Saturday, June 29, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday

I've been working on a landscape project lately and the most useful tools have been my lawn tractor and trailer.  They have saved me time, energy and probably several trips to the chiropractor.

I love Southern Gospel music and Signature Sound Quartet is one of the best groups working today.  They also seem to always be in motion.  I captured this image a couple of weeks ago at their matinee concert in Memphis, TN.  

I also have a fondness for classic cars.  This is the pink Cadillac that Elvis bought for his mother.  Mary Kay was not the first one to reward special people with pink automobiles.

While wandering through a local department store the other day, I spotted these glasses.  I was pretty sure that this was going to be my best opportunity to capture an image that featured dots.

As we head toward the 4th of July holiday, fireworks stands are popping up everywhere in our area.  This one happens to use a brightly striped tent to help draw customers off of the highway.  Coupled with the "Stars & Stripes", I think I've got this prompt covered.
That's it for this week.  Have a safe holiday.  Use plenty of sunscreen and keep yourself hydrated.  We'll see you again next week.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Memphis Photo Walk I

On a recent vacation to Memphis, TN, I took the opportunity to walk around the downtown area each morning and see what kind of photographic opportunities I could find.  I found more than I could capture in the limited time that I had allotted.  Here are a few of the images that I captured.

There is a trolley that runs in the downtown area from 6:30 a.m. until around 10:30 p.m. most days.  The ride is $1.00 each way or you can get an all day pass for $3.50.  Cheap transportation and a fun way to see the downtown area.

There is a plaza in the downtown area and it has a sunken patio area with this water feature on two sides.  It is literally 15 feet below street level.  The sound of the water feature is really quite nice and can take the worries of the day away for a little while.  This wold have made a great back drop for a portrait shoot.

The Cook County Courthouse features six of these sculptures at various entries to the building.  Unfortunately I fear many in our society would rather have revenge than justice.

My favorite site of all is the Kress building.  Amount of terra cotta and the detail is just jaw dropping.  Kress was a department store chain in the south and southeast for many years.  I can still remember going to the Kress store in Tulsa when I was a kid.  This building is now used for private meetings and catered events.  If you're ever in Mempis, you just have to check out this building.

Like Graceland, no trip to Memphis is compete without a visit to the Rendezvous.  They are world famous for their BBQ ribs.  The Rendezvous uses a dry rub to get their flavor.  No sauce is used during the smoking process.  They are the gold standard for "Memphis Style BBQ".  They smoke between 7,000 & 10,000 pounds of ribs each week.  Note that the entry is actually in an alley, so the place is not visible from the main streets.  Don't worry though, EVERYONE in Memphis knows exactly where the Rendezvous is located.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Skywatch Friday

Sunrises start each day with the hope of a fresh start and the possibility that today will be a better day than yesterday.  In fact, today could be the best day of our life...we just won't know until sunset.  Many of us have a routine to start our morning, a regimen, so to speak.  We get up, shower, get dressed, have a little breakfast and begin our day.  Some of us add a little exercise to our morning while others catch up on the latest news in print, on television, or through our computers.  One of the best ways to start a day is to spend a little time talking to the One who created us.  God enjoys being a part of our lives.  He has given us an instruction book for life in the form of the Bible.  There really is no situation in this life that the Bible doesn't give us some guidance.  A great place to start learning how God would have us live in this world is found in Proverbs.  In fact, Proverbs has 31 chapters, which makes it very easy to read one chapter a day.  There is so much wisdom in this book that it is impossible to absorb it all.  Add a few minutes in prayer to your reading and you will find that your life is better, honestly, it is.  Any time is a good time to read and pray, but starting your day with this practice is really the best time.  So, have a little talk with Jesus and have a blessed week-end.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Maybe It Was Memphis

Last week my wife and I spent four days in Memphis TN at the first annual Memphis Quartet Show.  This event is focused on Southern Gospel Quartet Music.  There were matinee concerts on Thursday and Saturday as well as four hour concert events each evening.  That doesn't leave much time to explore the other attractions around town.  We did manage to tour Graceland.  That was a very interesting adventure.
Back to the Quartet Show.  Two of our favorite groups provided the matinee concerts.  On Thursday afternoon the Booth Brothers added Gene McDonald to their trio to make up an awesome quartet.  I expect that they will do this again.  Since this was the first time this group preformed as a quartet I don't have a good video to share, so here is the Booth Brothers as a traditional trio.

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound have been a quartet for eleven years now and make some to the best Southern Gospel music available today.  Here they are.

Other groups appearing during evening were Old Paths Quartet, Triumphant, Brian Free & Assurance, Dixie Echos, Gold City, and others. All in all, it was a wonderful four days of great music.
I did manage to do a couple of photo walks downtown during the early morning hours and I'll share some of those images later.
Like I said, we did tour Graceland.  The only home that is annually visited my more tourists than Graceland is the White House.  It is a trip back in time to the late 60's and early 70's.  By today's standards, it really is pretty quaint.  Graceland is set on 13.8 acres.  It was originally built by a local doctor in 1938.  At the age of 22 Elvis bought the property for $100,000 and kept the name Graceland.
The main entrance to the Graceland attraction is actually across the street from the house.  This area provides parking, gift shops,  Elvis' automobile collection, the two private jets, and other attractions.  There is a shuttle service up to the main house.  Let's go see what the living room looks like.

Elvis' favorite colors were blue and yellow.  I can't really say much for Elvis' or his interior designer's taste in furniture and color coordination, but to each his own.

This would be the "Man Cave"  with all of his stereo gear and three televisions.  Remember, in 1961 there were only three networks, so Elvis could watch all of the news at the same time, with only three TV's.

The collection of gold and platinum records is staggering.

Then, there are the outfits... 

And the cars.  Loved the cars.
Well that's it for Graceland.  I have a few other photos I'll share later, including my photo walk downtown.
Thank you, thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ruby Tuesday II

 Red Headed Stranger

Every Saturday there is a farmers market on the square.  It is one of several in the area.  Fruits, vegetables, arts and crafts are not the only offerings.  There a couple of street musicians that are usually in attendance.  This young man is actually quite good and, as you can tell, he plays two instruments as well as sings.  I like to get to the market between 7:00 - 7:30.  Not only is do you get the best selection of vegetables (early bird gets the worm), but it's a little quieter and less crowded.  By 9:30 it is a very busy place. The street musicians are typically in place by 8:30 and they really add to the festive atmosphere.  If there is a farmers market in your area, I would encourage you to take it in.  It's a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday morning even if you don't purchase anything.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Skywatch Friday

Recently my wife and I spent an evening at the ball park.  There is a minor league team in the area and we go to the games occasionally.  Warm weather and puffy clouds make a perfect back drop for America's pastime. It's a very relaxing evening and a great place to people watch.  During the course of the game I watched a family spend enough money on concessions to send a couple of them to Disney World.  Whether we realize it or not, people are watching us from afar.  They notice what we do, how we react to situations, and how we treat others that are under our influence.
The Bible has a lot to say about human relationships.  In fact, of the Ten Commandments, the last five are about our relationships with other humans.  Not the least of those commandments is "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).  Elsewhere in scripture parents are instructed, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).  Since the father is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the family, he is specifically instructed, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4).  God spends a lot of time telling us how the family is supposed to relate to one another.  We are to treat one another with love, honor, and respect.  Many of us have difficulty in this area and we often treat our friends better than we do our family.  I think part of the reason, for this difficulty, is that we choose our friends, we have no choice in picking our family.  Just remember, God gave you your family and the Bible tells us that, "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)  God gave you your family, immediate and extended, for your benefit, and that you might be a blessing to them.  Embrace your family and allow God to bring the joy into your life that only a family can produce.  Have a blessed week-end.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ruby Tuesday II

I found this vendor at a local farmers market.  The name of the business is "Peddle Pops" and they sell homemade, handmade Popsicles.  Flavors include pineapple/mango/banana, blackberry, and cherry.  It was early so I wasn't in the mood for a Popsicle, but as the day wears on and the temperatures rise, I'm sure that this is a very busy vendor.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day 2013

My father passed away in December of 2009.  There are days when I still miss him dearly.  Everything that I am as a husband, father, and a man living in this world, has been influenced by my father.  I am blessed to have this perspective.  We live in a society that is broken is so many ways.  The number of single parent homes is staggering.  The number of children who grow  up without a father figure in the home is heartbreaking.  I am ever so thankful that I grew up in a home with parents who loved me and who loved each other.  The following is a reprint of a post that I wrote immediately following Dad's passing.  If your father is still alive, call him today and tell him you love him.  He will not be here forever.  Happy Father's Day.

A Life Well Lived

April 11, 1920 - December 16, 2009

The Lord came and took my father home. The following will be read by myself at his funeral.

We come to this place to celebrate a life well lived. Depending on your relationship with Dad, we celebrate the life of John, J.E., Johnny, Uncle John, Papa, Yogi, or Papa Yogi. He would answer to any of these names. One might ask, "What does the phrase, A Well Lived Life" mean? Upon examination of the scriptures we can find many characteristics of the well lived life.

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men."Colossians 3:23
God teaches us that everything we do in life should be done in such a manner as to honor the Lord. We should take pride in our work because our work should bring glory to God. There is value in work and there is great value in work done well. I builds a good reputation and allows you to sleep well at night. My father was great worker. Dad had a gift for understanding mechanical objects. If it had a moving part, Dad could fix it. It didn't matter if it was your lawnmower or your automobile. It didn't matter if it was your hair dryer or your clothes dryer. If you were a neighbor of my Dad, you were among the blessed. If it was broken, give it to John, he can fix anything. Dad loved to fix things for others. He loved the challenge of figuring out what was wrong, and how to fix the problem. He love saving himself and others time and money by fixing things that didn't work anymore. It seems that lawnmowers were his passion. People would give him broken ones and he used them for spare parts. I can remember that it seemed like every shrub in our yard had a broken down lawnmower parked under it. It was kind of like a mechanical Easter egg hunt to go and see what was hidden under the landscape.
Dad loved the railroad and worked for the same company for forty-two years. It was his first love until he met the love of his life, my mother.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25
In 1941 in Henryetta, Oklahoma, Dad met the love of his life. They were married on November 14, 1942 and spent sixty glorious years together, until Mom wen home to the Lord on June 4, 2003. No man ever loved his bride and gave himself up for her like Dad. In 1999 Alzheimer's had taken it's toll and Mom entered a nursing home. For three and one half years Dad went to the nursing home every day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. He would arrive by 9:00 a.m. and leave around 9:00 p.m. The staff was amazed. They had never seen any husband show such love and devotion to his bride. Dad had spent his life providing for his family and he wasn't about to let something like Alzheimer's keep him from loving and caring for his wife. For over sixty years their relationship was the perfect example of what a marriage is supposed to look like.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Dad was saved after he married Mom. At the age of three, I was a witness to his baptism. I thought the pastor was trying to drown Dad. None the less, the example had been set. Confess your sins before men, invite Jesus Christ into your heart, and follow our Lord in baptism. At the age of nine, I was saved... and I didn't drown. And while his work did not allow him to be the servant in the church that some are, Dad gave his time whenever possible. And just like Dad's neighbors, the pastor soon found out that Dad could fix anything and was more than willing to do so.

" Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
I don't know of any child who hasn't been upset with the discipline that their parents have administered at some point in time. The truth is, we were mostly upset that we got caught. The discipline that came from Dad was swift, fair and never without warning. The motivation was never anger, rather it was love. Just like my Heavenly Father, Dad loved me and everything that he did, he did with the motivation of training a boy how to be a man some day. A man who loves his Lord, loves his wife, loves his children, and loves his work. If I live to be half the man that my father was, I will have lived to be twice the man that most others are, and that will be "A Life Well Lived."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Skywatch Friday

I apologize for not posting this past week, but I just haven't been inspired.  There's an old John Denver song, Some Days Are Diamonds and Some Days Are Stones.  This past week, I really haven't experienced either.  Another song says that "Some days you're the windshield, and some days your  the bug."  This past week I've felt a little more like the bug that hit the windshield and survived...dazed and confused.  I'm not sure that makes much sense either.  Still, I can look into the sky, enjoy a great sunset, and rest in the knowledge that regardless of how my day went, God is still in control.  In a world filled with violence, political unrest, and natural disasters, it is difficult to understand how there is any divine  control.  We are falsely lead to believe that we are the masters of our future, and that we can overcome any obstacle.  The truth is, we are often our own worst enemy, and we  allow pride, greed, and envy to drive many our decisions, instead of trusting in the God of all creation to give our lives purpose and direction.  There is more wisdom and life coaching in the book of Proverbs than most of us will ever be able to absorb and apply to our lives.  However, this book alone is proof that God cares about us.  He cares about us enough to give us an instruction manual for living.  That manual is The Bible and Proverbs is only one of the volumes of that manual.  So, whenever I don't have a diamond of a day, or I feel more like the bug than the windshield, I can turn to Gods Word and realize that He created me, He loves me, and He has a plan and a purpose for my life.  He has not only left me an instructional manual for how to conduct my life, but He is available 24/7 to talk about those things that are on my mind.  When I remind myself that God so loved me that He gave His only Son, that if I believe in Him, I will not perish, but have everlasting life, then every day is a diamond day.
Thank you Lord for the reminder.  Have a blessed week-end.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Skywatch Friday

Recently the skies have been filled with dark clouds that have brought violent storms, tornadoes, and destruction with them.  Growing up in Oklahoma, we learned, at a very early age, that green was NOT a good color in the clouds.  Absolute stillness was not a good thing.  We know what a wall cloud is.  We can read the hook echo on the radar as well as the local weatherman.  We know that we live in "Tornado Alley" and we know the risks of living in this part of the country.  Really, it's not much different than those who live in the hurricane zone, or those who live where earthquakes are common occurrences.  I don't believe that there is any part of our country that is free of risk from some sort of natural disaster.  As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I think it is God's way of telling us that we are NOT the masters of our universe.  We are also reminded that life is not always fair.  In fact, life can be brutally unfair.  Broken dreams, broken homes, and broken lives visit good people as well as those who are not so good.
For the Christian, God promised us life and life more abundantly.  He did not promise us life free from sorrow, loss, heartache, pain, or suffering.  He promised to be with us through all of life's difficulties and he promised to prepare an eternal home for us.  In the mean time, we live on the same planet as those who reject our savior and we endure the same difficulties as everyone else.  That may not sound fair, but that's life.  The real question is what happens on that day that we step through the door of death and into eternity?  Will we spend an eternity separated from the God of all creation, or will we rest in His arms and rejoice in that place that He has prepared for us.  The decision is ours.  Christ said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."  Those who open the door of their heart and invite the Savior into their life, will be saved.  Those who reject the invitation of the Savior will spend eternity separated from God.  That may not sound fair to our mortal mind, but it is truth.  The choice is ours.  The silver lining in the darkest clouds of life is the Savior.  Have a blessed week-end.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ruby Tuesday

It's time to trot out a little Sooner Pride.  In the wake of recent weather events that have devastated parts of my home state in recent weeks, it is a pleasant distraction to see the Lady Sooner softball team march into the finals of the WCWS championship series.  Since the permanent home of the Women's College World Series is in Oklahoma City, and Norman is only a 30 minute drive to the south, it is nearly a home series for the ladies.  Between Oklahoma City and Norman lies Moore, Oklahoma and the constant reminder that man is often not the master of his destiny and certainly not the master of his universe.  In the wake of the F5 tornado lies broken homes, broken dreams, and sorrowfully, broken families.  Our hearts ache of those who have lost so much, but there is a sense of pride in my home state and in our country as we see how people have responded and begun to start the rebuilding process.  Even as the WCWS began, games had to be postponed because of another round of tornadoes in the area.  Still, in the face of it all, the games go on.  That's not a bad thing.  We can dwell on our sorrows or we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on...ever thankful that we have been spared the suffering that others must endure.  I believe that all of the teams involved in the WCWS have been to Moore, during their down time, and helped the relief effort in some way.  That is a very good thing.  I teaches the girls that there is life outside of softball, and that life is not always fair.  In fact, life can be brutally unfair...but that's life.  It also teaches them that regardless of how busy you are, and how important things seem to be in your life, there is always time to be a good neighbor.  Before coming to the the WCWS the single most important thing in the lives of most of these athletes was getting to and winning the WCWS.  Everything they did was focused on improving their chances of winning a championship.  Then, Moore happened.  I want to thank the coaches and staff of all of the teams that participated in helping with relief efforts during their down time.  I know the people of Oklahoma appreciate your efforts.
Now....BOOMER Sooner!!!