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Friday, November 30, 2012

Lippai - A Forgotten Christmas Carol

In my continued search for non-traditional, or forgotten traditional Christmas music, I have recently discovered the 19th century Austrian carol Lippai.

This is a short recording of me playing it on the Eb Bass (not a french horn).  I apologize for the click and clack  sounds in the recording.  I have an old horn and the valves make a lot of noise.

Lippai, get out of bed!
-No, I'm asleep.
There never was such a sleepy head
-Sleeping deep.
There is a glow in the night
From a great star shining bright!
See, it is bright as day!
-What did you say?

He's born in Bethlehem.
-How do you know?
The angels, I learned the place from them
-They told you so?
Mary, the blessed mother mild,
tenderly cares for her child
there, 'neath the beaming star
-Can it be far?

No sweeter, lovelier babe
could I name.
His bed nothing but a pile of hay.
-O what a shame!
Mary, if only I might
hold the dear savior tonight,
pure joy I'd owe to you.
-Please let me, too!

If you would like to download it, you can do so here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Get Ready for Love - A Surprisingly Christmas Song from Nick Cave

In my continued quest for non-traditional (or forgotten traditional) Christmas music - here is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing Get Ready for Love

I searched the seven seas and I've looked under the carpet
And browsed through the brochures that govern the skies
Then I was just hanging around, doing nothing and looked up to see
His face burned in the retina of your eyes

Praise Him till you've forgotten what you're praising Him for
Praise Him till you've forgotten what you're praising Him for
Then praise Him a little bit more

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I'm Reading: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?

I've just finished reading N. T. Wright's What Saint Paul Really Said and wow am I impressed.

I'll have to admit - I've never really enjoyed Paul's writings.  I've read them. I've studied them. I've preached from them. But never really enjoyed or appreciated them in the same way that I've enjoyed reading and studying the gospels or the prophets... Paul never really stirred me the way that Jeremiah does or the way that Mark does.

But having read Wright's book, I'm ready to re-evaluate my ambivalence towards the Apostle Paul. 

Here are a couple quotes about 'the gospel' and 'justification' in Paul's letters.

... Paul's conception of how people are drawn into salvation starts with the preaching of the gospel, continues with the work of the spirit in and through that preaching, and the effect of the spirit's work on the heart of the hearers and concludes with the coming to birth of faith, and entry into the family through baptism.  'No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:3). But when that confession is made, God declares that this person who (perhaps to their own surprise) believes the gospel, is thereby marked out as being within the true covenant family.  Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian.  It is the declaration that they have become a Christian.  - page 125

...'the gospel' is not an account of how people get saved. It is ... the proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ... Let us be quite clear. 'The gospel' is the announcement of Jesus' lordship, which works with power to bring people into the family of Abraham, now redefined around Jesus Christ and characterized solely by faith in him. 'Justification' is the doctrine which insists that all who have this faith belong as full members of this family and no other. - page 133

'The gospel' creates the Church; 'Justification' defines it. - page 151

Also... It cracks me up that the illustration on the cover of this book about the Apostle Paul is credited as Saint Peter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 49

This calendar year is drawing to a close, but the Church's liturgical year is just beginning.  This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.  And this is this week's free Powerpoint (or similar presentation program) background image.  You are free to download these images and to use them in 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.  Thanks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Difference Should Be Obvious

I spent a couple of hours today playing Christmas music at at a Salvation Army Kettle.  The instrument that I played is an Eb Bass - a sort of Tuba.  But several times (more than five!) individuals passing by the kettle asked me if it was a French Horn.

So here is the lesson for today.

This is an Eb Bass

and this is a French Horn.

The difference should be fairly obvious.
And, just for clarification, this is a Trombone.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What I’m Reading: The Casual Vacancy

I picked up J. K. Rowling’s first non-Potter book from our local public library because my thirteen year old daughter wanted to read it.  Knowing that it was more of an adult than young adult novel, and having heard that it was filled with sex and violence, I thought it prudent to read it first before allowing my daughter to read it.

The Casual Vacancy proves that Rowling isn't just a young adult /children’s author.  There is nothing of the magical lovability of the Harry Potter stories; there is very little in The Casual Vacancy that is charming or endearing.  Where Hogwarts of the Harry Potter novels was filled with endless wonder and courageous friends, Pagford of The Casual Vacancy is filled with drugs and prostitution and rape.  It’s a good book – but it’s a difficult book to like or to enjoy.

It’s not the sex or the violence or the profanity that put me off.  It was the unrelenting noxiousness of the characters.  The book is shorter than most of the Harry Potter novels, but as I read it, it felt much longer because there are no characters to root for.  There are no heroes. Liars, cowards, gossips, egoists, drug-addicts, and thieves – the only seemingly decent character dies in the first few pages.  It is his death that unleashes the submerged and hidden fears and envies and prides of the community.

For all that, it is, as I said, a good book; well written and even profound in places.  Rowling is as capable a satirist as she is an author of fantasy. But will I let my thirteen year old daughter read it?

My first instinct was to say, “No.”  I want to protect and shield her from many of the things described in A Casual Vacancy.  But three things have caused me to change my mind.

One- I read Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Stephen King’s The Shining when I was thirteen.  I don’t think I was permanently scarred or damaged by reading them then. Two – My daughter has already read (twice through) the entire bible.  Plenty of sex and violence in there… and Three – I trust my daughter.  She’s smart and well grounded and able to discriminate between good and evil. 

So, yes, I will let my thirteen year old daughter read J. K. Rowling’s new novel.  I don’t expect that she’ll like it with the intensity that she has liked (loved!) the Potter novels.  Knowing my daughter, I don’t expect that she’ll like it at all.  But I will let her read it.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving? That's Over!

I spent several hours today playing my horn at a Salvation Army Red Kettle.  It was cold - really cold this morning - 25 and the wind was screaming across the storefront. And the valves on my horn froze.  So I moved to a different store where I could sit just inside the doors. And there I played my horn.  I played a wide selection of Christmas songs (both sacred and secular) and Thanksgiving hymns.

And in between songs I said, "Thank you," and "Happy Thanksgiving," to the people walking by - even those who didn't put anything in the pot.  (I also said, "Happy Holidays!" gasp!)

I just can't bring myself to say "Merry Christmas."  Not yet.  It's still too early.  It's not even Advent yet, for crying out loud.

So I said, "Happy Thanksgiving."

One woman heard me and kept walking and then did a double take.  She turned around and glared at me and said, "Thanksgiving?  That's over!"

Anyway.  If you'd like to contribute to the Salvation Army Red Kettles (and specifically to the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa) you can use this handy-dandy online kettle.   (You can also donate the Salvation Army unit nearest to you using the "Find a Kettle" option on that page.

Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I’m The One Dreaming This Story…

He is a Neanderthal man – upright, a biped, strong and hairy.  But intelligent.  More so than the rest of his tribe.

A tribal council of some kind is being held. The chief wants to address the group – but the second is getting in the way. The second looks like a monkey, as over and over he repeats the gestures of obsequiousness. He kisses the chief's chin and stands close. The chief warns him to stop but for some reason the second continues this provocation.  Perhaps he wants to challenge the chief.

Instead the chief offers the challenge to whoever will accept it. The intelligent Neanderthal steps forward. He is determined. He's had troubles with the second many times in the past and now he has an honorable way to resolve them.  His mate holds his arm as he steps forward, removes the towels from his waist and accepts the challenge. He steps into the ring.
But as the cheering begins he is suddenly afraid and begins to run down the hill. The others jeer and taunt him.  They mock his cowardliness.  Even I misunderstand, even though I'm the one dreaming this story…
He reaches the bottom of the hill and suddenly a narrator's voice explains that "volcanic activity and plate movement cause flood waters to rush across the landscape."  The hill he has just run down begins to crumble and collapse. 
Suddenly the ground leveled.  It is a large flat plane.  The grass withers and the earth is parched – cracked. The Neanderthal man turns to see water rushing after him.  But he's smart.  He knows that he can survive it.  So he grabs a large tree branch as the water sweeps him on. As he floats downstream in the flood, dodging branches and floating corpses, he prays to an unknown god that he won't hit a body that he recognizes.
Eventually he lands.
Flash – to what must be years later – the Neanderthal man has found other survivors.  They are living in a commune of some sort; in what looks like an abandoned school building.  He has a daughter now, a new family.  He has drawn a picture of her feeding birds, on a wall.  He sprinkles salt by the picture of the birds in order to "draw them near" he says.
Again, he realizes a sudden, inexplicable fear.  He looks around the corner as four large bulldozers plow through the water.  He thinks they are monsters.  He grabs his daughter and begins to run… but he is grabbed by soldiers in camouflaged outfits.  He yells at his daughter to run.  "I will never let them get you" he yells.
"Never" he yells as they stab him again and again.  "Never"
The daughter runs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pilate and Jesus: A Game of Questions

I'm preparing to preach on Sunday from John 18: 33 - 37 wherein Pilate questions Jesus.  The whole thing plays out like a scene from a Tom Stoppard play - specifically Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  It's a game of questions.

Question: Are you the king of the Jews?
Q: Do you ask this of your own, or did others tell you about me?
Q: I'm not a Jew am I? What have you done?
Statement: My kingdom is not from this world...
Q: So you are a king?
S: You say I'm a king... Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.
Q: What is truth?

At the end of the match between Pilate and Jesus the score is Three /Love advantage to Pilate.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alternate Nativities: A Coronation Psalm

1 Why do nations rage
                and empires number their peoples?
2 Why do kings of the land take their stand
                with princes in common cause
                against YHWH and his anointed?
3 “Let us kill their children
                and murder their sons.”

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
                YHWH makes sport of their plans.
5 He causes his servants to flee
                and their escape is his deep pleasure.
6 But I have been anointed as his king
                even before the foundation of his holy Mount Zion.
7 Let me recite the decree of YHWH,
                He said to me:
                “You are my son
                and in you I am well pleased;
                this day I have begotten you.
8 Ask wealth of me and I will give it,
                the kingdoms of the world are yours
                and their glory your inheritance.
9 You will rule them with an iron rod
                they will be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessel.”

10 Now then, O kings, be wise;
                take warning, you rulers of the land.
11 Serve YHWH with reverence,
                and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
                and your assembly perish
                for his anger is quickly kindled,
                but how blessed are all those who trust in him.

This is number 7 in a series of Alternate Nativities - the series began with the recognition that the 2 gospel accounts of Jesus' birth are mutually incompatible in their details, and with the question, "What might the nativity story have looked like if it had been written in other styles?"  

This particular alternate nativity is based on Psalm 2 - with significant thanks to Mitchel Dahood's translation (Mitchel Dahood, Psalms 1- 50: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Doubleday and Co. Inc, Garden City, NY, 1966)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 48

These images are free for you to use in your projects - at home, work, school, or church. Use them however you like.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Dog, Ranger

This is Ranger, my dog. She's a 14 - almost 15 -year old Siberian Husky. She's been with us for a long time.  When our children were born she was very protective of them.  She'd growl if anyone other than my wife and I would hold them - she even growled at my parents.  Ranger thought they were her babies.

We had to say goodbye to Ranger this morning.
She was a good dog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Alternate Nativities: Then the LORD Raised up a Judge for Them

1 Again the Israelites did evil the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Romans for sixty years.

2 A certain man of Galilee, named Joseph, from the tribe of Judah, was betrothed to a young woman, a virgin who had not yet known a man.  3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are a virgin, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son.”  4 The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you 5 and you will become pregnant and have a son and he will be called a Nazarene, dedicated to God. He will be the salvation of Israel.

6 Then the woman went to her betrothed and told him, “A man of God came to me.  He looked like an angel, very awesome.  I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name.  7 But he said to me, “You will become pregnant and have a son.  Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean.”

8 Then Joseph prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, LORD. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to explain these things.”

9 God heard Joseph, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her betrothed, Joseph, was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her betrothed, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”

11 Joseph got up and followed his betrothed. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my betrothed?”

“I am,” he said.

12 So Joseph asked him, “If what you say is true, how can I be married to her?”

13 The angel of the LORD answered, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in here is from the Spirit of the LORD. 14 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people.”

15 Joseph said to the angel of the LORD, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

16 The angel of the LORD replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD.” (Joseph did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD.)

17 Then Joseph inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” 19 Then Joseph took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Joseph and his betrothed watched: 20 as the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Joseph and his betrothed fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Joseph and his betrothed, Joseph realized that it was the angel of the LORD.

22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his betrothed. “We have seen God!”

23 But his betrothed answered, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”

24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Jesus. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Nazareth, in Galilee.

This is the sixth Alternate Nativity that I've written.  It is based on the birth story of Samson, as found in Judges 13.  It's surprising how few alterations had to be made in order to transform it into an alternate nativity story for Jesus.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another November

It's a song for November, and ice, and melancholy, and short days and cold nights.

Feel free to download the song if you like it.

In addition to the material I recorded, I also used a few sounds from the Freesound Project:
Xylophonic sound
Argon Sky C4
Argon Sky D2
Argon Sky D3
Argon Sky A2

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Scripture in Song



 and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. - Genesis 1: 2


Adam made love to his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. - Genesis 4:1


Caught up in the fable I watched the tower grow …
 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens
– Genesis 11: 4

 The Prophets 

Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. - Judges 16: 21


Uriah hit the crapper, the crapper, dead… 
Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead. -2 Samuel 11: 24


Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees. -Isaiah 21: 6


My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge… -Hosea 4: 6


 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. -Psalm 40: 1

 A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. -Psalm 51:1

…and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow – Daniel 7: 9

The Gospels 

 I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. -Luke 22:14


 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him. – Luke 22:47

The Epistles


 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit – Ephesians 5: 19

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. - Romans 7: 19

 The Apocalypse


 She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit.-Revelation 18:2

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. – Revelation 22: 12

Obviously, this list could be greatly expanded.  Do you have any suggestions?
(The Spotify player may not show up in Feed Readers... )

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 47

I have been making new background images for Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs) to share; a new one each week.  These images free for you to download and to use in your school, work, church or personal projects.  Use them however you like.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.  Thanks.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Prayer for Veteran's Day

Lord and Father, God, we pray for the men and women of our armed forces; we pray that they would be safe.  We also pray that they would serve with compassion, not allowing the fear and confusion of war and combat to overtake them.  We pray that they would not be swallowed up by the hatred that war engenders for our enemies.  We pray, also for the leaders who are responsible for war – that they would find peaceful ways to end the conflicts. 

And Lord, because you have taught us to love; to love even our enemies, we pray for them as well.  We pray that you would bless our enemies and that you would fill them with good things and that they would know your peace.

We pray that wars will cease and that the peace of God would rule.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A 40 Year Old Thief in the Night

The film that changed my life is 40 years old - and looks it.  The fashions and hairstyles are dated, the acting is amateur, the script is weak.... and-worst of all - the theology is just plain awful.

Amy Frykholm at Religion and Politics has written about the 40th anniversary of the film A Thief in the Night.   And Slactivist, Fred Clark, has written about the Rise of the Antichrist Movie.

I say that this film changed my life - and it did, in a couple of ways.  

First - it made me afraid.  Afraid of God.  I don't think this was the intended effect.  A Thief in the Night is a horror film, but it's supposed to scare us toward God, it's supposed to 'scare the hell out of us.'  But these films just made me afraid of God.

Later, after I had worked through those fears and had left behind the pre-millennial dispensational theology that directs the narrative of A Thief in the Night  and its three sequels (as well as the bloated Left Behind franchise....) this film is part of what makes me want to make movies.

In fact. I've made two short  movie-collages that are an ironic pastiche of the hysterical end-of-the-world-jesus-is-coming-scare-the-hell-out-of-the-kids movies that so affected me when I was young.

This is the Beginning of the End

This is the Beginning of the End from jeff carter on Vimeo.

(originally posted here - includes a list of most of the source material)

The Sign of the Antichrist

The Sign of the Antichrist from jeff carter on Vimeo.

(originally posted here - includes a list of most of the source material)

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Letter to the White House

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500
November 9, 2012
Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations to you and Vice-President Biden on your recent re-election.  I was pleased to cast my vote for you in this, and the previous election. I believe in the vision of America that you have described – where we, together, all of us, make this country strong.

I pray for you and your staff as you face the challenges and difficulties of the office to which the American people have elected you.  I pray also for your family; that they would be a source of comfort and peace for you, and that you would continue to be a loving husband and father to them.

But, Mr. President, I am also writing to plead with you to live up to the ideals valued in the Nobel Peace Prize that you have been awarded. 

Mr. President, the strength of our nation is not to be found in our military, but in the strength of our values.  The biblical psalmist says that “some trust in chariots and horses” (Psalm 20:7) – in the armored vehicles of war in the ancient world, but this trust is misplaced.  The anointed leader, the psalmist says, puts his trust in the name of the Lord God. 

We do not make the world a safer place with unending wars.  We cannot end terrorism with remote controlled attack drones.  We cannot afford the ever increasing militarism of the United States.  We cannot continue to spend billions on weapons of war, while ignoring the poor among us.  To quote President Eisenhower, “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

One of the reasons that I voted for you in 2008 was that you opposed the war in Iraq.  And I have watched as you have brought to an end our involvement there.  I anticipate that you will continue to work towards a conclusion to our involvement in Afghanistan as well.  But I would urge you to do more to halt the rampant militarism of the United States.  Cut back the amount of military spending – every gun, and tank, and attack drone that is made is a theft from hungry children and struggling families.

Prove to us, and to the world, that you are a supporter of peace.

Thank you.
Jeff Carter

Alternate Nativities: The Epistle of Justus to Antioch

Consider this an Alternate Nativity.

To the church of Antioch in God, the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mercy, grace, and peace to you.

I give thanks to our God and Father to hear that you are well.  I remember the love that you showed to me when I was with you and am confident that the fellowship of love continues to grow among you.

You accepted the good news of the Kingdom of God in Christ from me with an open heart and you now live lives of love for God and for each other.  As to your questions about our Lord’s birth, I will pass on to you what was shared with me, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

Though he was, in his nature, God, he did not consider this an advantage to be exploited, but instead became a servant, born of a servant, Mary, who named her son Jesus. And being born as a man, he humbled himself before the Lord in all obedience. He was circumcised on the eighth day in fulfillment of the law.  He was born to be the salvation of all Israel, and a light to the Gentiles.  And this is the light of love that you have seen.

Brothers, I urge you to continue to share this love in your lives, be humble and sincere.  Serve one another, just as Christ has served us.  Do not take pride in high positions or in wealth, but seek always to give of yourselves to others.  Be diligent in fulfilling the law of love.

To God and Father, and to our Lord Jesus, and to the Spirit be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Greet all of God’s people in the love of our Lord.  All the brothers here, including Aristarchus, send greetings.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen. 

The writing these Alternate Nativities has been an exercise, for me, in trying to better understand the gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, by coming at them sideways.

The two accounts of Jesus' birth that we have in the gospels are mutually incompatible (despite attempts through the centuries to harmonize them) in their details.  We should face up to the fact that they may not be strictly historical.  But even if they aren't factual accounts of Jesus' birth that does not mean that they aren't True in a larger, deeper way.

I have tried to write these alternate nativities wondering what the story of Jesus' birth might look like if it were written in various styles, or genres of biblical writing, such as:  The creation story in Genesis 2, The Odes of Solomon (though this is not strictly a "biblical" writing...),  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (again, not strictly a biblical writing), or as an apocalyptic vision.

This alternate nativity is based on the format of New Testament Letters - drawing inspiration, obviously, from the letters of Paul - even though Paul says nothing at all of Jesus' birth -excepting Galatians 4:4 that he was born of a woman and under law. I also drew some from Luke.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

They Abducted my Girl (From the Shady Grove) : A Duet for Theremin and Banjo

The other evening as our family was driving home, the song Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys came on the radio.  I turned it up a little and told my son (who's interested in many of the same things his father is...) to listen for the theremin.  Good Vibrations was one of the first pop songs to use the theremin as an actual instrument, rather than as the cliched sound effects of  horror and science-fiction B movies of the 50s and 60s.

My son, always quick to read my mind, suggested that I should get a Theremin.  But before I could agree that that would indeed be Sweeeet, my wife laid down a firm, "No."

"Why not?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Because if you get one, you'll actually want to play it," she answered.  She gave the same response when I asked about getting a banjo.  "Soon you'll be writing duets for theremin and banjos," she said... and that was I all I needed...

Here is They Abducted my Girl (From the Shady Grove) a duet for Theremin and Banjo.

I don't actually have a theremin or a banjo.  As I said, my wife won't let me get either one.  The banjo part is actually a recording of a fairly popular bluegrass / folk song Shady Grove.  And I used Ableton Live 8 to create an artificial theremin instrument.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Election Post I Have to Write

Jon Acuff over at the Stuff Christians Like blog has written about the “law that says all Christian bloggers have to write one of the following two posts the day after an election: "

1. If your candidate lost, you have to write:
God is sovereign and will provide. He is still in control. Everything is going to be all right.

2. If your candidate won, you have to write:
God is good and has provided. He is still in control. Everything is going to be all right.

So I am writing this obligatory post now – as my family is watching the election results coming in.  My 13 year old daughter has an assignment for class to report on the results and my 11 year old son has taken a bit of an interest in the election process this year.  He watched some of the debates with me.  We've had several question and answer dialogues in our family this year.  It has been important in our house to talk about these things.

I have shared with my friends on the facebook and via this blog my qualified endorsement of President Barack Obama (but I never discussed it from the pulpit of my church... never.)  I cast my vote for President Barack Obama and I am fairly confident that by the end of this evening we will be hailing him as our next president.

I say that I have a qualified endorsement of President Barack Obama – and this is my qualification.  I cannot endorse our continued use of armed drones to hunt down individuals – even those declared to be “terrorists.”  I realize that the drones obviate the need to send human resources into conflict zones and reduce the number of American casualties.  But the drones are increasingly being used in countries that have not attacked the United States and are not actually in a state of war with the United States.  These remotely controlled attack vehicles make war too easy – too convenient.  The area of violence grows and the danger increases.   Our enemies become faceless and dehumanized.  I cannot and will not support Obama (or any president) in any expansion of our military conflicts. 

If (when) President Barack Obama wins the 2012 election I will thank God and pray for him; that he will continue to be a good leader for our country following in the example of Psalm 72’s Ideal King.   I will continue to support him in his leadership, while at the same time continue to challenge him to live up to the ideals valued in the Peace Prize that he has been awarded. 


If Governor Mitt Romney should win the election I will thank God and pray for him; that he will be a good leader for our country.  I will pray that my fear that Romney will not be concerned for the poor will be unfounded.  I will pray that my concern that Romney will lead us into further and expanded conflict around the world will be baseless.  I will pray that my doubt about his leadership will be proven to be without any founding and that he will, indeed, be the leader that we need at this time.

The world will not end if Romney wins.  The sky will not fall if Obama wins.  We will continue to live and work for the good of this country.

I will also pray for those in the Senate and the House of Representatives – that they will put aside the animosity and bickering.  I will pray that they too will work for the good of the country rather than working only to obstruct the plans and programs of the President (whoever wins). 

God is good.  I trust in him.  And everything will be all right.

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - Week 46

Each week I make a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs).  These images are free for you to use in your own school, work, business, or church projects.  Use them however you like. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

It's very faint in the image - but I used a wallpaper vector image from Vector Open Stock

Monday, November 5, 2012

Alternate Nativities: An Apocalyptic Vision

Consider this an Alternate Nativity

1 In the fortieth year after the destruction of our city, I Zimra, who am also called Hananiah, was in Babylon. I was greatly troubled as I lay on my bed at night, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, 2 because I saw the desolation of Zion and the despair of those who lived in Babylon. 3 My spirit was greatly agitated and I spoke these anxious words unto the Most High and said, 4 “How long, O sovereign Lord?  How long?”

5 Then an angel was sent to me, whose name was Uriel, and he answered and said unto me, 6 “Your understanding has completely failed regarding this world. Who are you to think that you can comprehend the way of the Most High?” 7 And I had no reply. 8 And he continued, “Nevertheless, it has been given to me to show to you the things that will be.”

9 And I saw a great beast, like a lion made of gold, running across the land.  It had the teeth of a crocodile and the wings of an eagle, and was very strong.  10 But it was overtaken by a second beast.  11 I saw that it was like a Leopard of silver.  12 It ran faster than the lion, and dragged it down and devoured it.  13 And this beast too, ran across the land, back and forth snarling and roaring.  14 And I watched as a third beast came up from the waters and to devour the leopard.  15 It had four heads and many horns.  And this beast also raced across the land.  16 And a fourth beast came. It was like iron with feet that crushed the ground and a voice that shook the cedars and it towered over the land, blotting out the sun.  17 And the iron beast devoured the beast from the sea.

18 And the iron beast did dwell upon the land.  And in its shadow I saw the people of God.  19 “What does this mean?” I asked the angel.  20 And he said to me, “Watch.”

21 And I saw a woman who was with child. 22 And when her time was come she gave birth to a son.  23 And this son was dressed in the sun and the stars and he held in his right hand an iron scepter.  And the light of this son grew brighter and brighter.  24 But I saw one of the horns of the iron beast fall to the ground and it did attack the child.  25 The horn impaled the boy and he did die. 

26 And I said to the angel again, “Please, lord! Tell me what this must mean.”  27 And he said to me, “These are the signs which I am permitted to tell you and no more. 28 But if you pray again, and weep as you do now, and fast for seven days, you may hear yet greater things than these." 29 Then I awoke, and my body shuddered violently, and my soul was so troubled that it fainted.

To compose this Alternate Nativity I drew upon the apocalyptic visions of 4 Ezra (also known as 2 Esdras in the apocrypha) as well as some of the images in the apocalyptic visions of Daniel.

Alternate Nativities: Jesus in Egypt

Consider this an Alternate Nativity.

I, Baruch, an Israelite living in Alexandria, write this to tell unto you, even you who are the brethren from among the Gentiles, to make known unto you the works of the childhood of our Lord Jesus Christ and his mighty deeds, even all that he did when he was brought to our land, whereof the beginning is thus:

While the little child was yet an infant Mary, his mother, and Joseph, who was called his father, brought him into Egypt.  They came fleeing the murderous ravings of the mad king.  Herod thought to deal shrewdly to eliminate his rival.  He said, “When he is grown he will fight against me and force me from the country.” So he sent his soldiers to kill all infant boys.  But Joseph, being warned in a dream, took his family down to Egypt.

Joseph took his family to Elephantine and settled there.  And there at what had been House of the Lord they offered prayers and sacrifices, and Mary, with her son, was there with Joseph.  And as they prayed the statue of Khnum was fallen on his face before the Lord. After that the hand of the Lord was against the city and against its people, young and old, and there was a great panic.  Then the people began to plead with Joseph to leave. 

So Joseph and Mary, along with Jesus, came to Alexandria where they stayed until the angel told them it was safe to return

To compose this Alternate Nativity I drew upon a number of sources, namely: the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the account in Exodus of Pharoah ordering the death of infant Israelite boys, the account in 1 Samuel of the Ark of the Covenant in the temple of Dagon, and the account in Mark of Jesus encounter with the demoniac at Gadarenes. I also tried to incorporate the Jewish temple at Elephantine in Egypt.  Scholars and historians would be right to point out that my little story is probably historically inaccurate and not entirely plausible.  But the same can be said for the nativites recorded in our cannonical gospels...  That's beside the point.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

So Disney has Purchased Lucasfilm...

Is this what we have to look forward to?

Alternate Nativities: The Ode of Mary

Consider this an Alternate Nativity

I am putting on the love of the Lord,
wearing it like a garment of praise
and He loves me, his humble servant
for how should I have known how to love the Lord,
                if He had not loved me
I love the Beloved and He loves me
and where His rest is, I too shall be.

I shall not be a stranger
for I have been united with him
the Lover has found the Beloved
and because I love him
I shall carry the Son

For the one that is joined with Him
that is Life, shall have life;
and he who has joy in the Living One
will himself become living.

This is what the Spirit of the Lord,
which does not lie,
has done for me.
Be wise and understanding.

This Alternate Nativity is based on one of the Odes of Solomon (number 3).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Alternate Nativities: In the Beginning...

A couple of weeks ago I began a bible study in the gospel of Mark with some folks in our congregation.  We discussed how, in contrast to Matthew and Luke's gospel, Mark's gospel does not have a birth story for Jesus.  Mark says nothing about angelic announcements, imperial censuses, travels to ancestral homelands, visiting shepherds and magicians, or virginal conceptions.

The group then, briefly, discussed how the two accounts of Jesus' birth can't be satisfactorily reconciled.  The details of their accounts make them incompatible with each other.  A question was asked - which, then, is the 'true' one?  Which one is the more historically accurate?

My answer was that, without finishing the time machine that I'm building in my garage we have no way of knowing.  And that in all likelihood, even if we did finish that time machine, we might discover that neither Matthew nor Luke's account is entirely historical.  The nativity stories are highly theological stories - with numerous elements and themes drawn from the old testament.

Jesus' birth story might have been (and probably) was entirely different from what we read in Matthew or Luke. But that got me wondering.  What other alternate birth stories could have been written about Jesus?

And so, consider this an Alternate Nativity:

1In the beginning of the new heavens and the new earth, the Lord God raised up his servant Joseph, a man of labor who worked with his hands to build and to craft the necessary things from stone and from wood.  And the Lord God said, “It is not good for Joseph to be alone.” And so he brought to him a wife, Mary, who had not yet known a man.  The two were married and they became one flesh. 

And the Lord God caused a great sleep to fall upon them and they slept.  And the Lord God opened the womb of the woman, Mary, and placed in her his son, Jesus, and closed over the flesh again. And, upon awakening, she said, “I have got a son with the Lord.” Therefore is the man, Jesus, the Son of Man and the Son of God and men and God have become one together in him; man and his God, and they were no longer ashamed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Most Damning...

First – I acknowledge that there are angry, bitter, foul-mouthed, and even violent people on both (all) sides of the political spectrum.  There are ignorant Republicans just as there are ignorant Democrats.  This is not intended to be a blanket description of all conservatives/republicans etc…  Nor do I intend to say that all republicans/conservatives share these hateful sentiments.  And further I do not intend to imply that all liberal/democrats behave more respectfully.

I saw this photo shared on Facebook by a friend.  And then shared again, and again “liked” by other friends.  Never mind the fact that it’s a poorly Photoshopped picture– it’s just plain offensive, and I have a very difficult time understanding how my friends – my Christian friends – can share or like this kind of venom. 

The picture was followed by comments (not from my friends, by the way…) like these:

 “he deserves to be HUNG!!!!!”
“My dreams for Obama go further than this…”
“[he] needs to be in orange or a zebra suit”
“What he ‘deserves’ is a noose!”
“all I want for Christmas is a big eared Muslim in cuffs and shot by the USMC firing squad”

It’s not that I believe that political discourse in our time has sunk to new lows or that previous elections were more dignified.  Our electoral history is filled with rancor, mudslinging, fraud, slander, libel, and even violence.  But cannot understand how we let ourselves sink so low over and over again. 

I believe in reasoned discourse – even passionate discourse.  And since most of my friends are in the conservative/Republican side of the political spectrum and I tend towards the left, (even the Socialist far left…) I have had frequent opportunities in recent months to discuss and even debate the various merits or flaws of the candidates and their plans. 

But I am always disappointed when I see this kind of hateful material shared by friends – on either side.  It’s hateful. It’s not helpful.  And, most damning – it is in no way appropriate for those who claim to be followers of Jesus.


It's November, the 11th month of the year, (though it retains a name meaning "nine").

Feel free to download and share this song for November.

You might also appreciate last year's November song, Not with a Bang, but November

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Maybe We Should Preach to be Misunderstood

“Let me be clear…” – President Barack Obama
“They misunderestimated me.” – President George W. Bush
“Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.” –Bennie Benjamin

When I stand behind the pulpit as the preacher for my little congregation, I want (very desperately) to be understood.  I want to be able to translate what I have read, and discovered, and learned from the scriptures and from my own experiences with God.  My “intentions are good…” I want to share the power and glory of God’s eternal truth, and I want the message to be understood. If those who are listening to me cannot understand what I'm saying I'm wasting my time, and theirs.


Maybe we should preach to be misunderstood (at least at first).

Look at the gospel of John.  Though Jesus comes from above and speaks the ‘real’ and ‘true’ things of God - the heavenly realities - he must do so using human language.  But human language is limited and unable to express the fullness of those heavenly realities.    Human words are incapable of describe the full power and glory of God’s eternal truth. 

To deal with this shortcoming of human language, Jesus (the Word made Flesh) often uses figurative language – metaphors and poetry – to describe himself and his message.  And these figurative (and often shocking!) expressions are usually misunderstood by his listeners.  It’s almost as if Jesus intended them to be misunderstood.

For example:
“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” – John 2:19
“I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” – John 3: 3
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4: 10
“I tell you the truth; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” – John 6:53
“You belong to your father, the devil…” John 8: 44
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep…” John 11: 11

Jesus’ audiences in these communications were confused and angry because they misunderstood.  They took his words at a literal level, or understood only the material meaning and not the deeper spiritual truth.  It’s only in the ensuing dialogue that Jesus is able to elaborate his meaning and explain his message. (And even then, they didn't always get it...)

Perhaps we are too conditioned to concise and clear sound bites with a single point to appreciate the complexities of Jesus’ teaching style (as described by John.)  We want short pithy statement with easily digestible meanings, not layered and complex images with subtlety.  It’s risky proposition – to preach complexity and subtle layers.  It’s likely that some (most, all?) of the audience will come away confused and/or angry because of their misunderstanding.  

But perhaps we should preach to be misunderstood (at least at first).

Poor Matthias

Consider poor Matthias (“gift of Yahweh”), selected at random to fill a vacant seat among the twelve.    Never mind that he had been with Jesus since his baptism by John until the ascension.  Forget that he'd been among the 70 sent out by Jesus to preach the gospel and to cure the sick and to cast out demons.  His skills, his abilities, his talents were of no account.  Only the random drawing of lots.  He’s chosen merely to be a place holder among the twelve.

And we never hear from him again.
(Acts 1:12 -26)

The Salvation Army Feeding and Sheltering Those Hit by Hurricane Sandy

As millions struggle without access to power and other basic services up and down the East Coast, The Salvation Army entered its fifth day of response for Hurricane Sandy. Feeding and sheltering activities are continuing in the most heavily impacted areas including New York and New Jersey where coastal devastation and flooding remain major issues. West Virginia and Maryland are facing a different kind of disaster with record snowfalls leaving thousands without power.

In New Jersey, The Salvation Army is serving hundreds of people at shelters throughout the state. This includes service in Atlantic and Hunterdon Counties. Starting today, The Salvation Army is also providing food, hydration and emotional and spiritual care to first responders in Freehold, NJ. A Salvation Army mobile feeding unit (canteen) has also deployed from Western Pennsylvania to support efforts in the state.

In New York City, officials from the Office of Emergency Management have appointed The Salvation Army as the lead agency for the City’s Food Access Plan, to coordinate efforts ensuring access to food for city residents. For the next few days The Salvation Army will be serving food at Seward High School in lower Manhattan where 1,000 people are being fed breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Meanwhile, in Maryland and West Virginia, The Salvation Army is serving in portions of Western Maryland and West Virginia where more than two feet of snow have left thousands without power in frigid temperatures. In Cumberland, MD, The Salvation Army worked with the National Guard to help 100 senior citizens evacuate from a local senior home, providing 125 meals for the trip to a nearby shelter. The Salvation Army is also running shelter and feeding operations throughout West Virginia at multiple locations in Charleston, Beckley, Grafton, Bluefield and Martinsburg, WV.

·       In Northeast Ohio, The Salvation Army has partnered with the American Red Cross to provide meals at 3 shelters.
·       The Salvation Army is serving meals and drinks from canteens in several coastal communities in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia
·       In Nashua, NH, The Salvation Army provided meals to personnel at the Emergency Operations Center and also delivered clean-up kits to the Hampton, NH area.
·       In Bridgeport, CT, The Salvation Army is feeding 450 seniors three separate sites.

“This will be a long-term response and recovery effort,” said Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army. “The best thing the public can do now to help is to give generously.”

The Salvation Army is extremely gratified for the continued support of the donating public. To date, the Army has received nearly $700,000 in online donations alone to support relief efforts.

How To Help

Donors may also contribute $10 via their phone bill by text messaging the word STORM to 80888, and confirming the donation with the word, “Yes.”*

At this point, in-kind donations, such as used clothing and used furniture, are not being accepted for hurricane relief. However, these items are vital to supporting the day-to-day work of your local Salvation Army. Please consider giving these items to your local Salvation Army Family Store or dial 1-800-SA-TRUCK (1-800-728-7825).

Checks may be made out to The Salvation Army Disaster Services Center, PO BOX 1959 Atlanta, GA 30301. Please designate “2012 Hurricane Season” on all checks.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s response to Hurricane Sandy, please visit The Salvation Army USA's blog, Facebook, or Twitter.  

Sleep, All Hope (Sleep, All Desire)

The song’s title comes from the French poet, Paul Verlaine:

“A vast black sleep
falls over my life
sleep, all hope
sleep, all desire.”

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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