Cincinnati Vineyard Christmas Concert

Among the many highlights of this Christmas season was the wonderful Christmas Eve Concert the lovely Robin and I enjoyed with some of our family at Cincinnati's Vineyard Community Church in Springdale. We've loved this church for many years; its vision, values, and personality have been an enduring blessing to us. And the Christmas Eve Concert, featuring music by the Cincy Brass, the Faux Frenchmen, Daniel Martin Moore, the CCM Jazz Trio, and Seabird, was a beautiful part of our celebration. That's our granddaughter, Calleigh, above, during the candlelight ceremony.

And the lovely Robin and I were thrilled, after the concert, to be given dozens of Krispy Kreme donuts to take to some of the staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital (where Calleigh and her brother Ryder are regular recipients of care) as a way of showing God's love and thanking them for working on Christmas Eve. What a blessing that was!

Thank you, Cincinnati Vineyard, for the music, the donuts, and the continued effort to be a blessing to your community!

(P.S. Contrary to rumor, I did not eat any of the Krispy Kremes. Not one. I refrained. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.)

"Awaited" at Crossroads

One of our newest Christmas traditions is attending the spectacular program, "Awaited," at Crossroads Church in Cincinnati.

We arrived plenty early this year, to enjoy the free popcorn, hot chocolate, Gingerbread Village, and many opportunities for taking family pictures in the church's vast atrium, which they transform into a Christmas village. The photo above, of Kevin, Ryder, Calleigh, and Aubrey McCane, with my wife, the lovely Robin, was taken while I was occupied running around trying to locate other members of the family. 

We all managed to connect in time to take our seats for the show, a dramatic, multi-sensory retelling of the Christmas story. 
I think I enjoyed the show even more this year than last year, and was thrilled to share it with our extended family--twenty of us, all told.

"I See Christmas!"

The lovely Robin and I took all four grandkids to the free Light Up Middletown display at Smith Park in Middletown.
It's a wonderful display. The kids were transfixed, talking and pointing all at the same time. My personal favorite was the jet-skiing Santa on the pond.

Light Up Middletown runs 6-10 pm every night until Christmas Day.

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Handel's Messiah

The lovely Robin and I enjoyed a presentation of Handel's "The Messiah" yesterday afternoon at First United Methodist Church of Middletown, Ohio.

The Middletown Civic Chorus and guest musicians and soloists did a fine job presenting all three parts of "The Messiah." And I'm happy to report that, even though it was held at Robin's optimal nap time (3-5 in the afternoon), she stayed awake and alert through the whole thing!


Seems to me that's a promise, not a threat:

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Next Stop: Brilliant

I've long aspired to find my way to adequacy. But last Sunday, I almost made it to Brilliant.
Brilliant, Ohio, that is. Just south of East Liverpool.

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Bob and Robin's Flowers

If I lived in East Liverpool, Ohio, I would definitely buy my flowers from Bob and Robin's Flowers.

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I Should Do This More Often

Working at Panera in Columbus this afternoon.

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Comfort Suites, Columbus OH

The lovely Robin and I checked into the Comfort Suites off East Broad Street in Columbus tonight .

The service was efficient, the lobby welcoming, and our room quite comfortable and, well, roomy. Worth every penny of the $66 Internet price.

Robin has a play therapy seminar tomorrow at the Gestalt Institute just around the corner, after which we head to East Liverpool, Ohio, to see dear friends and preach on Sunday.

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Travel Regrets: Missing the Durango-Silverton Railroad

Back in 2008, the lovely Robin and I had a wonderful vacation in and around the Durango, Colorado, area.

Though our arrival in Durango was delayed two days by a closed mountain pass due to heavy snow, once we arrived we stayed in a beautiful cabin with breathtaking views. We enjoyed the unique town of Durango, drove to Four Points (the only place where it is possible to stand in four U.S. states at once), and spent a lot of time relaxing and reading (but I repeat myself).

But the trip was not without its regrets. Foremost among them was our inability (despite calling every day) to take the famed Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the old mining town of Silverton and back.

The rail line between Durango and Silverton was constructed to haul silver & gold ore from the San Juan Mountains, but it quickly became a popular journey for passengers due to the breathtaking vistas. The route has been in continuous operation for 131 years, "carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line," according to

The heavy snowfall before our arrival in Durango made for beautiful surroundings...but it also caused us to miss a chance to take the part of our visit I coveted most.

(train photo courtesy of

Travel Regrets: Charles Dickens's House, London

I've been blessed to travel pretty widely for a man of my limited intelligence and means. Still, as I've mentioned before on this blog (here, here, and here), I have some regrets.

One regret is not having visited the only surviving London home of Charles Dickens (who lived in the above house at 48 Doughty Street from 1837 until 1839) when we visited London some years ago. This is the home where he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. It is now the Charles Dickens Museum, containing manuscripts, rare editions, personal items, paintings, and period furnishings. It is a mere three miles from the Tower of London, which we visited. and just 2.5 miles from 221B Baker Street and Madame Tussaud's, which we also included in our itinerary.

Of course, a tourist can't do everything. Hard choices have to be made. And I may be able to correct the omission on a future visit. But still, if I had it to do over again, I would have liked to have found a way to pay homage to one of my favorite authors.

Joe Buck's Downtown

The lovely Robin joined me for a late lunch today at Joe Buck's Downtown, a restaurant named for the St. Louis sportscaster (and son of the venerated Jack Buck).

Robin ordered a hamburger and fries, but I opted for the signature rib meat sandwich. Oh my. Oh my. And oh my.

A more-than-pleasant repast. And an experience I wouldn't hesitate to repeat.

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Boone's Rock

One of the sights the lovely Robin and I were guided to on our visit in Fulton, Missouri, last weekend (and I'm glad we were) was "Boone's Rock," on the grounds of the Calloway County Courthouse.

The historical marker above reads, in part: Originally located on a bluff on Stinson Creek in northwest Fulton, about 300 yards north of the Boone's Lick Trail, this rock bears the name D. Boone with the date 1801 and an arrow pointing due west.

The photo above captures the carving , easily read by the naked eye despite obvious weathering over the years. While I'm sure experts differ as to whether this was actually carved by Daniel Boone (who, though his wife was from this county, is not conclusively shown by historical records ever to have visited the area), it is still an intriguing possibility.

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Landry's Seafood House, St. Louis

The lovely Robin and I had dinner today at Landry's Seafood House at the Union Station complex in St. Louis.

Our server (Brooke) was excellent.

Robin had the scampi-and-scallops pasta and enjoyed it but found it a bit too salty for her taste.

My Southern Fried Fish (with fries and honey straws) was quite good.

Oh, and the creme brûlée we had for dessert was excellent. A great meal and excellent service.

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St. Louis Union Station

Earlier today, the lovely Robin and I set out on a four block walk from our hotel to the St. Louis Union Station, once the largest and busiest passenger rail terminal in the world.

It first opened in 1894, but ceased operation as an active train terminal in 1978. Union Station then reopened in August 1985 as the largest adaptive re-use project in the United States.

Today it houses the 539-room St. Louis Union Station Hotel (a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) as well as indoor shopping and dining, a lake, and a plaza for festivals, concerts and other special events.

It is a beautiful place with so much to see and do. We sampled fudge, marveled at the fish in the lake swarming near the food dispenser, and admired the design and artistry of the architecture.

Union Station (where, at the age of ten, I arrived on a train from Cincinnati to join my grandparents for a long trip to California and back) is located at 1820 Market Street in St. Louis.

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Sheraton St. Louis City Center

The lovely Robin and I arrived this afternoon at the historic Sheraton St. Louis City Center Hotel & Suites in the downtown historic area of St. Louis. The imposing brick structure dates to 1929, but lacks nothing in modern decor and amenities. It is just blocks from the Gateway Arch, Busch Stadium, and Union Station. Even closer are the Scottrade Center Sports Arena (home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team) and the beautiful Peabody Opera House.

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A Short Personal Heritage Tour

Before delivering the lovely Robin and me to our St. Louis hotel (where I'll be speaking later this week), my Uncle Walt and Aunt Shirley took us on a nostalgic tour of St. Louis (where I lived with my mom and dad in 1971 and 1972).

The Salvation Army's Harbor Light (called the Harbor House in 1971-1972) was my home for that period. We lived in a small apartment off the chapel.

The historic Fox Theater, just a few blocks from the Harbor House, was where I saw The Night of the Living Dead and Shaft.

The school I attended in eighth grade doesn't exist anymore (the area has been overtaken by St. Louis University), but we drove by Southwest High School (now a performing arts school, apparently), where I spent the first half of ninth grade. That is, the FIRST time I took ninth grade!

Our next stop was my grandparents' house on Alfred St., where I remember many visits and happy family times.

And just down the back alley (at left) from Grandma and Grandpa Foster's house, the corner building that in my childhood housed the all-important "confectionary" (as my cousins called it) still stands.

Along the way, Walt and Shirley pointed out many other sights--such as Tower Grove Park and Missouri Botanical Gardens--that have played a role in our family history. It was a wonderful coda to a blessed time with family.

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The Busy Corner Cafe

Our last morning in historic (no, really) Fulton, Missouri, the lovely Robin and I were hosted by Uncle Walt and Aunt Shirley at the Busy Corner Cafe for breakfast.

The service was attentive and the food was perfectly prepared. I love discovering the spots the locals swear by, and this was certainly one of those.

The Busy Corner Cafe is located at 208 St. Louis Ave. in Fulton, Missouri.

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The National Churchill Museum

This afternoon the lovely Robin and I visited the National Churchill Museum, a wonderful surprise on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

Its location commemorates the delivery of Churchill's momentous "Iron Curtain" so speech, given at Westminster in 1946.

The museum grounds include a section of the Berlin Wall, from 1963-1989 a symbol of the Iron Curtain. Two human-shaped cutouts in the wall are displayed at the FDR museum in Hyde Park, NY.

Part of the museum is the gorgeous reconstructed Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, which was destroyed in the London Blitz. The 17th century structure, designed by Christopher Wren, was painstakingly moved and lovingly reassembled (with a few improvements such as steel beams to strengthen it against tornadoes) in 1978 on the Westminster Campus.

More information about this inspiring museum is available at

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Star Lake Camp, Greater New York Men's Camp 2013

I got to enjoy last weekend at Star Lake Camp in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, for The Salvation Army's 2013 Greater New York Men's Camp. It was a beautiful weekend, not only for the perfect weather but also for the worshiping, receptive spirit of the several hundred men who attended.
I spoke three times on the theme, "Choose This Day," and was inexpressibly blessed by the way everyone listened and responded. The final meeting on Saturday evening was off the charts, and an amazing end to a wonderful experience. 

Many thanks to those who invited me, and those who planned and prepared the events of the weekend. 

NEOSA Family Camp

The lovely Robin and I had the joy and privilege of participating in The Salvation Army's NEOSA (Northeast Ohio) division's family camp celebration this Labor Day weekend at Camp Neosa, near Carrolton, Ohio. 
The festivities started Friday evening with a rousing keynote meeting under a tent erected for the occasion. The band played, the people sang, the worship team led, the Scripture was read, I spoke, the people responded, and a blessed time was had by all.  
Saturday's schedule included a "Sunday School launch" meeting, a Bible study on Biblical Holiness (led by me), an installation service (of the new divisional commanders, Majors Evan and Suzanne Hickman) led by Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson, and a farewell service for the Neosa cadets, in which I presented a monologue in the persona of Samuel Logan Brengle (above). 
I was also thrilled to make available the first copies of Take Time to Be Holy, my brand new one-year devotional drawn from Brengle's writings. What a joy to sign copies to so many dear friends. 
On Sunday morning, Robin and I joined the divisional staff for a ride on Leesville Lake that included a beautiful time of worship. 
On our return to terra firma, Robin and I walked past the Chapel in the Trees, which forms the dominant part of our twenty-year-old memories of what we think is our only other visit to Camp Neosa.
What a beautiful, blessed weekend we shared with soooo many friends, both old and new. Wish we could go back next weekend, too!

SWONEKY Family Camp

I had the inexpressible joy and privilege this past weekend of teaching and preaching at The Salvation Army's Camp Swoneky for the annual Family Camp held on the grounds every year around this time. 

Camp Swoneky is a place of great beauty and blessing--truly holy ground to me--and an important place in my spiritual history. It is also the place where the lovely Robin and I first began dating, and the site of our first kiss (they haven't yet erected a historical marker on the spot, but I'm sure that's in the works). 

The theme for the weekend was "Take Time to Be Holy," drawn from my soon-to-be-released one-year devotional based on the writings of Samuel Logan Brengle. On Friday evening, I presented a costumed monologue as the holiness warrior himself (that's me, below, waiting backstage). 
I was also blessed to teach a Saturday morning Bible study on Biblical Holiness, and preached three times over the course of the weekend (the photo below was taken Saturday evening, I think). 

It all could not have gone better in my view. The weather was perfect, the weekend's events--including a Saturday groundbreaking ceremony for a new swimming pool to be completed by next Summer--were perfectly planned, swimmingly executed (see what I did there?), and enthusiastically participated in by nearly 700 attendees, so many of whom are dear friends of many years. The only things that could have been better would have been if the lovely Robin had not come down with a terrible sinus infection that laid her up nearly all weekend...and if copies of Take Time to Be Holy could have been made available to everyone there but, alas, it turned out not to be possible. Still, it will be a joy I will carry with me for a very long time, and which I pray will have a life-changing and enduring impact on many lives.