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Friday, February 28, 2014

Reading a Book about Photographs of Photographs

We live in a time of information and sensory overload – we are bombarded, assaulted by images. Picture after picture – in print, in video, television, cell phone, on the sides of buildings and buses  - pictures are everywhere.  The artists featured in Lay Flat:02 Meta are photographers working with photographs of photographs. Very meta, right?

Photography has never had a very settled place in the art world.  Should artistic photographs record the world as it is? Should they try to emulate paintings?   And now that everyone (nearly) has a camera, who is and who isn’t an artist anymore? How can art exist in a culture so flooded with images?

It’s pop art and photographic collage in the digital multimedia age.  It’s ironic, and glib – and maybe creative and clever too.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes a picture is just a picture.

I am especially impressed by the work of Daniel Gordon who photographs still life sculptures created from photographs.  

Jazz and Metallic Rhythms

My son had a jazz band concert tonight.  They played very well, and he had a solo in one of the songs.  Good kid.  But, good grief, it was the largest jr. high jazz band I've ever seen.  There must have been 50 of them...

Meanwhile I took a few pictures.  You might expect that I took dozens and dozens of my son.  I didn't.  I took a few.  And then I took a few of these.  These look a bit like jazz.

Metallic Rhythms by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Metallic Rhythms by Jeff Carter on 500px

Biblical Limericks: Even Women Can Be Saved

Within Paul’s writing there is a dearth
of good things for the women of Earth
but continue in love
and they can be sure of
their salvation through childbirth.

1 Timothy 2: 15

One Hundred - Almost Down - The End Is Near

I have been (re)reading William Burroughs' book Nova Express and I am amused by his cut-up method of writing.  I use it myself occasionally. So the other day I posted a short piece of writing entitled The People Threw Off Tyranny But I kept adding to my little writing, even after I'd already shared it on the blog.  So here it is, in a newly revised, completely rewritten, retitled, and much expanded version:  One Hundred - Almost Down - The End Is Near

And if you'd like some music created in much the same manner here's a link to my song - No Time for Treatment

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I bought these flowers for my wife yesterday - just because it was Wednesday. They are Alstroemeria - also known as Peruvian Lilies or Lilies of the Incas.

Alstroemeria by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Alstroemeria by Jeff Carter on 500px

Biblical Limericks: He Drives like a Madman

He may have been Israel’s king, but you
would be wise the highways to eschew;
for when he took the reins
his chariot caused pain –
there’s no one else that drives like Jehu!

2 Kings 9: 20, 30 – 33 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Buy Art - 25% Off - Support The Salvation Army

Photograph Oil and Water - Emerald by Jeff Carter on 500px
Oil and Water - Emerald by Jeff Carter on 500px
If you're one of those who regularly read this blog you might be aware that I dabble with photography - and that I have a number of my better photographs available for sale - either as a digital download or a professional quality print.  You might also know that the money I make in selling these photographs is given to support and continue the work of The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.  You get nice art and we're able to continue helping those in need in our county.

But what you probably don't know is that all prints are currently on sale.  All prints ordered between today (February 26, 2014) and Friday - February 28, 2014 - are 25% off.

Photograph Rain and Weeds (1) by Jeff Carter on 500px
Rain and Weeds (1) by Jeff Carter on 500px

There are several different options to choose from.  The picture you choose can be printed on canvas, paper, aluminum, acrylic or birchwood.  You can get it in Small, Medium, Large or Extra Large sizes.  And there are several different framing options, as well.

If you know someone who's having a birthday, anniversary, graduation, house warming, whatever event this year, perhaps you'll find a photograph that would be a suitable gift.  Maybe your office or church building has some dreary blank walls that could use some color.  It could be that you'd like to purchase one for yourself.

You can see more of them here.  When you find one you like click the "buy print" button and you'll be guided through the various options.

And in addition to buying great art (I like to think it's great, anyway....) you'll be supporting the great work of The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.  So thank you.

Psalm 82 – The Problem of Evil and Middle-Management Gods

I like Psalm 82.  I like its ambiguity – or its layers of meaning, if you prefer.

It’s a difficult psalm to place contextually – we don’t know when it was written.  Though included in the psalms of Asaph, which seem to mostly fit during the Babylonian Exile, some have suggested that Psalm 82 is much, much older, that it may even predate the monarchic period of Israel’s history. (Dahood, 269)[i] 

It begins in heaven or the heavens or the cosmic celestial space where the gods and the sons of the gods have assembled to be judged.  The word is elohim –literally “the gods” but some translations fudge this a bit and change it to leaders or rulers.  And this is a forgivable fudge (there are instances where elohim is used to refer to human judges.  See Exodus 21:6 for instance) but it’s a fudge nonetheless.  It’s an attempt to sidestep the issue of other gods. 

We’ve been taught that the Israelites were Monotheists – that they only believed in one God.  And this is only partly true.  By the time we get to the New Testament they are what we would think of as Monotheists, believing that there is only one God, and that other so-called gods are not-gods, are evil spirits masquerading as gods.  But in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, especially the older parts, there is the idea there are, in fact, a great many gods, but that they will only worship the one g(G)od, Yahweh.  This is, to use one of them fancy college type words, Henotheism.  The commandment “You shall have no other gods before me” makes little sense, phrased that way, if we’re starting from Monotheism.  But if there are other (lesser, inferior) gods then it works. 

And here in Psalm 82 we have all those little g gods gathered together for a divine assembly.    I particularly like the way Mitchell Dahood (in the Anchor Bible series) translates the first verse:

God presides in the divine council
in the midst of the gods adjudicates.  (Dahood, 268)

I like the formal verbs there.  They are assembled for judgment.  And the charge is that they’ve not been defending the poor and the weak, that they have been siding with the rich and powerful and wicked.
God delivers the accusation and then there is silence. (That is assuming for the moment that Selah means something like “stop and listen” or “pause and think on that.”  We don’t know what the word means.  We’re all just guessing.  But “silence” makes a certain sort of sense here.  It heightens the tension as we wait for someone to respond…)

No one speaks. No one can answer.

After the awkward silence God reiterates the charge, in challenging them to do what is right.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the week and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
(Psalm 82: 3 – 4 NRSV)

As an aside here:  those who insist that the bible teaches individual responsibility to take care of the poor and nothing about the responsibility of  government, must – MUST! – interpret this psalm to be about the “gods” and not human judges, at least if they’re going to be consistent…

Verse 5 seems to be out of place.  Awkward and unclear. It’s hard to make sense of it.

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
(Psalm 82: 5 NRSV)

The problem with this verse is that the pronoun “they” is unattached.  Does it refer to the gods/judges?  If so, it makes a sort of sense, but can they really be condemned as wicked and negligent if they are ignorant and without understanding?  Or are “they” the poor and the week and oppressed?  If so what does it mean that the foundations of the earth are shaken?

In verse 6 the psalmist (whoever he may have been) gives his voice. 

I had thought, “You are gods
all of you sons of the Most High,
yet you shall die as men do
and fall like any prince.”
(Psalm 82: 6 – 7 – Dahood, 268)

He had at one point thought these gods/judges were something to be feared, entities to be respected because of their power and position (whether gods or human judges).  But no longer.  They are not gods.  They are nothing because they are unable (or unwilling) to help the poor.  They’re ejected from the divine realm, no longer immortal, they’ll die like any man and fall into the grave like any prince.

But as they fall from glory, the psalmist calls for God to rise up in their place.  I like the movement there.  The no-gods fall as God rises to assume direct rule over the all the nations.  No more middle management.

Even though this psalm may be far older the other psalms of Asaph (among which it is counted) it makes a certain sort of sense in this collection.  The psalms of Asaph seem to have been composed during the time of the exile – as the Jewish people were contemplating their national tragedy, the destruction of the Temple, the destruction of the people.  There are numerous indications in these psalms of Asaph that God doesn’t seem to be listening, or if he is listening he’s not responding. 

The Babylonians would have been trumpeting the triumph of their gods over the god of the Jews. ‘Look! We’ve carried off your temple treasures and sacked your house of worship.  Your god is weak. Your god is dead.’ But psalm 82 (which may have been a much older psalm) is included in this collection and calls on God to rise up and judge these so-called gods, these not-gods, so that he can take their place, that he can rule directly over the nations of the earth, and bring justice  to the world.  That he will rise up and protect the week and the powerless.

-Jesus makes reference to this Psalm in John 10: 34 - 36.  He seems to take the interpretation that these elohim are human judges... but we can talk about that another time.

[i] Dahood, Mitchel, Psalms II: 51 – 100 – Introduction, Translation and Notes, Doubleday & Company, Inc, Garden City, New York, 1968.  

Biblical Limericks: This Is Your Hometown

When a prophet travels out of town
he is greeted as someone renown,
but in his own birthplace
where people know his face
he receives no honor, only frowns.

Mark 6: 4

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Did It Happen that Way?

When the transfiguration was done
Jesus told his friends to “tell no one.”
Did it happen that way
or was that special day
projected back post resurrection?

Matthew 17: 9

Question Authority - Test Everything

An acquaintance of mine recently lamented that there are too many (as he sees it) within our denomination that are willing to question our leadership, and that he fears for us who won't just accept what they tell us without question.  I guess he never really paid attention to Paul's writings to the Thessalonians: "Test everything.  Hold on to the good."  1 Thessalonians 5: 21

Everything.  Even those in authority. (maybe, especially those in authority.)

(the photograph in the picture above is one of mine, by the way...)

Biblical Limericks: Who Is this Sosthenes Guy?

Was it the Greeks or was it the Jews
who beat Sosthenes, gave him the bruise
when consul Gallio
enforced the status quo,
and what of Crispus?  Now I’m confused.

Acts 18: 8, 12 – 17

By the way: Sosthenes means “safe in strength.” 

The People Threw Off Tyranny

In closing this chapter, after a prolonged and discomforting argument, let us examine how things might have been if America had come out of her trance, along with her billions of wasted dollars and actually challenged once again the mysterious lady and the city on the hill shining its light on the world.

One hundred.  Almost down.  The End is near.

“Look, Lisa,” he paused as he realized that it was the first time he’d actually considered such things.  The only Socialism he’d ever known had been a lion among the dead wearing a fancy straw hat and a beige suit.

“You can call me Lisa.” she assured him (though her name was, in fact, Mary) as his eyes caught hers.  “What is it?”  His face was completely in the shadows. Whoever had been in the house was gone.

“What did you see?” she asked him again.

He was, for a time, the keeper of the word.  He would have died, but resources made it possible for him to continue.  It was a minimum guarantee, but it kept him alive.

“Why won’t you speak to me?” she begged. “We believe in the peace method of solving internal and international disputes.  We believe in love.  We believe that global poverty must cease.”

He once again studied the cross.  It was a two dimensional sketch done in pencil without artistic flair. 

“What do you make of it?”  She asked as she lit another cigarette, her third in less than an hour. “The cross could be a symbol of the Christ.  I see freedom, liberty, and prosperity.  Do you remember those stories about the Boston Party Massacre?  That type of work usually involves a revelatory dream and a cryptic end-of-the-world vision recorded very precisely by an electroencephalogram, a vision of the coming of the dead.” 

No sensible person could imagine the number crunching, transcendental curves and isoperimetry, dancing and trembling during worship services to purge our bodies of the past.  Leave nothing behind.  While they believe in a future seven year tribulation period in which the Antichrist will rule the world, even they do not believe that Hollywood, with its secularity and liberal politics, will give the team one more mystery to try and understand.

“Tell me…”

“I’m no expert in this field, but I doubt a rogue Taliban group would have done it this way.”

Two hundred.  Unfortunately, the trip would not improve.  No other system would be devised.  Which is probably why, despite a historical success rate over the past two hundred years, Professor Cross hasn’t donated to the university.  He flipped a light switch. A single 200-watt bulb, hanging with no shade from a rafter, illuminated the room.

Three hundred.  He had a nice voice.

Saddam Hussein, who was trying to rebuild and restore the ancient city of Babylon, Is closely affiliated with the Communist movement in the United States of America, and fully 90 percent of his efforts are on behalf of communists who have come into conflict with the law.  Replace the American flag with a photo of an old car pasted to the back of a sheet of newspaper. He shrugged.  The process of decay had not yet begun.  It may yet begin.  It could begin today, a spectacular blaze of cataclysmic glory, horoscopes, UFOs and bent spoons. 

She flipped a switch and the scanner came on.  But still he would never answer her.  Mary (or Lisa) left the house and went out to eat eggs; the people threw off tyranny.  

(A word of explanation:  I have recently been reading some of William Burroughs' writings, and I am a fan of his "cut up" method of writing.  So I thought I'd do a little cutting up, myself.  I do this every now and again.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Beware

Beware the teacher who espouses
the law and walks out in fine blouses;
they who make lengthy prayers
are just putting on airs
and they devour poor widows’ houses.

Mark 12: 38 - 39


I think it's a Chickadee, but I can't be more specific than that.

Biblical Limericks: Jaffa

Jaffa (now Tel Aviv) on the sea
was the biblical port of entry
for Lebanese cedars
when Sol’mon was leader
and the port from which Jonah did flee.

2 Chronicles 2: 16 / Jonah 1: 3

Biblical Limericks: Akeldama

Judas turned out to be quite a dud;
he was one of us, but no more, bud,
for he took his money
and bought a field where he
fell headlong, spilled intestines and blood.

Acts 1: 16 - 19

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Biblical Limericks: God, Just Stop Looking at Me!

Oh Lord, hear my prayer and my sad cry;
don’t be deaf to my weeping and sighs.
I’m a stranger to thee,
now look away from me,
so  I can rejoice before I die.

Psalm 39: 12 - 13

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 10

Here it is - the weekly background image that I create and share. It's yours for free to do whatever you like with.  I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

This two part picture is 1) some tall grass in the snow (taken the same day as these) and 2) a mechanical device (actually a steamer basket, and there are more of those as well) - And though those two groups of pictures are not part of the "free weekly" images i share... they are available for you to purchase (either as a digital download or as a professional quality print). The money goes to support and continue the work of the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.

 photo Week10_zps3e5dcaa5.jpg

Music for an Imaginary Landscape

The winds blow as the moon rises into the sapphire colored sky; its light is reflected in the mercury pools below.

In addition to the material I recorded I also used the following sound from the Freesound Project:
K3 [135BPM]
Breathy Glitch Noise
Horribly Mangled Text
Metallic Screech Drone

The Sermon from the Pew

Never-mind what I’ve heard;
I’ll love kith and kin.
I’ll love those who are kind,
and those who are of my own kind.

It’s all well and good
to speak of turning cheeks,
but how do you expect me to defend myself?

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth;
don’t mess with the bull
if you don’t want the horns.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Inside the Silo

This morning I put on warm clothes and heavy boots so that I could tramp around in the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge - located in Prairie City, Iowa. The rangers there take photographers out on a tour of various areas of the park and talk about the work being done, the type of flora and fauna that may be visible.  It was a lot of fun, but...

I didn't get very many pictures of the animals.  I got a few.  Nothing really spectacular. Nothing to write home about.  Nothing to share on the blog.

But the ranger did show us an abandoned barn that is being removed from the park.  The grain silo had been toppled and will be removed soon.  And that is where I got my favorite photos this morning. Inside the silo.

I went to the Wildlife refuge to take pictures of an abandoned barn.  Yep.

Photograph Inside the Silo by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph inside the silo by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Biblical Definition of …

I would like to make a suggestion, if I may:  I think that we should all agree to stop using the phrase “the Biblical definition of…”  Whether we’re talking about marriage, or personhood, or sexuality, or whatever, the phrase “the Biblical definition of…” is not helpful or accurate. 

It is neither helpful nor accurate because the bible is not a dictionary.  The Bible does not define words.  Most of what is contained in the Bible is narrative, and a large part of what isn’t narrative is poetry.  And narratives and poetry do not lend themselves to defining things. They may illustrate or describe various aspects of different topics.  Stories that try to define things are pedantic and boring.  Poetry that sounds like a dictionary is bad poetry.  And even those portions of the bible that are neither narrative nor poetry don't offer precise, clear-cut, dictionary or encyclopedia style definitions.

One example (and there could be many, many others):  there is no Biblical “definition” of marriage.  But there are many and varied accounts of marriages – some between one man and one woman, some between a man and many women. Some of these marriages were founded on love. Others on economics.  Others still were the result of plundering after war.  Which of these is THE “biblical definition” of marriage?

So, my suggestion is that we should just stop using the phrase: “the biblical definition of…”  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Lex Talionis

The Lex Talionis law was good,
for when correctly applied it would
put limits on revenge,  
so that no one could binge
on the gouging of eyes, which is rude.

Leviticus 24: 20

Futuristic Mechanisms

These futuristic looking mechanisms are really nothing more than a collapsible steamer basket that I borrowed from our thrift store.  (I'll return it now that I'm done taking pictures of it.)

These pictures - and many others that I've taken - can be yours.  They are available for purchase either as a digital download or as a professional quality print (and there are several options as to what material, size, and framing options.)  I think they would make great gifts for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.  Or perhaps you'd like some art for your office building or home.

In any case, the money I receive from these sales is given to support and continue the work of The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa. If you purchase a print - you get some great art, and you help us to help others in our community.

And the steamer basket will be back in the Thrift Store soon.  You can buy it there, if you want, and that helps the Salvation Army too.  So... thanks.

Photograph Steamer Basket 4 by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Steamer Basket 3 by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Steamer Basket 2 by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Steamer Basket by Jeff Carter on 500px

Sleet in the Pines and a Sort of Homecoming

A rainy, sleety, snowy day in February shouldn't be wasted - so after dismissing my employees and making sure they could get home safely "through the sleet and driving snow"  I started home myself, stopping along the way to take some photos.

My socks and shoes got soaked, my feet were cold, but ...

Photograph Rain and Sleet in the Pines by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Rain and Sleet in the Pines by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Rain and Sleet in the Pines by Jeff Carter on 500px

And you know it's time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning
Light in the distance
-A Sort of Homecoming - U2

Biblical Limericks: Praying the Psalms against the President

There are some hateful people who say
that it is appropriate to pray
psalms as a curse against
our current president,
“may few be the number of his days.”

Psalm 109:8

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What I’m Reading: Heaven Is for Real

Sometimes I put aside my own reading interest – even though my “to read” pile is only ever growing taller – and I read the ‘popular’ and ‘best-selling’ books that are recommended to me by well meaning friends and church members.  Heaven Is for Real is one of those books. 

I read it in less than a day.  It’s not a difficult book to read. There’s nothing particularly striking or startling within it.  There’s no revelation.  There’s nothing new here.  I’m surprised that it’s become such a ‘best-seller.’

But I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, it plays upon the emotional heartstrings of good Christian Americans, hitting all the right notes – God, Jesus, Children, and Heartland Family Values.  The only thing that makes this ‘vision’ of heaven slightly different than the countless others that have preceded it is that it’s narrated by a 4 year old boy.

The problem isn’t with the boy – Colton, but with the confirmation bias of his parents.  Colton had a traumatic experience – even one of those bright tunnel of light near death experiences – that he described with the only language and terms he knew.  And being a preacher’s son, this was biblical.  And whenever his parents heard him describe something that confirmed what they believed from the bible it was received as a vision of the truth.  And whenever Colton described something outside their biblical beliefs, it was received as new information from God. 

My main dissatisfaction with the book is that it reinforces the idea that Heaven is the place we go someday – after we die – instead of being the realm  that comes down to us and breaks out through us into the world.  If it is true, as Jesus said, that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, that it is here in our worship and in our deeds of love and mercy, then we don’t need the quasi-mystical imaginings of a confused little boy to know about heaven.  We need only to love God and to love our neighbors, and we’ll see something of heaven every day.


This review of Heaven Is for Real by Slacktivist Fred Clark brings up some interesting (and creepy) peculiarities in Colton Burpo’s vision. 

Psalm 79 - Unburied Grief and Unanswered Questions

I cringe when I hear people say they like the psalms because they’re “sooooooo comforting…”  When I hear that I have to restrain myself from asking, “What psalmody are you reading, exactly?”  Some of the biblical psalms – many of them – are hard, brutal, and if they are comforting, it’s a cold comfort.  And yet I read them because I love them.  Well – most of them.  I don’t like all of the psalms. (Honestly, Psalm 119 is about the dullest thing I’ve ever read.)  But I do like Psalm 79 (along with its companion psalm 74).

These two psalms were written in the same period by the same author (presumably), dealing with the horrific devastation inflicted by the invading Babylonian army in 586 BCE – Psalm 74 focusing more on the destruction of the Temple and Psalm 79 focusing on the destruction of the people.    Psalm 79 is a lament – a dirge.  We might call it a funeral song, except that the psalmist tells us that there have been no funerals.  The corpses of the dead have been left unburied, exposed to the elements and to scavenging birds and carrion eating beasts.

No worse fate could be imagined.  In the ancient world there was no more terrible curse to pronounce upon someone than, “May the earth not receive your corpse!”  Even the bodies of one’s enemies were to be dignified with burial (1 Kings 11:15).  When the prophet Jeremiah cursed King Jehoiakim, it was with the burial of an ass -   If the bodies could be buried, so to sleep with their ancestors, then the survivors could begin to move on, but the corpses were left exposed and survivors grief and guilt continued unabated.

The Psalmist (Asaph, whoever he may have been.  We know very little about him historically.)  pleads with God for relief from this suffering, and for the psalmist this relief would take two forms:

1)He seeks an end to their punishment.  He acknowledges that they and their forefathers have sinned, and asks for forgiveness and mercy to be granted.  And he asks, “How long?”  - How long must this suffering continue? 

2) The psalmist also seeks justice.  He wants to see those who inflicted this pain upon them get their fair share in return.  And the ethics might get a little fuzzy here.  The line between justice and revenge is sometimes blurred and hard to discern.  But there doesn’t seem to be in Psalm 79 the fierce, burning, angry desire for revenge that’s expressed at the end of Psalm 137.

And the psalmist doesn’t seem to be seeking this justice for his own self; it’s for God.  Notice how often he ‘prods’ at God – they invaded your inheritance…defiled your holy temple…left your servants unburied…they have insulted you…”  It’s almost as if the psalmist is trying to provoke God into action.  “Are you really going to let them get away with this?”  I see him as a man with a stick poking at a sleeping lion. 

But there is a sense in this psalm – and in all of Asaph’s collection of psalms – that God isn’t listening, or if he is, he’s not responding.  I wonder if this slowness to action on God’s part is a way of saying “I don’t have to immediately overwhelm my enemies with violent force to prove my power or protect my name.” It’s easy to describe my enemies as God’s enemies and to call down swift and immediate judgment upon them.  But is that what God wants?

I like Psalm 79.  There’s a lot going on in it. It brings up some difficult questions.  But it’s not one that preachers select as their text very often.  Perhaps that’s because there aren’t many answers - no good ones, and certainly no easy ones - to the questions that it raises.

Biblical Limericks: The Burial of an Ass

The prophet rebuked Jehoiakim,
with strong words he was fiercely condemned,
no lament for him be heard -
this king won’t be interred;
drag that ass out of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 22: 18 - 19

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Biblical Limericks: It Means Soft or Pliable

It’s an obscure Greek word – malakos
though rare, it’s gathered a bit of dross;
quite without precedent
it’s made “effeminate”
and the word’s real meaning’s all but lost.

1 Corinthians 6: 9 (KJV)

Blessed Is Anyone Who Takes no Offense at Me

Oh, Jesus, Jesus!
We embrace your vision
of restoring sight to the blind;
we delight in every discarded wheelchair, and cast-off crutch.
Let the deaf hear? We’ll shout “glory!” in their ears.
Raise the dead?  We’ll raise the roof.

But, Jesus, Jesus!

When you start bringing good news to the poor
you’re bound to cause offense.
Leave that to the socialists.

(Matthew 11: 2 – 6)

Biblical Limericks: Snake Handlers

If the Bible is perfectly true
we must do all that it says to do
without interpreting,
or critical thinking;
pick up snakes, even if they bite you.

Mark 16: 18

Biblical Limericks: Everybody Wants a Date with Mystery Babylon

Now let’s see that promising starlet,
that beautiful woman in scarlet
who rides upon a beast,
coming up from the east -
dressed like a queen, but she’s a harlot. 

Revelation 17: 3 – 4

Monday, February 17, 2014

Three From the Cemetery

On the way home this afternoon I stopped at Newton Iowa's Union Cemetery to take some pictures.  More accurately, I made a significant detour on the way home in order to stop at the cemetery to take some pictures, but the sun was shining and the colors were brilliant, and I thought I might find something interesting.

Snow in the Cemetery by Jeff Carter on

February Colors by Jeff Carter on

Mary by Jeff Carter on

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Alchemy of February

It's mystical drones and ambient reactions. It's Alchemy in February.

Biblical Limericks: Sodomite Was a Poor Choice of Words

The Hebrew word Qadesh means “holy,”
but was used euphemistically
so to circumlocute
male temple prostitutes,
but had naught to do with “sodomy.”

1 Kings 14: 24 / 15: 12 / 22:46 / 2 Kings 23: 7 (in the KJV)

Biblical Limericks: Evil Under the Sun

I have seen evil under the sun,
an evil that weighs on everyone:
a man has wealth, is fit
but cannot enjoy it –
this is evil, and a grievous one.

Ecclesiastes 6: 1 - 2

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 9

Each week I do this. I create a background image that I use in our little church - and because I like to share, I post them here so that you can have them too.  You can use them however you like.  Use them at home, at work, at school, at church.  Use them on your smartphone.  Print them out as book covers.  Make paper airplanes with them  Whatever.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who are interested in the details, this weeks picture was created by photographing oil and water (mixed with a drop of dish soap).  For more details and a couple more pictures from this set, see here and here.

 photo Week9_zps30fef09e.jpg

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More Condenstation

Here are two more of the pictures I took last night of an outdoor light shining in through a window covered in condensation.  I had to wait until an older couple (in swimsuits too small for their age - ewwwwww -) left the hotel swimming pool so I could take these pictures without looking like a perv.

Condensation 3 by Jeff Carter on

Condensation 4 by Jeff Carter on

Friday, February 14, 2014


Some abstract images created by light shining through a window covered in condensation.

I Like My Answers Better

I spent a large portion of today driving with my family - a six hour trip that took close to 8 because of bad weather and careless drivers.  We were safe.  We were fine.  But to help pass the time we played a bit of the game "Catchprase" a word guessing game.

Here are some of the clues I was given - and the answers I gave in return.  I like my answers better than the "real" answers.

*Some people have these when they smile:  Teeth.  (the real answer was "dimples.")

*When you are trapped, when you can't get out:  Marriage (the real answer was "stuck.")

*When you borrow money from the bank it's called:  A Heist  (the real answer was "loan.")

* You put this in the needle:  Heroin (or, alternately) a Camel  (the real answer was "thread.")


An abstract photo created by rows of stemware in a cupboard.

Stemware by Jeff Carter

Stemware by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy VD

DIY Flash Diffuser

I've been experimenting with my camera - trying out new tricks, doing new things with it.  I especially enjoy DIY tricks.  I saw this one online some time ago (and subsequently forgot where).

The pop-up flash built into many cameras is a nice feature - but sometimes it's too much. All that light concentrated into one area of the picture frame can cause the photo to look flat, or to have weird, unflattering shadows.  Flash diffusers spread out the light.

I took an old plastic film canister - a not quite opaque white one - cut out a notch large enough to fit it over the pop-up flash on my camera and ... voila.  A simple DIY flash diffuser.

Here's a sample of the difference it can make.  It's subtle, but significant.

This is without the diffuser.

And this is with the diffuser.

And for another of my DIY experiments - here is a filter made from a drain trap.

Biblical Limericks: Solomon Probably Knew a Thing or two about Quarrelsome Wives

Hear my words if you want a good life;
heed them and you will avoid great strife:
better to be aloof
sitting up on the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 21: 9

Oil and Water - Take Two

I posted a batch of these photos last night.  (You can read a description of how I set up the photograph there.) But afterwards I got to thinking that perhaps I could do them better. So I picked up the camera again and took a few more.  I think that I was right.  I did do them a bit better the second time.

These and several other of my photographs are available for purchase - either as a digital download, or as a professional quality print. There are several different options in material, size, and framing.  And whatever money I make in these sales is given to support the work of The Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.   Check them out here.  You might find something you like.

Oil and Water - Purple 2 by Jeff Carter on

Oil and Water - Emerald by Jeff Carter on

Oil and Water - Gold by Jeff Carter on

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Oil and Water Come Together Beautifully

Oil and water may not mix, but they can come together beautifully under the right conditions.

To take this pictures I filled a clear baking pan about half full with water, added a bit of canola oil and a drop of dish soap.  I propped the ban up on a couple of overturned small bowls and slid a sheet of color samples under the baking pan.

Oil and Water - Red by Jeff Carter on

Oil and Water - Purple by Jeff Carter on

Oil and Water - Turquoise by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: A Little Queen for the New King

During the reign of the king who’s just
the poor and the needy will be thrust
up so they can stand tall,
as another one falls,
another oppressor bites the dust.

Psalm 72: 9

Biblical Limericks: Jeremiah’s Almond Joy

Now the word of the LORD came to me,
“Jeremiah, what do you see?”
So I looked all around
and, coming from the ground,
I saw the branch of an almond tree.

And then the LORD answered back to me,
“Jeremiah, my son,
that is very well done;
you have, indeed, seen it correctly.
Watch my word be fulfilled, presently.”

Jeremiah 1: 11 - 12

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Warm Turpentine – A Nonsense Poem

There are few historical reasons
those who lived in medieval time
would, throughout each of the seasons,
drink large bowls of turpentine.

And yet the custom continued
with constant enthusiasm
for, while it was rustic and crude,
it helped relieve muscle spasms.

Biblical Limericks: I’m Pretty Sure That’s an Accurate Translation

There’s no need to rely on gimmicks,
it’s not a secret; there are no tricks:
a man in God’s kingdom
is praised for his wisdom,
but men with warped minds write limericks.

Proverbs 12: 8

...write limericks, are despised - pretty much the same thing, right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

White on White

I was thinking of the Suprematism paintings of Kazimir Malevich - paintings based on geometric shapes and a limited color palette - particularly his painting White on White (from which I have stolen the title.)

White on White by Jeff Carter

White on White by Jeff Carter on

A Swallow Swoops - Haiku

a swallow swoops, dives
over the rippled surface
he will not light here

Biblical Limericks: 700 Wives and 300 Porcupines? That Can’t Be Right

Solomon loved the foreign women,
from Moab and Edom to Yemen;
he held fast in his love
despite word from above.
He was warned but he wouldn’t listen.

1 Kings 11: 1 - 4

see also: Bigamy

What I’m Reading: Pastwatch- The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Sometimes I like Orson Scott Card’s books and sometimes I do not.  You can’t win ‘em all, right…His writing is inconstant and variable.  When he writes well we get winners like Ender’s Game with strange and powerful ideas and compelling characters.  When he writes badly we get book’s like Empire – which is as subtle and creatively developed as Card’s fellow Mormon, Glenn Beck.

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is one of my favorites from Card, and I’ve enjoyed reading it a couple of times – but it’s not a great book.  It’s an IDEA book; it lacks any significant character development.  But to Card’s credit, it’s a terrific idea.

In our history the landing of Christopher Columbus in the “New World” led to horrific tragedy – torture, plunder, genocide, and trans-Atlantic slave trading.  The rape of the New World.  The worst kind of human cruelty on a massive scale became a turning point in the flow of history.  The wealth of the new world was stolen to finance and the wars of kings in Europe.  An entire continent of people was exterminated or subjugated. 

 But in our future (the fictional future imagined by Card) this could change.  The sins of the father don’t have to be visited upon his sons…  Pastwatch – a group of scientists enabled by a device observes the events of the past, watching them, recording them.  And eventually discovering that the events of the past are changeable, malleable.  The past can undone.  The future can be restored. Past can be redeemed – Christopher Columbus, once considered a hero, now portrayed as an ambitious plunderer, can be redeemed. 

As I said, Pastwatch isn’t a great book.  I think the ending is a little too neat and tidy. There are large stretches were Card falls back on –telling- the reader rather than –showing- the reader what’s going on.  And there isn’t a single character that’s substantially fleshed out.  It’s the idea that carries this book along; fortunately it’s a powerful idea.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Please, I'm Trying To Help You

It's just a bit of musical nonsense.  It's a tad percussive, but not exactly danceable.

You can download it here, if you like.

Created in Ableton Live (8) In addition to the bits I recorded, I also utilized a couple of sounds from the Freesound Project.

Synth Stab 14-2 
Synth Stab 14 
Why Don’t We Begin? 
Tell Me Why You Are Here 
Please, I’m Trying To Help You 

Biblical Limericks: Giorgio A. Tsoukalos Explains Paul’s Vision

It wasn’t a bacchanalian
bout left him tatterdemalion,
but in his flesh or no
to heaven he did go.
How’d it happen?  It was aliens…

2 Corinthians 12: 2 - 4

(I wonder if he took an invisible watermelon with him...)

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 8

Each week I create a background image to use in the worship services of my little church.  And I share them here with you.  You are free to download these pictures and to use them in your own projects - at home, work, school, or church - use them how you will. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

And this week you get two!  The picture comes from the underside of a muffin pan that came into our thrift store.  And - if you're into that sort of thing - the font is "Woodcutter Jet-Set" and it's free too.

week 8a photo Week8b_zps392ab3f0.jpg

week 8b photo Week8a_zps2e13492a.jpg

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Biblical Limericks: It’s a Limerick AND a Pun!

Take my advice and don’t be careless
or you will receive nothing but sass:
use a rod on the fool,
for that is the correct tool;
beat him just as you would a dumb ass.

Proverbs 26: 3

The Tree of Life Grows Winter Roses

The cones of the Northern Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis) - also known as the Tree of Life because of the the alleged medicinal properties of its bark and sap - look a bit like winter roses.

Winter Roses by Jeff Carter

Winter Roses by Jeff Carter on

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mechanical Apple Peeler

Two photos of an antique mechanical apple peeler that came into our thrift store.  I love finding old treasures like this.  The apple peeler will be for sale (after I take it back).  And these photographs are for sale as well - either as a digital download or as a professional quality print.  Check out the various sizes, materials and frames that are available.  Lots of options.  And the money - from both the apple peeler and the photographs goes to support the work of the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa / Jasper County.

Check out all the photographs I have for sale, you might find one that would look nice in your home, office, school, church ...

Mechanical Apple Peeler by Jeff Carter on

Mechanical Apple Peeler by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Big-Government Charity

Some of the people on the right wing
say that charity’s a private thing,
that protecting the poor
is a personal chore,
but the psalm says it’s the role of the king.

Psalm 72

Biblical Limericks: The Obvious Meaning Can’t Be Right

Oh, everyone’s a literalist,
that is, at least, until you insist
the Year of Jubilee
is good for you and me,
then that method is quickly dismissed.

Leviticus 25 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Live Long and Prosper - The First Commandment With a Promise

Some Thoughts and Questions about Salt & Light and the Fulfillment of the Law

I’m working through some of my thoughts and questions about this week’s Lectionary reading from Matthew 5: 13 – 20 (Epiphany 5A).  Sometimes writing them out helps me progress through them and to develop them into a coherent and cogent sermon for Sunday.

You are the salt of the earth.”
It must be conceded that this image makes no sense.  Salt does not lose its flavor; neither can it have its flavor restored.  Some salts are necessary to make the ground fertile – but over-salination destroys the soil.  The Anchor Bible’s translation is helpful in this matter: “You are the earth’s salt.  If the salt is of low grade, then how can it be rectified?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot.”  The translators explain, “There is no conceivable manner in which salt can be re-salted once it has been diluted.  It is the earth itself which is in need of attention.  But if salt is of poor quality, of low grade, then the earth itself will suffer loss (Albright, 54 – 55).”[i]  

… a city on a hill cannot be hidden…”
 This little phrase tends to get lost in between the Salt and the Light.  Perhaps that’s because it receives no elaboration in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ words.  The Salt image is explained (sort of…) and the Light image receives more attention, but the city on the hill is the forgotten middle child in this series of images.

“so how stands the city on this winter’s night?
A city on the hill, so they said…”

- Bedlam Bridge – Midnight Oil

“…that they may see your good deeds…” 
Matthew seems to contradict himself just a bit later when he records Jesus saying, “…when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets….do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret…” (Matthew 6: 2 – 4)

So, do we do our good deeds so that people will see them or not?  There is a difference between the two examples.  In the first the intent is that people will praise God for the good we do, and in the second the warning is against letting people praise us for the good we do.  It’s a fine line of difference.  How do we walk that tightrope without falling off?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets…”
I’ve heard this passage used to explain the continued relevance of OT laws to the Christian believer, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used to discuss the continued relevance of the Prophets.  – This might be because when Matthew repeats  the phrase just a bit later, the prophets seem to drop out of Jesus’ words:  “…not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Why then do the prophets disappear?

Anyone who breaks (or in some translations –sets aside-) one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”
This isn’t quite the threat of hellfire and damnation that I’ve always heard it to be.  Look at it again.  Those who break (or set aside) the commandments of torah and teach others to do the same still seem to be within the kingdom of heaven, though considered the least of its citizens.  Er… what? 

Albright, W.F., C.S. Mann, Matthew: Introduction, Translation, and Notes Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, NY, 1971.  

In the Prison

The Salvation Army, as a Christian denomination, is something of an oddity in the Christian community – in several regards, but perhaps most distinctively in regard to our songs.  In the Salvation Army we have a tradition of warfare songs – combat songs.  We sing about ourselves, The Salvation Army, going into battle against sin and despair, of fighting against the forces of darkness and liberating the captives of sin. 

In 1965 the Salvation Army published a sort of companion to its songbook, entitled Combat Songs,  a collection of songs presented to the soldiers (lay members) of the Salvation Army  as a challenge “to fight harder in the battle for mankind’s spirit.”

“These pioneer songs are echoes of some of the fiercest battles in The Salvation Army, particularly in the United States.  A few remain in the contemporary song book as they were composed; others have been contemporized.  Many, conceived in the heat of the conflict and inattentive to sentence construction and grammatical correctness, never reached print.  Some are the melodic sob of soldiers in search of the anguished, but all strike a note of victory.  They are Salvationalia at its best – yearning, spirited, determined.  They embody the spirit of William Booth, who ordered his soldiers forward despite privation, heartache, disillusionment, and brutal attack, with words that kept them marching: ‘Go on!’” [i]

One of the songs in this collection, In the Prison, was written by the “Newton, Iowa Lassies” in 1894.  And since that is the corps to which I am currently appointed, I am delighted to share it with you.  It is sung to the hymn tune Slade (also sometimes known as Over Jordan.)

With cheerful hearts the soldiers
To prison they did go,
Of victory they are sure in the prison.
Though our hides they are sore,
For we've been sleeping on the floor,
But we never will give o'er in the prison.

In the prison, in the prison,
In the Jasper county jail,
Where we never will give bail;
In the prison, in the prison,
We are hallelujah soldiers in the prison.

The hoodlums they did roar,
Till their throats were getting sore,
But they can't do any more, hallelujah!
With Jesus as our friend, He'll guide us to the end,
And on Him we will depend, in the prison.

It is not so very well,
To be lying in a cell,
But we're saved from sin and hell in the prison;
The devil tries his best
Our souls to distress,
But Jesus gives us rest in the prison.

“Sing to make the world hear!

The highest value of our singing after all has not been the mere gladness we have felt because of our own salvation, but the joy of pouring out the praise of our God to those who have not known Him, or of arousing them by our singing to new thoughts and a new life.

Sing till your whole soul is lifted up to God, and then sing till you lift the eyes of those who know not God to Him who is the fountain of all our joy.  I cannot imagine that in Heaven itself we can cease to remember and repeat to each other the strains our souls have reveled in most here below.

Till then, let us sing.”   
- William Booth (founder of The Salvation Army)

I want to thank my friend Sean W. for passing this along to me. 

[i]  From the Foreward

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Biblical Limericks: He’s Got 99 Problems but Pitch aint One…

If Noah’s ark is more than just kitsch
then Ken Ham should consider this hitch:
it takes ages of time
for bituminous slime
to be made from plants, and turned to pitch.

Genesis 6: 14


These pics are of the underside of a Bakerex - Crown Ware  muffin pan.

Bakerex 2 by Jeff Carter on

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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