22 December 2010

O Magnum Mysterium

O magnum mysterium [O great mystery]
et admirabile sacramentum [and wonderful sacrament]
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum [that animals should see the new-born Lord]
jacentem in praesepio [lying in a manger]

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera [Blessed is the Virgin whose womb]
meruerunt portare [was worthy to bear]
Dominum Christum [Christ the Lord]

Alleluia [Alleluia]

As you unravel the mystery of Christ's birth,
may it lead you to the truth of His cross.

Have a blessed Christmas.

And thank you for choosing to stop by here every so often.
My prayer is that you find this place to be a source of light, however small, along your journey. Much love...

03 December 2010

refresh everything

Regular readers of this blog will probably recognize the name Miller Talbot from the numerous mentions I have made of him, his family and/or his blog, Toward Simplicity. He's a down-to-earth guy who loves the Lord and simply tries to live out Jesus' calling. About a year ago, Miller and his family moved to New Mexico to work with a new non-profit, Adylene's Hope, that was started to serve foster youth. I believe in Miller. And I believe in Adylene's Hope.

Anyway, they've been busy raising money and are now in the running for a major grant from Pepsi. The way they win this grant is by getting the most votes for their project. So I'm asking you to take a few seconds to vote for their project, and then share this info with all your friends/family via any of the social networks you partake in. Pepsi has a really slick website set up (as you would imagine) that makes all of this really simple. Just click the "Vote for this idea" button below to get started. And I urge you to bookmark the site and return to vote everyday in the month of December.


04 November 2010

polar opposite

So times with the little man have been eye-opening! 
With us choosing the natural, non-medicated labor and delivery route, and me playing a central role as coach in that, all of my time pre-Tian was devoted to learning the ins and outs of how to go about doing that.  I didn't want to be the guy who let his wife down in her time of great need.  I think about a week and a half before Angie's due date it dawned on me that I hadn't really read much of anything about taking care of the baby after his arrival.  We had Sears' The Baby Book, but it was thicker than our family-sized, King James Version bible! Our pediatrician gave us a little hand book during Tian's first hospital check-up.  And I have a great resource in my own mother, who has cared for her fair share of babies since my brother and I entered this world. 

But nothing can really prepare a guy for the times when this perfect little human who you named, and who shares your DNA, is crying at the top of his lungs (and I mean the TOP of his lungs) and you've run through the feed/burp/diaper-change/sharp-things-poking-him checklist (twice!) and bounced, rocked and swayed him every which way known to man (or at least to me). It's like the most helpless feeling in the world.  If I'm not passing him off to his mother (love you babe!), I'm clutching him tight and praying. 

The other item that stands out the most to me at this point is recognizing this polar opposite -- that my capacity to love has widened, but so has my selfishness. It's not like there's ever a convenient time to cry your lungs out, but somehow the voice (i.e. beast) inside me convinces me there is.  Or its like, "Hey little man, I'm trying to edit photos of you over here, give me a few more minutes (alone with my precious Photoshop!)."  And to tell you the truth, I don't want to be first anymore (except when its inconvenient to be second).

But the good news is that I'm a work in progress.  As is my heart.  I'm a child of God, something I share in common with my son. We are both loved by our Creator in such a way that pushes us to the brink of walking through this life in a manner that contradicts our very sin nature. In a way that breathes light and reveals His glory to those around us.  Praise the Lord for this life.  

This post was started on September 30 and completed today, November 4  

27 October 2010

Intimacy[with Christ]

Some of you have truly been brought by God to believe in Jesus. Yet you have no abiding peace, and very little growth in holiness. Why is this? It is because your eye is fixed anywhere but on Christ. You are so busy looking at books, or looking at men, or looking at the world, that you have no time, no heart, for looking at Christ. No wonder you have little peace and joy in believing. No wonder you live so inconsistent and unholy a life. Change your plan. Consider the greatness and glory of Christ, who has undertaken all in the stead of sinners, and you would find it quite impossible to walk in darkness, or to walk in sin. Oh, what low, despicable thoughts you have of the glorious Immanuel! Lift your eyes from your own bosom, downcast believer - look upon Jesus. It is good to consider your ways, but it is far better to consider Jesus. Oh, believer, consider Jesus. Meditate on these things. Look and look again, until your peace flows like a river.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne

I'm always so torn when I read thoughts like these.  On one level, they cut straight to my heart and make so much sense to me.  But on another, more practical level, they seem so distant and unobtainable. For instance, how do I actually work this out in my life?  How can I take hold of this peace and joy that I know exists? I mean, I know I experience this peace and joy at times, but generally speaking, I have this sense that it is missing from my life -- is this the Spirit speaking truth into my heart, or am I just being too hard on myself and feeding the lies of Satan?  How do we measure this?  How should we?

I don't know the answer, but I'm reminded of a story that is only told in John's narrative of the gospel.  It occurs very late in Jesus' ministry on earth. He appears to his disciples for the third time after being raised from the dead, provides them with a large catch of fish and then shares a meal with them.

After the meal, Peter and Jesus share a moment together, alone. Jesus asks him, three times, "Do you love me?" After the third time, we are told that Peter is hurt, and we see that reflected in his answer: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!" At this, Jesus responds, for the third time, "Feed my sheep" and then adds that Peter's life used to be his own; but now his life belongs to Jesus (and that Peter will die to glorify God).

And just as Jesus so instructs, John comes up behind them. Peter catches a glimpse of him and asks, "Lord, what about him?"  To which Jesus replies, "[His life] is not your business. You follow me" (emphasis added).

How quickly we lose sight of our Saviour.
How easily we turn to books and music and movies and magazines and various online portals (like this blog) for answers to satisfy the cravings of our souls.
How earnestly we seek to validate our own worth by comparing our actions to those of another.

All to which Jesus simply(?) replies, "You follow me."

I urge you to continue the discussion...    

10 October 2010


So here's my 101010 shot.

Rough day for the little man as far as being photogenic. I took something like 65 shots of him. He was either crying or being Mr. Grumpo (but not the cute Mr. Grumpo) in all but like 5 of them. But I guess that speaks loudly of real life -- its not a happy, perfect photo shoot everyday.

As the title says, this was the day we all said goodbye to Aunt Manny. After living with us for about six weeks, she left today for Ohio, her wedding day is less than a week away. Big changes on the horizon for all of us.

We truly thank the Lord for giving us this time with her. She moved in a few days before he was born, was able to encourage Angie in the early stages of labor and then was here to help out with Tian in those early weeks. And she got plenty of playtime in with Tian as well. It was really cool to listen to her sing to him, watch her read to him and pull out various toys to engage him. 

We will definitely miss you, Amanda. All our love...

06 October 2010

101010: Do Something

This Sunday is October 10, 2010 [aka 10/10/10], so everyone on the Internet is getting excited.

I read in the newspaper(!) that something like 35,000 couples will be married this Sunday. The most couples getting married on a single day since 08/08/08.  But if getting married is not you're thing, here are a few other ideas.

Take a photograph.
And join me in posting it for the world to see:
October 10th, A most auspicious day

Or upload it to another flickr group for all to see.

Make a film.
Help document the World's Story. One Day On Earth is probably the largest gathering of creative minds on one day.  

Visit your family, or a friend, or a neighbor you've never met.

Draw a picture.
Sorry, no links for this one.  But if this is your thing, draw a picture and share it with your friends/family, or take a photo of it and post it to one of the groups mentioned above!

Do something you're passionate about, especially if you haven't done that in a while.

Take your kids to the park, or their favorite place to eat.

Do something out of the ordinary, to remind yourself that you're still alive.

02 October 2010


 Waynesboro, PA . Photo: Concierge Auctions

Renfrew Park, Waynesboro, PA . Photo: Brian Toro

ADELE . Hometown Glory [follow link to mp3]

I don't know if its the kid, or the song, or what, but I'm feeling pretty nostalgic these days.  I'm thinking its sad that so many of those in my generation moved away from their hometowns. I suspect its a trend that will only continue to increase.  And although I've included pictures of my hometown, its not the town I miss, so much as the family I left behind. 

And now with the boy, its crazy to think he will grow up living quite a distance from his grandparents. In contrast, I grew up in the same town as both of my grandparents -- no more than 10 minutes from either set of them.  The way they helped shape me and the memories I hold of our times together are just priceless.

Although I'm sure there will be summer weeks spent visiting both of his grandparents (and aunts/uncles/cousins!) and extended holiday gatherings and some family vacations with all of the above...
It just won't be the same. 

But maybe it can be just as special. 

I guess that's my charge as Tian's father.  To give him the same opportunity I had to experience life to its fullest, which in our family, includes special times with those that God has placed in his life, regardless of the physical distance that separates them.

03 September 2010

birth [by the numbers]

Troy + Angie
Two home pregnancy tests
Many excited family members and friends
Too many oranges and carrots to count
9 months of scooping (and cleaning) the cats' litter box
24 hours (over 12 weeks) of Bradley classes (thanks Shanna!)
3 birthing movies/documentaries, including The Business of Being Born
One comprehensive reading through the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (and numerous revisits here and there)
One comprehensive reading of Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth
One reading through The Vaccine Book
Numerous hours doing "our" kegels, squats, butterflys and plevic rocking and practicing our relaxiation techniques
Numerous hours counting protein
12 OB appointments
2 ultrasounds
Transforming our office-space into a nursery
1 half-gallon of Hershey's Teaberry Ice Cream
A gazillion (or so it seemed) Hershey's ice pops
Countless hours (due to my OCD tendencies) researching cribs, crib mattresses, strollers, car seats and cloth diapers (just to name a few)
Many hours spent talking about, searching for and researching the meanings of different names
Competent and understanding advice from our OB physicians
About 12 hours of labor, including 2 1/2 hours of pushing
And one amazing design by our Creator God...

Culminates in the birth of our son, Tian Elliot

September 3, 2010 @ 9:24pm
8lbs 13.5oz, 19in
PinnacleHealth Hospital
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

30 August 2010

do fun stuff

Good music.
Good cause.
100% of proceeds going to the cause.
Buy the album.
Spread the word.

13 August 2010

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this video. But I'll try...
  • It screams summer
  • It screams community
  • It shows me so much of God's love (i.e. I see His face in each one of these kids and the various talents He has gifted them with)
  • It makes me yearn for (more) diversity in my own life -- I suspect I could learn so much from each one of these individuals
  • It exudes innocence
  • It reveals the hearts of some of these individuals (e.g. the smile at 2:59) 
What do you love about it?

02 August 2010

My Prayer

I've prayed this before, and do so again today.
For a friend, his wife and their family, in this time of loss.
And for another friend and his wife, in this time of struggle.
May the Lord keep you all.

it does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble
or hard work. it means to be in
the midst of those things and still
be calm in your heart.

23 July 2010

What other people are saying...

I launch today what I hope to be a somewhat regular feature here at Defy The Gray. Not trying to hide the ball or anything with the title, What other people are saying... will feature a thought from someone who is not me.  I may include a visual.  I may not.  Depends on whether I have the time to find something I feel compliments, contradicts or adds to the thought in some way.  Although I won't share my motiviation(s) for posting a particular thought, I can assure you that, at some level, it resonates deeply with me.

And please keep the conversation going by sharing your own thoughts in the comments.  This blog has long been a forum for discussion, albeit it sparse at times, and I want to continue to foster and encourage that.

I want to inspire people to say what they feel and not what they feel like they're supposed to say.
Because they feel like they're supposed to do something, they don't give themselves the opportunity to be genuine. They'll just say the same words, which are great words, but after a while they stop meaning anything. We need new words to say the same thing because after a while the words lose their potency.

04 June 2010

Intelligent Design [Revisited]

The community group that I help co-teach with a friend has been using The Truth Project DVD series as a tool for gaining some deeper insight into a biblical worldview in hopes that such knowledge will assist us in deepening our faith and better living-out the call on our lives. I happened to lead this week's topic titled, Science: What is true?. We ended up having a lively discussion about randomness vs. design, blood clotting, who vs. how, biology, mathematics, sunsets, Dawkins, faith, public school teachings on evolution and a bunch of other stuff that I could not possibly summarize in the context of this post.

Anyway...I was reminded of a blog that I had written nearly 5 years ago and wanted to revisit it today. Originally posted on December 20, 2005:

Earlier today, a Federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that a local school board acted unconstitutionally in mandating that its 9th grade biology students be read a primer-paragraph prior to teachings on evolution to the effect that evolution is only a theory, there are gaps in the theory and some have suggested alternative theories, such as intelligent design. In so ruling, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said, "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom." In a further blow to the Board's credibility (and faith), Judge Jones added that several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives, even while professing religious beliefs.

Media outlets billed this case as Creation vs. Evolution. They were wrong. The actual issue facing Judge Jones was whether the school board purposefully intended to communicate a religious message by its conduct, and what message that conduct actually conveyed. This ruling is not about the merits of either theory, but rather, the school board's intentions.

So as I'm reading thru the opinion, I come to this line:

"Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer." -Thomas Aquinas (13th Century)

It turns out that the roots of the intelligent design movement can be traced back to this simple syllogism. So here is where my questions begin. If the designer those in the intelligent design movement look to is the God of the Bible, why is it that they fail to trust that same God to reveal Himself to public school students in ways other than through a science class? I mean, if God created the complexities and beauty of nature, why do these people think they have to resort to lies about their intentions and other forms of trickery to get their god into the public school classroom? Do these attempts really advance the cause, or do they simply add more pain to an existing wound? That "wound" being the non-Christian public's view of our faith.

In all honesty, intelligent design is not my fight. It may be someone's, but it's not mine. I don't want converts to my faith b/c it'll make my church larger and wealthier. Nor do I seek converts b/c I have some personal agenda, fueled by my ego, to be the one who saved the most people. I want converts to my faith to freely choose the life-saving results one receives from trusting in the One, True, Living God. I want converts to my faith b/c of the peace I've experienced, which awaits them. My challenge to believers is to stop blindly supporting and following movements that are merely cloaked in Christianity. Think deeper, search the motives of those involved and ask the Lord to reveal himself to you through this process. Get behind eternal movements of import. Movements championed by, through and because of Christ! Movements modeled after Christ's very actions!

28 May 2010


Ladies and gentleman...Janelle MonĂ¡e

Song of the summer? I guess we'll have to wait and see!

30 April 2010

A day in the (new) life

So Angie and I are sitting on the couch last night watching The Blind Side (great story, good film).
All of the sudden she grabs my hand and puts it on her belly.
A few seconds later I felt this delicate, little kick!
The first I've felt from our little baby boy!

A rush of emotions washed over me...
Love for a child I've yet to meet.
A very deep sense of love for my wife who is bearing the host of physical and emotional changes that a pregnancy brings.
A realization, which becomes more of a reality as Angie's belly grows, that I am charged by God to care for, support and raise this little child of His according to the grace He gives.

As my eyes filled to the brink of tears, I pondered those I would shed during my son's life -- tears of sadness, tears of joy and tears of pride, among others.

Abba Father
Instruct me in the way of love
Break me, continue to mold me
So that I may live for You and you alone
Do the same for his mother
And give this baby the power, through your Spirit, 
to run toward You with everything he has

04 April 2010

Photo by Trey Ratcliff [Stuck in Customs]

["Why do you look for the living among the dead?"]
"He is not here; he has risen!"

02 April 2010

Photo by Tim Beck
"It is finished."
[With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.]

04 January 2010

new beginnings

untitled [dec09], originally uploaded by defythegray.

This is a piece I created as part of reCreative Ministries' artists' guild. I've also linked up the reCreative site under the [Nu]Art catagory on the sidebar.

reCreative is (and will become) a gallery of pieces from different artists working in many different mediums -- everything from writing to music to visual art. As the Lord leads, I hope to submit as often as I can.

And please accept this post as a personal invitation to join the artists' guild. All the info you need to do so can be found here. Any other questions, drop me an email or comment.