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Detrich 1

The above picture, taken by photographer Allan Detrich, appeared in the Toledo Blade in March of 2007.  It shows members of the Bluffton University baseball team praying before their first home game.  This liberal arts college is located in Bluffton, Ohio, and is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA.  Hung along the outfield fence are banners bearing the names and uniform numbers of five teammates who had died in a bus accident in Atlanta on March 2 as the team was heading to Florida for a Spring Break tournament.  Also killed in the accident were the bus driver and his wife.  The image is heavy with the emotions that the players were undoubtedly experiencing as they sought to deal with this tragic loss and move forward with their season.

Allan Detrich had worked for the Toledo Blade since 1989.  He was a four-time recipient of the Ohio News Photographer of the Year Award.  He had been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.  But, despite his credentials and achievements, questions began to arise about photos that he had submitted for publication in the print and online editions of the newspaper.  Officials at the Blade ultimately determined that they had unknowingly published 58 photos that had been digitally altered by Detrich.  To what degree were they digitally altered?  The image above provides one example.  The original photo looked like this…..

Detrich 2

As you can see, someone was standing outside the fence and behind the far right banner when the picture was taken.  I don’t know if Detrich felt that the legs beneath the banner detracted from the symmetry or the mood of the photo,  but something motivated him to digitally remove them from the photo before it was submitted for publication.  Other examples included removing a white extension cord from a shot inside a hair salon and adding a basketball to a photo from a women’s basketball game.  Legs, extension cords and basketballs; these were not exactly things that could precipitate global climate change or threaten the political stability of the nation.  Was it really such a big deal?  The editors and publishers of the Toledo Blade thought it was.  Detrich resigned in April of 2007, after nearly two decades of working for the paper.  When asked about the severity of the consequences, a Blade official said, “It has to be zero tolerance.  If you can alter one small piece of a photo, can you alter a medium size piece?  You just can’t alter at all.”  It was a matter of principle.  

Down through the centuries there have been individuals and groups who felt like the Word of God would be much more palatable and effective if certain things were removed or added.  Marcion’s anti-Jewish theology led him to reject the entire Old Testament and only accept the Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles as canonical.  In more recent times, certain groups have claimed latter day revelation through their prophets, producing documents that, in their minds, supplement and “complete” Scripture.  Both extremes would do well to recognize and abide by the “Do Not Tamper” warnings within the Scriptures.  “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you,” (Deut. 4:2).  “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar,” (Prov. 30:6).  “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book,” (Rev. 22:18-19). 

If the Toledo Blade can take the addition and subtraction of images of legs, extension cords and basketballs that seriously, I begin to get a sense of how exponentially greater my commitment should be to accepting and respecting the whole counsel of God without altering it to suit my tastes, preferences and comfort zone. 


Several years ago, I read an article in Sports Illustrated written by Ken Young about a blind triathlete named Tom O’Connor.  O’Connor had lost his sight at age 19 when a surgical shunt came apart, flooding his optic nerves with spinal fluid.  Overcoming this and other obstacles, he committed himself to a rigorous running regimen and was able to complete several New York City Marathons.   Next, O’Connor wanted to expand his athletic pursuits and participate in triathlons, but he desired to do so without being tethered to a guide, which was the typical manner in which blind athletes competed.  He accomplished this by swimming behind a kayak that pulled two 20-foot tubes, creating a lane for him.  If he came in contact with the tube on either side of him, he could easily correct his course.  O’Connor ran beside a guide who spoke instructions about the terrain, upcoming turns, etc.  But, most amazing and inspiring was the way in which he managed the cycling portion of the race.  His training partner rode in an escort vehicle ahead of O’Connor and called out instructions using a bullhorn.  O’Connor sped along at 20 mph, pedalling in total darkness, trusting completely in the voice and direction of his trainer!  Young wrote, “While seeing is believing for most people, for Tom O’Connor just believing is enough.” 

There are so many lessons that O’Connor’s story illustrates: commitment, perseverance, determination, trust, and the list could go on and on.  But, mostly it reminds me of the life of faith that we live as children of God and disciples of Jesus.  It is a rational, reasoned and evidenced faith to be sure, but it is still faith, which Hebrews 11: 1 defines as “being sure of what we hope for and certain about what we do not see.”  We walk by faith, not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7).  When the apostle Thomas finally received tangible, physical proof of the risen Christ a week after the Resurrection, Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,” (John 20:29)  We are among those people of faith who have not seen, yet believe!  One day our faith will become sight.  “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because will see Him just as He is,” (I John 3:2), and we will see and know Him “face to face,” (I Corinthians 13:12).  May that Day come quickly!  But, until then, let us continue to walk in confident faith, listening to His voice and following in His steps! 


Since I shared a post a few days ago about my admiration for Mark Knopfler’s artistry on the guitar, I thought it only fair that I make brief mention of my original Guitar Hero, Brian May of Queen fame; make that, Dr. Brian May.  When Queen hit it big in the early ’70s, May already had degrees in physics and mathematics and was working on a Ph.D. at Imperial College, London.  Rock superstardom demanded a full-time commitment, so he shelved his studies for the next 30 years.  He occasionally published papers, but did not resume his doctoral pursuits until rather recently.  In October of 2007, May completed requirements for his doctorate in astrophysics.  His dissertation was entitled, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud.   May also has a great interest in stereo photography and has authored a book to be released next February entitled, A Village Lost and Found, which focuses on a series of stereo images of an Oxfordshire village taken by T. R. Williams in the 1850s.

May’s distinctive musical sound can be largely attributed to the Red Special, the guitar that he and his father built together when May was a teenager and which still serves as his primary “axe.”  Much of the wood in the Red Special came from a fireplace mantel.  May’s performance of Last Horizon above is from the Return of the Champions concert DVD released in 2005.  There aren’t too many astrophysicists who can play like this!

guiding light

In 1937, five days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, a new radio drama, The Guiding Light, aired its first episode on NBC Radio.  Ten years later, the show moved to CBS Radio and then had its debut on CBS Television in 1952.  The definite article was dropped from the show’s title in 1975.  The final episode of Guiding Light aired last Friday, September 18, after 72 years on radio and television, making it far and away the longest running serial drama in broadcast history.  So, have I been a longtime, closet Guiding Light fan?  Hardly!  I never “got” soap operas, despite my maternal grandmother’s unyielding devotion to her afternoon “stories.”  I just found it remarkable that this particular soap had been on the air for 72 years!  Can you imagine all of the characters that came and went over seven decades?  The numerous twisted, tangled (and often morally depraved!) storylines?

However, I know of a much longer running story.  It involves the true Guiding Light, a perfectly moral and sinless Guiding Light.  The beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned,” (Is. 9:2; Matt. 4:16).  “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man,” (John 1:9).  Jesus Himself said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life,” (John 8:12).  His Light gives us instruction and guidance as we travel through this life and into eternity.  His Word and Gospel, just like earlier divine revelation, is “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path,” (Ps. 119:105).

The “story” continues, almost 2,000 years after the Light dawned!  Millions of characters have now been involved in this ongoing spiritual drama, with storylines spanning the centuries and touching every nation, tribe and tongue.  The darkness will not overwhelm us!  “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light,” (Eph. 5:8).


I posted “A Legacy of Faith” a few days ago and shared some memories of my grandparents, describing how much they influenced my life and my walk with God.  As I mentioned, I was blessed to have all four of my grandparents to the age of 22, and Granny (Louetta Sanders Pyles, pictured above) was with us until November of last year when I was 46. 

As part of my tribute to Granny at her funeral, I shared a story that had taken place the previous Christmas.  All of us had gone to the nursing home one afternoon to visit with Granny, but I returned there by myself later that evening so that I could spend a little more time with her.  Even though she was 1oo years old, she would frequently sit up quite late at night reading her Bible.  So, it sort of surprised me to find her in the bed with her glasses off, apparently ready to go to sleep.  I pulled a chair close to the side of the bed so that she could see me and hear me better.  We proceeded to have the deepest and most spiritual conversation that we ever had. 

One of the subjects that we covered that night was forgiveness.  Granny told me that a few weeks earlier one of the nurses had hurt her when she was helping her bathe.  I am sure that the nurse was not intentionally rough.  Granny was one of the favorites among the nursing staff, and they frequently referred to her as “Little Miss Independence.”  Still, it hurt.  In response, Granny said that she “talked right ugly” to the nurse and that the nurse “talked ugly” right back at her.  I can’t imagine what Granny might have said to her; I never heard her curse.  Well, she had used some “farm words” in my hearing when I was growing up, but never anything profane. 

Granny told me that she couldn’t sleep that night because she felt so bad about what had happened.   When the nurse came in the next day, Granny told her how sorry she was for how she had talked to her and asked the nurse to please forgive her.  She said the nurse started crying and apologized to her and asked Granny to forgive her as well.  They hugged and cried and made up.  Granny said, “We’ve been just the best of friends ever since.”  Even at 100, Granny was still teaching us how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness!

I first became a fan of Mark Knopfler when he was fronting Dire Straits back in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.  I was always impressed with his extraordinary guitar skills and his songwriting ability.  Even in the ’80s, he was branching out into other musical pursuits like composing soundtracks for movies.  Local Hero, The Princess Bride, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Wag the Dog are among his better known cinematic scores.  Knopfler has collaborated with numerous other artists, ranging from Classic Rockers to several notables in country music.  He recorded an album with the late, legendary musician Chet Atkins and more recently with Emmylou Harris.

Mark Knopfler has continued to release solo works since the disbanding of Dire Straits in the mid-90s.  Sailing to Philadelphia, released in 2000, is probably my favorite.  2001 was a very trying and challenging year for me, and I found a lot of comfort and “escape” in that cd which features duets with James Taylor and Van Morrison.  Knopfler has a great way of communicating stories in his songs and composing them in an impressive variety of genres and styles. 

Since I mostly listen to “old” music, I typically don’t anticipate new releases.  However, I was excited to learn a few months ago that Mark Knopfler was completing work on a new album.  Get Lucky was released in the U.S. yesterday.  You can listen to the title track above.  Kim and I got to see Knopfler perform at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in 2005.  It was one the most enjoyable concerts I have ever attended.  We are planning to see him again when he tours the U.S. next spring!


Thomas and Katie Lou Sanders and their children

I love this photo.  It connects me with my family and my roots.  Included in the picture, which was taken in 1907,  are Isaac Thomas Sanders and his wife, Katie Lou (Bradford) Sanders, and five of their six children (Uncle Paul wasn’t born yet).  Seated in my great-grandmother’s lap is my grandmother, Louetta Sanders Pyles, who passed away last November at the age of 101.   I have never had to wonder, “What did Granny look like as a baby?”  She looks remarkably just like my father, sister and nephew did at that age!  I also love this photo because my early life is filled with many memories of Granny’s pictured siblings, Aunt Bernice, Aunt Elise, Uncle William and Uncle Buford. 

You may have noticed on the calendar that last Sunday was Grandparents Day.  I took the opportunity to share a message at the Broken Arrow church on Sunday morning about the wonderful blessing that grandparents are in our physical families and the special role that older generations have in the body of Christ.  Grandparents have so much to offer in extending love, wisdom, grace, guidance and encouragement to their grandchildren.  I consider myself most blessed to have known all four of my grandparents, to have had all of them in my life to the age of 22, and then to have had Granny with us until just last year when I was 46. 

While there was a lot to love about my grandparents, what I treasure most is that they were all Christians.  My memories of them are inseparable from their connection and involvement with Christ’s church.  I remember Pa (C.R. Sheffield) leading singing and teaching the auditorium class at the small rural church in Hentown, Georgia.    Mama Lila loved to cook for the preachers and did so many things in service to others in the church and in the community.  Granddaddy (Josh Pyles), taught the “Old Men’s Class” at the Diana church in Giles County, Tennessee.  Forever impressed on my mind and heart is the image of him stepping into the aisle and kneeling whenever a prayer was led in the assembly.  Granny, like Mama Lila, performed so many loving acts of kindness and service for those within and outside the church. 

It is true that God has no grandchildren, only sons and daughters.  Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Lord, Christ and Savior must ultimately be claimed in a personal way by each individual believer.  Our faith cannot be vicariously inherited from another.  Still, it is a tremendous blessing to be a recipient and participant in a legacy of faith, much as the evangelist Timothy was in relation to his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (II Timothy 1:5).  A young boy was once asked why he believed in God.  He replied, “I guess it just runs in our family!”  While this is certainly not the measure of a mature faith, it is most definitely a wonderful start!


Firemen Raising Flag 9-11-01

September 11, 2001



Hide the Children 2

The President of the United States addressed the schoolchildren of America this morning with a message of encouragement to take their education seriously, apply themselves, work hard, listen to their teachers and parents and pursue their dreams for their own good and the good of our nation.  Well, he didn’t actually address all of the nation’s schoolchildren.  Officials at some schools, in response to parental concern, opposition and even outrage, elected to not make the address available.  Other children did not hear the address because their parents (if they followed through with their stated intentions) kept their kids at home today or had them participate in an alternative activity during the President’s speech.

I must admit that I have experienced a huge amount of disbelief over this whole controversy.  As I expressed in a comment on a friend’s blog last week (, it was as if some parents believed that in the span of a brief speech President Obama could use mass hypnosis to brainwash and corrupt millions of U.S. children and instantaneously erase years of moral and ethical training provided by their parents and their churches.  Would he irreparably influence them to become socialists, communists or, even worse, Democrats?  Over the last week, I have heard people compare Obama’s planned address to the propaganda and indoctrination tactics of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.  Seriously?  I mean…seriously?

As a Christian, it concerns me to see fellow believers respond with such reactionary, politically-induced fear.  As an American, it concerns me that our nation has become so politically polarized and the Office of the President so diminished that “party” trumps patriotism with such ease.  I know that there is plenty of blame for this to be laid at both ends of the political spectrum, but it saddens me, nonetheless. 

In March of last year, on the day before the Democratic Primary in Texas, then Illinois Senator Obama spoke at my daughter’s high school in Carrollton.  She and I attended the speech together, and we were both impressed with his oratorical skills, command of the issues and the way in which he handled questions from parents and students.  So, did this hour-long exposure to the future President re-program Hannah into some kind of apologist for all causes left and liberal?  Hardly!  A few weeks ago, she attended town hall meetings in Denton and Gainesville, Texas, to protest “Obama-Care.”  She even made her own spiffy protest signs!

As I mentioned in my comment on Bobby & Tamie’s blog, if you have children in public schools, they see, hear and experience numerous things on a daily basis that should cause significant parental concern.   The President’s speech on education would not make my Top Ten.

Coleman at Navarre Beach '07

Coleman at Navarre Beach '07

“A Portrait of Persistence.”  That’s what I think about every time I see this picture of my son, Coleman, that was taken at Navarre Beach, Florida, two years ago.  For those who may not know, Coleman is autistic and was diagnosed at five months of age with a genetic disorder called Dubowitz Syndrome which involves varying levels of mental retardation, microcephaly (small head circumference), speech delays, etc.  Coleman does not speak at all, other than having the wonderful God-given ability to say, “Mama.”  Yes, his mother is more proud of that than I can tell you!  I could write a book about him (and we probably will some day), but for now let me just say that he has been an incredible blessing to our family and to the lives of the hundreds of people who have known him during his 16 1/2 years of life.

Now, back to the beach.  Coleman loves the water.  I mean, he loooooves the water!  He doesn’t know how to swim.  But, he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know how to swim.  He has no fear of the water whatsoever, whether it is in a swimming pool or in the giant, endless wave pool called the Gulf of Mexico.  When we are at Navarre, we stay in the water with him until we are all worn out and have to drag ourselves back up on the beach to catch our breath and some sun.  Coleman will sit contently on the sand for a little while, and then he will begin to inch his way toward the water.  I think that he thinks that if he moves slowly enough and doesn’t make eye contact with us then we won’t be able to see him.  His slow slide-and-glide across the sand may take a few minutes, but his patience and persistence will ultimately pay off in getting him back to the water’s edge to let the waves wash over his feet and legs.  In his wake, he leaves a track worthy of a giant sea turtle headed back out to sea!  That’s our Coleman!  Sea Turtle Boy!

“….forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13-14).

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September 2009