Monday, September 9, 2013

Enjoy the Small Stuff

“To my mind the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar that it is taken for granted.”  Bill Bryson.  I can really relate to this quote from author Bill Bryson, because whenever we travel, near or far, I love taking in the small, bits and bobs of everyday life. A pair of boots on a door step, children at play, an old woman sunbathing, rusty old cars and so the list goes on and on.  I consider nothing mundane or boring, and I hope I never lose that precious zeal for life.

 In the same way, I joyfully anticipate each new travel day with God.  What will he reveal to me this morning from His word?  Is there someone on my path today who needs encouragement or prayer?  How will He use me or inspire me to accomplish his kingdom work?  Just as nothing on my worldly journeys is so familiar that I merely yawn and pass it by, so too I can’t wait for what treasures God has planted along my spiritual trek.

So, how is your journey going?  Do you find yourself just going through the motions, or are your eyes, ears, heart and mind open and eager to see what each new day will bring?  What an excellent adventure God has prepared for those who love and long to follow him….don’t miss out on one tiny detail of it! Nothing is mundane on this trip!!! “The LORD'S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."… Lamentations 3:23-24.

Please note that I will be leaving on a 3 week trip to Europe tomorrow Sept. 10-Oct.2....stay tuned for my traveling blog and pictures!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Ultimate Travel Guide

Leaving the friendly confines of our home towns, and traveling to places outside our comfort zones, can be scary.  Exchanging the familiar for the unknown, is so daunting, that some folks have no desire to leave at all.  I’m not included in that group, but I still have my share of apprehensions anytime I head out, especially to a foreign country.  Will I be able to understand the language and customs? Can I figure the public transport system, or be a prisoner in my room?  The more I travel, the fewer fears I have.  Partly because I’ve done it before, but also because I rely on wise advice from others who have been there before.

Some of you may be familiar with Rick Steves.  He is an American, who has made it his life’s work, to travel extensively throughout Europe and write guide books.  I want his job!!!  Anyway, every time I’ve headed to undiscovered places, a copy of one of Rick’s books goes with me.  He covers all the information that a traveler would need; from what to wear, how to pack, what to see and where to stay.  In addition, he always gives helpful hints on things like; when to visit museums before the crowds arrive, or encouraging you to get out of the car and jump on a beat bog in Ireland! I trust Rick, even though I’ve never met him, and place my faith in his words, because he has personally walked the road ahead of me.  I jokingly call those books my bible, and so far, he’s never steered me wrong!

It’s always been interesting to me that many people find it easy to place their faith in wise-sounding human beings, but are dubious about the truths contained in the Bible.  In all fairness to those folks, I guess I was with them at one time in my life.  But, when I came to the pivotal point in my life, after much study and questioning, when Christ asked me if I believed he was who he said he was, I emphatically responded, “Yes, I believe!” From that time on, I’ve never doubted the truth of the Bible.  That’s not to say I don’t have my share of questions, but I believe that it was written by trustworthy men, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, who had walked the road before me, not unlike Rick Steves. They covered every aspect of Christian life from the exhilarating  highs to the discouraging lows, and everything in between.  We are, after all, citizens of another kingdom, and need to be acutely aware of the beauty as well as the dangers that we will encounter on this earth.

I’m leaving on another European adventure in a few days, and you can be sure that Rick will accompany me.  And you can be just as sure that, on a daily basis,  I refer to the ultimate guidebook, the Bible, for all that I will ever need as a traveler on this amazing journey of Christian life!  Do you still have doubts, then heed the advice Christ gave to doubting Thomas; “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’ “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.’” John 20:27-29. Put His book to the test, then fearlessly travel beyond your doubts!  “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unity Without Wrangling

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.…” Romans 15:5-6.  One of the most difficult things to achieve in the church, is unity or “having the same mind.”  If we all love Christ, and long to obediently follow him, why is there always strife involved? Reaching unity doesn’t come easily in any relationship.  Marriage; I rest my case.  We all come to Christ with the same love and desire, but because we’re uniquely gifted individuals, our forms and expressions of worship will vary widely.  Does God appreciate the diversity?  I can only imagine that he does. How boring it would be if we all gave God the same “store-bought” worship.  No time or talent involved, no thought given to what would please him, just get it over with.

 Now to the problem of achieving unity. As the church grew, and remember the church is the people of God, differences in opinion on how we should worship him began to appear.  It seemed logical to make things uniform, in order to “enforce” unity.  Obviously worshipers needed, and still need to be on the same page, biblically speaking, but as the centuries passed, the joy of celebrating was replaced with rote formality.  Individual expression was not encouraged, and the gifts of the Spirit were shelved having been replaced with a legalistic works mentality. Nowadays things are not a whole lot better.  We have many varieties of Christian churches, with different styles of worship, tradition and doctrine, but instead of bringing the unity God desires, we have division.  “My church is “the” church” or “Your form of worship isn’t enough, or it’s too much.”

In talking with a person recently, they told me, that because I didn’t attend his church, I was in essence saying his denomination was wrong. It is not my, nor should it be any Christian’s, intention to say any church, or method of serving God is wrong, that would be, well, WRONG! I do believe that is God’s area of expertise, and one day all of us will be judged for how well we operated, in the world, by spreading his word. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, reminded him that true unity is reached when all believers agree on the pure gospel, which, in it’s simplest form states that; Christ lived, taught, died, resurrected and will return for his church. He also said this; “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” 2 Timothy 2:14.  Interesting, we should stick to the basic foundational facts about Christ, and leave the wrangling over words, styles, traditions and doctrine alone.  So, leave your boots and lassos at home, unity can only be reached when we stay true to the God-created, not the man-made church.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

High Dynamic Range Imaging

As I grow in my knowledge of photography, I’ve learned new techniques and terminology within the art,  for example; bokeh, dof and HDR. The first two refer to the blurred backgrounds many photographers try to achieve, and HDR is High-dynamic-range imaging.  “HDR is a set of methods used in imaging and photography to capture a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging methods or photographic methods.” (Wikipedia)  Simply put, 3 pictures are taken of the same item, one overexposed, one underexposed and one with correct exposure.  The 3 are “layered” to compose a photo with such incredible depth and lighting that it almost jumps off the paper, or computer screen.

Of course it got me to thinking about our lives in Christ.  Sometimes our perception of God has so much light shone on  it, from a myriad of sources, that we are blinded and confused, or conversely, there is too little illumination, and we stumble trying to see the whole picture.  In either case, the important details are obscured by either too much or too little light. Jesus tells us repeatedly that he is the light, the perfectly exposed light.  “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” John 12:46.  When we merge our over and underexposed knowledge of Him, with His perfect light, the result is the stunningly awesome, perfect, HDR image of our Savior.

 As a photographer, I’ve learned  that trying to obtain consistent, perfect lighting isn’t easy, but when I do it makes an amazing difference in the quality of the picture.  As Christians, I am convinced that, when we operate within His perfect light, He will produce the HDR, picture-perfect image of Him in us. “….For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6.