May 7 2024

God in Wild Places

(This was one of the first blogs I wrote when Rob Sheppard and I started “Seeing Creation” fifteen years ago. I still believe what I wrote back then, only more so now.)

A number of years ago I came across the following story, told by David J. Wolpe, in Teaching Your Children About God.  It concerns a child of a rabbi who used to wander in the woods.

“At first his father let him wander, but over time he became concerned.  The woods were dangerous.  The father did not know what lurked there.  He decided to discuss the matter with his child.  One day he took him aside and said, ‘You know, I have noticed that each day you walk into the woods.  I wonder, why do you go there?’  The boy said to his father, ‘I go there to find God.’  ‘That is a very good thing,’ the father replied gently.  ‘I am glad you are searching for God.  But, my child, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?’  ‘Yes,’ the boy answered, ‘but I’m not.’”

I’ve used this story from time to time to try and explain to people why the woods and wilderness are so important to me.  I realize that it is not true for everyone but for me I do feel different in the woods.  I feel a closeness to God there that is not so prevalent in my more urbanized everyday life.  And because I feel a nearness to God in wild places it is crucial for me that such places be preserved.

I have a feeling that there are many others who feel close to God in the woods and want to make sure that these places are maintained.  I just hope that there are enough of us to make a difference.  Enough folks who will work to make sure that there are plenty of wild places for people to go to and experience a closeness to God in nature.

–Chuck Summers


Apr 22 2024

An Earth Day Prayer for Today

It has been well over a year since I laid to rest my Seeing Creation blog. Recently a friend encouraged me to go back and repost some of my favorite entries. I decided that I would do just that and this is the first of them. This entry is a prayer I wrote for Earth Day in 2021. Today being Earth Day, I hope you will pray this prayer with me.

“Almighty God, as we observe Earth Day once again this year we pause to acknowledge you as the Maker of heaven and earth.  We celebrate both the beauty and the goodness of all that you have made.  Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, we see the beauty of your creation.  We see it right now in the budding trees, the blooming flowers, the clouds in the sky, the colorful birds you send to brighten our days.  We see so much beauty in the mountains, the ocean, the forests, the plains, and even the deserts you have made. All this beauty is but a dim reflection of your own beauty.  Thank you, God, for giving us a chance to see such beauty and may we be careful not to miss what is there to see.

Today we likewise affirm the goodness of your creation.  You made the world in such a way to meet our needs.  You gave us air to breathe, water to drink, food to sustain us, and companions to share our journey.  When you finished your work you declared that it was very good.  Today we make that same affirmation and offer you our praise and thanksgiving for the goodness of the earth.

With the Psalmist we also affirm that the heavens continue to declare your glory.  That you have given us your creation as a second book by which we might come to know and understand you better.  Please give us eyes to see and ears to hear what you desire to show us in the world around us.

Lord, on this special day we are reminded that we are a part of your creation and that you have given us the responsibility to be good stewards of the earth.  Unfortunately, we have not been very good stewards.  Today your creation suffers.  We have polluted the water and air you provided to sustain us.  We have destroyed many of the resources you gave us to nurture us.  Our wanton ways have led to a reduction of needed forests and mountains.  We have even eliminated many species you created in your love and wisdom.  More and more we see that we are paying the price for our sins.  Disease, climate change, droughts, fires, devastating storms can all be traced back to our recklessness.  God, have mercy on us.

Please forgive us for not being more faithful stewards and help us to start doing a better job.  May we never forget that the earth belongs to you and that we have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve and protect your good earth.  May we realize that in caring for the earth we show our love both for you and others, even for those yet to be born. 

In the end we pray with Jesus that your will might be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’  It is in his name we offer this prayer. Amen.”

Chuck Summers


Feb 8 2023

The Last Blog

In May of 2009 Rob Sheppard and I decided to launch a blog called “Seeing Creation.”  The purpose of the blog was to give us an opportunity to share our love for nature and photography, and the spiritual connection we felt with both of these, with others.  Today’s post marks the 733rd entry for the Seeing Creation site.  It will also be the last.  Rob felt the need to move on to other endeavors a number of years ago and I have carried on solo since then.  I feel it is now time to bring this project to a close.  I hope to share more posts from time to time on my personal Facebook page but will no longer maintain this site.  I want to thank all of you who supported and read our Seeing Creation posts over the years.  I also want to thank the editors who chose to share a number of my posts on their own social media sites.  Finally, I want to thank Rob for encouraging me to pursue this dream with him long ago.

I would like to wrap things up by encouraging you to continue to explore the spiritual connection that can be found in nature.  I remain as convinced as ever that the God who created the world is still revealing Himself through nature for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.  I also remain as convinced as ever that we are all called to be good stewards of God’s Creation.  There is a divine imperative for us to love, protect, preserve and care for this sacred earth and all its inhabitants.  I feel that so many of our current problems are related to humankind’s failure to respond appropriately to this divine imperative.  We can and must do better. And we will if we truly love God.

Thanks again for the support you gave Rob and I over the years.  As you continue your journey through life may the Maker of heaven and earth open your eyes and heart to see the wonders of God’s love all around you in Creation. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Blessings!

Chuck


Dec 22 2022

Seeing Creation and the Meaning of Christmas

I came across a quote by Joan Chittister a few days ago that I really like and want to share with you: “To understand Christmas is to come face-to-face with the incarnation.  The very notion that God imbued creation with divinity makes everything we see sacred, every step we take a pilgrimage to the divine.”  I find these words to be quite profound and helpful. 

Chittister’s first sentence conveys a truth most Christians readily accept.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The word “incarnation” means “in flesh” and points to the miracle of Christmas—that the Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth, at one point in history took on human form (flesh) in Jesus and actually dwelt among us.  It is this event we celebrate every December 25.  And well we should!

It is the second sentence in Chittister’s quote that conveys a truth that many believers may not be so aware of and this is that by joining us here on earth God made “everything we see sacred.”  We now abide on holy ground.  The Bible makes clear from the very beginning that God created the world and declares its goodness.  The Bible also tells us that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1); it belongs to God.  I suppose there is a sense in which these two truths also point to the earth’s sacredness but this is made most clear in the incarnation, the birth of Christ.  At Bethlehem “God imbued creation with divinity.”  I’m not sure many, if any, of us can fully comprehended the meaning of this but it should be enough for us to realize that the world we live in is holy and that all we see in God’s creation is sacred.  God’s holiness is literally all around us.  This should lead us to worship God every day and cause us to live in a perpetual state of wonder and awe.  I would also like to think that realizing the earth is sacred would cause us to do a better job of protecting and preserving it.

I like Chittister’s suggestion that every step we take here on earth is “a pilgrimage to the divine.”  This probably shouldn’t be taken literally but there is a sense in which what Chittister says is true.  We are not only created by God, we are made for God.  It is God’s intention that we draw nearer and nearer to Him.  God longs to envelope us in His love and to enjoy fellowship with us.  Hopefully every step we take will, in fact, draw us closer to the fullness of God’s love and His divine presence.  That is my goal for the days to come and throughout the New Year.  I hope it will be your goal too.

Merry Christmas and God bless!

–Chuck


Nov 22 2022

Thank God for our Senses!

With Thanksgiving Day just two days away I have been spending some time reflecting on the things I am grateful for.  This may sound strange but one of the main things I am thankful for is that I have so many things to be grateful for.  I could not begin to list the many ways God has blessed me in my life.  Obviously in my Seeing Creation blogs I tend to focus on the world of nature and in this area there are innumerable things for which I offer thanks.  I am so thankful for the beauty of God’s Creation, for inspiring sunrises and sunsets, majestic mountains and mysterious deserts, all creatures great and small, towering trees and miniscule flowers, star-filled skies and the northern lights, flowing rivers and raging oceans, and on and on I could go. For years I have been careful to express my appreciation to God for the endless wonders of nature.  What I have not been so careful to do is voice my gratitude for the senses God gave us to experience these wonders.

Growing up I was taught that humans typically had five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.  Students today learn that there are other senses beyond these five. All the senses we have been given enrich our lives and enable us not only to survive but to enjoy the world around us.  My enjoyment of nature goes well beyond just seeing the beauty around me—it is enhanced by all the other senses as well.  I am thankful for the smells of nature, even if all of them are not pleasant.  I am thankful for the sounds of nature.  My senses enable me to experience nature in a holistic manner.  Here lately I have been thanking God more often for my physical senses and asking God to help me use them more fully and effectively.

I probably should go on to tell you why I have been doing this more often lately.  A few months ago my friend, Rob Sheppard, sent me a book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ed Yong, called An Immense World.  The subtitle of the book is “How Animal Senses Reveal The Hidden Realms Around Us.”  I don’t read a lot of weighty science books but I am so glad I read this one. It shook my world.  In chapter after chapter Yong reveals how other creatures experience life through the senses they have developed.  He points out right from the start that though many animals share some of the same senses we do that does not mean that they experience their world in the same way we do with those senses.  In so many ways they don’t.  A lot of creatures even have senses that we humans do not and what they do with them is almost unbelievable.  An Immense World is one of the most fascinating and mind-blowing books I have ever read.  I learned so much reading this book and even found reading it to be a worshipful and spiritual experience.  It certainly is not a “religious” book, far from it.  It is, once again, a science book.  But page after page I found myself saying “Wow!” out loud and praising God for being such an awesome Creator.  I couldn’t help but echo the psalmist’s sentiments: “How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!” (Ps. 92:5)

Learning about the senses of other creatures and how they use them also made me appreciate the ones we have been given.  They should definitely not be taken for granted.  I will be giving thanks for mine this Thanksgiving and I encourage you to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving and God bless!

–Chuck


Oct 31 2022

What Frightens Me This Halloween

It’s Halloween.  Are you afraid?  I am.  It’s not the ghosts and goblins that may appear at my front door tonight that I’m afraid of.  No, it’s something much more sinister.  It is the lack of concern for the environment I see in so many people, especially political leaders.  A number of recent studies indicate that our planet is in big trouble.  On a weekly basis we see reports on television of growing wildfires, severe drought, extreme storms, and devastating floods.  We now know that no one on earth is safe from the harmful effects of pollution.  Climate change and pollution are taking a heavy toll on plants and animals everywhere.  They’re taking a toll on all of us.  But who cares?  O, I know many people do but not nearly enough.  I’ve seen several polls listing the primary concern of voters for the midterm elections.  In most of them environmental issues do not even make the list.  The lack of concern for our planet right now truly does frighten me!

The damage we are doing to the earth literally affects everyone.  It affects our physical health.  It affects our economy.  It affects the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.  It affects our general well-being.  It affects the places we choose to live and love to visit.  It affects the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.  It affects our children and pets.  It affects our future.  How can something that affects all of us so much be of such little concern in today’s society?  This frightens me!

It also scares me that environmental issues have polarized our political leaders.  If there should be unity on any issue it should be the health and welfare of our planet and its inhabitants.  But that is not the case, is it?  Every day I pray that our leaders will learn to put aside their political differences and do what is right, what is best, for our country and the rest of the world.  Far too much is at stake for them not to!  We can do better than this.  It frightens me that we’re not.

Finally, it frightens me that so many who claim to believe in God and the Bible ignore the biblical mandate to be good stewards of Creation.  Too many forget that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) and that it does not belong to us to do with as we please.  One of God’s first commands was that we tend the Garden and be good caretakers.  God gave us “dominion” so that this wonderful planet can be preserved and maintained for the good of all–not to abuse for selfish gain.  I happen to be a Christian minister who believes that caring for the environment is a vital part of our spiritual journey.  It frightens me that so many other believers do not.

Yes, on this Halloween I am finding many things that frighten me.  I hope they frighten you too.

–Chuck