Friends

Ecclesiastes 4 offers some incredible insight about the benefit and necessity of friendships.  “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth for he hath not another to help him up.  Again, if two lie together, then they have heat:  but how can one be warm alone?  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes is not the only place in the Bible that discusses our friendships.  1 Corinthians 15:33, in the middle of the discussion of the transformed life we must live as a result of our risen Savior, warns us, “Be not deceived:  evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (habits).”  The right kind of friendships will strengthen us, encourage us and build us up in the Lord.  The wrong friendships stifle our growth and shrivel our righteous habits.  In the second letter to the Corinthians God commands us, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”  A series of questions is then posed to show just how different the believer is from the unsaved.  We genuinely have nothing in common.

On the other hand, God has provided for us the avenue to have friendships with those whom we have much in common.  That avenue is through His church.  In the fellowship of those transformed by Christ we can develop relationships with ones who are not only like minded, but also are like recipients of His grace with a like end in store.  Let us search and find our friends in the midst of those with whom we truly have the most in common and who are most able to aid us as we engage the spiritual battle.


A Psalm of Thanksgiving

"The Lord is my rock." Psalm 18:2

I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.  I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.  The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.  The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.  In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.  Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.  There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.  He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.  And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.  At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.  The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.  Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.  Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.  He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.  He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.  They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.  He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.  For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.  For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.  I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.  Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.  With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;  With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.  For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.  For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.  As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.  For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?  It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.  He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.  He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.  Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.  Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.  I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.  I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.  For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.  Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.  Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.  Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.  As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.  The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.  It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.  He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.  Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.  Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.


Keeping it all straight

One thing with which I struggle is keeping the image straight and level when I am shooting.  I don’t want to count how many times I’ve had to realign a picture in Photoshop because the door post is cockeyed or the horizon is slanted.  Keeping the image straight is important.  Unless your intention is some sort of Dutch Angle, work hard to keep your lines straight.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, look at this image to see why.  There’s nothing quite so disconcerting as looking at an image that makes you feel like you are about to fall over.  If you have an eye for it, level and straighten the lines visually.  If you are like me, your camera comes with a very handy tool to help you keep things straight (I can only imagine how skewed my shots with be if I didn’t use this tool).  The tool is an overlay of lines on your screen that look like a tic tac toe game.  They are actually composition guides, designed to help you compose your images following the principles of the rules of thirds.  Your camera may call these lines a composition grid or guide lines or something else entirely.  It’s usually buried somewhere under the settings menu, but find it and turn it on.  Then, line your horizon up on one of the horizontal lines on your screen. Or line up the building corner on one of the vertical lines.  As easy as that, you have shot a perfectly level image.

As Christians e are given a straight line and are tasked with reflecting that straight line as closely as possible.  In Proverbs 19:1 Solomon warns, “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips,  and is a fool”.  The word perverse indicates a distortion or a crookedness.  Today we think of perversion as the most reprehensible of sins, yet in Proverbs perverse is repeatedly used to show someone that has deviated from the straight rule of God’s law.  A poor man that is perfectly in line with God’s law is far better off than a man whose lips deviate from the law of God.  That man is described as a fool.  As we engage this Christian life, we need to do so with carefulness, carefully examining our lives to make sure they are lining up with the rule that has been set for us.  We have a guide line given to help us, let us use it so our Christian walk accurately portrays what it really means to be a child of God.

Olympus SP500UZ 6mm f/2.8 1/50 sec. ISO-80


Some Tweaking Required

Editing and adjusting digital images has become so integral to our culture that we have created a verb out of the most popular image editing software.  “I can photoshop it.”  and “That’s been photoshopped” have become very common parts of our vernacular.  The ubiquity of editing images has fueled a continuous debate over whether or not a photographer should edit their photographs.  I’m not going to enter that debate any farther than to say it is your decision if you think you should or shouldn’t edit your images.  I edit every image I publish.  If the picture is going to be seen by anyone other than me or my wife, I edit it.  I may not do anything more than boost the saturation and crop the picture or I may do extensive editing, even to the removing of significant details from the original.  My reasoning is simple, nothing is perfect, and no camera is able to accurately capture the range of information that the eye captures.  Often things in the original take away from the focus and story I am trying to communicate.  Sometimes I look at the picture on the computer and realize I should have composed it differently.  By editing the picture, I can put back into the scene some of what I saw that the camera couldn’t or didn’t record and I can fix some of the mistakes I made in the process.  My aim in editing the image is to bring into line with where I want it to be.  I want to make the image as pleasing as possible to myself so that as I present it to others it becomes an accurate reflection of my vision for that scene.

In similar fashion, the Christian life requires much editing.  A children’s song proclaims, “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.”  The life of a Christian should be one of continual tweaking.  At the moment of our salvation, God declared us righteous in heaven and washed away all of our sin. The problems is, we don’t look like it right now.  The gulf between the eternal, heavenly accomplishment and my daily life is usually so vast the Grand Canyon looks like a sidewalk crack by comparison.  The difference between what we are in Christ and what we are in life can be incredibly discouraging.  The heart at times shrinks back in fear from the work and sacrifice necessary to come anywhere close to the perfection produced in us by our Savior.  However, God is not willing to leave us as we were.   He sets us apart for Himself and begins to work in us so that we are being changed.  He works to make us something that genuinely reflects His skill and His vision as our Savior, Creator and Master.  Thank God for His “photoshopping” in our life.

Nikon D80 60mm f/15 1/100 sec. ISO-200


The Practice of Peace

Nature photography is for me a delightful, relaxing experience.  It gives a great excuse to tromp around in the woods, enjoying God’s creation.  Inevitably a picture intrudes itself upon my senses, causing me to stop and attempt to capture whatever arrested my attention.  The process of capturing breathtaking beauty or memorable events invariably intrudes on the moment itself.  Be careful not to let the pressure of getting the perfect picture detract from the pleasure of the moment.  For most people, they take pictures to remember the moment.  Of course we should be concerned about getting the best possible picture, but don’t get so wrapped up in capturing the perfect picture that you forget the moment you are trying to record.  One huge element of getting the image you want while still being able to be a part of the moment is practice.  I can’t stress enough how vital it is to be well versed in both the principles of excellent photography and the particulars of your camera.  If you don’t know what to do to properly expose your image, you are going to be frustrated by your inability to get the image you want.  If you know what you need to tweak to get the right exposure, but don’t know how to make those adjustments in your camera, you will be frustrated as you fumble through the controls looking for the right settings.  If you know photography and your camera, and you practice both until they become second nature to you, you will be able to capture the moment while still being involved in the moment.

If we are going to navigate the whirlwind moments of our lives without getting overwhelmed, we are going to have to have a deep, practiced knowledge of the Word of God. The pressure of circumstances often overwhelm us, but if we have a deep love for Scriptures- a love that studies and knows the Word- we will have great peace.  A love for the Bible results in a life that returns time and time again to the truths of God found in its pages.   A love for the Bible causes one to spend time in the Word, digging out its principles. This love protects us from the offense of sin.  As David says in Psalm 119, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”  The direct result of being protected from sin is peace, often peace with our fellow man but always peace with our God.  Added to that is the benefit of peace within our heart, as we learn the Word and learn to trust God to keep His Word.  Truly those who love the Word of God will have great peace. They will have a peace that protects their hearts, minds and lives.

Nikon D80 60mm f/25 1/100 sec. ISO-200


And the Winner is . . .

Congratulations to the winner of our photo caption contest, and thanks to those of you who offered suggestions.  The suggestions were good, but the one that captured my attention was Hosea 2:20.  The faithfulness of the cardinal fits perfectly with the verse, reminding us of the eternal faithfulness of God.   The link she added was a nice bonus.  Heather now has her choice of images to claim for her prize, which we will present to her ASAP.  Thanks again to all who participated.


I Can’t Get No . . .

In the U.P.  many people like to feed the wildlife.  When something particularly interesting comes into the feeder, many like to shoot a handful of images.  For some just having a picture of a three eyed Tuatara is enough.  Others look at their images and realize it doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing the reality of the animal in your yard.  The picture leaves them decidedly unsatisfied.  There are several things that can be done to help capture and communicate the beauty of what you saw.  Here’s one idea: strategically place your bird feeder to get the best possible image while the birds are waiting to get to the feeder. Birds like to have a nice tree to light in before making the final dash to the food.  Locate your feeder so that the best tree for them is also one that allows you a good clean shot at the bird.   Then, as said in previous articles, be patient.  If you feed them, they will come.  If they come, you will have the opportunity to get the images you want.

Our life is often like those images.  We grab something that seems like it will satisfy.  Sometimes we seek to hold onto past pleasures, clinging to them in hopes that they will continue to satisfy us as they once did.  Sometimes we race after a new thrill, hoping it will revive the spark of delight that we feel is lacking. Unfortunately, we find those things don’t really satisfy us.  They are like the dark, slightly fuzzy picture of a beautiful bird. We know something is not quite right. We may not always know how to fix it, but we know it’s not as it should be.  Satisfaction is often promised, but very infrequently delivered.  Satisfaction, the true satiation of the soul, does not come through any physical means.  True, full and lasting satisfaction comes from God.  Not that God exists to fulfill our whims and make us happy.  On the contrary, we exist to fulfill the will of God and to please Him.  When we do that, our soul resonates with joy as it finds itself in harmony with the reason of our existence.

“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”
Psalm 17:15

Nikon D80 800mm f/16 1/60 sec. ISO-800