Friday, December 29, 2006

Gauley Carnage - Sweets Falls

Gauley Rafting Carnage

Here is a great carnage video.

Upper Gauley - Sweet Falls

This is a carnage video....this is the falls that one goes through at the end of the Upper Gauley trip. It is a place where if you are off line, you end up in trouble. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rafting - Lower Gauley

Lower Gauley White Water Rafting

Last week I posted the Upper Gauley...the section we did in the morning. Here is a portion of the Lower, the section we did after lunch. Carnage videos to follow in the coming days.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day Greeting

Today is Boxing Day….for the VA Sears it is a rainy work day. This week is the busiest week for the ARC and with New Years being on a Monday Evie has to work Sunday. Jonathan headed out the door to the Day Care at 7:20 (he is on from 8 to 4 today). I arrived at the office at 7:55 after leaving at just a few minutes before 7:30 (light traffic today with most fed workers taking a vacation day). Last week and this will be the slowest two weeks of the year for me at the office.

Our thoughts will be with those who will be gathering in London for the annual gathering.

Our Christmas was quiet…just relaxing and watching movies. Jonathan stirred just after 7 and went back to bed. Josh woke up nearly thirty minutes later and crawled back for some more sleep. We all finally gathered around the tree and with the fire blazing in the background opened our presents around 9:30 (far different from when we were in Winnipeg and the boys awoke just after 3 and would not get back to sleep. We opened the presents around 4 AM). Later today when I get home I will add a picture of our Christmas morning fire.

Jonathan’s major gift this year was a lap top. He also received a speaker system for his ipod and a selection of movies. Josh too received a speaker system, a second trombone stand (one for keeping at school and one at home), drum corps CDs and video, and a big music stand. Josh’s major gift is all the airline tickets has been consuming. Both boys received various gift cards…we have stopped figuring out what clothing to get them.

Again, on this Boxing Day…have a great time enjoying the day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

From Washington DC to our family in Calary, London, Oakville, Brampton, Pickering, Korea or wherever you may be, may you have a lovely and blessed Christmas.

Here are two pics...the first taken after the Candlelight Service at Arlington. The second taken just afternoon is Josh heading home after morning service all by himself while Evie and I headed out in my car. I think he likes the idea of being able to get himself home and not having to wait for Mom and Dad, or be with us as we stop to get a few items from the we did today.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Family Tradition Fulfilled

Starting with 7th grade (Grade 7), I have been involved with staffing kettles every year since...that is 39 years. The tradition started by my parents involved each of my siblings standing kettles. I do not know how many of us have continued into doing so each year into our adult years, but I have sought to do so every year. Even when I oversaw the kettles I would make it a point to get out there myself throughout the season to give 20 to 30 breaks and even take a couple of evenings myself.

As soon as they were young enough, I have involved the boys. I remember in Iowa City, Josh at the age of 6 being with me ringing the bell with gustro outside a grocery store. I am proud that my sons are involved in keeping the tradition alive.

Since moving to Washington Jonathan, Joshua and I have volunteered to staff a kettle for a full day. Normally we do the last Saturday before Christmas and the boys play their instruments....sometimes as a duet, more often solo while the other rests.

Below are pics of the boys outside one of the local Walmarts. We started at 8:45 and finished just over twelve hours later. We went through four kettles, including the big white pail. The only time the bell was rung was during a 25 minute stretch when the boys drove off to Burger King. Jonathan and Joshua were troopers.

Besides his lips being like rubber by the end of the day Jonathan's knee was killing him by the end of the day (he still has knee issues from when he blew it out five years ago). Though Joshua's lip was fine as he is use to playing longer, his arm and shoulder were very sore last night. Dad, well lets just say that I am walking this morning on tender feet.

The four kettles, without checks included, totaled $1,512 (with checks $2,512). I am proud of Jonathan and Joshua for volunteering the whole day, and for helping to fulfill the family tradition.
Christmas Lights X

Here is the tenth and last light show for the season. Which is your favorite of the ten? Which one's are the favorite of other family members that have watched?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Lights IX

Another house. The videographer comments that the video does not do the show justice. That may well be but he detracts from the show by having comments in the background from himself, his wife and kid. That said, the show is a fairly good one once you get beyond the videographer's issues.
Christmas Lights VIII

Unfortunately the car lights on the left side detract from the show. Still this is an enjoyable show.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Whitewater Rafting - Gauley I

You read the report and saw the pics. Here is video of the upper Gauley...the section we did before lunch. Next week I will post some carnage video I have found.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Lights VII

Dancing Christmas Lights!

Watch for Christmas Lights VIII and IX to be posted in the coming days.

Christmas Lights VI

Christmas Lights - Good King Joy

Some People Need to Really Get a Life and Then Some

Last night on the local news it was announced that a 5 yr old boy in Maryland has been suspended from school for sexual harassment. He pinched a girl on the behind. And the parents are filing against the boy’s parents and the school.

Five year olds have little to no understanding of sexuality or sexual activity. What in the world are we doing a society to saddle young children adult standards and phoebes? The problem is not the boy or the girl. The problem is adults over-reacting. Instead of using it as a teaching moment punitive action is taken that will scare both the young girl and boy for years to come. Instead of taking a deep breathe and realize that we are talking about two innocent kindergartners hypersensitive adults are ripping away their innocence before they have any understanding. Instead of having a balanced view, we have adults looking for a way to get money.

What are we teaching our children in the process? If you are offended or touched in a way that could be argued as inappropriate even if it is well beyond common sense understanding, look for a way to get the dollar. Go for the maximum. Work to tear away innocence because of adult sexual hang-ups. Get back by hitting the pocket book. Demand punishment and retribution.

In this situation is the antithesis of the Christmas message of peace and reconciliation toward our God and fellow human being.

Part of me hopes that one day the parents will find themselves will be subject of a law suit because their child has not behaved as an adult. Yet I major part of me hopes that when their child errors or does something that is innocent but viewed contrary that they will receive grace, forgiveness, calm reflection and understanding.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Lights V

One more to add to the show list. More to be added in the next few days. I would hate to see the electric bills. There is one of these places in Alexandria that has 130,000 lights in their show. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a video of that one.

Christmas Lights IV

Here is another light show. Enjoy.

Living In Washington DC II

One of the more interesting things about living in the Washington DC area is the traffic. Like most major cities this area has heavy traffic and their road infrastructure is constantly trying to play catch-up as for the most part it has not kept pace the evolution of the community. Light sequencing along several major routes in Fairfax County does not help. At election time, politicians talk of fixing the traffic by widening and building new roads, but little gets done. Interestingly little talk is given to computerizing the light system for commute adjustments.

Depending upon the route, I live 14 to 17 miles from the office. The shortest route, I-66, I am not allowed to take during rush hours when only I am the car. From the beltway in I-66 is HOV-2 (you have to have at least two people in the car). I have done I-66 from time to time on the way out with someone from the office or a family member and have been home in 25 to 30 minutes with traffic. My standard route involves taking one of two city streets into the office.

I use to take a route that could take normally from 55 to 80 minutes. If I left at 7:30 I would not arrive at the office until nearly 9:00. Last April, thanks to someone I know from the Canadian embassy I changed my route. Now I can leave at 7:45 and arrive at the office by 8:25.

The above is common to most major centers. What makes Washington traffic interesting are the “feddies”….people who work for the government or involved in political activity. When Congress is out, traffic commute times drop. In the summer Monday mornings are a breeze. City routes are fine Friday afternoons but not the interstates going to the beaches. “Feddies” have to put in a set number hours. Hence, flexible hours make Monday mornings and Friday afternoons light.

In the summer beach route traffic on Friday afternoons after 1:00 and Saturday mornings is a killer. If you get out of the city by 12:30, your commute to VA Beach would be three hours (normal drive). Much after 1:00 it would take you five hours. If you head out much after 2:15, you would not get to VA Beach until after 9.

I remember years ago when Stephen and Gayle were with us and we were going to the beach. They missed getting out to I-95 before 1:00. They arrived at the campground not much more than an hour before us and Evie and I did not hit the road until 5:30.

When Congress is out, many staffers and the lobbyists are out of town cutting traffic going into and out of the city. August heavy traffic almost disappears. Yet for the most part traffic in tech and manufacturing areas of Fairfax and Montgomery County, does not have the same flux.

Right now we have the triple blessing of Congress being in recess, end of the year and the holiday season. People with a day or two of vacation days left are taking them, and feddies are moving into a more flex schedule. Hence, this week and next week traffic into and out the city will be the lightest. This morning it took me only 32 minutes to travel to the office….the only way it could have been quicker would be to get all green lights. The first week of January it will be heavier but not at its heaviest for a week later. Then in May it will diminish again until the second week of September.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Josh's Trip to San Antonio

Josh was exhausted when he walked in the door just before 1:30 this morning. Up at 6, with an after school rehearsal followed by trombone lessons, today will be a long day. He enjoyed his time. His knowledge about drilling and playing techniques was broadened and refined much further. He also got to meet a good number of veterans who have been in the Crossman for years.

The final cut for the Crossman will be made in January. Josh has been invited back for the final cuts. At this point it is comes down to how many veterans will be returning. Josh knows he is on the bubble and has some thinking to do in the coming days.

Today he is meeting with school officials to better understand what would happen for the final weeks of his school year if he were to make it. He is wrestling with two conflicting goals. If he makes the Crossman he would have to give up being in the all-District band, which has been one of his goals. He has also a greater understanding of the physical, emotional, social and musical demands that would be made upon him if he were in the Crossman. Living for three months sleeping in school gymnasiums in sleeping bags, having few hot meals, spending 4 to 8 hours a day on buses day after day with the same group of people, drilling hours upon end in 90+ temperatures, and having to have your adrenaline pumped up for each evening’s 12 minute performance is demanding.

Mom and Dad will continue to help him work through the issues and decision making process. If he returns in January, and does not make it, we will deal with the disappointment of being so close. We are also proud that he has made it to this point. If he does make the Crossman, we will do what we can to support him along the way and come up with a way to cover the expenses. Either way, what he is going through is a life education process that can serve him well in his adult years.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Living in Washington DC I

Just over a year ago I took two THQ visitors to dinner at a high quality steak place at Tyson’s Corner. As we entered into the parking lot I noticed a black Suburban parked by the roadway entrance even though there was a dozen empty places before the doorway. As we entered the door four broad chested men were exiting. Turning to our two guests I mentioned that they were going to have a unique experience.

About twenty minutes into our meal three men and one lady entered wearing trench coats. One sat by a table best us, one went to a table across the room, one stood in the back of the room and one just stood by the door. A few minutes later another parade entered…a man, a woman and two young children along with two more dressed in trench coats. The two Secret Service men took up their positions a few feet from the table at which the family of four were seated. The five us at our table along with the other patrons were not bothered, but we were being watched for any sudden movements.

I thought of this event Monday when it took me 45 minutes to go the last .7 miles to DHQ. To say that the traffic crawled along would be mild statement. There was no accident. There was no construction taking three or four lanes down to one. Somewhere past our building were a street or two what were closed and traffic was being rerouted due to some high security official.

Whether it is having Secret Service watching you carefully while you enjoy a restaurant or a finding yourself suddenly in a traffic back-up, one takes it in stride. It is all part of living in Washington.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Discouraging A Telemarketer

Telemarketers are a bain to many families. Even if you put yourself on the "do not call" list may not work. The fine print for various free contests/drawings one enters can enter in malls and stores may say that you agree to come off the list for a minimum period (9 to 15 months). Even if you do not enter such contests, when you purchase products you can end up on the call list for that company and its related firms.

Here is a guy who takes a different approach to discourage calls. Be aware there is a word that can be offensive to some. I may just try a version of this sometime.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Lights III

Here are more Christmas Lights. This one seems to be to rushed for me at the beginning....but to each his/her own. One thing I know, I would not wish to live on across or beside these light shows. Night after night the flashing lights coming in the windows would drive me up the wall.

Would you want to live by or across from one of these homes? Or even on the same street with all the traffic?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Lights II

Here is another light show. The work that goes into getting this all set up and coordinated must be significant. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Lights I

Some people really get into decorating. Here is one example that I emailed to some family members last December. Enjoy.

Christmas Lights

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Josh's Bands

As some may know, Josh spent the last two weekends attending drum and bugle corps band clinics, in New Jersey and Chicago. In Chicago he was with the Cavaliers, three time world champion marching in the last five years. In New Jersey he was with the Crossman (based in San Antonio), another Corps that is frequently in the final twelve. He has returned with ideas how to refine his playing, drill and marching techniques. He also loved meeting some of the best marching band musicians in the country.

While he was willing to go through the audition process with each Corps Josh knew making the groups would be long. Attendees are these clinics are serious players and marchers. For the 40 open positions with the Crossman they have had about 500 people audition, of which about 7 are baritone positions (Josh auditions on baritone as they do not use trombones).

Josh was pleased to receive “2s” from the Cavaliers for playing and marching as most receive only a “3” grade. Josh knew making Cavaliers would be near impossible since nearly everyone who makes it into the Cavaliers have prior experience marching with a Corps.

Josh has been invited back to San Antonio by the Crossman for a more in depth evaluation of his marching and playing skills. We are proud of Josh for making it this far in his first year of eligibility (most Corps at this level set 16 as the minimum age).

If he makes it into the group he will be flying to San Antonio once a month for rehearsals through May. Starting in May he would be with the Crossman 24/7 through to mid August….each night would be in a different city. This may be the uniform Josh will be wearing this summer. If he makes it, where Evie and I go on vacation will be somewhat decided...we will be at the Rose Bowl for a week for the World Championship.

As you can see Josh has been a busy fellow between these events and the three advanced placement courses he is taking (AP courses high school courses taught at the college level and a student can get college credit if their grades are strong enough). His schedule will only get busier over the winter. In early January auditions for All District Band. Two weeks later he his in Blacksburg VA where he will be part of Virginia Tech’s honor band. A week later he will be in George Mason University’s honor band.

This is along with learning and playing the Clarinet in Concert II, being in Symphonic band and Jazz A. Add to the mix, his is also playing in an Orchestra and pit band for a play. Oh, yes...we must not forget the Corps Band and Songsters.

Somewhere in there Josh will need find time to breath and sleep.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Defining Moments

Flowing as a continuous stream, each day blends together. Only by using measure points do we acknowledge growth and change in ourselves and our loved ones. A handful of these defining moments appear on a regular basis that cause one to look back a year or more to the same date… one’s birthday, anniversary, Christmas and New Years are just such days. Other defining points come unplanned and often unannounced.

Last summer Evie had one of those moments when Josh flew to Europe. Her baby proudly going off to Europe with a group of strangers was a sign that the empty nest is a few years away. I had similar feelings but I kept them somewhat to myself and focused upon being alone with bride for two weeks camping before Josh returned. Throughout each day I found myself looking at my watch and glancing at his schedule.

This past week I had two events that have combined into one. The first was Josh flying to Chicago all by himself to attend a marching band clinic with the Cavaliers. People I had never met would be meeting him at the airport and taking him back to O’Hare. Again, Josh had that bold confidence while his father worried if all was going well.

The other took place Thursday when we completed a piece of paper. This week Josh was in Drivers Ed behind the wheel. The paper we completed authorized that if he passed his driving test this Monday that we approved him to receive his license. A license will give him greater independence, no longer having to rely upon Mom and/or Dad to run him to events. There is something to be said about having him run himself to events or sending him on an errand. Yet, there is something sorrowful within that regrets this moment.

That said, and regardless of internal feelings, there is also pride that joyfully celebrates each of these steps toward adulthood. His mother and I are proud of Josh, and we are proud of Jonathan too, as he continues to grow to be a fine young man.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Temperature Study

One picks up an array of trivia at parties and dinners. Some time ago I was having dinner with a State Department official who had been stationed for three years in Moscow, two in Beijing and three in Ottawa. While he was in Ottawa, the staffs of the following embassies compared daily temperatures, both the high and lows, from 15 October to 15 March over a four year period.

Beijing, China
Helsinki, Norway
Kiev, Ukraine
Moscow, Russia
Oslo, Sweden
Ottawa, Canada
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

They were seeking to settle internal State Department debate as to which country has the coldest capital.

Each year one city clearly won over all the others. Canada has the coldest capital in the world. Don't tell that news to those who live in Winnipeg, Brandon, Regina or Saskatoon who look at Ottawa's winters as mild.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christmas II

If you have not read Christmas I, that should be read before the following.

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s “Christmas I” blog regarding Christmas music on the radio and concerns about Christmas becoming a secular holiday. In 1994 I found myself asking this question, “Is Christmas really a Christian holiday?” My thoughts continued to take form during 1995 and 1996. In 1997 while in Iowa there was a controversy regarding Christmas lights and Christmas tree being put up in Iowa City and called “holiday lights” and “holiday tree.”

The Press Citizen interviewed various business and religious leaders who were considered opinion shapers. Why I was selected to be one of nine people interviewed perplexed me then and still does today. One of the questions went to the issue of secularizing Christmas. Another question that I was asked went along the lines whether I felt that my faith and the faith of those in our congregation were being compromised by the secularization of Christmas. Fortunately, both questions were asked together.

I said that neither myself nor anyone in our congregation’s faith was compromised or under assault by the “holiday lights” and “holiday tree.” I noted that the assumption behind the question was that Christmas is a Christian holiday and that I did not hold that assumption. I stated that Christmas as we understand it with all its trappings and celebrations is a cultural holiday and has always been a cultural holiday with religious message attached.

Needless to say the response I had several calls and letters. Surprisingly most were favorable…and kettles and direct mail increased significantly. At the January meeting of the Consultation of Religious Communities numerous members responded with warmth. I was taken back when some said that they appreciated my courage. I did not see it as courage but rather as naively offering my thoughts.

I am sure that many of evangelicals and nearly all fundamentalists (fundamentalists and evangelicals are not necessarily the same) as well as those who are from mainstream of the theological continuum would respond that Christmas has for the most ceased being a Christian holiday. It is claimed that commercialization compromised Christmas. It was further eroded as America and Canada became more multicultural and that the political correctness of the last decade his putting the nails into coffin. That was not my response. My response is that Christmas has always been a secular holiday, not a Christian holiday. And before my family members think that I have gone off the deep end, I hope you will take time to continue to hear me out.

Our image of Christmas has become increasingly romanticized over the years. Almost all of us are romantics at heart. Most of also enjoy parties and gathering with our family and friends. We seek to have a special moment in time with family gatherings and special activities which fuels our romantic feelings. The excitement of seeing the joy of child’s expectations warms our hearts. Music such as “White Christmas”, “Sleigh Ride”, “Holy Jolly Christmas”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” underpin the dreamy feelings about Christmas. And we naturally do not want to see that which we enjoy and hold dear disappear. I argue that it is our culture that has romanticized Christmas, not our faith tradition.

Does this mean that Christmas will disappear? Far from it. Christmas is healthy and strong. Christmas as we know it in North America will not disappear for many many generations, if at all. It will not disappear because it is a strongly held cultural event, an event that is celebrated and embraced by community that transcends the Christian community.

An ahistorical view and our faith cries out that even within all the trappings that Christmas is a Christian holiday. It is argued that its roots was in a pagan celebration and it has become a Christian holiday. I beg to differ with that view.

Rather, Christmas is a secular holiday that the Church adopted. We adopted it and have used the secular celebration to proclaim Christ. It is our faith that uses the day to celebrate the entrance of our Savior into this world as a babe.

In Christmas we see the Church using various cultural celebrations and using it as an instructional tool and a faith celebration. Much of what we hold dear to us at Christmas has it roots outside the Church…the day, the lights, the decorations, the feasts and the party gatherings with friends. My faith is not threatened by the secular roots and elements attached to Christmas. My faith is not under attack because of all the commercialization and parties. My faith comes under attack not from what happens “out there” but from the internal battles I do not address and fight victoriously.

I am not threatened that the Church has used a cultural event and filled the winter solstice celebrations with additional meaning. By doing so we are doing only what God Himself has done with his people.

In Scripture we see God doing that with the Egyptian religion. In the Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers we see that He took Egyptian rituals and forms that were already familiar o the Israelites, simplified them and filled them with new meaning. The sacrificial system was no new…they knew of it from Egypt. God took that which was known, transformed it and gave it new meaning. Our heavenly Father and His Son kept using real life stories and situations to instruct us about His grace. He started with the known and familiar as a basis to point us to spiritual truths about ourselves, about Him and His work.

Today, why is the Church fighting over whether Christmas is a Christian holiday or a Christian holiday? Why fight that battle as it will be one we will loose. We will loose the battle because the world at large sees such a battle as irrelevant. Our bemoaning and crying on this ground only marginalizes the Church. It only puts another barrier between us and those outside the Church. It only leaves those on the margin of the Church scratching their heads as we are not addressing their issues. We will loose because Christmas has been a cultural event and will continue to be a cultural celebration.

Instead, we need to use this celebration as a touch point for communicating with those outside the Church. It is our opportunity to communicate a plethora of powerful messages from hope to peace to redemption. It is a means to communicate the values of family, affirming each other and generosity. We can use the celebration as means to show that people of faith can party joyously but in a judicious balanced manner. And above all we can use it to speak of peace and love while pointing to the source for ultimate peace and love, our Lord. Why fight the wrong battle when we have an opportunity to be God’s conduit of grace and messenger of love?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas I

While in Iowa while listening to a Christian radio station during my December kettle runs I heard several preachers over two seasons bemoan during their shows how Christmas has become secularized. Two of the preachers harangued on and on several times throughout the month that outside Sunday morning and the standard children’s church program that the babe in the manager is rarely thought about by even the average Christian.

There is a Christian television network that for several years tracks and publicizes how Christmas is under assault. Last year the entertainer Bill O’Reilly started to do the same thing to successfully market and raise his show to a new level. Some of the examples that were noted are legitimate incidences while others were efforts to spin a mole-hill into a mountain. Yes, the “no-spin zone” O’Reilly spins interviews and stories for his own purposes….everyone does so as no one is without their own bias that colors their coverage and the question selection.

What I find to be interesting is that if you are a Christian and you are seeking Christmas music that you will not find it on Christian radio stations until just a few days prior to December 25th. There are two Christian stations whose signals can be picked up in the DC area…neither is playing Christmas music. Of course their time has been bought/rented to various ministries who proclaim daily the Word. Several of the ministries will have the minister talk about how Christmas is under assault but are not setting aside any of their time to play Christmas music.

On XM Radio there are three channels devoted to Christian music. It would be assumed that these channels whose programming designed is contracted out to Christian radio stations would be playing Christmas music, particularly the traditional religious carols. The assumption would be wrong. No carols are found.

If you are seeking Christmas music on XM or terrestrial radio you have to turn to secular stations. There is a local radio station in DC that starts playing at Thanksgiving religious carols and Christmas songs 24/7. I think that speaks volumes with regard to the Christian mass media.

Next week many schools in our area and the week following will be having their “Holiday Concert”…a concert at which religious carols are played and sung alongside other holiday music. I think that speaks volumes.

It seems to me those preachers who bemoan the secularization of Christmas need to take a deep breath. It is time to stop promoting themselves, pushing ratings, pulling in the dollars by pushing hot buttons and getting the juices of fear flowing. It is time to cool down, take the higher road and control what they can control. It seems to me that it is better to take the opportunity to celebrate the faith and the babe in music and devotional thought.

To follow – Christmas II: My Christmas view and posture that will surprise my extended family and many of acquaintances.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Weekend

With Thanksgiving weekend being here, the Christmas season is now well underway.

For the sixth year I started the weekend late Wednesday morning by helping at “The Feast of Sharing”, a mass feeding program for about 1,800+ people in Washington DC that The Salvation Army helps to organize and coordinate. Safeway provides all the turkeys, fixings, pies and drinks. The Convention Center provides the room gratis. A local bank, a major DC church, and other groups help provide the volunteers to serve.

Today, Evie and I are relaxing at home while the boys are out and about. Actually Josh is more than just out and about as he took an 8:05 AM flight this morning to Chicago to attend a Cavaliers marching band clinic. The Cavaliers have been national champions three times in the last five years. Josh returns Sunday afternoon.

This is the first time in eleven years Josh and I have not been starting a kettle at 6 AM on the day after Thanksgiving. Jonathan has kept the tradition by being out there with his cornet at 6 AM for four hours. Jonathan will be helping with the kettles again late in the day. Throughout the holiday season he will be helping with the kettles on top of his job at the Day Care. He is helping to with kettle exchanges, providing relief, picking up workers and counting.

With Josh being out of town we are holding off putting up the tree and other Christmas decorations on the balcony and around the house until next weekend.

Below are two pictures. The one is from last weekend of a lighthouse. The lighthouse is located at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay and near the Delaware Cannel that connects the bay to the Delaware River. The Cannel allows ships to cuts almost a thousand miles in going from Baltimore to Philadelphia or New York.

The second picture is of Jonathan and Joshua that was taken late yesterday afternoon. The picture was done as part of Christmas cards project. This is the first year since moving to DC that we will have our cards done and in the mail around the first of December.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Concert Season Starts

The concert season officially started with last night's concert. The three concert bands and the two jazz bands performed for just under two hours. Josh had a busy night changing from his black tuxedo to the white and back to black.

You will easily find Josh in each of the five photos.

The next concert is in two weeks...the Holiday Concert. The third concert, the Pre-Festival Concert is at the end of February. The final concert is at the end of May.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Divine Gems - Part 8

I have been overdue in completing the last of my divine gems list.

Kitty and Bob Davis: Kitty and Bob were complete opposites in many ways. Kitty is the vibrant woman who is always on the go doing things. She is outgoing and people focused. Bob, who has since been “Promoted to Glory”, was quiet and felt comfortable working behind the scene. Yet, so many ways they were similar. They loved each other deeply and freely gave of themselves to others. Both were had a deep love and concern for the homeless and near-homeless. Both had a simple and basic faith in the Lord and in the Corps’ ministry. If it was not for their ongoing work as Corps members and volunteers during the period from 1994-2000 period, the Iowa City Corps may have closed. I was honored and humbled to be able to participate in Bob’s memorial service. He and Kitty are true gems that I have had in my life.

Carol Green and Dan Brown: Carol and Dan were not only Advisory Board members in Iowa City but also became friends. They provided insight and encouragement that helped pull a Corps that was in the trauma unit into wholeness. Carol’s quiet balanced faith and hard work was a welcomed stream of refreshment many a day.

I valued Dan’s honest wrestling with faith issues. I will never forget his observation regarding the ministry when he insightfully noted that there is a difference between those who respond to the call to ministry and those who are called to ministry by their nature. For the latter group they ministry flows through them naturally to others. Ministry is not their profession, it is who they are. Looking at those who I have known in the pulpit, I have known both…and God uses both for His Glory.

Betty Mather: This retired UI professor became attached to the Corps. Her interest and insights into faith and spirituality was refreshing. Our conversations and letters (we wrote many paged letters on faith matters) had helped me to hone my understanding of faith and provide an outlet for theological reflection that I had deeply missed tremendously. I valued her desire to connect the mind and heart in a profession of faith. Her joy and grace in will be forever cherished by me.

Barry and Sue Swanson: The Swanson’s were our Divisional leaders during my time leading the Iowa City Corps. Endowed with an extra filling of spiritual insight and wisdom they were patient and supportive of what the Board and members of the Iowa City Corps was seeking to do to achieve wholeness and balance. They graciously allowed the Corps freedom to do things differently. Their understanding of Evie’s and our issues was redemptive and were the conduits of God’s healing balm. We are pleased that they now are at NHQ and we all worship at the same Corps.

One of the things that still amazes me is that Barry asked me to assume the leadership of the Iowa City Corps after a short general telephone conversation. I had not sought the position, it just happened because someone in Iowa City sent him my resumee. When he offered me the position he understood I would want to pray about accepting the position. My response was I did not need to pray. Evie and I had been praying for a position. We both recognized the open door...we just recognized the Lord's direction. Our prayer was not "is this Your will", it was a prayer of Thanksgiving. And I saw it as another indication that sometimes our Lord works in a mischievous way (in the positive humorous sense of the term).

This posting ends of my divine gem list. There are a handful of others who I could have added, such as roomates and classmates in college and seminary, a handful of students in Winnipeg, but their impact was more short-term. As the years have passed, their impact upon my soul and mind have faded. Those who I call my divine gems are of a different order as their impact upon my mind and/or soul continues. Some impacts have been more tramatic than others, yet each in their own way a vehicle of grace.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Keeping the Faith With the Saints - St. Mary Ann's Church

While Josh is at the Crossman clinic in southern NJ I have been staying fifteen minutes away on the Deleware/Maryland state line. In my wanderings today I came across this church in the town of North East Maryland. That's correct, the town's name is North East, and is duly named as that is its location in the state. The town is located on the top end of the Chesapeake Bay and just a few miles from the Deleware.

As you will notice that worshippers who enter Sundays to worship at this Episcapal Church (Anglican for those north of the boarder) walk past the graves of past parishioners. I find the idea of walking past the graves of the past saints and one's foreparents on the way to worship to be theologically warming.

St. Mary Ann's is an old church and the congregation meets weekly. This is the original building that was erected in 1742 to replace the first parish church erected in 1718. The communion set, pulpit Bible and Book of Common Prayer presented to the Church by Queen Ann of England in 1718 are still used in special services. This church is a powerful reminder that we are merely the contemporary stewards of the faith and that we are standing upon the shoulders of those saints who have before us.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

D-Day Memorial

The National D-Day Memorial is another out the way site in Virginia. This tastefully and thoughtfully done memorial is located in Bedford VA. Though the memorial is just off a major regional highway connecting Lynchburg with Roanoke, Bedford is 50 miles from the nearest interstate and well removed from the major tourest areas or tourist travel routes. Yet, the initiative of local people to find something in their community and fundraising efforts across the country brought this privately funded memorial into being more than a decade ago.

The first two pictures are from the upper level. The reflecting pool/beach has random air shotting small spirts water into the air to signify bullets striking the water.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Last evening as I was driving into Danville the sky to the south west was filled with a beautiful sunset (Danville is 5 miles from NC/VA boarder). It reminded me of the above picture that I downloaded this past weekend and printed off to hang in my office.

This picture was taken years ago while we were camping at Blue Lake Provinicial Park in Ontario. This remote northern lake is one of my favorite areas. I would just love to have a house on the northeast corner of the lake. Our campsite overlooked the lake and through the tall pine trees we watched the sunset as we sat around the campfire.

As we were well to the north and it was July, the picture was taken around 11:15.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


One of the things that I enjoy about camping in remote areas is the plethora of visitors one encounters. Of course, some visitors like the guy below are more welcomed than others. Ants and racoons are in the less than welcomed group.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Below are pictures of three bloggers, couresty of an "All-In-One" Canon MP810 printer/scanner/photocopier Evie and I recently purchased. I assume the bloggers will know themselves.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You Know Its Cold When...

Stephen’s latest posting, “Winter – The Deep Freeze is On”, inspired this blog. Each of the following arises from personal experience or observations. Feel free to add to the lists out of your own life experiences.

You know it is cold when:
- The squeak of the snow hits the “C” above high “C”
- The in-laws come to visit and the high on the day they left their home and the low on the day they arrived to visit is a 100 degree F spread
- You have the car radiator covered with cardboard and it still takes you 20 minutes to get lukewarm heat from your car heater.
- The dog does not take time to sniff or squat. You throw him out the door, where he lands, is where he goes.
- You walk inside a building and within one second you cannot see through your glasses due to the fog.
- You try to make a snowball and the snow will not compact at all.
- A piece of ice slices through your radial car tire as if it was a sharp knife.
- A Colman stove gas line freezes.
- Kids do not go “Trick or Treating” because of the temperature.
- When you put a pair of wet blue jeans on the line outside for an hour and when you bring them inside and thaw, they are completely dry.
- When you have to crawl through an intersection after a light change because of the intersection is thick with exhaust fog.

You know it has been cold too long when:
- People start to take off their heavy winter coats when the temperature approaches the freezing mark
- The inside bottom five centimeters of your double pain windows is coated with one to one and half centimeters of ice.
- The snow pile at the local mall is still melting away in the middle of July.
- A curling rink feels balmy.
- Ice is still melting off the river in early May.
- You are still using your electric blanket in mid May.
- The first good barbeque day is not until late May.
- You turn over the soil in your garden in late May and you still encounter frozen soil.

Please add to the list.

Monday, November 06, 2006

November's Photo Challenge

Barb's photo challenge this month is to take a self portrait. My preference is to be behind the camera lens only, not in front of it. I do not take photos well...and I am sure that those who see the results will concur.

Rather than doing one photo of myself I decided to do three. The first is of me watching college football this past Saturday afternoon.

The second is of me watching a NFL game while preparing to drift off to take my Sunday afternoon nap.

The third is from earlier this evening when I came in the door after being out with Josh behind the wheel going down I 66. I suspect that dad looked the same when he took my siblings and I out on the 401.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mini-gods and Elections

Another election cycle is drawing to an overdue close. In Maryland the ads in the Governor’s race have been bad enough, but they are mild when compared to the Senate campaigns in Maryland and Virginia.

Each campaign uses obscure ancient things to find fault with the other and to make each sound like a fatal flaw. When an opponent changes positions from that which was held earlier in life they call it “flip flopping”. If the person does not change a position they portray the lack of change “arrogance” and as being “out of touch”. They portray the incumbent’s votes, even if the vote had broad bipartisan support, as being rash, lacking courage and wisdom. Positions and quotes are ripped out of their context to be used in way that is contrary to the original meaning.

One ad’s logic I found to be most interesting….it faults the incumbent for voting against stem cell research (a rider on a much larger funding health funding bill said the funds in that legislation could not be used for stem cell research). It then says the incumbent does not want ill people to get well. The ad then calls the incumbent heartless and cold to the needs of the residents of his State. When one tries to correct the record, they are called ungracious and lacking sensitivity and broad shoulders.

We attack our politicians for changing. Hence, we expect them to be immutable, never changing their positions or growing over the years. They are attacked for making a vote on legislation that does not work out as intended. Hence, we expect them to be omniscient, all-knowing and seeing three or seven years into the future with complete clarity and understanding. We hold them accountable for the failings of others associated with them or under their supervision as if they were personally present when the action took place. Hence, we expect them to be somewhat omni-present. We complain when our elected officials are unable to successfully solve with complex issues or situations beyond their control. Hence, we expect them to be somewhat omnipotent, having the ability to have power to solve our problems. And added to that mix, when they are attacked personally, misquoted, their records distorted or maligned in other ways we expect them to suffer quietly. In other words we expect them to be gracious to all, generous to all, quick to forgive and slow to anger, and above all, loving their detractors. We act shocked and fault them for the littlest of character flaws or when they use the wrong word (I am not downplaying those who have brought scandal upon themselves). Hence, we expect our leaders to act and speak perfectly.

At the end of the day we seem to expect our leaders to be mini-gods. We expect them to not like the rest of us who are deeply flawed. Though we expect mini-god like behavior from our leaders, we then attack them when they try to act as if they were mini-gods.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Superior Rating At States

Though the final home football game is in two weeks, officially the marching band season, which started the first week of August, is now over. Late Saturday Josh’s band went to the State’s Marching Band competition. This is the first of two steps necessary for a band must go through to achieve a “State Honor Band” ranking.

The two elements are, the marching band achieving a superior grade, and have the top concert band in the spring achieve a superior grade at Concert Band Festival. Achieving two superior grades is a challenge with less than one out of twenty high schools achieving Honor Band in a given year….only a handful of schools have earned the Honor Band rank for more than four consecutive years.

Oakton has been an Honor Band thirteen in the last sixteen years (they earned their 10th during Jonathan's senior year). Last year was not one of them as its marking as the marching band fell short of the superior grade by one point from one of the five judges.

This year Oakton (classed at States as a class 5A band) has taken the first step to return to the Honor Band status by earning early Saturday evening a superior rating. Eight bands achieved that rating in the northern Virginia competition (one 2A, two 3As, three 4As, three 5As….class is by size of the bands). As you will see from the pics, the competition was held on the marching field but on the driver’s education track. As it had rained all day Friday and into the early hours the morning it was felt that the field could not stand up to having thirty-two bands upon it in one day. Sustained winds of 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph increased the challenge…keeping hats on and for the guard flag drills. Due to the wind the guard had to forgo tossing the flags and drawing out the giant baseball flag (20’ by 40’).

The first pic from early in the show is the front end of the baseball diamond formation. The second pic is of seventh inning stretch where the band and audience sings “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” (Josh is in the five player ensemble in the center of the field).

Yes, in the third pic, that is fireworks going off from the scoreboard following the shooting of a cannon (placed behind the scoreboard). Throughout the performance, the score on the scoreboard changes. Also, on the scoreboard you will see the clock is set to the time of the performance…something that I did for the first competition in Winchester and the back crew continued doing throughout the season. The last pic shows Josh as a backfield conductor as the band moves away from the drum majors at the end of the show. You will also notice due to the wind three parents behind Josh holding the fence.

Other pics from the State Competition should be posted on Oakton’s web page later this week and join the other pics Evie and I have taken throughout the season.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

You Make the Call - Rulings

1. Can a batter strike out on foul ball? If you think it is possible, give an example.
Ruling – we often hear announcers talk about a batter striking out on “a foul tip”. In the rules there is no such thing as a foul tip. It is a strike. That said, there is a situation where a batter can strike out on a foul ball, and only one situation….bunting with two strikes and the bunt goes foul.

2. A runner on first (runner 2) gets a great lead and runs hard. He sees that the hit is going to fall between two fielders and keeps running. The runner on second (runner 1) runs part way to make sure that the ball falls in safely before he starts running (just in case he has to return to second if the ball is caught). Runner two passes runner one just before third base and actually steps on third before runner 1. They both make it home safely with runner one crossing the plate before runner 2. What call do you make?
Ruling – runner 1 is called out. A passing is not complete until a base is touched. As third was touched first by the following runner, he has passed runner one and put the first runner in an out position at the end of the play unless they undo the action of the pass. The only way both runners could be safe is if they both go back over third with runner 1 and then runner 2. Then runner 1 crosses third followed by runner 2 to undo the action of the passing.
If there were two outs, runner 2’s score would not count.

3. If while swinging at a pitch, the bat touches the catcher's glove. What call do you make? Does it make a difference if the batter hits a single? Or a double?
Ruling - The batter is awarded first on catcher’s interference. All runners advance if forced.
If the batter hits safely, and all other runners advance safely, it is deemed that there is no interference on the play.
If there are is a runner on base when the batter is interfered with, and the batter hits the ball but either the batter or a runner is out, the offensive manager has the option to accept either the catcher’s interference or the results of the play. If a runner was on third and it was the bottom of the 9th and the batter was out at 1st for the second out while runner scored to give offensive team the lead, the manager should take the results of the play.

4. An outfielder in fair territory positions under a deep fly ball. The outfielder catches the ball just before he hits the fence. As he hits the fence, the ball pops out of the glove and goes over the fence. What is the call?
Ruling - Home run.

5. While moving to take a ground ball, the shortstop runs in front of the runner going from second to third (not a forced play). There is no contact, but the runner had to stop before continuing. The runner gets thrown out at third in a bang-bang play. If the runner had not stopped the runner would have easily reached third safely. The runner feels that he was impeded. What is the call? Is the runner safe on interference or is the runner out?
Ruling - If there is no contact, there is no interference. If fielder is moving forward in the process of making a play and there is contact, and the fielder does not make the play, the runner is out for interference. If on the other hand fielder makes contact while not in the immediate and legitimate process of making a play, the fielder has impeded the runner and the umpire places the runner where in the umpire’s judgment the runner would have been safe.

In this case he would be deemed to be safe at third. If he had arrived safe at third and was thrown out at home, and it was not a close play, then the runner is not protected by the fielder’s interference and he is out.

6. Runners on first and third, the pitcher balks as the runner on first goes in motion. The pitcher still pitches the ball, the batter swings, the catcher interferes with the swing and the batter gets thrown out at 1st while runner from third scores and the runner from first ends up on third. What happens?
Ruling - This situation was on my level three certification exam. Here the offensive manager makes the determination. The manager has three options: a) accept the result of the play that gives him a run, b) accept the bulk and have a run with a runner on second, or b) accept the catcher’s interference and have the bases loaded. Option a) is not wise as accepting the bulk gives the team a run without an out. Depending on the score and where you are in the line-up should influence whether to take either b or c as options.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fall Colors

I have just returned from a trip down the valley and into the Piedmont area of the state. This time of year the trip is a rich pallet of color. Below are few pictures taken as we crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains on I 64 between Charlottesville and Waynesboro.

The return trip back from Danville was full of color but it beauty was for the most lost as it was raining the whole five hours.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chev HHR

Chevrolet has just introduced the HHR. During my trip to Atlanta I rented a vehicle and was given a brand new HHR….it only had 6 miles on it. As you can see from the pics, the HHR (first pic, white vehicle) look very much like Chrysler’s PT Cruiser (second pic, grey vehicle), a car that I did not like but which has found a following.

Here are my thoughts about the HH2. Be mindful that I did not put it through the rigors that do the testers of Road and Track or the Consumers Report. These are just thoughts of a person who drove one briefly for average driving.

Positives: High head clearance and the seat moved upward to allow one to be at a sofa level in elevation; good cargo space for a small vehicle; outstanding turning radius; an automatically adjusting day/nigh mirror with compass; simple and effective radio design; two glove boxes; back window has its owner wiper and washer; an electronic system via one button on the steering which that tracks mileage, gas consumption, oil condition and engine temperature; window buttons position between the two front seats.

It has adequate pick-up speed. As for padding, the seats are of adequate comfort.

Negatives: A large front blind spot created by the mirror due to the low front window. When going down a hill or around a curve, anything more than 200 yards out to the right goes into a significant blind spot; low front window means that one can not see light changes in the normal seating position if one is the first car in line; hard plastic dash; arm rest between the two front passengers is only 1.5” wide when spacing allows for 2.5”; the arm rests between the two front seats are 1.5 to 2” too short for the average person; the front cup-holders are beneath the arm rests; only one cup-holder for backseat occupants.

Overall, the Chevy HHR is a car with potential that comes up short. Just for the blind spot issues, I give the HHR a failing grade. The vehicle runs nice and may look sharp if you like that look, but if compromises safety, why purchase a vehicle that has a serious forward blind spot for anyone over 5’4”. I am sure others will notice the same and GM apologists will try to explain it all away. I drove it, I will not do so again.

That is my initial thoughts on the HHR.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Musical Darwinism

At Oakton High, as at many schools with strong music programs and colleges, band members are placed and seated each year after an audition. Other than section leaders, once seated, each player can issue a challenge to the person in the seat ahead of them. The two players go back through auditions with the winner taking the higher seat.

As Josh was the trombone section leader of Concert Band II and of Jazz II he issued no challenges. He did not receive any challenges to be unseated. Last year as lead trombone of Concert I he received no challenges. Last year in Jazz I he issued a challenge and won the challenge…after winning that challenge he issued another challenge to move up one more chair but the challenge did not go forward as challenges had been suspended.

This year he is in the top band. Symphonic Band plays only college level music. Symphonic seating is completive with challenges taking place throughout the year. When seating was announced, there were a range of challenges across the band. Two challenges took place in the trombone section…4th chair challenging 3rd chair and Stephanie, the 2nd chair challenging Josh. The 5th chair trombone was just happy to have made the band.

Stephanie is an excellent player and co-section of trombones for the marching band. As there was no clear winner after the challenge, Josh remains the section leader. In two weeks she can challenge him again. She also could be challenged by then by the 3rd chair (not likely, but possible). Eventually, challenges for the most part peter out by mid-winter.

The challenges are a variation of the king of the mountain, or Darwin’s survival of the fittest. It keeps better players from being content and pushes them to hone their skills. Whether Josh will remain section leader for a whole season is unknown…if he gets unseated, no doubt he will challenge with an eye to regain the top seat.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Marching Cougars

Here is a picture of Josh's band, the Marching Oakton Cougars. This shot was taken last night around 10:30 and following the Oakton Classic. There were fifteen bands that competed. The bands ranged from 32 marchers to 195 marchers in size. Besides all going for grand champion, each competes by class size for various awards in their class.

Josh is somewhere in the crowd.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You Make the Call - Part Two

Here are two more baseball situations.

4. An outfielder in fair territory positions under a deep fly ball. The outfielder catches the ball just before he hits the fence. As he hits the fence, the ball pops out of the glove and goes over the fence. What is the call?

5. While moving to take a ground ball, the shortstop runs in front of the runner going from second to third (not a forced play). There is no contact, but the runner had to stop before continuing. The runner gets thrown out at third in a bang-bang play. If the runner had not stopped the runner would have easily reached third safely. The runner feels that he was impeded. What is the call? Is the runner safe on interference or is the runner out?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

You Make the Call

As many of you know while in Winnipeg and Iowa City I umpired baseball. Now that we are into the playoffs, I thought I would post situations and ask you to make the call. The first few will be easy. After posting several sets over the coming days I will announce the proper ruling. Give your call in a comment.

1. Can a batter strike out on foul ball? If you think it is possible, give an example.

2. A runner on first (runner 2) gets a great lead and runs hard. He sees that the hit is going to fall between two fielders and keeps running. The runner on second (runner 1) runs part way to make sure that the ball falls in safely before he starts running (just in case he has to return to second if the ball is caught). Runner two passes runner one just before third base and actually steps on third before runner 1. They both make it home safely with runner one crossing the plate before runner 2. What call do you make?

3. If while swinging at a pitch, the bat touches the catcher's glove. What call do you make? Does it make a difference if the batter hits a single? Or a double?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stone Mountain - Part 2

Below are pics taken of an old plantation at Stone Mountain. As you will see the main house is grand and luxurious for the age. The kitchen is located in another building about 40 yards away from the main house. Locating the kitchen in a seperate building kept the heat and noise of the kitchen from impacting the main house.

As you can see the main house and its rooms seem so romantic, and they would be if it were not for two important buildings in the complex.

The two buildings are in the last two pictures. They are slave quarters for slaves who served in the house, looked after the horses or worked in the kitchen. The less luxurious buildings that housed field slaves were located near the fields. The two slave quarterss bring balance and remove the romanticism of the grand houses with their luxurious rooms. I appreciate that they have been maintained as they remind the visitors of that deplorable system of abuse.

Stone Mountain - Part One

Below are pics taken of the carvings done into the granite face of Stone Mountain. My room which is located just across the road faces the carvings. These pics were taken Saturday afternoon just before I checked in.

Stone Mountain is located just east of Atlanta and is now part of a State Park. The carvings which started in the 1920s were not completed until 1970….two interruptions over the years due to funding.

The carvings are of General Robert E. Lee (main character in the center), Confederate President Jefferson Davis (back and front of Lee) and General Stonewall Jackson. I found to design of these grand figures to be interesting. The three characters are celebrated as heroic figures. With their hats over their hearts these three figures are viewed as the embodiment of a valiant righteous cause.

It is the latter, the righteous cause, for which I have the greatest difficulty. There is little doubt that Lee was a brilliant General and a gracious man. There is little doubt that Davis was a man of passion. And there is little doubt that Jackson was an endocentric general who knew how to get things done (he was a good tactician but I do not see him as the brilliant tactician as many others see him). But the embodiment of righteousness is where I say “lets get a life and stop romanticizing the cause of the South.”

The South argued that they were fighting for States rights. States rights was the presenting issue, the issue politely noted in conversations and put forth in publications. Let us never forget that when we cut through the high rhetoric of States rights, it was the code language for people justifying the ability to abuse and enslave other human beings and finding ways to dehumanize them in spirit, action and function. It was the grounds trying to keep others from exposing an evil system.

While we would wish to root out evil peacefully, evil has a way of bring destruction upon the innocent when righteousness and goodness respond to address and eradicate the evil. We see the suffering of innocents when one looks at the human and economic toll extracted to free tens of thousands from the evil clutches of a few thousand people with economic and political influence.

States rights was neither valiant, nor righteous. Let us recognize that these men who are celebrated upon the mountain face were defenders of not of a righteous cause but of an unrighteous one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pumpkin Tree

Barb has issued a challenge on is my submission...the extremely rare and hard to grow "pumpkin tree."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Herding and Boxes

Yesterday I flew to Atlanta for a series of meetings. The airport experience was just that, “an experience.” You go from one line to another. At the ticketing counter, one guy whose flight was leaving in 45 minutes was moved by a screener to the front of the ticket line to see an agent. As he reached across to give his identification his arm with a tennis racket accidentally hit a man in the back. The man was being served by another agent.

These things happen. When the man saw this guy who had been moved to the front standing between him and his wife he turned and pushed a man who he saw as a rude interloper. When he pushed this guy, he stumbled and as he tried to regain his balance he hit the wife and knocked her over some luggage and onto her back. The husband thinking that this man had intentionally pushed his wife pushed this guy a second time. A fight was about to take place until three agents shouted.

What complicated the matter is that the agent who had moved the man to the head of the line to a specified agent had moved on. She was the only one who knew why he was there. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and an agent got the matter settled quickly with two policeman standing ten feet away.

From there I through a long security line….I prefer flying out of National because the even with long lines you can get through in about 15 minutes, and from there you are less than 3 minutes to the gates. Having to use the restroom I discovered that one of the two restrooms was closed and again stood in line 10 minutes.

Following that there was the maneuvering through the crowd in the narrow hallway, standing in line 5 minutes to get something to eat, maneuvering though a small store and then standing in line 4 minutes there to purchase a pack of gum, searching to find an empty seat at the gate, and then the line to get onto the plane. When I finally got to my seat in a crowded 60 seat jet I felt like was just being herded around like cattle.

Oh, the joy of flying. Since coming to Washington I have taken more flights than all the prior years. In that same time I have stayed nearly 3 times as many hotel rooms as all the prior years.

Thinking about all this as the plane bumped its way through a thunderstorm, again I felt like a cow in the midst of a herd. Then I recalled the old pictures of railway stations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were long lines there to ride over crowded rail cars for half days or more. They had crowded hot stuffy stations and long lines to check and claim their baggage, and to purchase their tickets. They had their limited restroom facilities and poor food, if food could even be found in stations or on the trains.

The old sailing and steam ships that traveled the Atlantic were full of people…close quarters for all but the first class passengers, and long lines to get on and off, and long waits to reclaim baggage. They hand their long lines to get through inspections and immigration officials. River steamers were not any better and may have been worse when you noted that many of them also carried shipments of other material including horses and other livestock. Then add the business and in sundry aromas of the livestock to the mix without air conditioning and good ventilation.

Mass travel has always been just that “mass”….taking the masses in small boxes from one place to another. How the boxes are moved from point A to point B may have changed, but in all generations the boxes have been crowded. We just have to tolerate the box and herding process. While I do not enjoy flying and view it as a means to an end, I am now thankful that I only have to be in a box for a few hours compared to days or weeks. I also will be more patient with the herding processes associated with the moving of the boxes and its contents from one point to another.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Gems - Part 7

Mary Ann Austin: As Mary Ann served as the Assistant Dean of Students for four years at William and Catherine Booth College, I had the privilege to get to know her and see her work. This people oriented lady is very passionate about her work and faith. Her attention to student issues and issues was a commendable and valued asset.

One of the things I valued about working with Mary Ann is that I she presented well reasoned ideas in a cogent manner. I enjoyed raising objections to see how she would respond and often found elements to use to raise with the President and seeds to plant for future watering. Her reasoning was solid and sound.

In other ways she acted as my foil. To my more global and conceptual thinking she thought through the details. I could confidently rely upon her to work out the details and hone matters with grace and dignity. Her assistance in revamping the discipline approach and process to be less punitive and more redemptive was invaluable.

I tried to encourage students to live out the Wesleyan principal of agreeing to disagree in an agreeable manner. In Mary Ann, the students saw that principal gracefully lived out.

Marc Archambeaux: This gentleman was my district Umpire-in-Chief for five years in Winnipeg. We worked together at least twice a week on games. Marc helped hone my umpiring skill sets and knowledge of the rules.

Even though he is not a Christian I have come to view him as a divine gem because of one comment that impacted me. For four years we had come to know each other well and I would from time to time share about my faith and encourage him to look to Christ. One late Saturday afternoon after doing our second play-off game and getting relaxing before doing a third, Mac looked at me and said, “Dave your trying to give me answers to questions that I am not asking and I consider irrelevant.” Marc was right. Too often Christians marginalize themselves by addressing questions that those who we attempt to connect with in the world view as irrelevant. I took stock of the significance of what he said and it became an “aha” moment.

While I started to work out the significance of what he said, it was not until I was in Iowa City that I had the chance to work through the change in my thinking in a more functional manner. In IC I worked with the Board, clients and work from their issues, accept their doubts and to build relationships based upon their issues and questions. For that “aha” moment Marc became unknowingly a divine gem.

Jim Read and Don Burke: These two godly men are truly divine gems. It was a honor to get to know them while Evie and I were at the college in Winnipeg. They have given themselves of service to Christ and The Salvation Army in the classroom. Their critical mind and the quality of their scholarship is a great asset to the Army…I regret that the Army at large has not recognized the asset they have in these two men.

Each has a clearly different personality but in each I saw scholarly men living out their faith in a spirit of joy and quietude. They are encouragers of others and are quick to see the best in others while being slow to anger or disappointment. They seek to be generous in the face of negative news while still working actively to bring positive resolution. It is in their handling of disappointments in a positive manner that has helped to impact my thinking and patience.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Throughout history various men and women have been saddled with the title, “hero”. Often we speak of them in such terms that places them upon a pedestal. Yet when we look at them, most if not all of these heroes have significant character flaws and at some point in their lives have made a terrible decision. Name someone and you will find a serious issue.

Even in Scripture the heroes of the faith are flawed individuals, and some with deep serious flaws. Least we dismiss the flaws as being a pre-faith state and loose perspective, Scripture makes it clear that their flaws and misjudgments take place while they are in a state of obedient faith. What we have is real people being used by God.

Many people who are heroes are ordinary people, people like me and you who find themselves at a junction where they are confronted with a demanding challenge, a challenge that they address and meet with perseverance and courage. They become reminders of the human potential and hope.

For those of faith, they have the Holy Spirit to enhance their courage and sustain them. Such individuals become examples to others of faith of how God grants abundant grace to us in such moments.

I have recently met a couple who are examples of this divine process. This couple are newly commissioned officers. Just over three weeks after arriving in their appointment their first child was born. They found the Corps’ cash flow was stretched to the point where in mid summer they looked at not being able to meet payroll. A few weeks later, he was told that he has cancer. While the prognosis of recovery, the surgery and 15 weeks of chemotherapy means his involvement at the Corps and assisting with the Christmas program (assisted over 1,800 children last year) is limited. Then into that mix add that their community service person is leaving mid October as she has just taken a position with the State.

Yes, DHQ is providing extra support and will do so well into the New Year. Though they are being assisted with the seasonal issues, our main concern is to help them as individuals. Watching and listening to them as they coolly, methodically and intentionally go about their duties and planning stirs my heart. While some would bemoan their situation and become lost, this couple’s faith and spirit of joy are high. Each day they are taking hold of each day and task with confidence. While like many of us, they would not consider themselves as heroes or want to be called such, they are being victorious in how they are handling the situation. They are an example to all of us in handling a confluence of difficulties.

May God’s grace and power continue to be with them in a mighty manner…may they have an extra portion of God’s love and grace.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Marching Band Pit Crews

Evie noted in her blog about the pit crews and her work with the back pit with the backdrop scoreboard and fence. Below are pitures of what she noted. The pit has three minutes max to set and take down all items. The second pic shows the scoreboard in back and one of the front dugouts set up by the front crew. This second pic also shows the band concluding their performance and moving off the field while the guard gives the finishing touch in front.

The third pic shows part of the front pit. This is a quarter of the front pit. On the right you will notice the three timps on a cart. We have four carts the hook-up together and once on the field the equipment remains on them and the wheels slide out. Various other items are on wheels.

Joanne asked how Josh's band did on Saturday. Though they were missing 3 ensemble/solist members and a drum major due to the Jewish holiday they won all their awards for the their class (AAAA). They were not grand champions as a class AA band slightly beat them in the overall scoring.

Bands are classified by size of the bands...the smallest are class A with the largest being AAAA. This way each band competes against bands of a similar size. Larger bands have a bigger sound, a more complicated program but with more marchers making mistakes.