Monday, April 12, 2010

Something Bigger Than Ourselves

I finally kicked my cold and was able to attend church yesterday. I'm on my church's audio-visual committee, so before the worship service begins I'm busy setting up microphones, doing sound checks and sometimes getting a projector ready with a multimedia presentation, too. Once we've got that done the crew will do general troubleshooting and planning for the future.

This might seem like what happens before the worship starts but to me, it's all part of worship. It's showing up with...

an awareness of God's presence...

a willingness to make my particularly gifts, abilities and perspective available to Him...

and a sense of expectation for what God will do this day,

Some days I worship by plugging in microphones and taping down cables. Sometimes I worship by taking pictures.

Once I was covering a Baptist Student Union prayer retreat, trying to get photographs that illustrated what the weekend was all about. Taking pictures during a worship service I noticed some students who worked with the deaf community. They were signing the hymns and worship songs as they sang. Since I knew them and they knew what I was there for, they just ignored me and were not disturbed as I zoomed in on them to take their pictures.

I knew that my pictures would be submitted with an article about the event and they might be included in the Baptist Standard, the newspaper for Texas Baptists. I kept my eye out for that one shot that would illustrate the weekend event best. As I was walking toward the prayer garden with a friend of mine I looked up and there it was. One of my student friends was signing her prayer. I dropped my camera bag and started shooting, though the friend I'd been walking with was in mid-sentence... she knows me well, knew exactly what was happening, and patiently waited until I was finished (thank you, Kendi!). I took a couple of shots as the student was signing and praying and then, just for a moment, she clasped her hands together in the classic "praying hands" pose and I got the shot. It made the cover:

This wasn't like making the cover of Time magazine or something, but it was a wonderful affirmation for me at the time, since I was just beginning my career as a photographer. It was nice to know that what I saw and captured in that moment was also seen and appreciated by someone else.

For me, taking pictures of that student, praying, was a worshipful moment. I was aware of God's presence and aware that I was making my gifts and abilities available to Him.

I took pictures of Jami Smith in concert about 12 years ago. Jami recently released a new CD, "Verse", and my copy (autographed, thank you, Jami!) arrived a few days ago and I love it! It reminded me of the time I met Jami when she came to the University of Mary Hardin Baylor to sing for a youth camp. My husband had met her during a previous visit, but he was off with our older daughter at her youth camp so my younger daughter & I took a walk to the campus to greet Jami with a batch of still-warm chocolate chip cookies.

Jami graciously gave me permission to come back that afternoon and photograph her during rehearsal and also during the concert that evening. (I think the cookies sealed the deal!)

This was back when I was using a 35mm camera, slinging my 20lb camera bag, switching lenses and changing film on the fly, shooting with available light only. I loved that!

As Jami sang, I began to get a feel for her style and knowing the songs well, I was able to anticipate her expressions and watch for the best shots. But more than that, I got a feel for God's spirit working through Jami and was carried along with it.

And when the right moment came and I got the shot I was a worshipful moment for me. I knew that Jami was using her gifts and I was using mine and I had a photograph that showed the joy of that moment.

Sometimes a moment is filled with something bigger than ourselves and we can open ourselves to new possibilities.

There's no telling where it may take us.

*To see more photos of Jami Smith, go here.


  1. Thank you so much Donna...I really needed to read this blog tonight! Just as you have the uncanny ability to find the right shot with your camera, so you are developing the ability to put out the right thing to say on your blogs. Your writing is another form of worship.

  2. I do so love your writing. ((HUG))

  3. Donna, only for you would I continue reading after I saw the word, "Baptist". LOL You are right, worship and relationship can come at any time and at any place in our lives. Service BEGINS when the clock strikes noon on Sunday.

  4. Love reading your blog.
    What a gorgeous photo. No wonder it made the cover.

  5. Be careful with the cookies Donna, you know what they're capable of. coughproposalscough :)
    This was a beautiful post. Thank you!

  6. This is a great post. Thanks so much for sharing, like always.