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A House that Stands for HOPE

In my last trip back to Joplin, I took several more pictures. These, however, weren’t pictures of devastation. Joplin is already rebuilding everywhere. I ate at the brand new Chick-fi-la where the old one stood. There is also a brand new Walgreens where the old one was destroyed. I didn’t get a chance to document much of the building process. I also wanted to take pictures of the signs everywhere that said “opening soon” or something to that effect. I didn’t have the opportunity. But I did go by one house to take pictures. It a house I had snapped a photo of on my first trip back, and it was even in my “Beautiful Things” video. This time, it stood out like a sore thumb.

All the other houses around it have been bulldozed, but it remains a battered mess. However, there is furniture set out in the open air. There are markers available. And on every surface…I mean every single surface of the house- floor, walls, frame, etc. are written words of encouragement from people all over the country. What a sight! This is what I documented. I set these pictures to what I deemed to be fitting music and I sincerely hope and pray that it will spread hope through that special city.

Here’s Well-wishes for Joplin:

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UHO – Unidentified Hovering Object

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Around 3 weeks ago, my wife was visiting family from Joplin, MO. Of course, you know that an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of that town on May 22. What you may not know is how many stories of divine intervention there are when you talk to people from there. This horrible tragedy claimed 160 lives. The city is rebuilding at an incredible pace, I believe, in part, to honor the memory of those people. As I saw the devastation, though (search “Joplin” on this blog to see videos) I wonder how that number is not higher. So many people are talking about God in the storm and even angels rescuing people from certain death. I don’t pretend to understand why some would die and others would survive the tornado’s path. It is a curious thing.

That brings me back to our item of interest. One day while my wife was with her parents in Mt. Vernon they noticed these lights in the sky, right over the direction of Joplin, 30 min. away. I’ll coin the phrase “Unidentified Hovering Object” because they say that they were not flying, they were stationary for about 15 to 20 min. No drifting or anything. My wife grabbed the 7D and a cheap telephoto lens and snapped some pics, like this one zoomed in below:

I will let her describe the scene here:

My parents and I were sitting in their driveway in the early evening watching the kids ride their bikes.  Mom said, “Look how blue the sky is!”  Dad and I looked up and noticed it was a beautiful shade of blue.  Maybe the bluest sky I’d ever seen.  All of the sudden dad pointed to the sky and said, “Look at that!  Do you see that?”  He was pointing at a bright object.  My first thought was a plane, but it wasn’t moving at all.  Can’t be a plane.   It was too early for stars.  We hadn’t even eaten dinner yet.  Then because I’m a conspiracy theorist I thought about aliens.  So I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures.  If this was a space ship I wanted pictures of it.  I don’t know who noticed the second object, but suddenly we were looking at two bright objects in the sky.  Neither were moving.  They were changing colors though.  The top one was brighter and changing from white to blue and back and forth.  The bottom one was white and orange.  We looked at it them for about 20 minutes before the clouds took over the sky and we could no longer see either object.  Later when I looked at the pictures on my computer I noticed something weird.   When I zoomed up on the picture it had a shape to it.  I couldn’t see the shape when I was looking at it in person earlier, but the pictures showed a definite shape.  The shape of an angel.

Again, I don’t really understand this stuff. I know what it looks like. Others look at it and say, “Looks like an angel”. The other pics look so similar too, with the same features. Well, it looks like the stereotypical image that we have of angels. How accurate is that? Well, how did that look come to be a stereotype? It has to be for a reason that everyone depicts angels this way. Sure, the Bible also says that we can entertain angels unaware. They, as God’s messengers could probably appear in many different ways. But then, we have the descriptions of angels in the Scripture. It describes a bright light, seen even in the brightest day. Hmm. Interesting.

Am I saying that this UHO, as I’ve come to call it, is in fact an angel? I’m saying that’s what it looks like. I wasn’t there, but I’ve see all the pictures and heard my wife’s testimony. I think that we who are sophisticated and educated have a much harder time accepting this Ephesians 6 type of truths. I grew up on the mission field, but in a sophisticated city. I have been to more remote places where people are more sensitive to the spiritual forces of both good and evil.

2 Kings 6 comes to mind. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in this way:

15Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”  16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”  17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”    The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha! (2 Kings 6:15-17 MSG)

Could it be that we too have our eyes closed to these spiritual realities?

What do you think this UHO is?

Inspired Creativity

Today was the last day of #echo11, or Echo Conference. It was my first time, and will definitely not be my last! I’m headed home with inspiration, practical tips, and encouragement. Over the next few days I’ll be blogging about some of the many gems. I’ll also be posting my review and interview of Gary Molander and his new book- “Pursuing Christ, Creating Art”. I’ll be posting thoughts on the “Blue Like Jazz” movie as well as a short but great interview of Steve Taylor. So stay tuned.

I was really excited to go to Echo, I it turns out, I should’ve been. However, even before Echo I experienced a sort of surge of inspired creativity. Let me tell you about it and how God used it in ways that I would not have imagined. And you can do the same!

So let me link you now to a pdf of my July article in Christian Video Magazine, entitled “Inspired Creativity“.

Different Ways to Help Joplin

Randy Gariss was my pastor back home in Joplin at College Heights Christian Church.  He was the master of ceremonies at the Memorial Service after the Tornado in May. Earlier this month he spoke briefly at the North American Christian Convention in July 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio on how to help Joplin. He shared insights from private conversations with both the Governor of Missouri and the President of the United States.


Feel free to share this video or others that I have made to continue raising awareness for this great cause. For more info: chcchurch.org

(Music by Derri Daughtery- cloudsechoinblue.com)

My Second Joplin Video

June 24, 2011 1 comment

The last video has done a lot of good, and I’m trilled about it. In just one week, it’s been viewed over 2100 times and shared by over 800 people of Facebook alone. This is not counting people who saw it or will see it in a couple of church services and one ladies Bible study of 100 women. After the video was shown in one church, they, who had already given to Joplin, committed another trailer of supplies! Another church plans on using it to promote relief help. God is good.

This video has no message at the end to help or anything. The message is throughout, and it’s for the people of Joplin, to give them hope and encouragement. It is simple in its approach. It uses sound clips from the preachers at the community memorial service one week after the storm.

The speakers in this video are, in order of appearance- Fr. Justin Monaghan of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Pastor Randy Gariss of College Heights Christian Church, Rev. Aaron Brown of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Some of the footage was my friend, Sid McGregor’s. The music is by Derri Daughtery (of The Choir and Lost Dogs) from his ambient project “Clouds Echo in Blue”, “the sound at the end of the world”.

My First Joplin Tribute Video

Here’s my first edit from some of my footage of Joplin last week. Cameras cannot capture the full scale of the damage. The video shows significant damage and from many different areas around town. However, the main focus of this edit is to show the other side of things. There are beautiful realities also in play in this place in the midst of the horrible tragedy.

 

No Amount of Words…

June 10, 2011 2 comments

I’m still in Joplin as I begin writing this post. I’m at my parent’s house, using their computer, and grateful that they were not affected by the tornado that just a few blocks away wreaked havoc on 1/3 of the city. It’s been 8 1/2 years since I moved out of Joplin, but I know the town well. It’s near and dear to my heart.

That sounds cliché, and so will my next statement. As an initial reaction to all of this, what can I say? My own video and pictures will be coming soon, but they don’t do justice to the immense and utterly terrible scene here in this big little town. I saw all of the images before I arrived here. But they pale in comparison to standing in the middle of it all…where no lens is able to capture what the human eye is capable of absorbing. In taking video, I felt like I needed to detach myself in order to get decent quality images, but every time I drive through I’m shocked and amazed again at the complete and vast devastation. It’s incredibly horrifying to me. Just imagine what it is for the many who endured it and survived!

Any disaster area is usually a place that brings out the best and the worst in people. That is true here, however the outpouring of good being done is extremely impressive. Minutes after I arrived, I was given a bottle of water by a guy on a four wheeler. As the president and governor pointed out, the “Good Samaritan” spirit of Joplin is evident in neighbor helping neighbor. I see many different states represented in relief volunteers in the city and even now as the national media coverage has begun to dissipate if not disappeared already. I see much good amidst in all of the bad. I see the church as the shinning beacon it was meant to be. I see God’s hand in the divine interventions that so many people are talking about.

Springfield’s chief meteorologist called this vicious EF5 tornado an act of nature, but that many more people were not killed was an act of God. The stories are many that support this quote. So many people, including my good friends lost everything, but their lives.

Left in the path is a long period of rebuilding, and not just structures. We mustn’t forget Joplin. It may be old news already for the mainstream anchors, but the debris still left on the ground is enormous. Again, it sounds cliché, but it’s beyond words. Words may be helpful, but are by nature limited in their ability to describe incredible situations. No amount of words will begin to accurately portray for you what has taken place here in Joplin.

That was my initial reaction, and the phrase that was continually on my mind every time I would drive through an affected area, which is unavoidable, it’s so wide-spread. But maybe there is a word to describe Joplin after all. One word often associated with tragedy is simple enough to comprehend, though to understand it you must have been through some amount of suffering. That word is “hope”.  Someone took duck tape to the Joplin High School sign where the “j, lin” were removed and made “Joplin” read “Hope” instead. That is not just the sentiment of one; it’s the will of many. There is so much debris going OUT of Joplin, but at the same time there is so much hope IN Joplin.

My wife took a picture of a tree. Like all trees in the disaster zone, they were stripped of all life, including much of the bark. Yet this tree already is beginning to produce life again- a pretty fitting image of the Joplin I know and love.

God bless Joplin!

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