Sunday, August 31

Beastly Beauty

The lowly fly has been the focus of recent studies that have discovered its amazing flight abilities. The old guy I photographed in the backyard today must have been one of the B-52 types. He moved like a Chinook helicopter, not like his smaller, speedy cousins. Perfect for taking close-ups.

Sometimes beauty has to be seen with an unnatural appreciation.

Nikon D70
MicroNikkor 55mm
TC-16A Teleconverter

Saturday, August 30

Original Equipment

Caswell State Park is 25 miles from us. I'd never been there, so a morning trek targeted this lonely outpost of the Park system. Only 5% of original Central Valley landscape still exists. This is one of its islands.

I felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings after taking one of the trails. A canopied, vine-laden, buggy forest ready to eat you up if you are inclined to meditative breaks. I tunneled through, walking parallel to the tortuous Stanislaus River, but not really seeing it without taking a few hardly beaten paths to its bank.

Little wonder that people didn't like having to deal with riparian forests and cut them down for orchards and farmland. Thankfully a bit of it has been preserved for us to enjoy and visualize what life used to be like when the Yokut Indians lived here.

Not a lot of color for pictures. Hope you enjoy them anyway.

Thursday, August 28

"Ah, Rats!"

"A man will do anything for a potato," is one of the more memorable lines from the movie, Empire of the Sun, where a Japanese prison camp in China during WWII turns its residents into real scrappers. When food is scarce, the worst in us comes to the surface pretty quickly.

The infamous rat is climbing the status ladder in some countries. The poor can afford only so much when it comes to eating meat. And when rat meat is cheap, cheap, cheap, it's an easy decision to make at the local butcher.

The question is, "Just what am I willing to eat when times get really tough?" Rats? Crickets? Snake? Snails? Fluffy?

Wednesday, August 27

The Crux of the Cross

Pastor John Piper's little book presents 50 two page vignettes that beautifully, clearly and scripturally explain the reason Christ died at the hands of sinners. Here is a sample from pages 61 and 62:

Reason 22:

'Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.' I Peter 3:18

'But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.' Paul's letter to the Ephesian Church 2:13

Piper writes:

"When all is said and done, God is the gospel. Gospel means 'good news.' Christianity is not first theology, but news. It is like prisoners of war hearing by hidden radio that the allies have landed and rescue is only a matter of time. The guards wonder why all the rejoicing.

"But what is the ultimate good in the good news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel. For example, salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if it only gives relief from guilt and doesn't open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God but doesn't bring fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage but doesn't bring us to God. Adoption is not good news if it only puts us in the Father's family but not in his arms.

"This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace the good news without embracing God. There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just because we want to escape hell. That's a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn't take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God's wrath, or the inheritance of God's world. All these thing are understandable without any spiritual change. You don't need to be born again to want these things. The devils want them.

"It is not wrong to want them. Indeed it is folly not to. But the evidence that we have been changed is that we want these things because they bring us to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing Christ died for. 'Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God' (I Peter 3:18).

"Why is this the essence of the good news? Because we were made to experience full and lasting happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of God. If our best joy comes from something less, we are idolaters and God is dishonored. He created us in such a way that his glory is displayed through our joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that at the cost of his Son's life, God has done everything necessary to enthrall us with what will make us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely, himself.

"Long before Christ came, God revealed himself as the source of full and lasting pleasure. 'You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore' (Psalm 16:11). Then he sent Christ to suffer 'that he might bring us to God.' This means he sent Christ to bring us to the deepest, longest joy a human can have. Hear then the invitation: Turn from 'the fleeting pleasures of sin' (Hebrews 11:25) and come to 'pleasures forevermore.' Come to Christ.

Monday, August 18

The Noble Calling

After two and a half months of weekday Saturdays, I've finally returned to the assembly line. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and love during these months off. And thanks to God for daily strength (and overtime!).

Work has always suffered a bad rap since Adam traded his perfect job as a fruit picker for the sweat and strain of field work. Considered a curse by most, it started out as a blessing.

"The LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Genesis 2:15 But since rebelling against his Creator, the workplace has been the pits.

"In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground." Genesis 3:19a

But even in the pain and stress of working in an imperfect world and body, God can be glorified in our labor. "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him . . . And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men . . ." Colossians 3:17, 23

Thursday, August 14

No Surprise

It isn't surprising that Russia should enter South Ossetia in the Georgia Republic and show the world its true face. This recent move is only another blurb in a long line of aggression and threats. You can get a good overview of the current conflict on Wikipedia. And a list of Russian actions since April, 2008 can be found here. These sources are probably biased, so read with that in mind.

Please don't depend solely on sound bites, news and talk shows to form your opinion about the Russian invasion. Do some research first.

Tuesday, August 12

I Never Knew John Lennon

Man, those were the days! Boots and sunglasses, long hair and wire-rims.

As a normal American, I never knew John Lennon in 1970, and what I did know was gleaned from record albums. I guess I dressed like him with little forethought.

They actually sold these duds in stores, so we went to the stores and bought it. We just wanted to fit in and look cool like every other pothead. I do apologize for having longer hair than John, though.

We went to San Luis Obispo for the best in fashion. A few stores downtown catered to the elite, and we were happy to oblige them. Barb was my striped pants and boots princess. I tried to maintain a semblance of the Paso Robles Country Joe --- fringe was in.

We were part of the anti-establishment. We rode the early environmentalist wave, hung with the crazies, worshiped acoustic guitar and CSNY, decorated with cheap "antiques," and enjoyed living on a "farm" with dogs, rabbits and wild cats.

Ironically, I drove a new Mustang GT fastback with a 390 in it, and both of us had real jobs that we liked.

The sold-out hippie world would have to get along without us.

Monday, August 11

That Law of Entropy

It's only a matter of time. Our once youthful bodies go the way of all flesh eventually, just like a sandstone arch in the desert.

I've seen pictures of people standing on these time-worn antiques. There is probably no thought given to how closely related they were to the stone below them. One day all is wonderful with the world, a picture perfect existence . . . and then the inevitable fall from this world to the next.

Thursday, August 7

Blue Ribbon Ballpark

Summer fare should include enjoying the perennial culture of local baseball. Whether little league or majors, there is something wonderful about paying $3.50 for a 'regular' Diet Pepsi or a bag of in-the-shell peanuts. And when there's a gentle breeze at sunset, so much the better.

Our new park replaced the older (and closer) field, where fewer seats, poor neighborhood and run-down construction motivated fans to vote it out. But there's little sense of nostalgia and history in the new location yet.

On the east side of the park is the Stockton Arena (a big rodeo is scheduled for Sept.) and to the south is a marina on the Deep Water Channel that backs into downtown.

Tickets are inexpensive if you're a senior and can come on Wednesdays. You can win $100 each week in their Bingo game along with other give-aways. You can visit with friends (the main reason most people go, I think). You can get beaned by a foul ball. You can take your kids and grandkids and let them have a taste of real, honest-to-goodness, hot-dog-loving America.