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A vendor holds up 9 dollars bills with Obama's face on it.

Photo thought of the day…While organizing content for my website, I came across the photos I took when my brother, his Swedish wife and I took the 4:30am train down to DC to watch Obama be sworn in. It is an amazing experience putting my first website together bc I get to look through all my work and have a platform to show my photographs and video. Check out From Slavery to History on my website.

Here are some lessons I have been learning over the past week summed up in one-liners.

Work

-During a New York Times shoot I was in a very small town with one intersection photographing a mail box. I was hired to photograph a mailbox. And it was stressful because I could have done it wrong. I paused, with encouragement from my wife, stopped, stood, and realized that all I could see what what I saw. So I took the picture of what was in front of me.

-Content is still king. It is easy to get wrapped up in producing to please others or for hits, for my own idea of success or for what I can hope to become. All of those motives have given me a portfolio of diverse work but have left me to understand that I am starting a new now that I have recognized that the only motive I should attach to exists simply within what has created me.

-The key to failure is trying to please everyone.

-Comparison is death when it becomes how the way I value my work. Constant comparison marginalizes my work by influencing me to believe my work is only valuable when it looks like some other work I have seen.  Comparison leads to a constant game of catch up. An important part of production is to relax and value what is in front of me and give it the time to be produced into it’s fullest potential.

Work + Faith

-God has called me into a specific calling. Even though other filmmaker’s and photographer’s careers look very attractive, I have my own path that will lead me.

-The young rich ruler that the bible references has no recorded name 2000 years later. He had a name once but what he built his life around, his identity was what he became known for and is remember by.

Faith

-There is no separation between work and faith.

-I am having to believe that God is doing something great in me. I undervalue his work often and with the gift of my wife I have begun to understand how important I am to Him.

-While asking God to point out the idols in my life he has spoken in many answers. For a long time I was working to become known, to have my work known, to have identity in more than just me. He revealed that I am a master of masking my search to be included in this world with the good intention of being a Christ follower. Even while preparing my new website and blog I had to check myself that I wasn’t just preparing to be famous by setting up a system by which to be famous.

-I am learning there is so much joy in the Lord as I abandon hope in the mirages of this world.

-As God’s creation, we are made to search for Him and his son Jesus. All of creation screams his glory. I search as often as I can for everything that was created through Him, totally not giving Him glory, but holding up all he has given me and could give me as my hope. And then He reminds me He is there and all everything everywhere is to point to Him.

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Kanye was crazy last night at the Music Awards. I have seen a few videos on youtube of him freaking out in different public places. I had a chance to pray with him backstage in Detroit for a minute before he went out to Jesus Walks. He told me, “Thanks”. So there. Something different. We all have our moments where we grab attention, or want to at least. Before we point at him with comments,  understand we all have our moment we want to retake, that moment we later think of and ask why did we. Even when we walk away and think that we could have said something better or harsher or more smart. We are saved more that we think by our slow thinking. The fact that he is being reamed right now is not to the fault of his soul but that of his flesh, which is selfish by nature and constantly at war.

Dont learn more than you teach yourself, but with grace be humble enough to learn. Then, be careful, wisdom may just sneak up to give you a microphone.

Detroit Sunset from my house, see there is a reason to move here.

Detroit Sunset from my house, see there is a reason to move here.

Praise God. I really just have been having a great time working for the NY Times. Over the past week I have been blessed with 3 assignments and yesterday was asked to do 3 out of 4 parts for a portrait series for the Times. On Monday I spent 3.5 minutes with the CEO of Ford photographing him AND interviewing him on camera for USA Today. God has been so awesome. Not just because he has blessed me with these jobs, but because he remains faithful and true to his word. If you don’t know God, a let me tell you who he is..He is the forgiving, the faithful, the truth, the light, the creator, the provider, the hope, the ever present, the never failing and I could on (in my preacher voice). For real though, I have been freelance for just over a year and the jobs keep coming. Not because of the skills I have or the effort I put in, but because the Lord has called me to a place that he wants me to be and the result are jobs coming in. I give him the Glory. I received a call today for a job in Chicago, Detroit, St Paul and Milwaukee for a documentary series for a non-profit group. Now I know the lord will provide for he has called me away from my comfortable job a year ago, a job that was awesome, a job that I miss a lot because of the people. But He called me into this unknown land that is freelance and has provided ever since. Praise God. I really want you all reading this far to know that whether or not you put the name of “God” on God, or if you think that there is a power out there that you tap into or if you think everything was created to work in harmony or whatever, know this; that all of that came together and created a baby boy which a young mother named Jesus. The amazing thing about Jesus, besides the fact that so many people use his name and deny he exists, is that he came as a baby. Now Mary, his mother, had to take care of Jesus (God in a bod as some people would say). God in the flesh as a helpless baby. I believe that is how believers are supposed to act towards everyone in this world. As a servant out to better others, to nurture others, to care for others and feed them. To bring them up through adolescence and then into maturity.

Thank you to all my friends praying for the shoot tonight. I think I nailed it.

Media areas get a little tight on big events like Obama in Grant Park.

Media areas get a little tight on big events like Obama in Grant Park.

It seems as the tides are turning in both directions tomorrow and the next day to follow, they will turn again. A leadership will present by simply being present a new set of humanitarian morals and moral never before seen in the eyes of those who look to him and those who look at him. A type of checks and balances not for the White House, Congress, corporations, CEOs or CFOs but for the individual, brought on by the outlets for paid professionals’ opinion and research,  will decide that today the tide of tomorrow will not touch or determine the ebbs and flows of how we think, treat, love or wonder about another human being.

A recession has been announced and the scape goats counted for slaughter yet the individual has voted and set their own didactic to play.  31 days after 9/11 I could see a recession begin. 5 days after 9/11 I witnessed with my collegial set vision, what was confusion and questioning for the previous 96 hours started to take shape coast, as they say, to coast, caressed by the humbled hands of catastrophe into what some but not all regions of this country are known for; hospitality. A country filled with pride for brotherhood. A country filled with the thought of others, what a beautiful thing.  It is odd to me that the two proudest times in my life were the months after 9/11 and when I think of where we are going with Barack Obama. Not that where we are going with Mr. Obama is the to the promised land but it is to a place where as an African American young man I interviewed in Grant Park 5 hours before Mr. Obama would win said, “If President Elect Barack Obama wins, we (African Americans) will have no excuse.”

If we as a nation in this time of change could not only change how we think of the big R but also change where it is and where it belongs in our lives than “Change” will occur.  Lives are lived, from others perspectives, as slogans of religion, education, perception or constitution.  God Bless “fill another country’s name here”. I believe we are already blessed with more than enough. Oh, a recession, a humbling point to where not only auto makers but baby makers, baby dadies, mamas, drama mamas and everyone in between are forced to check the empty space in their wallet for the “insert budget guidelines here” tab and await its removal with our hopeful minds set on the $700 Billion removal fee. What is a recession without the hope for a better time when all of us can go out and buy whatever we want whenever we want it? It is 2:22 am and I will finish this tomorrow, wait, I’m sorry, make that later today.

Understand that time wears out the springs (in both the water and metallic sense) of hope that only rest on the consequences of the moment and ignorance. Even then though, the ripples and repercussions of that hope are counted and considered answers to prayer in countries you’ve never been to and in children lives you will never get to meet.  It appears that when the hours that separate tomorrow from today melt together without an eye closed to miss it, things just end up being all the same.*

*Yes I was inpsired after watching the Jack Bower in the  24 kickoff to write this message.

$2000, or 600 Mochas, gave this Vietnamese boy a heart surgery. Saved. His. Life.

$2000, or 600 Mochas, gave this Vietnamese boy a heart surgery. Saved. His. Life.

http://www.eastmeetswest.org

Hoan, 21, born without legs, came to America in October to talk around the country about the affects of Agent Orange.

Some off the moments of 21 year old Hoan’s travels while she went around the country telling people about the affects of dioxin agent orange.  More Photographs, a video, to come and a written article too.

Hoan climbs into the car.

Hoan climbs into the car.

Hoan, 21, crawls over a barrier at the overlook of San Francisco.

Hoan, 21, crawls over a barrier at the overlook of San Francisco.

Hoan visits prosthetics doctor in hope of new legs.

Hoan visits prosthetics doctor in hope of new legs.

From the outside to the in, Hoan has very little fear of both mental and physical obstacles in her life. She smiles more than anyone I know and in the next post about her, you too can see how her life is lived and learn more about the amazing stories of the millions like her being born today in Vietnam because of what America sprayed in Vietnam over 30 years ago.

How do you cope/conquer your fears?

Just an encouraging word for people who are in difficult times. Please understand that God is always there for you and has a plan for you if you come to him.  I would like to remind you that Christianity is not about Christians, it is about Christ.

Stand firm in faith with me, with all believers, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ encourages us and I encourage you. Tomorrow God has appointments in your fears and you CAN conquer them with the full armor of our Lord. It is not time to sleep or stand content, it is not time to put hope in our president (whom I support), but it is time to be a light reflecting in the true hope and true love that is Christ Jesus. Speak in love. Praise God.

Praise God for all of you brothers and sisters. I wish I had time to write all that God has been teaching me over these past weeks of travel documenting everything from Barack Obama to victims of Agent Orange, painters to volunteers, airports to fellow journalists. I want to and will Lord willing do so in the next week.

I leave for NYC for a big shoot I have on Monday and Tuesday next week. Please pray. I will then stay in NYC for 6 more days. Pray for my ministry and confidence in Christ.