Monday, February 20, 2017

That might not be the good news you were looking for

Several years ago I wrote a post called It Is Good! In it, a United Methodist bishop encouraged people to focus on good news in the world and not just the bad. He cited an example of a news commentator when he was young who opened the broadcast with "There is good news tonight!"

Yesterday, I decided to look into that line.

In World War II, there was a radio broadcaster by the name of Gabriel Heatter. One day, the United States Navy sank a Japanese destroyer. He opened his broadcast with "Good evening, everyone—there is good news tonight." It became an instant hit and his signature catch phase.

Probably not the good news the Bishop had in mind.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Following Random Trail Advice

I use to get Backpacker magazine. When I got it, it included cards for trails to hike. One was a trail called the North Skunk River for Des Moines, Iowa. I spent the summer of 2005 living in Des Moines, so I took up this random trail advice and hiked the North Skunk River trail.

I found the photos from the hike this morning. I took about 10 photos along the trail.

Being nearly 11.5 years later, I don't remember much about the hike. I remember I turned down a lunch offer (maybe it was a party on the capital grounds?) to go on the hike. I also remember it was close to I-35 and you could hear the traffic.

This is the card:

Here are the photos of the hike.

I'll caption them as they are written on the backs. I don't remember what they are of other than that.

 Skunk River and Trail

This is labeled Skunk River at Anderson Canoe Access. I believe this is at the southern end of the trail at 150th Street.

These are just labeled Skunk River Trail

These are of the bog along the bog loop the trail mentions.

Seems like it was a nice hike.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas Story

Ross King has an album called The Christmas Stories which surprisingly enough contains Christmas songs. One of the songs is called Song of Gabriel.

I find the song is in the same vein as Host of Angels. A beautiful song telling the life of Christ, each event concluding with a host of Angels reacting.

The song tells the story of Christmas from the perspective of Gabriel. It captures 3 events, the annunciation of the incarnation to Mary, the birth of Jesus, and the announcement to the shepherds.

In the annunciation section, in the Bible in Luke 1:26-38, Gabriel starts with his thoughts on hearing what he is to say to Mary. It is almost as if Gabriel is saying "what? Your plan is to go to earth as a human? You trust humans to hold God in the helpless body of a baby? This plan is insane."

The birth of Jesus, in the Bible in Luke 2:1-7, Gabriel starts with the threat that Satan played while Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem. How vulnerable the Christ is, an unborn child in the womb of Mary, traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The angels in the song served as escorts, protecting Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Once in Bethlehem, the angels all gather to see the newborn child, while a song, unheard to man, is sung in Heaven.

The announcement to the shepherds, in the Bible in Luke 2:8-20, Gabriel recalls the 23rd Psalm, the LORD is my shepherd. He then tells the shepherds of the birth of Christ and how this is what we have all have been created for. All will praise the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.

What a beautiful song.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Make coins great again

With the push against physical currency, especially the penny, I for one like our coins, if nothing else than to look at them. And I can give a quarter to my 4 year old and he thinks he's rich. Try giving a 4 year old a satoshi of a bitcoin.

Anyway, I like our coins, but we keep messing with them, and not for the better.

Take the penny. The back has undergone some changes recently.

What on earth is going on here? The face is fine. Fun fact I learned from Who Wants to be a Millionaire, of the penny, nickle, dime, and quarter, only the penny has the president looking to the right. But the backs? The wheat penny, nothing exciting there. When I was a kid, I thought it was a weak penny. I didn't understand it. Still exciting to find in your change though. Lincoln memorial? Now that was good. The cabin? Sure, whatever. Lincoln on a log? Looks like he is going to the bathroom. Who knows what he is even standing in front of in one of them. The half done capital? Celebrate incompleteness? No thanks. The new design with the shield? Atrocious.

Our penny has gone from good with the Lincoln Memorial to bad with the shield.

The nickle.

The Buffalo Nickle. WOW. Probable the MOST AMERICAN COIN EVER. You don't get much better than that.

So of course we changed it.

Not too bad. It isn't the Buffalo Nickle, but not embarrassing.

So of course we changed it. The cause was good, the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The first change with the backs. Nothing too exciting.

The second change included the front. Jefferson is oddly off on the side with a weird close shot. The "liberty" in his own writing is cool. The backs, we brought the buffalo back! But only for half the coins in a year.

The third change. What have we done? Back to the old reverse, but the front... He's oddly staring at me.

That's just creepy.

The dime.

If any coin needed to be redesigned recently, it was the dime. President Roosevelt is fine, he can stay. Even though he has been beheaded compared to Jefferson and Lincoln. But the back? What on earth is this nonsense? As a kid, I thought it was a forest. Now I know it isn't, but still. E pluribus unum is oddly broken apart. Eplu Rib Usu Num. Still sounds Latin though. A random torch is floating between a oak branch and olive branch. Fix this gibberish!

A new back for the dime should reflect something about Roosevelt. I think the flag raising over Iwo Jima would be perfect.

The quarter.

The front is fine.

We use to have George Washington. He looked like this.

We still have George Washington, but made him look a little nicer and moved some things from the back to the front.

The back use to be the Eagle.

Nothing wrong there. Eagle is America.  Good back.

We did change it in 1976 for the bicentennial to the "drummer boy."

That's pretty cool. In middle school, a coach sold blow pops after school for a quarter. If you had a drummer boy, he gave you two.

We then changed the back to allowed each state and territory to make a design.  Pretty cool.

It proved so popular that under the America the Beautiful Act, National Parks are being depicted on the quarters.

The quarter is doing fine. Well done, US Mint.

But everything else is a problem. Return the penny to the Lincoln Memorial reverse. Bring back the original buffalo nickle. Put Iwo Jima on the reverse of the dime.

Let's make US coinage great again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election day

Today is election day in the US. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president.

Ross King wrote a song called Roam With You that describes his perspective of the election.

As an American, we should vote! It is our right granted to us. It is a privilege in this world to choose your leaders, won through blood and toil. As a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, it is our duty to participate in the election of our leaders.

But as a Christian, remember that you are not electing the leader of God's Kingdom. Christ's kingship isn't in jeopardy. We should be choose our leaders wisely, but maintain the proper perspective. The election of one doesn't speed the coming of God's kingdom. God isn't dependent upon a democracy. He acts when he desires at the time and place of His choosing. President Clinton or President Trump, we are still a nation under God, meaning that even the US is under the control of God.

Regardless of the outcome, God reigns. We should pray for our leaders, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. As Christians, that is our biggest role in the world, being a faithful witness of God's love, no matter who is in power.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A God who can empathize

Ross King is coming out with a new album, We Know How This Thing Ends. His first single from the album came out this week, called Good Company.

The song is about how if you are sad, broken hearted, upset, that you are not alone but in good company with Jesus who also was sad (when Lazarus died), broken hearted (when in the garden he knew his death was imminent), and upset (when he throw out the money changes from the temple). 

No doubt Ross was thinking of Hebrews 4:14-16 when he was writing the song.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In the passage about Lazarus, Jesus is a close friend of Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha. Now people had been telling Jesus that Lazarus was sick and dying, but he said that Lazarus wouldn't die. Then Lazarus did die. Jesus and his disciples went to Bethany. When they arrive, 4 days after Lazarus was buried, Martha greets them, sad but slightly hopeful. Jesus asks her if she believes that Lazarus will rise again. She says yes, in the resurrection of the dead. Jesus says that he is the Resurrection and the Life. They then go see Mary. Mary runs out saying that if only Jesus had been here, Lazarus wouldn't have died. Jesus sees her crying and those who came to console them. The scripture then says "Jesus wept." Jesus then orders the stone moved and calls Lazarus out of the grave.

The Jesus wept line has been of interest, either because there is a lot packed in those two words, or because it is only 2 words and is easy to memorize as your favorite verse

Googling what that verse might mean comes back with a lot of possibilities. Most focus on Jesus being sad at the cost of sin, or maybe he just cried because everyone else was crying, or he was thinking about his own impending death. I remember learning in a Bible study that Jesus wept because of the unbelief of those around him. But I think Ross has a great point in this song. Jesus wept because he was sad. 

Jesus knew how this thing was going to end. He had been hinting at it to the disciples. They didn't understand at all, but Jesus did. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew that Lazarus would be with Him throughout all eternity. But yet when Jesus came to where the body of Lazarus laid, he wept. He wept like one would expect when he comes to where his good friend has died.

May Jesus wept because he was sad. Maybe the easy answer is the correct answer. Jesus was fully human, why would we not expect him to be said when his good friend dies?

Johnny Cash performed a song called Man Who Couldn't Cry. It talks about a man who no matter what happened, he showed no emotion. My wife calls me this. I don't think I have ever cried in my adult life. I don't know the reason. But maybe seeing that Jesus cried is saying that it is OK to cry. If an infinite God cried when a good friend died, maybe even a man should cry. 

Jesus can empathize with those who do, even if I can't.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Within the Two Binders: Prayer of Thanksgiving for Easter

I found this short prayer than appears to be a prayer of thanksgiving for Easter.

We thank Thee for the beauty of this day, for the glorious message that all nature proclaims; the Easter lilies with their waxen throats eloquently singing the good news; the birds so early this morning, impatient to begin their songs; every flowering tree, shrub, and flaming bush, a living proclamation from Thee; O Open our heats that we may hear it too! Lead us we pray from the grave that is empty, into the garden of the Resurrection where we may meet our risen Lord. May we never again live as if Thou were dead! In Thy presence restore our faith, our hope, our joy. Grant to our spirits refreshment, rest, and peace. Maintain within our hearts, an unruffled calm, and unbroken serenity that no storms of life shall ever be able to take from us.
 From this moment, O living Christ, we ask Thee to go with us wherever we go; be our Companion in all that we do. And for this greatest gift of all gifts, we offer Thee our sacrifices of thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Within the Two Binders: God in History

Continuing through the binders, this 3 page introduction was found within a lesson on Joseph, son of Jacob.

Several years ago there was a cartoonist, who produced a Pulitzer prize winning cartoon. This cartoon showed an old man with a broom in one hand and a duster in the other. He was approaching an unoccupied pulpit, a closed Bible, and an altar, from which one could see cobwebs running in every direction. The caption under this cartoon read, "TIME TO DUST IT OFF." 
Today the average man in the street needs to dust of his ideas concerning history. our lesson this morning is entitled, "God in History." There are too many of us who do not believe that God is concerned with history, or that he can, or will have anything to do with it. It doesn't make very good sense, to go around preaching and teaching that God is concerned with the individual, but that he isn not interested in the great political and social currents of our world. If God is interested in me as an individual, I can't help but believe that he also must be interested in the current military, political and economic world. Further, I don't believe that he is powerless to do anything about it. But we who are followed of the lowly Nazarene, believe that God can effectively control the world through the voluntary co-operation of his people. To Joseph this might not have made very good sense, and he probably would not have been in full accord with this view. 
There are in the world today three different views concerning man, and God in history. There is the view point that believes man controls history and his own destiny. An illustration of this type of thinking was at one time expressed by Mr. Winston Churchill, when he heard that a group of men were unloading tonnage from a ship at a very strategic spot. He sent this message to them, "Tell them for me, that they are unloading history." Mr. Churchill is one of the great men of our time, I would not attempt to argue, or to criticize his viewpoint of history, for no other man of our time has made more history, or been involved in the making of more history than Mr. Churchill. But if you take his statement just as it stands, it could mean that it is man who "unloads" or "loads" or "stacks" or "stops" or control history. If this be true, then every person is at the mercy of some Napoleon, a Hitler, or a Mussolini, or some other little strutting dictator who crosses the stage of history. One after another of these men have had their little brief glory upon the stage, and they have left it strewn with broken hopes, ideals destroyed, and the dead and broken and twisted bodies of thousands of their fellow man. No man, not even, the best and the wisest, knows enough, or possesses enough virtue, or is destined to live long enough to be entrusted with the control of the world. 
The Italian statesman, Machiavelli, proclaimed the doctrine of economic control of history. This is the view of the Communists. Communism says that the world is in a continual conflict brought on by economic considerations. The conflict comes from that part of man's life where he is in a constant struggle to win the material things of life, such as food, clothing, and housing. Back and forth this struggle goes, until there comes a time when man will reach the "Golden Age." But the battle now is between the haves and the havenots. In this struggle the individual counts very little. It is the sweep of things, the blind force that moves on like a tidal wave sweeping everything before it. Things are the master. And so it is, that the Communist ruler can declare and he evidently believes that the nation or nations that stand in the way will be plowed under. He dogmatically, prophesies that our children will grow up under communism. It this system there is no God. 
The third view in history is that it is God controlled. That God started it, and that God will finish it, and that in between the beginning and the end, he has a hand in it. The Christian does not believe history to be sentimental or soft headed. We do not blink at defeats and tragedy. We do not believe, in fact we know it is not the be true, that day by day, in every way, that man or history is getting better and better. We accept the view, even tho we don't understand it, that often the best is in the hands of the worst. Just as Joseph suffered at the hands of his brothers, and just as Jesus, in the hands of the Roman soldiers. But we believe, that history does affirm that God can and does sometimes use that which is bad to chastise and discipline that which is less good than it might be. 
The Book of Isaiah says, "Thus saith the Lord, to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue the nations before him; I will loosen the loins of kinds, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut." We might ask, did God approve the cruelty and the brutality of Cyrus? The answer is no, God does not approve of the methods of Cyrus; God approves the methods of Jesus, and the methods of the two are as far apart as the north and the south pole. 
Yet, we contend, that God does use a Cyrus. Cyrus does not control God; God controls Cyrus. And he will use Cyrus, whether Cyrus wills it or not. Cyrus can do much damage; he can bring untold suffering. Much that is good and fine and noble will be at the mercy of Cyrus, but Cyrus does not control history nor does he control time. These are in the hands of a just and a merciful God. When Cyrus has been used of God, God will cast him aside. When an obedient servant has been used of God, he will be loved and cherished. 
God, not men, not blind force, is in control. The child of God lives by faith and not be sight. Without this faith, it is impossible to please God.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

And then Moses chased Pharaoh around the Palace

After church today, my 4 year old was telling me about their Sunday school lesson. They were learning about Moses and his calling by God. He told me about the burning bush, how Moses could make his staff become a snake, and then he told me about Moses' hand. "He put his hand in his shirt and pulled it out and said 'Ah! Don't touch it! It's diseased!'"

I could imagine Moses doing this, then chasing Pharaoh around like kids chasing each other because of cooties or the cheese touch.

Let my people go or get the cooties. That pry would have worked faster than 10 plagues.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Day trip to Philadelphia

We live about 2 hours away from Philadelphia, so after church yesterday, we drove up for the afternoon with another family. Our goals were simple, cheese steaks and the liberty bell.

Two hours and $16 in tolls later, we arrived at cheese steak corner about 1:45. Parking is free along the street.

We wanted to try both Pat's and Geno's, so one family stood in line at Pat's, the other at Geno's.

Our friends stood in line at Pat's. They said that though they were concerned ordering food because the sign said "If you make a mistake, don't panic, just go to the back of the line and start over." However, despite ordering one provolone wit-out, their cheese steak had onions. Cheese fries helped to round out this healthy meal.

We stood in line at Geno's. When we got to the window, the cashier was quite friendly and helpful. After talking to him briefly about a couple items on the menu, he recognized us as first timers and walked us through the process. One whiz wit, one provolone wit, one american wit-out. He also gave us two free pens. French fries and cokes (both Pepsi and Coke products) washed them down.

Geno's is infamous for their speak English sign.

The cheese steaks.

One whiz wit
One provolone wit

The verdict on cheese steak? The whiz is amazing. You have to have it the Philly way, whiz wit. But Pat's or Geno's? Pat's had better tasting meat. If I went back, I'd be a Pat's cheese steak guy.

Then it was on to Independence Hall. There is a parking garage under the north visitors center.

To tour Independence Hall, you have to have timed tickets. You can get them free at the visitor center, but they tend to run out early. We bought ours online for $1.50 each.

Our tour was for 3PM, so at 3PM we arrived at the visitor center. We got our tickets and walked down to Independence Hall.

After walking, clearing security, and waiting in the tour line, we caught the 3:45 tour. The ranger checking tickets was pretty rude, seeing at 3PM tour and saying that we missed it pretty badly. When I told him we got out tickets at 3PM, he looked at me like I was an idiot. So, the time on your ticket isn't the time at the visitor center, but at the hall. Arrive early. Regardless, we got in on the tour and the ranger giving the tour was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the place and the American revolution.

The tour first takes you into a briefing room in the east wing for a brief talk about the hall centered around a painting of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

We then went into the hall and started in the court side of the old statehouse.

Then to the more famous legislative side where the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution were signed.

You then exit out the back and into the plaza.

Commodore Barry, Father of the Navy

Then, the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell does not require tickets. You just stand in line to clear security, then can walk around the exhibit where it is located. You cannot touch the bell. I did go at one time when you could and got a photo with my hand in the crack, but not any more.

Two hours later and $8 in tolls (there is an $8 toll to leave Maryland, none to enter), we were home.