Feb 26 2015

“Show Me Your Glory”

e_CES0556In the Book of Exodus there is an interesting exchange between Moses and God recorded in chapter 33.  Moses seems to be pretty frustrated and asks God a series of questions.  It’s obvious that Moses needed some reassurance from God and eventually asked God to show him His glory (v. 18).  God agrees to do so but tells Moses that he will only be allowed to see His back side, not His face.  God placed Moses in the cleft of a rock and covered him with His hand until He had passed by.  God then removed His hand and showed him His back.

_DSC6935There is a very fascinating passage in John Muir’s journals where he takes Moses to task for requesting to see God’s glory.  Muir writes: “Perhaps I do not understand the request of Moses, ‘Show me your glory,’ but if he were here I would like to take him to one of my Twenty-Hill Hollow observatories, and after allowing him time to drink the glories of flower, mountain, and sky I would ask him how they compared with those of the Valley of the Nile and of Mount Pisgah, and then I would inquire how he had the conscience to ask for more glory when such oceans and atmospheres were about him.  King David was a better observer: ‘The whole earth is full of thy glory.’”

I’m not about to fault Moses for asking to see God’s glory but I see Muir’s point and feel it is valid one.  There are times when we feel the need for God to reveal Himself and our hope is that this revelation will take the form of something spectacular.  Like Moses we may even ask for more than we can handle.  I understand the desire to see God’s glory but what Muir has admirably pointed out to us is the fact that God’s glory is always on display all around us.

_DSC1246God’s glory is revealed numerous ways and one of the most accessible places we may experience this glory is in nature.  In nature the Creator’s glory is on full display.  In another passage from John Muir’s journals he says “No wilderness in the world is so desolate as to be without divine ministers.  God’s love covers all the earth as the sky covers it, and also fills it in every pore.  And this love has voices heard by all who have ears to hear.”  For those with eyes to see God’s glory can be seen each and every day.  In nature itself one can experience God’s love wherever he or she happens to be.  King David was right; “the whole earth is full of God’s glory.”

Many of us miss seeing God’s glory because we’re waiting for that spectacular display such as Moses experienced in the cleft of the rock.  God rarely makes Himself known this way.  If this type revelation is the only kind that will satisfy us we will likely be disappointed.  I encourage you to open your eyes wide enough to see God’s glory in His Creation.  If you will, I think you will discover that it is quite satisfactory.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Cedar Breaks National Monument, the middle image at Great Basin National Park, and the bottom image at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.)


Feb 18 2015

Do What You Can

_DSC5707We got our first significant snow of winter a couple of days ago. I know a lot of people don’t like snow and the cold weather that comes with it but I do. I love the look nature takes on after being blanketed with snow. I love the quiet it brings and the way it causes everything to slow down a bit. I also love the way it draws birds to my bird feeder. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the variety of birds that have made their way to my yard. I’ve seen lots of cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, titmice, juncos, finches, sparrows and other species vie for a spot at the feeders. The birds seem to go into survival mode when a deep snow falls and this makes it much easier to photograph them. They are far more concerned with getting something to eat than they are with me taking their picture. As a result I’ve gotten what I think are some wonderful images of the birds.

_DSC5431I will confess that one of the reasons I feed the birds is so I can photograph them. I’ve actually sold a number of images taken at home to magazines.  Still, I would feed them, especially in winter, even if I was not a photographer. I would do so because they are both beautiful and fun to watch, and also because I feel that by doing so I can be a good steward of Creation. Many birds would have trouble surviving in winter if people did not feed and provide water for them. Genesis 2:15 says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” From the beginning it has been the responsibility of those created in the image of God to care for the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. I realize that feeding the birds is only a small part of Creation Care but it is a part nonetheless.

_DSC5598Many of the environmental problems we are facing today seem huge and almost insurmountable. Climate change, destruction of the earth’s remaining rainforests, the extinction of both plant and animal species, pollution of the air and our streams, rivers and lakes–all these are problems so big it seems like there is very little that we, as individuals, can do about them. Our role here is more secondary, encouraging those in power to make wiser choices, but there are some things we can all do on a local level that makes a difference. Some of them are as simple as feeding the birds, planting native species, and creating brush piles in your yard. Other simple ways we can help make a difference include recycling, reusing items, lowering the thermostat in winter and raising it in summer, keeping our vehicles’ tires properly inflated, and driving less.

There is no shortage of ways we can be good stewards of God’s Creation. The important thing is not to worry about what we cannot do but to focus on what we can. Working alone and with others in our community we can make a difference.   For God’s sake, our own, that of our neighbors (both human and wildlife) and the planet itself, let’s do all we can to fulfill our divine calling to take care of the earth.

–Chuck

(I took the bird images used today over the last couple of days at my home in Henderson, KY.)


Feb 11 2015

Co-Creators With God

_DSC5336One of my goals for writing posts on Seeing Creation is to share with you from time to time wisdom I come across in my reading.  Recently I have been reading a book by Joan Chittister called The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life.  Within its pages I have found much wisdom and would like for you to consider some of Joan’s words found in a chapter called “Co-Creation.”  She writes, “In our twenty-first century view of life—through the lens of the Rule of Benedict—we know now in new ways that the earth and all its fruits are not for our exploitation, they are for our care.  We are co-creators with God of what creation has left unfinished.  What has been left in embryo is left for us to develop.  What can be developed God trusts us to bring to full potential.  But not for ourselves alone.  Co-creation, the human commitment to continue the work of God on earth, requires us to tend the land and conserve the waters, to till the garden and protect the animals, to use the things of the earth in ways that enhance all life now—and preserve them for later generations as well.”

Chittister goes on to say, “The human-centered view of creation is a stunted one.  It fails to recognize the oneness of creation, the symphony of life forms that depend on one another to bring the universe, pulsing and throbbing with life, to a wholeness that is mutual, that reflects the full face of God rather than simply our own.”  This last line I find particularly insightful.  How we choose to care for the earth and look at it will, in the end, determine what others see.  Obviously Creation is meant to be a reflection of God’s face or glory, not ours.  By failing to take seriously our role as co-creators with God we have marred or dimmed the reflection that is meant to be seen.

e_DSC3707Too many people have looked at the earth and its resources as something to be exploited.  The earth is not viewed as sacred or understood to be God’s other book of revelation; instead, it is basically seen as something to be consumed or used for financial gain.  I remember once being at Camp Denali in Denali National Park with a group.  After a day or two we were asked what we thought of the park.  Most people spoke of the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and how blessed we are to have such a place to visit.  One person indicated that what he saw was a whole lot of land that could be developed.  Apparently some people just don’t get it.

We desperately need more people today who will accept their God-given role as co-creator.  For people willing to do so Chittister offers this advice: “We are called to listen to nature as well as to one another, to hear its groans and till its gardens, to nurture its young and maintain the purity of its air, until we ourselves become the voices for life in everything everywhere.  To do that we must become part of the liturgy of life, treating as holy everything we touch, regarding as sacred every being alive, intent on preserving the best of what is—while we use our science and technology to protect, defend, and enhance them all. “

e_DSC3755It seems obvious to me that so many of the decisions being made by Congress in this country, and by government officials in other nations,  do not take into consideration the sacredness of the earth.  They either do not know or do not care that the Scriptures say “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)  The earth is not ours to do with as we please.  We do not own it; it belongs to God.  Our task, as beautifully noted by Joan Chittister, is to be co-creators with God and stewards of the world we live in.  Until more people come to understand this and act upon it I fear that the face many people will see reflected in the world will continue to be not God’s but our own.

–Chuck Summers

(I took the image above at the nearby Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.)


Feb 4 2015

Bowing Continuously

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”  Psalm 95:6

_DSC1272_DSC1272b_CES0270ABPF-066As most of you know, I am a big fan of Mary Oliver’s poetry.  In Oliver’s newest book, Blue Horses, there is a poem called “Forgive Me.”  It reads: “Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.  It’s what I sense in the mud and the roots of the trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some spirit, some small god, who abides there.  If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing continuously.  I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this holiness, which is why I’m often so late coming back from wherever I went.  Forgive me.”

In this poem I sense a call to pay more attention to God’s presence in our everyday surroundings.  I also see here a word of caution.  If we are not careful we will spend too much time seeking God in lofty matters we cannot really understand, like angels, and thereby miss revelations of the divine in the more common things we can comprehend.  Finding God through the Creation is a theme that runs through many of Oliver’s poems.  She seems to discover God in places most of us wouldn’t even think to look—mud, roots, rocks, lichen.  I have often wished I could see the world through Mary Oliver’s eyes.

ANP 0431ANP 0431_CES4270Oliver sees God in so many places that she says if she were a perfect person she would constantly be bowing.  Bowing, of course, is the proper thing to do when one encounters God.  The One who made this world and who can be found within it deserves our worship and praise and would receive it continuously if we were actually able to see the evidence of the divine in everything around us.

_CES0292Oliver indicates this would happen in her own life if she were perfect but is quick to note that she is not.  She, too, misses a lot of God’s manifestations but she is at least wise enough to pause and bow whenever she does sense God’s presence in her surroundings.   She is also wise enough to realize that if pausing to bow and worship the Creator makes one late for something it is still the right thing to do.  In the end there is nothing more important to do and no better way to spend one’s time.

_DSC5435There is an old hymn called “Open My Eyes That I May See.”  It lists a number of things the writer/singer would like to see.  Today it is my prayer that God will open your eyes and mine to see the divine in the common ordinary things of life, and especially in the world of nature.  It is also my prayer that as this request is granted we will actually take the time to bow and worship the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at the Bristlecone Pine Forest in California, the middle image in Henderson County, KY, and the bottom image at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.)


Jan 30 2015

A Winter Lesson on Prayer

Zion NP 106Last week my friend, Lon Oliver, gave me a copy of Song of the Sparrow which is a collection of meditations and poems to pray by Murray Bodo.  While flipping through its pages I noticed there was a section on winter called “Grey Days.”  Since we have had more than our fair share of grey days lately in western Kentucky I decided to start reading there.  I’m glad I did because I immediately found the following meditation on snow and prayer.

Arches South Arch 086“There’s something about snow on the landscape, something clean and protective, that insulates the heart and makes you feel secure.  You don’t notice the cold because usually you are inside a house or car looking out.  And in a world of snow quiet subtly seeps into the heart.  The atmosphere for prayer is something like this experience.  There must be silence outside, and the outside world must be somehow removed for the time of your watching.  You then see your world from a new perspective.  And even if it is cold and barren, you view it from the inner warmth of your own heart in union with God, and it looks white and beautiful again. Then you are ready to walk into the white snow made beautiful and warm by your new vision.”

I appreciate Bodo’s words but have to admit that putting them into practice is easier said than done for me.  I find it difficult to “remove” the outside world.  When I attempt to pray I am often so distracted by the outside world that the noise becomes deafening.  I know this is a common experience for many others and that gives me a bit of comfort.

Bryce Canyon 810The exterior world definitely has a way of dominating our interior world.  This keeps us from experiencing true quiet and peace.  It also affects the way we look at things.  Bodo is certainly correct; it should work the other way around.  Our interior world, or spiritual life, should ideally be influencing how we see the outside world.

Thomas Merton, who was born one hundred years ago tomorrow, once said when it comes to prayer we are all beginners.  After all these years I often do, in fact, feel like a beginner.  I realize however, that the approach Bodo writes about is possible and that with time and practice even I can come to the point where though it is cold and barren I see things from the inner warmth of my own heart in union with God.  I hope and pray I get there someday.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used above while on a winter trip to Utah a number of years ago.)


Jan 19 2015

How Many Are Your Works, Lord!

SC RS Jan 1Mary Oliver says in her poem, “Good Morning”,

The multiplicity of forms! The hummingbird,

the fox, the raven, the sparrow hawk, the

otter, the dragonfly, the water lily! And 

on and on. It must be a great disappointment 

to God if we are not dazzled at least ten

times a day. 

I truly am dazzled and amazed by our amazing world, a world fashioned and brought into life by our Creator. While it is true that there are many spectacular creatures easily seen and observed, my true wonder comes from the small creatures that all of us often miss, from insects to spiders and down to even bacteria. Often we don’t think about things like bacteria and other such tiny organisms because we can’t see them without aids and we were all brought up thinking that the only good bacteria was a good bacteria. Now we are finding that is not true at all. Bacteria are crucial to all life, including our own. We are discovering that we literally have ecosystems of microorganisms on and in our bodies that keep us healthy and this is true throughout the God’s creation. It is pretty amazing to consider the interconnection of everything. God did not create a bunch of isolated creatures, but He developed entire ecosystems, a world of connections that were obviously important to Him (or he would not have created them) and to all living organisms.

SC RS Jan 2Insects and spiders are a little easier to see, though we often don’t really see them as the remarkable, dazzling examples of God’s infinite wisdom that they truly represent. For example, spiders build structures that rival anything that human engineers do and without the benefit of an advanced degree (except what God bestows on them)!

Southeastern Florida, Everglades drainageUnderstanding the immense diversity of insects and how they fill in all the gaps of an ecosystem is at present beyond human understanding.

How many are your works, O Lord!

In wisdom you made them all; 

the earth is full of your creatures. 

Psalm 104:24

– Rob