Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday's Thought

The new year is almost upon us. Can you believe it? I can't.

It seems like yesterday was the start of the new year. My plans were set. I was ready to go. Only one problem.

The year flew by before I knew it. And most of my plans were left in the dust.


Some weren't really important. Others I lost track of and didn't keep my nose to the grindstone.

But there were some activities that survived the year. Ones that I placed a special importance upon.

The ones I succeeded at were the ones I had found to be most important.

· Regular writing

· Exercising 3X a week

· Walks with my wife

· Meeting regularly with friends

These three activities became a passion for me. Something I looked forward to.

Not only that but when I partook in them, my energy was renewed.

Looking back at the year and my plans, I began to wonder what the Bible says about planning. Sometimes it seemed like the Bible was against planning. Verses like Psalm 33:10

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He frustrates the plans of the people 

Doesn't this sound like a strike against planning? 

But then we've got verses like Proverbs 15:22

Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed. 

Or Proverbs 21:5 

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 

Why is it sometimes the Bible seems to condemn planning and other times it praises planning?

In my opinion, it comes down to the heart of the planner.

If the planner is out for his own good, the plans will go awry. However, if the planner has the good of others in mind, his plans tend to succeed.

As you're finishing up your plans for the year, keep this in mind. Plan to help others in their mission in life. Look for ways to encourage others. Let others be at the forefront of your planning.

Question: Why do you think your plans fail? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author:
This is a guest post by Joseph Lalonde. He is a youth leader and leadership blogger at Joseph shares leadership tools and encourages you to become a better leader. With him on Twitter or at his blog.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday's Foto

"A Tree's Light"
I call this image, "A Tree's Light" since I was able to capture the beauty of the morning light coming up over the horizon and illuminating the tree.  The light gave brilliance to the detail of tree and the clouds in the sky behind it.

One of the key's to successful nature photography is to understand lighting.  Though you can get great images during the sunny part of the day, your best images will be in the early morning or late evening when the sun isn't quite as harsh.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Experimental Photography: Long Exposure, Infra-Red and Special Lenses

Photography is a long established way of capturing single moments in an image. The art form has majorly developed over the years from black and white to colour, and many different lenses and techniques have recently been added.

Some of the most modern and experimental photography techniques create images that are interesting, unique, beautiful and unusual. With the camera being available to everyone, (it’s even on most people’s mobile phones) there are lots of new and exciting ways to experiment with photography.

Below are some examples of the new and amazing photography techniques that people are beginning to use today to create unique and unusual photos.

Infrared Photography
First introduced in the 1930’s, infrared photography is where the lens used is sensitive to infrared light. The lens acts as a filter allowing infrared light through but stopping the visible light spectrum.

Dark skies and clouds that stand out are a definite sign of this kind of photography. It also makes skin look very milky / pale and eyes are usually very dark.

Overall, it creates a sort of dream effect with false colours and unusual tones. Infrared photography is interesting and definitely draws you into the photograph.

Long-Exposure Photography
Long-exposure photography has become particularly popular in the last 5 – 10 years and it involves using a slow shutter speed. This means that the stationary objects are captured crisply and in detail, while the moving objects are captured mid flow.

The most popular usage of long-exposure photography is that of a cityscape with moving traffic at night. The buildings are captured in detail and the moving traffic with their lights creates a great affect, as seen in this image…

"Highway 401 Night Lapse Busy"
Image Credit
Macro Lens 
A macro lens allows the photographer to focus in very closely to the subject of the photograph from further away. It enables the photographer to catch an extraordinary amount of detail, and is particularly interesting when used on bugs or flowers.

It allows the viewer to see something they would never normally get to see in so much detail. Modern experimental photography includes photographers taking macro images of wood, grass and allsorts of unusual things!

Fisheye Lens
A fisheye lens distorts the lines within a photograph, focusing on the centre and then the rest of the photo looks like it is going round in a cylinder. Photographs that use this lens mainly have interesting perspectives within their photos, which draw the viewer’s attention.

These lenses are very effective when capturing image of people because of the unique perspective and individuality of the shot.

An example of a fisheye lens photograph
in an art store 
Wide Angle Lens
This type of lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photograph because it has a wider angle. This is very useful when taking photographs of landscapes where you may not be able to move back any further.

Many photographers enjoy experimenting with this type of photography and there are some award-winning photographs, which have been taken by experimental usage of the wide-angle lens.

As technology moves forward photography becomes more popular as people experiment with the large variety of techniques available. With exciting and interesting options there are more and more unusual and unique photos being taken everyday.

About the Author:Tom Reynolds works for Pixpod, the wedding and birthday photobooth hire Service Company. Pixpod offers a great alternative to fun activities during festivals and celebrations.

Image Credits: Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday's Words

"Inside a Church in Dominican Republic"

"Sing to the Lord, 
for He has done 
glorious things;
let this be known
to all the world."

-Isaiah 12:5

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

"The Nativity"
As I've grown older and looked back at the Christmas's in my life, I've found the most exciting memories are those of church celebrations of Christ's Birth.  The music, the dramas, the traditional classical celebrations, the contemporary celebrations, the reading of the Christmas Story have been part of my Christmas for as long as I can remember.  

Of course, as a child, I had my wish list with the toys I hoped to get and it was fun to get up at some odd hour and open all the presents before the rest of the world was even awake to see if I got any on the list.  When I was very young, I remember meeting Santa Claus- he stopped by our house to see if my brother and I were behaving.  The time my brother and I saw Santa Claus driving a car through town is something I won't forget.  We were both so excited to see him. One Christmas, my father stayed up all night putting together my bicycle.  He finally got to go to bed, only to be awakened an hour later by two young boys!!   

As I grew older, I became interested in organ music and learned to play.  My favorite, and yet the hardest as the music is difficult, time of the year was preparing for the Christmas worship services. One of my favorite pieces to play, or at least give it a good attempt, was Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.   

After a year full of change and challenges, I was reminded once again at the Christmas Eve Service at Centreville Baptist Church, Centreville, Virginia, of the blessings of a Christmas Eve service. The remembrance and celebration of Christ's Birth and hugs from new friends!!  

I had the privilege of photographing the Christmas Eve Service last night which turned into such a blessing for me.  I had to pay closer attention to what was going on in order to capture moments for the church to use in outreach.  Much of what was said, touched my heart in many ways. 

May your Christmas been filled with wonderful memories you can hold to and remember!!    

Merry Christmas!!

A Christmas Thought

"The Nativity"

As you celebrate Christmas, remember the reason we celebrate the season.  Christ was born.  He lived on earth so we may understand that He knows what it's like to live here.  He died. He rose from the dead.  Why did God the Father give his only Son, have Him born so humbly and yet suffer a cruel death?

“For God so loved the world, 
that he gave his only Son, 
that whoever believes in him should not 
perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:16 ESV

This Christmas, give yourself something special, accept Christ's gift of Salvation, A-B-C's of Salvation.  If you are a Christian and have strayed from God or your beliefs, why not reconcile your relationship with Him and begin to serve Him again?   The greatest gift you can receive this day, is the gift of Salvation and beginning the Christian Walk with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and
the Shepherds"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, 
the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, 
which the Lord has made known to us.” 
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, 
they made known the saying that had been told them 
concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds
told them. But Mary treasured up all these things,
pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying
and praising God for all they had heard and seen, 
as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, 
he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel 
before he was conceived in the womb.
-Luke 2:15-21 ESV

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Photographing for Operation Paws for Homes

"This Way to the Dogs"
I spent last Saturday afternoon photographing for Operation Paws for Homes adoption event in Bristow, Virginia, just south of Manassas where I grew up.

First, it was odd to be photographing at a Petsmart located where I can remember being a field and rolling hills.  There used to be a pond back in there somewhere that people used to go swimming, but that was back about 20 years or so.  Probably, the "or so-" but I won't go any further.   The area still has it's "farming" charm though or "outskirts of farming-not the city yet."

"The Local PetSmart"
I love taking several time on Saturdays to photograph for various rescue groups.  Since I like photography, and love dogs, it's worked well for me to combine the two interests and do some good for the community but especially for the dogs!!

The people who work with the animals at Operation Paws for Homes are really nice and respectful of my time.  Though, I don't tend to watch the time when I am working for them, it's nice to know they do this so if I need to watch the time for another event, I can.

The cool thing for me in this volunteer capacity is that I've heard, read and been told that when photographers donate time to photograph the animals, the chances of the animal getting adopted goes up quite a bit.

Also, if you are a dog lover, you will get to meet 100's of dogs and probably want to take them all home.  But, like me, that's isn't practical for many reasons.  Mine is that I am already owned by a dog.  Not sure he wants to share.

Moments are often a highlight of the event too.  This time, it was two puppies sawing good bye.

"Good Bye and Good Luck!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday's Words

"Celebrating Christ's Birth"

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be registered. This was the first 
registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went 
to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went
up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the 
city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the 
house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, 
who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her 
to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him 
in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place
for them in the inn.

-Luke 2:1-7 ESV

Monday, December 17, 2012

Garden Perspectives

One of my favorite annuals is the "Strawflower."  Every spring when I head out to the local Garden Center, among the many annuals I will buy, it's the "Strawflower" in yellow, white and now "red" that a must to buy.

The texture on the flowers petals feel like they are made of straw.  Interesting enough, the flower closes it's petals at night, sometimes on a dark cloudy day or during a rain.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"A Country Church"
Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you
as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts 
be troubled 
and do not be afraid.
- John 14:27 (NIV)

It's been a hard and long week.  Seems like every time I turned around the later part of this week, it was one bad news after the other.

My heart and prayers go out to the families in Connecticut who lost their children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  My child is furry and he is home-schooled so I don't know what it's like to loose a child.  From what I am told, it's one of the most difficult things for a parent to go through. My brother suddenly passed away earlier this year and it's been rough on my father.  My brother was in his 40's.  A parent of a young child who just lost them in a crazy way is probably going through unbearable sorrow and grief.

My heart and prayers go out to a friend named Sherry, as well as to her family.  After struggling with many health issues in her life, then fighting cancer, she passed away on Thursday.  Her family tells me that the peace of her passing was an amazing experience- they could feel the Jesus come to take her home. That would be an awesome experience.

As the world spins more and more out of control, violence gets worse and worse, I am thankful for having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  I've been amazed at how He provides a peace and comfort during times of loss, bad news or illness.  You still grieve.  There is still a missing the loved one.  But, it's different.  It's a peace that passes all understanding- meaning it's hard to understand without going through something and understanding but you really don't want to go through the something to know what it is because it's usually those rougher moments of life where you feel His Blessings of Peace and Comfort in your life.

"Stripes on Tulips"
Becoming a Christian and having the peace that passes understanding, I wrote about in a post, titled A B C's .  If you have questions, your best resource is a local church and speak with the Pastor, an Elder or one of the Deacons. That way, you'd have a resource close and handy.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, 
whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, 
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
What you have learned and received and heard 
and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
-Philippians 4:8-9 ESV

Becoming a Christian isn't going to instantly solve all your problems, isn't going to protect you from life's "challenges and problems, nor will it prevent you from getting a serious illness or give you that "perfect" life.  You won't become rich and prosperous, unless that was His Plan for you.  But, He will bless you with peace- one that truly passes understanding. A truly remarkable experience I've had happen in my life during those rough, sad and dark moments. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday's Foto

"The Red Tulips"
(Dedicated to Sherry)
I'm dedicating today's "Friday's Foto" to a special friend who passed away yesterday.  A kind Christian lady who was like a mother to everyone she met, even people she worked with in the office. She always had a smile, a word of cheer for you even though she might not be feeling good.  I was inspired by her as her kind, yet no nonsense attitude which showed through her smiling face. Always smiling ...... she will be missed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Photographing the Seasons

Walking through a local park in the fall season, this leaf got my attention.  Never mind, there are probably millions of leaves on the ground and more to fall from the trees.  This one, got my attention because it was standing up, as you can see in the image.  This wasn't staged.  Someone else, before I got there, may have set the leaf up for whatever reason.  But, it wasn't done by me to get the shot.

I share "ATTENTION!!!!" with you to show some of the unique beauty you can find in nature- just look around.  You'll be surprised, like I was with this image!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday's Words

"Merry Christmas"

And the angel said to her, 
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, 
and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be 
called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to 
him the throne of his father David, and he will reign
 over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom
there will be no end.” 

-Luke 1:30-33 ESV

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Photographing the Seasons

"A Bit of Snow"
This time of year is my least favorite.  Everything has gone from green to their fall colors  and now the winter's grey and brown.  A friend once told me, "Winter is beautiful, you just have to look around and find the beauty."  

I tried what she said.  Though the late fall and winter is still my least favorite season, I have been able to find some beauty such as in "A Bit of Snow" where you can see the detail of the snow and fall leaves.  

This was taken on an overcast day using the "clouds" feature on the white balance. The rest of the settings were "auto" as I was searching to focus a fox.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday's Thought -What is Christmas? - The place for profile layouts, flash generators, glitter graphics, backgrounds and codes
"Merry Christmas"
As far back in my life as I can remember, even as a very young boy, I loved to decorate my room at my parent's house, the front yard at their house, then my home as I went out on my own. 

As a boy, my father and I built these Charlie Brown figures designed after a "Charlie Brown Christmas" out of plywood -my mother had painted them, dad cut the plywood and screwed the on posts.  We put them around a big spruce tree decorated with lights and used a spotlight to shine on them.  Later we added a Nativity scene.  I loved the decorating, never anything really elaborate, but it was fun and beautiful.  

Somewhere along the way, political correctness and "groups", seem to have done their best to take the celebration out of Christmas.  They say it's religious.  Well, yes, it is.  They say we can't condone a religion by allowing a Nativity on public-tax-payer property. Ok, if the display is paid for by taxpayer dollars, I can agree with that, but someone else setting up the display isn't a problem.  And, the rule should be across the board for everyone not just the Christian Nativity or the Jewish Menorah.  They say, you can't say "Merry Christmas," you should use "Happy Holidays."  You might offend someone.  Well, what about me and other Christians?  You offend me with the "Happy Holidays!"

Up until a few Christmases ago, I believed that.  So, I didn't share a Christmas greeting.  I couldn't say "Happy Holidays" with any amount of cheer because it isn't a holiday to me.  This built up within me so I didn't enjoy Christmas.  Finally, I realized that it's not wrong to greet someone with "Merry Christmas."  My intention is to share a greeting, not offend anyone including myself.

I quickly noticed how much better I felt about Christmas.  I had no idea the stress had built up that much within me. I'm happier, excited about Christmas again.

So, what is Christmas?  For me, it is the celebration of Christ's Birth:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, 
who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: 
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host 
praising God and saying,  
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace 
among those with whom he is pleased!”
-Luke 2:11-14 ESV Study Bible Online

I love the reading of His Birth found in the Book of Luke 1:1-38; 2:1-22.  My wife and I usually attend a Christmas Eve service.  I love the decorations, especially Nativity's, and the many celebrations we'll attend at Centreville Baptist Church. And, of course, we'll gather with family to share a special meal and exchange presents.  Though the gifts are never fancy, they come from the heart of those who give- as they somehow along the way picked up on something someone wanted, and got. it.

How do you and your family celebrate the Christmas season?  I would enjoy reading about your traditions, please comment below. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Foto

"Trees at Mason Neck"
A familiar winter scene at Virginia's Mason Neck State Park, Mason Neck, VA.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Walney's Pond

"Fall Reflections at Walney Pond"
I love walking around Walney Nature Center and it's trails.  Noah and I will start out on early morning hike and get to see some wildlife, the sun rising with the beauty of the morning. It is an excellent and refreshing way to start a day.

I took this image from the south end of Walney Pond facing northwest.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday's Words

"In the Quiet"
Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
-Isaiah 12:5

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday's Thought

"Old Town Offices"

Work has been pretty rough for me lately. A couple of projects aren't coming together as I would like. Technical issues are cropping up. And to top it off one of my superiors makes it seem like I'm not doing the best possible job.

This has created a bad attitude in me. I'm grumpy around this superior and try to avoid him when possible. Why? Because I'm fearful he doesn't have my best interests in mind.

What does this have to do with Sunday Thoughts? Everything, I believe.

When I focus on the negative areas of work and the struggles I'm having with my superior, I'm reminded that there's a reason I'm in the position I'm in. And there's a reason he's in the position he is in.

I'm also reminded that my attitude needs to change. Scripture comes to mind regarding leadership and my place underneath them. There's also been conviction over my attitude.

Let's start with leadership and what the Bible commands us to do.

"Old Town Church"
Hebrews 13:17 - Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves...

1 Timothy 2:1-2 - I urge … that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority.

These two verses remind me that I need to submit myself to those in authority over me. They've been placed in my life for God's purpose and I'm to humble myself.

The other thing that stands out to me in these verses is that we are to pray for those in authority over us. It's not if we like them or if they're always doing right. It's at all times while they have authority.

I won't lie. This can be tough to do. Especially when you feel like you're being treated unfairly. And yet we're still told to obey. I'm working on it, are you?

Let's move onto our attitudes in situations like this.

Our attitudes tend to go south when we're being mistreated. We feel like we deserve better. Or that it's unfair. The Bible reminds us we need to watch our attitudes in situations like this.

1st peter 2:12 - Keep your conduct honorable among the gentiles so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

I'm encouraged by this verse. Peter tells us to do good works even when we're persecuted. It's not our right to get offended and give attitude to the offender.

Instead, we're to do good. We're to be a shining example of how to do things. We're to conduct ourselves with excellence.

We really have two choices when it comes to dealing with challenging leadership. We can rebel against them or we can obey and keep a good attitude.

One is Biblical. The other is not. Choose wisely your reaction.

Question: Have you been struggling with a difficult leader in your life? How could changing your attitude towards him change the situation? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author:   This is a guest post by Joseph Lalonde. He is a youth leader and leadership blogger at Joseph shares leadership tools and encourages you to become a better leader. With him on Twitter or at his blog.