Reconstruction of the West Liberty Christian Church



We won another victory over the tornado of 2012.

Almost four years after a horrible tornado took our 102-year old building from us, we moved into our new church building.

Previous to this, we worshiped at another church.  I know it was a great sacrifice on their part but they  graciously provided their building to us for about a year.   This was a wonderful act of kindness to a reeling church body after taking a devastating blow.  Luckily we were able to stagger back to our corner and get our wits about us.

We were at this time able to go through the difficult stages of shock and grief over our building.  Also the healing started as we dealt with the emotional attachment to a building that was so meaningful to many of us.  Seeing our children coming to accept the Lord Jesus and go through the act of baptism, walking some of those same children down the sloped aisle to their awaiting spouse, saying good-bye to those who meant so much to us at their funerals was on all  our minds as we started planning for a new building.  We all knew how hard it would be, for we had not planned on bidding adieu to our old friend on the corner of Prestonsburg and Broadway.

We then worshiped in a mobile unit for another eighteen months or so back on our lot.  As we stared at a vacant lot where the old building stood, a constant reminder of what was taken and how much work lay ahead of us as we tried to fill that same lot.

We then built a metal building on the back of our property and praised God there.  We shared this building with the food pantry.  On some Sundays we could smell rotten potatoes or onions or other produce.

Eventually God’s grace and mercy brought us through the storm as He promised.  We had our first service on the first Sunday of 2016.  We were so excited. We moved in before the building would be finished and we are still waiting for the downstairs and kitchen to be completed.

I am very grateful to our congregation for their perseverance and their faith in the one and only Creator.

I took this photo during the construction of our new church building and loved the shadows on a late afternoon.  You can see the domes of two buildings in the background, the dome on the right is atop our old, 109-year old court house.  The tornado weakened the roof and the dome collapsed into the courtroom.  The dome on the left is our new judicial building that was close to completion when the tornado hit.  It had to have major reconstruction.

Through it all, when our faith was struggling and our strength seemed to be fading, God answered our prayers and reminded us that His Grace is sufficient for us.

As I write this, I am listening to a song by Jeremy Camp called “Same Power”.  He sings about “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, the same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us.  He lives in us.”

I know we have a long way to go.  We still have to pay for this building.   But we have already had one to commit her life to the Lord Jesus and was baptized.  There will be more.  There will be weddings and funerals and memories for the next generations of God’s people, if He permits.  He has blessed His people since the beginning of time and will continue till the end of time.  Then Jesus will usher in His Kingdom and I will see some of those I said good-bye to in that old building.

After the tornado,  I was interviewed by CBS reporter Anna Werner as we looked at the pile of rubble that was the old building and she asked me what it would mean to see a new building standing here.  I replied, “God always wins.”

He has won another victory for our small town.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.


Ezel Presbyterian Church





I was in a testosterone fog.

Like the tops of the eastern Kentucky hills hidden by the fog of this particular winter, rainy, day, my judgement was clouded by the current state of my machismo.  My bravado gauge seemed to be in sync with the RPM gauge on my Fiat X 1/9, both maintaining a level above what could be considered safe at the time.  You get the picture.

I had my new girlfriend, now my lovely wife of 29-plus years, sitting in the orange leather passenger seat of this Italian classic sports car (description may be an embellishment).  Our destination was Ezel, Ky.

I had invited her to come with me for her first trip to Morgan County, my home, to witness her new boyfriend perform the most manly of courtship rituals.  Amid all of the Animal Planet and Nature Channel shows that focus on the singing, dancing, spreading plumage, and so forth found in nature, there is one facet of the male-to-female attraction ritual that never seems to be shown…the male’s invitation to the female to travel a long distance to watch him play in a basketball tournament in a small rural gymnasium.

As if her femaleness wasn’t clicking on all cylinders in the anticipation of watching me display my prowess on the court of the old Ezel High School gym, added to her delight was riding in a car that barely had the weight to stay within the gravitational pull of the planet at 70 mph.  Not only that, but throw into her experience a driving rain and road spray coming onto a vehicle that wasn’t as tall as the semi trucks’ tires I kept passing.  The six-inch Italian wiperblades could not keep the amount of water cleared off the windshield long enough to see the small ponds formed on the rain-soaked Mountain Parkway.  I assumed each episode of hydroplaning that showcased my daring-do car handling ability would further add to her confidence in opting for my affections.

I was thinking none of her past beaus would have been able to deliver an unprecedented afternoon such as this.

Ezel is a beautiful section of rolling hills and farmland in western Morgan County.  Sitting atop one of these rolling hills is the Ezel Presbyterian Church.  It is one of my favorite sights in all of Morgan County.  This church building was built about ninety years ago.

Remarkably, my wife still continued to date me after this inglorious day.  Although since this day,  when we travel there is a constant update on weather changes and road conditions and speed monitoring coming from the passenger seat.

Also my team made it to the finals of the basketball tournament that day so my lucky new girlfriend was able to be impressed by my manliness for a whole day in that gym at Ezel.  We lost in that game, but not before I was able to keep my man from missing a shot and holding him to about thirty points.

I am happily married today because my wife never understood the fundamentals of a man-to-man defense.


If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Country Church





Before you read any farther (or is it further?) please be warned about my mood.

Lately, my mood has been 3D…dark, dreary, and dank.  According to the Urban Dictionary,  the stoners use dank to describe something of high quality.  So in that vernacular, my dark mood has been really dank, man.

There are many reasons that I can contribute to this blue melancholia, none of which by themselves should contribute to my glumness.   Basically, I have always been a pretty happy guy and never worried about much, though no one ever accused me of being an optimist or no one has ever called me “Sunshine”.

Lately, things have changed in my psyche.

I feel  I have been struggling to free myself from the tentacles of life’s encumbrances.

I have been asking myself many questions during the self-analysis sessions late at night and early in the morning when my body is refusing sleep.   Sometimes at work, I find myself  on Freud’s couch, slipping into a session (some would say spacing-out) only to be brought back to the present tense by the other person in my presence slapping me to see if I haven’t been body-snatched.  How long does post-tornado stress last?  How long after your kids get married and leave the nest does it take to emotionally stabilize?  Will life in the sixties be worse than the fifties?   Have I misinterpreted how the peace of God is manifested in our lives?   Can I really be this selfish?   How much is a house in Tuscany?   Is there any chance my body will feel better as I get older?

I took this picture of a country church in Rowan County, KY on Rt. 519.  This church has since moved to a new location.  I was drawn to the shot by the shadows thrown on the church by a large tree.  The shadows remind me of the struggles that await us as we exit the church doors into Satan’s realm.  Lately I’m not so sure that some of the shadows haven’t crept inside.

I mentioned tentacles before and it seems like these shadows represent those tentacles that encumber us at times.

I  don’t have any real reason to feel this way.  The all-powerful God, the Lord, and Creator of all knows me and still loves me.  I have a wonderful family that has grown recently.  I have learned to like fish and kale and other good foods that will keep me living for a hundred more years.

My vacation is coming  and my alter ego will soon be taking over and Big Surf Daddy refuses to be encumbered by life’s tentacles.  When Big Surf shows up my days will be dank again…man.

If you like this photo, you can see others here.




Cupola at Sunset

image_1As a photographer, what happens when your worlds collide?

I am talking about your photographer world and your loving husband world.  It’s the age-old  case, the classic moral dilemma, the situation ethic, the ego vs. super ego, good angel on the right shoulder and demon on the left.  What is a photographer to do when faced with this paradox that could end all of humanity (or at least his humanity)?

My wife and I were driving through  the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington, KY last evening.   There had been a storm that had just passed through and the sunset  that followed was beautiful and there was dramatic lighting all over town.   So in photographer world, there is a great need to park the car and start taking pictures of something… anything… in this lighting.

Unfortunately, we were road- weary from a long drive and wanting to get home.   We had to make a stop in Lexington to drop off some precious cargo and we had just started back on the road.  In the loving husband world, we were trying to get home to watch a) the recorded seven-hour US Open golf championship or b) the newest episode of “Madmen”.   Both were equally important  but not exactly in the same order for each occupant of this automobile.

Now I have had much experience in the past in dealing with these emotional- erupting,cosmic calamities.  I am usually able to avoid them by focusing my telescope on the beautiful heavenly body sitting in the passenger seat and gauging the path of her orbit.   It usually has to do with the level of gamma rays emanating from a face-melting stare that gives me a clue as to whether I should stop for that photo.

I am sure photographers have been faced with this unfortunate situation since the dawn of man, when Og would stop the family mammoth on their way to the in-laws for Thanksgiving and chisel out a beautiful sunset on the ol’  Kodak Kodastone.

One particular world-colliding event my wife and I survived had been on a trip to California.   We were driving on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway on a sun-bathed day.   We were heading to San Francisco.  My loving radiant wife was a few months pregnant with our first child and had that other-worldly glow.   We came upon a Winnebago that was moving at the speed of my ability to determine changes in my wife’s mood.

With some deft driving skills I passed the mammoth-like vehicle on the curvy road…only to find a spot to pull off for a once-in-a-lifetime photo.   As I was putting my camera back in the bag, my heart sank as I saw that Winnebago drive slowly by.   My wife had a loving, eye-rolling smirk…so cute.

Again I found myself behind this slow moving behemoth and after drafting him for about ten miles at about ten miles per hour, I finally made a move reminiscent of James Bond on an Italian mountain road.   I waited until I knew I had put enough curvy black top between me and the Winnebago and pulled over for another once-in-a-lifetime photo.   Much to my surprise, the Winnebago went lumbering by.  My wife had lost the smirk… and the eye roll.   Now it was just eyes without the roll.

I swore to my wife I would make this good and maneuvered my powerful four-cylinder rental around this bliss-killing  sloth a third time.   When I pulled off to take another once-in-a-lifetime photo, I did not have to see my wife’s expression…I knew.   She said something about Shirley MacLaine not having as many once-in-a-lifetime photos.   Meanwhile there went the Winnebago….and there went my wife’s glow.

I took this shot yesterday of the cupola atop the Lexington Theological Seminary.   I only tweaked the contrast and exposure during editing.  The colors are natural.  My wife was supportive because she was already asleep.

This is not a once-in-a-lifetime shot.  I am not allowed to take anymore of those.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Pieris Japonica in Sunlight

image_1 2Sometimes all we need is to bask in the glow of the sun.

After a particular long winter in eastern Kentucky of cold and wet and gray days, these early, sunny, spring days give us a renewed vigor and hope.

Pharaoh Akhenaton, who hailed from the land of the Nile and died about 1335 BC, appreciated the healing power of the sun.   Though the Nile winters probably weren’t as long as the ones  along the Licking, he thought enough about Ol’ Sol to try to make him the only god in Egypt (other than himself, of course).   However since the good pharaoh noticed that no one was oiling up in his presence, he probably sensed that the sun may have been a little more important than himself.  He is credited to bringing monotheistic worshiping to Egypt, quite radical thinking in those days.

After he expired he was deemed a little goofy by the religious community and polytheism was restored.   In a sense, Akhenaton got the equation right (wanting to serve one god), he  just solved for the wrong variable.

To continue this walk down memory lane, Akhenaton’s wife was Nefertiti.   And who doesn’t like to say “Nefertiti”?  They were the proud parents of Steve Martin’s alter ego, King Tut.

While playing with my new macro lens, I took this picture of a Pieris Japonica bush in our landscaping.  I took the photo a few days ago.   I like how the little bloom at the end of the strand has found the sunlight.    He seems happier and more well-adjusted than the other pasty, nerdy-looking blooms with the Cheetos-stained petals.

I thought of how we all need the sun and how God placed the sun at exactly the right distance for us.   Though the sun has been given a bum rap with all of the UV scare, it actually is a necessary part of our good health.  We need certain amounts of sunlight to aid in digestion, skin problems, and sleep.  We need its anti-bacterial defenses.    This is only a small list of benefits of the proper amount of sun-worshiping.

We probably don’t need to go to the extreme of the West Liberty Kiwanis Swimming Pool  lifeguards of the 1970’s and oil up with  Hawaiian Tropic red label for maximum tanning (affectionately known as “fry sauce”).   We just need to follow the advice of this little Pieris Japonica bloom and seek the healing warmth of the sun when we can.

So get out and bask in the sunlight.   The religious leaders probably won’t put you in stocks on the town square.   Although, if the sun is shining, you probably would feel better.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Silhouetted Saints


While the world is focused on the conclave in the Vatican in anticipation of the next pope, I thought I would get as much mileage as I could out of my photos from Rome.    I have over 1500 photos…………… I can wait out the Cardinals.

This is a shot of the statues atop the colonnade surrounding the piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro.

There are ninety-six statues of saints and martyrs, designed by Bernini, that stand above the colonnade.   These statues are, left to right,  St. Leo the Great, St. Alexander of Alexandria, and St. Ignatius.   They have peered down on the parishioners and pilgrims for over five hundred years.

When my wife and I were in  the Vatican, it was late afternoon and the sun was behind the massive structure.    I could not get a good photo of the front of the church so I reverted to my old standby of silhouettes…making lemonade when you have lemons…putting on my big boy pants…sucking it up…walking it off…”stop crying Nancy”, sorry just remembering some comforting words from the past when things did not go as planned.

As I have mentioned in previous writings, my wife is of the Catholic faith and I am not.   This has led to some interesting conversation over the years, usually ending with me asking too many “why” questions and she questioning my motives and rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath as she leaves the room.

By and large, we have handled this difference in our faiths pretty well over twenty-seven years of marriage.    We mainly focus on what we have in common and that is a shared belief that Jesus is Lord and He died for the sins of all mankind and He rose again.   However it has led to some moments of entertainment for her before I learned the details of the Catholic Mass, such as the time I decided to take communion for the first time one Sunday morning at a Mass in Dallas.   I was unaware of the protocol during this beloved part of the Mass.   Evidently you are to respond, “Amen”, when the priest offers, “The body of Christ”.    My lovely wife left out this little nugget of information as we were waiting in line to receive communion.

When I approached the priest, he offered me the host and said, “The body of Christ”.    I stared at the host, then up at the priest, then back to the host, then back up to the priest wondering why this was taking so long.    As my wife turned and walked away, I felt my life-line slowly leaving my desperate clutches.    I was like that astronaut who, after deciding to skip the spacewalk class, found himself  adrift in space, wondering why he never asked a few more questions.

At this point, I realized that I was to respond.   Panic set in for I had NO IDEA what to say.    Before I could verbalize something that would make it even more obvious of the “NC” at the altar, (that is” non-catholic” for those of you who don’t have my extensive knowledge of the Catholic faith), the priest had mercy on a troubled soul and handed me the host, probably thinking he was being presented with one who was not in control of all of his faculties.

This led to a rather lengthy discussion between Mr. NC and Mrs. C on the ride home.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Walk of the Cardinals


I DO NOT LIKE CHANGE. I am proof that there was no evolution, because my DNA would have stayed in the comfort of the primordial soup.

I am the lecturer at the Creatures of Habit Seminar. It is not “guest lecturer” because it is the same lecturer every year.

Since a tornado came-a-callin’ about one year ago, my habits have changed. Some of my daily routines are now a thing of the past. Sometimes I feel like Mr.Square in Roundville.

When my wife rearranges the furniture, which I might add happens as often as a full moon, I descend into the little known tenth circle of Dante’s Hell called Alterus Decorus Frequentous. There are times when I think she has motives that aren’t so interior design-oriented. It’s usually when I hear a faint giggle through the throbbing of another stumped toe.

My wife is one of the one and a half billion Catholics. The most excited I ever saw her was when we saw Pope John Paul II ride by in his motorcade during his visit to San Francisco. It was at that brief moment that I realized the importance of the leader of the Catholic Church and the effect he has on the world.

Once again it is time for the Catholic Church to choose a new leader.

I am not of the Catholic faith, however I am attracted to the traditions of the ceremonies. I love how the Catholic Church chooses a new pope. I do think the Cardinals fulfill God’s Will in these conclaves. I think the Cardinals have free will to vote their conscience and are held accountable for their motives and at the same time what God wants to happen will happen…God’s Providence. I hope and pray that God will guide the next pontiff to be a wonderful leader of the church.

I took this picture to show the path the Cardinals walk as they ascend to the Sistine Chapel to be in conclave to elect a new pope. This walkway is beneath the Sistine Chapel and St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Cardinals have been walking this hallway preceding the papal election for hundreds of years. I love this tradition.

As I stood in St.Peter’s Basilica, my mouth agape with the same sense I had staring out over the Grand Canyon, I could not grasp the enormity of the structure. At the same time I saw the beauty of Bernini’s Dove in stained glass, through his seven-story bronze canopy over the altar and Michelangelo’s Pieta and all of the other magnificent sculptures. I saw the beautiful paintings and treasures in the Vatican museum. I saw the magnificent Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.

However, the sight that meant the most to me was this quiet, subterranean, lighted hallway. I don’t know why. I think it has something to do with the brevity of the job of the Cardinals in picking a new leader, that these men from all over the world who entered the priesthood and have spent an adulthood in service to God and mankind walk together with a common goal of choosing a new leader.

Oh, I forgot another reason I loved St. Peter’s Basilica…the last time they rearranged the furniture was when Columbus was coming home.

If you like this picture, you can see more of my photos here.