Gala + Graduation Highlights

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to photograph a Gala and Graduation for Carolina College of Theology. It’s not often I leave a shoot feeling like family with the client, but as I walked away from the gala and graduation, those that once were strangers felt more like friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, co-laborers for the Kingdom. How sweet it is that the Gospel has the power to unite our hearts together with perfect strangers.

Huge shoutout to my friend Kavin for passing the shoot along to me, you rock dude.
Here are a few of my favorite photos…Let me know what you guys think!

Gala Highlights

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Graduation Highlights

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Understanding God’s Wrath

If you’ve watched any of the vlogs I’ve posted, you know I’ve been camped out in the Book of Joshua for awhile now. I absolutely adore this story for so many reasons…in it you see many different characteristics of the Lord. You see Him as a loving Father when he encourages his child. You see him as a provider, when he provides refuge for the Israelite spies. You see him as a redeemer, when he uses a prostitute to help aid the Israelite spies, and then she later becomes a part of the very lineage of Jesus Christ. Throughout Joshua, you see God as sovereign over creation when he parts the Jordan river and allows the Israelites to walk across on dry ground. You see him as a Promise Keeper, when he keeps his covenant with Israel and delivers her into the Promised Land. Joshua is a reminder of our disobedience and depravity and despite that, God’s grace upon grace. It displays God’s power as He miraculously makes the sun stand still in the sky, and we see him as the Giver of Rest, when he gives rest to the Israelites after forty years in the wilderness.

But as I read the latter part of Joshua 10 this morning, I’ll be honest, my first impression of the Lord was not a good one. As I read through the verses, my stomach churned a bit and I felt my face wincing, subconsciously reminding myself that God is Good, even though He didn’t seem good in this passage. However, the more I read it, thought about it and prayed through it, the more my heart changed and I saw the Lord’s goodness and grace through His wrath. So much so, that even though I have about a thousand things to do today and not enough time to do them all, I had to stop and write this, to share with you guys and to hopefully offer a tad bit of mid-week conviction and encouragement.

If Joshua 10 were a movie, I probably wouldn’t go see it. The bloodshed, death and pure gruesomeness of it would definitely make it rated R. In the first part of the chapter, Israel comes to the Gibeonites’ aid, marching straight through the night to fight five different kings. As the armies clash, the Lord comes to Israel’s side by hurling hailstones from the sky, crushing the opposing armies. After a full day of battle, as the sun is about to set, Joshua commands it to stand still so that the battle might be finished and their victory finalized. The Lord listens to Joshua and suspends the sun in its place. After the armies are defeated and the five kings decapitated and impaled, Joshua and the Israelites take on seven more cities, killing every inhabitant.

It’s at the last half of the chapter, when the Israelites fight the seven additional cities killing every soul that my heart (and stomach) began to feel uneasy.

Surely if God loves people so much, why did He command for the Israelites to slaughter women, children and the elderly? I asked myself (and the Lord).

Then God recalled to my mind why these people were being killed. Although it’s tempting to think of children as innocent, making their deaths all the more brutal, He reminded me of Deuteronomy 9:4, where we’re told (in regards specifically to these people),

“After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you.”

The more I thought and chewed over that, the more I realized how wrong my original uneasiness about this passage was. Rather than reading these verses for what it says about the Lord, perhaps it’s more right to read it for what it says about us, what it says about me. Rather than it pointing to the severity of God’s wrath, perhaps instead it’s supposed to point to the severity of our sin.

These people’s sin was so great, their wickedness so disgusting, that their rightfully earned punishment was death. For centuries, they had lived in wicked rebellion of God, in great offense to Him, following their ways and fulfilling their desires.

The total destruction of these cities was a just, rightful punishment in response to their sin and rebellion, as commanded by God (v. 40) (*I feel it necessary to mention that this is specifically for this instance because the Lord had specifically commanded Joshua to do so, and absolutely cannot be used to justify a repeat occurrence…but that’s another blog post for a different day).

Having long slighted the riches of God’s immense grace, their time had come to experience the weight of his just wrath.

And so our first take away from this ought to be deep remorse over our sin. You and I are no better than the inhabitants of these seven cities. We have lived in rebellion against God, worshipping idols and following our desires. The fair, just punishment for this is death (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-3).

Might stories like this reveal the gravity, magnitude, and weight of our sin.

But the good news is the story doesn’t end there. If it did, it would leave us feeling utterly hopeless. While this story points to the severity of our sin — my sin — it also points the depth of God’s grace. Without wrath, there is no need for grace. Without punishment for sin, there’s no need for Jesus.

Because while God is wholly just, He is also overflowing with mercy and love. He loved us so much, He loved me so much, He loved YOU so much, that he looked at humanity’s sin and the death we demanded, and rather than making us pay the punishment we had earned, He sent his perfect, spotless Son to be sin for us, so that we might become His righteousness and stand blameless before the Lord.

That’s what makes this bloody story in Joshua so beautiful. I deserved a fate much like these cities received. I have earned it. But instead, Jesus stepped out of Heaven to pay my debt and die my death, and because of that, I can now stand before God’s throne of grace, clothed perfectly in Christ’s righteousness.

 

Hannah + Emily | Spartanburg, SC | Prom

Emily got in touch with me through Instagram about doing some photos for her and her bestie, Hannah, for prom. We had originally planned to take them at Barnett Park, but those plans changed ten minutes before the start of the session when I showed up and discovered a kite festival was taking place. So instead we met up in downtown Spartanburg and boy oh boy am I so glad we did. These two KILLED it. They are (obviously) stunning, classy and oh so fun to be around. Here are a few of my favorites from their session!

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P.S. This is the first time I’ve blogged about my favorite photos from a session…should I keep doing it or nah? Let me know in the comments!

 

Walls Fall Down by Faith not Force

Hey friends! Thank you so much for taking time to watch my first blog that I posted last week on Joshua 5 about God Our Commander. It was incredible to hear feedback and support and suggestions from y’all, truthfully that was one of the biggest highlights!

Here is installment numero dos to this whole vlog thing, continuing in Joshua and picking up where we left of last week: Joshua 6. I know it’s tempting to believe that the Old Testament is outdated and irrelevant to our lives today, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Joshua is packed with tons of principles that impact our lives, and I pray these videos encourage to fall a little more in love with God’s Word.

I would love to hear your thoughts and insights as you look at Joshua 6 with me! What stands out to you? What’s something new you learned? What are you going to do different after having read these verses? Comment, text, call, message, or send smoke signals or carrier pigeons and let me know!

God Our Commander

So I’ve been reading in Joshua lately and I thought I’d take some time to share a few thoughts with y’all via a vlog. I absolutely adore this book and could probably camp out in it for a few years and still not cover everything in it. Seriously guys, check it out.

In the past I’ve typically just written, but I was in the mood for something new, so I gave the whole video thing a go. I’m hoping to post things more regularly, so let me know if you would prefer to read something or if you like the videos (or both!). Also, give me some ideas as to what to talk about! In this, we pick up in Joshua 5. Should I talk about the rest of Joshua? Or other aspects of God (i.e Commander, Provider, Redeemer etc)? Or something entirely different? Be sure to comment and let me know!

Grab your Bible, open up to Joshua 5 and let’s get this party started. I love you friends, and I’m praying that during the time you spend in God’s Word now and in your everyday lives, that you would see more of His glory.

 

Unless You’re Doing These Things, You’re Probably Not Marching for Women’s Rights

Sisters, yesterday you gathered to march for women’s rights and today I want to encourage you to keep marching.

I beg you to march away from department stores, to march away from that cheap new pair of jeans or sweater. I ask that you would consider the women who made it:
Women in places like Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and even in L.A
Women who get paid a couple of cents to labor for 16 hour days to make that clothing
Women who are regularly mistreated, abused, and sexually assaulted
Women who are fired if they become pregnant
Women who risk their lives to make your clothing
And despite all of this,
Women who still get up and go into those dangerous factories every day in order to try and provide for themselves and their families.

The clothes you wore yesterday as you marched for women’s rights most likely cost a woman her life, her health, her emotional well being, or her safety.

March away from cheap, sweatshop clothing and march towards companies who prioritize their workers over their profits:
ethical companies
good companies
companies who value people more than products
companies who advocate for better laws and humane standards and fair wages.

I plead that you march away from nail salons, that you think about the women who paint your nails:
Women who are negatively affected by the chemicals and fumes
Women who have miscarriages, cancer, skin ailments and never-ending coughs
Women whose children are born with disabilities and diseases

The same products that are beautifying you are what’s slowly killing her.

March away from carcinogenic, harmful nail salons and march towards eco-friendly ones:
salons that are properly ventilated
salons that use safer paints and removers
salons that require their workers to wear gloves to protect them from skin diseases

As you talk seriously with your boyfriend about marriage or daydream about your someday wedding, I ask that you march away from diamonds sourced in horrific conditions:
By tiny little fingers that have no business working in such harsh, de-humanizing conditions at such a young age ever
By women who have been brutally and systematically raped
Beaten
And killed
As they source that diamond for your “pretty” engagement ring.

March away from blood-stained, conflict diamonds, from those misleadingly “certified” by the Kimberly Process, and march toward lab manufactured or ethical diamonds.

I urge you to march away from the ignorance and apathy regarding horrific practices such as female genital mutilation:
A procedure that has no health benefits for girls or women
A procedure that causes severe bleeding,
Risks and complications at childbirth,
Emotional and physical scarring,
Pain urinating,
Cysts,
And infections
A procedure that affects over 200 million women and girls in over 30 countries,
But one that is hardly ever talked about here.

March away from the ignorance and apathy and march towards education– for yourselves and those who still practice it. March towards awareness, advocacy and international action to end this harmful practice.

Until you do,

your words are empty

your talk is cheap

and your fight is not really for women’s rights,

but for the rights of a small handful of select, privileged, western women.

 

Why I’m Pro-Refugee, Even if it Threatens My Safety

Friends, acquaintances, strangers, politicians, religious leaders and celebrities who are all against accepting refugees constantly claim that accepting refugees means accepting terrorists, which means putting the lives of American citizens at risk. I’ve often heard it said that the best way to optimize the safety of U.S. citizens is to prevent refugees from coming over until the government has a fool-proof system to screen potential refugees in order to ensure that no one seeking to do harm might take up residency in our country.

I can see where they are coming from; we are born with an innate desire for survival. However, I do not agree with them. I disagree for many reasons, on the grounds that if terrorists wanted to get into our country, they will do so another way (and have). But perhaps most fundamentally, I disagree with what the above argument implies: that our safety, the safety of American citizens, is more important and more valuable than the safety of the Syrian refugees. I disagree that it’s an “us” (American citizens)  versus “them” (Syrian refugees) thing.

It’s not.

In my mind, it always has and always will be a “we” thing. When I look at them I don’t see them as being “Syrians” or “refugees.” I don’t see them as “Muslims” or “Christians” (as those who do who argue for the acceptance of only Christian refugees).

While these characteristics are undoubtedly a part of who they are, they are first and foremost people: living, breathing, hurting human beings whose lives and safety are in grave danger. It is our mutual humanity that creates an outpouring of love in me. It’s our shared personhood that stirs my heart to compassionate, eager acceptance and my feet to intentional action.

My being an American citizen and their being a Syrian refugee does, by no means, dictate our worth. The countries we are born in do not determine the importance of our lives. The colors on our flags and the color of our skin do not decide our value.

How dare we shut ourselves, our country, our refuge off to them out of fear for our lives in some distant future when they fear for their lives today.

I would much rather die at the hands of terrorist who took advantage of our acceptance of refugees than live in an isolated bubble from the rest of humanity, turning our backs and shutting our ears to their desperate pleas for help.

I am pro-refugee for one simple reason: they are people, beloved by God, who matter.

Call me naive, idealistic or even ridiculous, but I hope to spend the rest of my life loving people for who they are: people…Apart from nationalities or races, religions or socio-economic status, languages spoken or eduction received.

If for no other reason, may our shared humanity, our shared personhood be what compassionately and intentionally stirs us to pour out mercy, lavish others with kindness,  act in love and invite those in danger into our countries, our churches, our schools, our workplaces and our homes.