Thursday, August 30, 2012
A good friend on chemotherapy suffered a heart attack early this year which was controlled with the application of a stint in his heart. He knew I liked to photograph the worldly beauty found in things like colorful blooms, sunrises and sunsets. After a few days in the hospital, he was released late in the day. He sent me a message that he and his wife had encountered a beautiful sunset building in the western Kansas sky as they drove home. As he related the experience, a large opening formed in the clouds to release a burst of brilliant light rays “shouting to all that GOD IS IN THE HOUSE”! The scene played out quickly just as they drove into their hometown and heard the sound of church bells ringing. His closing salutation read, “WOW!! Life is GOOD”!
My friend had experienced one of those anagogical moments in life. I hadn’t ever encountered this term until that very morning as I ironically finished a book about Leonardo Da Vinci’s image of Vitruvian Man. It seems that the term anagoge can be defined as the uplifting spiritual sense that is experienced when we encounter glimpses of heaven in worldly things such as aha text or breath taking images. I’m certain that at some point in your life such an image has crossed your path as well. The astronauts of Sky Lab II used it for their mission logo.
The Roman architect Vitruvius first proposed that the human body could be fit within a circle, representing the divine, and a square, representing the worldly. That gave rise to the theory of microcosm, man representing the cosmos in miniature—created in God’s own image. Leonardo was able to actually draw this concept, possibly using himself as a model, and keeping man at the center of each symbol, by lowering the square and positioning Vitruvian Man with arms and legs spread in the circle while overlaying Virtuvian Man standing with legs together and arms outstretched in the square. The iconic image was the culmination of numerous hours of studying human anatomy to gain an anagogical perspective on ourselves and our universe. Leonardo was the consummate Renaissance man whose genius and inquisitive mind literally moved the bar for all mankind.
I had already experienced one of my own anagogical moments while driving at sunset across the Kansas Flint Hills with my daughter and sister. Fortunately, I had a camera at the ready and captured one of those “lucky present moments”. The sun had just been obscured by a passing cumulous cloud revealing glorious crepuscular light rays casting God’s grace upon the earth. I sent the image to my friend after receiving his message. I’m thankful that my friend had this reassuring experience of God’s presence in such a sunset, as he died of cancer just four months later. And the Roman cross that held Christ’s body in much the same image as Vitruvian Man assures all of us that He defeated death and secured eternal life for those like my friend who believe.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
We Americans love our vehicles and the open road. President Eisenhower enacted the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 to construct 41,000 miles of beautiful ribbons of concrete and asphalt that just beg you to jump on them and drive simply for the enjoyment of cruising out in the open spaces of this great country. The initiative was actually started in 1938 as a national Great Depression jobs initiative and we’re now due for another one to reconstruct the system. If I’d been born one hundred years earlier, I’m certain I would be out riding my favorite and fastest horse over the unpaved hills and valleys on an inviting, sunny morning every chance I got. But in this generation, an open air sports car with a wind deflector works very well. And the prime value of a vehicle for me is measured in units of “satisfaction per gallon”. I use a vehicle to move my body from point A to B like most folks, but I really enjoy the freedom of driving out on the open road as the mile markers mark time and space.
The Second World War delayed the project, but it also provided the exposure of our troops and General Eisenhower to the German autobahn highway network and its enhanced mobility. One myth is that there was a provision for one straight mile in every five to accommodate airplane landing strips, but the mobility of our troops in case of a land invasion along with effective evacuation routes and highway safety were also incentives. However, one significant unintended consequence was the flight to the expanding suburbs from urban centers and the resulting construction of unplanned loops and beltways. The pattern of community development and national priorities was subsequently based on the automobile and its dependency on oil.
I’ve found it amusing lately in observing how many of my fellow motorists seemingly find it difficult to distinguish between driving fast and speeding. There seems to be a Pavlovian response for many folks when they’re approaching a sports car out on the interstate highways. Even though the legal speed limit may be 70 miles per hour and I’m cruising along at about that speed, they apparently have an instant infusion of testosterone and instinctively must speed up to pass. My car could keep up with them, but I don’t need a ticket and higher insurance rates-- or a confrontation with a stranger that’s having a postal kind of day. So I generally just let Scotty speed by at full warp speed and quietly wish him a good day. And occasionally on a day like today, I have the satisfaction of waving at ol’ Scotty as he is being pulled over a few miles ahead by Captain Kirk in a flashing interceptor land rover!
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Darkness is said to be the polar opposite of brightness or the absence of visible light. The appearance of black in the color space also represents darkness. We perceive color as combinations of light and darkness, unless one of them dominates our space. Darkness can evoke rather negative emotions and perceptions such as evil, ominous shadows and depression. Satan has been called the prince of darkness. Dante described hell as solid darkness stained. It is interesting to note that when we mix either the three primary colors or the three secondary colors, they will absorb all visible light and create black. Shadows add perspective around light, such as when we seemingly observe shafts of light emanating from behind clouds that drift in front of the sun.
Light colors reflect light and appear bright, compared to darker colors that absorb photons and do not reflect much visible light. Since visible light cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be converted into another type of energy to be reemitted such as heat. The reemitted frequency may be still be relatively bright, but not one that the human eye can perceive. However, when the iris in the human eye dilates it permits more light to enter to improve our night vision. Since these cells regenerate, prolonged exposure to less light generates more rods and cones that can adapt.
Darkness can play tricks on the mind as well as the camera lens. I took the image above at night while I was attempting to capture the Super Moon of 2012. I was using a telephoto lens and the optics got a bit confused as I zoomed in on the larger image of the moon rising over the trees in my backyard. The resulting photo turned out to be more than a little skewed, but I liked the imagery, so I kept it and published it here. Could it be a vision of the darkness that was over the earth when our creator first spoke light into the world and He separated the light from the darkness? And there was then evening and morning on that first day.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Outside Westminster Abbey, London, England
The chapel of Sainte-Chapelle was built to house Jesus’ crown of thorns. Once you climb the stairs up to the second level you are instantly bathed in colorful light from the surrounding stained glass windows towering overhead. For the human senses, being bathed in warm colorful light can enhance a very religious experience. When a service begins with youth walking into the sanctuary carrying glowing candle lighters, the symbolism of bringing the light of Christ into our midst can prepare us for spending quality time with our creator. Churches and cathedrals the world over have invested huge sums of money in installing these wonderful works of light art that prepare our hearts and minds as we enter into our places of worship.
When the spiritual service is concluded, the youth reenter the sanctuary and relight their candle lighters from the alter candles as they snuff them out. Then the light is taken back out into the world. The symbolism is important, but I can’t help but wonder if it is lost on many folks. If you’ve ever passed by a large cathedral or place of worship with stained glass windows, have you noticed how dark and uninviting they can seem to be from the outside? On the other hand, clear glass windows with interior lighting brightly shine outward on a dark overcast day. Colored glass windows can add to the worship experience, but I think we need to be careful not to capture the beautiful light for ourselves and be certain to let the light reflect outwards into the world with us as we worship and as we depart.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Potters Kiln, Seagrove, NC
Pouring Blessings, Jamestown, NC
Overflowing Blessings, Greensboro, NC
One of my favorite movie scenes is from the George Burns movie Oh God! A young man is suddenly confronted with God sitting beside him in his car. God has assumed the image of an elderly man so that he won’t appear too overwhelming. He perceives that the young man is holding back a long held question that he is bursting to get out, so he encourages him to ask it. The young man then blurts out that since God is so all powerful and loving, why doesn’t he do something about all the pain and needs of the world? And God simply replies, “I have........I created you”. And as we learn from the book of Genesis, God formed man from the clay of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils.
In Malachi 3:10 God challenges us to “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house and thus put me to the full test; see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour down for you an overflowing blessing”. That blessing of God’s grace poured out for us is the salvation we have received through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus. We have been given the responsibility of being the stewards of everything in this world which belongs to God. As we receive His blessings to help us journey through this life, we’re compelled to follow His Son’s example and pour out a portion of the blessings we’ve received to sustain God’s church and other fellow travelers as well.
We read in Isaiah 64:8 that God is our father, we are the clay; He is our potter, and we are the work of His hand. In the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul states that “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Paul likens us human beings as breakable clay vessels that contain the priceless contents of God’s power dwelling in us. There are many accounts of God showing his presence in the Old Testament, but He mostly uses other human beings to dispense his grace to others. This power of Christian giving is returned tenfold, not only in this earthly life but also in the promise of life eternal through the grace of God’s overflowing blessing.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
I've been encouraged to publish some of my blogs and images for the general public in the past, but I've never found an economical medium and do not want to personally profit from my creations. But I did recently find that I can publish e-books for $2.99 and I will donate any proceeds to outreach missions. So, here's a link to preview my new book and the first 24 pages:
INTRODUCTION TO TRAVELOGUE OF A LIFE
I’ve spent a reasonable amount of adventure time on “planes, trains and automobiles” traveling to various parts of the planet. And I’ve walked urban streets and rural trails that have “grounded” me with a sense of knowing the cities and lands. I’ve found that this is the only way to genuinely get a feeling for both the place and the people that inhabit it. You need to mingle with the local populace, enter the indigenous shops and look around, dine at the locally owned restaurants and visit the noteworthy landmarks that come to define an area. Once you expend the time to breathe the air, share a meal, experience a work of art or natural wonder and walk the streets together you begin to gain an intuitive understanding of these people and this corner of the world we all share as one human family. That place can be as exotic as around some of the world’s major cities such as the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, the Tower of London, Ground Zero in New York City, Chicago’s Millennium Park, the central Kansas Tall Grass Prairie, cascading waterfalls in the North Carolina Nantahala Forest, Blue Ridge Mountain trails, Atlantic coast beaches and my very own backyard. These niches in God’s good creation have been the primary stomping grounds of my recent photographic life and yielded some of my favorite images.
I didn’t always have a good digital camera with me on these excursions and many of my trips as an actively employed road warrior were for business. But once you start a life of photography as a pastime, I know that I began to always keep a keen eye out for the unusual “lucky moments” that are all around us. A few of the images in this book may be standard fare for photographing notable landmarks, but I sought to both shoot and print images that won’t be found on a quick internet search. For instance, when I photograph art in a museum without a flash, I try to see just a section that will create a completely different view of the piece. And it was a fun exercise to juxtapose both the urban and rural worlds we journey through all of our lives.
I've never stayed at the Rainbow Motel below, but many similar ones!
Friday, August 10, 2012
Rainbow Motel, Greensboro, NC
One of the common threads woven into the accounts of near death experiences which I’ve studied is the sighting of images colored like rainbows and other colors that are beyond human imagination or experience. In the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, the apostle John writes about a vision while in the spirit. He describes colors like jasper, carnelian, gold; a sea of crystal glass and a rainbow resembling an emerald. When you think about it, if a mere human has a spiritual vision that is beyond our present worldly experience and the capability of our eyesight, when writing about it we could only compare that to something we have seen in the world around us. Human eyesight and the ability to view our environment in colors are extraordinary. The cones in our eyes facilitate the ability to see in color, although some folks are color blind. There are 4.5 million of these photoreceptor cells in the retina. Some folks dream in color and there are some who only dream in black and white. Cats and dogs do not have as many cones in their eyes, so they do not see primary colors like red and green, but scientists have determined that they can perceive blue and yellow. As magnificent as our human bodies with their integrated systems can be, there are limits on what we are able to perceive through our six senses.
It’s been said that if we want a glimpse of the spiritual bodies we will receive in the next spiritual life, we need to look no farther than the resurrected body of Jesus. He could be recognized, but not readily. He appeared inside the disciples’ locked room. He ate bread and fish with them at the sea shore. I don’t consider it much of a stretch to consider that our sense of sight might be greatly enhanced. Perhaps that accounts for the exquisite colors that defy description for those who have had spiritual visions as they try to relate them after returning to this mortal life. When Jesus talked of His father’s house with many rooms, it quite probably is not a gigantic Rainbow Motel where the “Vacancy” sign is always lit. But perhaps He was referring to that vast infinite space of spiritual consciousness somewhere over the rainbow. And our spiritual bodies will quite possibly be informed with senses to perceive this new world around us that have enhanced capabilities far beyond anything we could ever imagine!
FYI FOOTNOTE Dated 8/17/12:
Today's newspaper has a short article relating that the boyfriend of a young 24 year old stabbed her to death and also stabbed her sister and mother yesterday at the Rainbow Motel which I photographed last week, so I'm now pretty certain that is definitely NOT where heaven resides!
Thursday, August 9, 2012
On the Driving Range, Kiawah Island, SC
One of the golfing legends I heard years ago at my first company golf tournament concerned the origin of the “Golden Garbage Truck” award we gave to a golfer who had demonstrated a certain demeanor on the course. It seems that the president had teed off on a road side fairway with a wicked slice into the windshield of an oncoming garbage truck. The disgruntled driver approached the tee box demanding what the offending golfer was going to do about it. Our long retired president, without looking up from addressing his second ball and completely in the zone, casually replied that “I think I’ll turn my grip over just a little bit to the left”. He was totally immersed in the present moment and would handle replacing the guy’s windshield after the shot.
Today’s Golf Channel presentation of Live from Kiawah reminded me of that little story and an encounter I had a few years ago at one of the golf courses on that beautiful island. We were walking up to the driving range and I casually asked an attendant, “How’s it going”? He didn’t stop what he was doing and quickly remarked, “Well, I woke up again on the green side of the grass, so it’s going to be another good day”! What a great reply on a beautiful island golf course on a perfectly beautiful morning and what a beautiful mantra to live by every morning! Every day we walk this planet is a gift to be relished and appreciated. Every present moment is where life is played out for us to either squander or grow on our journey. And every day teeing it up on some of God’s most beautiful real estate can be as good as it gets on the green side!
Sunday, August 5, 2012
The crusty old cowboy had a reputation around the county that he was very prideful and could never admit to ever being wrong about anything. The town blacksmith knew this all too well when he saw him wandering into his barn. He had just finished hammering out another horseshoe and tossing it into a box of sawdust to let it cool down. The sun weathered cowboy entered and reached down to pick up the horseshoe. Upon immediately noticing that the hot shoe was burning his hand, he quickly tossed the shoe back into the box. The blacksmith slowly looked up from his work and quizzically asked, “Too hot for ya”? “Naa”, shot back the old cowboy, “it don’t take me too long to look at a horseshoe”!
The words of Micah 6:8 inform us that God would like us to walk humbly with him. But this world teaches just the opposite. Unfortunately, the old saying that pride goes before the fall is all too true. Once we get too full of ourselves we begin to believe in our prowess and superiority. We gather our prized athletes and raise them up on platforms and adorn their necks with gold and silver medals. That’s the example we parade before all the people. And it is good to work hard to excel in life. We’ve just got to be conscious that we’re not gods and remain aware of our humanity with some humility. And once we cross out the “i” in our life, we’re left with the cross (t). We become less self-centered and more God-centered for others.