No Greater Love Than To Lay Down Your Life for Friends in Aurora

People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)
People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)

Every time I read about this story I can’t help but think how incredible this was. There wasn’t just one person who gave up his life for another in Aurora Colorado, but three people, who died in place of a friend. This story for some reason reminds me of the story about Arland D. Williams Jr., dubbed the “sixth passenger.” Do you remember this guy? He was one of the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90, a flight from Washington National Airport headed for Fort Lauderdale. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. Williams was given the chance to take the life-line from the helicopter, and each time he passed it to the next person, all of which were saved, and then he died before they could rescue him.

I’m not sure why Williams’ story comes to mind, but perhaps because that was really the first time in my life I can recall the act of giving up your life for another. I was 12 years old, living in New Jersey at the time, and I remember going to church that Sunday, and listening to a sermon about what this man did by giving up his life for those other passengers. For some reason, that flight and Williams’ actions, have stuck in my mind since that tragic event happened 30 years ago.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This is what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, and this is exactly what, at least three people did, in Aurora Colorado last Friday night at the premiere of The Dark Night Rises. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves all took a bullet trying to protect their girlfriends while the horrific shooting went on in theater number nine. This is the very message of the gospel played out in horrific fashion right in front of our eyes on national television.

This is honestly something very difficult to fully comprehend. Words just can’t adequately imagine the sacrifice made by these people, yet, this is what the very basis of our faith in Christ is built around.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8

In these few sentences, Paul brings together words that exemplify the Christian message, and show exactly what Christ did for his followers. We look at the actions of these heroic people I listed here, like Williams, Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves, and we praise them, and honor their incredible sacrifices, and rightfully so. They died for a friend, and in Williams’ case, he died for several strangers he never even knew. But Christ, who died a horrific death, for centuries of sinners, is given no such praise by today’s culture.

What view would we have of Jesus if we truly pictured him diving in front of a bullet, dying in our place, in a crowded movie theater in a typical 21st century American town like Aurora? He did do this for you.

Finishing Up Atlanta to Denver and Back Home Again

On one hand traveling anywhere on a plane today is such an incredible pain, and seems to take forever, but in the view of history, two thousand miles in a few hours isn’t so bad I guess. We went from a remote-ish cabin in Estes Park Colorado at 8,000 feet to our house, at sea level in Auburn, in about 12 hours. I have always loved airports, at least at long as I can remember anyway. Today the airlines pack as many people into every single aircraft as they possibly can, which makes for extremely crowded airports, and cabins. My perspective of airline travel has changed tremendously over the last twenty years, but airports, especially the major airports like Atlanta Hartsfield or DIA, are still a great place to just relax, people watch, read, do some photography, and generally take a break from the normal routine of things. I do love visiting different parts of the country, and the world for that matter, but as the cliche goes, there’s no place like home. I have visited every state in the country, lived in a dozen or so, and I can say without a doubt that the south really is a great place to live.

For all the craziness that is involved with traveling today I only have to look at the photo below to remember the reason why all that was worth it. To be there for the birth of our second grandson was an experience we will be able to remember as he grows up, and to be able to photograph his arrival into the world makes those memories even more vivid. I always feel very privileged to photograph specific events. They are all little pieces of history, frozen in time, never to happen exactly that same way again.

The photos in this post are sort of a hodge-podge of images from our trip home. I never did get a chance to do my 50mm airport shoot at Denver International Airport because by the time we got through security we only had about 30 minutes left before we got on our sold out flight, and we arrived hours before our departure time. I have several more photos of baby Luke than just the one below but I will save those for another post sometime.

This season, to me, seems so crazy right now that I find myself looking desperately for some margin (or balance). Fall is always a very busy time of year, but between football season, our multi-site movement at Cornerstone, a grandson being born trip, a niece to be born sometime this week, seminary classes, and a trip to Africa in two weeks, I’m feel a little frazzled (that a very scientific technical term) at times, just like everyone does.

I look at baby Luke in this photo below and it amazes me. God spent nine months to create the perfect little boy who right now knows nothing of the hustle and bustle of this world, and by the time he is my age, around the year 2050, he will no doubt feel the same pressures and anxieties that come with living in this extremely modern world. Maybe he will some day pull out this photo on his whatever electronic fangled device he has and remember that one day he too had no cares in the world other than to be warm and sleep in the sunlight.

The View from Estes Park Colorado in September

Our view from the cabin in Estes Park looks out over Longs Peak, which just got a dusting of snow over the last night or two. The temps are above freezing at around 8,000 feet where we are, barely, but it’s cold enough. I don’t get a chance to do self-portraits very often but I did this one below this morning as Deborah and I spent some nice quiet time, me reading and Deb knitting. These two shots pretty much show what we like to do when we are not scheduled to be somewhere doing something. It’s great because our location can change but we can pretty much take a few things with us and enjoy spending the day together on the beach, or in the mountains, or at home in the living room for that matter.

This self portrait was pretty neat to me since I was able to combine the two things I’m passionate about in one moment, studying God’s word and photography (meta data here). Self portraits are really much more difficult than one might think, it just isn’t as easy as pushing the button and your done, to me it’s about telling a story as always. I love looking at different ways to do self portraits since it tells so much about the photographer and the person. One of my favorite is this one my grandfather did, which I posted a few years ago.

Only one day left of our mountain view and it’s back to the heat and humidity. Something I’m actually looking forward to since it’s a whole lot easier to breathe in Alabama than it is in Colorado. Tomorrow we have the baby Luke photo shoot and I’m wishing I had all the cute little baby hats, baskets, and cups that Heather Carson in Auburn uses but we do have several Deborah knitting originals to use.

The Four Fillmer Boys as We Welcome Luke into the World

Well one down and one to go. Today we welcomed baby Luke into the world today at 10:07am in Longmont Colorado. Luke weighed in at 8 pounds and measured 21 inches and seemed to be totally at peace with his own existence within a few minutes, hardly even cried except when various nurses jolted him here and there. The photo above, today’s photo of the day, is the first ever shot of the four Fillmer boys, and also the four people who contributed and helped the very least in bringing baby Luke into the world today. It would be really cool to add the other two Fillmer boys (Larry and Les) to this photo some day, but one is in Germany right now and the other in Alabama.

I think I took about 1200 photos of the baby and all the various participants and visitors from today’s glorious event. There were many great shots of mom and baby but those will come later. Deborah and I were so happy today to be witness to the birth of our second grandson (and we were told our last), can’t wait to share a few more photos down the road so to speak. Next up is my sister who should deliver within a week or so, hopefully she will wait until we get back to Alabama so we can get the first photos of our newest niece.

A Bumpy Ride but Arrived a Mile High in Denver

So we are in the Mile High city for a few days for the birth of our second grandson, Luke, but while we are here we get to take a side trip over to Colorado Springs and visit with a ministry group there. On a side note, there are an amazing number of ginormous ministry groups here in Colorado Springs, like Focus on the Family, Compassion International, Promise Keepers was at one point, and so on… amazing. We are going to get to talk about the kids in our sponsor program from Cornerstone like the girl you saw in my previous post. I’m always excited to get to talk to people when it deals with ministry and photography at the same time. It’s one thing to get to work in an area you are passionate about but it’s really fantastic when you get to combine two passions together, even if it’s just to talk about future possibilities.

So, quick photo of the day above, which is actually from yesterday. We ended up landing in Denver in horrible weather (which is rare out here). It’s also freezing out here, well, it’s not 100*F out here, but all the resort towns are expecting snow this weekend. Until next time…

Baby Luke and the Mother To-Be Maternity Shoot

Yes my son and daughter-in-law are expecting, this coming September (so is my sister Sarah for that matter, and within about a week of each other, and yes, they are both Sara(s)’ssssesss…). While they were down here for their Disney vacation we got a very quick, and very hot and humid, photo shoot with the whole family. William, our grandson, is really looking forward to his new baby brother Luke and he was very patient to stand there and get his photo taken over and over again. I would really liked to have done some photos with the Graflex 4×5 but it was just too hot for anyone to stand outside for more than 5 minutes at a time. Everyone is back up in Colorado where the air is thin and the humidity doesn’t go above single digits but we were so glad we got to see everyone while they were on vacation.

Simplicity in Barbed Wire and Water

Today’s photo of the day is something I love to photograph, barbed wire.  There are so many different aspect and ways to photograph barbed wire, and almost all exhibit some type of feeling of simplicity (at least the kind found in fields anyway).  This particular shot was something normally hidden in higher water, which no doubt took many fishing lures in its day.

The Overlook of Creede Colorado Valley in the Fall

The photo of the day today comes from an overlook of a tiny old mining town called Creede Colorado, which sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by 10,000 foot mountain peaks. The air is crisp, clean, and extremely quiet, and from this vantage point the town looks a little like a toy train center piece (click on the photo to see the details).  This was just before the snow started falling for the winter.

Fall is Fire on the Mountain with Yellow Aspen Leaves

Ok, well maybe not here in Auburn, but right now, the Aspen groves of the Rockies are ablaze with color. After flipping back over some fall photos of the last few years I came across this one, taken at this exact time of year, but at the 11,000 foot range in the Rockies. You can’t see the glorious fall colors that surround these tall pines from the photo, but at the time, it was about 40*F outside and the entire surrounding area was full of yellow aspen trees, like the one shown below. Fall has to be one of my favorite times of year, almost as much color in the fall (if you look closely) as there is in Spring.

The Dog Days of Summer, Version 2010

The only thing that seems to like the fact that the heat index has been over 100* (much of the time over 110*) this summer is our dog, and the Lantana.  I couldn’t think of a better shot for “dog days of summer” than Ebby sitting on her heated bed.  The dog days of summer are certainly here in south Alabama, the grass is all brown from lack of rain, the pond is all dried up, and you can’t go outside without getting swarmed by deer flies.  Some people like this time of year (I am guessing those who live in Montana, or Wisconsin, or Colorado, where the temps are in the mid-60’s right now), but down here, all I can think about is being able to walk without feeling like I am going to die, and being able to sit outside with a fire going in my fire pit.

I know those days are coming, because football season is the only thing being talked about down here now.  Only about 2 1/2 more weeks before Auburn kicks off the 2010-2011 football season, but at the moment, I am just thrilled the first game is at night.  With the temps at night still in the 70’s and 80’s, they should kick off this game at midnigh, but at least Auburn now runs some of the games like Talladega (they use to run that late season race during the day, and it was miserable too).

Fall is coming, probably 2 days in mid January, but the sun and the calendar says cooler weather is coming, but I think Ebby likes it just the way it is right now.  I still feel like she looks, and I am ready for something more like –> Samford Hall and Auburn University in the Snow.