Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Reflections: A Year Since Galilee

It is hard to imagine it has already been a year to the day since I was in the Galilee area where Jesus began his ministry. Time flies quickly.

Over the last several days I have been recalling what it was like to tour Bethlehem and Palestine on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Every time the scriptures or a hymn referred to the manger, I thought back to the manger that I saw in The Church of the Nativity. The manger wasn't made of wood like we have always been led to believe, but hard, cold stone.

Whenever I heard of the trembling shepherds, I remember the Judean hillside with a view of twisted olive trees where they saw a host of angels that proclaimed the arrival of their savior.

I remember the the bright colors, the drums and bagpipes, and the festive feeling of the Christmas Day parade that marched through Manger Square in downtown Bethlehem.

Visiting Bethlehem, and Jerusalem the following week, was one of the most enthralling times of my life... an experience I won't soon forget. I feel truly lucky to gain the perspective of actually being in the places where Jesus was born, walked, preached, and died.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas everyone! We had a great Christmas celebration today. I hope you did too.

My immediate family woke at about 9:30 and exchanged gifts, then prepared for the arrival of our extended family members. We lacked a few family members (Heather, Nathan and Elisabeth, you were missed) but had a good time nonetheless.

Since mom was in her car accident a little over a week ago, and is still sore, we decided we would try to make the day as simple as possible and just enjoy each others' company as much as we could. We had arranged to have ingredients for sandwiches and forgo the usual complicated fare, but I just couldn't do without my great-grandmother's fantastic Brunswick Stew (pictured above).

Several years ago my mother began a tradition of making this wonderful dish at Christmastime. It's always been one of my favorite recipes, so I couldn't just let it go. Instead I volunteered to make the complicated stew and had mom supervise me.

I was so happy that it turned out well. It tasted just like I remembered it. I did have a few good laughs from the sensation of squishing diced tomatoes with my hands, a necessary chore for the stew to turn out right. I also couldn't stop laughing at the sheer amount of fat that separated out of the chicken stock. The preparation of the stew took a few days so we had to refrigerate the stock overnight one night. When I looked in the pot the next morning, the layer of cooled, gelatinous, yellow fat was at least a centimeter think on top of the stock. Now I understand how arteries get clogged! Fortunately I was instructed to skim the fat off and throw it away.

My grandfather told me my great-grandmother would be proud. Deep down that compliment meant a lot.

Thank God for the abundance of love and family in my life! Thank God that he sent his son to Earth so many years ago to be our wonderful councilor and savior. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

An Interesting Week

On Sunday my mother was in a car crash as she was drove to church. She left the house early so she would have plenty of time to set up at the church because she is one of the church leaders, but she never made it to church. She was driving down a country road when a woman ran a stop sign as she exited a neighborhood and drove directly into my mother's path. My mom had no chance to break and plowed directly into the other woman's passenger side.

Dad received a phone call a few minutes later. Mom had called him using her cell phone. I heard in Dad's voice that something wasn't right. "Your mom's been in a car accident" he said. I asked him where, immediately put on my shoes and jacket, and left. I arrived on the scene just in time to see the paramedics attach a collar around her neck, move her onto a backboard and load her into an ambulance. I scurried around the site collecting things from my mother's car at her request and then watched as the paramedics headed for the hospital. My dad arrived about that time and helped me gather the rest of her belongings. We then drove directly to the hospital.

The doctors did several x-rays of my mom and discovered that she had no broken bones, but assured her she would be very sore for the next few days. Since then my dad and I have been helping her shuffle around the house and trying to do things for her as best we can.

I know my mom was disappointed because that particular Sunday was the biggest Sunday of the Christmas season. She had worked so hard to help put the service together, and I know she hated to miss out on actually pulling the service together. It's a devastating thing not to see the fruits of hard work.

She's battered and bruised but is steadily improving. I pray prayers of thanksgiving that the accident wasn't worse, but I also pray that her recovery will be quick. I pray other prayers of thanksgiving for the paramedics and doctors that did their jobs and the kind souls that came from the nearby houses to help my mother. Lastly I pray for the other driver. I don't know her condition, but I hope she is okay.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for my mother during this difficult time.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Atlanta Sacred Chorale

Tonight I enjoyed wonderful Christmas music sung by The Atlanta Sacred Chorale and The Gwinnett Young Singers. It really helped put me in the Christmas mood. Beautiful!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Shuttle Launch Photos

The pictures from my recent trip the shuttle launch and various national parks are now available for viewing. Click on the photos button above to see them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

3... 2... 1... Liftoff!!!

Late tonight (or is it early in the morning now) my brother and I returned from a trip to Orlando. We visited with family, saw the shuttle launch, which was fantastic, and saw many incredible national parks on the return trip. I have many neat photos to share, but for now I am going to bed. More to come!

Monday, December 04, 2006

I got home before sunrise

This morning I went in search of another Iridium satellite. I got up at 5:30 and bundled up in my warmest clothes because it was incredibly cold. I think it was below freezing. I found out how cold it really was when I set up the tripod for my camera. The aluminum was so cold that it HURT my hands. I waited probably ten minutes in a small, church parking lot in the middle of nowhere, which was the closest I could get to the center of the reflection path, before I saw the satellite, dim at first, looking like a little star, following its preordained path.

Satellites, which are high above the Earth, reflect sunlight down to the ground. In order to see the reflection one has to stand in the right place at the right time. I recently wrote about a site called Heavens Above that will accurately predict satellite pass-overs at or near your location. I found out about this particular satellite on Heavens Above.

So I'm standing there next to my tripod-mounted camera, which is pointed in the direction where the satellite is supposed to be at its brightest, where it is supposed to "flare", and I'm scanning the patch of sky where the satellite is supposed to appear when I see the dim dot moving steadily overhead from the North to the South. I shouted,"That's my boy!" at the top of my lungs (okay, that's a lie) and I turned to put my finger on the button of my camera, and when I looked back the satellite was in mid flare. I pressed the button and my camera took a 48 second exposure at ISO 100. I caught this cool picture (Well, it is to me anyway. To you it probably just looks like a bug that went splat on your windshield) of Iridium 53 in mid-flare and as it dimmed back into nothingness.

The satellite shown down at a magnitude of -8. Our brightest stars are in the range of 0 to -1. By comparison the full moon is around -12 and the sun is -26. Clearly, the lower the number, the brighter the object.