Wednesday, December 23, 2015

4 Things to Remember in December- and Beyond

Tip: Take advantage of this season's bright lights and use them to create dramatic silhouette images!
As someone who has celebrated Christmas with my family all of my life, once in a while I run across that awkward moment when I ask someone what their Christmas plans are, only to find out they do not celebrate it. On the flip-side, I see people who like to throw "Jesus birthday parties". Whatever side of the coin you fall on, here are a few things we all ought to remember during December- and all the other months of the year:

1.) We don't know when Jesus was born. 
The Bible never gives a specific date, but over the course of history, people adopted December 25th as the official celebration date.

2.) Respect those whose views on Christmas differ from yours.

Because Christmas was never a biblically instituted holiday, we shouldn't pressure others to celebrate in the same way or the same time that we do.

3.) If you do celebrate Christmas, keep the focus where it should be.It's easy to get caught up in the sparkle, excitement, and senseless traditions that surround the Christmas season. Remember Who this time is for celebrating- honor God in your celebrating. If you don't celebrate, honor Him in your abstinence. Neither side should use this time as their chance to show off how "spiritual" they are.

4.) Celebrate Christ ALL the time! It doesn't have to be December to remember Christ's sacrifice for His people. Remember this always. Live your life in constant awareness that God set you aside as His own; thank Him and live your life to honor Him- all of the time, in every place you're in.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord... The one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pressed, But Not Crushed

Tip: When photographing an arch, try to find pathways, footprints, or lines of people to draw the eye towards the focal point of the image.
On an enchanting hike through a snowy forest, I saw a picture of life. Snow fell relentlessly from the sky, piling upon the snow from the area's previous storms. It stacked upon the trees- up to 6 inches deep on some branches! Occasionally, my brother and I had to stoop under trees such as the one above, that were bent nearly to the ground under the weight of billions of little ice crystals.

How do I see life in this? I see life in it because in our own, typically in invisible ways, life weighs upon us. Trials God has placed us in make us feel as hopelessly bent in the weight of matters as this tree is. Maybe it is physical pain, maybe it is emotional strain, maybe it is the knowledge that we must carry out a difficult task soon.

Whatever is weighing on you lately, remember that God placed us in the world to be a light to others as we press on through these situations. We are fragile, fallible beings- "jars of clay", as the verse below puts it. We cannot triumph and bring good from anything in our lives; when good comes from our difficulties, it is because God chose to use us to reveal Himself to the world. Press on, my friend- you never know how God may use you to bring Himself glory! 

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Friday, December 11, 2015

3 Ways Santa Tries to Play God

Tip: The device is only as good as the person using it. Never think you have to spend hundreds to take good pictures. This shot was done on the new iPod Touch 6g. Practice the trade and your photos can look good no matter what you used to capture them!

Please tell me I am not the only one who finds the idea of Santa Clause both repulsive and creepy. When Christmas rolls around each year, people seem to make as big of a deal of Santa as they do of Jesus's birth (if not more so). This in and of itself is not right- if something is competing with God for glory, that is idolatry. On top of that, people are turning a historical figure (Nikolaos of Myra) into a mythical character who possesses qualities that belong to God alone.

The lyrics of a popular Santa song are:
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town 
1.) Santa is projected as someone who has a moral law that he requires the children of the world to adhere to if they desire to be rewarded. God has a moral law too, the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, which must be held to perfection to attain eternal life (which we KNOW none of us can do- but God in His gracious providence provides propitiation for us; I have yet to see Santa try that).

2.) Santa separates the good from the bad; God does so too-  "
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (Matthew 25:31-32).

3.) Santa is supposedly omniscient, as he "sees you when you're sleeping", "knows when you're awake", and "knows if you've been bad or good". Proverbs 15:3 says of God, "
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."

Remember Who this season was really meant to celebrate. Give God the glory that is due to Him.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand."  (Psalm 95:6-7)

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Long Trek

Tip: Having people in your landscape shots really helps put the vastness of landscapes into proportion for your viewers. Do it whenever you can!

I was talking to a fellow hiker recently; he told me of a time when he came to the end of the trail he was on and several yards ahead of him he watched as two hikers dropped their trekking poles to the ground and shouted "We are finished!". In the moment, he assumed "Wow, their first hike and they are so adamant about giving up that they are just leaving their gear on the ground for someone else to take? Sad." Upon further conversation with someone down the path, he later found that the two were from Europe and had spent the last year on the Pacific Crest Trail, walking from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. The shout of "We are finished!" was not defeat, but triumph- they had just completed a world famous trail that is over 2,000 miles long!

Enduring through trials in the Christian life can be as difficult as the physical strain that one would feel if they hiked the entire Pacific Crest trail, at times; even Paul said he was "being poured out". For those who persevere, it will be more beautiful and glorious than conquering 2,000 miles of a scenic trail. Let us strive to be able to honestly say what Paul said in 2 Timothy:

"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" - 2 Timothy 4:6-7

Keep going, my friend. The Lord put you in this race and He will sustain you!