I spent last week at music camp, teaching kids from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota how to play brass instruments, to read music, about music theory, and also about photography and how to use a camera.
My band (the beginners) was a fairly large group. They came as beginners, barely able to produce any tones from the horns, but by the end of the camp they were able to play remarkably well, considering the short amount of time that we had.
I had some pretty great assistants - my pals John , and Nathan. I had a great time, but I'm glad to be home.
Here is your weekly, free background image. It's free. It's yours. Really and truly. Download it. Use it. I only ask that you 1) share it freely with others and that you tell others that you found it here.
The image itself, if you're curious about such things, is a close-up of the bell of God's favorite instrument - the Trombone.
As I said, I'm at music camp this week with over 100 kids from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. I'm leading the Beginner's band and the photography class. It's fun. We're busy, and we're very sweaty. (It's hot.)
I stopped by the archery field this afternoon. The kids asked me to shoot with them. Of the 10 arrows I fired, 7 of them actually hit the target, and one hit the center. It's a good thing I have a camera...
Here it is again - your free weekly background image. Even though I'm busy at music camp, I still have this image for you. Download it; it's yours. Use it where and how you will. I only ask that you share it with others and that you tell them you found it here.
If my posting to this blog is somewhat less frequent than usual this week it is because I am at music camp. I'm in Nebraska, with over 100 kids from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. They are here to learn how to play brass instruments, play guitar, and sing. In addition to helping them with their horns and music theory, I'm also leading a photography class.
It's hot. And we're busy.
I took this photo of the lake last night before the kids got here and everything got crazy.
I was out this evening to spend some time working
with my friend, Garden Jim. I help him, when I can, with his garden. I hoe out
the weeds between the rows of squash and peppers.Water the tomatoes. I work up
a blister at the base of my thumb and a good deal of sweat.
Jim talks while we work; he talks about the
various seeds he’s ordered, the tools he’d like to buy, the tools he used to
have, the cars he used to have, his time in the U.S. Army, his neighbors, his
landlord, the dog he’d like to have if he could have a dog in the apartment,
and on and on and on. Sometimes I I’m
not really listening. I’m concentrating
to make sure that I am only hoeing up weeds and grass and not cucumbers or rutabaga. But Jim doesn’t seem to mind; he’s still
talking about the bird stamps that he’s ordered, the coins collection he has,
the woman at the grocery store who’s nice to him….
Tonight as we worked, we were visited by a man who lives near the garden. He’d seen us working there before, waved a
few times, but tonight he came over to talk. Jim introduced himself, and me. “He’s
the pastor,” Jim said. And then Jim, who had only moments before been talking
about how often he has to take his medication and the railway that’s just
behind a copse of trees from the garden, suddenly didn’t want to talk. He
excused himself gruffly and went back to work digging holes to plant some melon
“You’re a pastor,”said the fellow, eyeing me suspiciously.
“Yep,” I said, pausing to lean on the garden tool like a real farmer.
“For real? A pastor?” He asked again.
“For real,” I said. “Ordained and everything.”
“You don’t look like a pastor,” he said. “You look…” he eyed me up and down
Now, I don’t really know what he meant by that. I was dressed in shorts and a sweaty t-shirt. I had a faded military style cap on my head.
I was sweaty and my hands were dirty. But maybe that’s what he wanted. “Can I
talk to you? Private like?”
He and I stepped several feet away from the garden. And there, behind the garden, as the sun was dropping
low in the sky, he began to share his worries, and secret struggles, and fears. We talked for several minutes before Jim hollered
out, “Hey! Jeff, are you workin’ here?”
My new friend saw his girlfriend walking toward us then, so he thanked me for
listening, put my phone number into his phone, and shook my hand, and said, “I’ll
let you get back to your garden.”
Whorled Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia - part of the Primrose family) found in my neighbor's yard. Photographed with a homemade, DIY bokeh filter, cut from heavy paper - much like the one used in these two earlier photographs.)
White Clover (also known as Dutch Clover, Trifolium repens) growing in the backyard is just about as summer as summer can be. I took this photo using a homemade DIY bokeh filter cut from heavy paper, which I affixed to the lens with that indispensable tool: duct tape.
This abstract photo was created, as they say, "in camera." No Photoshop magic was applied (other than sharpening the color contrasts somewhat.) I let the shutter remain open for a full second (a relatively long time for a daylight shot). During that second I zoomed in on the lilies.
It's the regular drill - Sunday afternoons I post a free background image. It's yours. It's free. Use it google slides, or powerpoint, or whatever presentation program you like. Use it as wall paper for your smart phone or your laptop. Print it out and make paper airplanes from it. Whatever. I only ask that you 1) share it freely and 2) that you tell others you found it here.
If you're like me, and I know I am, you will want to know something about the picture. It is made of two parts Above - a macro shot of some red lilies in my backyard and Below - a motion blur of some neon lights near my home.
She opened the sliding door behind me; I'd been sitting on the back patio reading in the early evening sunlight. Reading and taking pictures. I try to keep my camera handy for good pictures, and there's a hummingbird that flits in and out of the lilies. I was sorta' hoping I might be able to catch him this time. "Did you..." my wife started to ask a question but stopped.
I turned around. "Did I what?"
"Did you let that mosquito bite you just so you could take it's picture?"
"Did I let the mosquito ?" I repeated the question back to her. "That would be crazy..."
The chickens in the barn were killed during the night-all
850 of them, and it weren’t no fox or bad feed. Something ugly killed my birds,
something cruel. I should have noticed it earlier. I should have noticed as I
was making the coffee, that the birds weren't clucking and squawking as they do
every morning, but I was already absorbed in thoughts about … well, thoughts
about her. I didn’t realize that the birds were dead until much later because
she was shouting, and because I nearly died.
The Red Queen doesn’t usually start her screaming
until just after lunch-when her thunderous voice pounds at the inner walls of
my skull, screaming execution orders: “No mercy! Kill the Reprobate! Cut off his head!” But
that morning, when I should have been discovering my dead pullets, she began
her lunatic raving early. She started screaming as I sat drinking my morning
coffee. “Spill his blood! Stick that Sucker! Don’t let him get away!”
I pushed away from the kitchen table, stood, and sloped towards the sink where
I dropped the coffee mug. It shattered, spraying coffee up the backsplash. I
staggered out the back door and down the two concrete cement steps. I fumbled out a cigarette and lit it. As I
smoked, I tried to focus on the rustling of the wind through the corn-fields, a
calming exercise that often drowned out her voice, but her screams that morning
were just too loud. I sucked down a long drag of the cancer stick-nearly a
third of its length-and held the smoke in my lungs until I choked and coughed. I
doubled over and vomited out a warm bitter, brown, bile.
When I finally stopped heaving, I wiped my lips
and chin on the sleeve of my shirt. I spat to clear my mouth, and that’s when I
saw the corpses of two large crows. One of them had a swollen bloody eye. I
heaved again, but there was nothing left to expel. I collapsed to my knees, and
fell on my face, gagging and retching, in the puddle of sick I had sprayed on
the ground. “Execute that wretch!” the nasty Queen screamed inside my ears. Weak,
I crawled through the gravel and vomit into the shadowed corner where the
concrete steps met the foundation of the house, and passed out.
I must have had some massive muscle spasm,
epileptic-grand-mal type flailing there on the ground while I was unconscious. When I woke up, shivering in the cool
evening, I was sore all over- as if I’d pulled every muscle in my back, neck
and shoulders at once. The Red Queen had
stopped screaming, but she wasn’t silent.
She was muttering a garbled quotation from Revelation, “When I opened
the fourth seal, I became the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a green
horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were
given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine
and with pestilence and by the birds of the air.”
“Shut up,” I told her as I stood up slowly.
“Shut up. Shut up.”
But she kept on with her recitation,” “…pestilence of the birds in the air,pestilence of the birds in the air, pestilence and plague of birds in the airs…”
I looked up just as a murmuration of starlings launched into the air. As a
flock they folded and curved themselves through the air, twisting and floating
away like a scarf on the wind, disappearing into the gloaming twilight. And as they flew away, they cried out in a loud
voice, like a ringing telephone, “Come!
Come! COME! COME!”
Later I would find my way into the chicken
barn. In the fluorescent light and ammonia
smell I found the bloodied bodies of my chickens, but
by then it was too late for me to do anything about it.
Yesterday evening I shared a photograph of the hostas in my backyard, taken at dusk. I went out again, later last night, armed with a small tripod and a flashlight, to take this photograph of the same hostas-after dark.
He saw them: Peter, James and John (the
Thunder-Twins) and Judas-hunched conspiratorially over the evening cookfire,
whispering. Jesus left his followers an hour or so prior, and gone off some
distance to pray alone, in the dark. Now, upon returning, he found these four
(the others were already sleeping) plotting.
“We’ve got enough rope,” said Peter, “I think.
We can do this if we tie up his hands and his feet, but…”
“But,” said John, interrupting with a pointed jab of his meaty hand, “we’ve got
to be quick, and we’ve got to be quiet. We do this tonight, while everyone’s
Peter spoke, “James, you keep watch to the North and East. Judas, on the South
and West. Let out a little bird whistle if you see anyone approaching. It’s
dark tonight, no moon, so I don’t think there will be anyone, but…”
“But,” John interrupted again. “We’ve got to be quick and quiet. We go in. We
crack him on the head with this,” he brandished his walking staff, a stout length
of solid oak, “And we tie him up tight. Then we find the money.”
Jesus moved closer now and the disciples, seeing the motion, flinched. Their
eyes were wide in firelight and surprise.
“Jesus… you startled us,” said Peter.
“What are you boys planning?”
They hesitated, none of them wanting to be the first to speak. Then Peter said,
“Well, it’s like you told us-we’re going to go in, bind up Levi the Merchant,
and take his moneybox.”
Judas said, “The money will feed the poor, and spread your gospel, Master. We…”
Jesus cut him off before he could say more. “You’re going to do what?”
“We’re going to bind up the strongman,” said Peter, “and plunder his house. Like
you told us to.”
“Told you?” Jesus sputtered. “That was a parable. A parable, you fools! Why must you always take everything so
It is time for us all to decide,
we will no longer like sheep abide
while a deadly toxin’s
pumped into our systems:
NO MORE DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE!
Did you know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO)-also known as hydric acid, or
hydroxyl acid-is used as a coolant in nuclear power-plants? It is a powerful solvent and the major
component of “acid rain.” The accidental
inhalation of DHMO, even in very small amounts, can cause death. Increased
amounts of DHMO were found in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
And yet this dangerous substance is used in the making and manufacture of many
beverages and snack foods and is transported across the country without
regulation. This is dangerous stuff,
Here and now (as we do each week around here) is your free, weekly, background image. It's yours. It's free. Download it to use in powerpoint (or similar presentation programs). Use it as wallpaper on your laptop or smartphone. Print it out and use it as wallpaper in your bedroom, if you like. I only ask 1) that you share it freely and 2) that you tell others that you found it here.
It is foolish to go chasing after fire and flame the way that you do. Relax.
The world is not falling
apart; we are not, as you have been told, “less than 19 months from Armageddon.”
Taurus – You
used a MINOR deception to steal 215 meteors from the moon. But the authorities are no longer fooled. They
have figured out how you pulled it off.
You are discovered.
Gemini – In ten years of
Imprisonment you have found nine coins.
Still, that is not enough to cover the cost of treating your panophobia.
Cancer – The Queen is false. The sidewalk is split and the road
collapsed. Take the suspense or the
Leo – She stood in the window,
watching as you walked away. Tarnished
beauty and smoke in the distance. Will you stay away another 36 weeks?
Virgo – No. What you’ve said so far is NOT a reasoned
critique or detailed examination of the issues at hand. How could it be? You’ve kept the camera focused on yourself
for the entire 98 minutes of the film.
Libra – Mephistopheles is offering
you a drink from the cup of vanished childhood memories. Do you recall when you were 12 and you fell
down the well? No? Perhaps these are not your memories. Perhaps you should not drink from the cup he
Scorpio –The Hermit has left his
cave and come into the city to speak with us.
This is a rarity. He has not left
his self-imposed exile since 1653. I
suggest that we listen to what he has to say.
Sagittarius – The King of Coins, a
ruthless and selfish king, is training his military guard to hunt endangered
species of birds with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). He is a vicious man, cruel and unreasonable,
without faith, without humility. It is
only a game to him.
Capricorn – “Aliens do not
exist. The surface world does not exist.” This is the message. Do not deviate from these talking
Aquarius – The Old Chariot rolls
along, churning and burning all that comes before it, heedless of obstacles,
heedless of the cries of its victims. It
makes no apology. It crushing bone and
smears the lane with gore. Stay out of its
Pisces – Constipation is the
hobgoblin of small intestines and small minds are not disturbed by the snake
handlers in the smoky back rooms of Congress.
Stop being so naïve.
Nearly every time I post an update on the exciting Ark Encounter project, there
seem to be those habitual complainers who claim the money should be spent on
the poor instead and not be “wasted” this way. …
I think it’s a simple as this—it’s the message! The Ark project (like the
Creation Museum) will in a professional, powerful, and gracious way present the
truth of God’s Word and the gospel. Sadly, even some people claiming to be
Christians complain about the Ark project and that the money should be given to
the poor instead. Such people either don’t understand or don’t seem to care
about the millions who will be reached with the most important food in the
universe—the spiritual food of the saving gospel—the very message that their
eternal life depends on. …
So while it is important to help the poor and needy meet their physical needs
(which we do), it is even more important to help meet their spiritual need—the
need to come to know Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world—because lives—and
eternity—hang in the balance….
But all this pious sounding talk about “spreading
the gospel” is just window dressing. The
Ark Encounter Park is less about spreading the gospel, than it is about Ham and
his fellow creationists doubling down on their insistence that their idiosyncratic
young earth creationism interpretation of the biblical stories is the gospel.
Even if we were to concede that the Ark Park was, in fact, about spreading the gospel, it is still an expensively
misguided project. As the founder and first
General of the Salvation Army, William Booth said, “You can't tell a man about
the love of God if he has an empty stomach.”
That $29.5 million would be better spent feeding, clothing, sheltering, and
educating the poor-and that would be a better proclamation of the gospel than any
I have a great many, varied interests. Sometimes
people say that I am “well read,” more often they just say I’m “weird.” There
are times when having a broad spectrum of interest provides an interesting
overlap–like when you find first century gnostic theology bouncing around
inside the music of a satirical punk band from the late 80s/early 90s.
Weird, I know.
The Dead Milkmen, a punk band from Philadelphia, has been a favorite of mine
ever since I heard the song “Punk Rock Girl” from their 1988 album Beelzebubba (a title that STILL delights
me) on a late night college radio program when I was in junior high. They were
irreverent. They were funny. Maybe they weren’t the greatest musicians; maybe
Joe Genearo’s singing was nasally and often out of key. So what? They were loud
In 1992 I bought their album Soul Rotation
(on cassette) and discovered the song “God’s Kid Brother.” I didn’t know it
then, and I don’t know if the members of The Dead Milkmen knew it–maybe they
thought of it as I did then, as a humorously mild sort of blasphemy, a
rejection of the standard biblical creation story in search of an explanation
for the apparent dysfunctions of the universe–but the lyrics of the song are
very much in line with some of the theology of first century Gnostics.
for the reason why we're here
I've kept on
searching until it was clear
for excuses - can't find no other
We must be
the product of God's kid brother
It’s difficult to describe Gnostic theology,
because really it’s more like Gnostic theologies-plural; there were lots of
variations, but most of the various gnostic groups believed that that physical
world was created by the Demiurge–a sort of lesser deity. In some of the
stories the Demiurge is described as cruel and malicious. In these accounts the
physical world was created as a sort of trap or prison for pure spiritual
beings. In other gnostic writings, the Demiurge is described not as demonic,
but foolish and weak.
Maybe there are two Gods
God who made all those perfect people
God who made the rest of us
just maybe, somewhere there's a Heavenly choir
It’s not exactly spot on. In Gnostic teaching the
physical world was not created by God (not even the creation of “all those
perfect people.” The perfect God was pure spirit, unsullied by physical matter.
And the Demiurge wasn’t “God’s kid brother”–the exact relationship is difficult
to describe. But for an irreverent, satirical punk rock song, it’s pretty