An “Open Letter” of Gratitude on Veterans Day

To all the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces, today I thank you.

To the local veteran waving an American flag and standing with the aid of two metal legs, I thank you.

To the men and women who served both in wartime and in peacetime with honor and a sense of duty to country, I thank you.

To my father, who served in the United States Army both stateside and abroad, I thank you.

You, our veterans, come from all walks of life and live among us, often unrecognized. Today, I honor you—America’s heroes. …And not just today. Tomorrow, too.

The mission of Veterans Day according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is “to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Truth, No Tricks

October 31, 2015.

Do you know what today is? If you answered “Halloween,” you wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s not exactly the response I was looking for.

Today is also Reformation Day, which commemorates that time in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door at Wittenberg in Germany. Although this action was a customary way to initiate public debate, the content of Luther’s document was far from ordinary—his actions brought about great changes to Christianity, which had strayed from “the faith once delivered to the saints.” – Jude 1:3

Luther’s indignation began (but did not end) with the “sale of indulgences” by John Tetzel, a monk selling indulgence papers to lay folks who feared the fate of their dead loved ones and who were promised that “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

The sale of indulgences was a means of raising money for the Church. Luther not only disputed this abuse of people (many of whom could hardly afford such an expense), he disputed what was, in effect, the “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:11)

Luther contested man-made traditions and church authority, both of which compromised the authority of God and the Bible, citing instead that:

the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.” — Thesis 62 of 93

The results of the Reformation can be summed up in what are referred to as the Five Solas. The first one is this: sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone). From the authoritative nature of Scripture, the rest of the solas flow: sola fide (by faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); solus Christus (through Christ alone); soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

Great reformers, such as Luther, are not the only ones who can and ought to contend for the faith. Nor was the need for reforming Christian thought and practice a problem of the 1500s alone. Perhaps as you read the paragraphs above concerning indulgences, you were reminded of the pyramid schemes and prosperity preaching of today—or perhaps of more subtle “prone to wander, Lord I feel it” type of thinking that hits closer to home.

My hope is that Reformation Day is not only a day to be thankful to God for men like Luther, but that it also fans into flame a desire for us, as Christians, to think more biblically, be more discerning, and to boldly contend for the Gospel.

What is the Gospel? It can be summed up in this passage from I Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

Are you looking for a “Christ-centered and Cross-focused” resource to help you develop biblical discernment and grow in your understanding of Scripture? Consider Pirate Christian Radio.

Fall, Leaves

Fall is transforming the piedmont foothills of North Carolina into a tapestry of orange and red and gold. Last weekend, I took a few photos of the foliage around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area while celebrating the close of my nephew’s cart racing season.


The trees around the track were as colorful as the racing flags. — Mooresville, NC


There were copses of color here and there on the shoreline of Lake Norman. — Denver, NC


This was a lovely sight along NC Highway 16 in Maiden, NC. (The park-like setting is on/beside the property of Christian Tours.) A blue heron glided down and rested briefly on the bank shortly after I took this picture. I managed one disappointingly grainy photo before he disappeared.

Murray’s Mill in Catawba County boasted color, too. (I’ve written about this National Register Historic Site before.)


Spotted leaves and a millstone behind Murray’s Mill. — Catawba, NC


Rustic spots like this one along Balls Creek at Murray’s Mill are popular places for family photos. — Catawba, NC


Repurposing at its best: A skid-turned-swing along the bank at Murrays Mill. — Catawba, NC

Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

— Emily Brontë, “Fall, leaves, fall,” lines 3-4

Monarchs of the Garden

I recently learned about “Gardening for Attracting and Caring for Butterflies,” courtesy of Duke Gardens and taught by a volunteer butterfly expert.

Gardening, butterflies, and insects go together.

With this axiom in mind, the time was spent developing a deeper appreciation for the relationship between butterfly and host plant, a keener awareness of seasonal cycles, and the value of protecting or bolstering butterfly populations. Practical tips for establishing a butterfly garden were discussed as well.

There are two types of plants that attract butterflies: nectar plants, which are perennials and annuals that provide nutrients for the adult butterfly; and host plants, such as milkweed, dill and parsley, on which the butterfly lays her eggs.  When setting up a butterfly garden, it’s helpful to not only understand these two distinctions, but to also determine the desired amount of personal involvement. Generally speaking, there are three levels of commitment: none/minimal, moderate, and maximum.

The minimal gardener might be one who enjoys attracting butterflies for their beauty. In this case, nectar plants would serve them well. For the moderate gardener who wishes to aid in the production of butterflies from egg to caterpillar (protecting them from predators or adverse weather), involvement would include growing host plants and covering the plants once the eggs are laid. The hardcore butterfly gardener is that able soul willing to invest an hour a day during the life cycle from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Such involvement sometimes entails raising the developing butterfly indoors or in a protected place outdoors depending on the type of butterfly and the season.

Our speaker, who came laden with fully-stocked caterpillar and butterfly cages, could be classified as a hardcore butterfly gardener and caretaker. Primarily raising monarchs and black swallowtails, her learning curve has been steep—she began three years ago. Now, over 40 species of butterflies visit her garden. As “citizen scientists,” she and her husband assist in replenishing the declining monarch population and participate in state and local butterfly counting days (one of which occurs at Duke Gardens). Such opportunities are available to anyone who is interested.


Caterpillars, (swallowtails are pictured here), go through five growth intervals, called instars, shedding their skeleton after each interval before entering the chrysalis (hard skin) stage of development.


A caterpillar eats constantly in preparation for the chrysalis (pupa) stage. The larval (caterpillar) stage in monarchs, pictured here, typically lasts 9-14 days.


On the right, two chrysalides hang as the miraculous development of the butterfly continues to take place inside. The bright colors of the butterfly’s wings will begin to show through the chrysalis as nutrients stored up from the caterpillar’s earlier eating extravaganza fuel metamorphosis. On the left, three empty chrysalides and a recently “born” butterfly. When a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, the spectacular moment is referred to as eclosing.

The talk ended with a butterfly release! Nearly a dozen monarchs were set free in the Page-Rollins White Garden.


One of the monarchs was removed from the mesh butterfly carrier and placed on my fingers, where it rested for a few moments before taking flight.


Each monarch released that day had a “Monarch Watch” tag affixed to one of its wings. Monarch Watch is a non-profit organization that enlists the help of citizen scientists to gather data on the migration of monarchs. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC


A monarch “rests” on a mum in the Page-Rollins White Garden before beginning its fall migration, which could take it as far as Mexico. — Durham, NC

Nature is amazing! As much as I marvel at creation, I praise the Creator (God) all the more. He is alive and active, declaring His wisdom and power is nature. “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” [2]

[2] Job 12:10
For more information on the butterfly’s transformation, consider reading Metamorphosis—A Symphony of Miracles.