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.


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.




Old Mill Park Swinging Bridge


I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from West Liberty in Morgan County in eastern Kentucky in the United States of America on the North American continent of the planet Earth in the Solar System of the Milky Way Galaxy in the Universe of God’s Realm.   I don’t know how to use Google Earth or my car’s system for navigation, so I thought I would locate where I lived by actual words.

I wanted to use a picture that depicts serenity.   I like to think of Christmas as a peaceful and serene time in our lives.   In the midst of all that is Christmas in our society, there are usually a few moments of peace and serenity that can be found if we look for them.   I hope you find them this Christmas.

I took this photo a few years ago.   This swinging bridge was in West Liberty at the Old Mill Park.   It spanned the Licking River.  Unfortunately, it was one of the things lost in our town to the tornado in 2012.

I originally started to use this picture and use the bridge as a metaphor (or simile…I don’t the difference).  I was going to explain, in tired, overused terms how we are crossing the bridge in  various stages of our lives.  But as often happens when I couldn’t continue with what I started, I jumped off.

I love Christmas time but lately it seems more involved than I would like it to be.   As I was doing my pre-Christmas rant this morning in our kitchen, my lovely wife  happened to be in a direct line of spewn verbage that blew her hair back as if she sat too close to a space launch .   When she could again find enough replaced oxygen in the room to speak, she calmly asked, “Problem?”

I always enter into the Christmas season remembering my times as a wee lad.   I assume as most of you as well.   In my Beaver Cleaver- sort- of- fogged -recollection, Christmas was a wonderful time.   I wonder if my parents and grandparents were stressed with the responsibility of trying to make sure everyone in the family would have a wonderful experience.   I wonder if my rant this morning in the kitchen was any different from a million other rants by a million other parents and grandparents.

My wife has a wonderful way of dealing with the stresses of life.   After varying stages of worry from Defcon 5 to Defcon 1 (yes this is the correct sequence, I looked it up), she just takes care of it and I don’t ask questions.   I, on the other hand, start at Defcon 3 and stay there in a paralyzing cauldron of what-ifs until my lovely wife rips the key from my trembling fingers and pushes the launch button.

I have a wonderful family and I really enjoy spending time with them.    Like all families, as we grow things become more complicated.   Our children and their families amass other obligations  and soon they will have their own pre-Christmas rants.     We are all part of God’s family.   As His family has grown, look at how complicated it has become.

Somehow, I think He handles it a little better than I do.

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


West Liberty, KY Tornado


I swore to myself that I would not write about this photo.

I don’t know why I decided to write about it. Maybe, because it is the one year anniversary of the event that will forever be remembered. That is, remembered by those of us who live in West Liberty, KY and Morgan County.

Maybe, because it is still experiencing a grief of some sort that needs to be brought to the forefront every now and then to be dealt with, and by typing these words, it is akin to lying on the therapy couch. Maybe it is the expression of thanks to those many who came to our rescue and later our aid and service. Maybe it is an observance of the people of this community accepting their fate. With one breath followed by another, one step followed by another, one sunrise and sunset followed by another, they have persevered with dignity and grace…but each, to a person, saying how difficult it has been.

I wish I could say that I have handled it well, but that would be a great falsehood. I have not handled this past year very well at all. I have had this nagging underlying feeling in my consciousness, like mold in the damp basement of my soul.

For a whole year I have had a strange feeling of something that is not just right, aside from the obvious of changing routines and seeing the physical scars left on the face of our town as if we went through the windshield of Mother Nature’s pickup.

I think it is guilt, not the “doing something wrong” kind of guilt. It is the guilt of seeing people you love and care about going through a terrible experience and somehow you escaped the worst part of the ordeal. It is the guilt of wishing you were stronger. It is the guilt of wishing you did more to help others in their plight.

I am not asking for forgiveness.

I am merely pointing out the way I have felt for the year since I took this photo standing in my neighbor’s front yard. I really didn’t know I was taking a picture of a tornado, because I thought, like everyone else, that this can’t be a tornado in the hills of eastern Kentucky. It wasn’t until that night, sitting in the darkness, exhausted that I decided to look at the photos taken about one minute before this tornado ravaged downtown West Liberty. I then realized what I had seen through my lens.

There were many who suffered much and lost much.  There were many who were very heroic.   There were many who looked after others and took in others.   Most did so without wanting anything in return or expecting anything in return, true altruism.

I just want to say that I am sorry for the lives of those who were lost…they were very good people and will be greatly missed. I am sorry for those who lost homes and were displaced. I was fortunate to be able to stay in my home throughout the whole ordeal. I am sorry for those who lost businesses and their livelihood. I want to thank God for giving me comfort even though it was a hard year.

On this one-year anniversary, I am happy to say that West Liberty is being slowly rebuilt. We have had good leadership from our officials who were given a horrendous task to deal with and they have come through because they care about the people.

Maybe others have had the same feelings I have had. Just know that you are not alone and we will get through this together. Just look back and see how far we have come in one year.

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.


Green Forest


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.


Female Cardinal


Don’t you just love when little pleasures suddenly invade your dull, dreary routine.

I am not saying that we all live dull, dreary, mundane lives and I don’t think of my life as that way either. However none of us are exempt from these feelings from time to time. In fact some of us find comfort in routine. After the tornado went through West Liberty and Morgan County about a year ago, most of us prayed for the return of routineness in our lives.

I am talking about that instant, when in the course of our slogging through the day-to-day, something happens that stops us from turning the little wheel or ringing the bell for the pellet. A shifting breeze brings a wonderful scent. You try to identify this heavenly aroma. Is it a blossom, a flower, a scent, a shampoo? It makes you pause for a short time and just breathe it in…then it’s gone and you return to the task at hand. A cloud forms with a shape that causes you to sit and watch for a few minutes and wonder if this is a “sign from above.” A song from a robin or wren or mockingbird, barely audible above the noise of your day, catches your attention and you wonder where she is perched and as you look for her, it makes you concentrate on the beautiful melody and forget, for a moment, the pressure you feel.

This picture represents one of those unexpected vignettes of bliss that occur in our lives. One recent morning, while at my computer and not feeling very inspired or intelligent or remarkable or special, I was just beginning the day before going to work. I saw something in my periphery that was unusual. A female cardinal lit on a beauty berry plant outside my window. I have never seen a bird on this plant that is only a few feet from my desk. I stopped and watched her munch on the berries, transfixed on the beauty and simplicity of this moment.

I slowly reached for my camera, trying not to startle her, and to my amazement she stayed right there. The above photo captures this moment. I must say it made the rest of the day so much more enjoyable.

Of course, there are, for those pessimists, those moments that happen unexpectedly that gives you reason to wonder if anything can go right. Say, for example, like the time you enter the sanctuary before the morning church service. You parade down the aisle, smiling, waving like the Rose Bowl queen, to those on your right and on your left. You shake hands like anyone who has ever run for public office. After this production of your grand entrance, you settle in your seat, so pleased with your performance. You smile at your adoring wife, as she rolls her eyes. You happen to glance down… your fly is wide open.

While your wife is heaving in uncontrolled laughter, you know she has just experienced one of those little pleasures.

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