Tag Archives: Washington Post

Does God Hate Me?

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:2-4  SERIOUSLY???

 

Ten years ago, I was selling investments and insurance. I didn’t enjoy what I did, but I was good at it, and I was honest. Surely this was good enough for reward in God’s eyes. Then things started to turn. The economy turned, and I was working twice as hard for half as much money. I watched as dishonest people reaped the cash, while I struggled to pay the bills.  I had a new baby, but he literally never slept. Never. He would sleep for an hour and a half at night, then take forty minutes to get back to sleep. Rinse and repeat.  This happened every night for nine months. The next child was nearly the same. I was thinking of running for city council, so I asked God whether I should or shouldn’t. His answer was, “whether you do or not, I’ll bless you.” Then my mother died. Funny how God humors you when you’re asking the answer to an irrelevant question. 

Between the constant failure in business and the chronic lack of sleep, I actually began to wonder if God hated me. After all, “Delight yourself also in the LORD: and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” Certainly I was delighting in the Lord, but not really. I was asking God to bless the things I was doing, but never bothering to ask what it was He wanted me to do. There’s a difference. What I was doing wasn’t bad. But sometimes we need to trade what is good for what is best. I was secure in my job, but as I said before, I didn’t enjoy it. I am not the kind of person who drives a Lincoln, or golfs (I have never golfed), or quotes Zig Ziglar. In fact my stomach turns a little when I think of that. But I was secure, and it was going to take some serious discomfort to get me out of that.

As I said, my mother died. That was the last straw, and ironically, it was during that time that I realized God didn’t hate me. I had to travel 2000 miles to get to her funeral, and it allowed me to get far enough away for long enough that I was able to really start thinking about the state of my life and the things I was doing. God gave me skills with photography, not insurance. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should be doing it. I was trading the skills God gave me for the skills He didn’t give me. I wasn’t blessed because the desires of my heart were not God’s desires. Rather, I hoped that His desires were mine. They were quite backwards. (See the last blog, “And Please Give Me a Million Dollars and Huge Pectoral Muscles”.

Fast forward ten years. God has given me amazing opportunities, and I’m using the skills He gave me, and they have taken me places I never, and I mean never, would have imagined. I’ve been published in national newspapers, and had the cover of the Washington Post. My weddings have been published more times than I can count, and I’ve taken pictures of famous people in my studio.  I’ve been to South Sudan, Kenya, and soon Ethiopia. I’m happy doing what I’m doing, and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. God didn’t hate me. He just needed to make it so difficult that He could pry me out of my self-made misery. I’m thankful for that now.  Here’s a few of my favorite pictures that I never would have taken if I didn’t listen.

Tom Berenger in my studio.
Tom Berenger in my studio.
Infrared photograph of a live oak, 180 degree infrared panorama.
Infrared photograph of a live oak, 180 degree infrared panorama.
Old Woman in South Sudan
Old Woman in South Sudan

landman-513sm

Lighting striking over bridge and water
Lighting striking over bridge and water
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Introduction to my South Sudan Blog.

The purpose of this particular blog is threefold.  The first reason is out of pragmatism, (facebook is a lousy interface for uploading pictures from an ipad when you’re overseas, as it always seems to crash before a picture can be uploaded.) Secondly,  to keep me on track and keep my mind focused before, during, and after my next trip into South Sudan. Finally this blog is to keep people up to date on my trips and the events that have happened and are happening. I have tried in the past to post some of this information on my photography blog, but I’m afraid the subject matter was becoming too disparate and had too much of a life of it’s own to continue putting it on that blog.

I will try to be as honest as possible with these blogs, except when honesty might endanger someone. In this case I will simply say nothing online rather than tell something untruthful.  For those who don’t understand the previous statement, I would honestly and strongly recommend a trip sometime to the non-western world, where a lot of the assumptions we have about “the way things are” will almost certainly be severely challenged. Furthermore, unless you stick to western hotels and manage to somehow insulate yourself from the state of the people, you will almost certainly learn a lot about yourself.

For those who don’t know me. I am a professional photographer. I deal mainly with wedding photography as a profession, but I also do some journalism, and have had some success at it. I’ve had images in numerous newspapers and national publications, and have even had an image on the cover of the Washington Post. I also regularly have content in a few local publications; Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine, Hilton Head Monthly, and the Beaufort Gazette. Needless to say, I will be putting photography into this blog as much as possible, because that is where my passion lies.

I am not going to rattle on all night about this, and I’ll keep this first blog short and introductory. Tomorrow I’ll talk a little bit about the preparation to go to South Sudan, and also a little bit about what we hope to accomplish there.  For now though, I’ll finish with a few pictures from previous trips.

A boy looks in the window of a polling place.
A boy looks in the window of a polling place shortly before the referendum for independence from North Sudan in December 2010.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan. The people in this village had complained about needing a clinic because they were sick, while the whole time there was foot traffic hauling drinking water from the Nile. A well has since been put in, and I hope to see a decrease in waterborne disease on my next trip.