Friday, February 15, 2013

40 Days of Lent: Journal Entry #3


"What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, "Here I am!"

-Isaiah 58: 7-9

I began mulling over what kind of photo to take to express that word and verse.
I thought of glasses to aid in seeing...
I thought of a keyhole to see through...
I thought of finding poverty to photograph.

So off I went to look for something to photograph to express seeing the needs around me. That's when I discovered how clean and tidy my town is. You don't see homelessness or poverty around like you'd think. There aren't many places to find the hungry or the shivering out on the street.
They are hidden.

Or maybe they are tidied up and covered up.

Maybe, its good that there isn't any visible poverty showing.
Maybe its very sad.

Maybe the sad part is the look of affluence, the excess around. The nice, tidy homes. Maybe it could be people who hide their poverty, or maybe its just people hiding from poverty.

How do I hide from poverty?

Thoughts on Seeing today. Seeing the poor, the shivering, the broken, the hungry.


After writing the above, I started thinking about poverty in my area. I asked on Facebook where I might find it here...and then I took a long drive alone.
I explored my town with new eyes, ventured into places and neighborhoods I didn't know existed, and found places where poverty slapped me in the face. Nothing hidden, covered up here. It was exposed, and shouting.
It was such an interesting experience. Nothing I saw was any worse than anything I encountered every day in Bolivia, yet there I wandered around quite fearlessly on foot, and in my car here, I began to feel fear as I drove through places where I obviously did not fit in. It gave me quite a pause, and I considered it while I drove slowly through neighborhoods watching little children play, watching people walk up and down the street, seeing houses in such sad shape yet with people living there anyway. In my hometown.
Why was I feeling that fear? Why was I glancing away, and why did I naturally turn toward the nicer streets first? I forced myself to turn against it, to face it, to look long at these places. To trace the dirt and grime, to meet the eyes of the people I saw, to smile at them. To see.
I was fearful of the depression and poverty. I was afraid of what might lurk, of things I have no real experience with. The shadows were long and attempting to grab me, and I was too willing to run away.

An interesting lesson to myself. Its easy to write about poverty on a nice laptop in a comfortable chair maybe while munching on delicious food. Its so easy to be self-righteous and hypocritical. But then when the rubber meets the road, and I come face to face with reality, what then? What about this world, this other side of things, ugly and uncomfortable? What do I know of it, and what am I doing about it?

I never took my photo today. I saw new things, I have many new mental snapshots within my own zip code, but I never snapped that button on my camera. I was busy seeing. The photo was not made, but it was a changed perspective and new way of looking at my own town, my own neighborhood, looking for those hidden places, or rather, the poverty I hide from.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

40 Days of Lent: Journal Entry #1

Who am I?
The word prompt for this photo.

A question I am struggling with and thinking about a lot these days. Who am I? There are so many people eager to define for me who I am, who have opinions or thoughts on who I should be, or how I might look, or what I might be made of. Its confusing and I strive to find myself in all the babble.

Who am I? As I contemplated this phrase and how to picture it, I began to think of where I am these days, the brokenness I am facing and feeling every moment. I feel all edges and smashed in sharp pieces. I am the broken pottery. I am the pieces of something...

I chose these pieces of pottery because they are pieces I dug up two years ago in Israel at first century level. I remember the careful digging, centimeter by centimeter or even less, by brushes or tiny tools. Even these pieces, these broken bits were carefully handled, carefully brushed out of the dirt and carefully lifted away from the dust where it had lain for centuries.

This pottery is dated to the period of time that Jesus lived in that region. The imagination can take off, inviting all sorts of speculation of what sort of vessel it was part of, and what it held. And whether it was used by Jesus. And yet here these same pieces lay in my hand so many thousands of years later.

Broken pieces. Scattered shards.

They are broken now. But that does not mean they can not be repaired.

Each piece we dug up on that archaeology site was carefully numbered, drawn and eventually glued back into place, back together with other pieces until it formed the original vessel again. What was broken was made whole again.

Who am I? Broken pottery. Broken and waiting to be repaired again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Prayer For The Valley

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me ot face my perils alone.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lenten Journey

I'm preparing for Lent, which starts on Wednesday, and getting a little excited.

I'm not gonna lie. I haven't really been thinking about it or excited about it or even very interested in observing Lent this year. Things have just been so hard, so exhausting, so much, that the prospect of another trial, self-inflicted, was too much to ask it seemed. In previous years, I've fasted something that was important to me, or something that I felt helped me keep control instead of allowing God to have control. You know, those tiny little things like holding onto things that would help me get what I wanted or was called to do because God must not be able to handle it...

This year is different. This year requires a different set of priorities. A different set of lessons and a different focus.

This year, following a set of readings and word prompts, I am going on a photo journey. Every day has a different word to express through photography. A word pulled from a Scripture reading. My plan is to read the Scripture, journal about it, and take a photo to express what I'm thinking about it. The challenging part is that its hard to stay consistent with something like this every day.

I'm planning to share these photos over on my photo blog, A Thousand Hidden Gifts. I may share some of the journal as well here.

I'm getting excited about something new to focus on. And as always, I am going to enjoy worshiping through photography. I love to use the camera's focus to bring something into perspective, some beauty to the surface that otherwise might never be noticed.

Lent is not a time traditionally recognized for beauty. But there is beauty in pain, shadows, and darkness. And it is valuable to spend time there sometimes, to soak it in and let it change us, soften us, and rely on the Light of Christ in those shadows.