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Saturday, April 30, 2011


Anglerfish - pen drawing

You might also check out my fellow artist, Trev's, painting of an anglerfish.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I'm Reading: The End of the Affair

I was early for lunch with some friends so I began to read.  I read. I carry books with me like some sort of charm.  One never has to worry about being bored or lonely or lost if one has a good book. Or maybe it’s that one can forget being bored or lonely or lost when absorbed in a good book..  So, alone and early for lunch, I began to read.

Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair in Penguin Books paperback edition with the author’s name and the title printed in black on the mint green spine, and a black and white photograph of sullen trees in a watery field on the cover. It’s a novel I return to every so often.

The arrival of my friends, sudden and loud, surprised me.

“What are you reading?” one asked me.  I told her the title and flipped the book over so she could read the publishers blurb on the back cover.

The novelist Maurice Bendrix’s love affair with his friend’s wife, Sarah, had begun in London during the Blitz.  One day, inexplicably and without warning, Sarah had broken off the relationship.  It seemed impossible that there could be a rival for her heart.  Yet two years later, driven by obsessive jealousy and grief, Bendrix sends Parkis, a private detective, to follow Sarah and to find out the truth.”

“Interesting,” she said as she pushed the book back to me.

“It’s as close as I’ll ever come to reading a romance novel,” I said and she laughed.  And I regretted my jest. One shouldn’t be trite with sacred things, and The End of the Affair just might be a sacred thing.

The publisher’s description doesn’t really describe the story; it’s not a detective story. It’s not a mystery to be uncovered, but rather a mystery to be believed.

The End of the Affair is a love story, though it is contained in what the narrator describes as a “record of hate.” It is the story of a tragic love triangle with four lovers, awkward and impossible to reconcile. It is a story of faith and the struggle of faith, the struggle for faith. It is a story of love and suffering.  It is of saints who want to be sinners and sinners who, with only a small step, could become saints. 

It is also, in part, an autobiographical novel, based on Greene’s affair with Lady Catherine Walston.  The book is dedicated “To C.”

It was the second time you had given him back:  the first time I had hated You for it and You’d taken my hate like You’d taken my disbelief into Your love, keeping them to show me later, so that we could both laugh – as I have sometimes laughed at Maurice, saying, ‘Do you remember how stupid we were…?’

It’s been filmed twice, in 1955 and in 1999.  It was also been adapted into a chamber opera in 2004. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

And God Said, "Let There Be Light."

Let There Be Light by thatjeffcarter was here

made with sounds from the freesound project:
Sfx neblehorn
Phat bass line
Slooooow 81
Mind control drum loop
Bells longtime
E piano seq 8 25
Jam 34

Where Is Hitler’s Brain?

Göring, that sweaty faced swine
is smoking again.  He laughs too loud
and swaggers about the bunker,
waving his meaty arms like the
conductor of some obscene orchestra.

He isn’t speaking to Himmler any more,
not that Himmler has noticed.
He’s entirely wrapped up with his star charts
and horoscopes, and with telling anyone
who will listen about the Kobolds
that are digging elaborate tunnels beneath the bunker.

Outside, in the forest above, are the werewolves,
suicide soldiers, armed with glass vials
of de Führer’s flatulence.
They will defend the wolf’s lair with their
final repugnant gasp.

            But where? Where is Hitler’s brain?

Golden haired Eva is posing for photographs
and later she will taste the cyanide.
Goebbels fires off another propaganda blast
just ahead of the invading Reds:  The battle for Berlin
must become the signal for the whole nation
to rise up and poison their children…

Speer is building iconic monuments
that will stand into eternity
from thousands of spent artillery shells;
Rudolf Hess is flying through the fog
towards Scotland with a parachute and a prayer.

And faithful Bormann is guarding the door,
restricting access to the leader of this thousand year Reich
who is celebrating his birthday with cake
and a pistol.  He shares this death with his mistress wife.
Together they will burn in a pool of diesel fuel.

            But where?  Where is Hitler’s brain?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week - Reposts

Here is, in one place, a collection of the Holy Week material I've posted in this blog:

A Reminder - art and a quote from N.T. Wright
Living the Resurrection  -  a collage
Beyond the Valley of Dry Bones - a sermon from the book of Ezekiel
Preaching Mark's Unsettling Messiah - a book review
Songs of the Servant - poetry
They Shuddered - photography
Up from the Dunghill - a sermon from the Psalms
The Fear of Easter - a sermon from Mark's gospel
We are Unprepared for Golgotha - poetry and artwork
Passion week videos - two videos
For What Crime? - photography


Acrylic and collage on cardboard

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I am Like the Rain

I am like the rain
and you the wind;
I fall through you
on my way down.

I am a deep sea fish
disrupted by tremors,
discovered in the shallows
by frightened fishermen.

I am Ulysses with ears unstopped
sailing past your rocky shore.
Your siren song calls out for me
and the knots that hold are slipping.

You are atmospheric disturbance.
You are turbulence and clouds.
You are fog and I am lost
You envelop me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Sometimes I can't tell the difference between the two.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mene, Mene Tekel

i know my sins
like blood the stains.

Lord, you hold the balance of my life
Mene, Mene, Tekel.

i am broken, divided
Kyrie eleison.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Justly Exposed

The coordinates have been leaked,
our position is known,
we are exposed!

We are vulnerable to righteous forces,
behind whispering clouds
and to the gunman riding

riding in from desert sands.
He rides the lightning
and brings the sickness of despair
like radiation poison.
We are exposed
and justly.

Flee! the alarm is sounded;
Fly before all is lost.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

(I've removed the image.  Apparently I've maxed out my upload limit...)

Fargo Sunset

This was the view outside my window the other evening, as the sun was setting and the storm was ending.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Return of the Sea Monster

The Sea Monster - a fairly regular figure in my art in recent years - has been in hiding for some time, hiding in some deep cavernous recess of the ocean.  But he appears to have resurfaced, ready to terrorize all who sail the seas.  Beware.  Beware and be warned.

Snakehead River Monster

This little painting goes out to Trev - of the Monsters and Art blog.    Monsters and Art! That's a blog I can appreciate.  Check him out. Leave lots of comments.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Reminder

"We are in danger of being lulled by ... constant refrain into insensibility to what Paul was actually saying - and, equally importantly, was heard to be saying in the world of his day.  Crucifixes regularly appear as jewellery in today's post-Christian Western world, and the wearers are often blissfully unaware that their pretty ornament depicts the ancient equivalent, all in one, of the hangman's noose, the electric chair, the thumbscrews, and the rack.  Or, to be more precise, something which combined all four but went far beyond them; crucifixion was such an utterly horrible thing that the very mention of the word was usually avoided in polite Roman society. Every time Paul spoke of it - especially when he spoke in the same breath  of salvation, love, grace and freedom - he and his hearers must have been conscious of the slap in the face thereby administered to their normal expectations and sensibilities.  Somehow, we need to remind ourselves of this every time Paul mentions Jesus' death, especially the mode of that death."

What Saint Paul Really Said - N.T. Wright

It Was Murder When They Killed Him

It was murder when they killed him,
unrepentant murder in the dark,
murder by high handed colonists
with deep rooted fears,

a military styled ambush from start to finish
and concealed afterwards by the
vagaries and fog of an apathetic memory.

Now every fire, every quake,
every chemical spill and bridge collapse
is blamed on his restless vengeful spirit;
every time the river floods its narrow banks
it’s the result of his immortal malice.

Even in death he is to blame.

But the manufacture of experimental explosives
continues underground in secret bunkers
hidden from overhead satellite cameras.
Production of trinitroturbulance
continues despite the leeching of toxic compounds
into the soil and water,
despite the explosion in tunnel thirteen

where those crippled by the blast
were left to die, alone,
deserted in the cavernous dark.
The colonists sealed the pit,
but their guilt remains.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Stop

A lot of attention has been paid to the heroic efforts of the numerous volunteers who have filled and stacked the millions of sandbags along the Red River.  Their efforts to protect the homes and property along the river will not be forgotten.

But there are others working just as hard in less visible ways.  Take for instance the truck drivers carrying loads of clay form barrow pits to dike construction sites along the river.  Driving for as much as twelve hours, back and forth between the pit and the construction sites, their work is as vital if not as visible as those throwing sandbags.

Sometimes you just have to stop to see the need.  Canteen driver, Dave Hinkley did just that.  After checking with the Army Corps of Engineers who were administering the pit, he pulled in alongside the row of trucks entering the pit where he and his canteen crew began to serve the more than 55 trucks, equipment operators and contractor staff.

“These guys drive for hours at a time. Most of them have no one to talk to or interact with.  It’s in the truck, to the pit, to the site, dump and repeat.  So when they see us their faces light up, the smiles come out, and they really appreciate the water, sandwiches and chips,” said Hinkley. “You really know that you’re making a difference in their day.”

Most of the drivers were in a rush to deliver their loads.  They didn’t have time to stop their trucks, get out, and to walk over to the Salvation Army’s canteen unit, so Hinkley and the other volunteers on the canteen delivered drinks and snacks to the drivers, passing them through the windows drive-thru style.

One driver, however, made it a point to stop and to get out of his truck.  His father had been a member of the ND National Guard when the tornado hit Fargo in ’59, assigned to a traffic control point.  He stood his post but wasn’t relived for more than twelve hours.  It was the Salvation Army trucks that stopped for him, to offer him coffee and food, and to let him know that they appreciated what he was doing.  “This trucker wanted to make sure that we knew,” said Hinkley, “that both he and his dad would never forget the kindness shown to them by the Salvation Army.”

Sometimes you just have to stop.

From the Heart of the Tempest

Then from the heart of the tempest Yahweh gave Job his answer. (Job 38:1)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chapter One - In Which Young Master William Defeats his Father at a Game of Chess During the Worst Storm of the Century

Without, the night was cold and wet. Sheets of rain fell from the sky and shattered into the ground. Powerful storm winds flung tree limbs down and thrashed the night sky, howling like a murdered victim. A worse storm could not be remembered and would not be recorded for another century and a half. This storm was blamed by superstitious folk in the region for a spate of birth defects in children born over the next several months and for at least one death.

The river, already swollen with melted snow waters from nearby mountains, now surged over its banks– engorged like a bloated corpse, an undead corpse, moaning and gurgling and like a zombie, mindlessly devouring anything in it’s path. Storm drains filled and spilled over; the gutters were clogged with the drowned corpses of stray dogs and feral cats.

The storm raged without, but in the small parlor of Lakesnam Villa the blinds were drawn and the fire in the fireplace burned bright. Father and son were absorbed in contemplation and a game of chess. The former, who possessed only a theoretical understanding of the game but was not-so-well practiced at actually playing the game made a course of such radical and constant change and persisted in putting his king into such sharp and unnecessary perils that it even elicited comments from the rooms eldest occupant - the white haired old lady knitting placidly by the fire.

“Don’t toy with him.” She said to the boy. “Finish the game and put your father out of his misery.”

“Hush, mother, I’ve got him right where I want him,” said the man. But then he paused, unsure. “Listen to that wind,” said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it. “The sound of it is unearthly.”

The white queen, the imperiatrix mundi, left her mate with an exposed flank in order to draw the trap. She smiled at her superiority. She knew, of course that men rule the world. It’s a man’s world, baby. But when the black and white squares meet at the corner of the board, it will be the Queen that moves in for the kill, not the moribund king. He can only sit and sulk within his square. The White Queen knew this and, had she possessed an emotionally demonstrative personality, would have smiled. Instead, she flung herself diagonally across the full length of the board to assassinate an exposed bishop.

“I’m listening,” said the boy, grimly surveying the board as he stretched out his hand. He had anticipated his father’s error. “Check.”

But the wind,” Mr. White insisted, turning from the game. “It sounds like a banshee shrieking at the windows of a house of the damned.” His son continued to stare at the board, studiously ignoring the sound. “Check. It’s your move, dad.”

“I should hardly think that he’d come tonight,” said his father, with his hand poised over the board. He moved the bishop absently. “It isn’t an equinox or a solstice. There’s no reason for him to come tonight.” He glanced at his mother for support. “Right? Can you think of any legitimate reason for him to come here tonight? “

The white haired woman didn’t bother to look up from her knitting; the White Queen slid silently into place.
“Check Mate,” replied the son.

Mr. White reluctantly turned his attention back to the game. “You win again.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Grasshopper and the Ants: A Flood Story

The cities of Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota sit on opposite sides of the Red River; both are affected by the rising water level. Both cities have been working to prepare themselves for this event. Dikes and levees have been built, sandbags have been filled, and flood walls have been installed for a major flood event. And already the Red River has reached “Major Flood Stage” at 30.0’. This morning the river is at 31.69’ and continuing to rise. Projections from the National Weather Service and from the Corps of Engineers estimate that the river will crest somewhere between 39’ and 41’. That’s a fair flood. The record set two years ago was 40.8’. However, those estimates of 39’ – 41’ are revised estimates. Earlier forecasts put the river at 42’.

This is the third major flood event in as many years. People around here are getting pretty good at dealing with the water. As early as December of last year, plans were put into effect to prepare for the flood waters this spring.

But some have suggested that being good at this might not be such a good thing. The attitude for some seems to be “ah… we’ve had worse. The river won’t go that high this year.” It’s a feeling of complacency. City officials have spoken about “volunteer apathy.”

It’s a little like Aesop’s story of the grasshopper and the ants. You remember, the ants worked through the summer to set aside food for the winter while the grasshopper played his fiddle all summer. When winter came, the ants were prepared, but the grasshopper starved.

Not only do the cities of Fargo and Moorhead sit on opposite sides of the river, but they seem to have opposite attitudes towards flood preparation. That’s not to say that the grasshoppers in this case, have been frittering away the time instead of doing things to prepare themselves for the flood. But the ants in this case certainly seem to be urging a sense that this is, indeed, a critical event and not something to be casually dismissed.

The Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr once said that “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” There are numerous factors that can affect how high the rivers will rise – temperatures, rainfall, snowmelt, ice-jams, etc… It could be that the river won’t reach those record setting levels or it could be that the river will swell to new record levels. It’s difficult to predict.

But wouldn’t it be better to be over-prepared than to scramble in the last moments?

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up?
Proverbs 6:6-9 (NLT)

Already some streets are closed to traffic in Moorhead, MN because of the rising Red River.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Friend John

Tonight as we sat in our temporary office in the Incident Command buliding for the flood response, my friend John said something that caught me totally off-guard and sent me into a paroxysm of laughter.  I laughed harder tonight than ever before.  I laughed until there were tears in my eyes and I couldn't breathe. 

My friend John believes that William Shatner is God's gift to a fallen world, but I can forgive him this relatively minor heresy.

John and I can trade obscure movie quotes, but he usually wins.

I wish I could be half the man that John is... though I am almost literally, half the man he is.

(a sketch of my freind John, drawn tonight in Photoshop)

This song is also for my friend John.

Another Tile

Water Tile

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dear God- Adventures in Not Being Offended

I think my friend was trying to provoke me a little. I think he was trying to get a rise out of me, testing me to see if I would be offended or if I would object. I think he was trying to determine the boundaries of our friendship.

We’re relatively new friends, you see. We met just a few months ago. We share similar taste in music – we both like the eclectic and the obscure. (We like music of both kinds, Country and  Western!) We both like Mel Brooks movies.  We both like reading science fiction. And we both admit to having enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons. There is a special bond between geeks like us and our twenty-sided dice.

But for all of that, we have some significant differences in those two most dangerous of conversational areas: Religion and Politics. (Gasp!)

We spent the other morning, as we drove to work, talking about politics – the role of government and et cetera. We didn’t agree on some things – but that’s the nature of politics, right? But still we talked and laughed and we’re still friends. 

Later that day I had to drive out west across the long flat highways of North Dakota and my friend volunteered to go along for the ride. I was glad to have him along. It’s a pretty dull trip to make by myself. He plugged his Ipod into the van’s stereo system and began to play DJ for our trip. From his playlist he dialed up music from The Pixies, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, Yes, and so on.

And as we listened to these great songs we talked again. Since we’d already covered politics, we moved on to that other dangerous area - religion. He asked about my faith. I told him what I believe and I told him some of the things I wondered and even some of the things I doubt. He reciprocated by telling me about his. I believe in the Truth as revealed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament and more fully revealed in the person of the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth. He told me that he believes that all religions are more or less the same in validity (or invalidity as the case may be). We talked back and forth and listened to some good tunes.

As one song ended, my friend put our conversation on pause as he chose the next perfect song. And this, I think, was the test, the probe. The next song on his list was “Dear God” by the band XTC. I recognized it almost immediately. I know this song. I even like this song. And I think that I saw the tiniest upward lift of my friend’s eyebrow as I began to sing along.

Maybe he expected that a pastor would be offended by this song with its aggressive doubt. But, to be honest, I like the song. I wonder about these same questions, and share the songwriter's anger over these issues. Why shouldn’t I?

And I think maybe God does too.

I didn’t make a big deal about it. I sang along and drummed on the steering wheel. And we arrived at our destination shortly after the song finished. But I think I passed the test (if I was being tested). We’re still friends.

Dear God

Dear God, hope you got the letter, and...
I pray you can make it better down here.
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer
but all the people that you made in your image, see
them starving on their feet 'cause they don't get
enough to eat from God, I can't believe in you

Dear God, sorry to disturb you, but... I feel that I should be heard
loud and clear. We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
and all the people that you made in your image, see them fighting
in the street 'cause they can't make opinions meet about God,
I can't believe in you

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue? Did you make
mankind after we made you? And the devil too!

Dear God, don't know if you noticed, but... your name is on
a lot of quotes in this book, and us crazy humans wrote it, you
should take a look, and all the people that you made in your
image still believing that junk is true. Well I know it ain't, and
so do you, dear God, I can't believe in I don't believe in…

I won't believe in heaven and hell. No saints, no sinners, no
devil as well. No pearly gates, no thorny crown. You're always
letting us humans down. The wars you bring, the babes you
drown. Those lost at sea and never found, and it's the same the
whole world 'round. The hurt I see helps to compound that
Father, Son and Holy Ghost is just somebody's unholy hoax,
and if you're up there you'd perceive that my heart's here upon
my sleeve. If there's one thing I don't believe in

it's you....

Dear God – Andy Partridge, 1987, Geffen

Self Portrait

A couple of weeks ago one of my painting friends asked if I'd ever done any self portraits. "I have," I told her.  The last one I painted I gave as a Christmas gift to my parents, but that was several years ago.

So since I had a few (just a few) hours of down time the past couple of nights I worked on this one.
The colors in the photograph aren't exactly as I painted them.  The photo is a little too dark, and there's some glare...  but it's me, pretty much.


 (Acrylic and Ink on paper)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Biblical Studies Carnival

Maybe you won't think it's much, but I feel honored to be included in this month's Biblical Studies Carnival LXI - March Madness edition. 

Dr. Playtupus included my Incomplete Theodicy as part of the first half. 

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
reviews: 2
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.33)

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