Friday, May 30, 2008

Image of the Day

So what kind of blossom is this? The plant is right outside my back door, but I have no clue what it is.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

PCA General Assembly Colloquium on the Sacraments

I finished my presentation on sacramental efficacy for the General Assembly Colloquium this year. I need to get it to the convener tomorrow. The stipulated question that each of the 4 speakers were asked to address is: What do the sacraments actually accomplish in their administration?

I sought to answer this question from a slightly different perspective. I've broken the question up into two parts, each adressing two dimensions of the problem. First, it's not enough to simply ask what the Lord's Supper, for example, accomplishes, but what ought it to accomplish?

And once we answer that, then the more difficult question is: Does the Lord’s Supper actually accomplish what God intends in our churches? And if it doesn’t, what’s the problem?

Most Reformed people would respond to the problem of the Supper's not accomplishing what God intends with a reference to the individual communicant’s lack of faith. Efficacy depends on the faithful reception of the Supper. No faith, no benefits. True enough. But is that the whole story? What if the way we do the Supper, the way the Supper is performed and then experienced is a major part of the problem? What if even faith-filled Christian people are hindered from receiving all the gifts God intends to give in the Supper because we pastors and elders are not being attentive to the proper manner in which the Supper is to be performed?

That's the question I will address in my presentation. Maybe I'll post it after it's delivered on June 10th.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I've got a lot going on this week, so don't nobody be bugging me about posting profound blog posts. It ain't gonna happen. The presenters at the GA Colloquium on the Sacraments have all been given another week to finish our presentations. Wheh. I love grace. That was close. My presentation will be much better with a few extra days to perfect it.

Oh, and everybody should remember that my birth day is this Sunday, June 1. But since I'm leaving immediately after church for our annual seminary student retreat, we'll be celebrating it on Wednesday. Send me an email to find out where you can ship me money, expensive gift certificates, Nikon DSLR lenses, rifles, handguns, ammunition, Mac computers, and other significant birthday gifts. It's okay if they arrive a few days late.

In the meantime, look at this portrait of 5-day old George Owen Gibson:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

George Owen Gibson's Baptism

Rev. Jamison Galt baptizes Shane & Kim's 5-day old son.

Here are more images of the baptism, the Gibson family, and Shane's ordination.

New Orleans

Gotta run in a minute. I was so frustrated last night on the plane. I was on the wrong side of the jet (window facing east) and I couldn't capture the amazing cloud formations against the backdrop of the setting sun. The windows were badly scratched and foggy anyway, so I wouldn't have gotten a great image. I settled for this shot from my dirty, stratched window.

I'm in New Orleans this morning to preach at a friend's ordination service at Redeemer Presbyterian church. Last night the pastor here took me to the French Quarter and we heard some pretty cool Cuban-style jazz at the Blue Nile. More later.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Original Stage Shot

Wayne asked about how much "correction" I had to do with the shot of Jeffrey receiving his "diploma" in the previous post. Answer: A lot. Here's what the original looked like:

There's a WHOLE lot more going on here than just adjusting the "brightness" slider. Stuff you can't do if you don't have Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop Elements.

When shooting in such bad light with a telephoto, you've got to have the camera settings just right. And you've got to shoot in RAW so you will have enough data to manipulate when you start correcting for the poor lighting. If you capture in jpeg format, you will not able to recover an image like this. A jpeg file doesn't contain enough "hidden" detail for you to work with. The result will be distorted and very unpleasant to look at.

Now, of course, the result of my "pushing" this image isn't by any stretch of the imagination a great picture. But it's certainly useable and keepable. To get really great results you need an expensive f2.8 lens like the Nikkor 70-200mm VR. Maybe one day.

8th Grade "Graduation"

Last night Jeffrey "graduated" from 8th grade.
Mother & Son:
You can view the whole album here (if you care).

Oh, and former Cardinal pitcher Andy Benes and catcher Mike Matheny both had children graduating.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

High School Graduate

Daugher #3 graduated from High School last night. She had a great four years at Westminster. Congratulations, Julie!

A rose for mom!

Sisters before the ceremony.
You can see more images here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fire Away!

Today's image is of a friend firing my Sig P228. I'm standing directly behind him. I love it when the ejected casing is captured.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Our Open Future

I spoke at a graduation last night. I challenged the graduates to resist the apocalyptic mentality of so much of American Christianity. You know, the world is going to end soon because everything is so bad and just getting worse. There will be no progress because there's nothing left to discover, invent, or explore. You can't polish brass on a sinking ship. You know the routine.

People who can't envision what might come next, lazily believe that therefore nothing is yet to come. It's all over. Jesus is coming to rescue us from this mess. Isn't that wonderful?

Well, no, it's not only not wonderful, it's not true. Such resignation does not come from faith but faithless abdication of our Christian responsibility. Thinking that Jesus is going to come at any moment and get us out of this earthly mess is not the kind of vision that inspired the development and progress of Christian civilization. And by "Christian civilization" I mean all the freedoms, luxuries, and benefits we daily take for granted in the West.

When, for example, in the 4th and 5th centuries AD Christian leaders stood at the crossroads and contemplated the meaning of the disintegration of Rome and her culture, they didn't all gather on a mountain and wait for Jesus to come and rescue them. They went to work on a new foundation for culture. Augustine wrote his massive City of God, and it inspired a new world. You don't write 800-page treatises for future generations of Christians if you think history is going to end in a few months.

But there were many around Augustine who thought that the world was indeed about to end. They could not imagine a world that was not governed by Rome, therefore such a world could not exist, would never exist. Wrong. They were too provincial in their contemplation of what the future might hold.

At the turn of the first millennium of the Christian era people thought it was all over. How could it get any worse? What else could there possibly be in store for humanity? They were wrong. There was more, much more.

Luther believed that he was living in the end times. The anti-Christ was powerful. Everything was a mess. The world was obviously almost over. How could it get much worse? Was there anything new or different that could be discovered? Luther died thinking that the end would come shortly, but human history did not end. God had more to do, more for man to discover and learn.

In the American church there has been wave after wave of eschatological speculation about the nearness of the end of the world and Jesus imminent return. It's an obsession with Americans. All of it has been silly and counterproductive, to put the best face on it. In each instance the world did not end and Jesus did not come again. Short-sighted Christians just could not imagine anything new, any future that might be different than what was past. They were faithless and lazy thinkers when it came to these questions.

When will we learn our lesson? Five hundred years from now Christians will look back on our culture and shake their heads. They will ask questions like this: How could they be so narrow, so self-absorbed? How could they have been so provincial in their outlook? Why didn't they learn from the mistakes of Christians in the past? What happened to sanctified imagination in American Christianity?

We have many thousands of years left for human history to learn, grow, mature, and continue God's program given to Adam and Eve. The future is open. Jesus is still on the throne. We are his bride, left behind to complete the work that he began. We should recognize that our failure to embrace an open future is actually a refusal to deny ourselves and live to serve our children and our children's children. We are so self-absorbed that we think human history has culminated with us. Think about it. We have become so self-centered that we refuse to follow Christ in sacrificial service for future generations.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Today's image is a Goldfinch I found on my back patio. Because they fidget and fly around so much these little guys are difficult to capture. I used my Nikon 70-300mm to get this shot. I know, people have mixed feelings about this lens. Mixed feelings and mixed reviews. It is an inexpensive piece of Nikon glass, to be sure. But I have found mine to be quite good. I always get sharp images, even at 300mm. Dang if I'm gonna spend thousands of dollars on a 300mm lens when I can get shots like this. The AF doesn't work very fast, of course. In fact, this shot was manually focused (and that very quickly).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Maximum Concentration

Baseball and softball action pictures are great, but sometimes the coolest sports images focus on what you cannot see from the bleachers as a spectator. When I zoom in close to batters I'm always fascinated by their facial expressions just before they hit (or miss) the ball.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Here's one for all you TWIT addicts (myself included).

French Anti-Tank Weapon

Randall .45 Slide Broke

Okay, you guys (and gals) that don't like guns, just ignore this post. Don't even look at it.

I've had my Randall .45 Raider (right hand, rounded top slide) since the early-80's. Never had a problem with it. I've put more than a thousand rounds through it. This weekend, while shooting it, the front end of the slide broke clean off. Here's the pistol with the crack in the slide:

Here's a closeup:

And this is to show that the whole front end just blew off:

Okay, so what causes this? I don't believe I erred when I reassembled it after I cleaned it last. I've done that so many times, I can't imagine not getting it right. Anybody have any clue? Hopefully I can get a new slide. They don't make Randall pistols anymore, but perhaps another 1911 style slide will fit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creepy Storm Clouds

I got up to take the dog out this morning about 45 minutes ago and found this creepy sky. After the dog did 1/2 of his business I ran back inside for my camera. I knew I didn't have long. I brought it out with my 50mm on it, but that wasn't enough. So I ran inside again for my 12-24. That did the trick. I took a lot of shots in a few minutes hoping to capture lightning with these amazing clouds. But the clouds were moving so fast, I couldn't use my tripod and a long exposure. This is good enough. The rising sun in the bottom right corner makes the picture. Notice also that the light from the rising sun fringes the bottom of the clouds with a slight orange cast. The images posted here was the last image I was able to capture before the downpour.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Got the Ruger LCP!

In an earlier post I said I was looking for a new Ruger LCP .380. I couldn't find one in St. Louis. There are waiting lists at all the guns stores for this pistol. Well, on the way out to the church men and boys camp out this past Friday, just for kicks, I stopped by Champion City Guns in Redbud, MO, on highway 50. I didn't think I'd find anything, but I had never been in the store, so stopping in wouldn't exactly be wasted time. Has anyone ever wasted time in a gun shop? Nah. But right when I walked in I saw the Ruger in the case and couldn't believe it. His asking price was a bit over retail, but I don't blame him for that. I paid it.

The pistol is amazingly small. The .357 looks like a canon next to it. It fits in your front pocket with space left over. It's well made. It cycled the 50 rds I put through it this weekend without a single problem. Cool.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Camp Out

I've been gone for the past two days at a camp out for the men and boys of the church. I've got to finish up my preparation for tomorrow, so I just have two images to share tonight. Hopefully, next week I'll have some time to process the 450+ images I captured this weekend.

This, of course, is Jonathan Barlow training for his new position as an agent with Blackwater USA.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sunday School is Important!

It Takes A Village

Well, actually it takes a Church. But as is often true with false ideas and philosophies, Hillary brushed up against the truth while promoting her particular distortion of it. We are not meant to live in isolation as individuals or even as families. As image-bearers of a Triune God, we are communal by nature and we reach our fullest potential when we make the most of the gifts, wisdom and service of our Christian brothers and sisters. This is particularly true in the area of raising our children.

All of us parents become weary at times, and most of us have experienced times when our children weren't anxious to receive our counsel. The larger family of God can contribute significantly to the Christian discipleship of our children, alleviating the illusion that it all relies on us. Of course, we know that their remaining faithful requires a work of the Holy Spirit, but we also know that this work most often, if not always, comes to them through other believers - parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, elders, pastors, friends, etc.

So writes Lori Shaffer on her blog in the first of two excellent reflections the importance of children's Sunday school. Read part 1 and part 2.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Feasting With Jesus

I don't publish sermons very often. For one thing, I don't want to pitch my sermons to people that are not in my congregation. If I know that my sermons will be heard by people I don't know, in cities I've never visited, then I will constantly worry about everything I say. And eventually, of course, I will end up preaching not to the local congregation, but to a more general audience. Way too many pastors fall into that trap. Besides, I just don't want to be constantly thinking about how some critic could misunderstand and twist my words. But, alas, occasionally I throw caution to the wind and post a new one. Here's a sermon in my series on the Gospel of Luke. The passage is Luke 5:27-39. Rip it to shreds.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Saturday, May 3

Nothing much going on today. I'm headed out to a Women in the Church (WIC) annual meeting in a few minutes. We'll be installing new officers for the year. I may talk a bit about "deaconesses" in the church (not the same as "women deacons"). After that, I'll drive out to Washington, MO, to pick up my processed deer sausage, brats, jerky, etc. from Ed's meat market. I may stop in a few gun shops to see if someone has a new Ruger LCP .380 in stock. I'd really like to check this little baby out. No one seems to have them in stock. Later this afternoon, I'll drive my son over to a new summer grass-cutting job so he can get the lay of the land, or the yard. Hopefully, I'll get to watch the Cards-Cub game, too. Last night's 11-inning game was great. Tonight I'm going to "tool party" for one of the men in our church. He's getting married at the end of May. He's from the Congo, so he needs some American tools. That's about it for today.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

One Bridge, Three Interpretations

Interpretation #1 - What the Machine Sees. This is the original unprocessed image. Remember the camera sensor and in-camera processing do not normally have the ability to reproduce the dynamic range of light and color that you "see" when you capture the image. (Click on any of these images to see a larger version.) Okay, I have to clarify. This is not really the original unprocessed file; it's a jpeg of how the RAW file looks without any post-processing. The original unprocessed RAW file is in fact enormously more complex and jammed full of so much more information than can be seen in this pict. But, this is how the original unprocessed image LOOKS before you start using all that information that lies latent in the file itself. Okay. Got it?

Interpretation #2 – What I Saw. This is the image after some normal post processing tweaks in Nikon's Capture NX software. There was no need to use Photoshop CS3 for this image. I've drawn out the color and detail in the file and manipulated the luminosity so as to capture the scene as I saw it on site. Or something close to it anyway. Well, at least how I dreamed it ought to be. ;-)

Interpretation #3 – Dramatic Black & White. Here I used the channel mixer and a few other magic tools in PS CS3 to convert the image to B&W, crop it a bit, and make a few other changes. It's toned in "selenium brown."

Interpretation #4 – Wild & Crazy. Having a little fun in both programs to come up with this surreal, grainy look. I don't know if I even like this or not. It's just there.