Friday, April 29, 2011

The Mighty Pen, Teaching Kids Photography, and General Rambling

At the youth organization where I work, we are hosting a regional photography contest in which entries from several states are being submitted. As I've been sorting boxes of photos, marveling at the photos taken by kids, I'm reminded of what little artistry I had when I first started taking snapshots on Mom's little point-and-shoot film camera, borrowed for a trip to Honduras when I was fifteen. Photographing people, I made them look like cons in mugshots. Landscapes were generally busy pictures with lots of stuff but no real focus.

Many years later, I have a much better camera, more experience looking at the world with a photographer's eye, but am still nowhere near being an expert. I teach the very basics to kids -- the goal is to interest them in photography, not teach a college course -- and try to help them see the world around them as full of picture potential, but I cannot make them creative. That's gotta come from inside their own minds.

After showing kids the "rule of thirds" or why it's important to be aware of light sources, shadows, clutter, it's always interesting -- and occasionally frustrating -- to observe how some young photographers will only pay attention to the rules, producing technical but uninteresting shots, and some will consistently toss the rules out the window, regardless of how many sloppy, unfocused, or just plain bad shots they produce.
after the storm                       c. April 2011, KB

The best students know there's a time to follow the rules -- "use a tripod for night shots", for instance -- and then there's a time to just go with your gut, take a shot for the fun of it, for the experiment of it, for the moment before the light fades completely, the basketball swooshes through the hoop, or the dancing stops. Y'never know what'll happen.

That's how a lot of my poetry has been written: not because I intended it and followed some rules -- "Today I am writing a poem, and it will be a sonnet" -- but because the words were there and must be recorded before the moment disappeared. Same with essays: I have something to say, it must be said now, and the structure of the essay is dictated by the theme or the subject. Even feature articles and interviews have rules, but those can be tossed to the winds when formality would kill the piece.

Speaking of kill -- in a purely lighthearted sense, of course (laugh) -- here's one of my favorite Geico commercials, probably because it appeals to literature, martial arts, and the absurd little humor gremlin inside my head:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Christ - An Easter Musical Celebration

(click for Christ - Random Thoughts, Part 1 or Part 2)

Unlike the previous two, today's post is composed not so much random thoughts as it is the story of the Cross, comprised of videos of songs that have influenced and encouraged my faith. They remind me of the hope that awaits, that death is nothing to fear, that there is a love that surpasses any human emotion, that Life has conquered the grave.

So, in honor of Jesus Christ--

Video remix of Secret Ambition by Michael W. Smith,
or catch the original video here (complete with mullets, 'cause, hey, this was the 1980s).

Judas Kiss by Petra
(song only, no video montage, but the words are enough)

Watch the Lamb by Don Francisco

Rise Again by Dallas Holm

It Is Finished by Petra

In movies or church cantatas, the story usually ends there, but the songs below speak of the life we can have as a result of the death He died and the life He now lives:

Clean by Petra

Bound to Come Some Trouble by Rich Mullins
(This song literally saved my life during a dark, suicidal stretch of time when the cliff often looked more appealing than the road.) 

Love That Will Not Let Me Go by Steve Camp
(just the song, but what a song)

Road to Zion by Petra

Grave Robber by Petra

It is finished.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Christ - Random Thoughts, Part 2

Jesus told His disciples:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  -Matthew 5:14-16
I fall far short of that, my light often being only an uncertain flicker in the winds of impatience, selfishness, and other ugliness that obscures the flame. I am thankful, though, that -- despite human frailty, rebellion, and outright disbelief -- He will never be truly obscured. Like the moon to the sun, we can only reflect His light; we will never diminish it.

Recently, I went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, home of The Great Passion Play, and the site of the Christ of the Ozarks, a blockish and simple-looking statue that can -- despite a controversial history -- move a person to deep reflection. The power is in the eyes, a gaze that's almost alive.

The day I took the photo below, the wind was tossing the trees, but I kept fiddling with the camera, trying (unsuccessfully) for an artistic shot. However, despite the wind, the branches parted long enough to frame the statue's face.

Christ of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Arkansas                        c. 2011, KB
No, I do not worship an image, nor do I know the actual features in the face of Christ. Yet, sitting on the bench under the awning, and gazing up the slope directly into that impassive and yet challenging visage, I felt a lump rise up in my throat, and tears gathered at the corners of my eyes.

Christ of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Arkansas                        c. 2011, KB
In line of that gaze, I sensed a little of what Peter must have felt, looking into the face of Jesus after denying -- even cursing -- Him. Yet He looked on him with compassion.

I am forever amazed at the cross, at what He did for me. I, a coward when it comes to pain I know is on the way, cannot fathom His choosing to go through such agony that I might be free.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."  -Romans 8:1,2
Todd Burrows posted this awesome video using scenes from The Passion of the Christ to illustrate the song Didn't He, performed by Geoff Moore, an artist whose songs the teenaged and twenty-something me belted out while listening to them on the radio. Didn't He still gets me every time, with good reason:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Christ - Random Thoughts, Part 1

It's coming on Easter. While the thoughts of some turn toward chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chickens, mine turn toward the cross, Christ's crucifixion, His resurrection -- the hope of His return.

"I thought this was a blog about writing!" and you can stop reading now, groan, and say, "Ugh, yet another fool proselytizing for a non-existent deity." Free will, dude.

But what does this writer believe about Him, the great Storyteller whose wisdom and parables are still life-changing?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...Through Him all things were made...In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.   -John 1:1-6
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  -John 14:6
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"  -John 11:25,26
Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."  -Matthew 11:4-6
"...(S)urely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  -Matthew 28:20
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.  -John21:25
And, as the late Larry Norman wrote and the late Dana Key sang, He was -- and is -- an outlaw:

Although Key's version is more singable, and sticks in my head, this powerful video features scenes from The Gospel of John (Lost fans will recognize "Desmond" as Jesus), and the unmistakeable voice of Larry Norman singing the 1970s version of his own song:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Images from My Retreat

Went on what was supposed to be a writing retreat this past weekend, but ended up wandering around and taking far more photos than writing.

I'm such a slacker. 

Just want to say, "Thanks again, Bubba and Bubba's Wife, for the camera. It's been getting a lot of use in the past year and a half."

As for the writing that was done, however, and the writing that is planned -- a collaboration with a friend -- I think my mind and skills are about to be stretched and challenged. I'm looking forward to it.