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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Zoo Photos with My Son

My ten year old son is becoming more and more interested in photography - to the point where he's all but taken my camera from me.  Today we visited the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin and he took these photos.

When he finally let me use the camera I took a few as well.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lamento Della Ninfa

Lamento Della Ninfa by thatjeffcarter was here

Lamento Della Ninfa (The Nymph’s Lament) is the 18th piece from Cluadio Monteverdi's eighth book of madrigals (Madrigali guerrieri ed amorosi, 1638). The three male voices narrate the story and offer empathy to the nymph as she laments her abandonment.

To make this remixed version of Monteveridi's work I used a couple of samples including Space Violin from the Freesound Project and my trombone.

"Amor", dicea, il ciel
mirando, il piè fermo,
"dove, dov'è la fè
ch'el traditor giurò?"

Miserella !

"Fa' che ritorni il mio
amor com'ei pur fu,
o tu m'ancidi, ch'io
non mi tormenti più."

Miserella, ah più no, no,
tanto gel soffrir non può !

"Non vo' più ch'ei sospiri
se non lontan da me,
no, no che i martiri
più non darammi affè!

Perché di lui mi struggo,
tutt'orgoglioso sta,
che si, che si se'l fuggo
ancor mi pregherà?

Se ciglio ha più sereno
colei, che'l mio non è,
già non rinchiude in seno,
Amor, sí bella fè.

Ne mai sí dolci baci
da quella bocca havrai,
ne più soavi, ah taci,
taci, che troppo il sai."

- Translated-

“O Love,” she said,
Gazing at the sky, as she stood
“Where's the fidelity
That the deceiver promised?”

Poor her!

“Make my love come back
As he used to be
Or kill me, so that
I will not suffer anymore.”

Poor her! She cannot bear
All this coldness!

“I don't want him to sigh any longer
But if he's far from me.
No! He will not make me suffer
Anymore, I swear!

He's proud
Because I languish for him.
Perhaps if I fly away from him
He will come to pray to me again?

If her eyes are more serene
Than mine,
O Love, she does not hold in her heart
A fidelity so pure as mine.

And you will not receive from those lips
Kisses as sweet as mine,
Nor softer. Oh, don't speak.
Don't speak! You know better than that.”

Friday, August 26, 2011


Biblical Studies Carnival September 2011 - Hey, I'm in There!

James McGrath - host of the Biblical Studies Carnival September 2011 (Episode II: The Biblioblogs Strike Back) has included a link to one of my recent articles in this month's expansive carnival.

With so many great links it's easy to miss my little one, but it's in there.  

Thanks for taking the time to check it out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tell Me

Tell Me

Tell me of those Christian martyrs
living and dying
in the shadow of violence
cast by the cross,
suffering with the Christ
as he suffered with them,
participating in his death
and sharing his glory.

Tell me of those
redeemed in his blood
and ordained in their own.
Tell me of those called to be
sacred vessels of his peace
even as they hung on imperial crosses.

Tell me how they praised
the God of heaven
and the Prince of peace
as they forgave their murderers,
and went to their deaths
as a procession into life.

Tell me of those Christian martyrs
so they will not be forgotten
in this imperial age
under the shadow of imperial violence
committed in the guise of righteousness.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Burden of Nahum

I have said it before; I will probably say it again.  I don’t like Nahum.  And I don’t think I’m likely to change my opinion here.  I don’t like the book of Nahum.  We don’t know enough about the man, Nahum, whose name means “Comfort” or “Consolation,” for me to say I don’t like Nahum the man.  But I do not, do not, do not like his book.

Is that a strange admission for a pastor to make?  I mean, this isn’t just a matter of preference – like I prefer the Mark’s gospel over Luke’s or I like the letter to the Hebrews more than Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  No.  This is a thorough dislike of the book of Nahum.  I just don’t like it.

And yet, I have purposefully brought myself to preach from it.  I could have avoided this. I crafted the preaching calendar we’re using this year to bring us through each of the prophets, and I could have slipped right past Nahum’s three chapters – and some of you probably wouldn’t have noticed or cared.  Hardly anyone reads or preaches from Nahum.  In fact, none of the official church lectionaries include Nahum.  In the history of Christian sermons, there have been relatively few drawn from Nahum’s oracle.

Though, I will make this concession.  Nahum’s writing is powerful.  He has the poet’s descriptive skill.  To read his book is to be overwhelmed by the chaotic sights and sounds of war.  Reading Nahum you can hear and see and almost feel the battle being fought around you.  There is intensity and power in his writing.

The book is described for us in the first verse of the first chapter as “An oracle concerning Nineveh, the book of the visions of Nahum.” An oracle is a form of prophetic speech in which information is transmitted from God to his followers to answer important questions, to respond to feelings of doubt, or to reveal future events.  Sometimes the prophet would seek out an answer to a question and be given an oracle in response, other times God would speak without having been sought out.

Curiously, the Hebrew word for Oracle is also sometimes translated as “burden.”  It is something lifted up – the prophet who speaks the oracle must lift up his voice.  But it is heavy; it is something that must be carried; it is a load upon the prophet’s shoulders.  It is a burden. And it is this burden that the prophet Nahum has left us. 

What are we to do with this oracle? What should we do with this burden?  I ask the question, but I’m getting ahead of myself. How can you understand that question or begin to form a response, until you know more about the book, until you’ve felt its weight?  

So let us pick up this book together, let’s carry it a little while, you and I. 

Ready?  Lift (remember to use your legs, not your back…).

The Assyrian Empire (more specifically known to historians and scholars as the Neo-Assyrian Empire) was the world’s first military superpower.  With a vast hoard of military men armed with iron weapons and covered with strong armor, and countless chariots – used as mobile firing platforms for archers – the Assyrian army would launch merciless attacks against its foes. First a devastating charge of cavalry and chariots to smash the enemy’s lines followed by a swarm of infantrymen to purse and slaughter the now divided forces.  The Assyrians preferred this kind of bloody frontal assault designed to surprise and shock their enemies. 

“At the command of the god Ashur, the great Lord, I rushed upon the enemy like the approach of a hurricane...I put them to rout and turned them back. I transfixed the troops of the enemy with javelins and arrows....I cut their throats like sheep...My prancing steeds, trained to harness, plunged into their welling blood as into a river; the wheels of my battle chariot were bespattered with blood and filth. I filled the plain with corpses of their warriors like herbage” —Sennacherib, (704 – 682 B.C.)

The populations of captured cities were deported to other portions of the vast and expanding Assyrian empire.  This undermined the ability of restless and angry subjects to rebel. And, perhaps more significantly, it was a psychological weapon. The threat of deportation or slaughter kept the empire settled and encouraged those cities and nations that might have otherwise resisted the Assyrian expansion to settle peaceably.

Those who refused to surrender and those who attempted to rebel against their Assyrian overlords were publicly tortured; they were flayed, impaled, beheaded, and burnt alive. Their eyes were ripped out, and their fingers, noses and ears cut off. Women were raped, men mutilated until death, and their heads, arms, hands and even lower lips were placed on the conquered city's walls, skulls and noses atop stakes as a warning to others. On some occasions, people were blinded so that as they wandered throughout the land they could tell others of the Assyrian terrors.

The Assyrian Empire was powerful and it was cruel. 

In 722 B.C. the Assyrian Empire conquered the kingdom of Israel and destroyed its capital city, Samaria.  Its inhabitants were scattered throughout the empire.  And for nearly one hundred years the Assyrian Empire threatened and attacked and invaded the southernkingdom of Judah.  They demanded tribute and taxes. Their armies raided Judean villages. 

So this is where we start, with the long memory of torture and fear and terror and violence from the Assyrian Empire.  Can we feel that burden?  The Assyrians have been the dominant power for as long as anyone can remember. They have been calling the shots.  The people of Israel – those survivors who fled south into the kingdom of Judah, and the people of Judah had lived in continual fear of the Assyrian Empire. They’d suffered and died under the Assyrians for generations…

And now…

And now Nahum has a word – an oracle (a burden) from Yahweh concerning Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria.

“Victims of injustice have a long memory, for the traces of their suffering are deeply engraved.” Jurgen Moltman -The Tortured Christ

While most of the words of Nahum’s oracle are addressed to the people of Nineveh, it is unlikely that he actually spoke them in that great city, or that he wrote them down to be delivered in the mail.  It’s as if he’s speaking over Nineveh’s shoulder to the people of Judah.  The oracle of doom and death and destruction for Nineveh wasn’t given in order to encourage them to repent, but to give “consolation” and “comfort” to Israel and Judah and her many other victims.

Nahum begins with what almost sounds like an incantation:  

Yahweh is a jealous and vengeful God, 
Yahweh takes vengeance, he is rich in wrath; 
Yahweh takes vengeance on his foes, 
he stores up fury for his enemies.
Yahweh is slow to anger but great in power.
Nahum 1: 2 – 3

It’s as if by repeating the name of God, Nahum intends to invoke his God – to awaken the sleeping divine warrior and to summon him to battle.  And that’s the kind of God we find in Nahum’s oracle – a warrior God.  Nahum sees him striding forth in the upper regions of the atmosphere, in the storms and winds – the clouds of the sky are the dust stirred up by his feet as he goes forth to war. (1: 3)
And this warrior God is powerful.  He speaks and rivers and oceans dry up, garden lands wither for lack of moisture, mountains collapse, hills reel, the earth and its inhabitants quake in the heat of his volcanic wrath. (1: 4 – 6)  Nothing and no one can withstand him or stand up against his righteous indignation.

But in all of this, Nahum’s God begins to sound a bit like the Assyrians that he hates – powerful, cruel, and merciless. I wonder if this is too much of a burden.

Verses 9 – 15 of chapter 1 contain a series of shifting judgments and promises – left ambiguously in the original language with unidentified pronouns.  Except for the promises in verse 15, it isn’t immediately clear who is being addressed. Is it Nineveh? Is it Judah? Who is the “you”?  Who are “they”?

What do you plot against Yahweh?
He will make a full end;
his adversaries will not rise up a second time.
Like  entangled thorns they are consumed, 
like dry stubble.

From you has emerged 
someone plotting evil against Yahweh,
one who counseled villainy.

Yahweh says this:
“Unopposed and many though they be,
they will be cut down and pass away.
Though I have made you suffer,
I shall make you suffer no more, 
for now I shall break his yoke which presses hard upon you
and I will snap your chains.”

As for you, this is Yahweh’s decree:
“You will have no heirs to your name,
from the temple of your gods I will remove
the carved and cast image,
and I will make your grave a heap of filth.”

See on the mountains, the feet of the herald!
“Peace!” he proclaims.
Judah, celebrate your feasts,
carry out your vows,
for Belial will never pass through you again:
he has been utterly cut off.
Nahum 1: 9 – 15

And though some translations like the NIV offer to interpret for us inserting “O Nineveh” or “O Judah” in order to clarify the subject of these pronouncements, I prefer to leave them as Nahum wrote them – slightly ambiguous. The interpretive insertions probably are correct, but the ambiguity, slight as it is, helps me. Otherwise it’s all to easy to assume that Nahum’s voice is God’s voice – that Nahum’s enemies were, in fact, God’s enemies, and that I can do the same with my voice and my enemies.

The prophet Jonah was reluctant to offer God’s mercy and love to the people of Assyria.  He sat in the shade of vine and pouted when his predicted judgment of imminent destruction failed to occur.  God asked him “Should I not be have compassion on Nineveh?” (Jonah 4: 11)

Compassion for Nineveh?  Nahum – whose name means compassion – certainly had none for that great city.   He seems to celebrate the slaughter of its people.  It was clobberin’ time.  It was comeuppance time.  It was time for the abusers to be abused, for the torturer to be tortured, for the killer to be killed. 

I can understand the appeal of this, though.  We all want justice. Made as we are, in the image of God; we want to see justice and righteousness in this world.  We want to see the righteous rewarded and the wicked punished.  But sometimes that desire for justice gets twisted into a desire for revenge.  Like Nahum, we like it when evil men get what’s coming to them.  Remember the parties and the dancing in the street when it was announced that Osama bin Laden was dead?

But I’m not convinced that this is God’s way.  Despite Nahum, I’m not convinced that God takes pleasure in the pursuit of revenge (or justice).  Another Hebrew prophet, from a slightly later time, recorded these words from God:

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?” declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?  (Ezekiel 18:23)

From you has emerged someone plotting evil against Yahweh,one who counseled villainy.

From whom?  Nineveh? The NIV insertion would say so.  And I think Nahum would have agreed. But what about Israel?  What aboutJudah?  Certainly evil and villainy came from them as well.  The other prophets had much to say about the sin and wickedness among God’s people even if Nahum didn’t. 

Though I have made you suffer,I shall make you suffer no more, for now I shall break his yoke which presses hard upon youand I will snap your chains.

If it was Yahweh’s will being enacted in history with the Babylonian invasion of Nineveh, could this ambiguously pronounced promise of rescue and release be given to Assyria?

As for you, this is Yahweh’s decree:“You will have no heirs to your name,

The people of Israel captured by the Assyrians and taken away into captivity never came back.  They remain the “lost tribes” of Israel. Though I’m sure Nahum intended this threat for Assyria (and it was true for Assyria as well), I can’t help but wonder if it fits just as well for Israel.

It’s the ambiguity of these verses, I think, that lightens this burden a little bit.  The ambiguity of these verses makes Nahum a little easier to accept.  As he stands, I think that the fire of Nahum’s fury puts off more smoke than light, that he obscures as much (if not more) than he reveals of God. 
But the ambiguity (slight as it is) allows us to challenge the prophet, and to challenge ourselves.  

Otherwise Nahum’s rant is too much of a burden and not enough of an oracle.

Other Nahum posts:
Kill 'em All, Let God Sort 'em Out!
I Don't Like Nahum

Monday, August 22, 2011

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine... but not like you've ever heard it before.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fun Slide and Ferris Wheel - County Fair Photos

My son and I like to take pictures. Fun Slide is his and the Ferris Wheel is mine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I'm Reading: Surviving Terror - Hope and Justice in a World of Violence

I've just finished reading a book that has sat on my shelves for some time: Surviving Terror: Hope and Justice in a world of Violence.  It is a  collection of essays and sermons inspired by the life and work of  Korean theologian David Kwang-sun Suh.

And the more I read, the more I realized I need to read.  In describing his life's journey David Suh made me realize that I know little about the history of Korea (and most of what I know is, shamefully, based on episodes of M*A*S*H).  I know nothing about  Minjung theology or the minjung movement.  I know little about the repressive regimes that ruled South Korea (the "good" Korea) after the Korean War.  I know little of the history of Christianity in Japan.  I know little of the racial tensions between the Japanese and Koreans.  I know little of the fundamentalist character of much of Korean Christianity or of its painful similarities  to Confucianism.

But the writers who contributed to this book have something to show me.Spanish priests who objected to the brutalities and inhumanities perpetrated against the native Caribbeans by those who followed after Columbus, victims of  the sexual politics of terror in patriarchal communities, survivors of the Nazi holocaust confronting their fears... these are the stories and the voices within this collection.  

I know something more of the world now, but not enough by any means.  I want to know more.

But this one thing I know of myself - I've not known terror.  Not in the way they have.
I've experienced fear.  I've had moments of panic.  But nothing in my relatively comfortable life has come close to the terrors described in this book - terrors which are, sadly, the norm for many parts of the world.

The book is disturbing in many ways, but challenging, too.   There is no surrender to terror in these pages.  Instead there is a confrontation with those forces, and a call to action, even if the action is small -to write, to speak, to share something of the good news of the gospel and the vision of God's peaceable kingdom.  

I should have read this book sooner.

Surviving Terror: Hope and Justice in a world of Violence 
edited by Victoria Lee Erickson and Michelle Lim Jones
Brazos Press,  2002.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bjork vs Bond

It's Bjork vs Bond in this mash-up of "Hit" by The Sugarcubes and The James Bond Theme.

Share with a friend.

Reflexive Action

Reflexive Action by thatjeffcarter was here

The melody for this little bit was made by playing around with this.
I filled in the rest of it with some of my own sounds and some sounds from The Freesound Project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kill 'em All, Let God Sort 'em Out!

This is sermon that I wrote a few years ago from my least favorite book of the bible.  Since I'm revisiting that book again this Sunday, I thought I'd review and share what I wrote before.

Kill ‘em All, Let God Sort ‘em Out!

Martin Luther found the book of James to be so disagreeable that he wanted to have it removed from the cannon of scripture- he considered it to be a book of straw. If I were in such a position of scholarship and leadership, and people actually asked for my opinion (which as of yet they have not) – I might find myself arguing for the exclusion of the book of Nahum – considering it to be a book of nationalism and hatred. And I don’t think I’m alone in my hesitation to accept Nahum. The lectionaries of the church all skip Nahum. It is an implicit confession by the church that Nahum – at the very least – makes us uncomfortable.

At the conclusion of the film about the life of Joan of Arc, The Messenger, Jean (played by Milla Jovovich) confesses, 

“I fought out of revenge and despair. I was all the things that people believe they are allowed to be when they’re fighting for a cause… I was proud, and stubborn, selfish…yes, cruel.” 

When I read the book of Nahum, I wonder if the prophet Nahum might make a similar confession.

Nahum, curiously, means “compassion” or “comfort” – yet there is very little of either in his prophecy. His message is Doom, Death, and Destruction. There is no hope for reconciliation or repentance or forgiveness. There is no word salvation. There is no word of mercy. There is no word of grace.

Nahum delivered his prophecy sometime between the fall of the Egyptian city of Thebes to the Assyrian army in 663 BC and the destruction of the Assyrian capital city, Nineveh, by an army of Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians in 612 BC.

Assyria conquered the Northern nation of Israel in 722 BC. Around 650 BC Assyria, led by Ashurbanipal, conquered a number of Judean towns and subjugated the Southern Kingdom as well. Judah was made a vassal state to the Assyrian empire.

The prophet Jonah had been sent to Nineveh, but was reluctant to deliver God's message to those he considered enemies. He did go however, and despite (or perhaps because of) his ill feelings toward the Assyrians, delivered a message of imminent destruction. The people of Nineveh repented and God granted forgiveness.

Nahum on the other hand seemed to relish the chance to pronounce a message of imminent destruction and does not allow any opportunity for repentance. Filled with a violent nationalism and a fierce hatred for the cruel Assyrians, Nahum ("comfort" / "compassion") declared that the city would be destroyed and the people slaughtered.

And Nahum was correct. His prophecy of destruction of the city of Nineveh (specifically, destruction by flood and army in 2:7 –9) was fulfilled in 612 BC when the Babylonian army along with troops from the Medes and the Scythians laid siege to the city. The siege lasted only a few months.

Towards the end of the siege there was a tremendous rain and the Tigris River (which flowed through the city) flooded and destroyed a portion of the city walls allowing the invaders to capture the city. The ancient historian Diodorus Siculus tells us that when the king saw the flood waters destroy the wall he set fire to his palace – making it a funeral pyre for himself, his wives, and his concubines. So fully was the city destroyed that the ruins of the city were not rediscovered until 1850!

YHWH is a jealous and vengeful God,
YHWH takes vengeance; he is rich in wrath;
YHWH takes vengeance on his foes,
he stores up fury for his enemies.
YHWH is slow to anger but great in power,
YHWH never lets evil go unpunished.
In storm and whirlwind he takes his way,
the clouds are the dust stirred up by his feet.
(Nahum 1: 2 - 3)

This is the Divine Warrior – the avenging warrior God who destroys the forces of chaos and demolishes the power of the tyrant. Nahum’s God is a God of power and might. A God who judges wickedness, declares sentence, and acts as executioner. Nahum’s God is a terror to the wicked and the cruel. And while he may be slow to anger, Nahum’s God stores up his fury for his enemies and never – ever lets evil go unpunished.

During times of war, nations often declare that they have the Divine Warrior on their side. During the 100-year war between England and France, English soldiers taunted the French by shouting, “the Pope may be French, but Jesus is English!” In the American Civil War both sides, the North and the South, were convinced of the righteousness of their cause – and invoked the Divine Warrior against the other side. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…” Nazi soldiers during World War II wore belt buckles that were inscribed with the words, “God is with us!” The cold war was given a holy war flavor as the enemy was referred to as “godless communists”.

This Divine Warrior is the kind of God envisioned by “hellfire-and-brimstone” preachers. From this idea we get sermons like the (in)famous sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. 

“The wrath of God is like great waters that are damned for the present; they increase more and more and rise higher and higher till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose…”
If we are completely honest, there are times when we want this kind of Angry Wrathful God. When we read about genocide, and slaughter; when we hear about children who are killed or maimed by landmines, we want an angry God. We want an angry God when we hear about children and wives who are abused and when we hear about the elderly being neglected. We want an angry God when we think about the holocaust in Nazi Germany. We want an angry God when we think about the terrorists who deliberately crashed planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Pennsylvanian landscape on September 11th. We want an angry God when we hear about murder, and drug pushers, and abortion clinics.

We want a God who is angered by sin. We want a God who will pour out wrath on the cruel, the wicked, and the merciless. We want a God who will vindicate the innocent.

But is that really what the bible teaches? Is it the whole truth?

Is that really what we want?

Do we worship a merciless, vengeful, wrathful God? Are we forever to live as ‘sinners in the hands of an angry God?’ And who ultimately decides which side of nationalistic conflicts God favors, especially when both sides claim that God is on their side?

Nahum’s God was rooted in a violent Judean nationalism and had no room for forgiveness or grace. Nahum’s God seems almost more demonic than divine. He has no pity for those who would die in the destruction of Nineveh. His motto is that of calloused soldiers, “Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out.”

Nahum’s God reveals more about Nahum perhaps than the true character of God. Nahum spoke from an angry time. His people had been oppressed for over 100 years by a brutal and cruel foreign empire. He wanted vengeance on those oppressors and spoke of a vengeful God who would pour out righteous divine wrath on those same oppressors.

“The God of human history is as much obscured here [in Nahum] as revealed, in images that cannot rise far enough above the limitations of their originating culture.” [i] While Nahum may illuminate the justice and wrath of God, the smoke from his fiery language obscures God's mercy and grace.

Nahum’s message may have been appropriate for his time and place – but it would be foolish and dangerous to try to apply Nahum’s nationalistic hatred towards our enemies today. Though I have heard Christian pastors and teachers making a connection between Nahum and other OT prophets and our national enemies today (Afghanistan, Iraq, N. Korea, etc...)

Nahum was an extremist. Nahum could find no balance. Without going so far as to say “Nahum was wrong,” (I hesitate to declare scripture to be "wrong") I will say that he wasn’t / isn’t complete. We do believe that God is just and that he does judge the wicked and that he does vindicate and liberate the oppressed – but …

We also believe that God does not delight in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18: 32). We believe that God will pardon and overlook crime – and that he does not harbor anger forever. (Micah 7:18 – 20) We have been taught to love our enemies and to work and pray for their good (Matthew 6: 43 – 48). And that vengeance is best left to God. (Romans 12:14 – 21).

Nahum spoke out of revenge and despair. He was all the things that people believe they are allowed to be when they’re fighting for a cause… He was proud, and stubborn, selfish, and cruel.

He saw only a nationalistic God pouring out wrath on his (Nahum's) enemies. He could not (would not?) see the God who loves and forgives, the God who is merciful to sinners.

May we see the God that Nahum could not.

[i] Francisco O. Garcia –Treto, The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 7, p. 615

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Don't Like Nahum

I'll be preaching from the book of Nahum on Sunday.

And this is a stretch for me because I don't particularly like the book of Nahum.  Martin Luther didn't like the book of James and would have liked to remove it.  And if I were king of the world, I'd order the book of Nahum to be stricken but I'm not and it isn't, so there we are.

But I don't think I'm alone in my discomfort with the prophet Nahum.  He's not included in any of the various church lectionaries.  There probably aren't many preachers preaching from Nahum.  It's part of what James McGrath might call the "Shadow Bible".

I don't know why those who developed the lectionaries chose to leave out Nahum but I usually avoid him because he's so bitter.  His name, ironically, means "comfort" (like Noah) but there's precious little comfort in the book.

Nahum delivered his prophecies to the Assyrians in Nineveh, warning them of the imminent destruction of their city and of their empire.  But he didn't just warn them of their coming comeuppance.  He reveled in it.  You can almost hear Nahum squealing with delight as he describes the carnage and devastation and slaughter.  He seems to enjoy the fact that they're about to get what's coming to them.

And while I can recognize the desire for righteous justice, isn't there something in the bible about loving one's enemies, and love not delighting in evil....

I don't like Nahum.  I think he obscures as much (if not MORE) than he reveals about God.
So why am I preparing to preach from him?

1- I don't want to get too comfortable preaching my favorite six parts of the bible.
2 - I want to help my congregation have a more complete understanding of what is in the bible - even the ugly bits.

So I'm working with Nahum, at least for one week.

No Change

No Change from jeff carter on Vimeo.

This is the way it is.
This is the way it will be.
No change.

(I'm not always this gloomy. It just feels that way sometimes.)

From the Freesound Project I used:
The movie clips came from:
The Pyx  (1973)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Entries for the Martin Co. Fair 2011

I went to the Martin Co. Fairgrounds this afternoon to submit my 6 entries - 3 paintings and 3 photographs.  

The paintings are:
Pitiful, Unhappy Cat
A Mistake in Scale
and another octopus/sea monster painting that I haven't yet photographed....

And the photographs are:
Another View
Angry Birds

Maybe I'll win big prize money like I did last year.  I won a whole $9! Whoo-hoo!

Another View

Another view of that forgotten church building near Minot, ND.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little House

This little abandoned house called me from the highway.  I had to stop and take a few photos.  The inside of the house was empty.  No furniture. No decorations.  The windows were mostly broken out.  And the back side of the house was gone - leaving the house open to the elements.  There were no other houses nearby - just fields stretching out in all directions. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

North Dakota Skies

It's hard to believe the expanse of the North Dakota skies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad's birthday.  This is him with his three favorite sons.  Happy Birthday, dad.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is a Dream a Lie if it Don't Come True?

Nick* is an Airman stationed at in Minot, North Dakota.  He has been in the Air Force for several years now, and has been stationed in Italy and Turkey.  He is trained in “special weapons” and looks forward to attaining E-7 status soon.  He was recently transferred to the Minot base, so he and his wife and their infant son bought a house with a loan from the bank.  For Nick it was all part of that American Dream: a good job, a loving family, and a new house to call their home.

That was in April – two months before the flood that would dash that dream. “I made three payments on the house before the flood, and now…” Nick let the sentence hang in the air without completing it.  “I don’t know what I can do.”

And Nick isn’t alone in this predicament.  “There are four others in my shop going through the same thing,” he said.  He’s applied for various forms of assistance.  FEMA has helped some, but he doesn’t qualify for an SBA loan. “And even if I did qualify, there’s no way I could pay it back.  I’m already overextended.”

He and his co-workers on the airbase have been helping each other to clean out the mess the flood made of their houses – pumping out the water, ripping out the dry wall, throwing out the damaged furniture.  He works nights at the airbase, puts in several hours of work on his house, and then sleeps for a couple of hours before heading back to the base.  His wife and son have moved in with her parents in Nevada.   “I miss them, but they’re better off there.” 

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse [1]

The future is uncertain for Nick.  The American Dream has been washed away in the river flood.  “I don’t know what to do.” He put his head down on the table.  “I’ll probably loose the house to the bank, but what can I do?” 

To volunteer in Minot visit, or call

Monetary donations can be made in the following ways:
-Donate $10 by texting “MINOT” to 80888 and replying “yes” to the confirmation text. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your cell phone bill. For terms, see
-Or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
-Or by mailing a check to The Salvation Army, 315 Western Ave., Minot, ND 58701. Be sure to designate your donation “Minot Flood.”
-Or donate online at

* Not his real name.
[1] “The River” Bruce Springsteen, 1981

Monday, August 8, 2011

Doing the Most Good

Disaster - Forces Beyond Our Control

I saw this house in Minot, North Dakota the other day.  I stopped, hoping to speak with the owner, but no one was around.  I wanted to ask him (I assume, “him”. I could be wrong) why he believes that the flooding of the Souris River in Minot represents the “worst manmade disaster.”  Even with the catastrophic flooding and the destruction of thousands of homes, there were no deaths and only a few injuries. 

The word “Disaster” comes from two Greek words δυσ-, (dus-) "bad” and στήρ (aster), "star". It reflects a belief in astrological forces that influence one’s life, forces beyond human control.

And certainly disasters are beyond human control (natural disasters, anyway…). When floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes occur there is little that we can do to stop them.  We can prepare, we can mitigate, we can respond, but we cannot control.

And we want, above all, to be able to control our lives.   

Saturday, August 6, 2011


The flesh of Christ peeled away
In one thousand degrees of radiated flash,
Twelve point five kilo-tons of
Instant crucifixion falling from the sky
The blood of Christ boiled upon the ground
Poured out as a peace offering for us all.

August 6th.  Remember Hiroshima. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

You Just Need to Get Over It!

“You just need to get over it.”

That’s what her mother told her when she tried to express the range of emotions she felt after loosing her home in the flood on the Souris River in Minot, North Dakota.   Her mother cut short their telephone conversation with the brutally curt advice, “you just need to get over it or take some medication and stop crying about it all the time.”

The woman who told me this is a 55 year old mother of three.  She and her husband came to The Salvation Army today for some financial assistance.  Their house, like so many others in this community, was completely flooded by the waters.  And while I was able to give them a voucher for some of the things they need, what she really needed was a chance to express her grief.

Her grief wasn’t for the loss of their home.  She and her husband seemed to be dealing with that pretty well.  They’d bought the house some years ago, paid off the mortgage and thought all was well.  Now they’re getting an SBA loan and starting over.  It’s hard but they feel up to the challenge. 

Her grief felt more like a death… and in a way it is.  She’s grieving for the loss of a close knit family.  She’s grieving for the loss of that intimacy she thought she had with her parents and her sibling.

Immediately after the flood her family helped her and her husband and their still at home teen-aged son to evacuate, but as the days and weeks and months now have passed they want her to “just get over it.”

“They don’t understand. And they don’t care,” she said before the tears and sobs choked her voice. “They don’t call.  They don’t ask about how we’re doing.”

She and her husband spent a little more than an hour talking with me.  And they came to realize that her sense of loss wasn’t so much for the house or the possessions they lost; her sense of loss is rooted in the realization that she doesn’t have the relationship with her family that she thought she had.

“Sometimes we see what we want to see.  We see things that may not be there because we want them to be there.”

But rather than drowning in that sense of loss, she very quickly came to the realization that she has in this the chance to reevaluate more accurately what kind of relationship she has with her family, the chance to ask herself what kind of relationship she would like to have, and the chance to ask herself what she can do to make the relationship better.

“It would be easy to make the relationship worse, to fight and say ‘I never want to speak to you again’… but I don’t want to do that.”

She might want that familial intimacy more than they do, but at least she’s aware of that fact now.  The immediate future will be difficult, and she’s anxious about the traditional family get together at Christmas, but she feels strong.  She has a good husband and three children that she loves and who love her.  She has friends at work and at church.  And she has a “calm in the center” that she attributes to faith in God.

Before they left I gave her a hug, and before I could turn to shake her husband’s hand, she grabbed me and hugged me again.  “Thank you.” she said.

I’m not sure what I did but I think she’ll be all right.

To volunteer in Minot visit,
or call: 701-838-8925.

Monetary donations can be made in the following ways:
-Donate $10 by texting “MINOT” to 80888 and replying “yes” to the confirmation text. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your cell phone bill. For terms, see

-Or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

-Or by mailing a check to The Salvation Army,
315 Western Ave., Minot, ND 58701
Be sure to designate your donation “Minot Flood.”

Credit Where it's Due

Because James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix likes to have credit given where credit is due
he was good enough to credit me for this.

Thanks, James.

Everyone else should check out his religion and science fiction blog.  Good stuff.

The Story So Far

from: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

7,500 Tons of Rubbish

After the flood waters receded thousands of homes in Minot, North Dakota and surrounding towns were left uninhabitable.  Before people can live in them again they will have to be completely gutted - furniture and appliances hauled away, carpet and drywall torn out and disposed.  Along every street are piles of debris, sorted into various piles – appliances with toxic chemicals, asbestos, lumber – to be hauled away.

As of few days ago the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had hauled away over 7,500 tons of flood debris. 

And there is still much, much more.

At the curbside these sad piles of mud and rust encrusted rubbish smell of mold and rot and decay. They are visible reminders of the ephemeral nature of things.  That couch, that flat-screened television, they’re all just so much rubbish after the flood.  What was once dad’s favorite armchair is now a moldy heap of fabric and wood.  Annie’s waterlogged dolls are thrown carelessly atop the heap along with clothes that will never be worn again and books that have been turned to mush

But these are just things –precious thing, maybe, but still just things – and things come and things go. It’s the memories we make with each other, with our families and friends and neighbors that won’t be washed away by rising flood waters.  The relationships we forge with each other will survive even in disaster and destruction.  These are not ephemeral physical objects.  They are forever.

To volunteer in Minot visit, or call

Monetary donations can be made in the following ways:
-Donate $10 by texting “MINOT” to 80888 and replying “yes” to the confirmation text. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your cell phone bill. For terms, see
-Or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
-Or by mailing a check to The Salvation Army, 315 Western Ave., Minot, ND 58701. Be sure to designate your donation “Minot Flood.”
-Or donate online at

I Met Faith Yesterday

I met Faith yesterday.  Her husband had gone inside the church to meet with one of The Salvation Army’s caseworkers in order to receive some financial assistance.  Their home had been destroyed in the flooding of the Souris River in Minot, North Dakota.  Faith sat in their car and waited for him.  But while the morning was cool and breezy, the afternoon heat began to warm the car and Faith needed to get out.

She waved to me and asked if she could sit in the shade of the building, so I found a chair for her and helped her from the warm car to the cool of the shade.  I found a bottle of water for her to drink.

Faith and her husband lost their home in the flooding of the Souris River in Minot, North Dakota.  They are currently staying with one of their cousins in the area, but so are several other members of the family.  There are sixteen of them squeezed into that little home until they can get one of the promised FEMA trailers.

But even with all their loss, and the difficulties they’ve endured, and in spite of the uncertainty of the future, Faith and her husband were cheerful and dignified.  They welcomed the help that we could give them – though it barely began to meet their needs.  I helped Faith to stand from her chair in the shade and to their car and said, “May the Lord be with you.”  From her seat in the car Faith reached up through the open window and took my hand and said, “And also with you.”  Faith squeezed my hand and smiled.  “All will be well,” she said and smiled again.

To volunteer in Minot visit, or call

Monetary donations can be made in the following ways:
-Donate $10 by texting “MINOT” to 80888 and replying “yes” to the confirmation text. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your cell phone bill. For terms, see
-Or by calling 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
-Or by mailing a check to The Salvation Army, 315 Western Ave., Minot, ND 58701. Be sure to designate your donation “Minot Flood.”
-Or donate online at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I am currently in Minot, North Dakota, serving with The Salvation Army's flood response crews.  I drove up part of the way on Sunday and the rest on Monday.

Along the way I saw this abandoned church and decided to pull of the road to take a few photos. Next to the empty church was a farm house with a group of people sitting around in lawn chairs talking about this that and the other.  I asked them if I could take a few pictures of the building. They laughed and said I could 'take the whole damn thing' if I wanted.  I laughed with them.

They told me that the church had been built in the 50's (they thought) and had been empty since the 80's or maybe the 70's.... When was it that Lanna's daughter left?  No, no, no.... Lana left before they quit using the church. It was just after the car wreck that killed John's boy...

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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