Just two more stories to go with less than two days left in the old year! Thinking about what I should write about November, what popped into my head was “The Gospel.” Have you heard the Gospel story today?

2015_Lenspiration 11Nov

November 2015 – Golden Heights

Konza Prairie Nature Trail, Konza Prairie, Kansas

As a photographer, I like to explain the Gospel story using analogies with my camera. Everywhere I go, there is usually great opportunity to talk to people: in the airport, at a beautiful scenic overlook, along a trail in the wilderness, standing on an lake-shore listening to the water lap the rocks . . . the list goes on. And the folks I meet under these circumstances are usually there for the same reason that I’m there: to explore, to photograph, or just simply to enjoy the beauty of nature. We have a common interest, and we both know it. And this ever-so-slight, unspoken comradery is a great starter in breaking the ice for a conversation.

I met some folks on a hike in the Konza Prairie south of Manhattan, Kansas. It was our last excursion for the CAPTURE Kansas landscape photography workshop and most of the team was spread out, shooting on various sections of the trail. As I climbed this hill, I was looking for some pleasing compositions of the trail winding through the grass. Here was an early attempt:

8459_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 47 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

The interesting texture is what caught my eye. But I couldn’t see the winding trail from that perspective. Here’s another attempt further up the trail:

8472_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

I liked that foreground stone acting as a sort of anchor. But still it wasn’t what I was looking for.

When we crested the hill, it was so beautiful to look back over toward the setting sun. There was a family sitting up there too taking a little rest from the climb.

8486_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

So, when I foresee an opportunity to share the Gospel, most conversations start like this: I make sure I’m smiling before and during first eye contact to let them know it’s a safe atmosphere for conversation. I’ll usually say something obvious or fun or relating to a casual greeting. I can then ask if they want a group picture taken at this scenic location. Usually they beat me to it, asking me if I can take their picture with their camera. Folks are always thrilled to have a photographer take their picture . . . especially if it’s someone who is toting an SLR and tripod and camera bag and all. They think I know what I’m doing. And I’ll pretend I do. 🙂 But at this point, I have the floor! I’ll take as long or as short or as dramatic as I want and if you’re a real portrait photographer, you can really have some fun here. You’re serving them, and you have their audience.

After the picture(s) are taken, if I were to hand them their camera, the meeting would be over. So that’s why, as soon as I’m finished taking the last picture, I ask them a question: “Do you mind if I show you something?” And of course they are all ears. So then I proceed to remove the battery (or batteries) from their camera. If I’m not familiar with the camera or it’s difficult to do, then I just swing it on my wrist and start the demonstration with my own camera. This builds curiosity. Then I ask, “Without the batteries, can this camera take pictures?” I’ve gotten all kinds of reactions: blank looks, confused expressions, blasts of laughter . . . but the answer is obvious. “Of course not!”

So then that’s when I say something like this: “We all know that cameras are intricately designed and can do some pretty incredible things. But without a battery . . . can it fulfill it’s purpose? You can still press a lot of buttons, change tons of settings, and pretend like you’re taking great pictures, but without a battery, it doesn’t work.” Short pause. “Did you know you are like a camera? Did you know that you have been designed to do great works?” Longer pause to let it soak it. “God has created us all to want to do beautiful, amazing things, and yet in all of us there is a big void in our hearts; it’s like a missing battery.”

I never follow a script. In fact, I never say the same thing twice. It’s just a concept. It’s an idea that has helped me get started in the Gospel story. And using verses, personal testimonies, and past witnessing experiences, I can proceed to share the entire gospel. Depending on their interest, you can be as brief or as detailed as you like. What you share is an expression of your love for God and your deep desire to want them to be saved from eternal separation from God.

The missing battery is a picture of the deep void that is within us. We are hopeless without Jesus Christ; we are sinners who know in the depths of our hearts that we are guilty of violating God’s Commandments. Because God is just and holy and will not tolerate sin, He must judge us, just like any good judge must do. It is our sin that separates us from the fulfilling relationship that God longs to have with us. And so because of that great love, God made a way for that relationship to be restored. That’s why it’s called the Gospel story; the Good News story! We are doomed . . . but God has made a way for that sin-punishment to be forgiven. Instead of giving us the punishment of death, He sent Jesus, His Son, to take that punishment for us. He was innocent, because he had never sinned, and yet, he voluntarily took the punishment that we deserved by death on the cross. He took our place; Jesus paid our fine. Will you accept that payment? Do you believe that Jesus took the punishment you deserved? It’s a free gift. But only to those who receive it. Do you want to receive that gift right now? “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

After a conversation like this, what joy is there in taking pictures? Oh the joy of sharing the Good News! I’m telling you, any photography excursion, good pictures collected or no, it’s totally worth it when you get to share the Gospel with someone on the trail! I wish I could say I was able to tell the whole story to the family I met at the top of that hill on the Konza Prairie that day, but after my initial breaking the ice, I found out that they already knew the story, and so I just tried to encouraged them in other ways. It was very short conversation, and they moved on down the trail. Not liking the previous composition, I recomposed to include the step in the foreground, and shot the picture that ultimately ended up as the November image in the 2015 Lenspiration calendar!

8492_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200
Notice the two people coming up the trail? I debated whether or not to remove them before putting the picture in the calendar, but I decided they were far enough away to be recognizable and that they added a little life to the image. Can you guess what I did when they reached the top of the hill?

For me, breaking the ice and having a lead-in is the most difficult part of witnessing. Once someone is engaged and interested in what you have to say because you have just served them by taking their picture, they are all ears and you can start planting seeds of truth, speaking words that really matter!

You can buy one, two or just a few of the calendars in which this picture of the chapel was used for $10 each by going to the Staddonfamily Store. For 9 or more calendars, you can get free shipping plus quantity discounts as low as $5 each on the Lenspiration Store. Thank you for promoting a Christ-centered, creationist worldview in the world of photography!

2015-L-Fan-Ad

Perhaps you can tell, but I don’t like to edit my pictures very much. It has to be a great picture at the beginning for it to make the cut:

BEFORE

8492_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200-2

AFTER

8492_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

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