Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall

Cheri Lucus Rowlands issued this week’s challenge suggesting that walls are “the canvases of our lives: where stories are read, voices are heard, ideas are shared.” Here are a few walls around my town that communicate some pride and support of our community.

Apparently, no business currently occupies this downtown building, but its boarded up windows lend a bit of beauty instead of blight.

Boarded up windows painted in trompe l’oeil style.

Boarded up windows painted in trompe l’oeil style.

This mural on the local YMCA conveys Creston’s past as its railroad depot and Bluegrass Palace are prominent features, highlighting the role of transportation and agricultural in its economy.

Blue Grass Palace 12'x24', 2002, on the YMCA by Carl Homstad

Blue Grass Palace 12’x24′, 2002, on the YMCA by Carl Homstad

The Creston News Advertiser, our weekday newspaper, invited the Southwestern Community College Art Club to paint this mural on the side of its building in 2006.

Mural on the side of the local newspaper publishing building painted by the SWCC Art Club.

Mural on the side of the local newspaper publishing building painted by the SWCC Art Club.

Three of the four panthers on the wall of the high school gymnasium illicit “Panther Pride.”

Panther mural in the Creston High School gymnasium

Panther mural in the Creston High School gymnasium

Finally, the high school commons is surrounded by photos of the achievements of present and former students. In 1997, the basketball team won the Iowa High School 3A state basketball tournament. My daughter, Katie, was a cheerleader. The cheer squad made it their goal to lead the student body in garnering the “Sportsmanship Award” and they succeeded!

Creston High School Wall of Fame - 1997 3A State Basketball Sportsmanship Award

Creston High School Wall of Fame – 1997 3A State Basketball Sportsmanship Award

You can find more examples of this week’s challenge HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Orange You Glad It’s Photo Challenge Time?

Starting in my kitchen and then cruising around town, I was able to come up with a little orange to add a dash to the waning winter weather (I love alliteration, too, Michelle W.!)

I especially liked the reflection of this storage unit in the melting ice.


HERE are more examples of this week’s photo challenge.

Postscript (3/12/15): As I was taking these pictures last Saturday, a tragic event was occurring in our community. Three men, getting in what they perhaps thought would be the last ice fishing day of the season, unfortunately went through the ice and drowned in a farm pond. I personally knew two of the men, Earl Burkhalter and Jim Oshel, a brother of one of my church members. Jim had worked for the Iowa Department of Transportation for 38 years, retiring in 2008. Coincidentally, I included those bright orange vehicles in my original post. Today, one of the Iowa DOT’s trucks led the funeral processional to the cemetery, a fitting tribute to a loyal, long-term employee.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward

Living in rural Iowa for the last twenty years, I’ve seen a lot of wild life, but it’s only been in the last three years that there has been a growing presence of bald eagles. While I have been able to capture a few at a distance, I am often traveling through the a local state park to “see what I can see.” Last week, I saw a large bird, flying solo among all the flocking Canadian geese, who winter at the lake. It wasn’t an eagle but a beautiful red-tail hawk.IMGP9816 Later, I found another hawk roosting in the deserted campground. However, it would fly to another tree every time I approached for a clear shot. Finally yesterday afternoon, I saw it flying toward the camp ground. As I slowly drove into the area, there it was, roosting 40 feet up in a tree no more than 20 feet from the road. I eased the car as close as I could and stepped out on the far side to allow me to stay obscured. Much to my delight, the hawk gave me the “reward” of a three-minute “drive-by” photo shoot.IMGP0223 Here are a few of my distant captures of mature and juvenile eagles feasting on some geese carcasses on a local lake.

You can find some more examples of “reward” HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Jen Hooks gives this week’s challenge: The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blank space in the rest of the image.

This was little sparrow was chirping up a storm on this chilly morning.

IMGP1631 (1)

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Click HERE for more examples of this week’s challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

In a recent photo challenge of “yellow,” I featured some migrating Monarch butterflies. One of my Facebook friends commented, “Don’t you have some pictures of tiger swallowtails?” Why, yes I do. These were taken in April of 2013 at my sister’s home in Virginia at the peak of the azalea blooms. Butterfly wings are wonderful examples of symmetry as they are perfect mirror images in size and design.


For more examples of “symmetry” click HERE.

The beautiful and symmetrical butterfly begins as an ugly but symmetrical caterpillar. However, its metamorphosis into something so incredibly different in appearance and mobility might cause one to not believe they are the same creature.

Likewise, the believer in Christ is said to go through a similar metamorphosis.

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2, HCSB)*

The same word “transformed” is the word from which metamorphosis is derived. In the text it is a present imperative tense verb, thus a command that involves continuous action. As the Christian experiences transformation, it is not always an immediate, dramatic change, but a process that will find its completion in a thoroughly new creation, redeemed and reformed from the vestiges of a self-centered life to a God-directed life.

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

I have had a fascination with miniature replicas for as long as I can remember. From playing with the original Lesney Matchbox cars to building 1/25 scale models vehicles during my adolescence, the more realistic the detail the better. While I have never been a huge HO (1/87) train enthusiast, I did pick up a few pieces in my early adulthood. This Santa Fe locomotive was the largest (and most expensive) of my small collection.

Scale 1/87

Tyco’s Santa Fe ALCO Century 630



Front: Tyco’s Santa Fe ALCO Century 630; Back: BNSF Electro-Motive Diesel SD70ACe

Coincidentally, I now live in a town in which the BNSF has a switching yard. The merger of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe in 1995 created the largest rail network in North America at that time.Creston’s Restored Depot no longer handles passenger/freight rail service, but it is the home of city offices and the site of the Creston Model Railroader’s impressive HO train layout. While the Depot was closed today, I did manage to get a picture through the window. They have done a great job of replicating our community and signature events.

You can find more examples of this week’s challenge HERE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Depth

An evolving forecast proved accurate with 8-10 inch snow accumulations, canceling the church I pastor and many others in southern Iowa. With blowing snow, I had drifts of three feet to clear from my drive. A late afternoon glimpse of the sun was a welcome sight.

imageYou may be able to see a disc golf basket in front of the small tree on the left. The bottom of the basket should be 22″ from the ground. It appears that about 10″ is exposed, giving some idea of the depth of snow in this open field.

See more examples of depth HERE.

Shot with Moto X and edited with Photoshop Express. 

To Our Beloved Bunny

Kids at Mom's bedWhile my four sisters, my wife and I have been physically present with my mother in hospice care for the last week and a half, other family members have sought by other means to be present to express their love and appreciation of their beloved grandmother and great-grandmother (aka Bunny). Spanning the distance of the country by phone and Facetime, they have expressed that love through words of remembrance, singing, piano playing and the words “I love you, Bunny!” Below, I reblog my daughter’s post from yesterday, one of those fitting tributes, that I was able to share with my mother today.

To Our Beloved Bunny

My grandmother is in hospice care…and while she is still with us, though I’m certain she is certain of my love for her…I won’t wait to write it down. I need to do it now.


I can’t stop thinking of my last hospital stay, exactly one month ago, for the birth our of twins. With that stay, came the promise of finality: of pregnancy and of delivering babies. The end was in site: the end of tests and dr’s visits and apprehension. And that hospital stay culminated in life. For months, I was so giddy when I thought about coming home with life. Leaving with LIFE, 2 lives. The thought of it made me cry.

In so many ways, her stay in the hospital now is the same, final and culminating in LIFE. The end of this life on Earth, means life in Heaven for her. And at 35, I can barely wrap my mind around the idea of being excited about that. But for her…for my Bunny, our Grace, it means seeing her mom and dad, and brothers and sisters, and her beloved, our Pop. It means holding my sister’s baby boy, Silas, before any of us do. It means greeting our cousin Amy again with a kiss and tears. It means seeing the face of God. And sitting here thinking about THAT, about seeing Jesus…that makes me giddy for her, even in my heartbreak over my impending separation from her.

So how do I honor this woman, who for my entire life has meant the world to me; who has prayed unceasingly for all of us, remaining lucid for her 94 years, sharing griefs and triumphs, stealing giggles on porch swings over slightly inappropriate stories, fingers still gliding effortlessly across piano keys? For this woman who is a picture of godliness and purpose, I will honor her with my words…and I think that’s how she’d want me to honor her.

Bunny and me

Two things about my grandmother have shaped me and helped me to become who I am.

The first is music. 

When I was five, I remember telling Bunny a story using the keys of her piano to differentiate my characters. Then she taught me about the symphony, sitting on the floor listening to Peter and the Wolf…hearing story through music for the first time. And years later, it was Bunny who encouraged my first piano lessons. And finally in high school, when I was still practicing piano at my dad’s church, Bunny bought me my own piano, perhaps the most amazing gift I’ve ever been given. The gift of song. And because of her blood that courses through me and her influence, I feel God’s glory no more acutely than when I am wrapped up in the beauty of making music.

The second is faith.

When I was little my mother taught us how to study God’s word. I will always look back and praise God for a mom who was disciplined in her teaching of us. Without her, I would have no idea that the Bible is indeed living and active and sharper than any two edged sword. But it was Bunny, who also helped shaped the love of Bible study into my mom. I love legacies. I love tracing my faith back to faithful men and women. I am so grateful.

I loved watching my mom and dad wake up every morning and pray together…I saw that in my grandparents, too. I hope our children will remember our prayer times, too.

Bunny and Georgie

It’s impossible to wrap up my grandmother in a silly blog post, just as it’s impossible to catch the memory of a dream the night before with our words. It all falls short. To list all of my memories seems trite. But they are a part of me. She is a part of me.

Not everyone gets the pleasure of having a family that they are wild about. I do. And at the helm is Bunny.

Bunny, you mean the world to me. I love you more than words could ever say. Your purpose in my life…has been inexplicable.

Originally posted on http://www.itsallbananas.wordpress.com: To Our Beloved Bunny

Some additional pictures of Mom, me, Anna and my granddaughter, Charlie.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

I was taking pictures of our annual Balloon Day’s Parade but had my back to the street for a moment. I heard my name called and turned to find myself face to face with a clown. In my surprise I immediately took this off-centered picture.

IMGP6720 (2)

A second later I recognized him as a young man who attends my church and a former classmate of one of my daughters. As he walked away, I took another (better) picture of Josh (I’m not sure what his clown persona name is). I’m honored that he uses it as his Facebook profile picture. He gave me a tootsie roll, too!


In this year’s parade, I captured him, again (I knew Elvis was still alive!)


I’m glad I don’t suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns). I have always enjoyed clowns, remembering trips to the circus as a child and laughing at their outlandish outfits and outrageous stunts.

I also like etymology and was curious about the origin of coulrophobia. “Coulro” is perhaps taken from the Greek word “kolobatheron” which means “stilt” with sense of “stilt walker” and thus “clown.” While Josh’s clown cohort with the Creston Elks Clowns isn’t a stilt walker, he is quite accomplished on the unicycle, dispensing candy from above. Click HERE for an article on his exploits.

Clowning is certainly one great way to “express yourself.” You can see more examples of this week’s theme HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

I have found myself at my 94 year old mother’s hospital bed for the past week and have been through the gamut of emotions as we have had differing opinions on her prognosis. While not yet out of the woods, I’m glad to report she has improved.

Hospitals are not generally spots of serenity. With the constant flow of health care professionals in and out of the room and the monitors with their incessant beepings, it seems to be at best organized chaos. But this hospital, being of the Methodist tradition, has a chapel that offers some moments of solitude and serenity.


Jeanne Hoff Goodwin Chapel, Iowa Methodist Hospital (Des Moines, IA)

I had been in the chapel once before, exactly eight years ago, as I offered up prayers for a young woman from our church. A wife and mother of two young boys, she lost her courageous battle against leukemia that day. As I entered the chapel today, I was reminded of the roller coaster of emotions of that day and the difficulty the family had in making the inevitable decision to end lifesaving measures and saying goodbye. I know, especially after this week, that it is never an easy decision to make, no matter what the age of the loved one.


Today, a painting on the west wall of the chapel caught my eye. I immediately knew it was a depiction of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, whose friends lowered him through the roof due to the crowds preventing access to “The Great Physician.” The painting, by that same name, is the work of Warner Sallman. His paintings, Head of Christ and Christ at Heart’s Door are modern, iconic images of the Savior.


While the painting is especially appropriate in a hospital setting as it acknowledges the role of God’s power over disease, the biblical account reminds one of Christ’s power over our most deadly spiritual malady: SIN. As the man was laid in front of him, Jesus forgave his sins. Receiving criticism from the religious leaders about his audacious and divinely presumptuous statement, he discerned their thoughts. Responding to their challenge, Jesus said that while saying one’s sins are forgiven might not be discernable from their perspective, making a lame man walk would give proof of his divine power to pardon sin.


Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”

12 Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:9-12*

The knowledge of Christ’s ultimate authority over the power of sin gives the follower of Jesus a serenity to face life with a peace in turmoil and the afterlife without fear.

Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen
(Reinhold Niebuhr – 1892-1971)

wpid-img_20150117_114104.jpgSee more examples of serenity HERE.

My good friend and neighboring pastor, William Richardson, wrote about Warner Sallman’s life and art. You can find his blog HERE.

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