Saturday, March 25, 2006

Grace and Dawson

This is Gracie and Dawson. We've been around both of these rascals since the beginning of each of their lives, and it's been a great blessing to watch them grow with so much love. It shows in the eyes.
Gracie is already becoming her own little person. Today she came into the studio with her mommy and looked as if she was right at home, pig tails and all. I love it. She's always been a little soft-spoken, but every time she comes in I see a little more of her coming out. The smiles get just a little brighter every time.
Dawson seems very comfortable with his place in the family. He's got the big sister doddling over him, and I think he knows he's the babe, cause he's eating it right up. Dad is giving him airplane rides up above his head, as long as he doesn't throw out his back any worse than it already is, and mom is right there for all the free hugs he can handle.
It's a perfect fit right now.
2 boys, 2 girls.
Just like in our house, the girls can play house and buy twirling dresses, the boys, well, the boys can wrestle.
Watching this family is an easy reminder of how big of a blessing these little ones really are.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Lessons From New Orleans

"It's not the nature of God to limit his risks and cover his bases. Far from it. Most of the time, he actually lets the odds stack up against him. Against Goliath, a seasoned soldier and a trained killer, he sends…a freckle-faced little shepherd kid with a slingshot. Most commanders going into battle want as many infantry as they can get. God cuts Gideon's army from thirty-two thousand to three-hundred. Then he equips the ragtag little band that's left with torches and watering pots. It's not just a battle or two that God takes his chances with, either. Have you thought about his handling of the gospel? God needs to get a message out to the human race, without which they will perish…forever. What's the plan? First, he starts with the most unlikely group ever: a couple of prostitutes, a few fisherman with no better than a second-grade education, a tax collector. Then he passes the ball to us. Unbelievable." (Wild at Heart, p.32, Eldredge)

One of the greatest blessings that I received from this mission trip (yes, ironically, I received much more than I could ever have given) was the realization that God is calling his people to stand up, and none of us are more or less qualified to fill that job description.

So many of us look at faith from the world's point of view, like it's some sort of bar graph, as if we can measure our devotion. How many of us have thought we're just not cut out to be a Super Hero Christian, how many times I've thought, "I'm no Billy Graham".

The truth is, we are all Billy Grahams. Just like our local pastor, we're all Mike Browns. That's what we've just learned in the sermon he gave last week. We're all ministers in some form or another, because we've all been called to the mission fields of the world. And that means New Orleans just as much as it means Brandon or the street we live on in our neighborhood. There is a need for ministry. Ministry of all types, which is great for you to hear, because that means that one of those types will fit your gifts, your talents!

The key is looking at ourselves from God's point of view. He sees us from above, and from that angle, we're all on the same playing field. Billy Graham, you, me. :) He's not going to whip out a different rule book entitled "Volume II, Substandards for the Lukewarm" when you or I stand there on Judgment Day. It will be the same book that Billy will face. What did we do with the gift he gave us? Did we bury it or did we multiply?

On this trip God revealed that lesson to me over and over. Here we were, the seven of us, and every one of us on a different "spiritual level" by man's measurements. Some were strong Christians, some were just babe's. Some were settled in our ways, some searching, some still questioning. But it didn't matter. God used us all, and God blessed us all, because there was one like-minded ingredient: Faith in Action.

God didn’t call on Moses and ask him to sit down in the desert and mind those sheep, he asked him to go preach to The world leader. God didn't ask Abraham to stay in his tent, he asked him to trust him with his own son's life. Esther didn't just lie back and enjoy her cush lifestyle in the palace, she made history. He didn't ask Joshua to farm the land just outside the Promised Land, he told him to cross the river and slay his enemies. David didn't have a seat at the campfire with the other thousands of Israelites who were doing nothing as they listened, day in and day out, to Goliath's rants. He ran, directly towards Goliath, with some rocks and a slingshot!

He used these men and women when they stood up for him, when they acted in His name. When they did all they could do, God picked up where they left off. That's our mission.

One of the pictures that I picked for this column certainly isn't the most photogenic, and there's really nothing beautiful about it, until you look a little deeper. It's the picture of a simple ladder in our van, on the way to our job.

Yes, it's just a ladder.
But, it's Brother Bill's ladder from New Covenant Fellowship, in the van loaned to us from Prairie Hills Church, surrounded by saints from Living Springs. All brought together in the name of Christ! And every piece came together to roof an elderly couples home last week!

The irony is that nothing in the picture works without action. The ladder does nothing just sitting there. Neither does the van, or even the men and women sitting on either side. These tools must be put into service, into action, to be useful.

I remember our mission leader, Frank, mentioning that he was "young in his faith". And yet who was it that had the gumption to act, to ask another church to let us use their van, and then to ask if we could use it to go to New Orleans?! How many of us would have stopped right there, thinking "there's no way they are going to let us put those kind of miles on their vehicle. Oh well, maybe Living Springs will go on a mission later when we find the money for our own van."

When we had some questions about some of the intricacies of our roofing job, I happened to look two houses over and saw a professional roofer, sitting in his truck. I chuckled, "We should just ask the professional over there!" In my mind I was thinking, "That guy would probably deck us if we walked over there, because really we're just taking his business, over here doing a job that he could have bid on. He'd probably sooner spit on us than help us."

Imagine the lesson I learned when I looked up to see Frank, this man "young in his faith" as he puts it, walking right over to this guy's truck. Imagine how much it impacted me to then see this roofer jump out of his truck, shake our hands, and get right up on the roof with us to answer not some, but all of our questions! And not only that, the next day, that same roofer brought his wife up the ladder to meet us and to say hello. She told me how beautiful it was to see people like us down here working in God's name…

I had to take a good long look at my heart, because like is said in my earlier post, I needed a transplant. I think we all do.
What have I learned?
To Act.
God picks up where you leave off, Christian. Sitting still is easy. It's what everyone is doing.
You need only to stand up and act, in His name, and He will take care of the rest.
If anyone is insterested, I've placed the images from the trip online. Any proceeds from prints ordered will go to our church missions ministry.
Click Here:
The password is 'shanks'

In Christ,

Dan Elliott Photography

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Re-Build, Re-Store, Re-New Orleans

I had the great priviledge of trekking to New Orleans with a team from my church this week.
It was a mission trip to help rebuild and restore 2 more homes that had been damaged from Katrina, but more than that, it was a heart transplant for me.

We arrived late on Sunday at Brother Bill's home, the pastor of one of the churches in the city, a man on fire for Jesus. He showed us around a little, giving us our marching orders for the week, and I got to see the transparency of a family of souls completely surrendered to the servanthood of Christ. Every morning, noon and night, we were treated with nothing but Southern Hospitality and down home cooking. There had been literally dozens of groups, coming and going, taking up residence at this man's home since Katrina over 7 months ago. And there were a few different family's, displaced, and still living there. But all were there in the name of Christ, all to be his hands and feet, and what connected each of us was the Spirit.
Louisiana, South Dakota, New Jersey, Mississippi, it didn't matter where people were from or where they were going. Our common bond, our glue, was Christ.

The hustle and bustle, even the level of sheer noise was unlike anything I've ever seen, right down to the amount of food being prepared everynight. It was mind boggling, and yet these people smiled, and laughed, and played, and loved, and thanked us for being there with them. Every morning they had a prayer service. And on Wednesday night I heard one of the most beautiful sermons from a Pastor from New Jersey who was there with his own mission team.

Driving into the city wasn't as horrible as I'd imagined. There was damage, a sea of FEMA trailers and blue-tarped rooftops... but nothing, nothing compared to what I was about to see. Almost as if flipping on a switch, we entered into the devastation. We reached where the levies had been breached, and entered into what I can only describe as a ghost town. Miles and miles of homes, suburbs once brimming with the sounds of life and the busy-ness of our culture, and yet now there were no people.
No dogs or cats, no birds singing in trees, no life at all. There were cars in driveways, keys and eyeglasses on the counter tops with a pocket full of change emptied on the dresser, spices still sitting on the stove, food, even 7 months later, still in the pantry, and yet these homes, in stark contrast to where we were staying, were completely silent and void of life.
It was as if we were walking through some city the day after a nuclear war, as if mankind had been yanked, somehow, from existence.

As we ventured to the 9th Ward, it was like being at ground zero. The homes were nothing but sticks, and the devastation was all around us for miles. I took pictures until I realized that pictures weren't going to deliver the breadth of this destruction, and suddenly this powerful tool, this camera in my hands, couldn't tell the whole story. That's the first time that's ever happened. Words can't really describe, atleast not this close to my experience, what I have been feeling.

On the 17th Street Canal, we walked through several houses. The strong stench of mold and rot was all around us, and yet when we walked upstairs, above the water line, the world was eerily untouched. Computers were still there, trophies still on the dressers, clothes, still in the closets. There were family albums, heirlooms, beds tucked in nice and neat, even a little girl's doll sitting in the closet.

Suddenly I had a deep respect for my own blessings, and for the sweet time that I've been given here, with my family and friends. I realized that we could all go, just as quickly, at any given time. And most of us, just like these people, won't be prepared to leave it behind. We won't be prepared for the journey.

I'd just read in Jeremiah 31 the morning before, where God was promising to restore Israel. He was giving them the one thing that He knew they'd need to hear, the only thing that a desperate and devastated people can hear that will do them any good at that point... He was giving them Hope. He knew before that day even happened that His people would be grieving and searching, and He used his servant Jeremiah to bring them that graceful peace, even before the storm.

What a Savior, to reach out to us in our darkest despair and put His arms around us!
What a love He has for us! That is, truly, Amazing Grace.

Walking down the street that day we met a woman who was only just beginning to walk into the remains of her home. She mentioned that she'd just driven by all these months, but had never had the courage to stop. She saw us walking down the street and said that she felt safe enough, for the first time, to venture out.
She'd lost everything. Her home, her vehicles, her business, her clients, her life as she'd known it. She told me with a shrug, "We thought we'd be back on Tuesday."
In her eyes was a deep loss and a searching that will forever haunt me, because I realized too late that there was a reason we'd met, a reason that I'd read that passage in Jeremiah, that God had brought us together by His appointment, and I, his supposed-servant, didn't have the presence of mind to give her that same hope or to deliver the same message...

That night Brother Bill told us about how he'd led a telemarketer to Christ over the phone when they'd called to make him an offer, and how even the man who'd delivered the cabinets to one of the houses we were working on had just given his life to Jesus, right there on the doorstep, on his knees with Bill. (This man is literally a Pit Bull for Jesus. I'd never seen anything like it.)
I'd made coffee the next morning when Bill got up, before anyone had really stirred. Seeing I'd already been prepared, he told me that I was a man after his own heart, and at that moment I thought of that woman, sitting in front of the remains of what was once her belongings, with her eyes so heart-sick...and I'll never forget right then wishing that I could have been just half the man as he is. Just half the servant of Christ. I made a promise that morning to stop walking around this world with my eyes half closed, to start seeing the souls around me the same way that my Christ sees me, to start seeing the work that needs to be done.

The pastor that delivered the message gave us a stunning chronicle of the Life and Times of Moses, and all that he'd accomplished with the miracles, The burning bush, the Pharoah, The Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Manna, the water gushing from the rocks, the tablets of The Ten Commandments... and yet when he died, in the beginning of the book of Joshua, we see what GOD saw, and not what WE see, when God said, "Moses my servant is dead."
That's all God recognized, it was all that mattered! Moses, His SERVANT, was dead.
You see, that's the prize. That's the goal, and whether it's Hurricane Katrina and a devasted New Orleans or it's your next door neighbor or the cashier at the grocery store, there's work to be done. God's work. And His people need to stand up and serve.

I came away from all of this, realizing that the strangers I'd traveled with to New Orleans were now family, that there was a bond between us like that of a brother or a sister. The irony was that they always were, and I just didn't have the heart to see it.
I realized that I'd gone down there to be the hands and feet of Christ, to bless those as best I could, and yet God, in his Amazing Grace, blessed me even more. I'd gone down there to give, and yet I'd received more than I could ever grasp. My heart was only so big driving down to New Orleans. Coming back I realized that it was me that He'd rebuilt, me that He'd restored, me that He'd renewed.

God calls us only to action. He asks us to stand up for Him, and to step forward in faith with the heart of a servant, a mind like that of Christ, and His bond is His Promise, that He will pick up where we leave off, that when we've done all we can do, He'll take it from there, we only need to do it in His name, for His glory. And the blessings far outweigh our personal sacrifice.

Friday, March 10, 2006


These two little guys are Cooper and Sawyer. Can you beleive that Tina just had them a few short weeks ago?
They were both right at home in their Mommy and Daddy's arms. So much so they just did not want to wake up, especially with the warm cozy studio lights. Everything was quiet and peaceful, and when we took off the diapers, one of these little rascals (who shall remain anonymous) sprung a leak on Dad.
It was still cute, and once everyone got cleaned back up, we were off shooting again. :) (with diapers in place)

Tina came down to get her proofbook before her baby shower this week, with a baby carrier on each arm.
Wow! Super Mom here!
It won't be much longer though and that will be enough of that.

Just a side note, I'm leaving on a trip to New Orleans, so things might get a little quiet around here. I've got several shoots that I'm anxious to post on the blog though, just as soon as I get back.
I hope you all have a wonderful week and that you love your little ones as much as you can. They are gifts, and we only get to hold onto them for just a little while.
Take care!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I was a little down on Kerri and Ryan's wedding day because I had been looking forward to their ceremony for so many months, and then here it was, and it was zooming by. It seemed like we'd just shot the engagements, and here she was putting on the final touches in the dressing room. Everytime I've ever met with her over the past year, Kerri has always had this gorgeous smile and dancing eyes. She's genuine, and it's easy to spot the real thing...
The theme for the day was A Fairy Tale, and that's just what if felt like, capturing Kerri as she walked down the hall to see Ryan for the first time. It was like witnessing Cinderella making her way to the ball.
She was absolutely radiant from the inside out. Her character and her personality were shining through the entire day, and I had to make sure to tell Ryan just how lucky of a man he really was.

But that's the great thing about her guy, he understands that already.
Ryan isn't taking a single day with her for granted. His outlook on life makes others pale in comparison. At a time in his life when most guys are still coming to grips with responsibility, Ryan seems to have wrote the book. He's not just along for the ride, he's got both hands on the wheel, and these two absolutely deserve each other.

Both have a deep love of Christ, and folks, that's the best recipe that I've ever known for a Real Life Happily-Ever-After :)

I can't wait until they become a Mommy and Daddy so we can shoot the rest of this fairy tale.

Friday, March 03, 2006

South Dakota's Abortion Ban. Stand Up.





Abigail. Where does life begin??

Maybe it has something to do with the number of little ones that I've photographed over the years? Maybe it's because I've studied them on their level or in their mother's arms, through the lens. The way they smile, the way they trust.
I know it will be a good shoot whenever we have a Newborn session, because I know that there is life brimming over in their eyes, and all I have to do is point that camera and push that button, and I will capture something magnificent, because that's just what they are.
I see new Moms and Dads, bristling with a new responsibility, unsure of their future and yet purposed to guide and protect and teach.
I see brothers and sisters instinctively hugging and holding and kissing and smothering with love.....and I know that they are precious. I don't doubt it, not for a second.
They are a gift.

In talking with others about our state's abortion ban, I've heard several sides of a very heated subject. I've heard arguments for exception to rape and incest, arguments that if a mother can't afford a baby she shouldn't have to bring one into the world, arguments that if someone isn't ready they shouldn't be forced to term. I've heard people angry, people confused, about our legislators, saying that they have gone against their oath because they swore to uphold the Constitution, that this is in direct violation of Roe V. Wade. I've visited Planned Parenthood's website and I've heard Kate Looby on the airwaves....

When we stepped into World War II, a generation of arguably the most courageous men and women laid down their differences and took a stand. They didn't make excuses or run from the battle, and they didn't ask how high the cost would be, because it didn't have any bearing on our country's decision to do what was morally right. They were there when the boats pushed ashore at D-Day, and they committed to staying the course until war was won.
They never gave up.
The world considered it a horrible inhumanity when we learned that 6 million lives had been taken in the death camps. Nations were shocked and ashamed that this had taken place, on their watch, in their own back yard.
For the last 30 years the landscape of America has been shaped and defined by a court decision that has to date effectively lead to the termination of over 47 million babies.
Almost 8 times that of the Holocaust.
Are we shocked or ashamed? Is this a horrible inhumanity?
Over 47 million lives taken, and not one of them has ever spoken a word, not one of them has ever offended another human being. They were innocent.
What sealed their fate for most was simply this... A beating heart.
The same as you. The same as me.
And yet, we were given the right to life, the chance to make a difference in the world.
Why weren't they?
21% say it's because they didn't have the money, and another 21% didn't feel it was their responsibility. 16% just didn't like the idea of how it might change their lives...
The amount of money in a mother's pocketbook determines life? Irresponsibility is an excuse, a reason stated, to take the life of a child?
Yes, even the notion that life just wouldn't be the same, that's a reason?
It's time that we take ownership of our decisions. It's time for us to remember that these little ones are a gift.
A precious gift given to us only for a little while, to raise them and teach them the best we can before we have to let them go.

Someone said yesterday that we should "deal with reality and not false hopes".

I say the only difference between false hope and reality is action.
It's having the courage to stand up. To stop talking and start walking.
We shouldn't be asking what is the cost. We should ask ourselves what is right, and then we should stand up for the little ones who can't stand up for themselves, and speak for those who can't. That's our job and our responsibility, not just as Americans, as Human Beings.

Stand up America.
Step into the battle and make your voice heard.
And don't do it for you. Do it for them.
There are ways you can help.
One voice CAN make a difference.

The Alpha Center


Operation Rescue

You can also help by contacting South Dakota's Board of Tourism, and let them know that you support the bill. Fight the Pro-Abortion Boycott of our state's tourism.
Spend your vacation here. Let them know that you are behind this.
Phone Number: (605) 773-3301
Web Site:

Call the governor at 605-773-3212 and leave a message asking him to please sign HB1215, or shoot him a quick email here.