A Photograph and A Confessional Meme

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What can a picture say?

What does the above picture show?  First, the book is not sitting on a shelf.  Second, it is open, and being held open for reading.  Third, it has a bookmark showing that it is being studied.  Fourth, it is a copy of The Lutheran Confessions.  Fifth, light shines on the book from above.  The Lutheran Confessions reflect the light.  God’s word alone is the light of the world and the judge of all confessions.  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …”  (James 1:17, ESV).

To confess means to breathe out words of belief.  It is to say, “This is what I believe because this is true.”  It is a restatement of truth.

Unfortunately, most “Lutherans” in America do not even know what our Confessions say.  Our “unity” is not based on a common confession of truth, but rather our “unity” is based on politics or history.

However, a confession means nothing if it is not confessed, if it is not lived, or if it is not even known.  We should know our Confessions, and if we believe, then we should confess them in our practice.

Can a simple picture say that much?

Recently, someone used my photo to create an internet meme:

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True theological unity is based on a common confession of truth.  It is not based on setting aside theological differences, and promising to be united.

The meme didn’t give me any credit for the original photo, but I’m glad that the truth is being promoted.  It is a good meme, and my thumb is proud to be a part of it.

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Attribution, Copyright, and Collars

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The photo above is hosted on Flickr, and its copyright protection is “all rights reserved.”  That means if someone wants to use that photo, they need written permission from me.  Unfortunately, another blogger who is notorious for accusing others of plagiarism has taken this photo, and used it for his own purposes without permission, without a link, and without attribution.  To post without attribution is to give the impression that the photograph is one’s own work.

If the photo had been listed as “some rights reserved” under a Creative Commons license, attribution and a link would still be required.

For example, Trey Ratcliff at StuckinCustoms.com is an amazing photographer who publicly shares a colorful and stunning photograph every day.  His photographs are all licensed under Creative Commons: attribution, non-commercial, share-alike.  That means anyone on the internet is free to share his photos, as long as no money changes hands, and they clearly attribute Trey as the photographer.

How does one properly attribute a Creative Commons photograph?  Well, one way to not properly attribute a photograph is by showing a bunch of pictures, and then listing all the photographers at the end.  I’ve seen that done on popular Lutheran YouTube videos.  That practice is confusing at best, and it robs the photographers of the credit for their own photographs.  Recently, the popular site, Mashable, did just that to one of Trey Ratcliff’s photos.  Trey has over one million followers on Google+, and he responded:

Mashable, this is just indolent and lame.  Photographers like me are out there spending thousands and thousands of dollars to provide free eye-candy to blogs through Creative Commons Noncommercial.  In the article, there are two photos above and then four attributions at the bottom, which is confusing and lazy.  Look below this photo to see the proper way.  Get with it guys…

NASAstormThe proper way to do attribution at a bare minimum, Mashable (and all you other lazy bloggers), is to do this:  “Photo by Trey Ratcliff from StuckInCustoms.com [linked]”.  Simple.

Now, as for this photo in particular, in case you were a’wonderin’, this is a giant storm hitting the NASA vehicle assembly building.  To give you a sense of scale, inside that building they built the entire Saturn V rocket that went to the moon…

Stop with the shitty photo attribution, Mashable.
by Trey Ratcliff on Google+,
(Emphasis in the original).

When a photographer is kind enough to let others use their photographs for free, the least other bloggers can do is provide a link back to that photographers’ web site, and attribute their name with their photograph.  That is proper attribution, and it helps others find the photographer.

However, my photo of Pastors Rydeki and Spencer at the top of this post is not free to use because it is an “all rights reserved” photo.  Nonetheless, I might look the other way if there was at least proper attribution with a link.  Is that too much to ask?  A proper link would send someone back here to Light from Light or to my Flickr account.

If they linked to my Flickr account, readers could see a fascinating comment by WELS Pastor Joel Lillo saying: “Intrepid Catholics?”  In his comment, WELS Pastor Lillo seems to be judging other WELS pastors’ theology based on their clothing.

Gottesdienst recently published an interesting article entitled: “The Man in Black” where fellow Lutherans discuss the virtue of the clerical collar in attracting attention and questions from others.  The question they then posed was:

So why don’t “missional” folks go for a clergy uniform?  Wouldn’t it make them more accessible?  Make witnessing easier?

Ah, but you forget that our target audiences are so different.  I think it is important to dress my vocation so that those people who want a pastor can spot me if they need me.  I dress as I do for the sake of the elect.  I need to be visible to them because I am owned by them, I am their servant for Christ’s sake.  The missional/functional Arminian type is out to find the “unchurched.”  They want to talk to unbelievers, to the kind of folks who don’t want to talk to a clergyman.  So of course they can’t dress like a clergyman.

Gottesdienst, “The Man in Black.”

(See also: “The Collar and the Church” by Pastor Esget).

What other ways do we dress to show our vocations?  A photographer often has a camera and tripod, but that’s not clothing.  All judges wear black robes (just like many WELS pastors).  Judges in Wisconsin are required to wear the black robe.  Lawyers wear suits and ties.  There is at least one courtroom in Wisconsin where if a lawyer does not wear a tie, they have a clown tie ready for him to wear.  I always wear a tie, so thankfully I’ve never had that experience.  Also, people know I’m a lawyer at the courthouse because of the way I’m dressed, and they often come up to me to ask questions.  I’m sure doctors at the hospital have the same experience.  When they are out doing their jobs, why wouldn’t pastors want the world to know that they are pastors merely by their dress?

Waiting for Spring

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March 5, 2012 was the first day of the cross-country ski season for me, and the last.  So much for Winter snow this season.  Oh well.

Many people dislike the snow, and were probably dreaming about Spring back in January.  Some anticipate the return of warm weather more than others.  They look for the signs of an early Spring, and rejoice with the fresh buds and green twigs.  Is there a new warmth in the air?  Do we detect a fresh scent of some new foliage growing far away?  Who doesn’t cherish the first smell of cut grass in the Summertime?

So also Christians eagerly await the return of the Lord.  (Philippians 3:20).  We look for the signs.  Then we follow the teaching of John the Baptist who made straight paths for our Lord:  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  (Matthew 3:1-3, 4:17).  Then unashamed in faith, we will meet our Lord.

And when he returns, having been released from the final cold bonds of sin, we will run barefoot through the grass jumping for joy.  (Malachi 4:2).  Now we see in part, then we shall see clearly.  (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Clothed in Christ our raiment will shine like the sun. (Matthew 17:2 & Revelation 21:11).  Not even Solomon was dressed as lovely as the flowers of the field, and we are worth far more than they (Matthew 6:28-30), but in the early Spring, even tulips must wait to see the glory that God will grant them.

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So too like them, we wait.

February Snow and Widescreen

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This is what February used to look like.

Recently, I received a new widescreen computer monitor (Asus ProArt 238Q).  It has a few minor issues with light bleeding around the edges, but it is still a major advance over my old monitor, and has caused me to look at many of my old photos in a new light.  Some old photos have a level of detail that I had never before really appreciated, so I’ve been reviewing a lot of them, and may share some here.

The photo above is from 2008.  I think it is interesting because at full size on a high resolution monitor, it has an almost dream like quality.

The other benefit of having a widescreen monitor is that now I can finally view the entire Intrepid Lutherans blog without having to scroll sideways back and forth.  For now, the plan is in the next year to hopefully transition Light from Light into a wider format as well.  That will allow photos to display here at a larger size.

Happy Leap Day, and God’s blessings to all the readers.

Dreamy Air, Gentle Water, and Sharing

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Soft silvery water reflects tall pine in gentle ripples through a warm dreamy air.

After taking this picture, I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  Maybe it was good, but maybe not.  Would others appreciate it?  I sent it to a friend who liked it a lot.  Her enjoyment caused me to like it a lot too.  Getting feedback is good for any artist.  Otherwise, the only reaction some pictures will ever elicit is a question: “Is this good, or not?”

Taking pictures for one’s own enjoyment can be a good hobby, but photography, as with any art, is really about communication with others.  Art should be a communal experience.  I’m not sure if the picture above communicates anything deep other than that God is good and beauty exists, but at least we can share that pleasant thought together.

Whenever we enjoy what God has created, we enjoy it together.

The Golden City of God

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“Jerusalem, thou city fair and high,
Would God I were in thee!
My longing heart to thee would gladly fly;
It will not stay with me.
Far over vale and mountain,
Far over field and plain,
It hastes to seek its fountain
And leave this world of pain.”

— “Jerusalem, Thou City Fair and High,”
Christian Worship, 212:1.

The golden light in the picture above was from the heavenly sunset, but the air of earth was bitter cold and biting.  It bit my fingers.

Soon after taking these pictures, and with fingers cold and hurting, I pulled my glove off to retrieve keys from pocket.  However, the wrist strap for my camera had caught the glove, causing my Canon G12 camera to go flying.  It dropped on the sidewalk, bounced on the cement, and slid through the snow.

A very nice camera damaged is not overly important, but it is a reminder of all the large and small frustrations and pain we feel in this world.  Jesus reminds us:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

— Matthew 6:19-21, NIV1984.

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Christ is our treasure.  It is He who prepares a place for us in the heavenly Jerusalem.  It is He who prepares us to be His heavenly Jerusalem.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Her husband is Christ.  The new Jerusalem is where Almighty God lives with man, lives in man, and is man.  (Revelation 21:2-5, NIV1984).

“Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest—
The sight of it refreshes
The weary and oppressed.
I know not, oh, I know not
What joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory,
What bliss beyond compare.”

— “Jerusalem the Golden,” Christian Worship, 214:1.

Our “citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NIV1984).

“Jerusalem, my happy home,
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?”

The time is short.

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The time is coming when Christ will return to earth in glory.  Until then, He gives us a taste of heaven in the Eucharist and the Communion of Saints.  In this meal we share together with new Jerusalem, Christ is with us, He is in us, and he is one of us.

“Apostles, martyrs, prophets, there
Around my Savior stand,
And soon my friends in Christ below
Will join the glorious band.

“O Christ, do thou my soul prepare
For that bright home of love
That I may see thee and adore
With all thy saints above.”

— “Jerusalem, My Happy Home,”
Christian Worship, 215:1, 4, 5.

The pictures are of St. Nicholas Church in Freedom, WI.

May God bless you in Christ.

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P.S.  Those white specks in the picture above are an airplane and its contrails.

O winter snow, there you are!

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When I wrote the previous post, “O winter snow, where are you?” the forecast had been for a few flurries a few days later.  We received a little more than that.

It is amazing that countless beautiful snowflakes can fall every winter, and none will be the same.  God has truly made His creation wondrous and glorious in every aspect and from every perspective.

•  “Why no two snowflakes are the same” is an interesting article from The Washington Post that also has a gallery of snowflake pictures.

God’s blessings to you, please drive safely, and stay warm.

A New Year, 2012

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The sun blazes orange on the trees of an ice blue lake.

“I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.”

The sun broke free under a cloudy sky, to say farewell and bye to eye.  It was a cloudy day that relented, but only for the sunset.

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My shadow waves goodbye to the old year, 2011.

“For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.”

The world is full of many beautiful greens and blues, each in their time.  Sometimes, I enjoy going out just to see what unique perspective or light might appear for even a few fleeting minutes.

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Long journeyed sunbeams skim across the frozen blue lake.

“I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.”

The three verses above were spoken by Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings as written by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Because they were leaving from Rivendell on their quest in Winter, Bilbo also said to The Fellowship of the Ring:

“When winter first begins to bite
and stones crack in the frosty night,
when pools are black and trees are bare,
’tis evil in the Wild to fare.”

In Winter is the coldest and darkest hour.  It is a difficult time to be in the wild.  Nonetheless, in the winter of this wild and sinful world, Christ was born.  Therefore, at this uncharacteristic time we celebrate the dawning of new life and a new year.  Since our calendars are based on the birth of Christ, New Year celebrations are a fitting aspect of Christmas.

“Behold, a Branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace,
As prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little Flow’r
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.”

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“This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender,
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere …

“O Savior, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe;
O Savior, King of Glory,
Who dost our weakness know,
Bring us at length, we pray,
To the bright courts of heaven
And to the endless day.”

— “Behold, a Branch Is Growing,”
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, 121: 1, 4, 5.

Happy New Year!

“Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”

Advent is a time of solemn reflection, prayer, and repentance.

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“Rejoice, rejoice, believers,
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
And darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising
And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle;
At midnight comes the cry.”

Christ will come.

“The watchers on the mountain
Proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go forth, as he approaches,
With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting;
The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory;
The Bridegroom is at hand.”

Christ has come.

“You saints, who here in patience
Your cross and suff’rings bore,
Shall live and reign forever
When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory
The Lamb you shall behold;
In triumph lay before him
Your shining crowns of gold.”

Come, Lord Jesus.

“Arise, Desire of nations;
O Jesus, now appear,
The Hope and Expectation
Of ev’ry Christian here.
With hearts and hands uplifted
We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption
That sets your people free.”

— “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers”
Christian Worship, 7:1-4.

May you have a blessed Advent.

Photography Video Tour of Namibia

These National Geographic videos are an interesting photography and video tour of the land of Namibia.

All the wonders of creation declare the glory of God.  “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”  (Psalm 19:2 NIV1984).

The Lord wants us to be good stewards of the world.  We must take care of His creation.  For the “Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  (Genesis 2:15 NIV1984).