Reconstruction of the West Liberty Christian Church

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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.

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Silhouetted Saints

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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.

Green Forest

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Please pardon me while I pontificate. I wish I could orate. My goal is to educate. After reading this, I hope you don’t want to medicate.

I am getting so tired of division in our society. Whether it’s red state/blue state, pro-choice/pro-life, Republican/Democrat, liberal/conservative, Coke/Pepsi, Leno/Letterman, or those with hair/those without hair (sorry, that last one is my own personal battle).

A Michael Franks lyric goes like this,”…locked inside this zoo, your bananas get thrown at me and mine get thrown at you. Every night we fuss and fight like the Arabs and the Jews.” Now this is taken a little out of context for my point because he is talking about a romantic relationship and we all know how volatile they can be at times.

In a sense we are “locked inside this zoo” on our own planet and unless we have the ability to be transported to another planet, galaxy, universe, or astral plane we are stuck with each other. Before we go any further, I want you to know that I have flung so many bananas that my rotator cuff stays inflamed.

I took this photo in the late summer of 2011. This is Broke Leg Creek in Menifee County, KY and is below the falls of the same name. This scene has dramatically changed since a tornado took down most of the trees in this small canyon last year.

We tend to think of creeks and rivers as boundaries that separate us, whether it is private property, counties, states, or countries. If you look at this photo, you will notice that the color of the trees and moss on each side of the creek is green. The plants use the common life-sustaining water for their survival and they don’t care which side of the creek they inhabit. They take what we would consider a natural boundary and use it as a sustaining force in their life.

I am reminded of Revelations 22:1-5. John describes the vision that Jesus has given him of the New Jerusalem and the River of Life that flows from God’s throne. We will be nourished by the loving God who created us, the sustaining force of all creation will nurture us for all eternity from his ever-flowing river.

The next time you want to call a Democrat an immoral, wacko, hedonistic, socialist, or call a Republican a dim-witted, cold-hearted, bigoted, idiot. Try to find the things that make you like them. At least at the most basic level of commonness, we are all created by a God who loves each one of us and wants the best for us. So if God wants that, why shouldn’t we want that also?

So instead of acting like that little negative electron who wants to bolt for any atom that will give it a home whenever it absorbs a little heat, be like the bigger, immovable proton and stay positive and your little corner of the world will always be stable.

This message brought to you by the sweathog section of Sociology 101.

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

Young Girl in Haiti

Sometimes you just have to get off the depression couch and go outside and put your face in the sun and thank God you are alive. That is what I am doing today.  This photo always makes me smile, like Snoopy dancing on top of Schroeder’s piano.

I got lucky when I took this picture.  I was in Haiti, driving with my group back to the airport when one of our members wanted to stop and get some kind of sugar product.  The rest of us had no clue what he was talking about or where we were, which was my normal state of mind in Haiti, but since he was Haitian and he seemed to like us, we did not fret about this stop. Also since there were ten of us riding in what was the equivalent of the back of a covered small pick-up, we welcomed the chance to pile out like clowns out of a Volkswagon.  We pulled into this mango grove in a rural area of western Haiti.

I saw some children playing so I grabbed my camera.  This little girl and her sister were in a makeshift classroom and I guess they were on a break since the “blancs” showed up.  I asked their mother if I could take pictures of them and she agreed.  After taking a few shots, and I might add they were more than willing to cooperate, one of my collegues wanted to get a shot of the blackboard to see if we could interpret the French writing.  My young model had a difference of opinion.  She did not want to leave the view of the camera…so I did what only I could do and kept taking pictures.  This was one of the shots and I loved it immediately.  It has a strange composition and her expression is so joyful.

Haiti is a difficult place to visit.  It is hard to see people living in poverty and unsanitary conditions.  However, I enjoyed the Haitian people and they taught me so much about being happy and joyful.  I think anyone who has a chance to go and visit Haiti, should.  I am not going to say it changed my life,  but it made me more aware of the plight of the rest of the world and the hardships that others go through in their day to day lives and how we Americans take so much for granted.  It helped me understand that Jesus loves all the world, not just Americans.  We all could learn a few things from the Haitian people.  I learned a lot from this young girl and she is still making me smile.

Incidentally, my one year of high school French was not near enough for my interpretation of the material on the board. Help me Mrs. Wells…

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