Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Freedom.Freedom. UGH! Some days I just can't catch a break! Like today. I tutor a 3rd grader in reading 4 days a week for two hours each day. I only go into detail on that because if anyone deserves a break here, if anyone has earned it, it is me! :). So I am driving to my tutor session and come to a busy intersection controlled by stop-lights. I am also having a meaningful phone conversation (hands-free, of course!) with a dear friend, trying to be a support during a difficult time. (earning/deserving good fortune again!!!) I come to a full stop and proceed with caution making a perfectly executed right turn. Nice, EXCEPT, there is a posted "No Turn On Red" sign that I somehow miss while I am doing all this GOOD! (remember, on the way to tutor for my gazillionth hour while supporting my dear friend). After my CHP officer points out there are in fact THREE "No Turn On Red" signs posted, I tactfully include all my altruism in my response. Somehow, I STILL get a ticket instead of just a warning or even hopefully, a "nice job on doing all that good, lady"!

Here's is where it gets dicey. My first reaction is to think to myself that part of the reason I am involved in tutoring in the first place is because I feel God has called me to it. So, HELLO, couldn't He have bestowed a forgiving heart on my CHP officer while I was involved in God's business? A warning could have done the trick just as well as a full ticket; lesson learned with no financial loss or the mental anguish of Traffic School. Shouldn't that be the very least my doing-good earns me?

But then I come to the quick realization that if we are going to talk about who earns this and who deserves that, I better be careful. There WERE three "No Turn On Right" signs posted and the reason I didn't see them was because I was distracted by my phone conversation with my friend, another traffic infraction. Truth be told, my stop was more of a roooolllliiinnnnng stop, instead of a complete one and only two days ago I noticed (and thankfully rectified) the fact that my registration sticker was not on my plate nor were my reg and proof of insurance cards in my car. So since October I had been breaking those laws, as well. Yikes. Perhaps I got off lucky with only the one ticket!

The good news here is that all this thinking (!) happened quickly so that I was able to have the presence of mind to act like a Christian to the CHP officer. (I wear a cross necklace so that if I act snotty/arrogant/angry it is definitely 'bad marketing' for Jesus.) I told him several stories about my tutee and he hurried with my ticket so I wouldn't be too late. Maybe he (and God) saved my life in some way by making me more cautious and aware when I am driving. Maybe, just maybe, God is gracious when He doesn't give me what I deserve but instead, gives me what I need. Woah! Let's hope I remember this when I am spending my day in Traffic School!
~To God Be The Glory~ (even today)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From Tee To GreenFrom Tee To Green. I have started golfing again after a bit of a break. I really enjoy it...being outside, the camaraderie, the strategy involved. Just like in my faith and in photography, I need to remember that there is lots of value in the process, not only in the end result. Now, don't get me wrong, I love it when I hit three perfect shots and sink the putt for a birdie on the par 5 18th (especially when that putt wins the last $2 bet on the game..:)..). But those great shots wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been the many many many others that didn't go so well. I learned from the bad ones—something about my stance, my alignment or swing plane, that I put into practice in the good shots. What a waste if I hadn't learned and adjusted. I would still be a terrible player. Golf is a process.

My spiritual life is the same. I have some seasons when I am hitting on all cylinders and my faith seems to flow into everything I do. I feel God is close and I am satisfied. Then there are the many many many other times that I feel alone, isolated, weak and lost. I am the furthest thing from satisfied. I have learned in those times however, to 'adjust' something in my heart.... maybe I am being prideful, or self-focused or how I am evaluating an event is short-sighted or I forget that God is really in control and He loves me. It helps me to remember those adjustments and to try to implement them in my heart. I am glad golf provides such a good example....looks like golf is a 'spiritual discipline'!..... whoooo rah!
~To God Be The Glory~

Saturday, April 23, 2011

JoyJoy. Today is Easter Sunday—the most important day of a Christian's faith. Someone recently asked me, if I had to distill it down to one thing, what was the one thing about Christianity that secures my faith. It was a great question and one each of us should have an answer for, no matter what our belief system. Why do we believe what we believe.

The Resurrection of Jesus has always been the linchpin of my faith. Here is why. At the time of Jesus's death, he was causing all sorts of trouble. The Jewish religious leaders were worried that Jesus was so radical and against the way things had always been done 'religiously' up until that point, that he and his followers were going to start an uprising that would cause them to loose their religious power and might even cause the Romans, the civil authorities, to come down hard on them. The Jews had acquired a certain amount of respect and autonomy within the Roman Empire and they didn't want to loose that. The Romans didn't like Jesus because he said crazy stuff like "Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's and Give to God what is God's." They weren't really sure what that meant, but it sounded a lot like disloyalty to Ceasar and that could not be tolerated. Even Jesus's disciples, who were looking for a King Messiah, someone to rule God's Kingdom on earth, didn't quite get that this Kingdom was a ways off and there was a lot a servanthood and 'lesser-ness' required first. So, when Jesus was crucified, put in that tomb with a Roman Soldier guarding the entrance and then allegedly rose from the dead, the Romans and the Jewish Religious leaders, the only two groups with power at their disposal, really wanted to find that missing body. The disciples were scattered, confused and disillusioned. They didn't know what was going on. Had the body been found, it would have stopped this new religious 'cult' of Christianity from getting started. Jesus fulfilling his pre-death claims changed everything in that world.

So, because the body was never found, I say to myself...."Wow, Jesus must have, in fact, risen from the dead and I have never heard of any other human who has ever done that. I guess Jesus must really be God. Therefore, I have to take all that stuff he said while on earth seriously, including the part about Him being the only way to God".

That is why I believe—because they never found the body.

Yesterday, I was running my squirrel-chasing dog Daisy :), at my local park. There was an Easter Egg Hunt about to begin with lots of cute little children. The announcer let everyone know that the excitement was going to start in 5 minutes so "get ready!" One little boy was running as fast as he could to get to the hunt... but he was going in the wrong direction. He was earnest, determined and trying hard, but he was going in the wrong direction. Had his mom and dad not caught up with him and told him which way to go, he would have missed the whole thing.

On this Easter Sunday, I am reminded why I need to listen to Jesus's words and I am thankful that He caught up with me and told me which way to go.
More today than any other day of the year....
~To God Be The Glory~

Friday, April 22, 2011

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace. It is Good Friday. The day God's vision of Grace became a reality. Amazing.
The lyricist says it best in this old church classic....

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great thou art!

I am going to celebrate by playing a round of golf! :).
~To God Be The Glory~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

ConnectedConnected. I have some decisions to make in my life. I am having trouble making them. I struggle with knowing what God's Will in my life is regarding those decisions and reconciling it to my own idea of what I want. With some decisions, the two are the same thing. With others, they are not. And with some, I just don't know. I am counseled to "be in relationship with God" and then I will know. From what I know that means to pray, read God's Word, meditate on Scripture, be patient.... all those disciplines that sound really Holy! :) Ok, I'll try...
~To God Be The Glory~

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Center of AttentionCenter of Attention. It is Holy Week, the week I am especially reminded of Jesus' death and resurrection. It is sobering, gruesome, significant and joyous all at the same time. My church is performing a dramatic play which is so vivid, it makes my remembering more acute. The two things that stick with me about Jesus compared to other 'God-options' is that Jesus is the only one that both sacrificed himself for me and raised himself from the dead. Through his sacrifice, my sin (past, present and future) is dealt with and because of His resurrection I can have new life in Him.

The following passage from Colossians proclaims Jesus' unique standing. Others can try to take the spotlight away from him, but in the end, only He will remain. Anyone with awareness of the historic events of that week—what the trials were like, what flogging actually is, how crucifixion works, how beaten Jesus was before they nailed him to that cross—will realize that the cost of humankind's salvation was great. My response can be nothing short of making Jesus my Center of Attention. Amen to that! :)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him
all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him....he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
~To God Be The Glory~

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FluffSpotlightsFluff and Spotlights. During my recent trip to DC, my shooting goal was to capture the Cherry Blossoms. I spent 4 hours walking around the Tidal Basin looking for every variation of that the famed flower that I could find! When my loop was complete I switched focus and started looking for 'weird stuff' as I sometimes refer to geometric patterns, close-in colors or textured surfaces. Fluff and Spotlights is an example of each of these endeavors. I am always struck by the seemingly obvious fact that one sees what one looks for. When I was shooting the blossoms, that is all I saw. When I was seeking weird patterns, surfaces or compositions, I never saw a blossom. I couldn't see two things at once with the decision-making focus I needed to see the specific subject I was looking for. We see what we are looking for.

My spiritual life is the same. When I am seeking God's provision, direction or enabling, I need to be looking for them, or else I miss it. My default seems to be looking at my failure, my flaws, or my self-will, even though I know from experience, that looking to myself or to those things gets me nowhere.

It seems like a simple enough plan, for when I look for God's presence in my life, I do see it. I notice the friend there to encourage me in my lonely days. I sence God's warming of my heart with forgiveness when it is cold with self-incrimination. I have the wisdom to know that a new opportunity is a step in God's path for me. But, just as with my photography, I cannot be looking at two things at once. I need to get my 'viewfinder' off of me and onto Him. Lord, Help me remember!
~To God Be The Glory~

Monday, April 18, 2011

God's PeopleGod's People. I love my new church. It is a place that loves God, loves God's Word and loves God's People. I have never been in an environment that so exemplifies this before. It is ethnically diverse, loving to strangers and isn't run by corporate flow charts, those who contribute more or rock-star pastors. The Spirit of God runs it and you can tell the moment you enter. Truth is spoken from the pulpit, in small groups and throughout the various ministries—even if that truth is challenging and not what you want to hear.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their
hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.

In a world where so many churches fall short, I am so thankful that I have found a place where this verse from the book of Jeremiah is lived out. It has made all the difference.
~To God Be The Glory~

Friday, April 15, 2011

TrustworthyTrustworthy. Many times in my photography, I catch my breath at the beauty of what I see. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands...." Perhaps when I am flailing around, wondering why, when and what if, if I could simply remember the glory I see in creation, I could trust that God is able to take care of whatever I am facing. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God." Like the Psalmist, I can trust an awe inspiring God. Yes, I can.
~To God Be The Glory~

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tulip Magnolia Study #1
Tulip Magnolia Study #2Tulip Magnolia Study #1 and #2. So much of the 'art' of my photography happens post-capture. It requires decisions all along the way: monochrome or color, realistic or surreal, full aspect or cropped? To help me decide, I ask myself, what is the emotion or intent I want to relate to my viewer. What is the goal of the image? What looks good? As one can see from Tulip Magnolia Study #1 and #2, where Study #2 is a close-in crop of the subject bloom in Study #1, there is not really a right or a wrong answer. But to see the creative crop hidden in Study #1, one has to be looking for it. I love it when there are these gems waiting to be discovered within the initial image. It is fun and sometimes my vision can save an otherwise badly composed view.

Spiritually, that is how God works in maturing me. Sometimes the real beauty of my life comes from the cropped-in version, sometimes from the overall picture with many facets and sometimes I still am in process and the beauty is yet to be realized. God has the most amazing 'eye' ever. He is the ultimate artist. He knows just how to process, crop and present the image that is my life. He can save perfectly 'an otherwise badly composed view.' I am so glad!
~To God Be The Glory~

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cascading EleganceHandful of Rain
Cascading Elegance and Handful of Rain. Sometimes my best images present themselves when I least expect it. It is serendipity and I LOVE it when it happens. I feel as if God is presenting a wonderful opportunity for me, so special, so personal—a gift. I went to DC to shoot the cherry blossoms. But because of an uninspiring trip to the National Arboretum where more blossoms grew and the wisdom of a wonderful Ethiopian cab driver, I ended up at the National Botanical Garden. HA! Not through any knowledge, planning or foresight of my own, my macro lens and I discovered a bounty of images to capture! It was magical.

Lately, in my life, this wonderful unexpected joy has entered more often than not. A deeply personal and healing conversation with one of my daughters over the weekend, running this morning in a surprise rain shower when my energy level, endorphins and joints all cooperated, processing the above images in black and white when normally my go-to process would be color—all fill my heart with the knowledge that I am in relationship with a loving God who takes care of me, inspires me and brings me unexpected joy! SO VERY COOL! :)
~To God Be The Glory~

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bench Under Blossoms
Radical Distinction
Radical Distinction. One of the challenges of photography is to somehow be distinctive in your art. Some accomplish this through a unique shooting angle, processing technique or in the way the image is printed or presented. Others strive for a subject that is not usually photographed and takes extraordinary effort to capture. Ansel Adams' genius with black and white capture, developing, and printing and Galen Rowell's mountaineering ability enabling him to be in wilderness areas most cannot experience are two examples that come to mind. I was reminded of this challenge last week while in a location that is a draw to photographers the world over: the spring cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. Everyone from professionals with medium-format camera bodies on tripods to tourists with cell phone cameras were positioned around the Basin looking for 'their' shot. My question quickly became "how is my vision, capture and process going to lead to a unique outcome?"

I ask the same questions when I consider the ultimate purpose and impact of my life. How do I approach and enact my daily decisions so that I live with radical distinction? As in art, what determines a worthwhile or beautiful outcome, anyway? Isn't art, as in the success of one's life a subjective matter?

Turns out the Psalms describe two different approaches to this age-old question. One implores God to "show me your ways" to "teach me" and to "guide me". It promises to lead to a life of significance, defined not arbitrarily or subjectively, but with the God of the Universe's definition and with His power, enabling success. The other is to follow the ways of man to which "folly" is promised. When it's broken down like that it doesn't seem so hard after all, especially because my personal experience is just that simple. When I have listened to the culture or to my own selfish desires, folly (at best) has resulted. I guess the difficulty comes in that I must continually choose to trust that God has my best interests at heart and that He is a God that is powerful enough to be trusted. I need to put down the quick fix of my 'point-and-shoot' decisions and set my mind on my Lord. Then I can get down to the business of pursuing a life of beauty, significance and creativity, a life of 'Radical Distinction!'
~To God Be The Glory~

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eye of the ZebraEye of the Zebra. Off to DC for the rest of the week to see my daughter and son-in-law and hopefully to shoot the famous cherry blossoms! So, don't be looking for my daily post until next week! (Haha! get it?....Eye of the Zebra....looking! :) )
~To God Be the Glory~
Fingers. When I look closely at the world around me, I am amazed by the surprising details I notice. That is why I love photography. The process of capturing an image forces me to slow down long enough to look and to really see the intricacies of the natural world. It makes me smile when I see the baby baboon I captured in Fingers. How funny! Yellow eyebrows? Crazy ears? Fingers in desperate need of a manicure? AMAZING! I love how God delights me in this way, as if to say 'If I can be this creative in the natural world, don't worry, I can be just as creative in your life story". Nice! I'm ready.... but spare the eyebrows, please!
~To God Be The Glory~

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pink MoonPink Moon. Last post, I mentioned my dog, Daisy. :). She is a lab.... who doesn't have the foggiest idea of how to fetch. Seriously! Who has ever heard of a lab who doesn't know how to fetch. I have tried to teach her, bribe her, love her into fetching, but she just doesn't have it in her. She has wonderful other qualities that make her special to me, but fetching is not going to be one of them! Ever!

Who ever thought a moon could be pink? Not me. But here it is in all it's glory. Wow! Unexpected, beautiful, unique....Pink Moon speaks to me of the individuality of each moment in nature, depending on how the light illuminates. It is not that a pink moon is any less beautiful than a white moon. They are just different—exquisite in their own moments. Could that be how my life is too? I never anticipated that I would be in the specific circumstances that are my present moment. Metaphorically, I thought my dog would fetch and that moons would be white. :). But alas, my dog doesn't fetch (but she runs by my side without a leash) and moons aren't always white (but they can be an amazing pink that takes my breath away). So maybe...especially if God is who He says He is...just maybe, my life will end up like this Pink Moon.... different but exquisite because it was illuminated by His extraordinary light. I guess the last thing the world needs is for me to blend in. I like that! Go God, give me the courage to be illuminated by You!
~To God Be The Glory~

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rusty ChainsRusty Chains. I was running my wonderful dog Daisy today, and was listening to my ipod. A lyric from a Lady Antebellum song caught my ear, something about laying your 'rusty heart down on the line'. I realize between strides that my heart has been feeling heavy lately, like it is covered in rusty chains. I don't think I am willing to lay it on the line many more times. I cry out to God asking Him to make me whole, to give me the courage to risk again. I keep running.

Then, I notice my dog, chasing after the squirrels. She is doing exactly what she was created to do. She is bounding, leaping, wagging her tail, tongue lopping—her countenance is one big smile. Unlike any other dog I have ever owned, this dog (a three-year old rescue from Bakersfield that I have had for 5 months) never leaves my side for long. She can be off-leash and is controlled by my voice. As I think all this through I realize that maybe God is using this fabulous dog, and our relationship, to melt away the rusty chains on my heart. I'm not sure who is God and who is Jeanne is the 'Daisy+Jeanne' relationship, I just know that when I look at her my heart begins to smile. I believe that is a good start. I keep running.
~To God Be The Glory~