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.


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.


Morgan County Courthouse at Christmas

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I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

As most everyone does at this time, I always look back on the current year and do some reflecting. It seems like this year has been a lot harder upon which to reflect.

I realize in all years there are difficulties, strife, and calamities. We lose people through the year that we are close to and remember them more at this time. We pray for those who are grieving and lonely and missing family members.

Now we as a nation mourn the loss of children, teachers, and one mother who tried to raise a tormented boy into adulthood and hoping, one day, he would be able to function in society. It seems as though they have replaced, in our thoughts, the previous senseless deaths at the hands of other demented souls in Oregon, Colorado, and places that don’t make the front pages and 24 hour news cycles. While it is hard, we should mourn for those who pulled the trigger, and somehow hoping, they had no idea what they were doing.

Here in West Liberty, Kentucky we are still feeling the effects of a tornado that devastated us and while we are making progress, we see reminders everywhere and think of the families that had ones they love taken away. The folks in the northeast also are going through a similar and more recent experience.

However, while we reflect on Christmases of the past, there is really only one Christmas that should be foremost on our mind and that is the first Christmas. A loving God entered into His creation He cherished so dearly. He did not wait for all of humanity to come to Him. He came to us.

I took this photo of the Morgan County Courthouse last Christmas. I know the courthouse will one day be just as beautiful as it was in this photo.

May your Christmas be filled with love and peace. May those who lost loved ones this year have fond memories and those memories will somehow give them comfort and joy. May we be filled with the wonder and awe of those Bethlehem shepherds. And may the world come to know the loving God who came in the form of a little baby and showed the world how much He loves us.

Merry Christmas.

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


Lead Me to Calvary

Lately I have been thinking about the grace of Jesus.  It is a very difficult thing for me to grasp at times.  I know it isn’t supposed to be that hard to understand.  Sometimes I make things harder by thinking too much.

I took this photo last year around Easter.  These crosses are on a hill beside the Assembly of Faith church in Morgan County, KY.  I wanted to get a sunset shot with the crosses in the foreground.  As usual,  I arrived a little too late for the setting sun, but managed to get a late sunset shot.  I think it worked OK with the silhouette of the crosses.   I just hope no one was watching me climb up the steep hill carrying my tripod and camera bag.   Believe me, there was no grace shown by me.

It is hard for me to understand at times that the eternal creator, Lord, and Master of all things would die on a cross because He loves me.   I know the president would not, nor would the governor, or any elected official.   Maybe some of my family would, but I could never ask them to make such a sacrifice.   I guess that is part of the difficulty for us to grasp, for we never asked Jesus to do what He did.  He did it out of love for mankind, that we could be brought back into harmony with our Creator just as it was meant to be in the beginning.

Most days I feel so unworthy to accept this love.  So if you are struggling with accepting the grace of God at times, just know you aren’t alone.

Whenever I see pictures or paintings of the cross, it evokes both sadness and hope.  Sadness that God’s creation became so selfish and ungrateful that Jesus had to come, but full of hope because of the promises that God gave us because he has saved us through that cross.

I am glad He took into consideration that I was never going to be good enough to enter into His presence, but He wants me there anyway.

If you like this photo, there are more here.


Michelangelo’s Jesus Bearing the Cross

I could not take my eyes off it.

“It” is a sculpture of Jesus bearing the cross by Michelangelo.  This piece stands in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the only Gothic church building in Rome.

This church was the scene of Galileo’s trial before the church in 1633.  This is a magnificent church  located about one block from the Pantheon.

Now I am not an art connoisseur by nature.  I do not profess to know anything about art, however like most people, I like to look at beautiful things.  Let me tell you this thing was beautiful.

There are not too many works that  mesmerize me in the art world, except maybe those hidden picture art pieces that were popular until everyone got eye strain looking at them.  Hopefully they were banned by the FDA or whatever government agency  controls fatigue-art.

I was able to sit on a pew in front of this statue with my wife and we just stared in amazement.

There was a reflection on the large marble column behind Jesus and the longer I gazed at him, I noticed the reflection was moving down toward him.  I waited until the reflection was behind his head.  At the right time, as it looked like a haloed crown,    I took some photos and got the result I wanted.  I had to shoot the picture at a fast ISO since it was dark inside the building, so it is a little grainy.  I did not want to use a flash,  most flashes are not allowed inside the historical churches of Rome.

No matter what has happened in the history of God’s church throughout the past two thousand years, this sculpture reminded me that Jesus is Lord of all and his sacrifice still covers the sins of man.  I don’t pretend to know the heart of Michelangelo, but I do know this, God was glorified that day in Rome.

I think my wife and I experienced the love of Christ and felt a little closer to God that day.  Because of the talent of one artist living in Italy over five hundred years ago, a couple from eastern Kentucky were blessed…that is truly amazing.

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


West Liberty Methodist Church

I will never forget running up to Main Street after the tornado went through and seeing the steeple of the Methodist Church sitting in the middle of Route 7.  I know there are some images of this terrible event that will forever stay with me and that sight will surely be one of those images.

The West Liberty Methodist Church has always been a focal point of our town, with its beautiful steeple and white brick contrasting the blue sky.  This was the picture I wanted to capture  when I took this photo.  Now because of the numerous power lines that were in front of the building on the corner of Prestonsburg and Main, it made getting a good shot of the church building very difficult.  Not until I bought a 7 mm fish-eye lens was I able to photograph the church building by standing inside the power lines.  If you notice, I still had the shadows on the front of the building.  The afternoon light shining on the building gave a better definition of the white brick.  I like the black and white because it showed more contrast with the dark blue sky.

When I was in my pre-teen and teenage years, going to church was important.  I had many friends that went to the Methodist Church and I went to the Christian Church just up the street.  When we were old enough to venture out on our own, we would have a quick assemblage between Sunday School and “church” at Don’s Restaurant located conveniently between the two churches. This was about as close to rival gangs as there were growing up in West Liberty in the sixties and Don’s was our turf battle.  I would get a cherry coke at the fountain and a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops to get me through the next service.  On some occasions I would be late for church due to an intense philosophical discussion with my rival friends on the differences of our two theologies.   The dogma we usually argued about was which minister could get us out in time to get the good booths at Don’s for our afternoon meal.   We, at the Christian Church usually lost that battle for we were always watching the Methodists eat first and head out the door with that “I-told-you-so” condescending smirk across their gravy-stained faces.  As you can tell, I am still dealing with some issues from my past.

I will miss standing on the south end of Main Street and looking down the street and seeing the white-bricked Methodist Church building with its steeple rising  majestically against a blue sky.

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