Category Archives: Christianity

Random Notes, Nothing on a Scandal

I was saddened on Wednesday by the passing of the founder of Hilton Magic. I have one quick story about Barry Stevens I wish to share.

Back when Barry Stevens used to play for the Cyclones my mom worked the training table. After wins they would prepare a victory dinner. The dining staff prepared lobster after what was a milestone win for Johnny Orr. As the players got their lobsters, Barry Stevens asked for ketchup. Johnny Orr heard him ask for ketchup to put on his lobster and raised quite the ruckus

Today is a milestone even for all old Campusites. Today is the last day for James with DM. He is working a 3-10 shift if you want to go into West and slap him on the back and congratulate him. That leaves only 6 Campusites left in the employ of DM. The cleansing has almost been completed.

Today when I got to work I got a surprise in my mailbox. Mark’s newletter from Taiwan was waiting for me. This is always good reading and I would just like to share a portion of it with you today. Mark recently spent some time working in Indonesia. I would like to share a little bit of that part of the newsletter:

With all of this damage, many organizations came to Aceh to offer assistance.

Two of these organizations are World Harvest and LCMS World Relief. It was with these two Christian organizations that I worked in Aceh.

The tsunami was a devastating event that brought more questions than answers, but it has allowed more Christian organizations to work in this strongly Islamic community.

Aceh is nearly entirely Muslim, and this can be seen in the presence of many mosques, sound of daily Arabic prayer calls, and the site of women wearing head scarves.

Christianity is not common, and while it is legal to be a Christian in Aceh, it is illegal to evangelize.

The mission work being done in Aceh then is not direct evangelizing, but rather sharing God’s love through action and building relationships with people.

While I was there I helped lead an Internet seminar to introduce teachers to email, the Internet and how to use these tools to make them more effective English teachers.

The teachers were a joy to work with, and the workshop will hopefully empower them to improve their English instruction on their own.

Another part of my service involved traveling to schools. I went to four different Junior High Schools. At these schools I helped student practice their English conversation. Many of them have never had the chance to speak with a native English speaker, so this opportunity was exciting and educational for the students. They had real and practical application of these skills they have been learning about in their textbooks.

In the end, this trip was very educational and a blessing from God. On the trip I was not speaking boldly about Jesus, but I was sharing God’s love and helping LCMS World Relief and World Harvest in their continued attempts to build relationships with the people of Aceh.

The coordinator for LCMS in Aceh, Dennis Dennow, often describes the work in Aceh as moving rocks. I think this really fits the current situation there. I like to think about it like the Parable of the Sower. Jesus talks about the Gospel being like a seed that is thrown on four different types of soil: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and the good soil. It is only on the good soil that the seed grows and produces a harvest. People are the soil, and just like the parable, there are many rocks, thorns, and birds that prevent the seed of God’s word from growing in their lives.

In the Islamic community of Aceh, the Gospel cannot be openly preached and spread. There are many preconceived notions and fears about Christians that prevent this. But love can be shown. Fears and stereotypes can be taken away. Relationships can be built, and individual conversations can take place. Rocks and thorns can be removed, and it is my prayer that one-day God’s word can be openly preached. Then those relationships that have been formed and all of the love that has been shared will be the foundation for continued preaching of Jesus as Savior. God’s Spirit is definitely at work in Aceh, Indonesia.

Mark also sent along a copy of this picture of a boat sitting on top of this house. The tsunami hit the day after Christmas in 2005 and the boat is still there. I would wonder how that could still be, then I remind myself that we haven’t done much better helping the victims of Katrina in our country.

2007 Calendar

So most of the 2007 Calendars have been printed, laminated and bound. There are just a few left that need to be distributed. If you still want a calendar and didn’t get your order in, better let me know. Because 2007 begins in 13 hours and every day that a calendar comes late, it depreciates in value.

Below is a little bit of a look at what you would get by “purchasing” a calendar.


2007 Back Page

I would just like to impart a small bit of information about why each month was selected.

January Image – Ledges Daily Denouement

I selected this image because it was the most wintery of the images that I have selected. It definitely leaves you with a cold feeling.

February Image – Unnamed Butterfly Image

I made this image exclusively for distribution with this calendar and I don’t like it, so it will remain an Unnamed Butterfly Image.

March Image – Flower in a Ditch

March begins the Northern Hemispheres return to life. Therefore, this is the first of many traditional nature images.

April Image – Oversaturated Dragonfly

April is a month traditionally oversaturated with rain. I went a little crazy with the exposure compensation on this image. Make it a bit oversaturated by traditional photographic estimations.

May Image – Kentucky Appetizer

Traditionally I put my favorite image in May irregardless of whether or not I think anybody else will enjoy it in the slightest bit.

June Image – Yellow Swallow Tail

The end of the traditional nature images.

July Image – Outburst of the Soul

A random selection here.

August Image – Wildflower

August is a great month for wildflowers.

September – Portrait of the Artist as a Middle Aged Man

A random selection here.

October – Wheat Grass

The only fall looking image of the bunch so it went in a fall month.

November – Four Flowers

Olivia’s birth month. My auction image from Songs for Olivia.

December – Building 429

A Christian image for the month of Christmas.

Not much info there, but enough for the intellectually curious.

Blue Steel Plans Halted

I failed in my quest to get “Building 429” properly framed for display last night. I also learned that my attempts to get “Blue Steel” placed prominently in Salon 908 will not result in anything tangible. However, “Earth’s Laughter Series – #04” might get a spot on their walls. Jesse will attempt to negotiate this deal with Kelly in the near future.

The “10 Second Movie” feature will not be added to this Notebook quite yet. This week was fairly hectic at work and Jesse and I could never quite get aligned for our tribute to “On the Waterfront”. Perhaps that will occur in the near future. It might even happen next Tuesday if everything breaks just right. Of course, there is a small chance that a tribute to something else could surface this weekend if everything breaks just right during Friday Night Supper Club.

Outburst of the Soul” has been the Picture of the Week this week. The name comes from a quote by English composer Frederick Delius who said: “Music is an outburst of the soul”. When I took this picture I had no larger ambitions than having a birthday present for the subject of the picture Derrick. I don’t want to get too far into the meaning of the image because I think that explaining the purpose of a piece of artwork begins to take away the meaning of that artwork. I believe that artwork should stand on its own. I also agree with Oscar Wilde when he said: “The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.”

I don’t think there are many mysteries about the meaning of “Outburst of the Soul”. My worry is that it is too blunt. I’ll just give you a little bit of the back story of this image. I contacted Derrick about meeting him during my lunch break to take a couple of pictures of him and his guitar. He agreed.

The first time we had a little bit of trouble hooking up. So a second time was arranged. On the second trip I ran into Nader in downtown Ames, where Derrick worked. When I got to Derrick’s place of employment he wasn’t back from his lunch break. So I waited in the back alley with Nader for Derrick to show up.

I was also supposed to meet Jesse for lunch. After about 5 minutes in the alley, Jesse showed up. We all talked for about 15 minutes before the man of the hour showed up. He went inside and came back out with his guitar.

I took about 40 pictures with about 4 different poses. I settled on this one finally because Derrick effectively blocks out the Bud Light truck that had parked in the other end of the alley during the middle of this shoot. When I downloaded the images to my computer I was worried that the image’s harsh contrast between the shadow and the bright light of the alley would ruin the image, but Monica argues that it adds to the picture. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something about music leading Derrick from darkness into the light. I won’t lie, that wasn’t the intent. If that was the intent I would have had Derrick meet me at a tunnel. It does serve as a reminder to me that to some degree, art is only worth what the viewer brings to it. Every piece of art has a different value to every viewer.

Regardless of that little treatise, the image was put through Photoshop and I took all of the color out of the image except for the color of Derrick’s guitar. After a little tweaking here and a little tweaking there, Derrick’s birthday present was ready for him and ready for the world.

I should also point out that in my current capacity with the company that employs me; I do not have an office. What I do have are lots and lots and lots of walls. I have taken to covering these walls with 8.5 x 11 copies of some of my assorted works. There aren’t many people that walk by my walls. The people who do walk by pretty much never stop to look at anything I have posted on my walls. That is perfectly fine. I post the pictures for me. I need some color on my walls or the dreariness of the gray wallpaper would surely drive me to madness. Yet, when I first put up “Outburst of the Soul”, several people did stop to admire that picture. A few even came back to see it a second time.

I state earlier that I failed to get a copy of “Building 429” framed last night. I should make more of a concerted effort tonight. I painted the frame black and then added craquelure over the top of the black paint. The first coat of craquelure failed to give me the desired result. In fact, I got hardly any cracking at all. So I gave the frame a very liberal amount of craquelure via a second coating. The result was not what I was striving to create, but I can’t say that I’m not pleased with the result. I think the frame looks awesome. I am ready to boldly proclaim it as one of my best frames to date. I just need to get everything put together. It will be something for me to do while I’m waiting for “The Office” to bless my television screen this evening.

The reason for my failure to finish this project last night was I attending dinner with Monica and Cory Ungs last night. Cory has been in poor health over the last few months and it has caused more than a few moments of consternation for me. There was a time when it was thought that he might have to have heart surgery. Finally, they have diagnosed Cory with Type II Diabetes. Not the best diagnosis, but at least he can now begin to manage his health and he seems to be doing a very good job at it. He is exercising and managing his eating schedule very well.

After dinner we went to see “Hollywoodland”. Cory wouldn’t go to the movie. He would not respond to my constant barbs such as: “Come on nerd, it’s a Superman movie.” Or the classic, “Nerd, nerd, nerd, nerd.” The short version of the story is that “Hollywoodland” is a good but not a great movie. Adrien Brody and Diane Lane gave their usual great performances. The shocker of the movie is that Ben Affleck did not stink the joint up as he has consistently done since “Good Will Hunting”. He was actually very good as George Reeves. A man whose aspirations for greatness were constantly out of his reach and was pigeonholed after playing a role he despised. One of the saddest sequences in the movie was when his part in “From Here to Eternity” was cut from the movie because the first audiences couldn’t see him as anything other than Superman. What was going to be one of his greatest professional triumphs was taken from him by the thing he hated the most. Although the acting was great, the movie itself started to wander near the end of the 2nd act. It also didn’t end very strongly. I didn’t completely dislike the ending, but it wasn’t real strong.

Other than working and eating and watching the Padres blow a lead in the 8th inning to the Cardinals (thank you very much Scott Linebrink) I have been reading Thomas Merton lately. I came across something he wrote in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. He wrote something about businesses that struck me as poignant. Particularly as I can related his point to a company that previously employed me because the people in that company really drank the Kool-Aid that they were making. They were in denial about everything dealing with their company to such a degree that I never understood it. They certainly had no place for dissension or even intelligent thought in their business plan. Then I read these words by Thomas Merton and I suddenly understood these people. I still feel sadness for them, but at least I understand why they are incapable of understanding why all of their ideas are bad and were surprised when they failed. Where they worked had become a religion to them. They are incapable of question the dogma when it comes down from the CEO? They view it as “Gospel Truth”.

Businesses are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one you embrace a new faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through ‘the product’ one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business. Why not face it? Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.

It helps me understand why so much corporatespeak feels like attempted brainwashing. It helps me understand why when I went to corporate meetings it felt like I was going to a revival meeting for a religion that I didn’t believe in. I was going to a revival meeting for a religion I didn’t believe in.

Kelly’s Christmas Present

This weekend was the annual “Howard Family Christmas Card Photo Shoot”. I think it went well this year. Hopefully they find a picture or two that they like enough to use for their Christmas card.

As a result of that photo shoot I found out one more little tidbit about the Pufferbilly Day Photo Contest. Apparently Kelly went down to the exhibit with her two co-workers. Or perhaps they are technically employees. They did not like “Blue Steel”. Not even a little bit. In fact, not at all. Perhaps they just don’t play enough softball. At least now I know what Kelly gets for a Christmas present this year.

I have really been spending more time lately painting frames than taking pictures. I think I have come close to master the technique that will result in the “finished products” of all Photography 139 artwork. I have a completed framed picture of: “Earth’s Laughter Series – #04”, “Grizzly McAlpine”, “Blue Steel”, and hopefully by the end of the night I will have ““Building 429”” completed.

I also should note that I have decided to expedite the naming process for my flower pictures. In the future they will all fall under the series title “Earth’s Laughter” and be given a number. The name is derived from a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “The Earth laughs in flowers.” I enjoy using parts of quotations as photo titles. This series is currently only numbered up to four. I should note that there are times when a number and a subtitle will be used. An example would be: “Earth’s Laughter Series – #03: My Giverny”. You get the idea.

I have a new complaint about the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. When I got my pictures back the one’s that did not receive awards had my name and the name of the picture taped to the front of them. When I removed that label, the tape ripped and destroyed my mats. 1 step forward turned into 1 step back. My resolve to win the color division of this contest has been weakened.

Last week’s picture of the week was Building 429. The inspiration for this picture comes from the band Building 429. Building 429 took their name from is one of my favorite Bible verses: Ephesians 4:29. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Building 429 has a special place in my heart as they recorded one of the most important songs of my life: “No One Else Knows”. Jen and Derrick’s band covered that song for me at Songs for Olivia earlier this year. Below is a copy of the lyrics from that song:

No One Else Knows

My world is closing in
On the inside But I’m not showing it
When all I am is crying outI
hold it in and fake a smile
Still I’m broken
I’m broken
Only one can understand
And only one can hold the hand
Of the broken
Of the broken

When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in your arms Again

I need no explanation of why meI just need confirmation
Only You could understand the emptiness inside my head
I am fallingI am falling
I’m falling down upon my knees
To find the one who gives me peaceI am flying
Lord I am flying
When no one else knows how I feel
Your love for me is proven real
When no one else cares where I’ve been
You run to me with outstretched hands
And You hold me in Your arms
Again

I have come to you in search of faith
Cause I can’t see beyond this place
Oh You are God and I am man
So I’ll leave it in Your hands

“Building 429” is a picture of a pocket cross laid on top of Olivia’s NIV Bible open to Ephesians 4:29. It is a macro photography. The intent is to make the image bigger than life, show how beat up the cross has become, and make the cross shine. I think it makes for an emotionally powerful image.