Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

10 years ago Rick Norsigian, of Fresno, Calif. picked up the box of glass negatives for the princely sum of $45 at a garage sale. Now, after spending a decade researching the origin of his find photography experts have deemed the negatives to be long-lost Ansel Adams originals. Norsigian’s find is worth an estimated $200,000,000.

“It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career,” said David W. Streets, the appraiser and art dealer who is hosting an unveiling of the photographs at his Beverly Hills, California, gallery Tuesday.

Not everyone concedes the authenticity however. Grandson Matthew Adams, president of the Ansel Adams Gallery is doubtful. “Mr. Norsigian has been claiming these negatives were made by Ansel Adams for many years,” he said. “I am unaware of anyone knowledgeable agreeing with him.” He said that many collector come forward each year claiming to possess original works from Ansel Adams. Few prove legitimate.

Norsigian’s claim however has evidence. His theory centers around a fire in 1937 that destroyed much of Adam’s early work.  These negatives could have survived the fire, he suggests and somehow remained undocumented.

The negatives, dated back as far as the 1920s, depict Yosemite, Carmel and San Francisco, all well-known subjects of Ansel Adam’s art.  

Are these images truly treasures from the past? It makes me wonder how much buried treasure there really is out there. As a follower of Jesus I can’t help but see spiritual parallels in stories like this. What undiscovered wonders are just waiting to be found? Jesus once described the Kingdom of God as a treasure that a man found in a field. He sold all he had to buy the field, which would then give him the right to the treasure. God has a many undiscovered riches and wonders for us. They are worth the search and the cost…

“God, give me eyes to find the hidden treasures of goodness and true value tucked all around me. Give me courage to do whatever it takes to get hold of what might seem on the surface like a nothing more than a box of junk but beneath can be of infinite value. You have promised that the meek would inherit the earth. Let me walk in humility and keep my eyes open for the true treasures hidden at my feet! And when I find them, give me courage to sell everything to get them. My everything for your everything is still a bargain! Like $45 for $200,000,000! In Jesus…”

The freak tornado struck at 2:00 PM, on Wednesday, August 19, 2009, but the majority did not heed the warning. Nearly a year later, The ELCA has ordained 7 openly gay pastors. This time, God is silent… Silence is a far more terrifying judgment.

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11 Months ago delegates to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America convention had gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center to vote on a controversial sexuality statement that would pave the way for the resolution endorsing the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals as ELCA clergy. Just moments before the debate and vote, storm sirens blared. A rogue tornado, missed by weather forecasters suddenly descended from the clouds and headed straight toward the assembly.

Witnesses reported sensing an eerie, palpable fear settle over the 1045 voting delegates locked in the room. ELCA President Mark Hanson read the 121st Psalm to calm everyone down. But Rev. Steven Loy, chairman of the ad hoc committee on the sexuality statement admitted aloud, “We trust the weather is not a commentary on our work.”

The twister hit and then promptly lifted leaving behind damage of stunning, symbolic exactness. The cross atop the steeple of Central Lutheran Church, directly across the street from the Convention Center, hung upside down, dangling in the air.

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Once the storm passed the convention agenda continued. The warning went unheeded. That afternoon the sexuality statement which needed a two-third majority, passed by one vote – a .666 majority.  Later in the week the group voted officially to recognize gay pastors.

With these votes the ELCA officially stepped outside the boundaries of Orthodox Christian belief and practice. They chose to set up a subjective interpretation of doctrine above of the simple, categorical Biblical prohibitions against the practice of homosexual behavior. They made themselves judges of God’s Word, and God mercifully gave them a warning just moments before their decision. They ignored the warning.

Yesterday, the ELCA finally acted upon their rebellion. In a ceraemony at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco the ELCA welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors. It was the first of several planned ordinations scheduled since the denomination took the fateful vote at its convention last year. Yesterday there was no storm. There was no Earthquake in SF, as there was an electric storm in Orlando at an earlier ELCA convention that discussed the sexuality issue, and as there was the tornado in Minneapolis. Now there was only silence. I can’t help but wonder: Is God’s silence and seeming consent an even darker and more terrifying judgment. Perhaps he has simply withdrawn his hand. Judgment and discipline is a form of love. But silence… That’s the most frightening judgment!

I am a Lutheran pastor. The church I serve chose to leave the ELCA eight years ago, and I am no longer on the denomination roster. But I grieve for this church, and the division and dare I say “fear” it has engendered. May God have mercy! And may he again show his mercy in his hand of judgment.

“Have mercy! Lord, do not remain silent! Do not leave the ELCA alone to ferment in their own folly! Act again, in judgment if need be. Just do not turn your face completely and walk away!”

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Pastor Rick Warren was hospitalized today when he suffered an eye-injury while gardening at his home. Reportedly, the sap of a firestick plant got into Warren’s eyes when he wiped his brow. The sap can cause temporary blindness.

The 56-year-old pastor sent a message to his Twitter followers asking for their prayers. “My eyes were severely burned,” Warren Tweeted. “Excruciating pain.” He was treated overnight and then released from Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

Rick Warren is the founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest in Orange County and the author of the multimillion-selling book “Purpose Driven Life.”

“God bless Pastor Rick Warren. We thank you for his life and his leadership in the Christian community. Thank you for using him to lead many people to you and to instruct Jesus-followers everywhere in the simple but costly ways of discipleship. Bring healing to him and use this painful injury in some constructive way.  In Jesus…”

Muslim gunmen shot and killed two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan yesterday. The murders occurred as the men – Rashid Emmanuel, 36, and his brother Sajid Emmanuel, 30 – were walking out of court in Faisalabad. The brothers were arrested last month ago after officials found leaflets bearing their names and derogatory remarks against Muhammad.  They were standing trial on related charges.

Pakistan’s Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti Bhatti acknowledged on Monday that he suspects the charges against the men were fabricated by Muslim conservatives who may have had a grudge against the men.

Christian have roundly condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy laws which are often used as a pretext for persecution, including violence and murder.

“Jesus, we pray today for all our brothers and sisters living in places where it is dangerous to carry the name “Christian.” We know that you have told us to expect opposition and persecution, just as you yourself were opposed. Still, we pray for their protection, for encouragement and courage and comfort. Let them know that they are not alone – that you stand with them and that we too stand with them. We are bold too to ask for a change in the governmental policies and cultural oppression in these countries where following Jesus is rejected. In Pakistan specifically, we pray that the blasphemy laws would be overturned. We pray that the growing Christian movement in Pakistan would be bolstered and protected through this time and that just laws and just officials would protect instead of threaten them. We pray this in Jesus’ Name…”