The Solace of Ordinary Humanity

Although this picture is named for the following quote from the enigmatic John Ruskin:

“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”

But the story of this flower is actually more akin to the Tennessee Williams quote:

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”

This daisy grew in a most unlikely place in my yard. It grew in a little patch of dirt between my driveway and my back porch. It sprouted through the fence and away from the evergreen bush that dominates that little patch of ground. Its existence was unlikely, but nature finds a way.

This picture was also Jen’s birthday present.


Funny Face Homage Inverse

This is actually the first picture to ever be debuted in the calendar. Every other picture that has ever been in the calendar has been published in some way shape or form before being in the calendar. Jill was the only person to ever see this picture before it was seen in the calendar.

There will be more details about this picture in a future entry when I start publishing my weekly photo projects. The most important thing to note about this picture is that it represents a traditional darkroom technique.


This is the only monthly picture in the calendar that is manipulated in Photoshop in a meaningful way. I could see how somebody could think that June is a Photoshop manipulation, but in the spirit of the way that I see things, it isn’t. But we will open up that can of worms on the morrow.

12 Days of Christmas – Happy Epiphany

The conclusion of Mark’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Day 10

The tenth Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

10 Small Group Students

I know I have written in a previous newsletter about my small group students. They are a group of 10 eighth graders, who meet with me most Tuesdays at lunch time. We always have time to sing songs, read a little from the Bible and pray. Honestly, it’s pretty simple, yet I think they enjoy the time, and it is a chance for them to learn more about God.

On December 18th, we had a small group party to celebrate Christmas. At the party we ate pizza, sang Christmas Carols, watched Charlie Brown Christmas, and read the Christmas story. It was a nice atmosphere to relax, have fun, and remember why we celebrate Christmas.

Prayer requests:
1. Praise God for these students and their eagerness to continue to learn about God outside of the classroom.
2. Pray that God would keep working in their lives, helping the students to know who he is. Also, pray that God would use me as his instrument to help the students know more about him.

Day 11

The eleventh Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

Church Kid’s Camp Party

Every Saturday at Salvation Lutheran Church, children from around Chia-Yi City come to the church’s Saturday Kids’ Camp. Here they sing songs, read Bible stories, and have specialized club activities. Also, every year the students of the kids camp have a Christmas celebration, where they perform songs or skits and get gifts from the church.

Usually the Christmas bash is done at church, however, this year the format changed. The kids went to an orphanage in the city, where they played games, sang songs and performed for and with the orphans. Also, when they received their Christmas stocking from church, children gave stockings to orphans as well.

For the party, the American teachers performed our Lost Son drama. I also, played guitar to help the Kids’ Camp English Club sing Peace Like a River. In addition I played guitar and sang with the youth group as we performed Angels We Have Heard on High using English, Chinese, piano, violin, recorders, and tambourine.

All in all it was a great celebration for the kids who attend the kids’ camp, and a good way to share the message of Christmas with the orphans.

Prayer requests:

1. Pray for Salvation Saturday Kids’ Camp, that God would bless all the preparations and hard work of the teachers who lead activities.
2. Pray for the children who attend the kids camp, that they would keep coming back and God would continue to work in their lives.
3. Pray for the students at the orphanage. Pray that they understand Jesus’ love and that they would have more chances to hear about what he has done for them.

Day 12

The twelfth Christmas blessing that my Lord gave to me:

Christmas Caroling

I know I have written about it in previous Christmas newsletters, but a highlight at Christmas time is always grabbing the guitar, and leading a group of students and teachers in Christmas caroling. This year I had the opportunity to go Christmas caroling twice, once for the Friday Night Bible Study Christmas Party, and again with students who live at school.

For the Friday Night Bible Study Christmas party, the large group of us went to a local department store and sang outside the front doors. Many people who were walking by stopped and listened or watched as they passed. After singing 3 songs there, we split into 3 groups of approximately 30 people a piece. Each group took a different path, stopping at various shops and businesses along the way. Songs that we sing for caroling include Angels We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night (with a Chinese verse), and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. When I am leading groups, we usually sing two songs and then close with a verse of We Wish You A Merry Christmas. This year, caroling destinations for my group included Starbucks, 7-11, two different tea stands, and my barber’s house. My barber later commented that she loved the sound of us singing and was very glad we stopped at her house.

The second chance I had for Christmas caroling was with the students who live at school, many of whom attend OSF. We went caroling on the night of Wednesday December 23rd from 8:30-10:00pm. (This was the same day as the students’ song competition and tree decorating). For OSF Christmas Caroling, we split into two groups and went first to the business outside of our campus. Then we came back and sang to the other students and teachers who live at school. The evening always closes with us singing at the married teachers housing, where many of the families give candy and treats for the students who come out caroling.

I don’t know what it is, but I just love being able to grab my guitar and walk with students up and down the streets, singing praises to God. It is really neat for both the singers and the listeners. It helps us build ties to the local community and provides an opportunity to share the message of Christmas with those who work and live near us. We always handout a card or paper with a Bible verse explaining why we celebrate Christmas. In addition, the people in the community near school enjoy and anticipate our visit every year. I know of three different businesses that began asking a couple of weeks before Christmas, when we would be arriving to sing. Also, one of the local tea stands recorded the caroling group with a digital camera, and they occasionally use this recording as a screensaver on their computer. Praise God for this opportunity he has given us to celebrate Christmas and share the good news.

Prayer requests:
1. Thanksgiving for the chance to sing Christmas songs in the local communities.
2. Pray that the people who heard the songs would be curious to learn more about Jesus and his love for them.
3. Thanksgiving for a wonderful Christmas season, filled with the love, peace, and hope that only comes from Jesus.

The 12 Christmas blessings that my Lord gave to me
-Christmas Caroling
-Church Kid’s Camp Party
-10 Small Group Students
-Pirates of Sin skit
– Christmas Celebrations
-7th Grade Bible Class
-6 former students
-Bright, glowing trees
-Song Competition
-Lost Son Skit
-Water and Word
…and Messiah on Christmas Eve

P.S…..And…if I had to do a 13th day of Christmas I feel very blessed to have both Cyclone and Hawkeye victories in their bowl games. Hooray for the state of Iowa!!!!


Where Love Waits

This picture was taken on one of my two trips to the Iowa State Fair. Interested in other State Fair pictures? Click on the link below:

The title comes from a line in William Carlos Williams’ Poem “The Rose is Obsolete”. I suppose in retrospect that title would have been better served for a picture of a rose.

The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air–The edge
cuts without cutting
itself in metal or porcelain–

whither? It ends–

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry–

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica–
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses–

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end–of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching


The place between the petal’s
edge and the

From the petal’s edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact–lifting
from it–neither hanging
nor pushing–

The fragility of the flower
penetrates space