and discovered the point of viability for transplantation. The baby’s weight would need to be five pounds , so a C-section would be scheduled close to full term. Of course, my wife and I would plan to be there for the birth to have whatever time God might give us with out first grandson.

Those plans,however, all changed with the developments of last night. At 11:40 p.m., we received news that an emergency C-section would occur in the next few hours, giving us no opportunity to be with the kids at this critical time. Due to the premature delivery, transplants would not be possible, either.

As the midnight hour passed, it dawned on me that my first grandson was going to be born on my birthday. Although I would not see him this side of eternity, he would always be my “birthday buddy.” He would be my birthday present on reserve, a treasure in heaven I will one day behold AND hold, healed and whole.

Through a series of texts, I can only approximate that Silas was born between 2:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. He lived for about five minutes. Though we will grieve his short earthly life, we have hope that through Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth and the LIFE (John 14:6), Silas was welcomed into eternal joy and glory early this morning.

I’ll see you later, Silas! I look forward to unwrapping all that there will be to know of your experiences in the unfettered presence of the Lord!

- Love, Papa

POSTSCRIPT: A few days after my daughter had Silas, she gave a status update on Facebook. I wanted to add her words to this post -

I just wanted to say how unbelievably thankful I am for the prayers, thoughts, love, flowers, meals, and support my family has received over the past several days (and months)!

I am honored to have given Silas Lee 29 weeks of life in my womb and 6 minutes outside of it. His short, sweet life has forever changed Daren and me; we are eternally grateful for our son. Although the heartbreak is very real, God’s peace and absolute goodness through the months of suffering has been, oh how, indescribable.

Thank you again for all the love…we feel it!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story (Sort of)

With some storms brewing in the Midwest yesterday, I thought I would try my hand at time-lapse photography. I took a picture every five seconds for 20 minutes (limited because of teaching responsibilities last night) and then condensed into a 12 second video. While I enjoy seeing the cloud formations build, changing shadows on the Crest Baptist Church Worship Center are fun to watch.

Click HERE for more entries of “split second story.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story – Take 2

Shane Francescut writes: For this week’s challenge, we want you to become a documentary photographer and attempt to capture a candid moment of a person, place, or thing. Put your National Geographic hat on and tell a story by documenting a moment in time through a single image. What do you think this story is?
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The “rest of the story” is that these three swans had just been released by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as they try to restore trumpeter swan populations to Iowa. The Trumpeter Swan Restoration project released these three swans last May at Summit Lake near Creston, IA, and four more this year.

Click HERE for more examples of “split second story.”