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Landmark Sunset

i took this while driving, so forgive the raw nature of the photo. you might think this is just a pretty sunset, but the fun part of the image for me is the almost obscured silhouette of a national landmark among the tree branches.

Sign Language (part 3)

Nothing is funnier than an unintentional sexual euphemism. (Guessing once again on the date).

Waking Wind

winter has drearily poured in with funeral skies and biting cold. my mood, however, stands strong in defiance of the all too common winter lull. a peace has flushed out the dark pockets of discontent that had been rotting in the corners of my heart. a genuine excitement is welling up within, forcing out the idle discouragement of months passed.

and it all began with a sudden and violent summer wind. a blast powerful enough to wake my stagnant heart from its coma into a foreign and confused consciousness. a gust strong enough to expose the heaviness of my heart and lift it in spite of the weight. a gale that has steadily been carrying this heart ever since, on a path now filled with light and possibility.

on that distinct summer night i said of the heavenly wind, "this is God telling us to go to sleep." and he probably was. but he was also waking up my soul.

Paper Trail

the drive to work this morning was a surreal scene. plain white paper was scattered all over the highway both on and beside the road. scraps were whipping around, over, and underneath the cars for a few miles. i suppose it must have fallen from the back of some truck, but there was no actual evidence of the source. i don't think anyone quite knew what to make of it.

Belarus

Well, I'm back on U.S. soil after spending almost 2 weeks in Belarus. Here are a few of the memories:

-- My host family in Misnk, the Tikhons, were incredibly gracious, generous, caring, and humble. They welcomed us into their home and really made us a part of their family, in spite of such a short time together. Though our communication was limited most of the time, we were able to find unique connections through laughter, photos, meals, music, and a combination of sign language and finger pointing in a russian-english dictionary. Two of the evenings we were able to share stories and conversations through a family friend who translated for us. I will never forget Vera and Alexandr's storied expressions of faith in spite of religious oppression and life-threatening peril that they were able to relate to us. The heart of the Tikhon family displayed first-hand for me the transcendence of God's love. It's one thing to say that God's truth is universal, but it's entirely another to actually see it fleshed out across borders and cultural divides. Oh, and Vera was an AMAZING cook. :)

-- I met a young man named Ilya at a youth meeting of one of the churches in Misk. Ilya spoke excellent english and was obviously excited to be able to translate for me during the meeting. He beamed afterward that he'd completed his first translation. I was glad to be able to encourage him a little, though he encouraged me even more, without even realizing it I'm sure. He had such a fervent and innocent faith that reminded me just how uncomplicated our joy in Christ should be.

-- I learned slightly more about the religious culture in Belarus that helped me understand our purpose there a bit more. The Orthodox church has a very strong cultural and political presence in Belarus. In general, any type of protestant Christianity is viewed as a sect or a cult. Part of our purpose there was simply to help dispell some of the preconcieved notions about non-Orthodox Christians while getting out the message of redemption and grace that very few Belarussians get to hear. We were also there simply to encourage the believers and missionaries living in Belarus. It's nearly impossible to quantify how well we were able to meet those goals, but I pray that somehow God was able to use the things that we did there for his glory.

-- In the town of Grodno, the entire team and all of the translators stayed together in a local church. Though that wasn't exactly how it was supposed to happen, it made for a really interesting sleepover type of atmosphere each night. I got to know both my teammates and the translators alot better. A number of laughs, late-night card games, deep and sometimes not-so-deep conversations were shared. Anyone who has been on a similar trip understands the unique bonds that form. Everyone knows that the circumstances are temporary, and somehow that seems to brings a different level of intensity to the relationships.

-- Maybe they just bring out all the hotties when the Americans come, but I have to say that Belarus seems to have an exceptional amount of stunningly beautiful women. My teammates often joked that I should make a special trip back to Belarus to find myself a wife. I can't really call that a bad idea, even if it is a slightly unrealistic one.

-- After experiencing traffic in Minsk, I'll never complain about St. Louis drivers again. It was the definition of chaos.

I feel like I should sum up somehow. All I can really say is that the trip was a blessing. It softened my heart and strengenthed my faith all at once. I can only thank God for the experience.

Snow Day

the final image from Belarus...a sudden blanket of snow fell on this scattershod scene. i'm not exactly sure why, but this is one of my favorite photos from the trip.

Hatyn

Hatyn is a memorial in Belarus, created in memory of the 186 Belarussian villages that were destroyed in World War II. nearly a fourth of the Belarussian population was exterminated by the Nazis on their march to Moscow. the statue that greets you on the way in was one of the most moving images for me. it depicts an old man carrying a young boy - the only two survivors from the village of Hatyn.




Punk Rock Duck and the Old Mill

here are more pictures from the Belarus trip. i'm not normally drawn to wildlife, but this duck's hairdo was too good to pass up.


this windmill is, well, just a windmill that we visited - not the best picture i've ever taken, but i like it enough to splatter it here.

The Birthplace of Communism

one of the most interesting and moving experiences of my life was going on a mission trip to Belarus. this is a shot from the first day of the trip, taken at the Minsk airport. i really dig the layering and interesting lines that turned out in this one.

Comfort Model

i was sitting on the sidewalk with my back against a wall, reading a book and eating cotton candy that was being sold outside the movie theater for a dollar. i lifted my head to take a swig of my lemonade and noticed a girl coming toward me with her camera.

"can i take your picture?" she asked. i nodded.

"you look really comfortable there," she said.

she lifted her camera and told me to smile, but i was already smirking at her remark. sometimes strangers say the most ironic things.

Mime

i am the mime with painted face, trapped in an invisible box, pushing on walls of air.

Sign Language (part 2)

More fun signs - again, the date is speculative.


Church Culture

there's a certain culture that exists in modern american protestant churches. it exists in varying degrees across denominations and movements, but there are at least elements of it in nearly every church that i've been to. i don't think i can necessarily pin it down or describe it very well, but i know it's there. it's always there. i hate to call it Christian bookstore culture, but that's a pretty big part of it. as with any culture, there are certain expectations of you if you claim to be part of it...expectations both from outside the church and within. and in both cases the expectations are more cultural than they are biblical. i feel pretty trapped lately, because i know that i don't really fit either set of expectations and it's so difficult to just be honest.

there are quite a few problems with this modern culture in the church. it creates an environment that is just naturally uncomfortable for anyone that isn't a part of it. as open as any church might claim to be or want to be, this pervading church culture subconsciously pushes people away, because it's still too tightly defined and based on the wrong things. it is mostly focused on separating the church from the world rather than reaching out to the world. yes, as Christians we are called to be different than the world, but church culture has missed the point of how we're supposed to be different. the number one thing that should set us apart is our love...or more specifically, God's love through us. not what radio station we listen to. not what clothes we wear. not what CDs we buy. not what weekend conventions we go to. not what bumper stickers are on our car. not even what moral choices we make, because we all make bad moral choices. can all of those things help set us apart? sure. but they shouldn't be what defines the difference between us and the world, and yet to so many people both in and out of the church, they are. ideally, church culture should be a much simpler, stripped-down culture based in love, perpetual grace, reverance, and a striking level of openness.

sometimes i wish there was a way to just kill all of that other cultural noise and start fresh.

Junky

i recently finished reading 'Junky' by William S. Burroughs which is a mostly personal account of opium addiction. the lifestyle that he describes in the book is pretty fascinating. junk becomes the life-purpose of the opium addict. every activity is motivated by the need to score and shoot up, while everything else just sort of fades into the background. the junky's will is completely surrendered to junk. when the need for junk can't be filled, the sickness sets in. it's a pretty ugly existence, really. but at the same time, i envy the life of the junky in some ways. there's beauty and simplicity in being so focused on and devoted to a single-purpose...and to feeling a need so strong that any amount of withdrawl results in overbearing emptiness.

i want to need God that way. i want to know his purpose for my life and be wholly devoted to it. i want to lose my will to him completely. God help me, i'm so terribly far from that point.

Sign Language (part 1)

These are the first in a polaroid series of amusing and/or aesthetically-pleasing (to my eye, anyway) signs. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at record-keeping, so I'm unsure of the exact date these were taken, but I know they are from this general era of my life.



The Keys

this is the true story of the keys...

i was at my parents' house for the weekend to get my car back after trading vehicles with them for a trip. i had my own standard set of keys for my car and there was also the set that i'd given my parents to use while they were driving it. on sunday morning, before church, i was loading my stuff in the car for the drive back to st louis, since i'd be leaving from church. i had bags in my hands and grabbed the spare set of my car keys that my parents had been using on the way out. in the process of loading everything i set that spare set of keys on the roof of the car and forgot about them. i headed out to church, and just as i turned onto the main road and starting picking up speed, i realized that i'd left the spare keys on top of the car. just an instant after this realization i caught a glimpse in the rearview mirror of the keys sliding speedily down the edge of the rear winshield. i pulled off to the side of the road as soon as i could and started walking back quickly to find the keys in the road. i was pretty certain that they'd flown off the drivers side edge of the rear winshield and were probably in the road. i looked pretty frantically and impatiently because i didn't want to be late for church and i didn't want the keyless entry remote to be run over. after scouring the road down and back i didn't find the keys, but i at least determined that they weren't in a position to be run over. i figured maybe i'd seen things wrong in the mirror and they fell off the other side, but i was late for church, so i decided to go on and come back afterward to look for them on the shoulder. throughout the service my mind drifted intermittently to worrying about finding the keys. when church was over i rushed back out to my car to head back to the spot where i lost them. as i was walking up to the rear of the parked car, i noticed that my keys were wedged into the small crevice where the trunk lid meets the bottom of the rear winshield. they had been there, safe and sound, the entire time i was frantically searching for them in the road. i just had to laugh at myself.

Self-projection

a couple of weeks ago i was in a coffee shop and an obviously homeless man came in asking the patrons for change. he unintelligibly appealed to me, but i didn't have any change, or i just didn't want to give him any...i don't really remember. one of the coffee shop employees pretty quickly and sternly let him know that he wasn't allowed to do that in the coffee shop. something about that guy stuck with me though, and that was his facial expression. even if i had only seen him from the neck up, i could have told you he was homeless. that look of having nowhere to belong was written indelibly on his face. i haven't been able to shake that image of his expression. mostly because i've seen shades of it in the mirror more and more lately.

Barnlight

i shot this at a local park. as you might guess, i love the way the sunlight comes through the gaps in the barn wall.

Faust Park

i took these polaroids, including the instant version of "Barnlight," during a peaceful afternoon at Faust Park.



Omaha Afternoon

these are some shots that i took on a photography outing in downtown Omaha with my friend Liz.





Demolition

i ran across this partially demolished building and decided to capture it with my camera. i guess i was drawn to the surreal feeling of the scene, with its chaotic mess of colors and odd shapes.




And God said, "Yo"

this photo speaks for itself.


D&D

Danielson live at Cornerstone...


...and Denison Witmer live at Cornerstone