google analytics

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Color Slides from the Baptism of Jesus

I was there.  I took pictures.

 photo ColorSlidesfromtheBaptismofJesus_zpsab73f81b.jpg

More Anomalies A – Z: X

I - a river of impudence, a torrent of blood
you are as rash as you are lazy
II - croaking discord
you are ancient, but in decline

III - dust and filth,
by the finger of God suspicion is raised
but not you

IV - a swarm descends
fear and apprehension mingle in you

V - epidemic disease among the livestock
but you cannot decide, you will not choose

VI - wave the wand over two handfuls of soot
and delays erupt

VII - storms of fire, loss of fortune
your crops under hail
your orchard in thunder

VIII - how long will you refuse to humble;
the locust follow their empress, but you?

IX - the darkness of death is tangible
the weight of your immobility

X - wisdom unheeded, the sword falls,
but not on you
there will be no more quarreling 

This is my third pass through the alphabet with these Anomalies.  X is becoming increasingly difficult.

Reflector Dish

These abstract images were created by photographing the lightbulb and reflecting dish from an old slide projector (using my DIY macro lens.)

Photograph Reflector Dish by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Reflector Dish by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Reflector Dish by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, May 30, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Uzzah

The Ark of the Covenant renown
coming back from a Philistine town;
the oxen stumbled and
Uzzah stretched out his hand
to hold it up, but God struck him down.

2 Samuel 6: 1 - 7

More Anomalies A – Z: Wild Beasts

Wild beasts will lie down there
and its houses will be full of howling creatures.

Isaiah 13: 21

The star which led me here,
led me into this place of thirst
where no grass grows for gazelles,
has abandoned me.

It was a false star.

I came for treasure.  I came for gold,
to find forgotten wealth from ancient ruins.
And with that fortune I could have
bought new bright prospects for my future.

Now the sun burns overhead
and I am lost alone.
My wife, my sons
will see me no more.

The sun is bright;
the future, it is not.

But it will not be the sun that kills me,
though it steals my strength
and leaves me cold.

No. It will be the wild beasts -
demonic denizens of the desert -
that tear my flesh and crush my bones.

They submit to no king,
acknowledge no authority.
They are cursed creatures, as am I.

And what can I do?
They are howling all around.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Warp Speed (Ascension Day)

It is a part of our Christian creed
that our Jesus ascended, indeed,
but he ‘aint, to this day,
escaped the Milky Way,
unless, that is, he’s attained warp speed.

Mark 16: 9 / Luke 24: 51 / Acts 1: 9 - 11

"We now know that, if [Jesus] began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed)."  First, Keith Ward (The Big Questions in Science and Religionp.107)

More Anomalies A – Z: Vampires

Take this, my friend; wear it.  It will protect you from the Motetz Dam, the bloodsucking children of the Night Hag.  Her daughters screech, “Give! Give!” and “More! More!” They drain the blood (and the blood is the life) from men while we are sleeping.  They are never satisfied; you know this.  There is never enough to slake their unholy thirst.

But wearing this amulet you will be safe, protected from Lilith’s children.  It is inscribed with an incantation that I learned from a Phoenician.  And he picked it up at one of the secret shrines of the Egyptians.   Hear it is. I will read it for you, so that you will know it is authentic, and that it has power.  Real power.

“O Flying One, O unnamed evil, Sasam! and Sasam! O god, O Strangler of Lambs! The house I enter you shall not enter; the court I tread you must not tread; the clothes I wear you must not touch.  And my blood is my own.

“You are bound and you are sealed, all you demons, and devils, Sison! and Sison!  You who appear in the night, you who burn with hunger, you who burn and cast down with nightmares, away from this house, away from me.

Amen, Amen, and Selah.

“Vanquished are your black arts and mighty spells. Vanquished are your curses.  Vanquished are your teeth and claws. Vanquished from this house, and its four wall, vanquished from the earth and vanquished in the heavens.  Vanquished are all your constellations and your stars.  Susem! and Susem!

“Amen, Amen and Selah.”

So you see, my friend, it is a good amulet.  It will keep you very safe from the Motetz Dam. I will sell it to you. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Limerick for Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill will insist
anyone who questions him be dismissed;
sign the non-compete clause
(it’s in the church by-laws)
or you’ll end up on Driscoll’s black list. 

Biblical Limericks: We Mostly Demur

Said Jesus, who was our great mentor,
“It is hard for the rich to enter
into God’s Kingdom, true,
like pushing camels through
needles’ eyes.”  But we mostly demur. 

Matthew 19: 23 – 24 

I Dreamt of My Dog Last Night

I dreamt of my dog last night. She was missing. And I was driving, looking for her.  Earlier in the night I had been dreaming that I was in Europe during the Cold War tracking down stolen Soviet equipment.  Crossing borders with fake passports.  I carried an unloaded gun.

But I was looking for my dog, Ranger. I miss that dog.

Biblical Limericks: Thumbs and Big Toes

Adoni-Bezek treated his foes
with cruelty and with severe blows,
but when the Israelites
captured him in a fight
they cut off his thumbs and his big toes.

Judges 1: 4 - 7

More Anomalies A – Z: To an Unknown God

“Hear, Lord, whoever thou art…” Homer Odyssey V. 455

To which of the multiplied gods
shall I bring this petition?
To whom should I present my claim?
Which of you bastards has taken my life?

I watched through the uncanny night
as my sheep, which are my livelihood,
flung themselves over and again
headfirst into the rocky cliffs
until their skulls were smashed.

They died in pools of blood
and pulps of brain.

This is my third pass through the alphabet with these Anomalies.  If you'd like to read more of them follow the link.

Earlier this year thousands of sheep in Australia were killed - in  a suicidal frenzy - after consuming a plant known as Darling Pea.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Limerick for Ken Ham

Ken Ham’s museum may have pious
displays about its full reliance
on the authority
and the priority
of scripture, but it has no science. 

More Anomalies A – Z: Tannin

Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, Great Dragon, that lieth in the midst of the river, which hath said, The river is mine; I have made it myself.  Ezekiel 29: 3

Though we sing a lamentation, do not weep.
And though we a dirge intone, shed no tears
for the dragon great that lies
and lies within the River.

Do not weep for that slick bellied serpent
who has filled his gullet with our delicacies
for he has troubled the waters
from Khartoum to The Sea with his feet
and troubled our flesh with his teeth.

And yet will he be trampled.
And yet will he be broken,
spit and divided, his head smashed open.
The living myth will die
but shed no tears for him.

This is my third pass through the alphabet with these anomalies - to read the previous entries use this link.

An Interview with Mitri Raheb

I recently read - and shared some of my thoughts about and reactions to - Mitri Raheb's book Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes.

"...tear down this wall."

Here is a wonderful PBS interview with Raheb himself.

Our Lady of the Fabric Samples

I had a stash of fabric samples that I finally found a project for.

Our Lady of the Fabric Samples

Our Lady of the Fabric Samples photo Madonna_zpsf98da093.jpg

Monday, May 26, 2014

Come On, Jesus, Did that Really Happen?

The sun had dipped behind the hills when the children cried out, “Jesus! Jesus, tell us a story! Tell us a story.”  Some of the disciples frowned, some of the mothers shushed them, but Jesus smiled.  The day had been long, but the evening meal had been pleasant and in this company of friends there was a sense of peace.

“I will tell you a story,” he said to them, which caused an outbreak of cheers and giggles.  “I will tell you a story, a true story.  And how do I know that it is a true story?  I know that it is a true story because it happened to me.”

He motioned for everyone to gather near and to sit themselves comfortable wherever they could to hear him.  “In the days shortly after the Baptizer, Yohanan, washed me in the waters of the Jordan I began to feel a wind at my back – pushing me, driving me out toward the wild places, the places where the jackals and the screech owls make their homes.  This wind was driving me into the desert where the demons live…”

“Jesus,” one of the children whispered, “is this going to be a scary story?”

Jesus brushed her cheek.  “Yes, dear one.  But do not fear.  I’m here to tell you the story, aren’t I?  The demons did not get me.”  The girl gave him a smile and he continued.

“So after fasting for forty days and for forty nights I followed this wind.  I was very hungry and very weak, but I followed the wind into the desert where I was tempted by the devil.  The Tempter came to me and said to me, ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to me, ‘then tell these stones to become bread.’

“And I saw that there were many stones there on the ground that could have become delicious loaves of barley bread, and I was very hungry, but I said to the Tempter, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but by the words that come from the mouth of God the Father.’”

“That’s what Moses wrote!” shouted one of the boys at Jesus’ knee.

“Indeed, you are correct, Abishur.  What a fine scholar you’ll be one day.”  The boy blushed under Jesus’ praise.

“The devil then took me by the hand and carried me off to Jerusalem, the holy city, and had me stand on the highest point of the temple.”

“Weren’t you scared?” asked another of children.

“Yes, I was. Very scared.  I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, because we were very high off the ground.  And the Tempter said to me, ‘If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here, for it is written, He will command the angels about you and they will lift you up in their hands so that you won’t even strike your toe against a stone.’

“But I said to him, ‘It is written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  And again the Tempter took me by the hand and carried me up to the top of a very high mountain – it was so high that we could see the entire world stretched out before us – and the Tempter showed me all the kingdoms of the world.  There was Edom, and there was Egypt, and there was Rome, and here was Israel.  ‘All this I will give to you,’ the Tempter said to me, ‘if you will but bow down and worship me now.’

There were gasps from the children, and several of the adults as well.

“But I said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan!’”  Jesus flung his arms and hands through the air. “Away from me! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’  And with that the Temper ran away, shaking and trembling.”

“How did you get down from the mountain?” asked the children.

“Angels came and carried me home.”  And Jesus, seeing their tired eyes and hearing their yawns, said, “Now, I think that it is time for you to go to bed.  Your mothers will be quite cross with me If I continue with another story.” The children stood and stretched, for they were very tired.  Some of them hugged Jesus before wandering towards their beds.  And when the children and women had moved away, the disciples moved closer to their master.

“Rabbi, what a wonderful story, but, come on, Jesus…  Where is such a high mountain from which you could see the entire world?  And angels carried you home? Did that really happen?”

Jesus smiled at his disciples and winked.  

Biblical Limericks: Blessing the Sons of Abraham

When consid’ring the Arab and Jew
it is very important that you
recall without distress
that the Lord God did bless
Abram’s sons – Isaac and Ishmael too.

Genesis 17: 20, 25: 11

Memorial Day with the Early Church Fathers

The Corpses Crawl Upward

The corpses crawl upward from human soup
of bone and blood, of gristle and of gore;
the flag, see how it waves, it falters, droops
as the mass of death heaves forward once more.

Men fire blind through the sulfurous smoke.
Death flies fast; it is indiscriminate.
Hundreds more fall now at a single stroke,
leaving few alive, wounded, impotent.

They plunge their arms deep into the sludge
to pull up rifle, charge the hill again,
while the hometown pastor, priest and judge
lead the faithful in state approved, “Amen.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 23

Here it is again.  This week's free background image.  I use them for the Powerpoint slides in our church services and programs - but you are free to use it however and wherever you like. Use it how you will - I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

For those who are interested in such details, the stained glass window in this picture is located in the chapel of the First Presbyterian church in Newton, Iowa.

 photo Week23_zpsa55ce692.jpg

The Wrong Blood

We had no special recognition of Memorial Day during our church service this morning.  We did not make mention of those fallen soldiers who died in battle.  We did not sing patriotic songs.  We did not pledge allegiance to the flag.  We did none of these things because they do not belong in a Christian worship service.

These things do not belong in a Christian worship service because they honor and attribute power (wonder working power) to the wrong blood.  It is not the blood of fallen soldiers that makes us free.

Only the blood of the Lamb should be celebrated in a Christian chapel. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Curves in Space (two)

Photograph Curves in Space (2) by Jeff Carter on 500px

This is a view from the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa.  The previous Curves in Space photo is at the link.

Curves in Space (2) by Jeff Carter on 500px

This photo (and many more of my photographs) can be purchased - and I donate the money to the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.  Check them out here.

An Ant Picks the Lion's Teeth

An Ant Picks the Lion's Teeth by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph An Ant Picks the Lion's Teeth by Jeff Carter on 500px

Dandelion - from the French dent de lion  "lion's tooth."
This is another picture taken with my DIY macro lens.  It's proving to be quite the productive little lens.

More Anomalies A – Z: Satyr

But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. Isaiah 13:21

Tumescent beasts parading under the moon
in desolate ‘scapes and graveyard ruins,
hairy legged priapisms calling
out to other nightmarish beasts;
they raise a hand of blessing
(it is the left) the right
they use to fondle
This is the

This is my third pass through the alphabet with these anomalies.  To read through the others click here.

Biblical Limericks: I Love Cheeses

Perpetua’s story should please us;
before her death she dreamt of Jesus,
who, with a welcome word
greeted her with a curd;
Heaven is for those who love Cheeses.

All right… So it isn’t exactly a biblical limerick.  St. Perpetua was a third century Christian martyr.  You can read her story here.  The part about the cheese is in chapter four. 

The Camelopardalids

Did you stay up for it? The brand new meteor shower - the Camelopardalids  - the result of the Earth's passing through the debris cast off by comet 209P/LINEAR back in the 1800s.  This is the first time that we've passed through this debris.

My daughter and I went out to watch. We drove out about half an hour out of town so as to get away from the light pollution.  And we weren't disappointed.  In the hour and a half that we were out, we saw several.

Here are a couple of pictures that I took. (The first two have some meteor streaks.  The second two do not, but I like the way they turned out. )

Camelopardalids 1 photo Camelopardalids1_zpsaf91e5a3.jpg

Camelopardalids 2 photo Camelopardalids2_zps82a24ef8.jpg

Camelopardalids 3 photo Camelopardalids4_zpse1c4eb0b.jpg

Camelopardalids 4 photo Camelopardalids5_zps07f55c50.jpg

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Pattern Recognition by Jeff Carter on 500px

It's the rubber grip cut away from a broken zoom lens.  Another picture taken with my DIY macro lens.  

Biblical Limericks: Only One Syllable Difference

Of the things eschatological
the rapture is most illogical,
and we should, each one, pray
that it gets flushed away
for it’s merely scatological. 

Biblical Limericks: The Role Samuel L. Jackson Was Born to Play

Yes, Moses kept things under control,
but imagine Sam Jackson in that role;
he would say, “Nigga’ please,
I am tired of these
mother f#*@in’ snakes on this bronze pole!”

Number 21: 1 - 9

Ah well... Limericks are supposed to be transgressive. 

Law, Control, Irony


I am an officer in The Salvation Army (a member of the clergy in our denomination) and in my current appointment we operate a thrift store.  As part of our operations we have a large box truck – formerly it was a Ryder  truck – that we use to pick up donations – and to use this truck we are obliged to adhere to a number of Department of Transportation regulations about who can drive it, how often it has to be inspected, and etc…  It’s a hassle.  But I understand the importance. 

A friend of mine – a fellow Salvation Army officer – and I were discussing some of these regulations the other day, and how cumbersome they are, and he made the comment, “they do it just to control us.  It’s all about control.  The government wants to control everything we do.”

I let it slide.  It’s a conversation we’ve had before. But I wanted to say that – No.  These safety regulations were not enacted by the Department of Transportation or the government in order to “control” us.  They were put into place in order to preserve public safety.  The regulations help ensure that trained and qualified drivers will be operating safe vehicles when on public roads.    But, as I said, I let it slide.  It’s a conversation we’ve had before, and it wasn’t worth an argument.

What I find humorous is that this same fellow believes quite firmly that the law codes of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament are still valid and are appropriate – and that they are there for our protection.  And that they are unquestionable. 

I cannot convince him of the irony of this.  

Ante-Nicene Fathers – Volume 2 – Athenagoras: Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead

So I have this 10 volume collection of writings by the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325) that I’ve been carrying around with me for several years.  I bought them from a library that was about to discard them and over the years I have used them occasionally as I’ve studied and prepared for sermons.  A couple of years ago I finally challenged myself to actually read through them all.  I got through the first volume before we moved again, and so they went into boxes, were moved, were unpacked, and then placed on new shelves – and my challenge was, not quite forgotten, but put on hold. I’d lost my inertia.  But now I’m back to it, and I’ve made a good start into volume 2.

I’ve just finished reading the second work by Athenagoras in this volume – his Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead.[1]  Sometimes the challenge I’ve given myself, namely- to read through all the volumes of this series, is and enjoyable and profitable exercise.  Sometimes, however, it is just a challenge.  Athenagoras’ second work was a challenge. 

He sets out to defend the truth of the resurrection of the dead – that all those human beings that have died will, at some point in the future, be resurrected - and that is a bodily resurrection - in order to face judgment for their life.  And he does this completely without reference to scripture or to the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

This might strike us as somewhat odd – that a Christian would attempt to defend the idea of a general resurrection without recourse to the specific resurrection of Jesus.  But 1) Athenagoras was debating with folks who didn’t necessarily believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  Using his story as a proof of his argument wouldn’t have held much weight.  Athenagoras was starting with them where they were, working with their shared common assumptions and ideas about the nature of the world.  And 2) At the beginning of the work he informs readers that his arguments often take two parts – the first being a defense of the idea and the second being an exposition of the idea (149).[2]  We seem to have only this first part.  Whether or not he ever wrote the second part, or if it’s been lost, we don’t know, but we might presume that he would have described the resurrection of Jesus in it. 

The Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead is difficult to read.  He doesn’t use a lot of technical terms or difficult words – but he takes so long in coming to the point that his sentences are difficult to follow. They go on and on and on… Take this as an example:

A thing is in strictness of language considered impossible to a person, when it is of such a kind that he either does not know what is to be done, or has not sufficient power for the proper doing of the thing known.  For he who is ignorant of anything that requires to be done, is utter unable either to attempt or to do what he is ignorant of; and he, too, who knows ever so well what has to be done, and by what means, and how, but either has no power at all to do the thing known, or not power sufficient, will not even make the attempt, if he be wise and consider his powers; and if he did attempt it without due consideration, he would not accomplish his purpose (150).”[3]

He gets to the point – eventually – but only after much convolution. 

It’s difficult for me to judge how successful Athenagoras would have been in persuading his contemporaries about the truthfulness of the proposition of a future bodily resurrection because his arguments are so entrenched in the assumptions of that day, and so limited by their scientific understanding.  I doubt that anyone would be convinced by them today.  It may not be fair to read him out of historical context against the knowledge of our times, but …

A large portion of his argument for defense of the idea of a future bodily resurrection is directed against those who would argue that a bodily resurrection is implausible because of the difficulty in separating out what parts belong to whom.

It’s a common argument – and not quite as frivolous as it sounds. It goes something like this:  Suppose person A is attacked by a wild animal – say a bear.  The bear eats person A.  The flesh – the material body of person A becomes nutrition for the bear and is incorporated into the body of the bear. Then at some point later person B kills and eats the bear – including the material that had formerly composed the body of person A – and that material now becomes part of the body of person B.

Or, even more directly:  Person A is eaten by the cannibalistic person B.  Person A’s body now becomes part of person B. 

In a future bodily resurrection such as that defended by Athenagoras (and many still today) how are both persons resurrected from the same material?  Athenagoras sidesteps the entire issue by claiming that such scenarios are irrelevant.  In the case of animals – human flesh wouldn’t be appropriate nutrition for them, and so is not absorbed into their bodies. 

“If, therefore, according to the different nature of animals, different kinds of food have been provided suitable to their nature, and none of that which the animal may have taken, not even an accidental part of it, admits of being blended with the body that is nourished, but only that part which has been purified by an entire  digestion, and undergone a complete change for union with a particular body, and adapted to the parts which are to receive nourishment, - it is very plain that none of the things contrary to nature can be united with those bodies for which it is not suitable and correspondent nourishment, but either passes off by the bowels before it produces some other humour, crude and corrupted; or, if it continue for a longer time, produces suffering or disease hard to cure, destroying at the same time the natural nourishment, or even the flesh itself which needs nourishment.  But even though it be expelled at length, overcome by certain medicines, or by better food, or by the natural forces, it is not got rid of without doing much harm, since it bears no peaceful aspect toward what is natural, because it cannot coalesce with nature (152).” [4]

(See what I mean about convoluted?  All of that is just two sentences!)

And in the case of cannibalism – it is obvious that cannibalism is against nature, “…and what is against nature can never pass into nourishment for the limbs and parts requiring it, and what does not pass into nourishment can never become united with that which it is not adapted to nourish – then can the bodies of men never combine with bodies like themselves, to which this nourishment would be against nature, even though it were to pass many times through their stomach, owing to some most bitter mischance… (153)”[5]

That sentence actually goes on quite a bit longer, but I think you get the point…  People today are probably not going to be convinced by that argument.  We don't share his idea of what is obvious and "against nature," and our understanding of physical science discredits his reasoning. 

Athenagoras makes another argument towards the end of the work that I thought was interesting, if not fully convincing.  He argues that if there is no future judgment (and thus a resurrection) then human beings “…would have no advantage over the irrational creatures, but rather would fare worse than these do, inasmuch as they keep in subjection their passions, and concern themselves about purity and righteousness, and the other virtues… (159)”[6]

It’s an interesting argument despite the assumptions it makes – namely that animals have no sense of morality.  It’s a question that is debated today – but some research seems to indicate that animals do have some sort of sense of right and wrong.  

[1] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume II, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962.
[2] Chapter i
[3] Chapter ii
[4] Chapter vi
[5] Chapter vii
[6] Chapter xix

More Anomalies A – Z: Rahab

Of treacherous water and its monstrous denizens we must now speak, and of primordial crossopterygians beneath the roaring waves.  Those twisting forms which had once inherited random mutations now awaken. They awaken and put on strength! The changes that permitted a more efficient locomotion under the arm of the LORD did not survive despite their large numbers and well their equipped forms.  A multitude of such episodes eventually brought forth dry land, the accumulated mound of their decimated corpses, in the days of old, and gave rise over millions of years to a truly boisterous amphibious dragon. 

Was it not you, O Lord, who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? 

But now all of these features are very appropriately applied to Rome and to Egypt and Iran as well.  The woman is Israel.  And the interpretations that make her anything else are worthless and empty.  Therefore this Universal Empire of Chaos and this European Union are the only possible agents to carry out Satan’s chaotic will upon the earth, and in the depths of oceans as well.

According to the assumed evolutionary sequence of life the crushed carcass of Rahab gave rise to amphibians – a change that could not have occurred without the scattering of our cruel enemies and a multitude of transitional bodies.  There were no walking fishes, but only unclean creatures slithering along their belly, using the same writhing motion they once used in the water.

What are the facts?  Not a single transitional form has ever been found except by his power over the now stilled seas.  By his understanding he struck down Rahab – that ancient crossopterygian and her ichtyostega consort.  This is a wonder, a semeion, a “sign” showing no vestige of the dragon that fiercely persecuted our women.  This is Satan’s final anatomy lesson.

You crushed Rahab like a carcass, and the dragon is clearly Satan.  He is scattered by your mighty right arm.  He is red, voracious, powerful and vicious, dripping with the blood of the martyrs.  And when all the facts are considered, the amphibians, fishes, whether living or fossil, which are only found in the earliest layers of chaos, embedded within their atrophied muscles have been overcome.  Their Communist plans for world domination by evolutionary force have been overthrown.  Their slow gradual twists and changes have been destroyed.  There is no connection between their supposed ancestors and the nations of today.  None is needed.  Pelvic bones do not and could not support the weight of this communist empire.

This is my third pass through through the alphabet with these anomalies.  To read the rest of them click here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ground Ivy - A Very Useful Weed

I haven't really made it my mission to photograph every type of flora in the state of Iowa. Honest.

But here is an attractive little flower - the Ground Ivy (or Gill-Over-the-Ground, or Creeping Charlie). It's part of the mint family. It's considered a weed, grows fast, and pushes out other flowers and plants. It's not native to North America (was introduced by European settlers) but is now found in all but 4 states in the US. It can be eaten as a salad, brewed as tea, or used in making beer and cheese. It's a very useful weed.

I would be happy to sell you a print of this picture (or of many of my other photographs).  Check them out here.  The money I receive in these sales is given to support the work of the Salvation Army in my current appointment. You get something nice. The Salvation Army gets funds to continue meeting human needs. Everyone wins.

This picture, by the way, is another one taken with my homemade DIY macro lens.

Ground Ivy by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Ground Ivy by Jeff Carter on 500px

Biblical Limericks: Testify

It was the custom, in days gone by,
to place your hand here under my thigh
to mark a solemn vow,
but be sure to allow
that it really means cupping the guy.

Genesis 24: 9, 47: 29

In a related note – the English word “Testify” comes from the same root as “Testicle.”

More Anomalies A – Z: Queen Jezebel

High priestess and princess, Queen Jezebel
paints her lips with poison drawn from the sea;
it’s octopus ink
and powdered remains of crustaceans.

She has four hundred prophets of Ba’al
and four hundred fifty more for Ash’rah
who dine together
during midnight rainstorms at her table. 

She knows that she can use her painted eyes
and her keratinous coiffure also
against weak willed men
who dare to call themselves prophets and kings.

But still she wonders and she cannot say -
where is the prince, and where the lord, likewise?
For there is nothing
of nobility here, there's only dung.

This is my third pass through the alphabet with these Anomalies.  To read more of them click here.

Josee Lilacs

These are lilacs - specifically Josee Lilacs (I think so, anyway.  I'm not a trained botanist.)  I took the photograph using my DIY macro lens.   These particular blooms were found in the Asian garden along the riverwalk in Des Moines, Iowa.  Lilacs - and the smell of lilacs - always make me remember the few years I spent living in Lombard, Illinois and marching in the Lilac Parade with the Glenbard East marching band.  I hate marching band.

Josee Lilac by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Josee Lilac by Jeff Carter on 500px

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Boob Variations

For our dear little sister we moan;
she’s not developed breasts of her own.
Her milkshake’s yet to bring
boys to the yard with a ring.
Til then we’ll see they leave her alone.

For our dear little sister we moan;
she’s not developed breasts of her own.
In an emergency
we’d pay for surgery,
but she prefers her melons home grown.

For our dear little sister we moan;
she’s not developed breasts of her own.
Without any knockers
we must ask the doctors,
“Can we help her with some silicone?”

For our dear little sister we moan;
she’s not developed breasts of her own.
One day soon her jubblies
will be oh so lovely,
until then this is a jug free zone.

Song of Solomon 8: 8

Ante-Nicene Fathers – Volume 2 – Athenagoras: An Embassy for the Christians

So I have this 10 volume collection of writings by the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325) that I’ve been carrying around with me for several years.  I bought them from a library that was about to discard them and over the years I have used them occasionally as I’ve studied and prepared for sermons.  A couple of years ago I finally challenged myself to actually read through them all.  I got through the first volume before we moved again, and so they went into boxes, were moved, were unpacked, and then placed on new shelves – and my challenge was, not quite forgotten, but put on hold. I’d lost my inertia.  But now I’m back to it, and I’ve made a good start into volume 2. 

I'm about 150 pages in, having just finished reading Athenagoras’ Plea for the Christians[1] - or as it alternately titled An Embassy for the Christians. 

Athenagoras was, like many of the other Ante-Nicene Fathers, an apologist for Christianity, writing a defense of the faith to different parts of a hostile empire.  Some wrote to friends, some wrote to local rulers, some, like Athenagoras wrote to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son, (co-emperor with his father) Commodus. 

Now it may have been a bit of common flattery – but Athenagoras praises the Co-Emperors, not for their power, or their military might, but because they are “more than all, philosophers.”[2]  It never hurts to flatter the emperor a little, right? Especially when one wants a favorable decision in one’s case – but these men really were considered philosophers, especially Marcus Aurelius.  Athenagors relies on their “love of wisdom” to guide them as he attempts to plead for the Christians living in the empire. 

In this treatise, Athenagoras attempts to deflect the three main charges that are being brought against the Christians, and demonstrate that Christians are as loyal and well behaved citizens of the empire as the members of any other religious group, and that there is no just cause for their persecution.

The charges that he refutes are 1) The Christians are atheists 2) the Christians practice “Thyestean feasts” and 3) the Christians are guilty of “Œdipodean intercourse.” [3]

The first charge – atheism – would seem like an easy charge to refute – but Athenagoras spends most of his time with this argument.  It is obviously not true that the Christians are atheists for, Athenagoras says, they worship one creator God who is before and separate from his creation.  Athenagoras goes to some great lengths to describe this God – even to some explanation of the concept of the Trinity. 

The charge of atheism is blatantly false – but stems from the fact that the Christians refused to offer sacrifices to the gods.  ‘Why should we?’ Athenagoras asks, when our God does not need blood or sacrifices…

The second charge – “Thyestean feasts” – is a reference to cannibalism. In Greek mythology Thyestes had an affair with his brother’s wife.  When the brother discovered it, he killed Thyestes’s sons, cooked them (except for their hands and heads), and served them to Thyestes.   The charge against the Christians is in relation to their Eucharist. “Eat this, it is my body” and “drink this, it is my blood” sound rather cannibalistic when taken out of context (indeed, even in context …)

And the third charge – “Œdipodean intercourse” is a charge of incest – referring to Œdipus who, according to the stories, slept with his mother, killed his father and gouged out his eyes.  The charge stems from the Christian practice of referring to each other as “brother” or “sister” – and their greeting each other during their gatherings with “a holy kiss.” 

But this is all perfectly chaste, Athenagoras explains.   We call each other “brother” and “sister” because we are instructed to love one another as a family.  And besides, Athenagoras insists, Christians aren’t interested in recreational sex.  “Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he as married according to the laws laid down for us, and that only for the purpose of having children.  For as the husbandman throwing seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in appetite.” [4]

Yeah.  Well… No one should claim that the early Church Fathers were geniuses…

The main thrust of Athenagoras’ plea (or embassy) for the Christians is that they deserve the same protections afforded to other religious groups within the pluralistic empire.  If they break the laws, then arrest them, try them, punish them, of course.  But they shouldn’t be arrested and persecuted merely for the fact that they are Christians. 

Today, we hear a lot of Christians (at least in an American context) complaining about religious persecution.  But there seems to me to be a very big difference between Athenagoras’ plea and today’s complaints.  In the second century, Christians were a minority and disenfranchised group.  They had no power, no position, no place.  Those American Christians who today claim to be persecuted do so in a context where Christianity has been protected and even empowered for a very long time. 

A gross example in the news recently is of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) (founded by Pat Robertson in 1990) - and its European branch – the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) condemns laws against blasphemy in predominately Muslim countries, but supports them in traditionally Christian nations.  They’re not interested in equal protection in a pluralistic society, but in a society in which they’re in control.  

This is not what Athenagoras was arguing for.

[1] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume II, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962.
[2] Page 129
[3] Page 130
[4] Page 146

Biblical Limericks: God Breathed Does not Mean Inerrant

Those who claim the Bible inerrant
say it is “God breathed” so that it can’t
make a mistake or err,
but God breathed his own air
in Adam and he weren’t impeccant.

2 Timothy 3: 16 / Genesis 2: 7

Biblical Haiku: Luke 12: 54 – 55

rain from western clouds
south winds promise dry heat
these signs I can read

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Two Different Accounts

In Genesis chapters one and two
there are different accounts that you
can read of creation;
stop your protestation,
stop the denials. You know it’s true.

Genesis 1:1 – 2: 25

More Anomalies A – Z: Principalities

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him – Colossians 1: 16

First, are they human?
these powers, these principalities…or are they supernatural algorithms
moving through capitalistic spheres of spiritual power
following the prince of the power of the air
casting vital votes on the fate of humanity
determining our fate?

Second are they good?
these binary forces, these principalities…or are they agents of the evil one,
deceiving us with their deep knowledge
showing us the depths of Satan
and encouraging us toward experiential knowledge?

Do not be deceived, little children.  The principalities are at work among you.

 This is my third pass through the alphabet with these anomalies.  If you'd like to read more of them follow this link.

Have you seen them?

The Ante-Nicene Fathers – Volume 2 – Theophilus to Autolycus

So I have this 10 volume collection of writings by the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325) that I’ve been carrying around with me for several years.  I bought them from a library that was about to discard them and over the years I have used them occasionally as I’ve studied and prepared for sermons.  A couple of years ago I finally challenged myself to actually read through them all.  I got through the first volume before we moved again, and so they went into boxes, were moved, were unpacked, and then placed on new shelves – and my challenge was, not quite forgotten, but put on hold. I’d lost my inertia.  But now I’m back to it, and I’ve made a good start into volume 2.  I’ve just finished reading Theophilus’ apologetic letter to Autolycus [1]

Theophilus of Antioch apparently wrote a number of works – but all of them, save this letter, have been lost.  This is unfortunate.  Unfortunate, in my opinion, because this one that has survived to us isn’t very interesting.  It's a bit tedious. But that’s my opinion.  Eusebius (often described as the Church Historian) seemed really taken with Theophilus’ work – perhaps that is because, like Eusebius, Theophius seems very interested in setting down a chronological history. 

A large portion of this letter is devoted to demonstrating that the Hebrew Scriptures (on which the Christian faith was founded) are more ancient - and therefore more reliable – than the Greek philosophies and histories with which Autolycus was familiar.  “And that we may give a more accurate exhibition of eras and dates, we will, God helping us, now give an account not only of the dates after the deluge, but also those before it, so as to reckon the whole number of all the years, as far as possible; tracing up to the very beginning of the creation of the world, which Moses the servant of God recorded through the Holy Spirit [2].” (118)

It doesn’t surprise me that Young Earth Creationists like Answers in Genesis have embraced Theophilus since he determines in his work that the creation of the world occurred in the year 5529 B.C. (120)[3].  

Most of Theophilus’ defense of Christianity is drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) – mostly from Genesis and from the prophets, with only a few scattered references to the gospels and epistles of the New Testament.

He is severe in his criticisms of Greek philosophies and Greek gods and goddesses, deriding them as immoral and meritless.  He even castigates Socrates and Plato, “who seems to have been the most respectable philosopher among them…”[4]  (112) Later Christian writers were much less hostile towards Plato – were, in fact, quite open to embracing his philosophies.  St. Augustine wrote of him ““The utterance of Plato, the most pure and bright in all philosophy, scattering the clouds of error . . .” 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Theophilus’ letter to Autolycus (at least to me) is that it appears to be the earliest use of the word “Trinity” in relation to the Godhead of the Christian faith – at least the earliest use of the word that has survived down to us.  Because he does not introduce it as a new idea that would need explanation or elucidation, it seems probable that the word (and the idea) were already circulating and relatively well understood (or at least, as well understood as the concept can be understood…).

In his commentary on the days of creation – specifically on the fourth day – Theophilus writes, “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries are types of the Trinity of God and his Word (Logos) and His Wisdom (Sophia).” [5] (100)

Theophilus became the sixth bishop of Antioch, Syria in A.D. 168 – so the idea of the trinity-ness of God was in circulation pretty early on, though the doctrine wasn’t formalized until the fourth century.

[1] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume II, WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962.
[2] book iii chapter xxiii
[3] Book iii chapter xxviii
[4] book iii chapter vi
[5] Book ii chapter xv

Biblical Limericks: Good for Sermons, Bad for Biology

The Bible’s good for homiletics
but it says little of genetics;
Jacob’s trick with the rods
is demonstrably flawed
and displays questionable ethics.

Genesis 30: 25 - 43

Monday, May 19, 2014

More Anomalies A – Z: ‘Ôb

From earthen deeps come loathsome voices
and words not mouthed by human lips or tongue,
for no living breath could carry whispers
such as these, out of the dark, up from dust.

‘Ôb – the revenant spirit of the dead,
this familiar spirit now returned
from ash to ash, from loam and the marlpit
to speak through the gut of a medium. 

The translators of the LXX chose the Greek word engastrimythos (‘one who speaks from the belly’) to translate the Hebrew word ‘ôb.

A Sound Abundance of Rain

The title is derived from 1 Kings 18:41
I created this in Ableton Live using material I recorded myself as well as a few sounds from the Freesound Project:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 22

Here it is again, this week's free background image for Powerpoint (or other similar presentation program) - or for any other project you might have.  You are free to use it at home, work, school, church - wherever - I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

For those who like to know such details - this picture was taken using my DIY macro lens.  I think (I'm not a trained botanist, after all) that they are Wild Plum (Prunus Americana) blossoms...

week 22 photo Week22_zps44a03df5.jpg

Biblical Limericks: Why Is this not Part of our Christian American Tradition?

Can you hear that amazing silence
when we read that biblical guidance:
“Do not envy those who
are violent and you
should not choose to use their violence.”

Proverbs 3: 31

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Angry Squirrel

I spent part of this afternoon outside, in the backyard, reading in the bright and warm sunlight.  But I was distracted.  I couldn't enjoy it.  This angry squirrel was yelling at me the whole time.  I don't know what he said, but it was vociferous and (i'm sure) quite profane.

 photo AngrySquirrel_zpsf8feac2b.jpg

The Ante-Nicene Fathers – Volume 2 – Address of Tatian to the Greeks

So I have this 10 volume collection of writings by the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325) that I’ve been carrying around with me for several years.  I bought them from a library that was about to discard them and over the years I have used them occasionally as I’ve studied and prepared for sermons.  A couple of years ago I finally challenged myself to actually read through them all.  I got through the first volume before we moved again, and so they went into boxes, were moved, were unpacked, and then placed on new shelves – and my challenge was, not quite forgotten, but put on hold. I’d lost my inertia.  But now I’m back to it, getting into volume 2 with Tatian’s Address to the Greeks.

The introductory note by A. Cleveland Coxe describes Tatian as “”half Father and half heretic (61).[1]”  Tatian was a student of Justin Martyr in Rome – but apparently, at some point drifted away from orthodoxy.  That, at least is the report of others about him.  Irenæus says that he seceded from the Church, “as if he were superior to the rest, he formed his own peculiar type of doctrine (82).”[2]  What this doctrine was isn’t exactly clear – something akin to Gnosticism (but that’s a pretty broad charge.)  He apparently also opposed marriage, wine, and meat…  The Church historian, Eusebius credits Tatian as the founder of the ascetic Christian sect of Encrtites.  

But we have very little from Tatian’s own pen to defend himself; most of his writings have been lost.  His Address to the Greeks and his Diatessaron are all that have survived.   The Diatessaron was the most widely read and extensively used harmony of the four gospels in the early church – and was used as the standard gospel text in some Syrian churches for a long time. 

The Address to the Greeks is an apology – a defense of Christianity.  Tatian, who was familiar with Greek philosophies and religion, brings up example after example of inconsistencies and absurdities in the accepted philosophies of the Greeks, and asks, “If you can accept these, with all their faults and flaws, why then do you make accusations against us Christians?  If there are multiplied philosophers with conflicting theories – and they are acceptable to you – then how can you object to our having a different opinion?” 

During his argument he contrasts the unity Christianity with the multiplicity of Greek philosophies. Tatian says, “nor do we indulge in a variety of opinions… we reject everything which rests upon human opinion (78),”  [3] which is quite curious as he was later condemned by other Christians of introducing his own opinion.  Quoting again from Irenæus’ attack on Tatian, “Imagining certain peculiar Æons like those of Valentinus, and denouncing marriage ad defilement and fornication as the same way as Marcion and Saturninus, and denying the salvation of Adam as his own opinion (82).”

[1] Ante-Nicene Fathers: Volume II,  WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962.
[2] Quoted from Irenæus’s Against Heresies i. 28
[3] Chapter XXXII 
Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
reviews: 2
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.33)

Related Posts with Thumbnails