Browsing: Articles

Chicago was beautiful.  The weather was cool, and the wind off the lake did not disappoint.  I checked out the Shedd Aquarium and the beluga whales and dolphins put on a show.  I saw the lake, and the city, and hung out with my nieces and nephew and older brother and his wife, and generally had a really good time.

The view of Chicago skyline from Shedd Aquarium

Then I was off towards Saint Joseph, MO to see my other brother and my newest nephew.  I followed the Illinois River and stopped a couple of times to take in the scenery, then crossed over to the Mississippi and into Missouri, and camped at Wakonda State Park among the cotton wood trees.

That morning, I took the back roads across the rolling hills of Missouri, passing red barns with silver roofs, farms and ranches, fields of golden wheat and perfectly groomed rows of young corn glowing a vibrant green.  I passed through dozens of identical small towns each with a town square built around the court house.  Old farm houses dotted the country side, grain silos, cattle pens, and rolls of hay fresh cut scattered across fields.

It has been fun seeing the way the country has changed, from the mountains of West Virginia and the woods of east Ohio to the flat lands of Ohio and Indiana and Illinois to the gently rolling hills of Missouri.  In some ways, very little is different.  Small town america in the mid-west has a very distinct character.  Old men hang out in McDonalds talking about this and that, drinking coffee.  Body shops, car dealers, farm equipment, mechanics, and all the things you associate with the business of growing things, all privately owned.  Old and new looking buildings, many having seen more wear and tear than not, quietly standing their ground, serving the purpose for which they were made.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop downtown, listening to the music playing in the background, and the pleasant murmur of conversation.  Chicago is a cool 69, and not so windy today.  Yesterday’s riding was harder than expected.  I think the toll of the trip had started to catch up to me, so having a couple of days to chill is welcomed.  I’m going to explore the city a bit, then sit down to do some reading and hopefully some writing.

I left the McDonalds and headed west.  I quickly found that US50 was boring and after about an hour of straight road, two lanes either direction, I pulled off and took a detour through Wayne National Forest.  I stuck to smaller roads after that, no more than one lane in either direction.

Ohio can be beautiful.  Some rolling hills that eventually flattened out into farm land.  Miles and miles of little houses and farms, surrounded by the new growth of corn, just a foot or so high, shades of green varying from a deep verdant green to lighter greens verging on yellow to the golden color of wheat.  Indiana was much the same.  Small towns are much the same all over.  Main streets that stretch a block or two, populations of a couple thousand people if that, with just a couple places to eat and a gas station or two.  I’m going to need to plan to pass through some larger sized towns when I want to take an extended break, if I want to find better food and more interesting places to hang out.

I traveled 9 hours on the bike, 11 hours total.  I did better than I expected.  My lower back was sore, and surprisingly, my right knee began to ache towards the end.  But I didn’t feel raw and was mostly comfortable all day.  I’ve learned I need to stop every 30 to 45 minutes just to stretch my legs and clean my visor.  And my phone can’t go all day using the GPS and bluetooth audio even while charging on the bike.  So I’m going to need to conserve the battery if I want to keep it active.

The bike has handled well, and the roads have been pretty good all throughout.  Though, when you’re riding on roads that aren’t even or that have a lot of lines that have been sealed, the feeling of the changing road can sometimes make the tires feel weird, like their soft or going flat.

I stopped just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana, got a room and enjoyed a shower and a soft bed.  Today I go to church just down the road and head towards Chicago.  I have about 3 hours left before I finish the first leg of the road trip.

I’m sitting in a McDonalds in Philippi, WV.  The sounds of old men talking and catching up about this and that murmur in the background.  One gentleman asks another, “Is your wife still livin?”  Such candor is unexpected, but it makes me smile. :)

I spent the night in Blackwater Falls State Park.  The day and night have been clear and dry and the temperature cool.  A fire after setting up camp was welcome as temperatures fell after dark.  I drifted off to sleep to the smell of wood smoke and the gentle sounds of distant campers and crickets.

The best part of the trip so far has been Sugarlands Rd, just off of 219.  A winding 1 lane road that runs along a small stream.  Covered by trees, with few road hazards, the scenery was beautiful.  Moss and fern covered forest floors, woods of pine and deciduous trees, and the stream running gently over rocks and rills, babbling along.  Small homes tucked away in little valleys, pastures and fields dotted along the way here and there.

I have 10 more hours of road before I reach Chicago, and I expect to spend the night on the road once more before reaching Jeremy and Julie.

To know God.  That is the full measure and purpose of the Christian life.  We know God in many ways, both by searching out and listening to what He has revealed to us about Himself, and by experiencing Him through relationship, by abiding in Him through obedience, by interacting with Him through prayer.

In the last article, we spoke of God’s eternal nature.  In this article I want to talk about His unchanging or immutable nature. The fact that God is unchanging provides the christian with a number of important guarantees, not the least of which is confidence that God’s promises will be kept, for a God who cannot change is a God who will not go back on His word.

To know God.  That is the full measure and purpose of the Christian life.  We know God in many ways, both by searching out and listening to what He has revealed to us about Himself, and by experiencing Him through relationship, by abiding in Him through obedience, by interacting with Him through prayer.

We began this series by asking what God is.  We talked about His triune nature and what each of the three members of the Godhead are.  In this article, we will begin to discuss more of His nature, specifically, how He is eternal and why that matters.

To know God.  That is the full measure and purpose of the Christian life.  We know God in many ways, both by searching out and listening to what He has revealed to us about Himself, and by experiencing Him through relationship, by abiding in Him through obedience, by interacting with Him through prayer.

The purpose of the following series of articles is to take a broad view of what God has revealed to us about Himself, to get a more complete picture of His attributes and qualities.  I will attempt to tie together what these mean to us and how the attributes of God help us understand not just who He is, but why who He is matters.  Many of the hard questions and struggles we face as Christians are framed by our understanding of who God is, and a good understanding of Him helps us to put our circumstances into perspective.

The following series of posts are not intended to be exhaustive. This subject is too large for me to cover extensively, and better men and women have written books that delve more deeply, but I do want to try and capture the some important elements and offer some of the insights I have gleaned as I have come to know Him.

The posts will follow a question and answer format, asking then answering to the best of my ability a series of questions about who He is.

It has been a long year, this 2016. This election cycle and its results and plenty of painful challenges at work have left me a little ragged and feeling tired and worn out. It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve learned a lot, both from the election and the many conversations that it has provoked, and from the challenges at work that have provided areas of growth I might not have heeded otherwise. And I have been surrounded by a rich group of really good friends and family that have encouraged and counselled me, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

A big theme this year has been trust. Do I trust God? Am I willing to let Him do with my life as He pleases? Am I comfortable letting go of control, willing to be happy in spite of circumstances that don’t line up with my expectations? The verse from Job, where he cries out and says, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” has been a recurring thought.

Psalm 1 has much to offer in the way of perspective on living, and how to be successful.  For the Christian, it distills the basic ethos of our philosophy, to know Him and by knowing to love Him.  The psalm does not promise a specific level of blessing, but rather a way of living that improves life.  Below are my thoughts, broken down by verse.

What does it mean to be “blessed”?

The Hebrew word (H835) is “esher” and is derived from (H833) “ashar” which means to “be straight”.  When used figuratively, “ashar” means to go forward (because the way is straight), and thus “esher” means to prosper, to increase, and to reap the joy of prosperity and increase.  This declaration should be taken generally, not specifically.  How much prosperity or increase is not stated, only that by being blessed, we are better off than we were before.

A testimony of how God transformed how I deal with fear

I’ve been a Christian since 1984, growing up in a loving home with two amazing parents. For as long as I could remember God was as real to me as the sun and the moon. That changed six years ago, when I went through a crisis of faith followed by a series of severe anxiety attacks. Those anxiety attacks taught me some valuable lessons and I wanted to take some time to talk about what happened, to explain some of what I learned about fear, about identity and purpose and how God intends for us to live in relationship with Him

Fear is a symptom. Like pain, its purpose is to warn and prepare your body and mind to deal with dangers in your environment. When your mind detects that something you value has been threatened, it alerts the amygdala which starts producing hormones to give you energy and focus so you can deal with the present danger quickly and without distraction.

Fear then has a valuable purpose, but like pain, it can grow out of control if underlying issues are present, becoming persistent and debilitating, preventing you from enjoying the full measure of joy that God intended.

Also, I do understand that sometimes there are medical conditions that can cause psychological problems involving fear and anxiety, and this discussion isn’t intended to address those situations.  It is possible what I’ve learned may be helpful, but I do not intend for this to be a substitute for medical care if that is needed.

This brings us to the question, what causes fear and how do I deal with it?

It isn’t enough to ask God to do a thing, like restore your soul or reframe your heart or desire, or to help you do a thing He has asked you to do. Part of making this stuff work is proceeding to act as though He has done it once you have asked. We operate as Christians using faith to confirm the receipt of what we ask for. Ask, then act as though your prayer is answered. for if He has asked it of you, He will follow through.

Her: Everything is still this morning. The cloudy, after-rain sky holds in the moisture & silence like a giant greenhouse :)
Me: mmm… that almost sounds like a haiku. :)
Me: the cloudy, after rain sky // holds moisture and silence // in the still morning
Her: Lol :) didn’t really think abt that :) I love the spicy smell of wooded areas after rain, esp. as the sun comes out & turns the heat on :)
Me: yeah. :) its been raining a lot here the last few days. the combination of the smell of rain and the smell of the grill last night brought up a bunch of vague memories of camping when i was young.
Her: :) nice :) or this: cloudy, after-rain sky // stillness, moisture, silence // city-wide greenhouse
Her: Funny how a smell takes you back faster sometimes than sight or sound :) prob bcs we do more seeing & listening than smelling :)
Me: or … like a greenhouse // the cloudy, after-rain sky // holds stillness, moisture, silence
Her: :) that’s good, too :)
Her: Hm. I almost prefer my haiku simile-less. Maybe for the same reason I enjoy semi-colons: implied connections :)
Me: interesting…
Her: So, i’d prob move your first line to the end & make it just one word.
Me: like: the cloudy, after-rain sky // holds stillness, moisture, silence // a giant greenhouse
Her: Yeah, more like that :) RE: like: the cloudy, after-rain sky // holds stillness, moisture, silence // a giant greenhouse

The Mysterious Benedict Society,
The Mysterious Benedict Society: and the Perilous Journey,
The Mysterious Benedict Society: and the Prisoners Dilemma
– by Trenton Lee Stewart

An excellent series, appropriate for adults as well as children.

The Legacy: The Legend of Drizzt, Book VII
Starless Night: The Legend of Drizzt, Book VIII
Neverwinter: Neverwinter Saga, Book II
Gauntlgrym: Neverwinter, Book I (Neverwinter Saga)
Road of the Patriarch: The Sellswords, Book III (Forgotten Realms: The Sellswords, Book 3)
– by R. A. Salvatore

I’m a huge fan of Salvatore.  Always excellent.  I’ve now read nearly all the books in the Drizzt collection.

 

 

So here’s what I’ve read so far:

 

By Terry Pratchet: Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad

What can you say about Pratchet?  He’s amazing, hysterical, wise, funny and insightful. I haven’t read anything by him that I didn’t like, a lot.  I recommend him highly.

 

By Terry Brooks: The Measure of the Magic, Bearers of the Black Staff

I was a little disappointed with Brooks’ latest.  Not as good as his usual, and certainly not as good as his earlier work.

By Jim Butcher: Storm Front

This is the first novel in a long series.  It was good.  Tight plot and writing.  But I wasn’t in the right mood for noir, and the novel left me feeling dark, which says more about me and my mood than it does about the novel.

  

By Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

I don’t even know what to say really.  These books were so good I rank them in my top 10 greatest of all time.  Best series I’ve read in a decade.  The honesty and insight into her characters, particularly how she describes the pain and anguish of anxiety/fear/depression/greif had me unable to put the books down and towards the end, having a difficult time keeping my composure.

  

By Frank Beddor: The Looking Glass Wars, Seeing Redd, ArchEnemy

This series was excellent.  A different take on the wonderland mythos, it had me captivated.  Highly reccomended.

 

I have photo galleries that back to Jan 2001, as walljm.com was a personal site before it was a weblog, but the first post as a blog was Feb 15th, 2002.  I started writing just after graduating college.  Heady days back then, when the blogging community was so small it numbered in the hundreds, and you could track the new posts written on a daily basis on a single page.

I’ve grown a lot on this blog, as a writer, a photographer and an individual, slowly loosing juvenile tendencies, slowly getting better as an artist, slowly growing more discerning.  This website has my very first poem, and some of the first photographs I took with my first SLR (a Pentax ZXM film camera).  I’ve been less prolific than some, wondering at times why I had a blog and what I was going to use it for.  I’ve been on hiatus three times, I think, the last time for 3 years in which I moved from Saint Louis to DC.  But I’m glad I’ve kept with it.

Along the way I became friends with Jenn, Daniel, Paulo, Sarah, Ash, Amber, Irene, Wyclif, and many more…

At some point, maybe I’ll do a retrospective of the best posts of walljm.com. But I’ve got work to do now, so thanks to everyone who ever stopped by, and happy birthday to me. :)

Ok, so I’ve implemented redirects for most of the old urls, which should continue to work. I’ve added a number of customizations and tweaks. If anyone runs into anything odd or frustrating, please feel free to contact me via a comment on this post or email via jason at walljm.com. let try this again

for reasons unknown, the server that runs walljm.com and the rest of my web properties ran out of memory and was unresponsive for the last couple days.  its back up now.

1 2 3 41