Friday, January 29, 2016

A Lesson From Skiing

Tip: If you are tired of your snow photos looking like basic black & white images, add a little blue filter to change it up.

Recently I got to experience the privilege (and pain) of downhill skiing. It was a spectacular day of learning, both in regards to the sport and other lessons gained from it. One of the biggest lessons I learned on the slopes that day is that some things just shouldn't be tackled alone.
As much as our culture tells us we must always be autonomous, there are some places in life where that just is not a wise choice. There were times when I fell that my legs and skis got so badly tangled that I couldn't move an inch without the assistance of someone else to detach my feet from the skis. Without help, I likely would have injured myself trying to get back up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 has some very relevant insight on this: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Likewise, the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone either. Proverbs 27:17 states that "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." and Psalm 34:3 says "Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!" Then there is the famed command of Hebrews 10:24-25, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Can we do any of the things talked about in those verses if we are trying to take on life while distancing ourselves from fellow believers?

Friday, January 22, 2016

3 Overlooked Lessons From The Great Flood

Tip: When photographing in potentially dangerous situations, come prepared with emergency items and the knowledge of how to save yourself if you get in a pinch (or even better: a friend who can help). If you aren't prepared, leave.

Nearly every year, there comes a period of time when the river rises and the snow melt carries in lots of extra water and debris to the valley in which I live. Flooding is a good reminder of the one great flood that God once sent, back in the times of the book of Genesis.

Typically, when the flood of Genesis is mentioned, people automatically think of Noah and the animals all crammed onto a boat floating around, ending with the rainbow of God's promise to never again wipe all living things from the earth. While these are key aspects of the account, there are other lessons that can be gained. Here are a few:

1.) God is not required to show us mercy as we live in sin. 
The whole reason this all happened was because "The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 5:5). While He has promised never to exterminate all living things from the earth, do note that He can and has struck down smaller groups and individuals as He has seen fit (remember Ananias and Sapphira? Acts 5:1-11; Also, the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah- Genesis 19:1-29)

2.) God does choose to show mercy to some people.

"So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:8). God could have chosen to lump Noah in with everyone else and call humanity a waste as a whole, but Noah honored God in his living and the Lord chose to let him and his family continue on.

3.) Numbers are Irrelevant.
To many groups, having a large number of attendees means the difference between a church that is "alive" and a church that is "dying". That simply is not the case. Nowhere in scripture does it say that you must have a big Bible study or belong to a mega-church to be spiritually fruitful. When God sent the great flood to wipe out the races, notice that out of all the people in the world at that time, he only saved eight - "On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark." (Genesis 7:13). Also, again referring to the account of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19, notice that the Lord only saved one family. As Matthew 18:20 states, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Thank God that He has shown you mercy though you don't deserve it. Thank Him that He chooses to at least save a few people. Thank Him that He shares His presence with us and will bless even the smallest groups of people. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Tale of Garnet

Tip: Experiment in post-processing with light brushes to make your focal point really pop out!

Tucked away at the top of a treacherous gravel road in the mountains of Montana is a town called Garnet. Once upon a time, it had been an incredibly successful mining community- one of the largest in the area! It had thousands of people and hundreds of structures. Then one day, the mines began to diminish. People began to move out of the area, and eventually a huge fire burned down the majority of the city.

Garnet is now regarded as one of the region's best preserved ghost towns, rather than the region's most successful mining community. What we see of it above is what once was the main sitting room of their grand hotel- at one point a glorious and prestigious three story structure (which for the 1800's, was great!). Now, it remains uninhabited and it's contents are left to slowly disintegrate over time.

In it's strong days, people wouldn't have imagined a time that their great town would be reduced to this. Even the greatest success is temporary. Let us remember that only God is worth exalting. Our own earthly successes only exist because He has allowed them to, and one day they will fall by the wayside.

"Thus says the Lord, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and not let the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Friday, January 8, 2016

From The Heart

Tip: Work on depth of field. Looking back on it, this image would have been much more effective had I used a smaller aperture to focus more exclusively on the steam plume.

Back in September I had the pleasure of experiencing Yellowstone National Park for the first time. What a place! There were signs all over the grounds telling you to watch your step and stay on the boardwalks and paved pathways to avoid the potential of stepping onto a hot spot and melting your shoes off. That is an intense thing to see posted everywhere.

All about the park there were boiling geysers and steaming holes and cracks in the ground to remind you of the miles of boiling water and acid pools that lay just below the earth's crust. Much like the steaming grounds of Yellowstone, we spew forth signs to others what is inside of us.

Matthew 15:18 states that "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person." The question we must ask ourselves is this: what is boiling under your surface? Is it love for God and your fellow humans? Or is it something else that is less than glorifying to our Lord? Pay attention to the things you say and the actions you do- read the Bible and see if your speech and actions match what you say you believe.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Praise God; You're Not Entitled to Today.

Tip: Experiment with lining things up to the corners. The results can be very eye pleasing!

As the sun sets on one year and rises revealing yet another, it can be easy to focus on New Years parties, resolutions, and trying to regain the sleep you lost on New Years Eve. The future has arrived... again! Welcome to it, my friend.

But stop and consider this: you've just woken up in another year. We do it so often that it becomes commonplace, but really- God just brought you through yet another 365 days. You're still here. You're still alive. A lot can happen in merely a day's time, and here you've made it through a year! Stop and thank the Lord. He didn't have to let you live this long, you know. Nowhere are you promised a certain number of years to live.

Seeing as a lot can happen over 365 days, it's time to ask yourself a question: are you closer with or farther from God than you were a year ago? It may seem barely distinguishable sometimes, but as a friend once told me, "You are never at a stand still. Either you are getting closer with God or you are gradually falling away. There is no middle ground." 

Praise God, and draw nearer to Him through time in the Bible. That is how to start off a new year.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.   (Daniel 2:20-22)