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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Missionary Position

Jesus sent his friends on a mission:
Tell everyone of sin’s remission;
when you stay in a home
don’t from house to house roam -
that’s the missionary’s position.

Luke 10: 7

Surviving Past the End of the World

Several months ago I helped a friend transplant a tree. It would have been cut down if we hadn't moved it, so we dug it up and replanted it in a new place. We weren't sure if it would survive, but it would have died anyway, so it was worth the risk.

The tree has survived the winter, and has continued to grow. I have hope that it will live for a long time in its new place, providing shade and oxygen and beauty.

That day back in September was a rather bleak sort of day so I was thinking about the end of the world. A friend of mine had called with the worst sort of news. And while not everything is better for my friend, he has survived the bleak winter, and has continued to grow. I have hope that he will continue for a long time as well.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Music for Revelation 8:1

I have written a piece of music, inspired by Revelation 8: 1 in the style of John Cage.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One of the Disciples Interrupted Him

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak to them. This is what he taught them:

“You have heard how it was said, Take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this to you: Offer no resistance to the wicked.”

Then one of the disciples interrupted him. “But, Master, what if a bad guy breaks into our home, or tries to rape our wife and daughter? What about Hitler?”

Jesus looked at them and sighed, then went back down the mountain. They shouted after him, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, Jesus!”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? - New Music

I have been enjoying the words of my new favorite lyricist, The Quotable Becca - but the words for this new song come from the daughter of another set of friends; these are from The Existential Lilly. It's a bleak twist on an old favorite.

Hey dad, Why did the chicken cross the road?
I don't know. Why?
To die.

Summer Sunset

I drove across the state (again) yesterday. It was warm, (not hot: 10 degrees cooler than the day before, mind you...) but the sun as it set behind the wind turbines along I-80 was glorious.

Iowa Summer Sunset by Jeff Carter on

Friday, June 17, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Romans 13: 1 – 4 NRA Version

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities that faithfully keep the second amendment; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God to protect your guns. Therefore whoever tries to restrict your access to firearms resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear? Then do what is good - buy a gun and you will receive its approval, for a gun is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for a good guy with a gun does not bear the gun in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Story of Winter Oak

The story is told of a time of hunger – not uncommon in those years before great mechanized farms, 24 hour slaughterhouses, and supermarkets larger than your grandmother’s village – a time of drought and famine, when the creeks and streams failed and brave hunters returned with nothing but their bravery, a time when mothers fed their children with tears while they themselves went without.

The story is told of Winter Oak, a widowed mother with three young children: Laughter, Hope, and Joy-on-the-River. Their father had been killed the winter before, and ever since then the resourceful and clever Winter Oak had kept them fed and clothed with the strength of her hands, the dexterity of her fingers, and the nimbleness of her mind. She gathered food and flowers that could be eaten, she tanned leather, and sharpened knives. And Laughter, Hope and Joy-on-the-Water grew the way that all beautiful children do.

But with the drought and famine and the hunters returning home with nothing more than dry throats and empty packs, there was little food for anyone. Even the resourceful and clever Winter Oak struggled to find food enough for her children.

One evening as Winter Oak was cooking the last of their food and dividing it into three small portions (one for each of the children and none for herself) she heard a knock at the door. Outside stood a strange women in a tattered gown and shoes worn through. Her grey hair and wrinkled eyes were those of a woman with faded dignity and dim-remembered beauty.

“Please,” she said to Winter Oak, “have you any food to share with an old woman?”

Winter Oak looked at her children, Laughter, Hope, and Joy-on-the-River, and at the three little mounds of boiled grain she’d prepared for them. Then she sighed and invited the woman inside to join them for dinner. Winter Oak divided the boiled grain into four even smaller portions and called them all to eat.

After the meal, brief and unsatisfying as it was, the stranger woman thanked Winter Oak for her kindness and left. She went out into the dark night and was not seen by anyone else in the tribe.

This is end of the story as it is told, as brief and unsatisfying as the final meal Winter Oak fed her children and the mysterious woman. In other stories, the strange woman would be revealed to be Mother Nature herself, or a messenger spirit sent from the 7 Horned Lamb, and she would bless and reward Winter Oak for her kindness and selfless giving and would give her and her people a blessing of food and the promise of the end of the drought and famine. But not in this story, not as it is told. Whether she was in fact Mother Nature or a ministering spirit, I cannot say. The mysterious woman was never seen again.

Winter Oak died not long after, but Laughter, Hope, and Joy-on-the-River struggled on. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Biblical Limericks: What Did He Write?

"Should we stone her, hit her with a brick?"
They intended the question as a trick,
but Jesus, he knelt down
and he wrote in the ground...
did he perhaps write a limerick?

John 8: 1 - 11

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Retirement Remarks for My Parents

My parents, Majors Loren and Janice Carter, are retiring after 92 years of combined service as Salvation Army officers. They asked me to speak at their retirement service - no pressure, right?!


Now I have the chance to get my revenge for all the times my father used me as a sermon illustration... I'd like to welcome you to the roast of Majors Loren and Janice Carter.

It’s more than a job, more than a career; being a Salvation Army officer is a calling. There are other jobs and careers with fewer frustrations and higher levels of compensation. There are few tangible, visible, real rewards from a life of service as a Salvation Army Officer. We discharge our duties without the expectation of earthly recompense. We do not amass personal fortunes (not, that is, if we are doing it correctly.) We do not have monuments erected to our memory. We do not build buildings emblazoned with our names. We serve, and toil in relative obscurity. Few will ever notice or regard the multiplied hours we’ve spent as chauffeurs for young people and church janitors. Few will ever notice or thank us for the time we’ve spent cleaning toilets and preparing budgets.

There is, as the song says, “joy, joy, joy in the Salvation Army” (say it with me: “try and find it.”)  There is Joy perhaps, but there is little in the way of tangible, visible, real reward. What can we point to to say, “I did this”? In a hundred years, what evidence will remain that we were here? Our work is largely invisible and interior. Unseen. It can, at times, feel discouraging. It can be disheartening to look back over a lifetime of service only to ask, “What have I accomplished? What have I done?” We might even wonder, “Has it all been worthwhile? Have I achieved anything in all those years? Have I had an impact at all?”

But unseen, interior, and invisible is not immaterial, and is not insubstantial.

Every young person taught to play a horn, every hungry family fed, every family given a Christmas gift, every senior citizen comforted in a care facility, every prisoner visited in jail, every sermon that is preached (even the ones ignored by the officer’s eye-rolling-teenaged-son), every life that is touched has an infinite, unseen, rippling effect. The future is set and reset, and unsettled again with every act of service, even the unregarded, unrewarded ones. Holes in the very time/space fabric of the universe are repaired as great kingdom of God on the march is proclaimed and put into practice and vigorous action by faithful Salvation Army officers.

Serving as both corps officers and officers at divisional headquarters in seven different commands across the Midwestern states of the United States of America- through 92 years of combined service, Majors Janice and Loren Carter have been good and faithful servants; they have been “Undaunted” “Light Bringers.” And we can know that-even if there are few tangible, visible, real rewards for their service-countless lives have been blessed by their faithfulness. And those already countless lives have each one, spread that blessing to innumerable others. They are a great, uncountable crowd of witnesses.

We can, with God say to Majors Loren and Janice today: “well done good and faithful servants.” I realize that it may be somewhat premature to quote from that particular chapter and verse, as we often reserve it for Promotion to Glory (funeral) services; I hope they’ll forgive me and trust that I’m not just getting anxious. It’s my niece K. who has been referring to Loren and Janice’s retirement as their funeral… But they have been faithful in their service, even in the small things, faithful even with small rewards; they have been faithful and their reward will be great.

Our founder and first General said, “Making heaven on earth is our business.” It’s what we are called to do, and for 92 combined years my parents have done just that. At camp, in nursing homes, in 15 passenger vans, at disaster sites and pot-luck dinners (and sometimes those are indistinguishable), on street-corners, in quiet hallways and noisy gymnasiums - they have been faithfully making little bits of heaven in the here and now world. They have been proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the desperate, the lonely, the poor, and the afflicted. They have lifted the fallen, healed the injured, and comforted the disturbed. They have grieved with those in mourning; they have celebrated with the joyful. They have consecrated marriages and solemnized funerals.

They may not be renowned musicians but they taught me the joy of music, how to read music, and how to play a horn. They are not leaders of great grass-roots social justice movements, but it was Loren and Janice who lit the fire of a burning social conscience within me. They are no great theologians with divinity degrees, but they taught me of God’s unbounded love, and there is nothing greater than that. If only one life had been affected by their ministry, as the Jewish people say during the Passover celebration, Dayenu “It would have been enough.” If only one person had been changed for the better, "Dayenu" - it would have been enough.

But I am not the sole recipient of their devoted ministry; they have ministered to thousands and thousands of individuals and each of those thousands has gone on to touch a multiplied many more – a great multitude that no one can count, from many nations and languages. And that great crowd of witnesses to their ministry can stand before the throne of God, singing out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

I know that you will stand with me today, and with God our Savior to say to Majors Loren and Janice Carter: “Well done good and faithful servants.”  Thank you for all that you have done for the Kingdom of God.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Unwritten Note # 132

“The future is God,” he tells me, “she’s the could have been and possibly, the great maybe, the cosmic universal potential, the sum-total-of-all-impending probabilities.”

But this I cannot understand. Or was it that I will not understand it. It’s a noetic toss up and the coin’s still in the air.

“You’re free to disagree with me,” he says.

“Really?” I wonder at him.

“Oh, who knows?” he shrugs back at me. “The singer sings and the song goes on,” he says. I wonder if he’s attempting a Jackie Mason impersonation.

I have pages and pages of unwritten notes, hundreds – thousands of unfinished confessions. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jake at Rushmore

I tried to recreate the look of an old wet-plate photograph.

What I’m Reading: Resurrection

What follows is not a proper review of Count Leo Tolstoy’s final novel Resurrection; it is instead a few of my thoughts about and responses to the book. It’s been a few years since I read Anna Karenina, and ages and ages since I read War and Peace. I feel like I should revisit those now (but there’s so much still left in my to-be-read pile…)

The story feels somewhat autobiographical – if not in details, in its theme. The journey of Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Neklúdof from noble born, silver-spoon, aristocratic, playboy to a fervent idealistic religious revolutionist who dreams of changing the world is Tolstoy’s story.

Neklúdof wants to atone for his frivolous life, to correct the mistakes he’s made, to heal the wounds he’s caused. And this, not for himself, but because it is the right thing to do. But there is no such thing as a selfless good deed and his attempts to do right are viewed with suspicion and outright rejected. When he tries to give his land estates to the peasants who live upon them, they believe that it’s just another trick from a member of the wealthy elite to squeeze another ruble from the poor. His sincere offer to marry the woman he left destitute is refused; she can’t believe him.

Resurrection is a literary attempt to find a way to put into practice the radical claims of the gospel.

“I don’t know whether they deserve it or not, but I do know how they suffer,” said Neklúdof. “You are a Christian and believe in the Gospel, and yet you have no mercy.”
“That has nothing to do with the case. The Gospel is one thing and what we despise is another. It would be worse if I pretended to love Nihilists, especially short-haired one, when to tell the truth I really hate them” (Tolstoï Resurrection Vol. 2, 40).

Much of the novel is a defense of Georgist ideas – a subset of socialist thought, an economic theory that says that the economic value of the land should be owned and shared by the community that lives on the land. Again, this is part of Tolstoy’s literary attempt to put into practice the radical claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But radical is not easy. And Tolstoy knew this. He was not a wild-eyed unrealistic idealist. Resurrection is filled with the details of observed real life. In fact these detailed stories begin to pile up towards the end of the novel that it begins to feel like a fevered dream. Reality is incredibly unreal. How can this be real? But it is. And Neklúdof (the novel’s stand in for Tolstoy himself) is shocked to realize his place in it.

There are few easy answers. Many of the questions Tolstoy raised about the criminal justice system and the state of prisons in Czarist Russia at the end of the 19th century remain unanswered – and could be asked with tragically continued relevance about the criminal justice system and state of prisons in America in the 21st century.

The version of Resurrection that I’ve read was published in 1911, translated by Aline P. Delano. This may not be a complete version of Tolstoy’s work. The full novel was heavily censored by Russian authorities, and an unexpurgated text wasn’t published until 1936.

Tolstoï, Lyof N. Resurrection Trans. Aline P. Delano. New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company. 1911. Print.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Motel by Jeff Carter on

Frosting and Sprinkles

New music, with words from my favorite lyricist, The Quotable Becca.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Haiku – June 5, 2016

red winged blackbird perched
in purple orange twilight
ignores the highway

Out to the Badlands

I have returned from a trip out to the far end of South Dakota with my good friend, J. It's a mighty long drive, and I've got my "driving arm sunburn," but we had a great time, saw (some of - there's just too much to do and see in one trip) the sights and learned a bit too. (You can't go on trips with me and not go to at least one edumacational place...)

Along the way we stopped at a couple of those "cheesy" tourist spots. They're not much, but they break up the hours of driving. The first was the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota. J. thought he'd be jollier. A few hours later we stopped in Mitchell, South Dakota for dinner, and to see the "world famous" Corn Palace. It's not actually either, but it's a neat place. We happened to visit during a street party and had the opportunity to listen to a local rock band playing "The Letter", to watch a toothless old man dancing in the street, and little kids laughing in a bicycle race.

Our campground is situated near Rapid City, South Dakota, right along Rapid Creek, and is a beautiful place in the shadow of steep granite cliffs. We slept in tents next to the rippling creek, listening to the wind in the pine trees.

Rapid Creek Cliffs by Jeff Carter on

George Washington - Mount Rushmore by Jeff Carter on

At Mount Rushmore, under the shadow of George Washington's cavernous nostril, we listened to Park Ranger D. Redcloud tell stories of  how Gutzon Borglum, the artist responsible for the Rushmore carvings, helped the starving native people living near the monument. "We always had good relations with him," our ranger said. But I wondered if this was bit of National Monument whitewashing. Other sources that I've read suggest that Borglum was a "nativist" and sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan - and his work on the monument to Confederate leaders at Stone Mountain, Georgia would seem to give support to those claims.  This isn't to say that the stories D. Redcloud told us weren't true (several of them involved his grandfather), but those stories may not represent the entire truth.

Redcloud from jeff carter on Vimeo.

We visited Wind Cave National Park - which has over 145 miles of explored caves (and many times that still unexplored), located next to Custer State Park, and learned about Boxwork formations within the cave, as well as the Lakota emergence story. Park Ranger Shena told us the story. Afterwards J. and I discussed the places of similarity between the Lakota story of Iktomi (the spider), Anog-Ite (the double faced woman), the Creator and the first people and the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It may be tricky to make cross cultural comparisons like that, but there is some overlap in the stories.

At the Crazy Horse Monument we watched a group of young Pueblo Hoop Dancers. We missed the opportunity to actually walk out along Crazy Horse's arm by a few hours - an opportunity that only happens a couple of times a year.

I purchased a book in the gift shop - Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. I chose this one over the other available book about Crazy Horse because of the introduction written by Vine Deloria Jr., whose book, Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, I'd purchased on a previous trip to the Black Hills and have enjoyed reading.

On our way home we drove through the Badlands loop - a little out of the way, but worth it for the incredible landscape. We might have stayed longer, but we were hungry, and there was still so much driving to do to get home.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dr. Tarrec’s Free Weekly Horoscope 37

Aries – An urn of ashes is set next to the flour jar in the kitchen; dad never did make good cookies.

Taurus – The plans of the clumsy fencer have been foiled again. Curses!

Gemini –There is a fine, but significant difference between “someone out looking for you” and “someone looking out for you,” but the sheriff refuses to investigate your claims.

Cancer – I love you, but you are not well. The bacterial counseling sessions have not been going well. We’ll have to take other immediate actions.

Leo – Take either the bowl of Revolution or Revelation. It might be either one-one or the other, but not both. Why do we hesitate before the improbable? We can only delay the impossible.

Virgo – The quest for beauty has replaced the search for truth. Hello? Can you hear me? Please. Where is your number?  It’s your play…

Libra – In the next One Hundred Years we will be frightened. Frightened. You can hear me; I know you can hear me. I am here to help you. I am here to help you. Help you. Nine telephone calls and counting.

Scorpio – You are the victim of catastrophic wars on foreign soil. You have also inherited a common form of suicidal intent. I don’t understand this lack of comprehension. Can you feel math?

Sagittarius – Three strangers have moved into the house next door, three leather clad strangers. Three men on motorcycles ride across the stage. You can see them outside the window, late at night. What are they trying to hide? Drink a nice glass of water and relax. There is no cause for alarm.

Capricorn – Bring on the plague angels, bring on the government. Expect sedative visitors and narcotic guests to arrive before nightfall, just like in Shakespeare.

Aquarius – We can reshape the middle sequence (following World War I) but it will still be too late for dinosaurs and flying reptiles.

Pisces – When everyone is memory, it is all the same. Take a look for yourself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Birthday Song

This is A Birthday Song for a friend of mine.

He's 40 years old (not 4 Years Old).

I used the following sounds from The Freesound Project (and they are, by the way, sounds he created and shared.): 

An Accidental Abstraction

This photograph was an accident, I triggered the shutter as I was walking. But it turned out rather nice, I think.

Accidental Abstraction by Jeff Carter on
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