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Friday, June 29, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 27

This week's powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image comes much later in the week than has been usual.  I've been busy this week - getting us and all our stuff loaded into a truck, delivered to our new home in Newton, Iowa and unloaded from said truck.  I've got a house and an office full of boxes - some of which still need to be unpacked.  I'm meeting my new staff and my new congregation.  I'm trying to find my way around a new town without getting lost.  

And in the midst of all that I almost forgot to get this image prepared. But - better late than never.  So here it is - this week's powerpoint slide for everyone.  You are free to use these images for your own projects at home, work, school, church or wherever.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

With Wild Abandon (Mark 4:1 – 20)


Jesus is about to tell a parable.
Jesus is about to tell a riddle.
You'll need to listen

You'll need to listen because it's not often that he explains.
It's not often that he defines.
It's not often that he makes it simple, so:


A sower went out to sow.  That is what sowers do. They sow.
And as he sowed with wild abandon
(Tossing seeds left and right, right and left):
Some seeds fell on the edge of the path, where the people would walk.

Years of heavy feet and heavier carts had crushed the earth
Hardened the earth, leaving it impenetrable.
The seeds that fell on the path could not embed themselves in the soil
Could not pull the earth up over their heads
And so, were carried off by hungry birds.

Other seeds fell on patches of rock – the sower was, after all, sowing with abandon
And these rocks were everywhere.
Oh, the farmer, I suppose, could have spent days and days and days and days
Removing the rocks from his field,
But he could never be sure he'd gotten them all,
(and there would be more again next year)
    But he would have lost those precious days at the start of the season for sowing.
So he tossed the seed with wild abandon and some fell on rocky soil.

These seeds falling on rocky soil found some little earth and sprang up quickly
(Early signs point to an abundant harvest the forecasters declared).
But when the scorching summer sun came out, these shallow rooted plants withered.  They withered in the heat.  Whether you like it or not the weather did them in.

Other seeds fell among thorns.  Sharp jagged piercing pointed bloody toothy thorns.
The precious wheat grew up but before it could mature it was choked
Strangled and throttled by the thorns. 
Asphyxiated by its cruel neighbors.

So much seed thrown away.
So much seed tossed with wild abandon, like caution thrown to the wind.
So much wasted

But this was typical Mediterranean farming.
The sower sowed with heedless abandon,
Knowing that the relatively inexpensive seed would (by the grace and goodness of God)
grow up to produce a crop.

The sower sowed his seed throwing left and throwing right.
Some fell on the path, some fell on the rocks, some fell in the thorns.
But some seed (and this is the good stuff, so Listen) some seed
Fell on good soil.  Rich soil. Noble souled soil.

And where a typical Mediterranean farmer
Might expect (in a good year without drought or flood) to reap a five to ten fold harvest,
This sower (who threw caution and seed to the wind) reaped
One Hundred fold – an exaggeration, to be sure, hyperbole to make sure we're listening!
The unexpected punch-line to catch us in an exuberant a-ha!

Listen.  Anyone who has ears should listen.

Later the disciples came to Jesus and asked him,
"Why do you speak to them like that;
Parables and riddles and all? Why not speak clearly?"

Jesus told them "It's been given to you to understand.
You've accepted the word that you've heard.

But them?
They're just like the prophet Isaiah said.

"They could listen, and listen,
And by listening they could understand,
And by understanding they could be changed.

"They could look and look,
And by looking they could see,
And by seeing they could be healed by me.

"But their hearts have grown hard and calloused. 
Stony hearted Pharaohs of their own fates!

"But blessed are your eyes because they see.
And blessed are your ears because they hear.
The saint and patriarchs and prophets of old dreamed of seeing what you see
And hearing what you hear;
And they went to their graves without it.

"So pay attention to the parable of the sower.
Listen because I'm only going to say this once.
Listen because I don't often explain these parables;
Because I don't often answer these riddles.

"When anyone hears the words of the Kingdom without bothering to understand;
Without bothering to try, without wrestling through the night like Jacob with the words,
When anyone hears the words of the Kingdom without understanding
The Evil One comes and carries off what was sown in his heart.
(These are, if you haven't figured it out, the seeds sown on the path.)

"The seed thrown into rocky ground is someone who hears and
Thinking she has got it all,
Thinking that he has received enlightenment from that little seed
Welcomes it with great joy and celebration – praise Gawd!

"But, let me tell you, this person has no root, and does not last.
Trials will come or some persecution on account of the Word
And he falls. She falls. They all fall down.

"The seeds thrown among the thorns are received by those who hear it
And accept it, but their acceptance, their faith is choked by worry.
The worry of the world and the lure of riches (and aren't those really the same thing?)
Chokes the life out of them.

"But the seeds falling on good soil (and this is the good part, so pay attention)
The good soil - Rich soil - Noble souled soil;
Produced a bountiful harvest – thirty times, sixty times, one-hundred times larger than what was sown."

Do you get it? Do you understand?
Did you listen? And did you hear?

The mysteries of the kingdom – secret until now – have been given to us;
Thrown with wild abandon by the heedless sower of seeds.
The secrets have been revealed, the mysteries have been unveiled.
The curtain has been pulled away, torn in two from the top to the bottom.

The words of the Kingdom have fallen in your hearts,
Your good soil,
Your rich soil,
Your noble souled soil and you have received the seeds.

Listen and listen so that you can understand.
Look and look so that you can perceive the truth.
And be changed, and be healed, so that you can grow up in the Unshakeable Kingdom
Producing a crop, yielding a bountiful harvest through your perseverance.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 26

Here it is! This week's free Powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image.  As always, you are free to use these images for your own personal, school, church, or business projects.  I only ask that you 1) share them freely and 2) tell others that you found them here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

He Did Not Yet Know the Lord

Every once in a while a verse from the pages of scripture jumps out and slaps me across the face – verses I’m sure I’ve read before in chapters that I know I’ve studied- stories that I’ve known since those Sunday school lessons with flannel-graph characters and  Kool-aid and cookies.  Every once in a while the words stretch out from the paper and grab my attention and shake me.

This most recent scriptural-face-slap came from 1st Samuel chapter 3 – You know the story. You’ve probably known it since those same Sunday school lessons: Hannah has fulfilled her vow and left her only son, Samuel, in service to God at the tabernacle in Shiloh

1 Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli.  And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.  

Now we can assume that Samuel has been in service - ministering to the LORD - for several years, maybe as many as 10 or 12 years - pretty much his entire life so far.  He's an apprentice to the aging priest, Eli.  Then one night, out of the blue, he hears the voice of God calling to him, but he mistakes it for the the voice of his master. Samuel jumps up from his cot in the tabernacle and runs to present himself to Eli.  The elderly priest is a little perturbed at having been awakened from his sleep and sends the boy back to bed.  This happens repeatedly.

And then - here's the kicker - here's the verse that left a big red hand shaped welt across my face:

Verse 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.
Wait! What?
He's been ministering in the tabernacle his entire life - everything he has ever done or known has been in service to a God that he doesn't even know?

And you know what?  There are times when I feel that way too. That's why the verse knocked me over.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Conference Room Three

Once More Around the Sun - A Freesound Dare

I make frequent use of the many sounds available at the Freesound Project.  But not only is it an enormous resource, it is also a community of musicians and audio-crafters.  We sometimes challenge each other to various "Dares"  to see what we can create from a limited selection of sounds.  This particular dare (#14) involved various kitchen-drum sounds played by a 5 year old girl.

The drum sounds should all be fairly obvious.  But what might not be so immediately obvious is that one of the drum sounds became the warbly synth sound in the melody.  I did this by playing the sound through a synthesizer and gradually shortening the sample length until it became a tone (at about 20  - 22 seconds in...)
I took a sample of this tone and used it in the synthesizer to play the melody.

I added a glitch effect and some reverb to the melody.  The last little bit of beeping is from the feedback created by the glitch effect.

Here is a complete list of the sounds I used:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 25

Here is this week's Powerpoint (or similar presentation program) image.  These images are free for you to use for any of your personal, school, work or church projects.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

This particular image was created with ink and acrylic paint.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Leonard Sings Amen

Tell me again when the day has been ransomed
And the night has no right to begin
Try me again when the angels are panting
And scratching at the door to come in.
Tell me again when I'm clean and I'm sober
Tell me again when I've seen through the horror
Tell me again, tell me over and over
Tell me again that you need me then
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen Amen.

-Amen - by Leonard Cohen

Jung Guns

Sunday, June 10, 2012


This is what I'm afraid many people think about my favorite book...

Inspiration or Desperation?

I struggled all last week to write my sermon for this morning.  I read and re-read the text. I took notes and wrote down questions.  But nothing happened.  Whatever process or inspiration that usually works within me as I prepare to preach on Sunday did not happen this week.  No words. No thoughts. No ideas.  Nothing.

As Sunday loomed nearer and still nothing was coming out, I prepared myself to re-use an old sermon. I’ve saved many of my previous sermons (the ones I’ve felt were worth saving) and considered the possibility of using a “canned” sermon.  I’ve done that on occasion… not often, but when I’ve been overworked or out of town it has come down to just this – reusing one of my old sermons.

I don’t use other people’s sermons.  There are many wonderful preachers, but if reusing my sermons is a bit of a cheat, then using someone else’s work (even with credit) is even more so. 

At about 11:30 last night my wife asked me if I was ready.  I smiled weakly and said, “No. Not at all.”  Even as I walked into the church building this morning I was still blank. I had nothing and I knew it. I felt like an idiot.

For whatever reason, the attendance this morning was sparse – only a few of our congregation members were in the pews as we began the service.  And in the snarky part of my mind I said to myself, “well, at least I didn’t waste all that time preparing a sermon.”

And then something moved. I don’t know if it was inspiration or desperation.  Perhaps it was both. Instead of speaking from the pulpit, I moved down among the pews and began to speak a blessing over those in attendance.   I asked God to bless each of them personally and specifically. 

This seemed good to me – and to those few who were in attendance.  There was a positive reaction.  (Whether or not it was merely an emotional reaction, I cannot say…) 
Either way – desperation or inspiration – it was a good worship service.

At least I hope that God considers it so.

Science Fiction Movies Make Me Cry

I never said this... and I'll deny it...
but I've been getting a little weepy in Sci-Fi movies lately.

It first happened a couple of years ago when I took my son to see the latest Star Trek movie.  In the opening moments of the film the Federation Starship USS Kelvin is investigating a lighting storm in space when it is attacked by a Romulan ship.  The Kelvin is critically damaged and first officer, Lt. Commander George Kirk, orders the crew (including his pregnant wife) to evacuate.  He remains aboard, sacrificing himself in order to save the others. Aboard the escaping shuttle-craft, his wife gives birth to their son, James Tiberius Kirk.

I glanced over to my (then 8 year old) son who was entranced by the spectacle on the screen.  He didn't notice his old man getting all teary-eyed in the theater.

Recently my family saw Men in Black III at the theater - another film with a father dying in order to save his son (and others...)  And wouldn't you know it? Theaters are dark so no one in my family noticed me wiping my cheeks.

And then tonight, as I sat on the couch at home, watching an episode of Star Trek -The Next Generation with my son.  The episode in question was The Bonding from season three - which focused individuals who had lost a parent.  I didn't have a dark theater this time, so I had to excuse myself to the kitchen for a moment.

Now, I'm not an overly sentimental person.  I'm not exactly Spock, but I'm neither am I overly emotionally demonstrative.  Perhaps that I why I tend to watch more Sci-Fi than Drama.... Sci-fi isn't about emotional stuff, right?  It's all laser beams and beautiful intergalactic women, and futuristic technology and explosions, lots of explosions.

I love my son.

And I'm glad to share a fondness for science-fiction with him.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mister Rogers Remixed

Like many kids in my generation I grew up watching Mister Rogers.  I cried a little when he died.
This is one of the most wonderful things I've seen in a long while.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 24

I like playing with images.  I like making new ones.  Each week of this year I have been creating and posting a new image suitable for use with Powerpoint (or similar presentation program).  I have also been making these images available to you for free.  You may use them for your own personal, church, school, or work projects. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wash Once a Year

This is my friend, Zac.  The quote was lifted from Seinfeld.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stupid Things I've Heard - I Don't Like Him as a Person...

I didn't really plan on making this a regular part of this blog.  But sometimes I hear people say stupid things - really stupid things - things that just get stuck in my head and I have to excise them.

This afternoon I listened to a conversation between two people about various authors that they liked to read.  One woman suggested John Grisham as an author that "you just can't put down."

I know what you're thinking, but that wasn't the stupid thing.  Not yet.

The woman continued her praise of Grisham for some time but then said, "he's a good author but I don't like him as a person."

"No?" I asked.

"No," she answered. "He's a democrat."

There it is.  The stupid thing I've heard someone say recently.

Hipster Frog Makes Obscure References

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dancing at Weddings

I’m not much of a dancer.  Never have been, never will be and I’m pretty much okay with that.  About the only time I get a chance to dance is at weddings.

Yesterday had the privilege of officiating (what a terrible verb) the wedding of my friend Tanner.  Tanner was a teenager in my congregation.  We’ve moved since then – we’ve been gone for seven years, but Tanner called me and asked if I would come back to marry him and his fiancé.  I was honored that he asked. (It means, of course, that I’m old… but never mind that.) The wedding ceremony was wonderful. Tanner looked nervous. The bride looked beautiful.  People cried.  It was pretty much everything a wedding ceremony should be.

And at the reception afterwards I had my chance to dance.I danced with my wife to Eric Clapton’s song Wonderful Tonight.  My daughter rolled her eyes and refused to dance with me.  

And Tanner’s younger sister gave me a giant hug and shouted over the music, “You taught me to dance.”  That was, of course, at a wedding several years ago. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

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

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