Tag Archives: faith

Buddha doesn’t need your apples (a photo essay)

During my last trip to East Asia, I had the opportunity to visit a new city, one that was far removed from the bustle of the mega-city I was used to.  As I was walking around, I came upon a couple of temples, one Buddhist and one Hindu.  The experience was bittersweet.  I loved being around the architecture and the history of the temples.  The carvings were ornate.  The colors were vivid.

The feeling was ominous.

As a believer in a living God, I was left speechless as I watched person after person bow down before inanimate objects and shiny statues.  Visitors would bring apples to place at the statue’s feet. What’s a Buddha statue going to do with your fruit?  Christ was the final sacrifice.  No more sacrificial offerings are needed.

My heart broke for the elderly woman who could hardly walk.  She spent all the energy she had spinning prayer wheels as she labored around the temple.  Her hope was that she would build up favor by spinning these around and around.  Buddhists believe that spinning the prayer wheels can have just as much effect as reciting the actual prayers.

Christ is alive!  God wants us to talk to him.  I couldn’t have a relationship with a God who would accept me spinning my Bible round and round in the same as actually having a prayer-filled conversation with him.

I was teared up and humbled as I looked down at the prayer mats.  They were worn, stained and molded to the knees of thousands of people.  I have nothing in my home that is so worn because I was on my knees in front of God.  What a convicting moment.

I hope you enjoy the following photo essay.  They capture beautiful buildings and some emotion, but that is all.  They do not capture hope.  That can only be found in Christ alone.

 

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I am lifeguard. Hear me roar. (Part II)

In I am lifeguard. Hear me roar.  (Part 1), we looked at a few of the pros & cons of my college summer job as a lifeguard.  I thought maybe we would start that way again.

Stuff I didn’t sign up for:

  • Lost kids.  There were days where I was convinced that parents brought their kids to the park simply to not go back home with them.
  • Teva tan.  My feet looked like a tic-tac-toe board for a quarter of the year.
  • Season pass holders.  From a business perspective, I absolutely understand the value of season ticket holders.  Many of them were quite awesome.  There were others who were convinced that because they paid a few extra dollars, we should let them do absolutely anything.
  • People who think they are above the rules.  It’s so awesome that your kid is 36″ tall.  This ride says 48″.  I’m not getting fired or sued or putting your kid in danger because you don’t want to explain why the mean man in the big, floppy hat is asking you to go back down the stairs.  Oh, that sign you hung your towel on, it’s the one that says 48″.

Stuff I quite enjoyed:

  • Rainy Wednesdays.  This was the equivalent of the double rainbow.  Tips for you park goers.  Wednesdays are the slowest days of the week.  If there is rain in the forecast, the park often looks like a wasteland and you never have to wait in line.  We’re not closing unless there is lightning or the rain is so hard that we can’t see the bottom of the pool.  For lifeguards, these days are great.
  • Fun guests.  We knew just how to take the huge 4-person rafts off the conveyor belt and place them in the pool so it completely drenched the people in line.  Some people couldn’t believe that we would do that.  Gosh forbid, you get WET at a WATER PARK moments before you get in a POOL and go down a SLIDE in to a BIGGER POOL.  Other guests would ham it up with us and make our days fly by.  Me likey happy guests.
  • First waves.  The morning at a water park is a serene, beautiful place.  You can hear gentle splashing from some of the kiddie areas.  The air is cool.  The wave pool is poo-less.  The temperature is perfect.  The first time the waves would come on was awesome to watch and was very relaxing.  With no one in the pool yet, the waves are completely glassy.  I loved watching the first set roll out.
  • Authority.  We were a group of college guys.  We played on the lacrosse team.  Regular conversations started with “what if we [insert juvenile/hilarious action]”.  Somehow, we demonstrated that we could handle running a park full of people.

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We were actually quite good at our jobs.  I previously explained how we were great lifeguards, but we were really good at administration and operations…when we wanted to be.

Now, I’m not saying we “abused” our power, but we might have “used” our power to benefit us…a little…sometimes…daily.

We were responsible for assigning lifeguard rotations each morning.  Guards would rotate spots in different places in the park every hour.  This was to keep everyone fresh and alert.  If you were left in the kiddie area by yourself for more than an hour, you might explode.  This would be bad because we’d have to shut the pool down.

As supervisors who previously and extensively worked on all the rotations, we knew which lifeguard rotations were the best.  We also knew which lifeguards were the coolest, best and most fun.  Those were the guards that got the good rotations.  We knew all the positions where we could do our job, but still be out of sight from the big wigs.  There was a certain position on the back side of the lazy river that was completely out of view from most vantage points.  Hanging out there was great.  The only way the lifeguard could see me approaching was if they turned their whole body around.  So, I typically just ran up and scared the guard, then stuck around for a while.

Dating the lifeguards was typically frowned upon.  Dating lifeguards was also typically one of our pastimes.  Would you like to take a guess at which lifeguards did NOT have to clean the bathrooms or get stuck on the worst rotations?  Yes, the ones we were dating at the time, or the ones we wanted to date.  The advantage of leading the preseason training classes was that we could scope out the incoming lifeguards.  Apparently I did such a good job talking up one of my best friends that the girl he called ‘dibs’ on started dating him.  They are married now and have a beautiful daughter.  Mission accomplished.

The most difficult days were the ones with tons of people who didn’t want to listen to us.  There’s a yellow line.  There’s a sign that says “stand behind the yellow line.”  Why are you three feet past the yellow line?  Hello oblivious visitor, do you realize that there is NO ONE else wandering around where you are?

Hi there, grown-man-who-thinks-he’s-the-first-to-ever-play-like-he’s-drowning.  Haven’t seen that one today.  Good one.  Please stop.

Hello, lovebirds.  I find it weird that you’re in a pool with 600 people and you find it so overwhelmingly romantic that you want to make out.  A lot.  This is a family park, not a make a family park.*

*Actual quote used by a friend and possibly the funniest line I’d ever heard at the time.

Good day to you, kid-who-won’t-get-off-the-rope.  Please get off the rope.  Get off the rope, please.  Get OFF the rope.  <grabs megaphone> GET OFF THE ROPE!

We begged.  We pleaded.  We tried to be nice to these rule breakers.  For some people, we told them once to stop doing something and they listened.  For others, it’s like the chlorine warped their ability to comprehend simple commands.

How frustrating it must be for God when I act the same way as the people I’ve described over and over again.  How many times must I do the same sin and have God repeatedly try to communicate to GET OFF THE ROPE?.  In the wave pool, the rope marked the point in the pool where the bottom started sloping down to the deep end.  We told people to get off the rope for a couple reasons.  First, we didn’t want them to get hurt.  Second, we didn’t want them to get in the way and block the visibility of the rope to someone who might need to see it.  When I sin, I’m not only disrupting things for me, but depending on what I am doing, I might be preventing someone else from living purely.

Romans 5:19 says “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” When I am diligent in my quiet times, in my prayer life and in my actions, I can help encourage my brothers and sisters.  When I disobey, I can also help bring down those around me.  I see this with my kids.  When my son, the big brother, disobeys, his little sister tries to do the same thing.

In order for me to be obedient, I need to be in the Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”  You see, just as much as I need for God to blow his whistle and tell me to get off the rope sometimes, I need to do so willingly.

Here’s something I never did.  I never got down out of my lifeguard chair, swam out to someone and thanked them for listening to me.  There are definitely times when I beg and plead with God through prayer for Him to take control of my situation.  But, when He responds, I never take the time to give Him the thanks He deserves.

Psalm 100:4 reminds us to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” There are over 80 references to thanks or thanksgiving throughout Scripture.  This is something that God obviously wants us to do.

Heavenly father, thank you for hearing my prayers.  Forgive me for failing to acknowledge you and your actions.  I recognize your greatness in my life.  Thank you for alerting me when I disobey you.  Thank you for your patient and corrective hand.  Amen.

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I am lifeguard. Hear me roar. (Part 1)

During the summer while in college, my closest friends and I were lifeguards at a water park.  Being a lifeguard was an awesome job to have and no two days were ever alike.  The pros of being a guard definitely exceeded the cons.  I’ll give you a few of each.

Some stuff that was less than desirable:

  • 30,000 people in the park on one hot day.
  • Cleaning the bathrooms (Yeah, we did that. Oh, and ladies, you are disgusting.)
  • Large people, small bathing suits.
  • Working in the kiddie pool.  Oh. My. Gosh.
  • Shutting down the wave pool.

More often than you would like to imagine, we had to close the wave pool down because someone threw up or pooped.  I’m not talking about the funny-in-movies Baby Ruth drop in the water.  I’m talking about the not-funny-in-real-life deuce in the pool.  How do we get it out you ask?  Well, we have to get it ourselves.  Unless you are a supervisor like my buddies and I were.  Then, you find the closest lifeguard and have them do it.  While this guard is getting the poo out of the pool, the rest of us come up with creative reasons why the pool is closed.

I told one little boy that there were sharks in the pool and that’s why the lifeguard had a net.  I told him to let me know if he saw one.  A few minutes later he came back and told me he spotted a shark!

Another time, we had just closed the pool and a gaggle of geese landed right in the middle pool.  An adult man came up to me and said “oh cool, you closed the pool to let the birds land.”  Really?  I wanted to also tell him to find the word ‘gullible’ that was painted on the bottom of the pool.

Now, let’s look at a few of the perks:

  • Girls in bathing suits. (Remember, we were a group of college 18-to-21-year-old guys.)
  • We got to ride the slides every day (seriously, we had to safety check the equipment).
  • We were really tan, which usually helped win the affection of those girls in bathing suits.
  • We were paid very well for having a lot of fun.
  • We got to be superheroes.

There were definitely times that we had to jump in the water to rescue a near-drowning victim.  In fact, over the years I had 55 rescues, most of which were people in real danger.  Real danger?  Yes, real danger.  My first rescue happened on my first day of work.  An adult woman and her husband flipped over in their tube going down a slide.  She dislocated her shoulder and had a nasty gash above her left eye.  Blood + water = holycrapthatlookslikealotofblood!  During another rescue, I went in after one 10-year-old girl and came back with four.  In the few seconds it took me to swim over, the young girl grabbed her friend in panic…who grabbed her friend…who grabbed her friend.  I think I actually got applause when that was over.

We were highly trained and very efficient lifeguards.  We scanned the water around us every 15-18 seconds by using a constant head rotation.  We looked at the corners, used a downward head sweep to look at the area near our feet and then scanned out in a semi-circle in front of us.  We sat at alert in our chairs.  Our rescue tubes were in our lap with the strap around our bodies and the slack in our hand so it didn’t get hung up on the chair in case we had to jump in.  Our feet were flat, instead of crossed so we could stand up quickly and not trip.  Our whistles were in our mouth and ready to sound in a split second.  No one was going down in our water.

If you had to go in after someone, you stood up, let out a long and loud whistle blast while pointing at the victim.  Meanwhile, you looked for a place to jump and land.  Before you left your chair, you slapped a safety button.  The button sent off an electronic alert over the supervisor’s walkie-talkies, letting them know a guard is in the water.   Once in front of the victim, depending on their position, we had a variety of strategies for getting them on our rescue tubes and back into safety.  It was all choreographed perfectly.

We. Were.  Rock stars.

Here’s me being particularly rock star-ish.  This was from 2001 and it was the 2001st rescue in the park’s history.  For some reason, management wanted to document this event and had been waiting for it to happen for weeks.  You can see how excited the victim was to document that he couldn’t swim very well.

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We had an important job.  We had all the tools in order to do the job.  We had hats and umbrellas to keep the sun off our faces and necks.  Glasses to protect our eyes.  Whistles to get attention.  Rescue tubes to aid victims and make it easier for us to transport them to safety.  Sunscreen to protect our skin.

Ephesians 6:10-20 describes the metaphorical ‘armor of God’ that we should put on each day.  We are to ‘put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.’  We are to ‘stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your wait, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”  Additionally, “take up the shield of faith…take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.”

We were perfectly prepared to save someone’s physical life.  God is calling us to defend His name, bring glory to His kingdom and be prepared to save someone’s eternity.

1 Peter 3:15 says that we must “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  As a lifeguard, we would get so immersed in our jobs that we would be restless all night because of dreams of scanning our water.  We needed to be prepared for someone to go underwater or have an accident at any time.  Likewise, as followers of Christ, we need to constantly be on guard and ready to share the hope we possess.

Many of the victims we would have to go pluck out of the water would just run off because they were embarrassed and get back in the pool.  But, several knew the implications of us not responding to their need and situation.  They knew what we just did for them.  I saw the look on their faces.  They looked at lifeguards differently after being rescued.

I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes after they make a decision to be saved and to give their life to Christ.  The looks are very similar.  You know what else is similar?  Both the near-drowning victim and the new Christ-follower both want to get right back in the water.

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You want to smell like me?

Top 10 all-time favorite smells (no particular order):

  1. Beach (especially in the rain)
  2. Brownies baking
  3. Freshly cut grass
  4. Outboard engines (I know, I’m weird, but there’s something about gasoline and salt water)
  5. Gardenias
  6. Book stores
  7. Inside of new shoes
  8. Indie music stores (something about vinyl and incense)
  9. Photography chemicals (probably explains a lot about me)
  10. Coffee

Smell is the sense that is most connected to memory. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which is closely associated with memory. The first time we encounter a scent, our brain can immediately recall it the next time we catch a whiff. Sometimes, scent can remind us of an emotion, like how you might feel when you smell funnel cakes at the fair.

Scent can remind you of people. For me, when I smell ‘new car smell’ along with cool a/c, it reminds me of Saturday mornings. My grandparents used to drive by our house on the way to the book store each weekend. They would pull in the driveway and talk to my Dad and I while we were working in the yard. (Well, Dad was working in the yard, I was probably just playing basketball). Sometimes we would just lean against the windows of the car and talk. Other times, they would offer for us to crawl in the back seat of their Lincoln Town Car and cool off a while. I certainly miss those days and miss my grandparents immensely.

Scent can remind of us places. Whenever I smell car exhaust, it reminds me of a certain mega city in East Asia that I frequent. It’s filled with cabs and buses. Somehow, I don’t hate the smell.

Remember this gem? There’s no greater pitchman than 7’7″ former center for the Washington Bullets, Gheorghe Muresan.

Aside from cabbage, what should we smell like if we are trying to be authentic in our faith?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says:

14But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

Incense and perfumes were often burned in triumphal procession. The burning was to celebrate victory or rejoice events that recently happened. As disciples, we should smell as sweet to God as the incense.

As disciples, we can judge our effectiveness based on the fruit of our efforts. Is our scent sweet and refreshing, or foul and rotten? I have to strive every day to have my life be an ‘aroma’ that reminds people of God. I want people to smell the proximity of the Holy Spirit when they are in my presence. As verse 14 describes, our job as believers is to ‘spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.’ The way we do this is to share His love with others. Our fragrance will be classified as ‘sweet’ based on our obedience to God’s commands, not by people’s (non-believer’s) reactions to us.

Incense and candles are nothing more than temporary objects. They are sacrificial in nature. We set them on fire and as they get consumed, we are left with a wonderful smell. Eventually, they burn down to nothing but ash or a messy bunch of wax. As God chooses to use my gifts, talents and passions (the stuff he gave me anyway), I hope that it can leave others with a wonderful scent.

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I Spy Something Jesus-y

Photography is precious to me. 

Creating something beautiful results in an amazing feeling.  It makes you feel alive.  It makes you feel proud to have actually made something.

Photography is also an incredible form of worship.  What better way of honoring God than by capturing moments in time that He created?  Photography is not possible without light.  After all, photography is fundamentally the studying and capturing of light.  Even at night, in what would typically be called ‘pitch black’, with a long enough shutter, you can still capture some light.  Eventually, light prevails.

Our culture is filled with darkness.  Finding those moments, those emotions, those fleeting sunsets is a way to preserve beauty, hope and light.

On a trip several years ago, I was on traveling underground on a tunnel car in a foreign city.  The tunnel was filled with lights and there were a couple of those inflatable-wavy-arm things that sit outside cell phone stores and car lots.

I braced my camera against my body while resting it on a handrail because of the low light and shot periodically as we moved along.  As I walked back above ground, I noticed this image:

ImageI froze in my tracks and immediately zoomed in on my display screen.  Now, I’m not saying I captured the Virgin Mary on my grilled cheese, but check out that upper left corner.

As to not skew the response, I showed the image to some friends and asked what they saw.  Everyone said “Jesus with a crown of thorns.”  Here’s a side-by-side rotated comparison.Image

Now, do I actually believe that God said, “I declare the image of my son to appear in this camera!”  No, of course not.  But, I do think that it’s awesome to have captured something that reminds me Jesus is the King to those people and is a light in a dark, dark place.

Greater things are yet to come in that city.

 

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