The Good Heart

“There’s so many external beautiful art but internal the good heart is most important thing. I always say be a good person a warm-hearted person because that is important”

Just thinking of this quote by Tenzin Deshek, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who lives in Alabama and created this sand mandala in April at the Birmingham Museum of Art. We got to see him take the sands — tiny marble particles — and tap them along, making lines and filling in voids:

There was an article in the San Antonio paper this week about the mandala made there, and what happens once it’s completed:

After the ceremony, the monks cleared away the sand, placing it in hundreds of small plastic bags that were distributed to viewers. They then walked to the nearby San Antonio River, depositing the remaining sand in the water, where it flowed downstream and disappeared.

It made me think of tashlich (a symbolic act of tossing away past bad acts and gaining a fresh slate), which was done this year with a congregation at the beach. This year, my boys saw some jellyfish floating around, and seagulls always swoop in once they see bits of bread floating about too. The crumbs eventually flow away with the waves and disappear. It’s a time to reflect and think about improvement.

“There’s so many external beautiful art but internal the good heart is most important thing.”

Trail Of Scriptures

After visiting the grave shelter at Ballinger Cemetery in Morgan County, Alabama, I stopped when I saw the First Christian Church of Valhermoso Springs and its Trail of Scriptures as I love to document religious displays.

Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL
Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL

Set up as a place at which people can simply get out and walk the trail, it is peppered with Christian verses and symbolism
Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL

Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL

Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL

I needed to be home early that evening, so I didn’t have time to walk the trail (it’s actually a very good size), but enjoyed that this congregation put so much loving-kindness into developing something for the community here.
Valhermoso Springs First Christian Church And Trail Of Scriptures, Valhermoso Springs AL

Memorial

Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) was a few days ago, and I was thinking this morning of the new glass sculptures at Beth Israel in Jackson, Mississippi at the Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial Garden. The sculptures were made by Pearl River Glass and dedicated at a ceremony last November.

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Gus Waterman Herrman Holocaust Memorial at Beth Israel in Jackson MS//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

What A Creationist Ark Encounter Is Like, And #SpoilerAlert: Dinosaurs

Our trip to Kentucky last year included a visit to the new Ark Encounter — we couldn’t pass up a chance to see something so monumental that’s been so widely reported on (including the NYT). And the most interesting thing to me: knowing that it was a project by a Creationist, how will that color the experience?

But first of all, just take.that.in. Massive. 510 feet long.
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There’s a line for tickets, which took us about 15 minutes, then a few minutes waiting on a bus to take us up to the ark, then we stood in queue over another hour for admittance to the ark:
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Everyone who enters is asked to stand in front of these green-screens so they can have the opportunity to purchase their picture later. We always, always pass at these and don’t even take the picture.
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There are three floors at the ark, and the first shows much of the storage: how were things kept?
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Other floors have exhibits and displays to explain the founders’ Creationism beliefs:
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I looked around to see if anyone else…nope. No one seemed to give the displays of dinosaurs any more consideration than those of any of the other animals on display. Did every other person fully expect to see displays of dinosaurs on the ark? Were they also Creationists? Were the other guests not Creationists, but simply accepted it as fact because it was displayed as such? I admit, I was surprised no one else seemed as…surprised as I was that they depicted dinosaurs here. 
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Btw, there are things about my own religion that I find mystifying too, so there’s that.

There was more theology

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

including connections from the flood to Christianity
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Another display was this one, depicting the ‘deceptively cute’ ways that the ark story is communicated to children and how it’s ‘distorting the message’ — so while one is instructed to keep in mind how incredibly serious and sincere this all is, outside they haveExtreme Zip Lines: Soar down thousands of feet of zip lines, reach up to 50 mph and 17 stories in the air. Ten of these super-zip lines are 1,000 feet or longer!‘ and a zoo. That doesn’t seem to square.
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Elsewhere, ideas of the living quarters are displayed
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY

Noah, the O G prepper.
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

and, yes, you exit through the gift shop.
Ark Encounter, Williamstown KY//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


I enjoyed getting to visit this attraction for the sheer scale. And it helped me understand how Creationists view things, so I’m glad I had this opportunity. If one already subscribes to this way of viewing the world, it has to be *the* place to go. Otherwise, take it in like I tried to do for the architecture, the workmanship (it was put together in part by Amish from Lancaster County), for the opportunity to better understand others.

Here’s Ken Ham (the founder of the Ark Encounter) speaking with Bill Nye (science guy) while they tour.

And guess what? Looking just now at reviews from TripAdvisor, the Ark Encounter gets *great* reviews.

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA

Here, last year’s St Joseph Day at St Cletus in Gretna:

I remember the first time we ever came here, we didn’t realize that as soon as you walk in the door, someone blesses you with holy water. Welcome!

Spaghetti lunch that the boys love

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The altar at St Cletus is so different than that at St Joseph’s
St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Saint Lucy!!
St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

…and we leave with a little bag of cookies

St Joseph Day Altar at St Cletus, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Day Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA

I grew up in a very Catholic town with several very good Catholic friends, but even still, St. Joseph Day wasn’t something I was familiar with until a few years ago. And I may be Jewish, but I have to say, this is my favorite somebody-else’s-holiday of all time (and yes, I do carry lucky beans in my purse). There are 50+ to visit this year in the area. Some history of the practice is here.

I love it when we are in New Orleans for the holiday because they do it *right* — and last year, our timing was perfect. These are all pics from the St Joseph Church and Shrine in Gretna.

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Before the public is allowed to view everything, the ‘holy family’ — children dressed up as Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and angels, are fed first. And it’s very sweet…they are really catered to.
St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

My fave: St Lucy eyes
St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Mudica — St Joseph’s sawdust
St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

St Joseph Altar at St Joseph Church and Shrine, Gretna LA//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Outdoor Baptismal

We were out looking for a grave shelter in the Talladega National Forest, and though I can locate it on the map, there are so many private roads roped off in the area, that we’re going to have to try to approach it next time from an entirely different way. One of the things that made the trip the most interesting was that Av found this structure behind a church:

Outdoor Baptismal, Union Springs Missionary Baptist, Talladega AL//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

With the height, steps going down into it, and stage structure in front, we came to have the idea that it was an outdoor baptismal, and when I asked some clergy friends and folklorist, they agreed. There’s another one in very south Alabama that I’m going to visit the next time we go to the beach, and we’ll see their similarities.

Fields of the Wood Bible Park in Murphy NC, Roy Moore’s Monument, And A 10 Commandments Rally (Plus Stroller Dog)

We love roadside attractions like this, so the last time we were in the area, we stopped off in Murphy, North Carolina to show the boys the world’s largest ten commandments at the Fields of the Wood Bible Park.

Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Work here began in 1940.
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I hadn’t done a great deal of research online before our visit and was only expecting a huge hillside display.
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The park is more than the Ten Commandments feature, though. We found many people climbing ‘Prayer Mountain’
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Along the way are verses from the Christian Bible with states’ names on the bottom of each display
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I know from my study of religious serpent handlers that this verse, labeled here under ‘Signs Following Believers’ is the one the practice (and that of faith healing and drinking poison) is based on: “…they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” from the Christian Bible at Mark 16:17,18
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Here, a small area at the top at which people left their own prayers. The prayers were on flat, unfolded pieces of paper so anyone could see. People were praying for protection from terrorism, for healing, and that friends would stop using drugs. I wondered if people left them so that others could come by and pray over them as well.
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

baptismal pool
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

al fresco chapel
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC

Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

representation of the garden tomb in Jerusalem
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

inside:
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

representation of Golgatha
Fields of the Wood Bible Park, Murphy NC//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


When Judge Roy Moore (now the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, although perhaps not for much longer due to ongoing litigation) had a monument of the Ten Commandments made and installed in the state judicial building in Montgomery, Av took pictures of it back in 2002 (that’s Roy Moore on the left in this image below) before it was permanently removed by a court order that Moore refused to comply with.

Roy Moore with his Ten Commandments monument in Montgomery, 2002//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Av found it particularly interesting that on the backside of the granite piece, there was a copyright symbol.
Ten Commandments Copyright//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


There were a few rallies in support of the Ten Commandments monument, and we were coming back from Mobile when we found ourselves in Montgomery on this day in 2003 when we saw these people protesting.

Ten Commandments Rally in Montgomery 2003//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ten Commandments Rally in Montgomery 2003//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ten Commandments Rally in Montgomery 2003//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Ten Commandments Rally in Montgomery 2003//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js