Category Archives: Youth Group

Advent Candle – Christ

It is Christmas Eve. It is one of my favorite days of the year and it is my favorite worship service of the year. I LOVE candlelight service. I don’t think there is any other service (perhaps a few on the mission trip) where I can feel God as much as I can during Candlelight Service.

Before we light the Christ Candle, I want to share a picture of the Youth Group the night we did our own Candlelight Service:

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite Christian writers and she distilled prayer down to the following:

“Help, Thanks, Wow.”

While I think that those three words can say just about everything you need in prayer, for the last two years I have the youth close our little service with the following poem, that I consider to be an amazing prayer. Or at least an amazing affirmation:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

The poem was written by Marianne Williamson. If you’ve heard the name, yes, the insane lady that is running for president. The author aside, I do love closing with this poem because candlelight service and the poem have the same message. We are not to keep our light to ourselves. We are to share it with others. When we share our light with others, they will share their light with others.

Let’s light the Christ Candle:

Advent Candle - Christ

One: For weeks we have listened to obscure messages from ancient prophets.
In their words
we have caught glimpses of the light that is promised.
Now, though the wreath is ablaze
and all the candles of anticipation have been lit,
still there is one last prophecy to hear.

All: With eyes wide open,
ears attuned and hearts unguarded,
we gather around the wreath one last time,
longing to receive the Word within the words.

One: A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 9, verses 2 to 7.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

All: This night these words are fulfilled in our hearing
and in our living
for the promise of God has come to us.
Our lives are the manger
in whom the Christ child is born.
No longer do we seek light from another source;
now the light burns in our hearts
and we become love’s lamp.

One: So, we light the candle at the center of our wreath and our faith.
We light it in the name of the One who is the light,
and, as Mary did so long ago,
we name this light Jesus.

Have a great Christmas Eve everybody!

Advent Candle – Love

The candle set that I have pictured and that we have been using here is one I “made” for the Youth Group. It isn’t the correctly color scheme. It it didn’t come from an official religious artifact store. It is a collection of scented candles from Wal-Mart. It was painted by Youth Group alumnus Megan Osborne.

I bring this up because the Love candle is the one that gets lit the least, next to the Christ Candle in the middle. The majority of the youth think that this is the best smelling candle and wish we could just light it all the time for that reason.

Despite the humble origins of this Advent Candle set, I believe that it has been sanctified by the love that has been put into it and the love that surrounds it.

Let’s light that Love Candle:

Love Advent - 2019

One: Love’s memory is long.
As we come to the last Sunday of Advent,
we recall the many times we have been here before
with still so much to do
and so much love left unexpressed.
The Hebrew Bible lesson today recalls a promise to King David,
which the church has often understood
to be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
Love’s promise is often kept in unexpected ways.

All: God’s love endures forever.
In a world where even evergreens turn dry and brittle,
God’s love is the one reality on which we can rely.
Today we prepare for the greatest expression of that love,
as we listen once more for the Word in the words.

One: A reading from the Second Book of Samuel, Chapter 7, verses 10-11; 16.
I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies… Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

All: God’s love endures forever.
Through acts as simple and common
as the birth of a baby,
God transforms the world,
and God’s promises are kept.
It is that expression of faithful love
we anticipate and celebrate this day.
It is that promise that brings light to our deepest night.

One: So, as we light the fourth candle
in eager anticipation of God’s greatest promise fulfilled,
what else can we do but name this candle Love?

I would add that not pictured is the green hula hoop we use to signify a wreath. I forgot to bring a wreath and the youth decided that a green hula hoop could have the same meaning as a wreath.

The green of the wreath symbolizes continuous life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life we find in Christ. A green hula hoop has the same qualities and therefore can symbolize the same things. Plus it is more meaningful since the youth picked that out themselves.

However, the reason it isn’t pictured is because somebody stole (or more likely moved) our green hula hoop. I guess they wanted themselves some of that everlasting life found in Christ.

Liturgy of Light was written by the Rev. Michael Piazza, Dean and National Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope UCC,
Dallas Texas.
Copyright 2008 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH


For like the last 15 or 16 or more years, my church has held a free Thanksgiving dinner open to anybody in the community. The last few years I have went down and photographed the event until I needed to tap out and go to my family Thanksgiving.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the day, you might even recognize a few faces from the Youth Group (present and past):

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

Thanksgiving - 2019

If you don’t want to cook for Thanksgiving or just find that you are alone, feel free to join us next year for Thanksgiving!

Who’s a Big Boy? – Chapter 1

Before we get into the meat of this post, I’d like to remind you that tonight at the Boone First United Methodist Church from 5:15-6:30 we are having a soup supper that is a fundraiser for our 2020 Mission Trip to Indianapolis:

2019 Soup Supper Poster

Hope to see many of you there tonight! You can even stay for the Christmas Concert that follows!


Back in early August, the world’s largest steam engine (or something like that) the Big Boy toured through Boone. It was on its way from Des Moines to Omaha. I took part of the day off and followed it from roughly Cambridge to Carroll. Here is a collection of some of the pictures:

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Big Boy

Teresa joined me after the Big Boy stopped in Boone for the rest of the trip.

I took a gamble with where I set up for when it crossed the high bridge and I lost big. Very big. But I’ll get into those details in Chapter 2.

Advent Candle – Joy

Before we kick the tires and light the fire on the Joy Advent Candle, I do want to invite you to another Mission Trip Fundraiser.

This Wednesday from 5:15 to about 6:30 at the Boone First United Methodist Church we will be serving chili and potato soup. All you have to do is drop is knock down a bowl or two of soup. Then drop whatever you fill is appropriate in our donation basket.

Then, if you are feeling up for it, at 6:30 you can head up to the sanctuary and watch the Christmas Concert, which I have no doubt will be a beautiful disaster. Just like they are meant to be!

Because we have a different schedule than normal, the youth spent last Wednesday night making the soup and chili. Here are some pictures of the production:

Yes, Jodie, we used your recipes.

So hopefully, we’ll see a few of there!


Let us light the Joy Candle:

Joy Advent - 2019

One: This season of preparation is half done,
and today we light the third candle of our wreath.
It is pink to remind us
that there is so much about which we should rejoice.

All: In the midst of all the parties and merriment,
we are a people seeking true joy
in the arms of the One who comes to bring it.
Even as night continues to lengthen,
we sense the coming of light that will brighten our days,
so we listen for the Word in the words of the prophet.

One: A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 61, verses 1 to 3.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

All: We rejoice in the Anointed One
who came and who comes.
With joy-filled hearts,
we join the energy of our life to the life
whose birth we anticipate.
With Christ, we, too,
will bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the broken-hearted,
proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

One: For us, God has replaced our mourning
with the oil of gladness,
so we light this third candle and name it Joy.

Liturgy of Light was written by the Rev. Michael Piazza, Dean and National Pastor of the Cathedral of Hope UCC,
Dallas Texas.
Copyright 2008 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH

Selfie Project – November

Now that the 2018 backlog is mercifully behind us, it seems like a good time to check back in with THE SELFIE PROJECT. The 2019 version of THE SELFIE PROJECT has almost ran its course. I won’t repeat it in 2020, but maybe I’ll bring it back in 2021. We’ll see.

Here are my favorite images from November:

November 1, 2019
November 1

November 2, 2019
November 2

November 3, 2019
November 3

November 4, 2019
November 4

November 7, 2019
November 7

November 9, 2019
November 9

November 11, 2019
November 11

November 12, 2019
November 12

November 13, 2019
November 13

November 14, 2019
November 14

November 15, 2019
November 15

November 16, 2019
November 16

November 17, 2019
November 17

November 20, 2019
November 20

November 21, 2019
November 21

November 23, 2019
November 23

November 24, 2019
November 24

November 25, 2019
November 25

November 26, 2019
November 26

November 27, 2019
November 27

November 28, 2019
November 28

November 29, 2019
November 29

November 30, 2019

I think November was one of my best months. At least for interesting pictures.

The 2018 Backlog Endeth

Before I get too much into the end of the 2018 Backlog, I do want to talk about Advent. On Wednesday we finished our Advent candle services for the Youth Group. The proudest moment of that was when Emily actually remember what Advent means! I was pretty pumped, let me tell you.

This Sunday, Mom, Logan, and I lit the Advent Candles during the first service at church. Today is the second Sunday of Advent and I forgot that because I missed the first Sunday of Advent when I went to Manhattan, Kansas last Sunday.

I thought (lest you forget that this is a Christian website) we could have our own little advent service here. I could just lift the reading straight from what the readers at my church read. We will have to do two candles this Sunday because I slacked off last week.


One: Advent calls us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.
All around us people prepare for parties, dinners and presents.
These events could distract us from the real reason for our anticipation.
On the other hand, they also could prepare us;
they could be the voice crying in a wilderness of materialism:
“Prepare the way for the coming of what is really important.”

All: Rather than get lost in the wilderness of distractions,
we will let the music and the lights make us sensitive
to the voice that is even now calling our name.
We will listen for the Word in the words and even in the noise.

One: A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 40, verses 1-5,9.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

Please join me:

All: In this season of hustle and bustle
we are tempted to get frantic and join the panic
to shop our way into the holiday spirit.
In this moment, we resist that temptation
and choose instead to be at peace
with who we are and where we are on this path.
We will let this time prepare us,
and we will hear God’s call
to be those who prepare the world.

One: On this first Sunday of Advent
we choose to be a peaceful presence
in this midst of a frantic season.
So, today, we light the first candle
as an act of preparation and call it Peace.



One: As our days grow shorter and our nights longer,
we who are people of faith turn to symbols
such as candles, evergreens and wreaths
to proclaim our belief in the unquenchable light.
In hopeful anticipation,
we prepare for the coming of the Reign of God.
Listen for the Word in the words of the prophet
for the second Sunday of this new church year:

All: We open our hearts to the Word in the words.

One: A reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verses 1, 7- 9.
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Please join me:

All: As we begin our journey to the light,
we confess that our lives have not always been lived
in ways pleasing to God.
Our shame has left us feeling distant from
the One who is both Mother and Father to us all,
the One in whose hands we are like clay.
Yet even now,
our longing for the One
who tears open the heavens and comes down
kindles like a fire in our soul.
Even now as we wait, we dare to hope.

One: We who are pregnant with anticipation
feel hope rise up within us.
And so we light this second candle
and name it Hope.


Yes, I know the candles are lit out of order.


A special Sunday post to celebrate the end of the 2018 backlog. From now on “An Artist’s Notebook” will live more in the here and now, however, it should be pointed out that there is quite the 2019 backlog, but I can probably hammer that out in another 9 months or so…

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Focus Stacked Image

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Backlog Endeth

Believe it or not, some of the Naima pictures weren’t taken at Dickcissel. They were taken at the Jay Carlson Wildlife Area. I don’t take Naima there very often because it just isn’t setup very well for her.

The 2018 Backlog is dead! Long live the 2019 Backlog!


Happy Thanksgiving! Every year on Thanksgiving I like to think about my many, many blessings. I know, real original. You should feel free to try it sometime. But make sure you let everybody know that I invented gratitude.

I am thankful for my family, no matter how family is defined:

April 9, 2019

May 18, 2019

May 25, 2019

August 24, 2019

September 19, 2019

October 26, 2019

January 26, 2019

February 25, 2019

June 29, 2019

July 6, 2019

August 4, 2019

April 6, 2019

May 12, 2019

I am thankful for my friends:

January 16, 2019

March 12, 2019


Photo Journal - Page 56 Reject

March 21, 2019

May 6, 2019

May 17, 2019

June 1, 2019

June 6, 2019

August 25, 2019

July 12, 2019

August 10, 2019

August 13, 2019

August 18, 2019

September 7, 2019

September 20, 2019

September 21, 2019

October 5, 2019

October 21, 2019

April 27, 2017

Selfie Project - January 21

March 3, 2019

I am blessed with an amazing church family:

April 7, 2019

Selfie Project - January 27

April 17, 2019

May 1, 2019

June 15, 2019

June 23, 2019

June 24, 2019

June 25, 2019

June 27, 2019

July 13, 2019

September 25, 2019

October 27, 2019

June 28, 2017

I am blessed with a decent job and work friends that I don’t mind seeing more than 40 hours a week:

January 12, 2019

August 30, 2019

May 2, 2017

Selfie Project - March 27

Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa

I’m blessed to share my house with Naima:

January 10, 2019

October 6, 2019

July 9, 2019


This is only a small sampling of my blessings, but I feel to go on much longer would sound like boasting. Thank all of you for choosing to be part of my life!

Selfie Project – October

Now is as a good of a time as any to check in with THE SELFIE PROJECT. I’m sure I did a bunch of interesting things in the month of October, but I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not I capture that while taking my daily THE SELFIE PROJECT photo or not.

Here are a few of my favorites from October:

October 2, 2019
October 2

October 4, 2019
October 4

October 5, 2019
October 5

October 6, 2019
October 6

October 9, 2019
October 9

October 11, 2019
October 11

October 12, 2019
October 12

October 13, 2019
October 13

October 15, 2019
October 15

October 16, 2019
October 16

October 18, 2019
October 18

October 19, 2019
October 19

October 20, 2019
October 20

October 21, 2019
October 21

October 23, 2019
October 23

October 24, 2019
October 24

October 25, 2019
October 25

October 26, 2019
October 26

October 27, 2019
October 27

October 29, 2019
October 29

October 30, 2019
October 30

October 31, 2019
October 31

Phew… 2 months to go!


I was a little worried that our 5 week double digit submission streak wouldn’t his 6 weeks with FORMAL PORTRAIT. I hadn’t received some of the normal early submissions, and I translated that into a lack of enthusiasm for the theme. However, there was a deep late arriving enthusiasm. In fact, we almost hit 20 submissions. Which might be a record, but I don’t keep those kind of stats. Maybe when I get some free time, I can comb the archives and see what the record is for most submissions is for a week. If it isn’t 19, it can’t be much higher than that.

In fact, after I wrote this, I got a semi-late submission for 20 total submission!

Add to the excitement of the FORMAL PORTRAIT theme, we have a first ever submission from Evie Gorshe. I’m not sure if she is the youngest to ever submit, but she has to be pretty close. I know a couple of the Augustin girls have submitted before. I think Scott Krause submitted at a pretty young age as well. We’ll just say that Evie is a Top 5 youngest to ever submit!

Almost as exciting as Evie’s submission is Dawn’s return to the fold. Dawn has been wandering the wilderness for the last couple of years. But she has a different job now and says she is back in the game. It is good to have her home. Somebody bring me a fatted calf!

But you didn’t come here to listen to me make weak links to parables and talk tommyrot about participation rates, you came to see the submissions:

Micky Augustin

Evie Gorshe

Dawn Krause

Andy Sharp

Jen Ensley-Gorshe

Micky Augustin

Kim Barker

Kim Barker

Michelle Haupt

Carla Stensland

Carla Stensland

Carla Stensland

Carla Stensland

Mike Vest

Becky Parmelee

Cathie Raley

Cathie Raley

Christopher D. Bennett

Elizabeth Nordeen

Jesse Howard

But enough dwelling on the past. Time to look to the future. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future! This week’s theme:


ORANGE! What a great theme! But what is an ORANGE photo? An ORANGE photo is any photo where the color ORANGE plays an important part in the image. Luckily, this time of year, there is a lot of ORANGE in nature.

I look forward to seeing your interpretations!




The picture has to be taken the week of the theme. This isn’t a curate your pictures challenge. This is a get your butt off the couch (my personal experience) and put your camera in your hands challenge. Don’t send me a picture of you next to the Eiffel Tower, when I know you were in Iowa all week. I will point out that I have let that slide some in the past. I will not in the future. Since it is literally about the only rule.

Your submission needs to be emailed to by 11 AM on the Monday of the challenge due date.


I now allow people to text me their submissions. In the past, I had made exceptions for a couple people that aren’t real computer savvy, even though it was an inconvenience for me and required at least 3 extra steps for me. I am now lifting that embargo because I have a streamline way of uploading photos. I’m not giving out my phone number, but if you have it, you can text me.

It should be pointed out that this blog auto-publishes at 12:01 on Mondays. So it wouldn’t hurt to get your picture in earlier.

That is it, them’s the rules.


Nobody showed class, taste, and sophistication this week by signing up for a Photography 139 email subscription. I’ll try and do better next week.


That’s all I got for today, so if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we will commune right here again next Monday. Hopefully it will be a very orange Monday!