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Friday, March 31, 2017

Creation Not Exactly Ex Nihilo

I once set out to create the universe in my backyard. Tonight I tried again in the dining room.

Let there Be Light by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord

Out of the Depths I Cry to You, O Lord by Jeff Carter on

Psalm 130: 1

Image created with aluminum foil, cellophane, and a blue cloth napkin.

Strange Dreams II

I've had this dream before.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Guards at the Door

Terra Cotta Guards by Jeff Carter on

Assimilated into the Holy City

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you something.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the Holy City Jerusalem coming down out of interstellar space.

The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city.  The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; its length and width and height are also equal. A perfect cube capable of both warp and transwarp velocities.

And the city was surrounded by a subspace field, an adaptive and regenerating force shield that none could penetrate. The city was armed with both beam and projectile weaponry, cutting beams and magnetometric guided charges, missiles and tractor beams.

The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it and assimilated. But nothing unclean will be assimilated.

(Revelation 21 + Star Trek)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Strange Dreams

Strange Dreams by Jeff Carter on

It's a detail of the painting, Jacob and Rachel at the Well by an unknown 16th century Italian artist.

Biblical Limericks: Vale of Bones

Now the prophet was educated
in the Vale of Bones Desiccated -
where the bones assembled
and in the wind trembled
until they were resuscitated.

Ezekiel 37

Monday, March 27, 2017

Background Images for Everyone - 2017 - Week 14

Here it is. I know you've been waiting. It's this weeks' free background image - free for you (or someone like you) to download and use as your very own. Use it at home, at work, school, church, or wherever you find yourself. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others you found it here.

The photo this week was taken during my recent trip to Washington D.C. at the National Cathedral.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Busy Final Day

On our last day in the nation's capitol, we visited the National Museum of African Art, the Sackler Art Gallery, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Library of Congress (I got my library card at the Library of Congress. I bet that you're all jealous) and the National Botanical Gardens. Busy day.  We leave for home early tomorrow morning.

Capitol Building by Jeff Carter on

The Family in D.C.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Evensong and Darth Vader at the National Cathedral

We visited the National Cathedral today. I am somewhat ambivalent about the "National" Cathedral. I worry that any church that ties itself to the state is compromised. The Church (with a capital C) does not belong to any nation. I did, however, appreciate that the tour guides and service leaders affirmed to the folks visiting that "this is your cathedral."

We took the tour, visited the gift shop (where I bought a book of poems based on the gargoyles and grotesques of the cathedral (one of which is Darth Vader)). Then we stayed for the Evensong service by the choir.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Background Images for Everyone - 2017 - Week 13

It's a bit later than usual, but I hope that I can be forgiven as I am on vacation with my family. Here is this week's free background image. Use it wisely, share it freely.

And for those of you who like to know - this photograph was taken at the National Museum of American Indians - the coolest of the Smithsonian buildings.

Enshrined Forever

The Carter family (at least my small branch of it) is on vacation this week in Washington D.C. This morning we visited the Air and Space Museum. After lunch we went to the National Museum of the American Indian. (I was very impressed by the exhibit of photographs by Horace Poolaw: For a Love of His People

In the late afternoon we stopped by the Lincoln Memorial.

Abraham Lincoln by Jeff Carter on

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Biblical Limericks: The Saddest of All Scriptures

For whatever it maybe be worth -
the saddest of all scriptures on earth
speaks of the young mother
who can do naught other
but to hide and eat her afterbirth.

Deuteronomy 28: 56 – 57

Natural History and Congress

Our family is on vacation in Washington D.C. This morning we visited the Natural History Museum, and this afternoon we toured the Capitol Building (and had a chance to meet our Representative, Dave Loebsack).

Natural History Elephant by Jeff Carter on

Capital Building by Jeff Carter on

Capital Building by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pentagon City

It's the underground Metro station at Pentagon City.

Pentagon City by Jeff Carter on

Pentagon City by Jeff Carter on

Monday, March 20, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Psalm 24 in a Capitalist Economy

The earth is the LORD’s – from sky to seas,
the soil, the land, the grass and trees -
all except what is owned,
and for profit rezoned
by multinational companies.

Psalm 24:1 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rufus on the Angle

Rufus on the Angle by Jeff Carter on

God Stands before Us in the Wilderness (A Sermon)

Exodus 17: 1 – 7
Psalm 95

We said last week that Lent is a dangerous journey. It is a pilgrim’s journey through wild and wasted places (Psalm 121), across rugged terrain, up and down steep slopes, under the sweltering sun and the poisonous moon, through thirsty, arid lands where there is no water, surrounded by wild animals, thieves and demons and foul spirits of every kind. And yet the guardian of Israel is there for the pilgrim, to help and to protect, to preserve. “Yahweh guards your comings and goings henceforth and forever.” (Psalm 121: 8 New Jerusalem Bible)

In our text this week, we continue that dangerous journey theme.

The people of Israel, having left the slavery of Egypt, head into the wild and wasted place – three month journey from Egypt to Sinai, through the wilderness of Sin (location unknown.)

This is not “sin,” – the violation of God’s will or command, but the Wilderness of Sin, one of the seven wildernesses crossed by Moses and the Israelites (Shur – Exodus 15: 22 -23, Etham - Numbers 33:6-8, Sin – Exodus 16: 1, Sinai – Exodus 19: 1 - 2, Paran – Numbers 10: 12, Zin – Numbers 27:14, and Kadesh – Psalm 29:8) The name “Sin” here may refer to the Mesopotamian moon god “Sin,” or – perhaps more probably – to an Egyptian border fortress in the Nile Delta, Pelusium, also named “Sin” in Ezekiel 30:15 (KJV). (Seely 47)

In the course of this three month journey so far, the people of Israel have been pursued by the chariots and armies of Egypt and been protected from those foes. They’ve crossed parched, dry deserts where the only water they could find was bitter, brackish water – and the bitter water had been made sweet and fresh for them.  They’ve stared down the face of starvation – and been fed with quail and miraculous manna (just don’t ask ‘what is it?’ you might not like the answer). It has been a difficult journey, an arduous journey and they’ve not yet arrived at their destination.

Now at Rephidim (location unknown) they are thirsty again – they, their children, and their cattle with them are so very thirsty. And why not? The desert is a thirsty place. And so the people – the whole congregation of them – “find fault” with Moses, “took issue” with Moses (Exodus 17: 2 RSV and NJB).  “Why did you bring us out of Egypt – to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?” (17:3)

Maybe that is a fair question. Moses was leading them, and one of the demands of leadership is demonstrable results. Moses had promised to lead them to a land of milk and honey (Exodus 3: 17), maybe that’s started to sound to the Israelites like so many empty political promises. They were thirsty and cried for water - ‘demonstrate the effectiveness of your plan or we’ll find a new leader,’ seems to be the unspoken subtext of this demand. But before we criticize the Israelite people too harshly we should remember 1- they were thirsty in the desert, a situation that if not remedied can quickly lead to death, and 2- our American system of government is pretty much based on this demand of leadership – prove your promises or we’ll elect someone else…

But, then again, maybe it is not a fair question. Moses has not failed them in this journey so far. They’ve faced several seemingly impossible obstacles and each time they have endured, they’ve survived. Maybe it is not fair that they quarrel with Moses here. Maybe his record so far should have earned him some trust.

And further, the way this story is presented by the author / editors of Exodus, a complaint against Moses is not merely a complaint against Moses the man, but also against Yahweh God who has appointed Moses (though this detail isn’t mentioned until the very final verse of the story). Their complaint isn’t just: ‘Hey! We’re thirsty!’ it is: ‘Hey!’ We’re thirsty! Is Yahweh with us or what?!’

And Moses cries out in fear, “they’re ready to stone me!” (17:4)

I wonder if his fear was legitimate or, perhaps, if it was over exaggerated somewhat, embellished in order to provoke God to action, if not for Israel’s benefit, then for his. (There were occasions also when Moses would have preferred to die than to lead the people of Israel any more – Numbers 11: 15).

And speaking of Moses’ fear that the Israelite people were ready to kill him, I make a slight wilderness wandering within this wilderness sermon. The Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud wrote a book in 1939 entitled Moses and Monotheism, in which he described how the Israelite people rebelled against, and then killed Moses and replaced him with a new leader. Freud went on to say that the guilt for this vaticide (the killing of a prophet) caused them to long for the coming of “one like Moses,” a messiah to rescue them from their sin and guilt.

Very few (if any) take this theory seriously.

But in response to the people’s complaints (We’re thirsty!) and Moses’ fear (They’re going to kill me!) Yahweh God “stands before” Moses on rock at Rephidim and says ‘Swing away, boy. Hit that rock.’ Moses does, and water comes gushing out, sweet, fresh water to slake their thirst and stop their murmuring and complaints. Moses names the place “The Spring of Trial and Contention” or “The Spring of Testing and Strife” because of the people’s sour attitude and fault finding.

Now the author / editors of this story in Exodus seem to want us to understand that God (and God’s agent) cannot be, should not be doubted, that God is not to be tested, that God’s reliability is not something that needs to be proved or established. (Hamilton Handbook 185)

And maybe that’s true; the psalmist we read last week (Psalm 121) was equally confident that the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (121:4) but remember the other psalms that we mentioned calling for God to wake up and do something: “Wake, Lord! Why are you asleep? Awake! Do not abandon us for good.” (Psalm 44: 23 NJB) “Up, awake, to my defense, my God and my Lord, to my cause!” (Psalm 35:23) There certainly are times when it feels like God is asleep and his anointed agents have lead us awry.

It is also interesting to see Yahweh God “standing before Moses” in this story. It’s a very anthropomorphic idea: God walking and talking and standing among the people (though a question arises here - could Moses and the elders of Israel present for this event actually see Yahweh God standing before them on the rock?)  And to “stand before” had a particular connotation in Hebrew thought, one that wasn’t always acceptable to the faithful when it was applied to God.

To “stand before” someone implies service, homage, a state of inferiority. It also indicates worship. (Hamilton Genesis 23) That is why the Masorites who copied and edited the Jewish scriptures between the 7th and 10th centuries altered a verse in Genesis.  Genesis 18: 22 in the Masoretic Text (which is widely used as the basis for the Old Testament in Protestant bibles) says that “the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.” (NRSV) but there is a footnote to explain that in an earlier scribal tradition the verse says that it was the LORD who remained standing before Abraham.

There are several of these scribal corrections, emendations made by the Masorites – to remove unseemly expressions, and to protect the dignity of God. Perhaps the Masorite scribes were uncomfortable with the idea of Yahweh God, the creator of the heavens and the earth “standing before” Abraham, and so made a change, reversing their positions, leaving Abraham to stand before God instead of the other way around. (Hamilton Genesis 24)

And yet the phrase remains here in Exodus 17. (Did the Masorites miss this one?) Yahweh God, creator of the heavens and the earth, the Guardian of Israel, “stands before” Moses and the assembled elders of Israel and makes himself vulnerable to them – risking physical injury if Moses’ swing goes wild, perhaps? (Hamilton Handbook 188) But even if we don’t go so far as to suggest that Moses could have clobbered God in the head with his staff, God still made himself vulnerable to his people. He heard their complaints, he heard their desperation and frustration and fear and anger and vexation and -

and he stood before them on the rock at Rephidim to give them what they needed, to give them water in a place of dryness, to give them life in a place of death, to give them peace in a place of anxiety and intimacy in a place of dissent.

You see, as a symbol the wilderness is an ambiguous, ambivalent place. It is not only a wild and wasted place, the haunt of jackals and demons, of fiery serpents and scorpions, underneath an oppressive sun and a baleful moon; the wilderness is also a place of enlightenment and vision and intimacy with God. The wilderness is a powerful place. To enter the desert, one must leave behind the security of settlement and venture into a region of physical and spiritual danger. The wilderness is a liminal place, the borderland between here and there, a “thin place” between the physical and the spiritual. (Blenkinsopp 161)

For the prophet Jeremiah, the wilderness was where Israel and Yahweh God shared their most intimate time together:

‘Yahweh says this:
“I remember your faithful love,
the affection of your bridal days,
when you followed me through the desert,
through a land unsown.”’ (Jeremiah 2: 2 NJB)

The Qumran community went out into the wilderness near the Dead Sea in order to find a renewed intimacy with God. Christian monks went into caves and wild places to experience that intimacy with God that comes with getting away from the rest of the world. Jesus himself was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and after his confrontation with the Tempter was comforted by the angels of God. (Mark 1:12 -13) The desert is a visionary place, a refining place, a place of innocence and intimacy with God.

And here, at the rock of Rephidim, in the Wilderness of Sin, Yahweh God – the creator of the heavens and the Earth, the Guardian of Israel, “stands before” Moses and the people – makes himself vulnerable to their distress and their anxiety. He makes himself vulnerable to their testing and strife. He condescends to their weakness.

This is the point of Jesus’ incarnation – that God is willing to come down and “stand before” us in our weakness. He lowers himself, humbles himself – even to the point of death (Philippians 2: 8) so that we might live.

We are in the middle of our Lenten journey, a journey through the wilderness of sin and death. We are in a dry and weary land, thirsting for comfort and relief. We are in the place of death, under an oppressive sun, beneath a malicious moon – but we are journeying towards the land of milk and honey, the promised land of life, and life to the fullest, life everlasting. And, what is more, we are not making this journey alone. The Guardian of Israel stands before us, stands with us, goes with us. He gives us our spiritual food and our spiritual drink from the spiritual rock that follows – which is Christ himself (1 Corinthians 10:4)

We are in the desert place, making a dangerous journey through life, surrounded by death, but we are not dismayed, for God is with us. We will not give in to our fears and our desperation. We will not let our thirst overwhelm us. We will not harden our hearts as at Meribah. We will listen to his voice. (Psalm 95: 8 – 9) We will follow him through the wild place of death to the land of rest and resurrection.


Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. New York, NY: Doubleday. 1992. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. Knopf. 1939. Print.

Hamilton Victor P. The Book of Genesis Chapter 18 – 50.Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1995. Print. 

Hamilton Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 1982. Print.

Seely, David R. “Sin, Wilderness of.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume VI. New York, NY: Doubleday. 1992. Print.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Background Images for Everyone - Week 12 - 2017

I very nearly forgot to share the background image for this week. Sorry.  Here it is - better late than not at all, I suppose.

It's free to you and to yours. Use it as your very own. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

(If you're interested to know such things - I photographed this image by shooting through a red glass bowl towards the setting sun.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Like a Rolling Stone

Rephidim’s rock, so it is written,
followed Israel like a lost kitten -
the rock, as would behove
did pursue out of love
for by Moses it had been smitten.

This one is a little complicated to explain but here goes:

In Exodus 17: 1 – 7 the Israelites are somewhere near Rephidim which is near Mt. Horeb.  They’re thirsty, they complain, God tells Moses to strike the rock there with his staff, and they have water. And Moses names the place, “Meribah.”

Later, after receiving the torah, they leave that place and head to Kadesh (Numbers 20:1–14) where again they are thirsty and complain that they need water. Moses strikes the rock again (a no-no this time) and they have water. And again Moses names the place “Meribah”

This might be an example of one traditional story being told in two different ways, but the Jewish rabbis had a legend that since the rock is named “Meribah” in both places, that it was the same rock and that the rock actually followed the people of Israel from Rephidim to Kadesh.

“And so the well, which was with Israel in the desert, looked like a rock with the size of a sieve, surging and gurgling upward, as from the mouth of this flask, rising with them up on to the mountains and going down with them into the valleys.

“Wherever the Israelites would encamp, it made camp opposite to them, opposite to the Tent of Meeting.”
 Tosefta  Sukkah 3:11

The Apostle Paul apparently knew of this legendary tradition. He draws from the story of the “rolling stone” in his letter to the church at Corinth: “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10: 4 NRSV)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Biblical Limericks: That’s What You Call an Anachronism

Israel in Sin was hungry, you bet.
So God fed them with manna, no sweat.
This event they did mark,
putting some in the Ark;
only problem: there weren’t no Ark yet.

Exodus 16: 33 – 34 / Exodus 37

Biblical Limericks: Moses the Dowser

Moses was a bit of a wowzer,
and before you object, note how sir:
he swung his wooden rod,
as instructed by God,
and struck the rock just like a dowser.

Exodus 17: 6

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Glow of an Invisible Candle

The Glow of an Invisible Candle by Jeff Carter on

If You Want Healthcare then You’ll Have to Save – A New Hymn

I was thumbing through one of my collected hymnals, playing through songs familiar and not, when I came across one I haven’t sung in a long time - which is too bad, because it’s a decent little hymn. “Rescue the Perishing” words by Fanny Crosby / music by William Howard Doane.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying.
Jesus is merciful; Jesus will save.

But as I was singing this song, I realized that American Evangelical Christians are going to have a difficult time singing this song, at least as it’s written. We’ll resist, saying that this song is about spiritual salvation. And yes, that is true. But it is not merely about the rescuing the dying soul. How can we snatch them from the grave, if we are not concerned for their physical health? We’ve traded our tradition of social justice and our Christian mandate to empathy and love for a selfish economy.

I think we’ve traded the words of scripture for the advice that philosopher John Locke gave to one of his friends:

“…you should feel nothing at all of others’ misfortunes…”

So I’ve rewritten Fanny’s song, and I hope that she’ll forgive me.

Listen America, people are dying,
but the rich and the well should not be enslaved.
The sick and the poor, they’re all just lazy;
if you want healthcare then you’ll have to save.

Don’t buy a new cell phone, get another job;
if you want healthcare then you’ll have to save.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What I’m Reading; Babylon Rising

I had it with me the other day as I sat in the doctor’s office for an appointment, reading as I waited for my turn to see the physician. He knocked on the door, and then entered the room and, seeing the book, he asked, “What’s on the reading list today?”  I always have a book with me as I wait, and he usually asks.

“It’s a junk novel,” I told him.


“I read junk novels now and again to remind myself what bad writing looks like.”  He chuckled and then proceeded with the doctor stuff.

The junk novel in question was Babylon Rising the first book of Tim LaHaye’s “Babylon Rising” series (written with Greg Dinallo), a sort of prequel series to his expansive series of Left Behind novels – also junk novels.

The “Babylon Rising” series never garnered the reputation or fan base of the Left Behind novels.  I couldn’t say why. They’re written in the same style, with same flat characterization, the same incredible plot lines filled with the same stupefying and ridiculous plot failures. It’s fast paced and filled with cliff hangers, but not at all believable.

The series follows one Dr. Michael Murphy – who is one part Indiana Jones and one part evangelical minister; he is a “Biblical Archaeologist” who chases around the world looking for archaeological artifacts and lecturing a class of college students to prove the truth of the Bible. “It’s not just digging up artifacts and finding out where they came from. That’s what regular archaeologists do. It’s about proving the truth of the Bible” (LaHaye 161).

But what happens in this series of junk novels is not archaeology, is not academics, and is barely Christian. To summarize:

An allegedly ancient scroll, without provenance is given to Dr. Murphy by an anonymous and suspicious ‘benefactor.’ Murphy assumes, without testing, - based only on the word of this ‘benefactor’ that the scroll was written during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar – the Chaldean king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The scroll describes a bronze serpent, and we’re off and running. “We’re definitely dealing with the Biblical Brazen Serpent” (98).

Apparently the bronze serpent fashioned by Moses, and broken by King Hezekiah, was preserved and eventually stolen away to Babylon by the Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The three pieces were then scattered and hidden in various parts of the Babylonian Empire. And it’s up to Murphy to find them.

First he’s off to a place described as the “Horns of the Ox” which was a “prominent landmark reasonably close to the old Babylon” (98). But LaHaye tells us that this landmark is in “Samaria.”

Samaria, in Biblical times, was the central region of Israel bounded by the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel Ridge, the Sharon Plain, and the Jerusalem mountains. In recent years the term “Samaria” has been used by Israeli officials to refer to the northern portion of the West Bank, but that term is not recognized by the Palestinian Authority or the international community. But neither of these "Samaria"s is reasonably close to the old Babylon. No other place names or cities are given to identify this place.

Murphy uses his connections with a shady, semi-retired Mossad agent to sneak into “Samaria”with “no hassles with officials or customs”(109). He wants to get in and out with ancient treasures without interference from the government.

While in “Samaria” looking for the “Horns of the Ox” he literally falls into a room full of hundreds of  amphoras, one of which happens to contain the tail section of the Brazen Serpent. “Moses made this,” he says, without any examination, dating, or testing. “Moses actually held this in his hands” (137).  Murphy takes it home with him to show it off to his students.

Meanwhile, the immensely wealthy CEO Shane Barrington, acting as a stooge for a mysterious cabal of international figures known as “the Seven” tasks one of the reporters working for a news agency he owns to investigating and making an exposé of a dangerous, fanatical, terrorist group – Evangelical Christians. (151)

Other agents of “the Seven” paint the phrase “J 3 16”  across eight floors of the exterior of the United Nations building – in broad daylight – in blood! (and no one notices this until the floodlights are turned on that evening) and to plant explosives in the North Carolina church where Murphy and his wife are members.

Murphy, along with his colleague, Dr. Isis McDonald, a philologist whose basement laboratory Murphy compares to the Maze of Forgetting in “Annacherib’s Pyramid,” (293) (Uh…. Perhaps Dr. Murphy meant Sennacherib, they Assyrian king?), use the first piece of the Brazen Serpent to lead them to the second – hidden in Saudi Arabia.

They travel (without having to get visas or permission or anything) to the (fictional) city of Tar-Qasir, famous for its medieval underground sewers. There, in the medieval sewers they discover a cult chanting in “a dialect of Terammasic,”(a (fictional) language that has been dead for over 1,000 years, but in which Dr. McDonald is conversant) (334) preparing a human sacrifice. Murphy and McDonald chase off the cultists and take the second piece of the serpent.

Which in turn leads them to the third and final piece hidden away in a pyramid in Egypt. They race to Egypt to retrieve it. (Meanwhile the first piece, the tail, is stolen from Dr. McDonald’s lab by an agent of “the Seven.”) Murphy and McDonald find the final piece of the bronze serpent, but before they can do more than take a few photos of it, it is stolen from them by the agent of “the Seven.”

But using those photos they are led to Iraq, to the temple of Marduk where, with help from a U.S. Marine Colonel and a troop of American grunts, uncover an ancient door, and behind that door – the Golden Head of Nebuchadnezzar’s giant golden statue.

Murphy and McDonald bring the golden head back to the United States. (389) THE END.

Nothing more is said of the bronze serpent. And nothing in the following novels is said of the golden head. No tests, no study, no examination. No ramifications, no meaning.

As I said: this is not archaeology. This is not academics. And it’s barely Christian.

LaHaye, Tim and Greg Dinallo. Babylon Rising. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 2003. Print. 

Living with the Samwells

Honestly, I don’t know how we survived growing up in that neighborhood, on that street. Looking back at it now, I can’t believe that we accepted it as normal, as inevitable, as right. George Samwell and his family were a danger, a menace.

George Samwell and his wife, Martha, and their many children lived down the street from us, in one of the larger houses in the neighborhood. Grandmother said that she remembered playing with the children of another family that lived there before the Samwells. I asked Grandmother what happened to them, where they moved, but Grandmother didn’t say. She just got very quiet and told me to leave her alone for a while. I think she was crying.

The Samwell kids used to run around the yard, and up and down the street, shooting at each other with their guns – actual guns. They shot out windows and mailboxes, even shot each other occasionally. Sam just stood there, arms akimbo, chuckling. “What can you do?” he said. “It’s not like you can take away their guns.”

We were never able to prove it, and even if we could have, would we have said anything? We could never prove it, but I’m sure it was one of the Samwell kids who climbed over our fence one night, and killed our dog. They shot him.

George Samwell came into our house once, while we were sitting down to dinner. “Whataya’ eatin’?” he asked. “What is that? Lettuce?”

“Kale” my mother answered.

“I don’t like Kale. Don’t buy that no more. I like beef.” He opened our refrigerator and poked around its contents. “You should buy beef,” he said as he closed the fridge. “Be sure that you do.”

The worst thing though, the thing that really should have tipped the scales - the man had a howitzer in his back yard. A goddamn howitzer cannon in his back yard. He stood out there on summer afternoons, wearing flip-flops and swim trunks, polishing and waxing his big gun. “It’s for self-defense,” he chortled as he drank a beer and patted his cannon. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Background Images for Everyone - Week 11 - 2017

If you need background images for presentations, projects, or whatever - you are in luck. This is for you, a new, free background image to download and use as your very own each week. I only ask two things: 1) that you share it freely and 2) that you tell others you found it here.

If you're one who likes to know the how and what - this image is a close up photograph of an empty olive oil bottle.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Children of a Lesser Apocrypha

I woke up, eventually, in a hospital with hoses pumping fluids into me and tubes spilling fluids out of me, a respirator forcing air in and out of my lungs and an entire Radio Shack worth of sensors and wires taped to my head, chest, arms, fingers, spine… There were machines of various sorts softly whirring, and pinging, and hissing, performing a sort of biomechanical fugue. Bach for the sleeping Aesculapian.

The newsscreen mounted on the wall opposite me was running a story about a computer programmer from NASA named John Corvino who’d been missing since 1999. He’d become frightened by his calculations. Corvino predicted that the Comet C/1999 H1 (Lee) – a wild, non-periodic comet - would impact upon the Earth’s surface. “It’s erratic!” He shouted at his coworkers. “It’s a lawless rock,” he said.

He told anyone and everyone who would listen about how Comet C/1999 H1 (Lee) would strike in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, creating massive tidal waves, tsunami over 200 feet high. But unable to convince anyone to take action, Corvino left his job, and left his family, and ran to the hills. Or, more accurately, ran beneath the hills. He took a tent, bedroll, camping supplies, dried food, and over a dozen handguns and rifles down into a cave in southern Ohio. And he’d been there since 1999.

He emerged from his apocalyptic hidey-hole, bearded and blinded, believing that he was the sole survivor of a catastrophic event. When he saw that the world had gone on without him, that Comet C/1999 H1 (Lee) had not struck the Earth, had not even come close to the Earth (not even close by cosmic standards) he took his guns and retreated back down into his cave.

My recovery roommate laughed and laughed at the story. He howled with laughter until the nurses came and gave him a powerful sedative. He told me later that while he had been in the hospital for a CAT scan of his brain, he’d lost all of his psychic abilities. Before entering the hospital he had been able to read people’s auras and see a few hours into the future. He told me that he’d also once hypnotized a jaguar. But after the scan, those abilities were completely suppressed. He was planning to sue the hospital, the doctor and the technicians who’d operated the CAT scan machine. His lawyer told him that he had a solid case.

The last thing he said to me before he left the hospital was: “We are lost and occasionally found, found shining among the stars.” Then he leaned close to me and whispered, “We are children of a lesser apocrypha.” Then he popped his knuckles and laughed and laughed. He laughed all the way out the door.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Beauty and The Beast – Unhappy Ending

“I don’t know. I just don’t know,” Belle said to the enchanted furniture and invisible servants who surrounded her. “The Beast has asked me to marry him every night for a month. But I just don’t know what to do. I miss my father and my sisters. And, while I appreciate the gifts and fine clothes that The Beast has given me and all the kindness you all have shown me while I’ve been here in The Beast’s castle, I’m not sure that I love him. I’m not sure that I can marry him.”

There were gasps and whimpers and sobs from the various servants, for they were quite distressed.
“But you must. You must love him. You must marry him, or else the curse will never be broken and we will be trapped in these forms forever, the curse will never be broken and The Beast will be a brute forever.”

Belle pondered these words very carefully. And then came to a decision.

The following evening, at dinner, as she and The Beast ate their meal surrounded by the enchanted furniture and invisible servants who were all anxious for her response, Belle said, “Beast. You have asked me every night for the past month to marry you. And every night I have said no. But if you ask me again, I will say yes.”

The Beast’s eyes grew wide in amazement. He stood from his chair, walked around the table to where Belle was seated, knelt down beside her and took her dainty hand into his massive paw. “Belle,” he said with a trembling voice. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes, Beast,” she said. “I will.”

A cheer went up from the enchanted furniture and invisible servants surrounding them in the great hall. The Beast swept Belle up in his arms and spun her around and around in dizzying joy. Then, slowly, the cheers subsided, and the Beast set Belle upon her feet again.

 “What’s happening?” The Beast grumbled to his butler, the clock. “Why am I still trapped in this monstrous form?”

“Sire. She must love you. She must say the words. And she must say them quickly. Our time is almost up,” he said – for in order for the curse to be broken she had to say them before midnight. And the hour was near. “Madam,” the clock butler said to Belle, “You must love The Beast. You must declare your love for him or the curse cannot be broken.”

Surprised by this took a hesitant step backwards.

“Madam, please!” the clock butler pleaded. “You must. It all depends on you. You must. Please…”

Belle, nodded and said, “Beast. I … I … “

“Please, madam. Say it. Midnight is upon us.” The servants shrieked.

Belle spoke again, quickly now. “Beast I love you.”

The Beast and all his enchanted and transfigured servants sighed and waited for the transformation to begin. But nothing happened. The clock butler was still a clock. The door mat door man was still a door mat. The Beast was still a beast.

And he roared and howled. The entire castle shuddered at his growls. Just then the enchantress who had placed the curse upon The Beast so many years before appeared in the great hall.

“Why am I still a monster?” The Beast shouted. “She has agreed to marry me. She has said that she loves me. Why am I still a beast?”

“Because,” the enchantress explained. “She does not feel love for you. She is frightened that you will hurt her, and pressured by guilt if she fails to help your servants. But she does not love you. The curse will remain.”  Then the enchantress disappeared from the great hall as simply as she had appeared.

“This is all your fault,” The Beast snarled as he turned toward the quivering Belle. “This is all your fault,” he growled. And then he charged across the room with his claws extended and his mouth of sharpened fangs open and devoured Belle in a bloody rage.

The End. 

She's a Good Sport

I set out last night to try another photographic experiment, tying out a technique I hadn't used before. It didn't work - at least it didn't work as well, or quite the way I wanted it to, so I scrapped that project and made this photograph of my daughter instead.  She's a good sport.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Prism Afternoon

A photograph (actually 3 photographs) processed a bit using this technique.

Prism Afternoon by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dr. Cornel West on Reconciliation at The Salvation Army

Dr. Cornel West recently spoke at a Salvation Army conference for young adults. This is a video of his address:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fire / Not Fire

Fire / Not Fire by Jeff Carter on

Is not Will Be

I am sometimes accused of being too idealistic. This surprises me because I worry about being overly cynical. (I tell people that I’m not as cynical as I could be, but I’m trying.) I worry that my cynicism is overtaking my idealism.

I’m told that socialism might work in an ideal world, but…

I’m told that pacifism might sound like a good idea, but in the “real world” things don’t work that way…

I’m told that my ideas might work someday, after Jesus returns…

But still (at least for now) I believe, or I want to believe. I believe because Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is…, not the Kingdom of Heaven will be. The kingdom of Heaven “has come near” (Matthew 3:2). In his sermons and parables he told the people what the Kingdom of Heaven IS like – now, not the Kingdom of Heaven will be maybe, someday, perhaps… but IS, and is now.

When people tell me that “the world is what it is” or accuse me of being to idealistic and not living in the “real world,” I want to ask them if perhaps they are living in the wrong world. 
Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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