Tag Archives: Learning

Religion and barf bags…

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything truly thought provoking and then… I came across an article, written by a guy named Chris Kratzer, entitled:

“Why modern Christianity makes people vomit”.

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/

I knew I wanted to read the article, but I waited until this morning because I wanted to give myself time to honestly evaluate whether it offered anything of value or challenged me in any way.  I guess I found it engaging because I’ve written something of a response to it.  One of the things I found most notable about the article were the comments.  One person “Matthew” offered his very “real” and direct life experience at the hands of what this article calls out.  (Matthew’s comment is below)

http://chriskratzer.com/why-modern-christianity-makes-people-vomit-2/#comment-129199

I found both very thought provoking to say the least.  I’ve been where Chris describes a number of times and I’ve also been surrounded by a “grace first” church congregation (and still am).  I’ve also spent a good deal of time during the last 4 years of my life as a single man hoping to find a relationship with someone who shares my faith.  During my search, I encountered in the online “Christian” world  much of what Chris describes in his article.

I was raised by two very loving and kind parents (unlike Matthew) who were heavily indentured into “religion”.  That’s not to say they both didn’t love Jesus… but it is to say that they allowed ritualism to blend into their faith, which then they tried to “have” me follow in too.

Long ago, I decided for myself that religion itself can be truly manipulative in nature (this is not restricted to Christianity alone), but in the same statement, I also acknowledge that’s not what Jesus came to teach or model, nor is it what many people of faith view as the basis for their life in faith.  That said, this was not my take away from the article.

You see (and I agree with a lot of things Matthew mentions in his comments), the one thing the article does not speak to is self-reflection and personal accountability.  The article goes a long way in exposing the underbelly of religious Christianity.  How it is rife with legalism and judgementalism, but it does not directly talk about the root of both of those labels which is based in a lack of choice and personal accountability.  “Matthew” in his comments, appears to have taken a very sober inventory of his life and has made a decision based on what he’s learned in the face of what he’s been taught and seen demonstrated in his life (sadly… he had, what by his account seems like an awful example and teaching).  Matthew’s taken the time to reflect on himself and his experience instead of blaming others as his mother modeled.  Some would call her actions “blind faith”.  I call it deliberate ignorance because it requires no personal accountability or action, just blind, unconfirmed or acknowledged obedience.  A very good friend (who also happens to be a pastor) once said to me “if you don’t question your faith, your faith is questionable”.  Damn straight!  Why do you believe what you believe and what do you stand for?

Unfortunately, there is much of modern Christianity that appears to the world as Chris’s article describes… it’s easier to label someone as horrible or sinful (insert your descriptor of choice here) to make yourself feel better about your own crap!  It’s easier to point a finger than it is to look at yourself.  The sad part though is that this behaviour is not held exclusive to religious behaviour, though the hypocrisy is far more common and prevalent.

Chris (the author), seemingly in frustration, appears to label the people he alludes to rather than simply handing them a mirror.  What they choose to do with that mirror is up to them, just as it was Matthew’s choice to turn away from God (my words), or deny His existence altogether.   Matthew evaluated for himself and made a choice.

It’s no secret that religion has been used as a tool or weapon of manipulation throughout history and my words or the words in Chris’s article are not likely to change that.

Jesus died for us to bring us freedom and yet, we still cling to and deal with chains!   I know that Christ was one tough Hombre when he needed to be, but in all things He taught and lived, He simply presented and modeled truth.  The rest is up to us to weigh and decide.   God leaves the choice to us.

Sadly, there are many who hide behind or twist God’s message to us to make their own crap seem more justifiable by manipulating or quoting scripture out of context to suit their means or worse… to whip and torture people with guilt and shame.  In the end though, they’re rationalizations and nothing more.    The result however, is that children and people who just need someone to be human and walk with them are judged as sinful and are scorned for their vulnerability and honesty.  They wind up being chastised for being honest and reaching out for help.  I suppose you could say that they too are being handed a mirror, but that mirror comes with a context of disdain and judgment rather than being offered in humility and love.

I have no idea of what it was like for “Matthew” to live what he has, but I do know what it was like to live what I have and that’s what I can own and more importantly, reflect and share.  I can offer to sit with someone like Matthew and reflect what I see when I look in my own mirror in the face of my life experience.  Hopefully, I will be honest with myself about what I see and Matthew will see the sincerity and integrity in my account, through my humility and humanity.

Chris’s article mentions (please read the article to get the whole context):

“Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.”

While this seems an accurate account, it doesn’t mention the downside of identifying this without offering some personal experience or testimony.  It winds up achieving  the very thing you’re upset about.  To be honest… I agree with nearly everything Chris writes in his article, but the article only identifies the behaviour so many have come to suffer from or revile.  It doesn’t challenge the reader or the subject of his text (religious, judgemental people) to take a look at themselves before looking for something or someone else to blame so their living is easier to bear or justify.

As someone who leads in worship, I was a little startled by these words:

“Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens.”

Worship is a lot more than lights and music… it’s a willingness to sit with someone or welcome them in their pain or joy and share your shoulder and honest experience too.  It’s also about being vulnerable when singing “Lord, I need you, Oh, how I need you”, because you honestly find yourself doing that whether you’re crying in a pew, singing from the stage or all alone in your bedroom at night.  Gratefully, I “live” in a church where humanity, humility and grace come first.  Where everyone is aware that someone walking through the doors may have used what seems like their last bit of strength to be there and the last thing they need is to have their ass kicked by “religion”.   I also want to add… not all songs sung in church are about feel good praise and worship.   Many dig deep and say… life hurts, but there is a flip side…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Thanks J.J. … this is a personal favourite… and then there’s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEn74zP1glQ

Which has seen me wondering this on more than one occasion.

Modern Christianity itself doesn’t make people vomit, it’s some of the people practicing it that makes them ill!  When people find out that I’m a “Jesus follower”, they immediately say “oh, you’re religious”, to which I reply… “No, my faith is in Christ because He meets me where I live!  My life isn’t about rules, it’s about choice.”  The article misses something very important.  The “Christians” it mentions are using the Bible as a hammer, rather than a mirror.

I used to get “sick” myself and on some occasions, I even allowed myself to be hurt or angered by much of the rhetoric and judgmental garbage the article identifies.  Then I realized that the very people who are pointing their fingers and looking down their noses are also in pain.  They too need grace and forgiveness… they just don’t realize it because they’ve been taught to and find it easier, even convenient to judge, hate and fear rather than be humble, vulnerable and self-reflective  enough to ask for help and receive love.

I apologize for the long winded response, but if there’s a part 2 to the article, I think it’s what I mentioned in my response to “Joe” who asks about a “next steps” proposition.

The next steps are simple… take an honest inventory of your life and be prepared to be completely honest with yourself about what you see.  Be honest with yourself about the good and the bad and then, be willing to own it.  The rest may be hard because, if you don’t like what you honestly see, it probably requires action and accountability.  The steps are simple, I didn’t say the work would be.   It isn’t for me!

This article itself points a finger, but doesn’t propose a solution (though I think it’s implied).   The solution is to ask yourself with no one else around… Who are you really?  What do you honestly believe if there’s no one there to judge you?  Do you like who you are, your convictions and how you’re living?   Do you like the choices you make for yourself?

Now, with that in mind, act based on your answers about yourself and if that seems overwhelming… ask for help and be prepared to be honest and vulnerable.  Hopefully you’ll find someone just as flawed as you are to help and encourage you… just like I did.

A good friend of mine sent this to me yesterday… the timing seems a little uncanny, but maybe this will help you when it comes time to finding that honest someone…

Character and words

vox … animo quid dicis

Our voice in an incredibly powerful thing!  Our voice provides a way to share who we are and how we see the world.  It is valuable because with it, we share our ideas, our passions, our convictions and hopefully, our feelings.  I want to be clear about something though… our voice is not merely about making sound!

The power of our voice expressed through how we share our thoughts is an awesome thing.  I don’t mean awesome in the sense of “hey… wow… that’s really great!”   I mean it in terms of being influential and impacting.  When we share our thoughts, whether they be written or spoken, they will have impact!  How the recipient receives what you share through the expression of your voice will depend on many things.  How you choose to make your expressions, your tone of voice, the disposition of the recipient… and the list goes on.

Once we’ve used our voice to share our thought(s), we have no further control.  In fact, even while we conceive our thoughts, no matter how deliberate we are, we have no control over how they will be received.  That said, it is incredibly important to consider carefully what we share.  It is equally important to listen to what others share with us.  This can help to shape our voice in a healthy way.

We can tie ourselves in knots trying to come up with the “politically correct” statement, the aim of which is to be non-injurious to the vast majority.  In many cases, in the interest of political correctness, the message gets watered down and the fundamental truth in the thought is lost.  Unfortunately, that may leave us guessing at what a politically correct statement is actually trying to say.  It may leave us searching through carefully crafted rhetoric and ambiguity for what the intended message is instead of actually receiving the intended thought and potentially learning something (whether we agree with it or not)!  I could go on and on about this, but political correctness is not the point I want to make today.  Sharing our voice should be about an expression of truth and should also seek to cause provoked consideration and maybe even self-examination.  It should not lead to situations which cause the recipient to feel pain (unless the pain suffered is the result of a realization of truth which hopefully causes a new healthy self-awareness and growth).

I’m talking about using our voice when saying things like “she looks like a whale”, “he’s a wimp”, or “what an idiot”.  Opinion is important of course, but how you choose to share that opinion is a part of your voice.  Just because an opinion varies from yours doesn’t give you the right to demean or attempt to silence someone.  Even more, it absolutely doesn’t give you the right to viciously malign anyone.

There have been quite a few things I’ve noticed this last week which have both challenged and saddened me.  I’ve seen a significant number of people make expressions steeped in ignorance because they are unaware of a situation or topic and are only expressing their opinion based on their finite understanding of that given situation.  An example of this might be like saying “Ford sucks”, just because you’ve only known GM!  I’ve seen people get angry and venomous because someone was using their voice to try to inspire thought and discussion.  Yet, because of pre-disposition, the need for political correctness and to maintain the status quo, that voice was all but silenced and an important societal foundation was muted!

Many of us throw our opinions around like they are law!  Well…. Here’s a newsflash, they aren’t, but your voice will still have an impact!  Consider your words carefully because they can hurt or in an instant, change dramatically how someone perceives you.  I have to remember and apply this in my life because I’m highly opinionated and outspoken.  I think a great deal and like to share my thoughts, but not only because I feel I’ve something to say.  I share what I think because I am interested in perspective…. the perspective of others on what my thoughts provoke in them.  In part, it’s how I process information and learn.    Voicing my opinion and discussing my thoughts causes me to really think about what I think for two reasons.  What you to think when you hear me share what is in my mind and also, hearing myself voice the thoughts in my head and also the way in which I choose to share them.

When you must resort to demeaning someone when sharing your voice, I think you need to ask yourself why.  What about what you’re trying to say causes you to need to demean or manipulate someone with harsh or condemning words?  Are you fully informed on the subject you’re feeling challenged by or have you always driven a GM?  If a dissenting opinion shared by someone else frustrates you… have you asked yourself why you’re frustrated by what you’ve heard?  Do you understand what frustration is?  Frustration is the inability to control a situation to an outcome that YOU would have!  Sounds pretty self-serving doesn’t it… well, that’s because it is.  Sometimes though, frustration can be a good thing… especially when it causes you to rail against tyranny or oppression.

We also have to guard against feeling injured by someone’s voice because of our own insecurities.  Sometimes, no matter how politely someone shares a thought, it will not be taken as intended.  And sometimes… it’s not about us at all!  People don’t think about us nearly as much as we think they do and so, we might mistake a thought as being directed toward us specifically when it wasn’t about us at all.

The internet has changed our society and sadly, I think in a societal context, it’s been changed for the worse.  We can easily hide anonymously behind a keyboard and monitor if we choose, and spew some of the most horrible thoughts and language without any idea of the impact that our voice causes.  More and more, I see this stemming into daily life.  What’s wrong with us?  It’s not ok to be rude just because you don’t agree with something or like something.  I also believe things have gotten to a point where I think it’s causing many people to feel afraid to take a stand on anything for the sake of political correctness (I’m going to limit this to much of western culture).    We need to get back to some core values and be unafraid to live them, but we also must learn to voice those ideas with consideration and respect.   We can learn from fear and ignorance but we must speak and act with wisdom and truth.

I guess it all boils down to… if you can’t say something kindly and respectfully… keep it to yourself!

Have a great day folks….

T

Expand on your faith???

Recently, someone called me out on a statement I’ve been known to make from time to time.  I’ve been quoted as saying that I’m “Christian, but not religious”.  That person really called me to task and asked me to expand on what that means to me exactly.  I think I’ve always had a comfortable understanding what that means to me, but I’ve never had to paint that picture or define what I truly mean when I make that statement.  Going through a period in my life where Faith is truly all I have to lean on, I was challenged to discern my feelings, situation, experience, challenges, triumphs and relationships to arrive at a response that is not just “off the cuff”.

Having recently moved to a new community and beginning the process of making new connections can make for a lot fun and excitement, but there are significant periods of time where, it’s just me (of course, God is there too).  It’s during those times where my faith and my relationship with God really gets put to the test.

When writing my response, I didn’t have to hesitate, I just had to try to define what my walk looks like.

Here’s the result….

“Expand on my faith… hmmm… that I can do. It’s odd you should ask me this… today especially. I was recently in the office of the pastor of my Church. We’re in the process of getting to know each other and becoming friends. I was telling him about my faith and what it’s based on.  Beyond what we were talking about (though some of this was a part of the discussion), It’s not based on my showing up in Church on Sunday, singing on a worship team or serving people in some way in the hope that I’m doing something good or of value.

Faith is about trust, respect, and integrity. It’s knowing that while Christ was here, he was not here to tell people how to live their lives, but rather, to show us.  He did not want to force us, but to give us an alternative, an example. Mostly though, I believe Christ was here to love us. This is not some fantasy I believe. Far from it. I truly believe Christ was here, I believe he lives on and I truly believe that one day (which no one will know until it happens) He will come again.

Faith is not something you talk about, or some expressions you make, it’s something you live. Just because I talk about Jesus with confidence doesn’t make me faithful. Trusting in Him, in what He’s teaching me and acting on that understanding reveals my faith.  Trusting that He’s here with me and walking with me, even when it would be easier to depend on what I know or what I can see is an example of my faith.  For me, faith is trusting what Christ is trying to show me in order to choose to truly live the life He’s created for me.

If you’ve chosen to read this far, I’ll share with you that I don’t use God or Jesus 10 times in each sentence. I don’t say “praise God” or “Hallelujah” every other sentence.  Words don’t make me faithful or reveal my faith.  I’m just a regular person like everyone else. My life is not perfect and I suffer the same trials as everyone else. Choosing to follow my life in faith does not guarantee that it will be perfect or that I am perfect. I’m just as flawed as anyone living on Earth. To be honest, there are many “people of faith” who do more to steer folks away from a possible relationship with God because of their “religious” views, expressions and actions than there are who lead others to him because of how they choose to demonstrate their “belief”.  It’s much harder to love someone you don’t agree with, whose viewpoint you don’t share and whose lifestyle choices clash with your own than it is to point a finger at them and tell them you don’t agree with them or that they’re wrong.  Don’t misunderstand, sometimes we need to share the kind truth with each other, but we must be careful to ensure it’s more about truth than our comfortable perspective.

I don’t live my life following Christ because there’s a set of rules I must adhere to. I do not live in fear, but rather, I live my life with a healthy love and respect for God. I want to understand why God shares a path for us in the way that He does. He doesn’t ask us to follow Him because he’s a control freak. He’s God. He doesn’t need to. Instead, I truly believe that he has our best interests at heart and wants us to learn why he provided the wisdom and path that he has. This is not blind obedience we’re called to. It’s really no different than the love a parent would show and guide a child with. God’s word to us is for our benefit and it is shared out of love and a desire to see us thrive.

I could go on but I’m pretty sure you get the picture. So… if you would like to have an honest and open discussion about it sometime, I’d be more than happy to share time with you. If not, I completely understand, but this is who I am. God put within me a heart of love, though it’s taken me years to finally come to the point where I may be humble enough to share it with someone. Time will tell that tale.

Cheers,
Tim”

We never did share that conversation, though I did receive a reply which let me know what I shared was understood and appreciated.

We don’t need to agree to live and love together, but we do need to be respectful and that…. sometimes, takes faith.

Have a great weekend and remember while you’re following your nose, there is much you can lean on because you’re loved and valued.  In that, you can have faith.

Life lies beyond our fear

It’s been a long while since we’ve chatted, or more accurately put, I’ve poured out my heart and mind.  Thank you once again for your willingness to read if you choose to do so.

2014 was a whirlwind and a roller coaster to say the very least.  There were many harrowing moments in the past year which caused me to have a good look, take action and allow significant change into my life.  Of course, most of my troubles were (and are) first world problems and really, if I’m honest, they were about risking my comfort.  While that’s not an entirely fair statement, the choices I made were important to my growth as a person, a man and a Christian and they were voluntary.  I had a choice in the matter.  It was mine to choose in terms of what direction my life would take.  I’m so very blessed and fortunate to have the gifts and abilities that I’ve been so very abundantly provided with.  I’m grateful to God every day for the many talents and abilities He’s given me.  I truly hope I’ve honoured Him in the way I choose to use them and in how they make me feel.  I honestly believe that by using our talents, by enjoying and reveling in them, we honour and please God.  I’m sure He delights in seeing us use our gifts and abilities in ways that are both joyful and steeped in servant-hood.

It’s been my experience that when we enter a relationship with God, we have to do one very important thing.  We have to give our “yes” to Him.  What does that mean exactly?  I can’t answer that for you, but I can describe what it’s been like for me.  When I first accepted God into my life some 30 years ago (this June), I was aware that change would come as a result of my new found relationship, but I didn’t take the time to really consider what that meant.  I didn’t take the time to truly learn what being a follower of Jesus was or that I even needed to.  I was just a fan!  I stood on the sidelines of my faith and did little to engage or encounter God.  Sure, I was definitely in love with God and his abundant creation, but I was little more than a kumbaya Christian.  Let’s all feel nice and treat each other nicely.  While that’s a noble and worthy pursuit that we’d all do well to engage in, there’s an awful lot more to living out this life in a relationship with God (thanks to a very good friend for teaching me this about myself and my journey).

A long story made short, I floundered for some twenty years and then, one day, I met someone whom I confidently believe God used to speak to me and say “OK sonny… enough is enough!”  I’m grateful that in his gracious way, He used a kind hand to speak to me rather than grabbing me by the scruff of the neck to get my attention (believe me, he’s let me hit the brick wall a few times too).  In this case, my heart was involved because of another of his children but because of that encounter, He and I had the opportunity to get to know one another.  I hear myself say that and realize that’s not what I should truly say.  God was there and waiting for me the whole time.  It was up to me to say hello or at least, to return His hello.  I did nothing of the sort because I had my ideas and had locked God neatly away within them.  I put God into a storage box and pulled him out whenever it was convenient.  How nice for me!  That all changed for me one day nearly 11 years ago now and the change progression has been slowly and steadily increasing for the better.  I’ve learned that while I still have moments of being a fan on the sidelines of faith, more and more, I’m an active follower of Jesus!  If you know me now or are someone who calls me friend, you know that my faith is core to who I am today.  It’s been a shaky, scary, bumpy and often frustrating and terrifying process, but I’m still here and I’m still hanging on!  I won’t let go and there’s a reason.

There are those who would say… “Hey Tim… that’s just what you believe.  I get ya, but I call it something else entirely.”  To that I would reply… I’m glad you see it that way and I’m glad you are willing to give me the space and grace to walk out this path that I’m on.  I’m just as willing to respect you in your journey too.  Hopefully along the way, we can check in with each other to see how each of us are doing and describe what our experience has looked like during the course of our lives.  You see, I think that’s how God (in part) works.  He lives within us and as we share and struggle together, we get to know Him through one another.  That’s not a romantic notion I hold.  I truly believe that’s part of our purpose while we’re here.  We encounter God (in part) though our interactions.

Anyway, I digress… what I’m here to tell you today is that I’ve learned something valuable in the last few years… this last year especially.  Life lies beyond our fears!  If  you know me, you know that’s quite a statement for me to make.  I like my life to be neat and tidy (not just my kitchen counters).  Change is not something I do well.   Sure, there are some forms of change that embrace well, but for the most part, when it comes to my life, I like things to be exactly where and how I place them.  Stepping outside my comfort zone is not something I do or do as often as I should.  That all changed for me last year.  I decided to shut down my personal consulting practice and join a large software company.  It was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.  It shook me to my core, but something told me that I needed to do it.  At the time, I thought it was necessary in terms of dealing with my physical and emotional health, but I’ve come to learn that there was more to it than that.  I truly believe that there was a part of my life that needed to change because God has been preparing me for something.  What that fully is has yet to be revealed exactly, but I do know that I’m being prompted to change and trust during this season of change because my growth requires it.  I can’t begin to describe how uncomfortable has made me feel because in the midst of the process, there is so much self-doubt.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I making the right choice?  Can I trust what I’m doing?  The common theme there is ME.  I’ve not been acting with any faith that what I’m being drawn to do can be trusted.  I know (and fully believe) that it is up to me to choose what I do from day to day.

Does God hand pick each of my steps?  Well, I believe He creates a path for me to follow and that I’m free to follow it.   I believe God creates a healthy and orderly path for me to follow, but that path will also be intertwined with what life brings.  That’s the tough and challenging part of faith.  God is not a puppet master!  He gives each of us the gift of choice or free will… but trusting in the path I perceive He’s created for me allows me to put my faith into action and also aligns me with His  will.  I absolutely believe to my core that God wants nothing but good for me and I also believe he’s not going to put me in harm’s way.  It is up to me to learn, to listen and trust to God when I’m choosing a new path.  Sometimes, our parents give us a nudge out the door or in a direction that they feel is in our best interests and I don’t think God is any different.  I honestly believe I became stagnant in my life.  I was waiting for stuff to happen and became entrenched in the sidelines while waiting.   During that time however, God has been teaching me and equipping me for the change I’m now embarking upon.  He was teaching me that He’ll be there throughout and if I just trust in Him… I’ll be OK.  That’s not to say that life won’t get hard or messy, even dangerous, but I can count on his constancy and sovereignty to see me through because I can trust in His love for me and His desire for me to thrive.

Life begins beyond our fears… what a great statement!  It certainly does, but what’s even more encouraging and exciting though is that God will be there waiting to help us each step of the way.  There’s no place I can go where He won’t be with me and I find that very comforting.  While I may have moments where I’m scared and unsure, I also know that my potential and growth will be limited by my fear if I allow it.  I don’t for a moment think that living in fear is what God has in store for any of us.  Giving my YES to God each day and saying… “I don’t know what’s coming, but I know I can trust you for what I need in the days that are to come”.   Stepping forward in faith and living through it is what I’m going to do!  I don’t know what life will bring, but I do know that if I trust in what I’ve been taught and am being taught, I’ll be just fine… no matter the circumstance.

Sometimes, being a follower and not just a fan means taking action in your own life as much as it does taking action in the lives of others.  Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves in order to be a bigger part of the Kingdom!  Fan or follower?  Sometimes, I’m still a fan, but more and more, I’m finding myself to be a follower  and I’m so grateful for what that brings in my life.  Laying our lives down may seem a tough thing to do, but what’s exceptional about it is that God will give us all kinds of grace in the process.  We just need to be willing to let Him in and to learn to trust Him.

For what it’s worth, it’s just like when I let go of the airplane when I tried skydiving, I not only felt exhilaration when I let go, I also felt the peace that followed during the journey to the ground and my friends waiting there.  Skydiving started out to be a terrifying roller coaster experience filled with terror, uncertainty and excitement.  Learning what I needed to be able to skydive was filled with scary moments which were followed by confidence and then fear again.  When I finally got into the airplane to make the actual jump… the reality of my situation became acute and I once again found myself terrified!  The coolest part of the experience though, was when I said to the jump-master “I don’t think I can do this”.  He calmly said “Just lean forward and let me check your pack and chute and if you still feel the same, you don’t have to go.”  From that moment forward, what I’d learned that day kicked in and I just followed what I’d been taught.  It was easy because I was able to step out on what I’d been shown with some confidence and faith.  I still didn’t know what the outcome would be, but I’d been well prepared for the experience.  Life is like that too.  All we need to do is trust in what we have and what we’ve been given… and the rest… that’s the journey.

To those of you who’ve been a part of my journey, those brave souls who’ve been willing to listen to me vent my fear or trepidation, thank you for your kindness and support!  I cherish each and every one of you!  To my Dad… thanks for being such a good example of patience, grace and honesty and for always being there.  To Scott… Seriously dude… I think we’re finally getting even  J To John & Christine… thanks for always being willing to be there and for teaching me the true meaning of friendship.  To Larry & Barb, Brian & Dar, Mike & Liz, Tim & Melissa, Anthony & Jana, Tim & Jo, Don & Chris, Arden & Pat, Barry & Lynda and the countless others who’ve been a part of my growth, words escape me, but thank you and I love you!

Fan or Follower, you must decide that for yourself, but try to remember to be kind to yourself in the process.  It’s not easy to follow, but I can promise you this… if you do follow, God will not ever leave you stranded.  He’ll always be there for you because I can tell you with certainty… He’s always been there for me!

Just shut up and shoot….

I suppose, since I state that I’m into photography and list it as a topic on my blog, maybe I should actually write about it a little.

I came to the realization last spring that… I must now consider myself an artist.  I attended an event called “the Levite summit” at which all manner of artistic expression was presented and explored.

Just because you don’t paint doesn’t mean that you’re not an artist.  Artistic expression can take on many forms.  It may be that you express yourself by doing back flips on a mountain bike or by jumping from rooftop to rooftop.  You may be the creator of sand castles, or something of an impassioned and inexperienced writer like me; or, also like me… you may love to take pictures.

Like many of us today, I participate in and read internet based special interest forums on subjects of interest to me.  One of those happens to be about photography and photographic equipment.  These forums can be a blessing and a curse because they’re usually filled with tons of personal opinion, preference and brand loyal people who are keen to scoff at equipment not necessarily of their own choosing (read fanboys).

While I think it’s great that we bear loyalty to products because we believe in their quality or feature set, it’s still just stuff!  Artistry is not contained within a piece of hardware.  Unless configured, staged and then pre-programmed, a camera will not take a picture on its own (and don’t geek with me because AI is still artificial).

I have acquired quite a bit of equipment for my hobby.  I have it because I enjoy it!  I love the different effects that I can achieve just by changing a lens or using a different camera body, but in the end, it comes down to what I want to shoot.  I don’t take a picture if I don’t want to.  I personally don’t do this for money.  I just love the way it makes me feel.

I was thinking about my photography this morning and how little I’ve actually done in the last 9 months or so.  I’ve been out a few times, but nothing that significantly reflects my passion for the hobby.  I guess it’s just a part of a season and that’s OK by me.  If I’m not out there because I’m drawn to shoot a subject or landscape, then it’s not what I should be doing.  Integrity comes from simple truth and the simple truth is that it’s just not been in me recently.

All that stuff said, I did have a significant encounter this summer while out with my camera.  To tell that story, I have to tell another first.  Earlier in the year, I purchased a new “mirrorless” camera because I wanted something I could travel with easily.  I vowed to myself that I wasn’t going to buy every lens on the planet that works with the new system.  I was going to be content with the single and very capable “kit” lens I purchased with the camera (it was not part of a bundle).

This particular lens is great for all types of shooting, but it does have some limitations because it’s a zoom.  Without getting all technical, I can’t get many of the effects I like in the type of photography I enjoy.  I love shooting candid portraiture and landscapes.  That type of “picture takin’” really blows my hair back.  I also like to shoot extreme Depth of Field (blurry background and foreground with the subject perfectly in focus).

So… back to my original point… while reading through one of these “photography forums”, I noticed a thread on how a fellow photographer “overcame the agony of the X-T1…“ (http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3734655).

The article was basically about how a guy learned that his camera was in the end, a fine piece of kit and that he should simply learn to be content with it instead of focusing on its limitations or shortfalls (sorry about the pun).  The best part of the article was how he came to his conclusion… his wife used common sense on him.  The part of interest to me, was how it made me reflect on my own camera and photography.  Yes… I still want another lens or two, but something wonderful happened while I was reading the article.  I was reminded of an occasion a few weeks ago while at the annual “kick off” event hosted at my Church.

A friend of mine asked “Hey Tim, is that the new camera you’ve been talking about on Facebook?  You know, the little one with the cool pictures”.  I said “why… yes” and grinned my usual, silly and toothy grin.  Her question and observation wasn’t the cool part though… the cool part was what she said (or asked) next.  “We don’t have any recent pictures of us as a couple, so would you mind taking our picture with it?”  I had my big fancy DSLR rig with me, but she wanted to see a picture from my new, little Fuji.  I took one picture and showed her… Her reaction (and that of her Husband) made it all worthwhile!  “Wow… that’s so cool!  Can you send it to me and do you mind if I use it as my profile picture”.  You could have handed me a cheque right there and It wouldn’t have mattered!  She loved the shot and that’s what’s important!  The point being… I used what I had in my hand!  It wasn’t the best of my gear or the best for that kind of shot, but it allowed me to get the shot and it brought a smile to my friends face in the process.

The essence of art is about one thing and one thing only, how the art makes you feel.  If it touches you and makes you “feel”, it’s done its job! I went on to take more pictures of my friends with my other gear, but honestly, the first picture I took of them with my little Fuji wound up being my personal favourite.  It was my favourite because it captured them as they wanted to be… not staged, not posed, but captured in a simple moment that they wanted to have preserved.  It was a fun picture taken in a fun moment by a friend, for a friend.

I’m grateful that I came to this realization this morning and I’m also grateful that my friends helped to teach me a valuable lesson.  Do what you love!  And… when you do what you do, don’t sweat the small stuff.  (The grammar police are gonna get me for that last one)

There’s beauty in any occasion and it’s usually right there in front of you!  How you choose to capture the moment is yours to decide, but please…… do choose to act because the world will be a better and brighter place for it!

Thanks Katie & Joel for helping to teach me this lesson!

KAC Kickoff 2014 (6 of 6)