Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting on our large front porch, watching night-time thunderstorms roll through Memphis. However, tall oak trees in my neighborhood obscured distant lightning. Now in Iowa, I don’t have to go far to get a great vista of an evening storm rolling through rural Iowa. This early October storm could be seen brewing in the sunset and by 8:00 p.m., it was producing a light show 50 miles away over Atlantic, Iowa. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

While thunderstorms do have the potential of bringing a lot of damage, they are a powerful and grand demonstration of God’s power.

5 I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.                                              Psalm 135:5-7 (NIV)

For more examples of “grand,” check them out HERE.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns (Take 2)

The 36th Annual Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Race, our community’s most popular event, occurred last weekend. While we had clear weather, wind conditions only permitted two of the four scheduled flights, three of which are competitive. Both of those flights were characterized by almost no wind, almost cancelling the second flight. Because a church member was sponsoring a balloon, I was able to get up close for some pictures on Saturday morning and then have my first ride on Saturday evening. It was a blast! Here are some of the weekend’s pictures that I think meet this week’s challenge – from the lines (cables connecting the baskets to the envelopes) to the geometric patterns of the envelopes.

As I mentioned I had my first flight in a balloon! While only about a mile in distance to the target, the winds were minimal, making it about a twenty-minute flight. It was an invigorating experience and a blessing from God. Here are few more photos I took from that afternoon ride.

While all three of my daughters have previously flown, my wife has been apprehensive about me flying because of a deadly hot air balloon accident she saw portrayed in a movie. Additionally, you might have noticed that the balloon sponsor was a funeral home – “that could be like a direct ride to the Pearly Gates.”(ba-dum tshh). However, I went with her blessing. When suggested by one of my daughters that “we need to get Mom up, now,” she responded, “When God gives me wings.”

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)

See more examples of this week’s challenge HERE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside: My entry is inside a simple truss bridge that I came across this summer in my rural Iowa wanderings. A gravel road leads up to this wood-decked bridge, and the reflected sun on the trusses drew me off the highway. I liked the contrasts of silver/primer paint and rust inside the bridge against the green fields and cloud-filled blue sky outside.


Truss bridges have always fascinated me. From my childhood, I recall that bridges with a truss design gave me a sense of security. Perhaps it was because the surrounding structure, giving the sense that you were “inside” the bridge, made the journey across whatever abyss my parents were taking me seem a little safer. I remember crossing the Mississippi River by train and being somewhat terrified to see that the bridge had no surrounding truss to keep the train from toppling over into the waters below. This led to several minutes of agonizing fear despite the reassurances of my mother.

Additionally, any trip across the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, a cantilevered through truss bridge over the Mississippi River, signaled the beginning of a family adventure, usually a trip to visit family in Missouri and Iowa. With my other four siblings in the car, the first bit of fun we had was to see who could hold their breath over the almost one mile span.

So, this entry brings with it some deep emotions tied to childhood memories that make being inside a truss bridge a “happy place.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree by Sheri on August 16, 2013

In a new post specifically for this challenge, share a photo that means CAREFREE to you!

Having gone to the Iowa State Fair twice this past week, I would have to say that it is the epitome of the word “carefree.” This eleven-day event in August typically draws about a million visitors, who meander through the displays of 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, Health) and FFA (Future Farmers of America) projects*, eat food on a stick, wait in line to see the Butter Cow, spend time on the midway rides or take a leisurely trip from one side of the fair to the other on the Sky Glider. There is no better way to end summer in Iowa than to attend the Iowa State Fair.

Sky Glider

Sky Glider at the Iowa State Fair, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*I must say that for many fair attendees, it is anything but “carefree.” For example, the youth, who take part in 4-H and FFA, spend many hours in preparation for almost the entire year for the honor of showing a project or livestock at the Iowa State Fair. Their dedication is admirable!

The Seasons of Life

I started this blog primarily for my church members, giving some extra “points to ponder” from the previous Sunday’s message. My commitment to a weekly post has waned somewhat due to other responsibilities, but I’m sure I’ll get back to some normality and better use my time (I hope).

When setting up this blog in January of 2012, there were several immediate decisions – style, widgets and headers. I wanted the header picture to represent rural Iowa and not someone else’s stock photo. The photo that came to mind was taken on July 5, 2011, as we returned to Creston after celebrating the Fourth with our kids in Arkansas. About eleven miles east of Creston, we saw a beautiful sunset and found a little gravel road on which to turn and take a few pictures. The sunset pictures were not outstanding, but the Redwood Avenue picture with its dip and rise through the rolling hills of southern Iowa caught my attention. It captured the simple beauty of rural Iowa and a sense of the journey on which we find ourselves as Christian sojourners – with ups and downs in this life, but ultimately upward!

Redwood Ave, Rural Union Co. IA, July 5, 2011

Redwood Ave, Rural Union Co. IA, July 5, 2011

As the seasons began to change, I thought there was a need for a change in header, as well. While missing the opportunity to take a Spring picture in 2012, I remembered to get out in the Fall and capture this picture:

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA, September 28, 2012

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA, September 28, 2012

I almost let the Winter of 2012-13 slip away before I got the required snow-covered picture (little did I know that we would have snow on May 2).

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA - March 2, 2013

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA – March 2, 2013

The final piece of the four seasons of Redwood Avenue came a few weeks ago. While hoping to have a setting sun as in the other picture, I settled for an overcast evening to get this final shot:

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA - May 29, 2013

Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA – May 29, 2013

After almost 19 years in Iowa, my appreciation for the unique character of the four seasons never diminishes. The cycle of life that God has programmed into His creation – from the sprouting forth of new life in Spring to the seeming cessation of life that comes in Winter – bring special blessings in every stage. Each season brings it own hardships and joys, much as every season of life.


Catch the “Snow Wave” – December 20, 2012

As we go through each season of the year and life, we run the risk falling into one of two traps: focusing on the difficulties of the current season or longing for the joys of the next. In doing so, we fail to appreciate the unique benefits or growth opportunities found in the present moment. For instance, while I can be extremely weary of still shoveling snow in April, there is an incredible sense of wonder when you take the time to appreciate the quietness of snowfall, to look at the unique pattern of an individual snowflake or to see the unusual shapes of snow drifts.

Wild Phlox with Pentax K-x water color filter. (Spring 2013)

Wild Phlox with Pentax K-x water color filter. (Spring 2013)

While each season of life has its difficulties and disappointments, there is truth in the saying that “God never wastes a hurt.” It is important that we look for God’s grace (power) in that trial or hardship, which will in turn equip us to share that grace with a “fellow struggler” in the future.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, HCSB)

Whether you find yourself as a single adult, wanting to be married, or a senior adult, struggling with the effects of old age, there is something in your current “season of life” to embrace that is exquisite and edifying. May we learn to live with the type of contentment the Apostle Paul expressed: “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content” (Philippians 4:12, HCSB).



What are some of the “happenings” in your stage of life that you have embraced for the good that God may have for you and others, even though it could be viewed by some as a hardship?

God often gives a verse from His Word that can be especially helpful during some of the difficult seasons of life. What is that verse for you and how did God use it?

Rural Iowa in the Fall

I’m not sure why, but fall has always been my favorite season. In spite of the seasonal allergies that come with it, fall’s first chill after a long, hot summer, the changing colors of the leaves and a bowl of hot chili all lend themselves to a season of aesthetically pleasing experiences.

Creston High cheerleaders and football players lead a pep rally at Mayflower Heritage Christian School on Friday

Then, add the rural component to fall. Yesterday was homecoming for Creston High School. Homecoming festivities in a small community are totally different from what I experienced in a metropolitan school. From fireworks* at the pep rally on Wednesday night to hundreds of people lining the streets for the parade on Friday, the week builds to a heightened expectation for victory on Friday night. Fortunately, our boys proved up to the task as they beat the #6 team in Iowa 3A football, Harlan, with a final score of 34-14. Creston Panthers, rated #8, have always considered beating Harlan their gauge of success, having only done it three previous times in the history of Panther football. With a win at Harlan’s home field last year (42-20), current players are the only ones to boast of back to back wins!

My participation in homecoming this year had its firsts. This was the first time I’d been asked to judge the class floats. At the request of Michelle Powers, a junior class officer, the local radio newsman and I carefully scrutinized the floats for creativity, originality and theme interpretation (board games). The freshman float came in first with a Monopoly theme, placing a Harlan “Cyclone” (a replica of a tornado) in the dreaded “jail” of that board game .

Next, Michelle’s dad, Joe, invited me to join him on the parade route as he pulled the junior class float. Having previously just taken a place on the parade route as a spectator in the downtown area, I was amazed to see the number of people, easily over a thousand, who turned out for the parade in the residential part of the parade route – a mile long trip from the high school to the downtown district. It was a great thing to see the number of adults with no current family connections to the school come out and support the youth.

Calico Aster along Redwood Ave

Back to the beauty of fall. The photo that serves as the header of this blog has been changed. The first picture was taken on July 5, 2011 (seen below) as we returned from a trip to Arkansas. I stopped 10 miles east of Creston to take a pictures of a fleeting sunset. Looking north, I took a few more pics of the road. When I started the blog earlier this year,  I thought the road picture would make a great representation of 1) rural life and 2) the idea of our spiritual journey with its ups and downs but generally staying straight and on course. It has been my intent to return to the spot on Redwood Ave, east of Afton, and take new pictures for each season of the year. So, this may be the fall header…or I may go back and see if the colors are better in a week.


Redwood Avenue, Rural Union County, IA, September 28, 2012

Redwood Ave, Rural Union Co. IA, July 5, 2011

*I wish I could share these experiences with my grandchildren, but after being with Charlie for the 4th of July, it may be a while before she enjoys the noise of fireworks. Months later she still remembers that “wireworks hurt my ears.”