In the aftermath of a great explosion that rocked one of our neighborhoods in Indianapolis, many have been forced out of their homes and a candlelight vigil was held for the deceased. Yet along with the stories of loss, I’ve seen many (including friends who were affected) posting on Facebook about all they are thankful for. For example, a friend was thankful for her phone, which she used to find a place to stay at midnight after evacuating her house. Since Thanksgiving is almost here, I thought it would be a good time to do the same. I’m thankful that…
I have a good job in this economy.
My neighbors aren’t freaks.
I have family & a fiance who love me.
Election ads are over for another four years.
Arby’s and Chick-Fil-A have peppermint milk shakes.
The USA still has freedom of religion.
Somebody, a long time ago, invented bacon.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel the world.
Unlike cats, we have opposable thumbs.
My prayer group rocks!
I got to go to college – and get TWO majors.
Gmail lets you “undo” sending emails when you notice a typo right after hitting “Send.”
Smiles are a universal language.
The day the music died has never come.
Water makes up most of the world, because without it we’d die.
I’m relatively healthy.
Toilet paper exists, because…. yeah.
It’s almost my birthday!!
What would you add to the list?
It’s not too often the Shine4Him Photo blog ventures into social commentary, but I think this week’s photo deserves it (phrases taken from Exodus 3:5 and Psalm 100:4, painted on a church wall in India). So does the recent happenings in Aurora, CO in the USA.
In the week following this tragedy, there have been many stories emerge of heroism, sacrifice, and love. Tragedies tend to bring out the deepest emotions and people’s true selves. Anyone can claim what they think they would do in a situation, but we never know for sure until something forces us to act without thinking. That’s what the men who died saving their girlfriends were doing. Somewhere, they learned that was the noble thing to do, and when the moment came, they acted. Now the world is grateful, even through many tears.
Then there is Pierce O’Farrill, one of the other victims of the shooting. Despite having been shot three times, the moment he was released from the hospital, he told the press that he had forgiven the shooter. Again, this goes against the grain of what seems normal. No one blames the families who are angry at Holmes. I doubt few would be upset when justice is served. But what about this guy?
Forgiveness, in itself, is very freeing. For years, research has proven that bitterness only tears apart the person who carries it, and forgiveness allows the person to give up the “victim” title and move on with their lives. Personally, I hope everyone involved can eventually come to that point, though it will likely take years. And please note that forgiveness is not exoneration. I’m sure even O’Farrill would agree that the courts need to do their job. But this immediate forgiveness, and even a willingness to talk to and pray for the shooter? Now that’s something different.
O’Farrill links his actions to his faith in Jesus Christ. It takes more than just being a good person to forgive like that, I’ve found. It takes power beyond ourselves. But through the years, many have discovered the power that Jesus provides to forgive those who hurt them. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom also had to lean on her faith to forgive the man who tortured her and her sister. But both of these people have made the same amazing discovery – that forgiveness gives us a glimpse of the true nature of God, and in that, we can be thankful.
Have you ever struggled to forgive someone who hurt you? Where do you find the strength to move on?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 6.3 • 1/100 sec
Happy New Year! As we get ready to start the next year, make (and break) resolutions, and throw wild parties that involve streamers and kazoos, it’s often time to look back as well. We look at all the things we’ve learned the past year and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” Ok, so maybe not all our memories give us warm fuzzies. But I hope most of them do!
We’re celebrating over here as well, because on January 1st, the Shine4Him Photography blog will be one year old! In honor of that, and of the New Year, I thought it would be fun to take a look back over the past year’s top posts. I chose these due to the number of comments (including Facebook and FORUS Athletics posts), how often they were searched in Google (yes, I can figure that stuff out. Creepy, huh?), as well as how much fun I had writing them. So, without further ado, let’s take a step back in time.
- This year was a time for some serious topics. I tried to keep up with the news when I could. First, we had the earthquake in Japan. Then, I wrote about my experience at the Indiana State Fair. Finally, we looked at an everyday occurance – the plight of temple children in India.
- Some of my more serious topics were inspirational. In a few posts I discussed who inspires me, a lesson learned from an Indian beggar girl, and how a team of volunteers saved a group of orphans from jail in Mexico (in three posts: here, here, and here).
- True to the point of this blog, we covered cultural and tourist-y things as well. It seems tons of people loved reading about the Queen’s Guard in London and a slew of hidden crosses around the world (my two most-searched posts). Others got some laughs talking about statue actors and Singapore’s crazy laws.
- Finally, we can’t forget the funny, strange, and just plain awkward! These posts included real things people have told me, a rural ‘urban legend‘, and the fact that I actually am crazy enough to pet a tiger.
Expect more fun times in the year to come! This spring, I will also be adding another country to the lineup: Poland! I bet you can’t wait!
What was your favorite blog post this year?
“How could God allow something like this to happen?” is the most-asked question in times of natural disaster. This week, as Japan still reels from the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami, they are faced with new risks from an overheated nuclear reactor and winter snow. When does it end? What can we do? And most of all, WHY is it even happening? No one can really answer that last question. We all have our theories, especially when it pertains to God. Some answer it by denying his existence. Others place the blame on a world that has been damaged by humanity’s selfishness. Some claim it’s just random chance, while some blame the devil or evil powers. Some even say God caused it for a greater purpose. No one really knows for sure. And even if someone had the right answers, would that really do anything to ease the pain of someone who lost a family member or home? Not at all.
Instead of trying to answer impossible questions, I prefer to focus on what I do know: God exists. As the girl in the picture is reading, He really is King of Kings and Lord of Lords over the whole earth, including Japan. I have seen His work in so many ways I can’t even count anymore. He understands our pain. Through Jesus, God experienced our heartbreak, our fears, and even physical pain and death. He cried. He got exhausted and overwhelmed at times. He got angry sometimes. Everything we face, and every question we have asked, He has known firsthand. Finally, He is good. In times like these, it’s easy to question that. We want to put the blame on someone, as it helps us deal with the pain. But looking back at every painful moment in my life, I can see how God was able to bring a much greater good out of it. I’m sure He can do the same with Japan, even if we’re not seeing it right now.
What it really comes down to is faith. God is good, even now. Can you trust that? A friend of mine suggested that it is not having a huge faith that makes a person strong. Rather, it only takes a small amount of faith in very great circumstances. That’s the test of who we really are. In talking about people who had overcome great circumstances, he said, “I used to think they were amazing in spite of the impossible odds. But it was the impossible odds that made their faith amazing. Those circumstances they found themselves in made them realize how much more they needed God. Maybe that’s why Christ compared faith to a mustard-seed. You don’t need a lot of it, you just need to see the size of the circumstances you need it in. I pray that I realize I need FAITH MORE… not more faith.” (Andrew Chandler)
What questions do you have for God? Have you found a way to hold on to faith in hard times like this? What’s your story?
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/680 sec
“PrayforJapan” is currently the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Last night, the island was hit with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake. The resulting tsunami has hit several other nations as well. I spent a while this morning talking with a friend whose Japanese family members weren’t responding (they have been found safe now – praise God!), as well as with another friend who has been up since 3am working with those providing aid. There were also many on Skype this morning praying over this. Like my friend in the photo is doing, right now we all should be praying over Japan.
The situation is difficult, but at least the early warning signals got a majority of people out of the way in time. The US Geological Survey has rated this quake as the largest in Japan, and the fifth strongest on record. Right now, the death toll is at several hundred, which is fairly low for the size of the disaster. A 1923 quake in Tokyo killed 140,000 people by comparison. Still, for the families affected, the cost is already as high as it could get. On the mainland, canceled flights, floods, power failures, and fires are making travel and communication difficult. Google recently released a live feed of news stories and practical help for those affected, including a person finder app for those still missing family members. The AP has released several photos of the conditions in Tokyo, for those who haven’t seen them all over the news already. Finally, Reuters has posted an evaluation of how the disaster will affect various business arenas in the USA.
In times like this I am reminded of how little control we really have over our lives. We never know when disasters like this can change everything we know in a moment. It gives me perspective on how I spend my time – is what I’m doing right now really making a difference? Life is short, so I should be using my life to make the world a better place.
Have you or your family and friends been affected by the earthquake or tsunami in any way? Share your stories, updates and prayers in the comments.