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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016


I forced my daughter to be my volunteer victim, er.... test subject this evening for some photographs. But, so as to not embarrass her (not embarrass her any more than necessary, anyway...) I have edited the picture somewhat: the vest that I made her wear was a really ugly Christmas sweater-vest...

October Gives Way

October Gives Way by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Quest for Knowledge (the Old Courthouse)

The Quest for Knowledge (the Old Courthouse) by Jeff Carter on

Above one of the entrances to the "Old Courthouse" in Evansville, Indiana, is this group of statues denoting the quest for knowledge. A torch, a sword, and a pile of books is a good place to start...

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dangerous Self-Deceptions in Salvation Army Officers

Several years ago, a wise old Sergeant Major at our corps (which is something like a Deacon at the local church in other denominations) sat down with me to give me the benefit of his long experience and his advice for being an effective officer (pastor) in The Salvation Army.

He said, “Captain,” (This was before I was promoted to Major, you see…) He said, “Captain, in my experience there are lots of ways that a corps officer can go wrong and screw things up at the corps.  But the most common sorts of failure all involve self-deception.”

“Self-deception? How so?” I asked.

“Well, an officer can convince him or herself that they are or that the corps is richer than it is, and spend money too freely and recklessly.”

“Agreed,” I said. “It is easy to run a corps into debt.”

“Another way the officer can screw up is to imagine that he or she is more skilled or talented than they are in reality. They imagine themselves to be great musicians or very great preachers. God save us from those vocal solos and sermons.”

He laughed and I laughed with him, but only briefly. “Are you speaking about me?” The sergeant major laughed again. “No. not yet. But I’ll let you know if your ego begins to outrun your abilities.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said with a slightly sarcastic tone, but with complete sincerity.  “Are there other dangerous self-deceptions in the officers that you’ve known?”

“One more,” he told me. “And it may be the most common and the most dangerous.”

“Tell me.”

“The most common are those who imagine themselves to be morally better – those who have convinced themselves that they are superior in virtue and holiness.”

“Yes,” I said without laughter now.

(Confession time: this story is adapted from a Socratic conversation in Plato’s Philebus.

Abstract Flower Silhouette

Silhouetted artificial flowers photographed with a macro attachment and a homemade DIY blur filter.

Abstract Flower Silhouette by Jeff Carter on

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Brighter than I Feel

Roadside daisies are almost always brighter than I feel.

Brighter than I Feel by Jeff Carter on

Queen Anne's Lace

Did you know that Queen Anne's Lace is part of the same family as carrots?

Dog for Sale

Yesterday the weather was nice so I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I walked along the sidewalk lined with maple and crab apple trees, enjoying the bright sun and the clear sky. At the end of the block I saw little Missy sitting at the edge of her family’s yard, near the driveway.

She sat on a metal folding chair next to a collapsible card table. At her feet was her dog, Rufus, lying rather dejectedly inside his crate. Beside them both was a large cardboard sign, hand-lettered to advertise: “DOG FOR SALE! CHEAP!”

I waved at Missy and greeted her and then asked about her sign. “Why are you selling Rufus? You’ve had that dog for years. That mutt loves you.”

She answered without looking at me. “I’m selling the dog ‘cause he barks and snarls at me.”

This surprised me. “Is he dangerous? Has Rufus bitten you, or any of the other neighborhood kids?”

“No.” She said. She still made no eye contact. “He just barks and snarls and gets mean. And only when I stab him with my pocket knife.” 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Weeds at Lake Anita

Yesterday I posted a couple of photos from a recent stop at the Lake Anita State Park in Iowa. Here is one more.

Lake Anita Weeds by Jeff Carter on

UnJesus Calls Simon Out

One day as UnJesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret with the people crowding around him and listening to the words he said, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…”

Then UnJesus said, “Really? You worked hard all night and didn’t catch anything? You didn’t catch a single thing? What’s wrong with you? Maybe you weren’t trying hard enough… Maybe you shouldn’t really be a fisherman. Maybe you’re not qualified to fish. You really just need to work harder to prove yourself.

UnLuke 5: 1 – 5

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Photos from Lake Anita

My wife and I had to spend part of today travelling across the state. To break up the journey, we stopped at the Lake Anita State Park where I took a few photos. Here are two that I rather like.

Lake Anita Sky by Jeff Carter on

Lake Anita Grass by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Anti-Miracle Crowds

Jesus, trav’lling the Jericho route,
did anti-miracle crowds refute;
when the blind man spoke loud
the antagonist crowd
tried to make poor Bartimaeus mute.

Mark 10: 46 - 52

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sunflower Fire (Spot Filter)

The last of my backyard garden Sunflowers is long gone by now, dried, and withered, and dead. But here is one last photograph of the flowers that were. This one was taken with a spot filter.

Sunflower Fire by Jeff Carter on

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Gospel and the Statue of Liberty - New Music

Every once in a while I try a little hymnody – writing new hymns, or at least new words for older melodies. 

This week I have been listening to various recordings of Irving Berlin’s arrangement of words from the socialist poet, Emma Lazarus: Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor. The lyrics of Berlin’s song (composed for the all-but-forgotten musical Miss Liberty (1949)) were drawn from Lazarus’ sonnet The New Colossus, which was written as part of the fundraising campaign for the construction of the pedestal upon which the Statue of Liberty stands. Lazarus’ poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and is displayed in the pedestal’s lower level.

I have written a new first verse, drawn from Jesus’ words in Luke 4: 18, to add to Berlin and Lazarus’ work. I think the two pair together very well.

But I hesitate somewhat with this. I am often vocal about the need to disassociate the idea of American exceptionalism from the gospel. America is not the Promised Land. The American Dream is not an expression of the gospel message.

Despite this, I think Lazarus’ poem is bigger and better than the American dream. I think that it is an expression of the values and concerns of the Kingdom of God.

The Spirit of the Lord
has given me a mission and a call:
to preach the gospel message to the poor,
to free the pris’ner and give sight to the blind,
to proclaim the year of the jubilee.

Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

I also like that this is a reminder that Socialism is as American as apple pie (whatever that means). Both the Pledge of Allegiance (in its original form) and the Statue of Liberty poem were written by American socialists. Socialism is not necessarily either godless or un-American.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fact Checking Is...


The Basest Art (A Limerick)

The Limerick is the basest art,
benefiting neither head nor heart,
but those who like them are
not the lowest by far:
their composers should be torn apart.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wind in the Grass

shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Listen.

Wind in the Grass by Jeff Carter on


Yesterday I shared a photograph of one of my backyard garden Zinnias. Here is another, of several of them.The pointillism effect was created with one of my homemade DIY filters.

Zinnias by Jeff Carter on

Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald and the Children

People even brought their children to the rallies for him to touch them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded them. But the Donald said, “Let the children come to me; you know, I’ll be dating some of them in a few years…”

(Luke 18: 15 – 17 in bizzaro world)


In addition to the sunflowers (which I photographed over and over and over again this summer) I also had a bunch of Zinnias.  This is one of them.

Zennia by Jeff Carter on

Under the Tree

Under the Tree by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Man Feared

a short poem from one of my favorites.

Biblical Limericks: Black Eye

The judge was an irrev’rent bad guy
to whom the widow came to apply;
she said: “Do what is right!”
and the poor judge took fright,
“If I don’t she’ll give me a black eye.”

Luke 18: 1- 7

The verb translated as “wear me out” (NRSV) literally means “beat me under the eye”

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Responsibility - New Four Year Old Music

"When I am done being four, I'll be five
and that is a big responsibility."

Indeed.  Thanks to the ever quotable Becca for another wonder.

A Politician Went Up to Pray

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:

A politician went before the cameras to pray: “I’m not sure I have asked for forgiveness. I just try to go on and do a better job from there. I don’t think so. If I do something wrong I just try to make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.  I don’t think of it that way. I just try to go on. I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’m thankful that I’m not like my opponent. You should see some of the things they’ve gotten away with.  I’ve traveled the country talking about change and my travels have changed me. I drink my little wine (which is about the only wine I drink) and have my little cracker, I guess that’s a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. My opponent and their kind have done even worse things, (and thank God I'm not like them!) which I’ll be sure to tell you about over the next several days. Amen.”

I tell you, this man went up to the White House feeling justified. All those who exalt themselves won’t have to be humble.

(Luke 18: 9 – 14)

Biblical Limericks: There Once Was a Judge...

There once was a judge unbecoming
whose lack of concern was mind numbing,
till a widow who came
daily to press her claim
caused him to say, “Fine! Now stop coming!

I will grant your repeated request
if you will relent and let me rest.
Now go away! Get! Go!
There’s nothing more I owe
to you, or God, you bothersome pest!”

Luke 18: 1 - 5

Monday, October 10, 2016

Doing Something Different

This is my pal, N. He likes very much for me to take his picture. I don't often photograph people, but N. repeatedly forces (grin) me to break out of my pattern and to do something different.

I should probably practice photographing people. A couple of friends have asked if I can take their engagement photos.  No pressure there, right?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Not Bad

After Ehud came the man, Shamgar -
a hero of Israel without par;
he used an old ox-goad
to pursue down the road
six hundred Phil’stines – not bad, by gar!

Judges 3: 31

Poor old Shamgar gets only one verse in the bible. But he gets TWO, yes -count 'em- TWO limericks. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Blue Weeds 1 and 2

Blue Weeds by Jeff Carter on

Blue Weeds II by Jeff Carter on

Is this the Evangelical Choice?

Almost every day - sometimes twice a day - I find myself asking the question: Is this the evangelical choice? Is Donald J. Trump really the person that evangelical Christians want to see in the White House?

Trump has issued an apology - of sorts. It's more of a faux-pology. If he'd stopped after 21 seconds, it could have been an apology but everything after that cancels out his 'apology.'

But how does this 'apology' (even if we credit it as sincere) ring against his earlier comments that he's never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness?

Okay. I get it, Evangelicals, you really don't like Hillary Clinton. I'd go so far as to suspect that you actually hate and loathe her. I am not asking you to vote for her against your conscience, but how can the evangelical support this man for the office of president?  He does not represent you - your values - your morals - your ethics. He is not you.  So why do you embrace him?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Night Fishing

Night Fishing by Jeff Carter on

October Sunflowers

There is no life left in my backyard garden sunflowers, but they still make for nice photographs.

October Sunflowers by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Field of Crosses II

Every year in October, the local Catholic church puts up a display of wooden crosses in thier yard - a symbol of their right-to-life work.

Field of Crosses II by Jeff Carter on

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Painted Lady in My Backyard

Painted Lady by Jeff Carter on

Beware of the Demon Stration


Beware of the demon Stration. He is a self-propagating egoist, an obnoxious show-off and charlatan. The demon Stration often attacks those in leadership positions, tempting them with confirmation of their own idealized self-portraits. Frequent and incautious use of the first person personal pronoun will summon him.

Should Jesus Have Been Disappointed?

I included this thought as a tag to yesterday’s Biblical Limerick post, as an afterthought linking back to a previous limerick. But I think it is a question that is worth a little more than a casual postscript to something as lowbrow as a limerick, so I’d like to draw it out a bit.

In Luke 17: 11 – 19 we have the story of Jesus’ encounter with a group of 10 lepers. Jesus cures them and sends them away to report their cleansing to the priests who could restore them to their places in the community. Of the ten, one came back to express his thanks. And this one was a Samaritan. “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?” (Luke 17: 17 New Jerusalem Bible)

I’ve heard many a sermon and Sunday school lesson on the theme of these thankless lepers. And last night (providentially, perhaps) I found, the following lines in a book of poems by Commissioner Irena Arnold (an officer in The Salvation Army) – it’s not especially noteworthy poetry, but it does illustrate the tone of those multiplied sermons and Sunday school lessons.

Nine men sought Christ in their trouble sore,
Forgetting Him when their pain was o’er.
Nine men with joy to their homes returned,
They all were healed, but their Healer spurned.
Accepting all that their Savior gave;
His loving kindness, His power to save,
                But none of them gave thanks.
-from “Only One Gave Thanks” (Arnold 229)

But if we read the story of the thankless lepers while keeping in mind the parable that Luke recorded just a few verses prior perhaps we would be compelled to ask Jesus, “Why did you expect to be thanked?”

In Luke 17: 7 – 11, Jesus is recorded as telling a brief parable: “Which of you with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him, when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal at once”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper ready; fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards.” Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all that you have been told to do, say, “we are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty.” (New Jerusalem Bible)

If the good servant (or slave in other translations) shouldn’t expect to be thanked for doing his duty, should Jesus have been disappointed in the other nine lepers who did not stop to thank him?

Arnold, Irena. More Poems of a Salvationist. Harpeville: GA. Tyler and Company. 1945. Print.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fancy - New Music

Here is another gem from my lyricist, the quotable Becca.  This one is fancy.

Here is the entire 8 song album :

Biblical Limericks: Thankless No. 2

Ten men with virulent leprosy
called out to Jesus piteously.
Cured, he sent them away;
one stopped, his praise to say
but the others ran off thanklessly.

Luke 17: 11 - 19

Does this story about thanks (and the lack of it) add anything to the previous parable about thanks (and the lack of it)?

Monday, October 3, 2016

The End is Near - This Time We Mean It

Aren’t our ink-stained fingers enough proof? Don’t our innumerable books and pamphlets demonstrate our unflagging dedication to this literary art? Especially in this era of easy inkjets and laser printers? No fuss, no muss.  But we stain our fingers and cramp our hands with writing so that you will be frightened, and that frightened you will believe.

But you have refused to take fright. What is wrong with you?

Was it our fault that the Soviet Union never invaded Israel? We said that it would happen – and it would have, except that the beatified Ronald Reagan was just too much for those Ruskies to handle. That man just starred them down, wouldn’t blink. The evil empire would have invaded the Holy Land of Israel if the leader of the free world hadn’t so effectively held them in check.

Was it our fault that Jesus didn’t return in 1988, that he didn’t come roaring through the sky like a crack of lightning? Perhaps he would have if the Soviet Union hadn’t begun restructuring itself toward a mixed economy. (Again, we must give thanks to the beatified Reagan.)

Gorbachev was the Antichrist, of course. We told you that. But you didn’t listen. You wouldn’t believe it. Not enough of you, anyway. The faithful fundamentalists believed, and for that they are blessed, but they were not enough. And so the Antichrist's mantle was passed to Saddam Hussein.  But, again, you would not believe us or our books.

The world was not frightened enough.

You laughed when we told you about that supercomputer in Brussels known as ‘the Beast.’ You laughed when we said that the internet was the 666 mark of the beast.

The world did not take our threats seriously.

But we mean business. There will be no more screwing around. No more paper dragons. The world will end. And soon. The End is near - this time we mean it.

Still Holding On

Still Holding On by Jeff Carter on

Psalm 37 During Divided Times

One of the lectionary readings for Sunday yesterday (October 2) was Psalm 37: 1 – 9:

Do not fret because of the wicked;
    do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
    and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
    and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
    do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
    over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
    Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (New Revised Standard Version)

Which strikes me as pretty good advice for life in general – but seems especially apropos for those of us living in divided and polarized times.

Do not fret because of the wicked - no matter what we may think of our opponents (politically, theologically, etc.) we are encouraged to without fret and worry. The faithful will see the wicked and wrongdoers brown and dry up like the grass and leaves in November. “Soon” may be subjective, but even so there’s the hope of justice and the universe brought round to right. The arc of the moral universe is long, and what not, but it does bend toward justice.

Trust in the Lord and do good – no matter what we may think of our opponents (politically, theologically, etc.) we can still do good; we can still be agents of righteousness. Whoever wins the election, we can still do good. We can (and will) serve the helpless and help the hopeless.

He will make your vindication - no matter what we may think of our opponents (politically, theologically, etc.) there’s no need for dirty tricks, for demonization, for slander, for lies. If our cause is just, if we are agents of the good, then God will vindicate us and our work. The ends do not justify the means; ugly behavior – even for a beautiful cause - only sullies us. Let God and the goodness of our work be its own vindication.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath – no matter what we may think of our opponents (politically, theologically, etc.) no matter who wins the election, anger and wrath only cloud our minds and our hearts. Those who vote for “the other guy” will still be our neighbors and brothers, our co-workers and daughters and we will still have to live with them after the election. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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