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We said we’d walk together come what may
And in the twilight should we lose our way
And as we’re walking if my hand should slip free
I’ll wait for you, if I should fall behind
Wait for me.

We said we’d travel side by side
We’d help each other and stay in stride
But each lover’s steps fall so differently
I’ll wait for you, if I should fall behind
Wait for me.

Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true
But you and I know what this world can do
Let’s make our steps clear so the other may see
I’ll wait for you, if I should fall behind
Wait for me.

Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead
Down by the old oak where we were wed
Should we lose each other in the evening shadows of the trees
I’ll wait for you, if should I fall behind
Wait for me.

Celebrate La Plata marked the 10 year anniversary of the tornado that devastated La Plata on April 28, 2002.  The community came together for its annual Spring Festival with food, fun, art, and family entertainment and recognized its decade of development that has made this Southern Maryland town a closer and stronger community…


La Plata was founded approximately 1895 after the river flowing into the previous County seat, nearby Port Tobacco, silted up, ending that town’s utility as a port on the Potomac River.

When the Pennsylvania Railroad was planning the extension of its line through Charles County in 1869, it established a stop in the middle of an oak forest to serve several prosperous farms. The eastern side of the right-of-way in that area had been donated by the Chapman family from its property called La Plata Farm; the western side was sliced from the Stonestreet family farm. On its route map, the railroad chose to label the stop “La Plata Station.” The station built there in 1888 is still in existence.

The community that developed on Chapman-donated land on the east side of the railroad tracks naturally became known as La Plata. A post office was established there in 1873—the same year that the railroad began its service to the farm hamlet.

As La Plata grew and prospered, a political battle developed at Port Tobacco, county seat of Charles County.  Should the county seat be moved to La Plata, 3 miles inland to the east and boasting a railroad siding, telegraph station, and buoyant economy?  A special election in May of 1892 maintained the status quo.  Port Tobacco won easily.

Three months later, the courthouse at Port Tobacco burned to the ground—but, strangely enough, the records had been carefully removed beforehand.  Apparently an incendiary act had been perpetrated.  But no one was prosecuted, and no one ever admitted to knowledge of the deed.  Feelings ran so high that it was impractical to consider rebuilding the courthouse at Port Tobacco.  The situation dragged on until another special election was held in 1895 to determine whether to move the county seat to either La Plata or Chapel Point.  This time, La Plata prevailed, mainly because of its location on the railroad.

Without delay, a new courthouse was built of red brick in an imposing Victorian style.  It still stands today, with several additions and embellishments.


Next to the courthouse, on Charles Street, stands another structure of historical significance—Christ Church of Port Tobacco Parish.  The church was dismantled stone by stone at Port Tobacco and then rebuilt in La Plata and is one of the 30 original Church of England parishes created in the Province of Maryland by an act of the Assembly in 1692.

On April 28, 2002 my husband and I were in the parish house of  Christ Church when a powerful tornado struck.  A group of us were meeting to plan a trip to St. Paul’s Chapel  to serve in the recovery and clean up effort at Ground Zero.  Tornado warnings were in the forecast, and Beverly Stone was in touch by cell phone with her husband who was watching the local news channel.   Bev’s phone rang and she alerted us  that the storm had changed direction and a “hook” was forming and coming our way.

Joe Plemons, a member of our group, scouted out the basement as a place where we could all move to safety and we continued with our planning.   Suddenly the skies became quite ominous and I got up  and glanced out the window, only to see the spirals of two funnel formations at the edge of  the dark supercell coming right toward us  across the valley.  Following Joe’s direction, we quickly headed downstairs, breathless as we moved.  My husband shut the basement door as the windows were shattering behind him.

We clung and huddled together in the dark basement and chanted the 23rd Psalm as the freight train like sound became louder and louder around us.  The force of the tornado was so strong that the stone building was being pulled ever so slightly off of its foundation and we could see light rays shining between the stone layers and  feel the piercing sand on our skin in the darkness.   Before we had repeated the Psalm a second time through, all became quiet again.  Eerily quiet.

We cautiously walked out of  the parish house into a no man’s land.  We found that the water tower had collapsed, electric poles and lines were down, and our cars were destroyed.  Many of the town’s historic buildings were leveled and our church now had a gaping hole in its timbered ancient roof.   A piece of straw was later found impaled deeply into the stucco aggregate of the church’s exterior surface.    Wind speeds had been greater than 250 mph at our town’s center.

church in background with holes in roof

The tornado had damaged a large portion of La Plata’s beautiful, historic homes and  75% of its downtown businesses were either damaged or destroyed.  Five people died.  The storm measured an F4 on the Fujita Scale.

Within hours, strangers from near and far were sending relief or coming to help our recovery.


church members standing in front of parish house May 4, 2002

path of tornado through town center
path of tornado through town center

Eventually–through plucky and unfailing efforts of many local residents and  community leaders La Plata has rebounded and been revitalized.

Ten Years Later

La Plata’s growing business center now boasts a new Town Hall and many other beautiful colonial buildings, infrastructure and roads.  The City’s downtown area remains accessible and continues to reflect its historical roots.

The  Blue Crabs  stadium was built nearby and  boasts high citizen participation and summer evenings of exciting baseball and fireworks!

blue crabs baseball
blue crabs baseball
local road
piney church road
local farm
local farm
tobacco barns
tobacco barns
port tobacco river marsh
port tobacco river marsh

James 1 Verses 22-25

James 1, vs. 22-25

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, please, everybody have a seat. Well, good morning, everybody. It is good to be with so many friends united in prayer. And I begin by giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us together here today.

I want to thank our co-chairs Mark and Jeff; to my dear friend, the guy who always has my back, Vice President Biden. (Applause.) All the members of Congress –- Joe deserves a hand –- all the members of Congress and my Cabinet who are here today; all the distinguished guests who’ve traveled a long way to be part of this. I’m not going to be as funny as Eric — (laughter) — but I’m grateful that he shared his message with us. Michelle and I feel truly blessed to be here.

This is my third year coming to this prayer breakfast as President. As Jeff mentioned, before that, I came as senator. I have to say, it’s easier coming as President. (Laughter.) I don’t have to get here quite as early. But it’s always been an opportunity that I’ve cherished. And it’s a chance to step back for a moment, for us to come together as brothers and sisters and seek God’s face together. At a time when it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels. We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him. Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him.

This is especially important right now, when we’re facing some big challenges as a nation. Our economy is making progress as we recover from the worst crisis in three generations, but far too many families are still struggling to find work or make the mortgage, pay for college, or, in some cases, even buy food. Our men and women in uniform have made us safer and more secure, and we were eternally grateful to them, but war and suffering and hardship still remain in too many corners of the globe. And a lot of those men and women who we celebrate on Veterans Day and Memorial Day come back and find that, when it comes to finding a job or getting the kind of care that they need, we’re not always there the way we need to be.

It’s absolutely true that meeting these challenges requires sound decision-making, requires smart policies. We know that part of living in a pluralistic society means that our personal religious beliefs alone can’t dictate our response to every challenge we face.

But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.

We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel — the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action — sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.

This is no different today for millions of Americans, and it’s certainly not for me.

I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion. And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they’ll call on the phone or they’ll send me a email, and we’ll pray together, and they’ll pray for me and my family, and for our country.

But I don’t stop there. I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.

And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs -– from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who’ve been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

When I talk about giving every American a fair shot at opportunity, it’s because I believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed suddenly has a chance to retrain for a job and regain that sense of dignity and pride, and contributing to the community as well as supporting their families — that helps us all prosper.

It means maybe that research lab on the cusp of a lifesaving discovery, or the company looking for skilled workers is going to do a little bit better, and we’ll all do better as a consequence. It makes economic sense. But part of that belief comes from my faith in the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together. I’m not an island. I’m not alone in my success. I succeed because others succeed with me.

And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.

To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own.

Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great — when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year. And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.

And today, with as many challenges as we face, these are the values I believe we’re going to have to return to in the hopes that God will buttress our efforts.

Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.”

Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often. (Laughter.) So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other. And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we don’t act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates.

But each and every day, for many in this room, the biblical injunctions are not just words, they are also deeds. Every single day, in different ways, so many of you are living out your faith in service to others.

Just last month, it was inspiring to see thousands of young Christians filling the Georgia Dome at the Passion Conference, to worship the God who sets the captives free and work to end modern slavery. Since we’ve expanded and strengthened the White House faith-based initiative, we’ve partnered with Catholic Charities to help Americans who are struggling with poverty; worked with organizations like World Vision and American Jewish World Service and Islamic Relief to bring hope to those suffering around the world.

Colleges across the country have answered our Interfaith Campus Challenge, and students are joined together across religious lines in service to others. From promoting responsible fatherhood to strengthening adoption, from helping people find jobs to serving our veterans, we’re linking arms with faith-based groups all across the country.

I think we all understand that these values cannot truly find voice in our politics and our policies unless they find a place in our hearts. The Bible teaches us to “be doers of the word and not merely hearers.” We’re required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives. And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of others — and to live the truth of our faith not just with words, but with deeds.

So even as we join the great debates of our age — how we best put people back to work, how we ensure opportunity for every child, the role of government in protecting this extraordinary planet that God has made for us, how we lessen the occasions of war — even as we debate these great issues, we must be reminded of the difference that we can make each day in our small interactions, in our personal lives.

As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague — in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth. And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that it’s the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, it’s the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times. John tells us that, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away.

And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home. Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend. This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.

And we had a wonderful conversation. Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many Presidents before me. And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him. I didn’t really know what to say. What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many? But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say.

And so I prayed — briefly, but I prayed from the heart. I don’t have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time. (Laughter.) But I prayed. And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.

And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and I’ve thought about it in the many days since. Because I thought about my own spiritual journey –- growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God. And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Graham –- a man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestones –- that simple fact humbled me to my core.

I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment — asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)  Metaxas’ great interview with Tim Keller…

The Glory of the Perseids (in One Minute)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Holland Lake

Henry Jun Wah Lee’s “Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way” time lapse is a welcome relief to start this (the) day.

After a wonderful couple weeks of vacation, most of it in the Swan Valley of the Montana Rockies, I find myself pining for the starry night skies and the richness of the Milky Way. Growing up in Minneapolis, my two young boys had never seen anything like it. They marveled and remarked without prompting. They’re 4 and 2. I grew up in North Dakota and the vast density of stars adorning the night sky was all I knew. I found myself delighting in their pleasure and saddened by the thought that this was an uncommon event for them.

Some mornings the news doesn’t cut it. Information is too much. We need something to help us remember the moments that give meaning to our lives. Something that gives us hope. Natural events that shake our inner being and relationship to this magnificent world.

monthly archives


Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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April 2012



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory