The Courage to be Christian

The Woman taken in Adultery, c.1621 (oil on canvas)

Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino, 1621

Are you courageous?  Do you consider yourself to be brave?  Would someone who knows you say about you: “I would go into battle with this person”…?

Have you seen the classic war movie with the scene where an officer gives a fiery speech and inspires his soldiers just before they have to go off into some great battle?  Perhaps some of you have not seen the movie, but rather have actually lived it.  If so, thank you.

Or have you seen any of the Patriot’s Super Bowl Championship films which recount their ascent to the top?  There are always scenes of Coach Belichick inspiring the players, saying things like: “Do your job!”  Anyone who has watched Super Bowl 51 and that crazy, historic comeback win knows that those players would, and did, go into battle together.

I read today’s Gospel (Matthew 10: 26-33) as a fiery inspirational speech, one where Jesus calls upon his disciples to get ready to go into battle together.  To do their jobs.  And to know that despite whatever was to come in the future, which he knew was going to be very, very difficult for them… they were to have courage.

I’m sure you get the fact that if Jesus was delivering a message to his disciples back then, that he was also delivering it to us today as well.  So that’s why I ask… are you courageous?  Do you have the courage… to be a Christian?  Remember that we are called upon to pick up a cross and to follow.  This was not supposed to be a cake walk.  So, are you ready to go into battle?

Going into battle.

This is what that means to me…

Consider the crowd standing in a circle and pointing at sin in the form of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  Then consider that same crowd after Jesus ministered to them, touched their lives.  Of course, he instructed that whomever among them was without sin themselves could throw the first stone.  You know the rest of the story.  There was the crowd before and the crowd after.  A crowd transformed by Christ.

Are we willing to be similarly transformed by Jesus?

Into those who forgive.  Those who ask for forgiveness and admit that we are sinners ourselves.

Are we willing to embrace those who disgust us?

Are we willing to step outside of our comfort zones and to admit that we do love Jesus and that we would like very much for him to become the center of our lives?

Are we willing to prioritize our faith and to live lives that showcase this fact, even among those who think we’re strange… or worse… for doing so?

Are we willing to show restraint and not give in to our every desire?

Are we willing to see the good in others, even when we are the ones standing in a circle and pointing our fingers at them?

This is what it means to be touched by Jesus, to be transformed by him.  This is what it means to say… yes, I will go into battle for him.  And I will not be afraid.

Somewhere over the rainbow…

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It’s a well worn story arc.  Early on, the main character pines for deeper meaning, adventure, confirmation that there simply has to be more to life than just this.  It’s somewhere over the rainbow where all this lies and more.  Perhaps the purest depiction of this is the in character and story most of us have deeply etched into our memories: Dorothy Gayle of The Wizard of Oz.  There’s the beautiful song, and title of this post, that serves as the soundtrack for this sentiment, for Dorthy and for any of us who have ever felt the metaphorical equivalent of being trapped on a Kansas farm, pinned down to a black and white backdrop that never changes, and helpless to do anything at all about it.

Pardon the melodrama, but the metaphor holds: this has been my photographic tale.  And I’m far from alone.

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Joy

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I’m very much in a get-back-to-basics state of mind these days.  That is part of a simplification quest, a desire to root out distraction, excess, and glut.  Pope Benedict 16 once said: “Silence is God’s first language.”  I’m bringing in some silence.

It has been in this self-reflective mode that I have realized that as I’m now well along on my 365 Day Project (day 237 in fact), the trials of the past year have resulted in some somber images… and some even more somber accompanying captions.  A quick stroll through my Instagram feed will make the point.

So…

I’m looking to bring some joy back into the picture.  Or should I say… pictures.

Cityscapes Subtle

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Given the option, I’d don hiking boots and head for nature in a New York minute.  But travel of late has taken me into urban settings and that has been more of a challenge for me.  So, rather than seeking the obvious and more likely well trodden photographic path, I’ve tried to look for images that speak to metropolis, but which do so in a more subtle and… well, less obvious manner.

That was my challenge…

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Wounded… but Now Lifted

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When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20)

One thing is certain.  Everyone Jesus encountered, everyone since, everyone here, you and I… have all suffered, are suffering, will suffer.  We don’t seek this, we don’t choose this, but we carry scars all of us.  Some can be seen, felt easily.  Others less so.  Many are completely invisible.  But these are the wounds we carry.

I have always believed that when Jesus appeared to his followers after the Easter, he must have looked entirely different, most assuredly better I would assume.  Most of them had seen him last at his trial, at the scourging, hanging upon a cross, or draped in burial clothes.  He was brutally beaten and he must have looked that part.

In the small room where he now stood, he must have… looked better than that.  But the risen Jesus still had scars, still carried those wounds.  And furthermore, this was how they knew it was him.  By those wounds.

In our lives, we will be wounded.  If there is nothing left in the story to tell, then we will carry those wounds forward for as long as we possibly can.  They can shape us, identify us, define us.

For those of us who are willing to stand with others in that small enclosure, who recognize him as the one who was also wounded, wounded even for us, but who now stands before us… showing us his scars… and who is alive… and if we believe that the story continues…

… then we can proceed on forward.  Now lifted.

Second City Stroll-About (with the Pen-F)

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The Cloud Bean.  Yes, it’s a self portrait.

Friends and followers of this blog know the drill.  I travel for business and as I’m making plans, I have two knee-jerk reactions: immediately search for (1) nearby photo spots and (2) holes in my schedule so I can take advantage of such spots.  Last week, Chicago called and so an Olympus Pen-F and two teensy lenses (Olympus 17/1.8 and Olympus 9-18 wide zoom) answered.  I had a fleeting hour one night and then a half day subsequently to fit it all in.

First, how did the Olympus kit fare?  For a Fujifilm shooter, I would say quite admirably, with one quantum exception — see below.

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The Reason for Our Hope

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Are you a hopeful person?  Are you hope-filled?  If I called a meeting of the people who know you best and asked them to describe you, would I hear the word hope in their answer?

I’ve had reason to wonder this about myself over the past few months.

I recently heard the Good News/Bad News Fable and thought I would share it with you.  Perhaps you’ve heard it before.

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