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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Old Mill Park Swinging Bridge

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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.

Remembering Park Drive-In

image_1-1Today I am feeling a little nostalgic…

I don’t know if looking at this photo made me nostalgic or nostalgia came  so I looked at this picture.   Either way today I am thinking about the past.

I took this photo of the Park Drive-In.   It  seems like only a few years ago.   It sat outside of Maysville, KY on a hilltop on Route 11 before descending into town.   I would pass by this old drive-in on my weekly commutes between Highland Heights and West Liberty.   It seems like only a few years ago but in reality it was taken about twenty years ago.   I liked the Peter Bogdonavich-Last Picture Show kind of effect it had when I developed it.   (Yes it was actually shot on Tri-X film and developed and printed in my dark room, before being reborn into the digital world).

I never saw a movie here but every time I drove by and saw the remains, I would think about all of the teenagers and adults that enjoyed an evening at the drive-in and how it was another part of my generation’s past that was slowly slipping away.  And I would always think about going to our drive-in  outside of West Liberty.

At one time West Liberty actually had two drive-in theaters.   We had the West Liberty Drive-In and the Morgan Drive-In.   The funny thing is, there is not much flat land in our area that wasn’t used for farming, so these drive-ins were located in bottom land of the Licking River.   More times than not, my movie experience included watching the last half of the movie through a thick fog.   If you factor in trying to hear through bad window speakers, my movie experience is not too different now.

My dad always told me that listening to that loud Gary Puckett music would make me go deaf.

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

Sweet Gum in Late Autumn Sun

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To quote that noted  philosopher George Costanza as he left a message on Jerry’s answering machine,  “This is George, I got nothing.”

I wish I could say I had writer’s block, but that would imply that I was a writer.   So let’s just say, ” I got nothing.”

One good thing about having a photo blog is that you can still post a picture and that is what I am doing today.   I really liked this photo I took in my yard, but I don’t have much to add.

This is a sweet gum in my side yard.    A few days ago I just noticed how the late afternoon sun was shining through the leaves as I came home from work.    Usually I am cursing this tree about this time of year because it drops so many leaves in my yard and I have to take care of them.   I don’t rake leaves anymore, I mulch them with the mower.  I do love the smell of the seed pods as they are crushed by the mower.   It is a very fresh aroma amid  the storm of ground leaves blowing in my face.   It is a little hidden pleasure in the midst of a job I don’t enjoy.   It is one of the smells I have always associated with fall.   It’s funny how God gives us a little moment if we look for them to let us know what He has done.

I feel sorry for those poor slobs who live on the southern beaches or who have to endure that horrible southern California climate.   They don’t get to experience what we get in the latter parts of October.   I love the changes in the leaves to the vibrant colors.   God gives us a wonderful blessing before we enter into the doldrums of winter.

I always try to get out and take some fall foliage photos.   The problem with this is it usually  coincides with deer hunting season.   You can imagine my trepidation to go out into the woods in my best beige and white jacket and khaki pants.

I waited too late this year to get out in the woods.   The day before I was able to go, we had a hard rain with some sort of steroid induced zephyr.   The result was trees that looked like Daffy Duck after getting in the way of Elmer Fudd.

So after getting this shot of the gum tree leaves in the setting sun, I counted this as a foliage shot and I was content.   I hope you like it as much as I do.

Looky there, 445 words.  Does that still count as writer’s block?  I guess it does if it isn’t very interesting.  (That makes 463).

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

Faculty Recessional at Graduation

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I have been emancipated from the financial vise of undergraduate education…free at last!

I have written my last tuition check, my last apartment rent check, my last food dispensing check, my last parking ticket reimbursement, and my last college calamity check.

My two children are now college graduates.  At this moment, I am glad we never had a third child.

My daughter and son graduated from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY.  This is a beautiful small school in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  It is a state school and public university, one of the top public universities in the south.  I am honored to have both of my kids to now be alumni of the same school as their dear old dad.

Morehead State was close enough to where I live in West Liberty that I could go over and take them out to lunch or dinner on numerous occasions.  College students are always up for a free meal.  More importantly, it gave me a chance to spend some valuable time with my two favorite young adults and also spend a little time back on the college campus that I remember so fondly.

This is a picture of my son’s graduation from Morehead State.   He can be seen in the picture…he’s the good-looking one.  My mom and dad are also in the photo and that means a lot to me.

I was always drawn to the color and pageantry of the college commencement…this doesn’t mean that I want to attend them every year.   I love the multi-colored robes the faculty wear.

At my daughter’s graduation last year, I tried to get a shot of the movement of the faculty during their recession.  I did not have a tripod, so I could not get a good shot of what I wanted.  This time I grabbed my tripod and we sat in the same spot behind the stage.  I was pretty happy with the result.

The faculty always seem to be in a hurry when they leave the ceremony.  I always wondered what would happen if one of them tripped, would it look like a massive pile-up on the Autobahn?  I assume they want  to start their vacations by getting out of there as soon as possible.  Much like my wife and I are now in a hurry to jettison the extra money we will have to spend on ourselves if we can recover from paying for seven years of undergraduate expenses.

So to all of us who graduated our offspring this year…congratulations to us.  Let’s hope they can get a job so they can buy us a meal.  I will order lobster at market price.  Before the check comes, I will be moving out of the restaurant faster than this faculty.

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

West Liberty, KY Tornado

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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.

Female Cardinal

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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.