Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

I had the privilege of telling my son the full story of the birth of Christ for the first time this Christmas. At three years old, he's beginning to understand a bit more about Christmas and what it is about. How encouraging it is to hear "Christmas is Jesus' birthday" when asked the question "What's Christmas about?". (Of course he still wonders where the birthday cake is...)

I had been reading to him from the gospel of Luke this past Christmas. I like this particular account of the gospel because Luke provides a very colourful narrative of the nativity events - it is a storytelling gospel.

I am never ceased to be amazed how I manage to pick up something new every time I reread an account of the gospel. This particular time, I was really struck by the character of Simeon in Luke 2:25-35. It says:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Can you imagine this old fellow waiting all of his life for the yet unseen Messiah... and then suddenly meeting him? Wouldn't that be an enormously moving moment? Simeon knew that the Lord was God and what God said would come to pass was truth - and that it would happen in his lifetime. That is faith. Then I think of how so often I, (or we collectively!) are so caught up with our lives that we miss out on times when God might be telling us what He is going to do. We miss out on experiencing God. What's even more - we have the benefit of hindsight and knowing the Messiah (Jesus!) and yet we still so often choose to ignore Him.

I want a faith like Simeon's. I want to know Jesus not only in my mind, but also in my heart. I want to recognize who He is, and I want to worship Him. He is, afterall, the long awaited Messiah. He is Emmanuel; He is God with us.

New Year, Old Treasures

I've been reading a book lately (part of the advantage of working right above a Chapters bookstore) called "It's all too much" by Peter Walsh. It is a book about decluttering your home, but also a bit about decluttering your life. I've been reading the book because over the years my house has been slowly accumulating clutter - so much so that just the weekly maintenance of my home is becoming stressful. I've found the book fascinating because it doesn't talk about the latest organizational fad, but rather attacks the root causes of why we end with the clutter we have.

Call it a New Years resolution, or just frustrated - I've been on a decluttering mission over the past few weeks, and will be continuing throughout this coming year. As I've slowly begun this process, I've noticed that one of the hardest types of things to get rid of (I have found) is stuff with sentimental value (but are otherwise junk). To this, author Peter offers a suggestion in his book: photograph the item, have a ceremony (paying tribute), then get rid of it. So, over the next year, I will be starting a series of posts. Each will be on an item of sentimental value. I will pay tribute to it here on the blog, then it will be on its way to the recyclers, the Salvation Army, or the rubbish bin.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Erich is 3 years old!

Erich turned the big three years old today. Of course, he's thought of himself as a "big boy" for a long time already. Ask him whether he thinks he's a baby anymore, and he'll be the first to tell you that "no, he's a big boy now".

Just the other day, we were helping Opa with moving some appliances. (We brought Erich along just for fun.) As we were heading out the door, a very masculine sounding, puffed up chest and all Erich said "yeah, we're gonna go load up the fridge and the stove on the dolly and we're gonna go push'em." I didn't know quite what to say, but I did think it was the funniest thing I heard!

So, Happy Birthday to my big boy Erich!

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By the way, turning three of course means that I sat him down for our traditional bi-annual photo session (read: daddy gets to play with camera equipment!). It was a blast doing this little cross lit composition.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Whiter than snow: Congratulations Ron Larsen!

King David once asked God to cleanse him and make him "whiter than snow" (c.f. Psalm 51:7) after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his own sin namely adultery with Bathsheba, and subsequent cover-up by murder.

Followers of Jesus ask of God the same thing when we make personal confessions of faith. We believe that Jesus Christ (the reason for Christmas) came and shed his blood to atone for our sin so that we might be declared "whiter than snow" because of what He did on the cross.

Christians (particularly baptists and other evangelicals) around the world make public declarations of this faith in Jesus through adult, full immersion water baptism. Though not a requirement for salvation, baptism publically symbolizes our personal faith in Jesus Christ. Symbolically, as we enter the water, we identify with Christ's death; we identify with His resurrection when we arise, and most importantly we identify with what Christ's shed blood means to us - the water symbolizes the cleansing of our sin through His blood.

Ron Larsen, a friend and member of the Bridge Church recently decided to do this. As is custom in our church, baptism is done at the beach next to the Vancouver Museum. But what you cannot tell from this picture is that Vancouver had recently had a bout of winter weather. Not only was there snow, but it was about -3C outside! Nevertheless, our pastor (Jerry Conner), Jim, and Ron braved the ice cold waters to declare that indeed Jesus does make us whiter than snow.

Congratulations Ron, and welcome to the family!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A very informative night with Joe McNally

Kudos to friends Renee and Nathan Derksen for hooking me up with a seminar that Joe McNally was doing in town. Considering I had been following his work through National Geographic, Strobist, and his book ("the moment it clicks") over the past couple of years, I was stoked to be able to hear him speak in person. It was an inspiring enough to see him talk about pictures he had done, but even more inspiring when he did a sort of bonus live demonstration (complete with a ballerina as model). It was the live demonstration that was really neat to see.

He demonstrated how easy it is to be able to take quality, lit, on location portraits with just a few speedlights, and a reflector. He also demonstrated that even the pros experience difficulties on the field sometimes. (One of his flashes kept malfunctioning during the session.) It is comforting to know that even people who have done this for 25 years still encounter the same problems!

I put what I learned to practice that Sunday by doing a quick, lit portrait of Abby. She had needed a portrait for her upcoming prayer card / short term missions letter, and I thought what better way to practice what I learned. Here are some of the results:

Photo Caption: This was taken in a boardroom with 70s style wood panelling.
I shot this at ISO 400, 1/200, f4.0 @ 73mm with flash 1/2 CTO at 1/8 power
camera right through umbrella, reflector underneath subject to
slight camera left.

Photo Caption: Against a white wall. ISO 400, 1/200, f4.0 @ 70mm.
Flash at 1/8 power camera right, reflector underneath subject to slight
camera left, plus background flash at 1/4 power aimed at the wall.

Photo Caption: Taken outside against North shore mountains.
ISO 100, 1/200, f/16 @ 75mm. Flash full power camera right throwing
hard 1/2 CTO'd light from further distance than previous two shots. (attempt
to sort of emulate a setting sun.) Reflector camera left, close to subject.

It took about 20-30 minutes for all three scenes including setup. All things considered, this is really a very easy way to do some quick portraits - definitely good enough for the purpose she wanted. To be honest, this sort of stuff (off camera lighting on manual) used to scare me a bit - but as I've been practicing on how to effectively use off camera lighting, I'm beginning to understand how much more control one has over the photograph when you can introduce light.... and as they say, practice makes perfect.