Faith and Pharisee

not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

Philippians 3:9

This week I came to the conclusion that I have been trying to work out my salvation through understanding every last bit of God. The task is insurmountable. Not just because of the sheer amount of information, but because of the nature of God. 

Because He IS. 

Yet, my heart was in this position, and my spirit was with inner turmoil:

that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:11

I wanted salvation. It was something I was willing to work for, fight for, educate my mind, and discipline my body for (1 Cor. 9:24-27). But surrender for? Believe that God was working it out for me? 

No, I had forgotten this. 

I was a Pharisee.

It’s hard to be in that place. You know something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. All the striving won’t help because a piece is missing. 

And if a piece is missing, you need the manual to figure it out, then you have to go out and buy it (Matthew 13:44).

Thankfully, the manual we have is living and timely. It is my experience that the discipline of reading the Bible brings about the change God desires, shaping you perfectly through the act of submission to this task.

It is here that I found myself studying Hebrews with my wife. 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11:1-3

And it clicks. 

Again? More fully? 

But certainly in a way it should have ‘clicked’ in the past decade. 

Oh, I need faith!’ 

I can’t understand the creation without faith. Or salvation without faith. These are too big for me.

Not that I can’t cling to or explain these concepts. Or hold them to be true.

It’s just that I can’t work them out myself. 

Nor obtain them without recognizing that God, as the good Father He is, has a greater understanding than I and is working them out. 

And the gap that fell short when striving and working hard, was immediately made full. And it helps that,

These all [Able, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they werestrangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13-16

It’s not that I’ve solved all my confusion. It’s just to call a spade, a spade. To recognize that I have been a Pharisee and that with this in my trajectory I need to be careful to guard my heart. Filling up myself with faith and not with self-righteousness.

Faith > Pharisee.

Head Shot Photographer Lancaster PA

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Head shot of Denise, staff member of the YMCA.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to created headshots for several businesses and organizations around Central Pennsylvania. I love working with individuals to dial in their personality. I became increasingly inspired to create headshots by a friend of mine. He works with a different style and has an amazing creative element! I seek to dial in on the subject’s personality, bringing a modern headshot to the business professional or creative team.

I know time is a precious commodity so I seek to work quickly and thoroughly with each individual, capturing their person within a matter of minutes. The process is painless — I’m not the dentist after all! We laugh a lot, talk about how you can approach having your picture taken in the future (for your professional and personal life), and best represent you.

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Head shot for Michael Schmucker, filmmaker in Lancaster, PA.

After the shoot, I handle all the back-end work so you don’t have to. I choose the best images, crop, edit, and retouch the photos, before delivering them to you via the cloud. It would be my pleasure to work with your business or organization to create lasting, memorable representations of your employees and members.

See my head shot portfolio here.

Give me a call today to book – 717.781.9802 or contact me online to schedule a session.

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Head shot of Joe, owner of an assisted living community.


Head Shot Photographer Lancaster PA



Splendor of Holiness

“Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!“

Psalm 96:9

So completing is the worship of the Lord, that we will be given a new wardrobe of splendor in the presence of His holiness. Not only will our clothes change in response to Him, but our hearts, our bodies, even the environment will adapt upwards to the perfection of who He is. All shall shake; everything will tremble and be moved before His glory. Not a thing will be able to remain still, and nothing will resist acknowledging His worthiness.

Exploring the Role of the Church in Missions

The Great Commission of Jesus Christ is the formative and prescriptive manner by which missions is to be carried out and the clear indicator missions is to be conducted in and through the authority and sending of the church. In this progression the Holy Spirit is central in forming the Church, the body of individual believers with the head as Christ.  Under Christ’s headship the church is the governing authority in sending believers to conduct His mission.

Tip of the iceberg consideration on Missions and the involvement of the Local Church

World evangelism is the imperative of the New Testament. “The gospel must first be proclaimed [heralded] among all nations” (Mark 13:10).  The Paraclete to accomplish this task in the Holy Spirit, while the divinely chosen agency for the proclamation is the church of Jesus Christ.

‘The Church and Missions,’ George W. Peters, p 199

As I wrestle with how the church is to carry out missions, and missions organizations to be formed under the authority of the church, I find these quotes stimulating, divisive to the paradigm I grew up in, and requiring careful contemplation before casting my vote. Although, I have read these before and am predisposition to the mindset that follows,

1. The work of Missions is to fulfill the Great Commission

2. The Local Church Prepares the Body for Missions

3. The Local Church is at the Center of and is the Authority Over Mission

it is with consideration to this second quote, that I must continue to steep myself in hopes of making an even cleared understanding of missions.

Since the Christian life is changed with supernatural ideals and demands, it can only be lived in absolute reliance on the Holy Spirit. Unless the lessons are learned early, the Christian life becomes beset with frustrations and numbness; apathy sets in, or people become conditioned to abnormal and subnormal Christian life.

‘The Church and Missions,’ George W. Peters, p 213

I wrestle with understanding and relying on the Spirit as I feel the tradition and culture I have found myself in for 27 years leaves me with little room for the Spirit and much for self reliance. 

So here’s to understanding what part of the missions iceberg is under water. 

Great Spices Deserve Great Photography: Making of Mediterranean Roasted Tomatoes for Calicutts Spice Co.


The day I found Calicutts Spice Co. will be a day that goes down in history as a day that made my life more flavorful… pun intended. Since that fabled meeting at the beginning of 2015, the owner of Calicutts, Robert Orth, and I have been on a mission to bring our craftsmanship into your home. He delivers the bold taste of a great spice blend and I get to make you hungry with beautiful photography.

The best part of working with Robert is that we believe the same thing: if you are going to do something, do it well. Because I can’t hand you the amazing taste of slow roasted cherry tomatoes dripped in olive oil and sprinkled with a Mediterranean style spice blend through the internet, here’s the next best thing: a photo!

This article is for the foodie and the food photographer. It talks about the process of making the images and gives you a quick look into the making of the food.

Setting up the hero photo

When I set out to make this photo, I knew that I wanted a natural light look that was very contrasty. This reminded me of Southern Italy where things are very sunny, rustic, and earthy — like a good red wine. I chose a beautiful and weathered wooden background as my base for the photo and allowed the window light to play across it from the afternoon sun. I found a tray that has some character from use and that became my food base. I wanted the final image to feel like it could be made by you at home, but still look clean and put together.

Keeping with the Mediterranean theme, I reached for a red wine, bottle, and some wine glasses to add to my image. I think they brings out character and depth of the image, not to mention they are fantastically illuminated by the sun.

As I built and prepared my set for the shoot, I was having issues with too much sun coming in the window and did decide to block out part of the set with a transparent reflector to bring some midtones into the foreground — the transparent nature allowed me to cast shadow, but not lose all the light. This also helped to create and centralize the splash of light across the tomatoes.

When I had the foreground the way I liked it, I started to address a couple other problems. The spoon (left to me from my late grandmother — not Italian, but she still loved to cook!) was reflecting a glare right into the lens. I’ve heard that you can get a matte hairspray and spray it on things like this to keep the glare down but I chose to improvise and placed an extra wine glass in between the sun and the spoon to help diffuse the light and take down the glare. I think it worked nicely

Finally the background was a bit hot so I brought in an extra mason jar for the sun to pass through, creating those dreamy plays of light you see in the background. At Robert’s request, I kept the spice mix in the photo and worked focus to keep the jar sharp. With my set ready for food I could get cooking.


Roasting the tomatoes

I love to cook and sometimes I get to be the chef for my own food shoots — this was one of those times! With the recipe in hand, I set out to make the food. This dish is pretty easy, calling for only tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and Mediterranean Spice Blend from Calicutts Spice Co.

Tumble the tomatoes with olive oil, toss on your spice blend, and disperse them on a roasting dish. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes on 450F. For the food photographers reading this, make sure you use a separate pan from the one you’re plating on — I did so knowing that the olive oil and tomato juices will begin to burn to the pan after 15 minutes in the oven.

Checking on the tomatoes regularly, I removed them from the oven after just about 22 minutes. A splash of salt and they are ready to be plated.

Crafting the final image

I transported the tomatoes in a bowl to my set location and then began to somewhat purposefully place the tomatoes on the tray. You want to work with forced, intentional spontaneity, and make sure you have enough natural looking elements without weird tangents. Food begins to die so you need to get through this process with some quickness.

I’ve got my initial placement of the food and started by snapping a photo. I tether my camera to my computer and am able to view it large right away. Then I get to work, fussing with the positioning of the tomatoes and spoon to bring your eye to the jar with out forcing it there. We want the line elements to move your eye there naturally and not to overlap haphazardly.

Checking my focus along the way I made 15 – 20 photos before I was happy with my final image of the roasted tomatoes. Then I brought in a plate of pasta to add the tomatoes to as a secondary image for Robert & my own book.



For you food photographers, I would love to take your questions and feedback on my work! It’s definitely a process and I welcome all critiques and commentary. Give me a shout.

If you’d like to give the spices a taste you can head over Calicutts Spice Co. to learn more and get cooking!