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Storm Rise

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:48

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They are calling for heavy rain today, and sure enough this morning saw heavy black clouds rolling in.  Interestingly, though, there was a touch of pink behind them.


The pinks began to grow and break through.


This close up does a good job of picking up the contrast between the low, fast moving clouds in the outer edge of the incoming storm, and the high altitude clouds behind them. 

I couldn't resist a panorama which perhaps best captures the overall visual punch.

Storm rise

Encounters with Delight

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 13:11


While walking up a mountain trail this summer, one of the animals we encountered was a porcupine.    Expecting the porcupine to be slow moving, and perhaps to stop and quill up, I followed it into the underbrushing hoping for a better picture.    But it didn't stop or even slow down.   Instead it put its little motor on, bolted down the mountain side, and left me far behind.  It didn't matter, though.  We were so pleased just to have had the initial encounter, and to come upon such an interesting animal in its own habitat.

The Heavens Ignite

Father Rob's Blog - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 14:04

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This morning's sunrise was an explosion of color.  One moment, drab grey clouds stretching overhead.  The next--BOOM--and then this.


As if hurled outward by the force of the detonation, the color spread throughout the sky.  I switched to panorama to try and capture it.


The color kept going so I kept panning.

Sunrise tornado

High up in the sky the wind caught a cloud and twisted it into an uprising fire tornado.

Flower fireworks

On the ground, there were more explosions of color.  It's fascinating how the color of flowers subtly changes and they reflect the vagaries of light.

The colors fading, it was time to set out the hummingbird feeders and go to work. 

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Old Man

Father Rob's Blog - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 01:33

Old man

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you ...

My wife caught me trying to tie some leaders together, which now even with glasses, are pretty darn hard to see. What's the next line? "Give me things that don't get lost." Yeah, I increasingly understand the value of that--in more ways than one!

All That is Now

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:28

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There will no doubt be much better pictures elsewhere, but here's an idea of what the lunar eclipse looked like in northern VA this morning.


Other folks were watching too.  The guy with the tripod is doing it right.

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All that is gone.  That certainly pertains to the moon now.


Time to walk home, just in time to catch the flowers glowing in the morning sun.

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And to put the hummingbird feeders, hung high the night before so they are out of the reach of raccoons, back in the yard where the hummers sit perched, eagerly awaiting breakfast.

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Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 00:18


As human beings, some times it seems like it is awfully hard for us to find stuff we can all agree on.  But perhaps we will all concur on this:  Nature can be unbelievably amazing.  Last week, for instance, we were on a stream that flows into Lake Erie.  The water was low and clear.  But all of a sudden large numbers of steel-head (big rainbow trout) began swimming upstream through the shallow shale flats.  It was quite a sight.


Look at the amount of water these fish are moving.  Sort of like a speed boat, they threw up quite a rooster-tail!


Here's a picture zoomed out a bit to give you a better sense of the setting.  You can get an idea of how fast these fish are moving by the length to the wake they are making.


OK, I know this last pic is a little random, but I like the effect.

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Urban Angling

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 00:30


Often, these days, it seems like woods and water are not too far away from concrete and steel. 

Suburban waterfall

It is hard to find the work of the hand of God free from the hand of man.

Great art

But then...  you do.


And sometimes ...  sometimes you hold the work of God in your hand.  You see its beauty.  You feel its power.   And you cannot help but be humbled by it.


Birthday Bash

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 02:30


As you may know, on Sunday I turned 56 years old.  Sunday is, of course, a work day for me.  But that evening when my work was through?  I jumped into a car with a friend and headed up to Erie, PA.  We took the stunning sunset as a good omen.

Though we didn't get in until midnight, we were up and at 'em by 4:30 the next morning.  First stop was The Country Store for a pumpkin donut.

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OK, I admit it.  This is the real reason I come to Erie.

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Work has been absolutely crazy this fall.  I wasn't sure I should go.   Could this picture indicate Divine Approval?


Catching fish meant more chances to play with my camera.  I love the interplay of light and water in this one.


This one throws a little color into the mix.  The kyped jaw is pretty cool too.

Purty big buck


Gill flap

The fish weren't the only sources of brilliant color.

Fall color

Soon enough it was time to head home.  Turns out there were some interesting colors on the road as well.


High Impact

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:43

Leach. Lathrop. Leary. Nowinski. Hart. Chamblin.

Miriam (our office manager) recently found a small collection of “newcomer” cards and these were the names that were on them. It’s interesting to think that these folks, who are now so familiar to so many of us, were once newcomers. (And if you are not familiar with them, let me assure you these are some of the best people you could ever know.)

I simply cannot imagine St. Matts without these folks (and many others just like them.) We would not be where we are without them. God has greatly blessed us, to be sure. But he has often chosen to share that blessing through people like these. And I’d like to think they’ve been just as blessed by St. Matt’s as St. Matt’s has been blessed by them.

Thinking about that, I find myself tremendously excited about who will join us at St. Matthew’s in the years to come. I think of people who are longing to make a bigger difference, have a greater impact, than they are having now, and of giving them an opportunity to do just that. I think of the difference itself that they will make, and of what an impact that will have on so many other lives.   I think of the difference we'll make in their lives and family as together we find some of the deepest joys life has to offer.

All this makes me realize anew how important it is that we who are currently at St. Matt’s continue to invite new folks to join us. I realize anew how essential it is that we warmly welcome all those who walk through our doors.  I look forward to meeting these good people who will help ensure the goodness of the years to come, and I hope you do too.

Big Brookies

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:17

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It's been said that the joy of fishing for trout isn't just the beauty of the fish, but the beautiful places where they live.  Never is that more true than when a person is fishing for brook trout.


Of course, it's not exactly like brook trout are ugly.

Brook trout halos

The rings around the spots are called halos.  Fitting, I think.

Big brookie

In the mountain streams of the east coast, brookies tend to be small.  But given the right environment and plenty of food, they can grow large enough to be measured in pounds, not inches.

Brook predator

Though this is one of the smallest fish we got, it was also one of the  most colorful.  I like this pic because it really brings out the fish's predatory nature.

One of the most satisfying moments of all is watching them swim away.

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Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 00:22

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OK...  but what if the road you are on is only two lanes?  And the surface is loose gravel?   And the truck is coming TOWARD you, going very, very fast?

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With a bit of good fortune, I'd manage to get a good tip from a local about where I might catch some arctic grayling.  The only problem was the road getting there.  Looking at our car (we'd rented the cheapest car possible, but Enterprise graciously gave us a free upgrade), the local said, "But your not going to drive THAT care on THAT road are you?"  In fact, that exact line would be repeated three more times by 3 more locals.  We got lost a few times trying to find the aforementioned gravel road, and each time we stopped to ask for directions, we heard the same refrain.  It was a bit unnerving.

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We made it, but the car did get muddy.

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REALLY muddy, in fact.

Grayling stream

The stream was beautiful.  Even better--we had it to ourselves.


Perhaps best of all, the fishing was every bit as good as the local said it would.  Maybe better even.  And that meant I got to practice taking more underwater pictures.


Grayling are a beautiful fish.


Before leaving, we decided to go swimming. Linda figured my fly-box would be the perfect place to store her earrings.  As we climbed out of the water, a very large moth landed in the stream.  A grayling immediately ate it.  So I tied on my biggest, most garish fly of all, and cast it to the spot where the moth disappeared.  WHAM!  The grayling was apparently still hungry.  Figuring it doesn't get any better than that, we decided it was time to head home.


The Most Dangerous Game in the World

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 13:25

Xploding pumpkin

Sometimes people wonder why we do some of the things we do at St. Matthew’s. Why exploding pumpkins, chainsaws and blowtorches, electric pickles, and bowling balls arcing through the air towards somebody’s head? This week it’s THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME IN THE WORLD. Why in the world would we do that?

The simplest answer is that we are trying to follow Jesus’ example. Because while many people disagree about who Jesus is, or even if he was a good man, few if any disagree the he was a master communicator. Long before anybody ever heard of EF Hutton, when Jesus spoke, everybody listened. The simple truth is, people are still listening today. (And who was EF Hutton, anyway? I have no idea.)

Bowling ball

It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is precisely what Jesus did by being so willing to fully enter into the worlds of the people around him. He told stories that were relevant, reflecting the culture of the day. He drew upon people’s everyday lives, showing that he was both aware of and cared about those lives. He integrated the secular and the sacred in such a way that people came to understand that loving God cannot be divorced from loving our neighbor as well.

Electric pickle

And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do too. Even if it means playing The Most Dangerous Game in the World. Because maybe—just maybe—if we all get real clear about what The Most Dangerous Game really is—you won’t have to play it.

Bustin' Out

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 09/14/2014 - 23:52

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This a chrysalis.  In it, you can see a monarch butterfly neatly tucked.


He wants out.

Further out

Almost there!

Out further

With enough space in the opening, the abdomen--heavy with fluid that will be used to fill the shriveled wing--begins to fall free.

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And then--very quickly--he's free!  I've never seen a butterfly this early in its hatch cycle.  It looks strange.

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He situates himself so gravity can help pull the fluid from his abdomen into his wings.

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The process now almost complete, another butterfly has hatched.  To my utter delight, it's been a great year for late season monarchs.


A New Take on a Familiar Subject

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 00:16

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Knowing that we were going to be way back in the wilderness, this year we decided to get a camera that could withstand the elements... and any abuse to which we might subject it.  That it had an underwater feature was an added bonus.  It let us take pictures like this one of a beautiful fish... oh wait, the fish is gone.  The camera took some getting used to.  At least the water sure is beautiful.

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Fortunately, not all our pictures were underwater. 

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At least we got some of the fish in this picture.  That's the one and only bull trout I caught on this trip, by the way.

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Now that's a little better.  What a gorgeous fish!  I was particularly struck by how beautiful the fins are.


Not half bad, but still plenty of room for improvement.

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The r0cks were a lot easier.  They didn't move.  You can sure see why people fall in love with free stone streams, can't you?  I've been dreaming about them every night...  

Looks like I'm just going to have see if I can't get some better pictures next year!

Dangerous Curves Ahead

Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 14:11


When I was a kid, I thought a point would come in life where I could just hit cruise control and everything would work out. In fact, that’s probably more or less what I thought it meant to be “grown-up”. If I worked hard, kept my head down, was a good boy, and did what everyone expected, life would turn out “wrinkle free,” exactly as planned.

That has hardly been the case.

It now seems to me that at almost every stage, life throws us curve-balls that we didn’t expect, never saw coming, or didn’t fully anticipate their impact. I recently talked with a man in his tenth decade who was in the midst of the most painful experience of his life.

“The things they never told us…” I said.

“Oh,” he replied, grief-stricken and heart-broken. “There’s just no way to know what’s coming…”

And if there’s no way to know what’s coming, how in the world are we expected to be able to deal with these things?

One of life’s most counter intuitive curves of all can be the way even good things don’t always satisfy. It’s not just the tough stuff that throws us for a loop; it’s also when we experience great success, but that success doesn’t necessarily bring the promised fulfillment. What do we do when we get everything we ever wanted, and it still turns out not be enough?

These "curves" are the subject matter of this next sermon series. There is so much we don’t know, can’t know, maybe even wouldn’t want to know, about what’s coming next. Maybe you are in the midst of just such an experience now. Or maybe you know someone who is wrestling with some aspect of their life. What do we do?

Each sermon will begin with a brief skit modeled after the improvisation of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” In improvisation, actors don’t know what’s coming but they aren’t caught unprepared. And then we’re going to dive right in, looking for the Truth that speaks to the deepest questions and struggles of our hearts. I hope you’ll join us.

On Finding that for Which we Seek

Father Rob's Blog - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 11:12

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We can travel the whole world in search of beauty and not find anything prettier than the view when we step out our back door...

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Though often easier said than done, learning to appreciate what is right before us ensures that joy is never far away.

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Eating in the Rain

Father Rob's Blog - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 01:17

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Should I or Shouldn't I?

Father Rob's Blog - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 22:50

Tonight I had the good pleasure of having my entire family gathered for dinner. It was a great opportunity for a moral discussion. Being as the aging truck I’ve been driving did not pass inspection this week, it looks like I’m going to have bite the bullet and get another vehicle. “I’m thinking about an older Mazda Miata,” I said.

Of course neither of my daughters knew what that is, so I explained a bit about it. “It’s a two-seater, but since your mom and I only drive about two miles to work and back each day, that’s really all we need. It’s a light car with a four cylinder engine, so it’s efficient and gets great gas mileage. It’s reliable. And since the ones I’m looking at are 10 years old or older, I wouldn’t carry collision on it. It would be cheap to insure.”

“So what’s the problem?” they asked.

“Well,” I replied, “it is a sports car.  I wouldn’t want people to think that the hard-earned money they so graciously and generously give to the church is being used for anything other than  to do more good.” Everyone saw the problem.

I didn’t like the direction this was going. So, being that we were at Cracker Barrel (no surprise there, right?) I decided to bring our waiter into it. “Sean,” I asked, “are you a person of faith?” My daughters dropped their eyes and groaned.

“I like to think so,” he said. “Here’s why I ask. I’m a priest…” At this Sean’s eyebrows shot up, so I quickly added, “… an Episcopal priest. This is my wife and daughters.”

“Oh,” he said, relieved. “I was wondering. Hi!”

“Anyway, the truck I’ve been driving aged to the point where it didn’t pass inspection this week, so it looks like I need to get a new vehicle. I’m thinking about a Mazda Miata. Do you think that’s a problem?”

“A Miata?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Why would you get that? I mean why not an older Trans-am or a Corvette?” Clearly my kind of guy. Now we were getting somewhere.

“Well,” I said, “I wouldn’t want the people in my church to feel like their money was being used poorly. If you were in my church, how would you feel if I drove up in a sports car?”

“Heck,” he said, “my last pastor drove a Mercedes.”

I wish I could say that settled the question. And maybe it did. But if so, it too seemed to weigh against the answer for which I’d been hoping.

Good Mojo

Father Rob's Blog - Sun, 07/20/2014 - 01:25

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This is quite possibly the biggest black rate snake I have ever seen.  We didn't want to keep on driving because we were afraid it would try and cross the road and end up among the flattest snakes I have ever seen.  Eventually we got it to turn around and head back into the weeds so we could pass.

The road was on a farm.  A little later we met the farmer.  I mentioned I had seen a huge black rat snake.  A concerned look came over his face.  "You didn't hurt it, did you?"

"No," I assured him

"Good," he said, relieved.  "That snake's been here a long time.  Helps keep the mice and rat numbers down.  He's just like a big pet.  We call him Charlie."

"For a moment," I ventured, "I thought about catching him.  We have a Vacation Bible School starting next week and it's called Weird Animals.   I figured he'd qualify."

The farmer thought about that a moment.  "I reckon he would," he agreed.

Did I mention that on this farm there was also a limestone spring creek?  That means cold, cold water, even in summer.  Limestone also helps create the perfect alkalinity levels for massive aquatic insect populations.  And that means... Big Trout.



Father Rob's Blog - Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:08

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Many of us will spend at least a portion of our hard earned money to go north during the summer.  We do so, at least in part, to find some cool, dry air.  This week that air literally came to us.  What a gift.

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Through the broken clouds, light came into  the garden.

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Mist laid like a blanket upon it.  It began to glow a soft pink.

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Couples took the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor breakfast together.

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I was glad when my wife joined me, bundled up in a sweatshirt and cradling a hop cup of coffee.

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"I like these," she said.  Me too.  They are, by the way, called "Wedding Band."  Fitting, don't you think?


The light continued to dance and play.

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It continued to grow.  So did the colors.

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A gladiolus was about to bloom, and it struck me that the day was filled with promise.