Archive for June, 2009

I used to take a lot of pictures.

When I was single, and in the days of marriage before kids, my camera (a 35mm SLR for those old enough to remember pre-digital days!) was a regular companion. I delighted in nature photography, often using slide film (farewell, Kodachrome!). Did some experimentation with black-and-white, and some macro stuff. It was a hobby, a creative outlet, and what developed was “the eye” – I’d always walk around thinking about how some scene would be composed as a photograph. I’d look for pictures.

All that changed once the realities of career and children set in.

Sure, I would now take pictures of the kids, and, on trips away, the creative urge might re-awaken. But by-and-large, the impulse to see and create photographs was submerged. I missed the outlet, but I was immersed in other, demanding priorities.

My cameras mostly languished, little-used, as the creative drive was temporarily replaced by functional picture-taking. And my ventures into video ended up the same way – it was a lot of work to bring equipment, set it up, download and edit, etc., and usage was mainly functional.

When digital photography came on the scene, the remarkable immediacy and ease of use help bring about a brief re-awakening. I remember well the day after the birth of our last son over 7 years ago, when a glorious morning led to a flurry of lovely pictures in the scenic lakeside area that is between our house and the hospital. Nonetheless, the demands of life kept the creative fires burning low, and the quality of digital cameras still had a ways to go – especially as cell phones began to make picture-taking and sharing drop-dead simple.

Fast forward to spring 2008. A first generation iPhone in hand, I began to fall back in love with taking pictures. It was all-in-one, it was convenient and sharable, it had crossed the threshold of easy. Most of my pictures we were more on the level of friends-and-family, however – quick shots to share. Because the quality was good but not exceptional, and there was no ability to focus. The camera did not inspire an artistic and creative sensibility.

PurpleFleur smAll of that changed with the new iPhone 3GS.

For all of the many new and improved capabilities in the device, the most surprising effect, for me, has been a burst of photographic creativity. The camera is now higher quality, and allows focusing and close-up shots in an astonishingly simple interface. It now allows video capture, again with great simplicity and pretty good quality. And best of all, I now suddenly find myself walking around with “the eye” engaged, not on rare occasion, but every day and everywhere. Because I can compose quality pictures (and video) using an always-ready device, edit and share with ease and immediacy, and now I’m back to viewing the world the way I used to when I was a young buck with his Nikon.

I’m seeing pictures again. Eye and mind and heart are re-awakening to the world around me, which can be captured and viewed with a creative impulse unhindered by preparation and process. I get up in the morning, and often wander out in the yard, iPhone in hand, wondering again at dewdrops and flower buds, at shapes and sun and shadow. It’s not just an increase in technical capabilities. It’s a boost in happiness.

I knew I was getting a better iPhone. But I didn’t anticipate getting back something very important that had gone drowsy. A reawakening of creativity.


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I was talking to a friend today who is experiencing some family turmoil. In short – one aunt who married into the family has engaged, over many years, in a pattern of returning poison for love. What to do with such a person – how to show love?

Most of us have someone (or maybe that’s plural!) in our extended family who is a source of grief and trouble; someone who taxes our patience. Someone whom you’d just as soon see move to the other side of the world. The kind of relative that you leave behind after a family gathering muttering under your breath, marveling that you didn’t inflict grievous bodily harm…you know the type.

Sometimes, love means doing nothing. That is, you show the basic civility that you owe any human being made in the image of God, and you restrain yourself from doing all the things you’d LIKE to do. Subduing our impulse for vengeance can, itself, be a very high act of love. Even if it doesn’t feel like it!

“First, do no harm,” physicians are taught in the Hippocratic Oath. Many times, love is doing acts of positive good. Other times, it’s restraining your desire to do damage, even to those richly deserving it!

The apostle Paul, in the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Romans, details the corruption of the human race in the most plain and graphic terms. By the end of the chapter, you can almost feel the lightning bolt of God’s wrath tingling the back of your neck. Then, this remarkable phrase in the next chapter: “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Some mistake silence and patience in the provocations of sin as weakness, or indifference. But, in fact, it’s the love of holding back for a season, withholding due justice so that the offender might wake up and turn from folly.

When you’re provoked unjustly, show love. Even if it’s just the love of doing nothing…

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It’s Father’s Day. I’m on the front lines now: my father has passed, as has my wife’s Dad. But their impact is not forgotten.

They were not well-known men in the wider world. Neither of them were college graduates, nor did they attain fame or notoriety. Both, ironically, were draftsmen, laboring away in relative obscurity in different parts of Connecticut for decades with companies that were neither sexy nor ground-breaking.

But what they WERE – they were both faithful, dedicated, stable providers. Mega-wealth creation was left to others more gifted or privileged – these men went about their work and their domestic lives in order to provide their children with a solid foundation from which to launch.

They didn’t shirk responsibility. They took what they had and toughed it out, staying faithful to their wives and families, working and sacrificing and saving. Their wives – our mothers – also worked when the kids were old enough, since draftsman jobs were not the highest-paying around.

They provided safety, stability, and the chance to grasp at opportunity.

    All seven of their (combined) offspring graduated from college.

    Three of us have, at one point or another, gone off on our own or started businesses.

    All of us are homeowners, raising children who are now (in the oldest strata) moving into college and career tracks.

Many of us would like to leave a bigger mark in the world, a brighter trail across the sky. And that’s OK – I hope a lot of us do. But let it be said on many Father’s Days in the future, that underneath it all, we were loyal, faithful providers. And if our children are the ones to leave the brighter trails across the sky – what better legacy could there be??

Happy Father’s Day.

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Hanging on


When I was little, like the rest of us, I knew I had to hang on to people and things as I wobbled uncertainly through the world.

Later, I imagined that I was strong, independent, capable of making it on my own without help.

Now I know that proud self-sufficiency is a delusion, one which only leads to poverty.

Part of the richness of life is being in a community, where limp meets lean, where weakness touches strength, where a rope or a branch or a crutch are offered by fellow travelers.

Like you, I have a long way to go. And I’m glad for the company along the way…

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