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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Hogmanay

Happy Hogmanay

The Obligatory Happy New Year's Post

Here is my obligatory "Happy New Year" Post - even though the Christian New Year began back on December 1 with the first week of Advent.

Happy New Year - may it be a good one.

What I’ve Read this Year- 2013

These are not  listed in the order I read them, or in order of my favor, or alphabetical order either... just a list.  My reviews and comments are in the links

Stephen R. Lawhead – The Silver Hand
Stephen R. Lawhead – The Endless Knot
Stephen R. Lawhead - Byzantium
Alan Goldsher - Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion
Seth Grahame-Smith - Unholy Night
Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle -A Wind in the Door
Madeleine L’Engle - A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Madeleine L'Engle - Many Waters
Katy Stauber - Revolution World
Robert A. Heinlein - The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
C.S. Lewis - Out of the Silent Planet
C.S. Lewis – Perelandra
C.S. Lewis - That Hideous Strength
Franz Kafka -The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories
Paul L. Maier - Pontius Pilate: A Novel
Jonathan Maberry - Rot and Ruin
Walter Wangerin Jr. - The Book of the Dun Cow
Tad Williams - The Dragonbone Chair
Tad Williams - Stone of Farewell
Tad Williams - To Green Angel Tower (Parts 1 & 2)
Philip K. Dick - The Man in the High Castle
Philip K. Dick - VALIS
Phillip K. Dick - A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Philip K. Dick - A Maze of Death
Jim Butcher - Summer Knight
Brandon Sanderson - The Rithmatist
Frank Herbert – Dune
Frank Herbert - Dune Messiah
Frank Herbert - Children of Dune
Orson Scott Card - Seventh Son
Orson Scott Card - Red Prophet
Orson Scott Card - Prentice Alvin
Orson Scott Card – Heartfire
Orson Scott Card - Alvin Journeyman
Orson Scott Card - The Crystal City
Ben Bova - Jupiter
George R.R. Martin - A Game of Thrones
Cullen Bunn - Deadpool Killustrated  
Clive Barker -The Thief of Always
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Robert Penn Warren - The Cave
Glenn Beck - Agenda 21
William Shakespeare - Hamlet
Henning Mankell - Faceless Killers
Henning Mankell - The Dogs of Riga
Newt Gingrich - 1945  
Dan Brown - Inferno
William Golding - The Inheritors
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness  
Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita
Stephen King - Carrie
Stephen King - Joyland
Stephen King - From a Buick 8
Stephen King - The Shining
Stephen King - Firestarter
Stephen King - The Dark Half
Stephen King - Dolores Claiborne
Kim Paffenroth- Dying to Live
Matt Bronleewe - Illuminated
Jeff Lindsay - Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Madeleine L'Engle - Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation
Deborah Blum - The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Richard A. Burridge - Faith Odyssey: A Journey through Life
Archibald MacLeish - J.B.
Marvin Meyer -Judas: The Definitive Collection of Gospels and Legends about the Infamous Apostle of Jesus  
Charles R. Pellegrino - Return to Sodom and Gomorrah: Bible Stories from Archaeologists
Laurence Gardner - Bloodline of the Holy Grail (here, here, and here)
John Larsson - 1929
Edward Jay Epstein - The Annals of Unsolved Crime
Langston Hughes - Langston Hughes
Thomas Cahill - Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus
Bill Bryson - Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States
Marion L. Soards - Scripture and Homosexuality: Biblical Authority and the Church Today
Valerie Mindlin - The Epic of the Maccabees
E.P. Sanders - The Historical Figure of Jesus
Travis Walton - Fire in the Sky: The Walton Experience
Louis Untermeyer - The Pan Book of Limericks
Lee Gurga  - Haiku: A Poet's Guide
Susan Stryker - The Transgender Studies Reader
Joseph Reino - Stephen King the First Decade: Carrie to Pet Sematary
Kenneth E Bailey - Open Hearts in Bethlehem: A Christmas Drama
Raymond E. Brown - An Adult Christ at Christmas
Michael J. Nelson - Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters
Jason Draper – A Brief History Album Covers
Marcella Althaus-Reid - Indecent Theology

Spark of Hope 2

This photo effect was achieved by zooming out while the shutter was open.

Spark of Hope (2) by Jeff Carter

The other Spark of Hope photo is here.

Spark of Hope (2) by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: I Am Wisdom

I sprang from the mouth of the Most High,
covered the Earth like a mist did I,
alone I ringed heaven
plumbed the abyss even;
I am Wisdom, to me now draw nigh. 

Sirach 24 

The Last Day of the (Calendar) Year

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Last Day of the (Calendar) Year photo LastDayoftheCalendarYear_zps7b9aa8e0.jpg

Monday, December 30, 2013

Is New Year’s Eve/Day a Holiday? An Internal Debate

Is New Year’s Eve/Day a Holiday – that is, is it a holy day?  My own mind takes opposing opinions.

No.  New Year’s Eve/ Day should not be considered a holy day.  There is nothing particularly special or religious about this particular day.  For Christians – particularly those Christians who follow the liturgical year of the Church, the “New Year” began with the first Sunday of Advent.  This secular New Year is no more (but also no less) holy than any other day.

Yes. New Year’s Eve/Day should be considered a holiday – a day to reflect upon the year that has passed, to make confession, and to prepare for the year ahead by making renewed commitments.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, originated Watch Night Services (or Covenant Renewal Services) on New Year’s Eve as an alternative to the drunken revelry of other non-church going celebrants.

Still No.  Any day is a good day for confession and covenant renewal.  Why limit it to this particular 24 hours?  Besides, a holiday created as a “Christian alternative” to secular or non-religious celebration seems like a weak foundation for a holiday.  There’s no biblical support for New Year’s Day as a holiday.

There’s no biblical support for Christmas as a holiday either, but are you suggesting that we should stop celebrating Christmas?

Actually, that’s not a bad idea…

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Spark of Hope

I took this picture of our Christmas tree and its lights and decorations through a DIY lens filter.  (I simply cut a plastic coke bottle in half and placed one half over the camera lens.)

A Spark of Hope by Jeff Carter

A Spark of Hope by Jeff Carter on

What This Man Said Will Shock and Disgust You

Life is Good, Life Goes On - Part of a Christmas Funeral Sermon

During the few days of vacation that I was able to take with my family after the conclusion of all of our varied frenzied Salvation Army Christmas fundraising and programming, I was called upon to officiate (I hate that word! There must be a better one...) at the funeral of a friend of a friend.

The family wasn't particularly religious (I was told) and what religious ideas were present were varied (Unitarian and New Agey...)

I had very little time to prepare, what I share is the first page and a half of my notes....


As a minister I am often called upon to speak words of comfort.  I have had the opportunity to speak at many funerals over the years and every one of them is different; every one of them is special, and every one of them is awkward.

Awkward because, I have very few words of comfort.  I’ve heard all of the standards: “he’s in a better place now,” or “it must have been his time” or “God must have needed another angel in heaven,” You’ve heard them, I’m sure.  And I’m sure you’ve felt, as I have when they’ve been spoken to me, that they’re just not comforting at all.  In fact, they are sometimes downright infuriating.  I’ve learned that it’s almost better to not say anything at all.  To just let the silence be. 

But as I said, as a minister, specially trained for such occasions, I’m expected to have some special insight into these occasions.  But I don’t. None of us ministers do, really.  People expect that we do, and many of us, feeling the weight of that expectation, try to say something profound and meaningful, and, above all, comforting… but the truth of the matter is, we all fumble through these times.

Those infuriatingly glib and vacuous clichés may be little or cold comfort but they are fumbling attempts to make sense of the mysteries of life and death and life after life.  My words here this afternoon, may be more polished than some, may be spoken from the place of authority or respect… but they are no less fumbling and awkward. 

The grief is just too big right now for any word to soothe.  The hole in your lives created by A.’s absence is too big for words to fill.  But funerals are for the living, and we will, each one, go on living today, tomorrow, and the next day, trying to make sense of all these things.

As a minister I come to these questions through the doorway of faith, and though I realize that we may not all agree on every issue and doctrine, there are several things that I believe we can agree upon:

I believe that life is good.  No matter how difficult and awkward, no matter how painful at times, I believe that, ultimately, life is good.  Life is mysterious and wonderful.  The spark that fires our DNA, holds our memories, and forms our personalities is precious and wonderful.  It is a treasure beyond calculable value.  That is why it hurts so much when someone we love dies. The life in us is wounded by the extinguishing of life in others.  Life is good. 

If we you to honor and treasure A.'s life then do good. Find the value and goodness in each day’s living and in each person around you.  Share yourself with others.  Forgive the offenses given to you.  Make peace.  Help those who need your help.  Life is good – and we must do what we can to find, and honor, treasure that goodness.  And sometimes we even have to create that goodness in situations where it is hard to see. 

In the pages of the gospels we find Jesus speaking to his followers about the Kingdom of God – not as something far removed into the future – but something present in the here and now, breaking into our daily lives.  This is a powerful thing: to live in the joy and wonder and splendor of each day’s goodness and to share that joy and wonder and splendor with someone else.

If life is good, and I believe that it is, then we cannot squander it in feuds, and in hurting each other.  We cannot horde it, but we must share it – giving away of ourselves, sharing our love and our joy with others.  This is where we find the kingdom of God, among us, within us – as we share and forgive and love. 

I also believe that, as good as this life is; that this life is not all there is.  I believe that there is something more – that life goes on.  I don’t usually speak of life after death, preferring instead to speak of life after life. Looking out into the vast expanse of space and seeing the brilliant burnings of billions and billions of distant stars, I find it impossible to believe that the few fleeting years that we have here, spent scrabbling and squabbling with family and neighbors, is all there is. 

But Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote, "Why marvel at the stars, when you are eternal? They were not made in the image and likeness of God. You were."

We value and treasure the life that we live in the here and now.  We celebrate the goodness that we find in one another because we recognize that goodness as the spark of divinity that gives fire to each one of our lives.  And in that life after life can take some measure of comfort and hope.

I know that comes awfully close to one of those clichés “we’ll see him again in heaven…”  And I try to avoid those clichés, but I do believe that while this life is good, and that there is much to treasure and celebrate in this life here and now, I also believe that there is more.

So we can live each day in joy and wonder because life is good.


There was more that I said, but this is all I have written out...

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 2

One new background image each week given away - free.  These weekly images are yours to use however you like - at home, work, school, church, whatever.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

And, if you need more, all of 2013's images, as well as 2012's are available in convenient downloadable .zip files.   (I happen to think that 2013's were better than 12's but you're welcome to all of them, regardless...)

2014 - Week 2 photo Week2_zpsd0afee04.jpg

A Blessing for Those Who Grieve during the Holidays

May we find comfort,
we who grieve and mourn,
who mark this season of gifts
with loss and bereavement;
may we be comforted.

May we remember those who are gone,
those taken by illness, by accident,
and those taken by human malice;
may their lives inspire us.

As the darkness of night
gives way to dawning light,
as winter’s winds
give way to springtime rains

may we find peace
and comfort
and joy

in the birth, and life, and death
and in the glorious resurrection
of Jesus, the Messiah,

in the angel of his presence,
our Savior,
who takes our afflictions as his own.

May he lift us up
and carry us forever.

Isaiah 63: 7 - 9

Friday, December 27, 2013

Angels We Have Heard, But We Never Light Their Candles

My mother has these Christmas decorations up every year.  We've heard the songs of the angels, but we never light the candles.  They decorative only.

This photograph uses my DIY filter.

Angels We Have Heard by Jeff Carter

Angels We Have Heard by Jeff Carter on

Aluminum Christmas Trees - What Fun

Yesterday we took a trip to the Wisconsin Historical Museum - specifically to see the display of artificial, aluminum Christmas trees.  There isn't much that exceeds the tackiness of an aluminum Christmas tree.  What fun.

You may also like this one that I took.

Aluminum Christmas Trees by Jeff Carter

Aluminum Christmas Trees by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 1

Here I am, starting again - free powerpoint slides (who still uses Powerpoint?) - free background images for everyone.  Use them in your projects at home, work, school, or church. Use them as desktop wallpapers.  Use them in craft projects. Use them as book covers. Use them how you will; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who might be interested in such things: this week's image comes from a picture I took at a museum display about aluminum Christmas trees.

2014 - Week 1 photo Week1_zps337b1ed5.jpg

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - The Complete Set

Week 13 photo Week13_zps7c07cb26.jpgI have been creating and sharing free background images for awhile now.  I post a new one each week for you to use in your own projects at home, work, school, or church, or wherever.  You are free to use them however you like; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For your convenience I have bundled all of the images that I shared this year (2013) into one 316 MB .zip file.  All 59 images (one each week, plus a couple of bonus pics!) are yours.  Free.

You might also be interested in the 2012 bundle as well (though I think that the 2013 pics were much improved over those of last year.  Still... if you want them, they're yours.)

St. Andrew's Cemetery

This is a picture from St. Andrews Cemetery, a small cemetery near Sully, Iowa.  I took this photo on a cold December afternoon, hours before the snows started to fall.

This photo, and many of the others that I have taken are available for you to purchase - either as a digital download ($2.99) or as a professional quality print (the prices vary by size, style, and framing options.)  The money I make in these sales is given to the Salvation Army of Newton, Iowa (serving Jasper County).

St. Andrew's Cemetery by Jeff Carter

St. Andrew's Cemetery by Jeff Carter on

Keep the Boxing in Boxing Day

Keep the Box in Boxing Day

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Snow for St. Stephen's

This is a pic of my friend Father John's church (St. Stephen's Episcopal church in Newton, Iowa).

I missed his Christmas Eve service -wherein he promised to include a quote from DC Talk's Jesus Freak (I was hoping for "I saw a man with a tat on his big fat belly...") so I don't know how he resolved his  dilemma - whether or not to mention Santa Claus, since his children were going to be in attendance.  Merry Christmas.

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 11

Matthew, it seems, has crafted his tale
on that of Moses, note this and hail
how Herod like Pharaoh,
fearful in his marrow,
ordered the deaths of all baby males.

Matthew 2: 1 - 16

Snow in the Trees

After wrapping up all of our Christmas duties with the Salvation Army in Newton last night, we all piled into the family truckster and set off for my parent's house.  We drove through heavy snow the whole way.  We stopped at one point to stretch and to relax a bit from the tension of driving through the snow storm.  While stopped I took a couple of pictures; this is one.

Snow in the Trees by Jeff Carter

Snow in the Trees by Jeff Carter on

Vichyssoise for the Postmodern Soul

My family knows I like to receive books as Christmas gifts...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yuletide Is Here Again

Yuletide Is Here Again from jeff carter on Vimeo.

I think that the Swedish Christmas carol Nu Är Det Jul Igen  (Yuletide Is Here Again) is very amusing.  Happy Yuletide to you; dance and celebrate till Easter (leaving room for fasting during Lent, of course.)

Christmas Carol Limericks: Santa Baby

Santa baby, I am not greedy
I only want gifts of luxury;
furs and cars and a yacht,
Santa, that’s not a lot,
please bring jewelry too, Santa baby.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Carol Limericks: Up on the Housetop

Up on the housetop, reindeer they pause
and out jumps jolly old Santa Claus;
he shouts out, “Ho, ho, ho!”
but we wish that he’d go,
St. Nick’s been changed and Hanby’s the cause.

Benjamin Hanby, who wrote Up on the Housetop in 1864 was the first to suggest that Santa lands his sleigh on the roofs of people’s homes in order to come down the chimney with toys.  

Icicles in the Morning

These icicles are hanging off our roof at the back of the house.

Icicles in the Morning by Jeff Carter

Icicles in the Morning by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Hard to Justify

God is not a man that he should lie,
no, not at all, he merely sits by
as spirits step forward
to spread the lying word;
this passage is hard to justify.

Numbers 23: 19 / 1 Kings 22: 19 - 23

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snowfall on the Crab Apple Tree

We had a pretty heavy snowfall last night - heavy enough that most of the churches in our area called off their services.  But I made some phone calls to our members and several of them said that they still wanted to try to get out - so we went ahead with our worship service this morning.

As tricky as the snow made the driving, I still think it looks rather nice.  This is the same crab apple tree in my neighbor's yard that have featured in several of my other photos.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Comes Now the Solstice Eve

How fragile is this life
and filled with doubt
how long the night, and cold.

Now winter winds do howl
outside the door
now heavy snow does fall.

Comes now the Solstice eve
and longest night
comes too, the glowing dawn.

Christmas Carol Limericks: Maria Walks Amid the Thorn

Maria wanders amid the thorn
which seven long years no leaf has borne;
kyrie, kyrie
oh my Lord, have mercy,
now the thorns with roses are adorned.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Biblical Limericks: How Many?

The histories with errs are encumbered;
take, if you will, the detailed number
of Solomon’s stalls:
were they four thousand all
or forty? It is a slight blunder.

1 Kings 4: 26 / 2 Chronicles 9: 25 

Christmas Carol Limericks: Baloo, Lammy

This day is born of Virgin Mary
our hope and our joy, Jesus is he,
born in Bethlehem’s barn
that great heavenly bairn;
rejoice heart and mind; Baloo, Lammy.

Bairn  = Scottish for “child”
Baloo, Lammy = “Hush, my little lamb.”

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 52 Bonus

It's a little later than usual, but late is better than not at all.  So here is this week's free background image.  I make them for our little church.  Actually, in these past couple of weeks we've been using the slides I made for the 4 weeks of Advent, but it's likely that you're not using these same themes - so you might want something else.  Hence, these extra images.

You're free to download and to use these powerpoint images in your own projects at home, work, school, church, wherever (even use them in something other than powerpoint slides.)  Use them as you will. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who might be interested to know, I shot this picture of christmas lights through a rain spattered window.  I took another photo of the same scene using the DIY filter that I made.

Week 52 Bonus photo Week52Bonus_zps5b1d229d.jpg

Christmas Carol Limericks: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

We’re carolers and we’re here to sing
“We wish you a merry Christmasing,”
but we will not leave, no
we’ll not depart or go,
not ‘till you bring us figgy pudding.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Winter Window

The lights of Christmas through a rain spattered window.  I took this photo last night using the DIY filter that I made last week.  You can buy this picture, or one of the other many that I've taken.  

Winter Window by Jeff Carter

Love for Three Orange Magi

I have long thought that the story of the Magi should be combined with Prokofiev's satirical opera Love for Three Oranges.

Calculated Moral Outrage

Though the internets are humming, and it is (apparently) obligatory for bloggers to comment on such things, I haven’t said very much about the statements of Phil Robertson of the A&E show Duck Dynasty.   I will only say a couple of things and then you can return to your regularly scheduled programming.

A&E has, if you haven’t already heard, suspended Robertson from filming because of some anti-gay statements he made in an interview for GQ magazine. (It’s a little surprising that more hasn’t been said about Robertson’s depiction of life for People of Color in the pre-civil rights South…)   LGBTQI supporters are outraged that he would say such things!  Conservative Christians are outraged that A&E would suspend him from the show.  Everyone is outraged! 

Okay.  So a “celebrity” said some stupid things.  People say stupid things. Even hurtful things.  Say of him, as they do in the south, “Well bless his heart…” and let this be a chance to extend a little charity and forgiveness. 

Okay.  So a television network exercised their right to determine what is broadcast in their programming.  That’s not exactly censorship.  His first amendment rights are not being trampled. Let it go.  The Robertson family is already set to profit from numerous endorsements, merchandising arrangements, and speaking engagements.  They’re not exactly being martyred here.

Outrage from either side isn’t the most productive way to go here. 

Christmas Carol Limericks: Melchior and Balthazar

You know Melchior and Balthazar,
along with their good friend King Gaspar,
went upon a journey
went upon a journey
to Bethlehem following the star.

They travelled along as a large group,
when, at last, they arrived, the whole troop,
they were very hungry,
oh so very hungry,
then they sat and ate some cabbage soup.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

You’re Supposed To Be Playing Christmas Songs!

I don’t get people. I really don’t. 

This afternoon I was out at one of our Red Kettles – playing my guitar and singing Christmas / Holiday  songs. (I do this because I really can’t stand the sound of the bells, the bells, bells, bells, the ringing of the bells…)

At one point I was singing the song Glory in the Highest by A. P. Cobb.  Now, I grant you that this isn’t one of the more popular ones, but neither is it completely obscure.  As I was singing along a toothless old woman came by, dropped in a few coins into the kettle and then grabbed me by the arm – at which point I was rather forced to stop strumming the guitar.  She leaned right up close to me and said, “You’re supposed to be playing Christmas songs!”  (I thought for a moment there was going to be a repeat of this incident…) 

“It is a Christmas song,” I protested.

“No it’s not,” she said as she walked towards the door. “Not one of the old ones.”

(It was first published in 1893.)

Christmas Carol Limericks: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

My dear, don’t be so aloof-y;
my love for you I’d like to prove-y.
Baby, it’s cold outside
so come sit by my side,
nevermind that I’ve slipped you a roofy…

Other Christmas Carol Limericks:
Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle
I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)
The First Noel
Jingle Bells

Christmas Carol Limericks: Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle

Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle,
bring a torch to the cradle, hurrah!
Beautiful is Mary,
and her baby aussi,
but hush as he is sleeping. Ah! Ah!

Christmas Carol Limericks – I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)

Oh I saw three ships on Christmas day;
they came sailing to Bethlehem’s quay.
But something in this song
is most certainly wrong
since Bethlehem has no waterway.

Other Christmas Carol Limericks:
The First Noel
Jingle Bells

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Carol Limericks – The First Noel

The first Noel the angels did say
was to shepherds, in fields where they lay,
O, but it seems to me
that the question should be
just what is a Noel, anyway?

(and is it spelled Noel, Noël, or Nowell ?)

Harold Camping's Come to Jesus Moment

Harold Camping - who famously (and wrongly!) predicted that the rapture of Christians would happen in May (and then later adjusted to October) of 2011 - has had his own personal come to Jesus moment.  Camping passed away on Sunday at the age of 92.

I'll take this opportunity to repost some music I made with an audio sample of Camping's statement after the failed prediction in October.

Originally posted here with source material credits.

Christmas Carol Limericks: Jingle Bells

Here's something new - Christmas songs and carols translated into limericks...

We’re dashing through the snow in a sleigh
o’er fields we go, laughing all the way;
the horses bells ringing,
our spirits are singing
a wonderful sleighing song, Oh hey!

Jingle bells, they jingle all the way,
what fun to ride in an open sleigh
jingle bells, Batman smells
riding through snowy dells,
oh the fun of riding in a sleigh.

Yesterday I thought I’d take a ride
with the lovely Miss Bright by my side,
the horse was lean and lank
but in the snow we sank,
now Miss Bright’s mad and won’t be my bride!

(with apologies to James Pierpont)

DIY Camera Hack

I've been playing around with a DIY camera filter that I made.  I bought a bunch of skylight filters on ebay (very cheap) - removed the glass - and replaced it with a circle cut from from a bathtub drain guard.

The filter in normal use limits the amount of light coming into the camera and provides a bit of graying to the picture - creating a sort of vintage look.

When used on out of focus light sources it creates and interesting bokeh effect.

This was my second attempt.  I tried to do this a couple of nights ago, but I cut the drain guard too small and it wouldn't fit into the filter frame. But tonight I corrected my error and it worked out pretty well.  So well, in fact that I made two, one of which I'll give to my brother. (But don't tell him.  It's part of his Christmas present.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Difficult Lives of Transvestite Saints

I’ve just finished reading a book that I know will be atop everyone’s reading lists: The Cross-Dressing Female Saints in Wynkyn de Worde’s 1495 Edition of the Vitas Patrum: A Study and Edition of the Lives of Saints Pelage, Maryne, Eufrosyne, Eugene and Mary of Egypt[i].  I think that the title should be just a bit longer, but that’s just me… (At 182 characters, the title itself is too long to tweet.)

This obscure book by Sandra Lowerre is a careful examination of another ancient book – the Vitas Patrum (“Lives of the Fathers”) published by Wynkyn de Worde in England in 1495.  More specifically, Lowerre examines the way that the lives of a few cross-dressing female saints are depicted in this book intended to serve as a devotional tool for pious Christians in the late 15th century. 

Even though it is the “Lives of the Fathers,” the stories of a few women (seven) were included in this devotional study – and among those venerable female saints were a number of cross-dressers held up as examples of Christian piety and righteousness.

Careful, though.  These women are not champions of contemporary Feminism or Transvestite / Transgender issues[ii].  Their concerns and motivations would seem very out of place in our world today. Indeed, at heart their transvestitism was not motivated by sexual or gender issues – but (at least in the presentation of the Vitas Patrum) by spiritual desires that, in order to be fulfilled, necessitated the denial of their sex/gender.

The fact that church leaders (all of them men) viewed women as dangerous to the salvation of men[iii] and generally inferior to men[iv] meant that for a woman to pursue of life of religious devotion – she had to deny and denigrate her womanhood.  Their cross dressing was not done as an expression of their true identities, but as a denial of their personal identity in order to conform to the misogynistic ideals valued at the time. 

It’s a sort of paradox that these women are praised.  It was forbidden by church law for any individual to wear the clothing of the opposite sex (based on the Deuteronomic proscription – A woman shall not wear man's clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.[v]) And the Synod of Gangra, held in AD 340, specifically forbade women to dress as men in order to gain entrance into male only religious communities.[vi]  But here they are, singled out for their cross-dressing and the story of their lives recorded for all of history to admire.

But – do not fear – all is restored at the end of each of these “lives;” their cross-dressing is revealed and their womanhood realized.  All is restored to the natural order.  These women, the reader is told, have achieved, by a miracle of God, a level of holiness and perfection usually only found in men.  But their womanhood must be revealed in order for the miracle to be noticed.[vii]

This is an interesting book – but difficult.  Be prepared to mentally translate from ‘ye olde English’ as you read.

“Saint Ierome recounteth that in the countrey of Palestyn, in whyche is the cyte of Iherusalem, was somtyme a right prudent man of notable lyf in dedes and worde named Zozymas.  And we fynde that there was another in lyke wyse soo named, whyche was an herytyke, of whome at thys tyme we shalle make noo mencyon, but oonly we shalle speke of hym that we haue first named.  He walked thurgh alle Palestyne in vysytyng deuoutly alle the holy places and monasteryes that were there.”[viii]

[i] Lowerre, Sandra The Cross-Dressing Female Saints in Wynkyn de Worde’s 1495 Edition of the Vitas Patrum: A Study and Edition of the Lives of Saints Pelage, Maryne, Eufrosyne, Eugene and Mary of Egypt Peter Lang Publishers, Frankfurt Germany, 2005.
[ii]Pages xi-xii
[iii] Page lxxxix
[iv] Page xc
[v] Deuteronomy 22: 5
[vi] Page lxxx
[vii] Page cxii
[viii] Page 11

Biblical Limericks: I Trow Not

Say you had a servant in your plot,
and you said, ‘serve my meal while it’s hot,”
do you think you would thank
this one of servant rank
for doing as you’ve said?  I trow not.

Luke 17: 7 – 9 (KJV)

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 10

So Mary was pledged, but not yet wed,
was pregnant with no man in her bed,
Joseph, honest and true
knew what he had to do;
“I’ll divorce her, quietly,” he said.

Matthew 1: 18 - 19

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Books (Hurrah!)

I was given an gift card as a Christmas gift. (Hurrah!)  In a few days the following should be arriving in my mail box.  (Hurrah!)

Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions – by Candida Moss

An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories-Matthew 2 and Luke 2  - by Raymond Edward Brown

The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional God – by Luke Timothy Johnson

Jesus and Judaism – by E.P Sanders

Sharing the Word through the Liturgical Year – by Gustavo Gutierrez

Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings – by Gustavo Gutierrez (edited by James B. Nickoloff)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Blessing of the Crocus (Advent 3)

May you bloom like the Crocus,
that winter Rose of Sharon,
springing forth from tender stem
through apocalyptic ash
and the still smoldering ruins
of blasted earth.

May you be a rose ever blooming.

Let purple plants and greenery
bloom into the golden splendor
of the Morning Star’s dawning light.

May you give strength to trembling hands
and tired knees;
let the blind see through you
and the deaf hear your song.
Say to them, “Be strong,” and “Do not fear,
for our God is with us here.”

May you be a stream into the wilderness,
bringing life to burning desert sands.
May you drive away the brutish beasts
that ravage the night and savage our dreams.

May your road always be the Holy Way,
and may you come,
along with unnumbered millions
of the Ransomed of the LORD,
to Zion with singing.

Joy to the world
and everlasting joy and gladness
be upon your head,
and amen.

(Isaiah 35)

Biblical Limericks: Ave Maria

Hail Mary, you are so full of grace,
blessed more than other girls of our race,
blessed too is thy womb’s fruit;
pray for us sinners rude,
now and as we look death in the face.


Abstracted Christmas Lights

This effect was achieved by shooting Christmas lights through a drinking glass.

This picture, like many of my others, are available for purchase - either as a digital download ($2.99) or as a professional quality print.  And there are a lot of options for the prints - different materials, sizes, and frames.  At reasonable prices.  They can be shipped worldwide - though I think it may be too late for it to arrive by Christmas (unless you're celebrating the Orthodox Christmas dates , January 7th...) Still. I'd like to think that they'd make nice gifts.

And my portion of the proceeds of these sales is given to the Salvation Army of Newton, Iowa.  You get nice artwork, and the Salvation Army gets more money to continue its work in Jasper County.

Abstract Bokeh by Jeff Carter
Abstract Bokeh by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 9

“Behold a virgin shall bear a son,”
that verse is in Matthew chapter one;
he's quoting the prophet
Isaiah, of old, but
of virgins in that text, there are none.

Matthew 1: 23 / Isaiah 7:14 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shall We Speak into the Night?

Shall we speak into the night
say all the things left unsaid,
shall we break the silence?
shall we speak the truth?
No, no, no.

We proclaim the power
of white Jesus who came to please us
and release us from our darkened skins
which Adam’s transgression had wrappéd us in

While another Herod ignites a militant display
of unmanned attack drones
sent out from the terrordome
to rocket little sister’s wedding party.

Why would we care?
She wasn’t one of us.

Lock up our enemies
until we can tame them,
reframe them upon their deaths
as impeachable saints
and heroes we can ignore;
rewrite their histories
till they’re one of us.

Blast the stars from that ordinary sky
lest Immanuel disrupt our plans
to sell a few more guns,
 and drop a few more bombs.

We can’t have a black man
teaching good (white) Americans
the meaning of civilization.
Tell us to turn the other cheek?
Beat our swords into plows?
Right…  Where’s the profit in that?

Meanwhile the words of the prophets
from long ages of the past
are sold at discount
in the bible bookstore. 

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 8

Herod was the craftiest of kings,
but his paranoia was crippling;
when the magi took flight
he ordered in his fright
the slaughter of all boy childlings.

Matthew 2: 16

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Go Home, Santa, You're Drunk

Fear of a Black Santa - the New Album by Megyn Kelly

You may have already seen Fox News' latest oh-my-goodness-they-didn't-just-say-that-did-they? moment.  If not, here it is.

EDIT: I realized that not everyone will be familiar with the reference. The above illustration is a parody of the cover for Public Enemy's 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet.

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 7

Explain, if you can, why Matthew ends
his genealogy with Joseph, when
it is quite obvious,
to the sharp audience,
that he’s only the father pretend.

Matthew 1: 1 - 25

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 6

Unless we claim it’s hyperbolic,
Mary’s song is quite vitriolic;
kings are to be pulled down,
the poor raised from the ground…
And we thought she was so bucolic!

Luke 1: 46 - 55

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2013 - Week 51 Bonus

Each week I create a new background image for use in powerpoint slides at our little church.  And I make them available here on this blog for you to download and use in your own projects - at home, work, school, church, whatever. Use them as you will; I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be interested in knowing - I found these Christmas tree ornaments in our thrift store the other day.

Week 51 Bonus b photo Week51Bonusb_zps1e41ee88.jpg

Biblical Limericks: King David Was Wrong

King David admits his guilt, it’s true,
but adds, “God I’ve only sinned ‘gainst you…”
I won’t say he’s a liar,
but what of Uriah?
He should start his confession anew.

King David Was Wrong (Psalm 51)

Sometimes I find myself arguing with scripture.  I know this isn’t what preachers are supposed to do.  We’re supposed to affirm and proclaim the words of the bible, not contradict them.  We’re not supposed to stumble over them.   But sometimes I do.

And here another of those places: in Psalm 51 when David is confessing his guilt in the affair of adultery and murder with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah [i]   and he says, “Against you only have I sinned…”
(Psalm 51: 4). 

No, David. You also sinned against Uriah, the Hittite, and his family, against Bathsheba, against the army of Israel (who suffered in battle because of your orders- and how many others died in that battle besides Uriah?) and against the people of Israel in general.

Some commentators seem to go out of their way to excuse or defend David’s statement here (assuming it was, after all, King David who wrote this psalm…).  They provide hair-splitting justifications for his statement, but I think he was just wrong.

[i] Ostensibly this is David’s confession, but the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem” in verse 18 would seem to argue for a much later date. 

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 5

Despite the claims of an absurd few
that the prophet demands we eschew
our decorated trees
in these festivities,
he damns idols, not the Christmas yew.

Jeremiah 10: 2 - 4

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Stars

So what that Matthew describes only one star, and Luke none?  So what?  These are Christmas stars - and they're not even shining any light at all.

Christmas Stars by Jeff Carter

Christmas Stars by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Job Replies to his Critics

You are respectable men, it’s true,
and when you die wisdom goes with you,
but I too have a mind,
indeed, of the same kind,
and, like you, I know a thing or two.

Job 12: 1 - 3

Slap the Heretic - A New Christmas Carol

Santa Claus today is nothing like the St. Nicholas of history.  It's time that we tell the truth about this beloved Christmas figure.  So I've written a new Christmas carol to set things right.

MVI 9773 from jeff carter on Vimeo.

Slap the Heretic - A New Christmas Carol by Jeff Carter

Biblical Limericks: The Shortest Man?

It’s a feud that’s caused more heat than light,
answer the question, try if you might:
Who was the shortest man
in the biblical plan?
I think it was Bildad the Shuhite. (Shoe height)

Job 2: 11

Monday, December 9, 2013

Biblical Limericks: Eliphaz Speaks

A word to me was secretly brought,
by my ears was this slight whisper caught;
it caused me to tremble,
my bones disassemble;
by a ghost was I this message taught.

Can a mortal be purer than God?
It is extraordinarily odd
to think yourself noble
in your plight ignoble;
you should by the Lord be overawed.

Job 4: 12 - 17

Crab Apple Tree in December

It snowed here yesterday afternoon.  All afternoon and into the evening.  Our first snow was just barely a ground cover - but this, this snow fell down and covered everything. Fortunately it was a fine, dry, powdery snow.  Light and easy to shovel.  I even saw someone in our neighborhood using a leaf blower to blow the snow off his driveway.

I took my camera and took some pictures.  Including one of my neighbor's crab apple tree.  There's nothing particularly special about this tree.  It's just close and convenient and provided an interesting subject for a variety of photos.

This one (like many of my other photographs) is for sale - either as a digital download ($2.99) or as a print.  And there are lots of options - you can have it printed on canvas, archival quality paper, acrylic, a mirror, or a sheet of birchwood.  You can also choose from four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and there are a variety of framing options.  The prices vary according to the different options, but they're all pretty reasonable.

And - what is more - my portion of these sales is given to the Salvation Army of Newton, Iowa.  You can pick up some nice artwork - the Salvation Army gets money to continue its work.  Everyone wins.

Crab Apple Tree in December by Jeff Carter

Crab Apple Tree in December by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: After this Job Opened his Mouth and Cursed the Day

Woe! For it’s just as I’ve always feared,
that which I have held in dread is here;
there’s no peace, no quiet,
I live with disquiet
for my life by turmoil is smeared.

Job 3: 25 - 26

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not the Three Wise Men You Were Expecting

This photo, and several others that I have taken, are for sale either as a digital download ($2.99) or as a professional quality print. And there are now lots of different choices on sizes (S, M, L, XL), materials, and frames. The prices are pretty good, too.  There are more and less expensive options - something to fit most budgets.  I like to think that these would make nice gifts. And, even more -  the proceeds of these sales will be given to support the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.  Everybody wins.

Click here if you'd like to purchase one. 

Not the Three Wise Men You Were Expecting by Jeff Carter
Not the Three Wise Men You Were Expecting by Jeff Carter on

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter Weeds on a Cloudy Day

I had to do some driving today - quite a bit of driving all across the county.  But I made use of the time.  After I completed my necessary tasks, I stopped at the Mariposa Recreational Area, just outside of Newton Iowa to take some pictures.  Though the park is closed for the season, I found some wonderful things from the parking area.  And the park has a little lot just off the road  where it is possible to watch a small herd of bison.  Two of the smaller ones came right up to the fence to see what I was doing.  Perhaps they thought I was bringing food.

These photographs, and several others that I have taken, are available for purchase as either a digital download ($2.99) or as a professional quality 2' X 3' canvas print ($211).  The proceeds from these sales is given to support the work of The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa / Jasper County.

Winter Weeds by Jeff Carter on

Winter Weeds by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 4

Children in their father’s bathrobes dressed
ready to give the pageant their best;
the innkeeper will say,
‘sleep in the barn, you may,’
but Luke says naught of an inn for guests.

Luke 2: 7

The Greek word commonly translated as “inn” is katalyma which more accurately means “guest room” – in a private dwelling rather than a commercial property for travelers.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Biblical Limericks: Christmas Edition 3

Luke says Augustus gave a decree
to make a count of everybody
in the Roman Empire,
and though Luke’s no liar
this can’t be confirmed by history.

Luke 2: 1-3

Magnificat (Mary's Song) - Lyrics and Music

Two years ago I wrote a song based on Mary's Magnificat (found in Luke 1: 46 - 55).  I shared a recording of it here on this blog.  But I never got around to sharing the chords for it.

So here it is again.  Feel free to make use of it as you will.

Ever Refreshed

I'm writing out of season.  A poem about Sukkot as we're leaving Hanukkah behind and heading towards Christmas.  My calendar needs recalibrated.

Ever Refreshed

On the last (and greatest) day
of the seventh (and final) festival
Jesus stood up to say:

If you are thirsty
come to me for a drink

Remember our desert wandering,
and our parched throats;  
recall how we choked on the dust of the earth.

But now come -
water for thirsty lands,
and streams for dry ground,
living water,
ever refreshed by my Spirit,
for you and your children.

(John 7. 38 / Isaiah 44. 3 – 4)

Biblical Haiku: Isaiah 11: 1 – 9

green shoots from dead stumps
and wolves with lambs at peace
when the Spirit guides

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Biblical Limericks: The Immaculate Conception

Was she immaculately conceived
as Catholics, of Mary, believe,
and if so, how far back
should this sinlessness track;
what womb could this perfection receive?

Downtown Lights

The town of Newton, Iowa lights up the courthouse square for the Christmas holiday season. I took some photos of it the other night.

 photo DowntownLights_zpsc4605e4b.jpg

Lost in the Noise

I’ve been out playing my horn at one of our Red Kettles today.  I usually play at one of our local grocery stores.  They have an entry way that is large enough that I can set up with my Eb Bass (it’s not a French Horn) and not be in the way of people going in and out of the store.  I like playing there because the entry way has a high ceiling and the sound of the horn can really ring in there.  (That it’s heated is also a plus.  The valves of the horn tend to freeze when I play outside during the winter…)

But today it was a little difficult.

I was playing the Coventry Carol – a quiet, melodic meditation on the tragedy that surrounded the birth of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew’s gospel, namely King Herod’s order that “all young children” be slain.  (Matthew says that Herod ordered the deaths of boys 2 years old and younger…).  And at the same time the store’s muzak system was blaring out some Latin jazz version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.  And the store employees were bringing the shopping carts back into the store from the corrals in the parking lot. With all the bang and clatter and muzac, the Coventry Carol got lost in the noise.

If I were one of those pastors who are always on the lookout for sermon illustrations, I might find something in that….

If you’d like to contribute to The Salvation Army – specifically The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa – you can make a donation at this online kettle.  (You can also use the link to find a Salvation Army unit nearer to you, if you like.) Thank you for thinking of the Salvation Army during this, our biggest fundraising season of the year.  The money we raise during this time will allow us to keep the lights on the programs going all through the year.

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