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Friday, December 31, 2010

Art for the Last Day of the Year

I closed up 2010 with a bit of culture. My dad (baldy at the left) brother (not seen), and sister in law (at the right) went to the Art Institute of Chicago.   (That's me in the center, by the way.)

We saw many of my favorite works by some of my favorite artists.  I enjoyed just about everything (though I do think that some of the the European Decorative Arts exhibit starts to look like a display from the Renaissance Bed Bath and Beyond. 

My dad seemed increasingly frustrated as we moved through the modern art exhibits.  "I can't believe they'd waste space on this," was a frequent comment. He didn't like Pollock or DeKooning.  He didn't like Balthus or Magritte. 

He did ask about the Chagall and Dali paintings - since he knows that those are among my favorites.  He was trying, I suppose.  I tired to help by telling him things I knew about the various artists and the techniques they used and he seemed a little more interested... but not much. "A four year old could paint that," he muttered.

Ah well... what can you do?

I enjoyed it. My brother enjoyed it.  My sister in law would have enjoyed it except for the headache she developed through the afternoon. 

You can see me carrying my sketch pad in the photo above.  Here's a video my brother filmed over my shoulder as I sketched a sculpture by Henry Moore.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Foggy Trees

My son helped me manipulate this one in Photoshop.  He likes the way it turned out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

For our Christmas vacation we drove down from a little town in south-western Minnesota to the crowded city of Chicago to visit my family (parents, brothers, sisters in law, and aunt). The drive through most of Minnesota was through a thick white fog hanging heavy over snow encrusted tree branches.  It was a beautiful drive (at least until Wisconsin....)

I snapped this photo through the window of the van as we drove. It has, of course, been fixed up a little bit with Photoshop...

We've spent the first couple of days of our break playing games - Risk, Zombies!!, Quiddler, Catchphrase, etc...  The girls have gone shopping (of course).  And I think that today we're going to go to one of the Museums. Our son is hoping we'll go to the Field Museum.  He likes the dinosaurs. 

Hope you're enjoying whatever free time you have during this week.  Happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Books

This year I was given a couple of Barnes and Nobel gift certificates for Christmas.  I can't think of a better gift.  I live by Desiderius Erasmus' quote "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

Last night I placed my order and have already received confirmation that, at least some of, my books are already on their way.  They probably won't make it here by Christmas, but that's okay.  I'll have plenty to read in the new year.

Here's my list:

The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (And Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) - by Thom Stark   (thanks to my friend Stephen Douglas at Undeception for this recommendation.)

What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity - by N.T. Wright

Early Narrative Christology  - by Rowe Kavin

Preaching Mark's Unsettling Messiah - by David Fleer

                      and for some fiction:

Tuck (Volume Three of the King Raven Trilogy) - by Stephen Lawhead

That should keep me busy...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Silver Moon is Lost

When Silver Moon is Lost

When silver moon is lost
and midnight stars are dimmed
by falling snow
by blizzard wind
and heavy winter frost

we will remember this:
that the sun will return.
The night will pass;
the dawn will come
with light and warmth for Christmas.

I'm not one for sending out Christmas cards, and I usually have only scorn for anything that smells even remotely of hallmark sentimentalism but you can, if you like, consider this my Christmas card to you, my blog reader and my friend.

Merry Christmas, move along!

Like a Bird on a Napkin

I've been spending a lot of time at the grocery store recently - not shopping, but playing my horn at the kettle stand, raising money for the Salvation Army here in Fairmont, Minnesota.

Every so often I step inside to warm up.  Last week as I sat down and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee, I looked out the window and saw about twenty of these little birds perched on a row of grocery carts.  They were enjoying the last of the afternoon sun's warmth.

I drew a quick sketch of one of them on a napkin before they all flew away.

There's still time, of course, to donate to the Salvation Army. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Snowing Again

If you don't want to go outside in the snow and wind and cold, you can still make a donation to the Salvation Army from right where you are using this handy-dandy online red kettle.  You can donate to the Salvation Army of Fairmont, or to your own local unit. 
Thanks for thinking of us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Me and the trees, loosing our leaves
falling like blood on the cross
I want to be evergreen.

Everything dies, I know last night
part of me wasn't around
I want to be evergreen.

Holiday end, I'm here once again
and I'm left alone on the bus with my
head on the ground,
in hopes that I'm found by you
this time around.
lyrics from Evergreen by Switchfoot

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Wonder

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
To save lonely people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
To save lonely people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Though there is only a week of bell ringing left, you still have plenty of time to make a donation. But why wait?  You can do it right now without having to brave the wind and cold.  You can use this handy-dandy online kettle to donate to The Salvation Army of Martin County Minnesota (or your own local unit).  Thank you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jesus Christ s'Habille en Pauvre

Winter Cold (abstract)
 I've been reading and singing through a number of older, obscure Christmas carols in recent days, trying to expand my repertoire. Here's one that I've discovered. And though, I haven't yet started to play it, I will add it immediately

Ballade de Jesus-Christ

Jesus came in garment lowly:
"Give to me thy charity."
Jesus came in garment lowly:
"Give to me thy charity.
On the crumbs that leave thy table,
I shall dine most gratefully."

"Lady, standing by your window,
Give to me your charity.
Lady, standing by your window,
Give to me your charity."
"Come in from the cold, my poor one -
I will find a meal for thee."

As he softly stepped o'er the threshold,
round him hovered angels bright.
As he stepped o'er the threshold,
round him hovered angels bright.
"Lady, pray do not be fearful -
it is but the moon's soft light."

It's a traditional French carol  (Jesus Christ s'habille en pauvre) - sung to the haunting minor key tune Picardy.

Would we, with our glut of consumer oriented Christmas traditions recognize this Jesus? Doubtful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Indochinaland - Fun for the Whole Family

I had a strange dream last night.

I dreamt of a oddly inappropriate amusement park:  Indochinaland - a Vietnam War themed park with rides and attractions for the whole family.

You could ride the riverboats, watch the napalm demonstrations three times each day, ride the B-66 Destroyer or F105 Thunderchief roller coasters, and Climb to the roof to ride the evacuation helicopter.

Costumed Ho-Chi-Minh and Uncle Sam characters would delight the children with punch-and-judy style shows.

And located adjacent to the park were two smaller parks.  Admission to these parks was included with the ticket to Indochinaland  (Though, technically, you should have bought separate tickets...)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We'll Speak Very Softly on This, Another Snowy Day

Another Snowy Day in my backyard
 I've found a new (to me) Christmas carol.  It's called Falade Ben Baixo (We'll Speak Very Softly).

It's a traditional Galician carol (northwestern Spain - with a language from the same roots as Portuguese).

We'll speak very softly
and lower our voices
before the dear Savior
who Heaven rejoices.
O my beloved,
could I but hold thee,
how great my gladness,
holiest rapture!
How great thy blessing,
falling upon me!

My beloved, my heart's joy,
my beloved, how are you?
From the cold I see you trembling,
and it grieves me through and through;
from the cold I see you trembling
and it grieves me through and through.

Here's a short sample of it - #9

Though of course, it's unlikely that Jesus was born in the cold of winter. If we're to take literally that the shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks then it was probably lambing season - in the spring...
and not in December (which is the rainy season in Israel).

Thank you to those who have contributed to the Salvation Army kettles - especially to those who've donated online via this handy-dandy virtual kettle.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Snowy Night

This is a combination of photos I've taken in recent days.

1) the trees in our back yard

2) snow
3) my dog's back

yep.  That's what gives the picture that texture in the sky, and makes it look a bit like Van Gogh's Starry Night painting.

We're coming to the final days of our annual red kettle / bell ringing fundraising.  If you haven't made a donation to the Salvation Army of Martin Co. Minnesota (or to you own local unit) you can do that right now with this on-line kettle.  Thank you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Snowbound Sunday Morning

We were quite unable to get out of the house this morning for church services. There were huge drifts of snow filling the driveway and the roads were yet unplowed. And even if we had somehow managed to escape the confines of our snowbound home, I think the four members of our family would have been the only ones to make it.

So when the wind finally quit blowing the snow around (or had mostly stopped) I went out with the trusty snowthrower to clear the driveway.

I also spent some time this morning painting, something I haven't had much time to do recently. So that was nice.

It's mid-afternoon now, and the city crews have been out plowing all morning. It looks like we can escape, so I think we're going to head out to visit some nursing homes to share a devotional and a Christmas gift with the residents.

And, though I know you're probably tired of seeing it here in my blog, I am going to repeat my request: If you haven't yet made a donation to support The Salvation Army of Martin Co. Minnesota (or your own local unit) please consider using this handy-dandy virtual kettle. You don't even have to brave the cold wind and snow to do it. Thanks again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

See Amid the Winter's Snow

See, amid the winter's snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption's happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

-From the carol "See, Amid the Winter's Snow" by Edward Caswall .

Please consider making an online donation to The Salvation Army of Martin Co. Minnesota (or to your local unit.) Thank you.

Blizzard Conditions have Killed My Kettles

It's a winter wonderland, I suppose, but it's doing no favors to our fundraising.  Blizzard conditions, ice, snow, and strong winds have pretty much shut us down today.

Since no one is out at the stores (or should be) I suppose it doesn't matter that my volunteers are all staying home. But just because the kettles aren't out, doesn't mean you can't make a donation.

You can use this virtual on-line kettle to make your donation to The Salvation Army of Martin County, MN or to your own local unit (but really, please... send it here, eh?)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Snow Lay on the Ground

The snow lay on the ground,
the star shone bright,
when Christ our Lord
was born on Christmas night.
Venite adoremus Dominum.
Venite adoremus Dominum.

(The Snow Lay on the Ground -trad. Irish/English Carol)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Can See is the End

All I Can See is the End - Download it here.

The Freesound Project is one of my favorite places.

Dropped Spanner -
IntroStartFx -
When Robots Attack -
Organic -
Bounce Seq1 -
House Beat -
Violet Sea -
All I Can See is the End –

This Endris Night

This endris night I saw a sight,
a star as bright as day;
and e'er among a maiden sung,
"Lullay, bye bye, lullay."

This lovely lady sat and sung,
and to her child did say,
"My son, my brother, father dear,
why liest thou in hay?"

The child then spake in his talking,
and to his mother said:
"Yea, I am known as heaven king,
in crib though I be laid."

"For angels bright down to me light,
thou knowest 'tis no nay,
and for that sight thou may'st delight
to sing 'bye bye lullay.'"

This Endris Night is a lullaby carol.  The title means "the other night" or "several nights ago."  The words come from the late Middle Ages.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

This is where I work.

This is where I work.

Two Kings

(Psalm 72 & Matthew 2: 1 – 17)

About seven miles south east of Jerusalem – not far from the birthplace of the prophet Amos who declared, “Let justice stream flow like water ” in the Judean wilderness lay the remains of the Herodium – site of the fortified palace of King Herod the Great who ruled over Judea from 37 – 4 B.C. He wasn’t especially known for letting justice flow.

No. Herod the Great was known as a paranoid evil king. A murderous evil king. “Herod was constantly on guard against threats to his rule from any side and did not hesitate to take vigorous, harsh, and ruthless action to eliminate them. Neither did he shrink from having anyone murdered who might possibly become a personal danger to him as an opponent of his kingship.” *1   He murdered those who got close enough to threaten him – three of his sons, his favorite of his ten wives (when he became convinced that she was stepping out on him), her uncle, her mother, and her brother, as well as his own uncle.

When Herod the Great was laying in his deathbed, on the verge of passing out of this life, the king ordered one last act of depravity. He knew that the people of Judea did not love him, that they did not like him and that they would not mourn his passing. He ordered that all the notables and wealthy people of Judea be rounded up and executed when he finally died so that the country would, indeed, morn his death. The order was, fortunately for the people of Judea, ignored.

The Herodium, now in ruins, was once the fortified palace of the cruel king. It soared 100 feet above the ground and was surrounded by double concentric walls with towers at the four cardinal points. It was a secure place in the desert.

King Herod liked secure places. He built several of them all over the country; he built castles and forts and secure palaces like the Herodium in order to defend the country from foreign invaders and from revolutionary groups within the country. He rebuilt towns that had been destroyed during the Roman invasion, built entire new cities, built one of the largest harbors on the Mediterranean Sea, various temples to Roman gods, theatres, amphitheatres, stadiums for games, amazing sewer systems and aqueducts, and perhaps his grandest project was the restoration of Jewish temple (though he didn’t live to see it completed) which eventually eclipsed the glory of the previous temple built by King Solomon. He lowered taxes several times, and even went so far as to melt down his own gold and silver to purchase grand and food from Egypt to feed the people during a famine in 25 – 24 BC.

But for all that King Herod was still a murderous and evil king. He’s not really remembered for his building projects. He’s not remembered for the magnificent harbor that he built in Caesarea, nor is he remembered for his sewer systems, amphitheatres, or even for his restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. He’s not remembered for the employment and prosperity be brought to the region. He’s remembered for his ruthlessness and cruelty. He’s remembered for torturing his enemies – those he perceived as enemies whether or not they really were enemies. And most of all, King Herod the Great is remembered for one monstrous act of cruelty.

When the magi from the east came following the star that announced the birth of a newborn King of the Jews Herod reacted badly. He ordered the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem and surrounding villages.

One tradition, from Greece, asserts that 14,000 boys were murdered in this campaign against the newborn king of the Jews. Others say 64,000 children were slaughtered, and some Medieval writers claimed as many as 144,000 died. This is, of course, extravagant and unreasonably outrageous. Bethlehem was only a small hamlet of little importance. Few people would have lived there at that time. Perhaps only 200 or so. Modern estimates of the number of innocents killed by Herod range from 6 to 20 boys. But that does not in any way diminish the cruelty of King Herod the Great, the evil genius of the Judean nation. Even one state sponsored murder is one too many.

When the Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the child born that would be the King of the Jews King Herod was furious and afraid. His entire reign had been spent rooting out one conspiracy against his throne after another. He strangled and drowned and poisoned those who threatened him and his seat on the throne of Judea. The murder of a few inconsequential boy children in a minor village wasn’t even a matter of conscience for him.

King Herod had power, great power. He had the power to enact his will. If he wanted a building, he ordered its construction. If he wanted a monument, he gave plans for its design. If he wanted someone dead, they died. Herod was a powerful king, but he was not a good king.

The magi had traveled from the east to find the ideal king who birth had been announced by that strange star that moved across the sky and hovered over a specific house. But what kind of king would that newborn king be?

Psalm 72 describes the ideal king of God.

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,
the son of the king with your own saving justice,
that he may rule your people with justice,
and your poor with fair judgment.

Mountains and hills
bring peace to the people!
With justice he will judge the poor of the people;
he will save the children of the needy
and crush their oppressors.

Psalm 72 was either written by or for King Solomon – the Hebrew preposition is a bit ambiguous and has caused a fair bit of debate… but either way – written by King Solomon or written for King Solomon, Psalm 72 is a prayer that the newly crowned king (whoever he was) would be a king after God’s own heart, an ideal king. Psalm 72 is a prayer that the new king would rule in the justice and righteousness of God for the benefit of God’s people, a prayer that he would rule as the Ideal King.

The extravagance of this ideal king’s rule has led many interpreters to believe that the Psalm should be interpreted Messianically – with the understanding that it must have been written specifically and prophetically about the Messiah, about the Christ; that it was written about that newborn King of the Jews whom the Magi had travelled across burning wastelands to find.

And though it may or may not have been written with a specific Messianic intent, Psalm 72 certainly lends itself to a Messianic interpretation. It is King Jesus who is the perfect judge, who gives justice to the poor and the oppressed, who rules with righteousness, who comes down “like rain on mown grass, like showers moistening the land.”

In his days uprightness shall flourish,
and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,
from the river to the limits of the earth.

We celebrate Christmas as the birth of the “Heaven-born Prince of Peace,” we hail him as the Son of Righteousness. And even though the Magi were probably not kings or royalty, we sing of them as the “three kings” which lends itself back to Psalm 72 which says,

The kings of Tarshish and the islands
will pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Saba
will offer gifts;
all kings will do him homage,
all nations become his servants.

This is the glorious rule of the King of Kings – King Jesus. Dominion has been laid on his shoulders and he extends his rule in boundless peace, making it secure and sustaining it in fair judgment and with integrity, from this time onward and forever.

I like the last verse of Isaac Watt’s hymn, “Jesus Shall Reign” wherein all creatures are enjoined to “rise and bring peculiar honors to our king.” His old fashioned English phrase sounds peculiar in our ears, but we are encouraged to give a gift of our worship to this newborn King of the Jews, this one who was born to bless every people, and tribe and race and nationality – born as King of the Jews, yes, but not for them alone, born for all of us. “May his name be blessed for ever, and endure in the sight of the sun.”

This Ideal King, the Messianic King, this King of Kings rules and governs in peace and righteousness. This Ideal King is a powerful king. But unlike King Herod the not-so-great, this king uses his power to rescue the poor and the oppressed. This King uses his power to rescue anyone who calls to him, and those who have no one else who will help. Instead of inflicting cruelty and violence upon the people, this king redeems the people from oppress and violence, because their blood is precious in his sight.

This King is everything that King Herod was not. The difference is their attitude toward power. The difference is in the way they use power.

Herod the King, in his raging, used his power to kill and to destroy – even when he was building something it was with a mind towards death, death to those who would oppose him. His power was never used to help the lowly. His power was never used to heal the broken, or to give comfort to the distressed. He had a mind for empire, but he would not have been a benevolent emperor. It’s true that there was a measure of security and prosperity during his rule – but there was no peace, and that prosperity didn’t trickle down to the poor. Like today, that wealth and prosperity was concentrated among the privileged few who could secure the government contracts and who could curry favor with a well placed bribe.

But the Ideal King, the king whom the magi ventured to find, his rule is characterized by an altogether different set of priorities. He is not concerned with violence. He is not interested in scheming and plotting. He is, instead, focused on the peace and well being of his people. He is devoted to their good. He raises them up. He blesses them. He receives them. He welcomes them. He heals and comforts. He has pity and promises salvation. He rescues.

One king murdered and hated and feared.
One king saves and loves and blesses.

One king raged and burned.
One king blesses and soothes.

One king ruled with force and violence.
One king rules with integrity and without violence.

One king attempted to drag everyone down into death with him.
One king brings everyone up from death with him.

*1  Lohse, Eduard, The New Testament Environment, Abingdon Press, Nashville TN, 1987. pg. 39

Friday, December 3, 2010


The snow is coming down now, thick and fluffy. The voice on the radio tells me that it will continue well into tomorrow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - as long as the kids will shovel the driveway.

If you haven't yet made an online donation to the Salvation Army would you consider making a gift today? You can use the handy-dandy widget here on my blog to make that gift to the Salvation Army of Fairmont, Minnesota (or to your local unit.)  Thanks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ice on the Lake 2

Yesterday I posted a photo I took of the sun setting over the icy lake near my house. I left that picture relatively untouched by photoshop manipulations. (I did do a little color correction, but that was it.)

This is another photo I took at that same time. This one has been subjected to various kinds of folding, twisting, spindling, and mutilating.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ice on the Lake

Most of my recent photo postings have been subjected to a fair amount of 'adjustment' with the wonder that is photoshop. I've added layers of color and texture and have made some interesting pictures out of the simple (and largely uninteresting) pictures I've snapped around town.

This one, however, has had very little by the way of photoshop, just a tiny bit of color correction.

Nothing more was needed.
I started out to add layer upon layer, but soon realized that it wasn't necessary. So I deleted them and returned it to this.
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