Who are you?

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I start by asking a simple question: Who are you?

How do you answer that?  Do you respond by saying your name?  Where you’re from?  What you do?  Your place in your family?

Who are you?

This is the question that John is asked in today’s Gospel reading (John 1:6-8, 19-28) by the priests and Levites.  They caught wind of what he was saying, what he was doing… the ruckus he was causing, the stirring up of the people.  They wanted to understand what was happening and so they posed this simple seeming question to him.

I think that “Who are you?” can actually be two completely different questions.  The first is: Who are you?  As in, who do you think you are?  Hey you… crazy man… living in the wilderness, dressed in camel hair clothing, eating bugs… how dare you make these assertions, how dare you announce that the time our people have long awaited is now upon us.  How dare you.

Notice that John doesn’t defend his position.  To the contrary, he answers by telling them who is is not.  He is not the christ, he is not a great prophet.  Rather, he is just a voice of one crying out in the desert, trying to make straight the way.  Furthermore, he answers with great humility.  He declares that the one he is announcing is far, far greater than he could ever be.  He notes that he is not even fit for the lowliest of jobs, of untying the laces of his sandal.

The second form of question is: Who are you?  As in, do I know you?  You’re not from around here, are you?  You make these gigantic claims, then ask us to believe you’re credible… yet we have no idea who you even are.

This second type of question is more tricky and it is the one that I’ve been pondering.  A lot.  The reason?  Matthew Chapter 7 is the reason.  In Matthew’s Gospel, in the seventh chapter, there is a small section entitled the The True Disciple.  The entirety of the bible is about discipleship… yet here in this one, small section lies the clue to true discipleship.

Here, Jesus is talking about the moment when we pass from this life to the next, when we stand before him and make our case.  On that day, many will say: Didn’t we do a pretty good job?  Didn’t we prophesy in your name?  Didn’t we do mighty deeds in your name?  And Jesus will say to them: “I never knew you.  Depart from me.”

“I never knew you.”

Jesus is saying that the ultimate test at that point, the point we all will come to… is whether he actually knows us or not.  Or whether we were strangers to him.  In that moment, we could say: I went to Mass, I did all the sacraments, I did a pretty good job, didn’t I?

All that may be true, but if we did not have true relationship with him, if we did not believe in and abide by the lessons of the beatitudes, if we did not surrender everything over to him, if we did not spend the time necessary to build a relationship… then in that moment, when we are asked the question… well, then what?

We will all stand in that moment.  Alone and before him.  And he will ask a simple question: Who are you?

How will we answer?

Falling into Winter

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Evidence of autumn, lightly concealed by last week’s snow and this morning’s dusting…  

On an early walk today with two compadres, we stopped by this familiar three-tier waterfall.  Surrounding trees still exhibited the oranges of Fall.

Orange reflection onto blue… one of my favorite complementary color medleys.  Falling into winter…

The new Lightroom CC? Let’s just say I’m evaluating Luminar 2018

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I was excited by the promise of a new, faster, cloud optimized, and device independent Adobe Lightroom CC.  And though many decried the loss of some features, I was actually enticed by the streamlined interface.  Their inclusion set was pretty close to my own workflow.  And though I don’t love the notion of a subscription based service, now I could more easily justify the concept because it included 1 terabyte of cloud storage.  All my images available everywhere and via a consistent, even browser-based, interface?  Yeah, I’m in.

Unfortunately, my experience was not a good one.  You are allowed a one-time conversion of your library structure from Classic CC to CC.  Part way through, I got an error message saying the conversion could not proceed.  When I exited away from the error message, I found I was subsequently informed that I had one shot at it and that that one shot was in the rearview.  I consulted the internet and found several suggested workarounds.  None worked.

So, I decided to essentially start anew.  All my organizational structure was lost but I was game for a re-do.  So, I re-did.  The photos made it across, albeit without any organization.  Still though, I figured I could recover from the aggrevation.  I was wrong.

I found the reliability to be sub-par.  Often, my workspace would go dark.  No images to be found.  Logging off from my Creative Cloud subscription and then logging back in seemed to do the trick.  But what an annoyance.  Also, fairly frequently, a double click on an image to render it larger than the thumbnail view resulted in a black screen.  Nothing there.  Finally, on a few occasions, the program crashed.  In summary: it’s rushed to market, not ready for prime time, bush league.  Sorry Adobe, but that’s what this is.

Enter Luminar 2018, the non-subscription program that works as an extension (and standalone) from Apple Photos.  Digital asset management capabilities are coming next year.  The image above was processed with this filter-centric and very full featured image editing program.  And so far so good.  I’ll be using this exclusively (Lightroom fully removed from my hard drive) and will keep you posted.

“So much wasted time”

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I remember fondly those Friday evenings in the 1970s when my family would huddle around the color tv console in our family room to watch our favorite show, “The Partridge Family”.  We knew it wasn’t a real family, we knew only Keith and his mom were actually singing and that everyone else was lip-syncing and pretending to play instruments – often quite badly, and we knew that the humor was corny and predictable.  We knew all that… but we suspended belief, turned up the volume and tapped our toes to songs like: “I Think I love You”, “Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted” and “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat”.  And oh, that infectiously catchy theme song: “Hello world, hear the song that we’re singin’.  C’mon get happy!”

I was saddened to learn of David Cassidy’s declining health and death recently.  And I heard that his daughter, Katie, revealed last week that his very last words were: “So much wasted time.”  How sad.  How sad that David’s final words, and his final thought in this life… was that he had wasted much of it.

I wonder what my final thought will be when my time comes?  Will it be full of regret too?  Will I think about all the time I wasted?

In today’s gospel (Mark 13:33-37), which helps us move officially into the Advent season, Jesus tells a story about waiting.  About making sure you are ready for the time when the master returns.  You do not want to be caught sleeping at that time.

I used to think that the point of the story was about avoiding the crisis of being unprepared.  That the tragedy was that the master would be angry and that you would be left behind.  In the case of salvation, it would be our opportunity lost.  But I’m seeing it differently now: it’s about being ready, prepared… not for the bad thing you will avoid but for all that you gain.  This includes salvation downstream for sure.  But it also includes a better life here and now.  A life filled with relationship with Christ, of service, of faith and hope and love… and of total and complete surrender to the one who calls us back to him… is a better life.  It is one filled with what we all want most of all: purpose and meaning.

I think about parents who learn over time that it is in the best interests of their children to let them make their own decisions, to loosen the reins and to allow them to experience life, to make mistakes even, and to be given the opportunity to fully decide for themselves.  This is a letting go.  It is done out of love, not the opposite.  It’s hard, but as parents we need to give our children some space.  This is free will.  This is what God the Father does for us, his children.

So what will it be in the end?  Will we be ready?  Will we said we did our best?  Will we feel as though we made the right decision?

Or… will we say that there was… so much wasted time?

We consider this in Advent.  We should… choose wisely.