Aug 9 2017

Majestic!

_CES1146Majestic. That’s the word my wife, Bonita, kept using on our recent cruise to Alaska to describe what we were seeing.  This adjective means “having or exhibiting majesty.” The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines majesty as “greatness or splendor of quality or character.” Roget’s Thesaurus offers as synonyms for “majestic” the words “grand” or “exalted.” That being the case, I will concur with Bonita that majestic was indeed the appropriate word to describe what we were seeing.  And just what did we see?  We saw awesome glaciers cutting their way through mountains.  We saw humpback whales feeding in the icy waters around us.  We saw gorgeous sunsets.  We saw sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, grizzly bears and bald eagles.  We saw lovely fjords carved by glaciers.  And, yes, it was all majestic–exalted and grand. This was my eighth trip to Alaska so I wasn’t surprised by what I saw. In fact, I had seen all the things mentioned above before in various places throughout the state.  Still, the sights remained overwhelming. There is just something special, almost holy, about our 49th state. It truly is majestic!

_CES0783Even more worthy of the adjective “majestic” is the One who created all the sights we saw. The Creator of Alaska and the rest of the world deserves the title majestic more than anyone or anything else.  Twice in Psalm 8 David declares, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vs. 1, 9)  In Psalm 111 the Psalmist says “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.  Glorious and majestic are his deeds…” (vs. 2-3)  In the Song of Moses recorded in Exodus 15 the question is raised, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (v. 11)  In 2 Peter 1:17 God’s divine glory is described as being “Majestic.” God’s name, deeds, holiness and glory are all described as majestic.

That God would be associated with the word “majestic” should not surprise anyone. God is, after all, God. If we can use the word majestic to describe what God has made then surely the One who fashioned the natural world deserves to receive the same exaltation.  When we consider all that God has done through Christ, this becomes even more true.

_CES1505I hope as a result of your experiences with God you can say with the Psalmist, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”  God’s Creation and mighty acts are all meant to lead us to exalt God’s holy name.  They call us to worship the Creator and Redeemer of the world.  May we all heed that call and lift up the majestic name of the Lord.

–Chuck

 


Jun 8 2016

God’s Tides

tide pool 2

“The hand of God has turned the tide!” Psalm 118:16a MSG

Twelve years ago Bonita and I spent a week on a chartered fishing boat in southeast Alaska. We, along with two other couples, had a great time photographing some of God’s finest work. One of the things being on the boat that long did for me was remind me of the tremendous power of the tides. At one point on the trip I was on shore photographing some beautiful tide pool scenes when my friends began to express concern for me. Due to my position, I could not tell that the tide had come back in and that I was now separated from the rest of the group and the boat. I should have known better. Season after season, day after day, the tides come in and go out. They do exactly what God intended them to do when He created the world.

boat 1While on the trip I read a book called Sea Edge by Phillip Keller. In one of the chapters he draws some insightful parallels to the tides and God’s work in our own lives. Here’s what he had to say: “There just have to be times, when in His own gracious, irresistible concern, He comes flooding over my little life. There are occasions when the ‘high tide’ of His powerful presence needs to inundate my soiled and shabby soul. There are days when more than anything else I must have that sublime sense of His Spirit sweeping into every secret cove and inlet of my life. The world is so much with me. The careless hand of man, the cruel ways of our society, the thoughtless acts and omitted courtesies of my contemporaries leave a legacy of hurts and sorrow and wreckage in my life–the black rocks of rising anger, the hard jagged reefs of dark resentment, the flotsam and jetsam of ill will that clutter my character. Only Christ can change all this. Only He can alter the contours of my disposition. Only He can displace the debris of my soul with the surging newness of His own person. There must be an exchange of His life for mine–of His desires for my, otherwise, selfish impulses. It is He, who in the high tide of His relentless patience and perseverance, presses in upon my person. I cannot, dare not, keep Him out. It is His eternal, sure in-coming, as inexorable as the rising tide, that gives hope for covering all the corruption and defilement of my days. As the full weight of the sea currents change and shape the coast, so Christ, in control, recreates me as a man. He alters the contours of my character and conduct.”

tide pool 1Today I give thanks for the relentless tides that pound and shape the coastlines all around the world. Even more, I offer my praise and thanksgiving to a wonderful Savior who works just as relentlessly in your life and mine to make something beautiful out of our lives. Experiencing God’s “tides” may not always be a pleasant experience but they are always needful. As Keller points out, only God can “alter the contours of my disposition” and only God can “displace the debris of my soul with the surging newness of His own person.” God’s tides may not come in the predictable rhythms of nature’s tides but they do indeed come. When they do our job is to let go and let God bring us what we need and, at the same time, take away what we don’t. There’s no reason to be surprised by their coming. In fact, we should live our lives in anticipation of them and with gratitude for the role they play in our lives.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown here on the boat trip through southeast Alaska.)

 


Jul 10 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

This past Wednesday I shared some words with you from the end of a chapter in Thomas Merton’s book, No Man Is An Island. Actually those words weren’t at the very end of the chapter–just real close. At the very end Merton discusses the importance of gratitude and it’s role in seeing God in His Creation. He writes, “If we are not grateful to God, we cannot taste the joy of finding Him in His creation. To be ungrateful is to admit that we do not know Him, and that we love His creatures not for His sake but for our own.”

I think Merton is on to something here. We miss so much when we fail to live our lives with an attitude of gratitude. If we do not live our lives each day in the awareness that everything is a gift of God and an expression of His goodness we will miss the full blessing of His gifts. We may see a tree, flower or animal and be thankful for it but if we don’t also see in that same tree, flower or animal an expression of God’s love then our thanksgiving is not complete and we miss the full joy God intended.  

We are also reminded that ultimately we should love Creation for God’s sake instead of our own. The Bible indicates that the world was created for God’s glory.  We tend to think it is all about us but Paul says in First Corinthians 8:6 “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” The world was made by God and for God. Yes, it brings us great delight and meets our needs in many ways, but if we fail to see that it exists first and foremost for His glory then we fail to see things as they are and also fail to appreciate things as we should. Our gratitude is intensified when we recognize this vital truth and we come to love Creation for God’s sake, not just our own.

In the final sentence of the chapter Merton says “Gratitude shows reverence to God in the way it makes use of His gifts.” I encourage you to give some thought to these words. What he says is true of our own personal gifts but it is also certainly true of the gift of Creation. If we are genuinely grateful for the world God has made it will be revealed not necessarily in how often we say “thank you” but in how we make use of this wonderful gift. Gratitude and Creation Care are intimately connected. I fear too many people have forgotten this or have not been made aware of the connection. Those who are most grateful for the natural world are the ones who are striving to be good stewards of it. According to Merton, they are also the ones showing the most reverence to God.

–Chuck 

(I photographed the western chipmunk above in Oregon. The grizzly cubs were photographed at Katmai National Park in Alaska.)  

 


Dec 2 2009

On Wings of Eagles

Eagle-with-fish-crA few years ago about this time I had the privilege of going to Alaska to photograph bald eagles.  It was an incredible experience.  Where I live you rarely see eagles; there I was surrounded by them!

Eagles are truly fascinating birds with many interesting traits.  They are known for their keen eyesight and ability to soar high in the sky.  The Bible refers to eagles on numerous occasions. Probably my favorite “eagle verse” is Isaiah 40:31 which says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Here the majestic eagle’s ability to soar is compared to the benefit that comes from hoping in, or waiting on, the Lord.

If you’ve ever watched an eagle soar you know that this analogy makes good sense.  Eagles are able to soar because they have learned to wait for a draft and use it to lift them higher and higher.  They do not have to beat their wings to rise to greater heights; they simply use the air currents and updrafts available to them.

In our spiritual lives we often try to do too much in our own power or strength.  When we do this we become tired and weary.  The key to spiritual growth and accomplishing things for God is to wait on the Holy Spirit to lift us up or give us strength.

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages the words for wind and spirit are the same.  Like an eagle, we must wait on the wind—God’s Spirit—if we hope to fly high.   When we do, as the prophet Isaiah indicated, we are able to “soar on wings like eagles…run and not grow weary…walk and not be faint.”   This is a lesson we can all learn from one of God’s most magnificent creatures.

–Chuck

 (I took the image above near Haines, Alaska.)


Jun 17 2009

Camp E.D.G.E.

denali-np-nugget-pondGreetings from Camp E.D.G.E.!  Camp E.D.G.E. is the theme for this year’s Vacation Bible School at the church where I serve.  The kids are having a wonderful time and learning some very important lessons.  The “E.D.G.E.” in Camp E.D.G.E. stands for “Experience and Discover God Everywhere.”  One of the truths that the children have learned is that God can be experienced and discovered in His Creation.  I’m thrilled that the kids have been taught this.  I don’t remember being taught this truth in the church where I grew up.  It is not, however, a new idea.  Many of the biblical writers imply this very idea.  Likewise, throughout Christian history various theologians have made reference to the “two books of revelation”—the Bible and Creation.  In the end, however, Jesus may be our best teacher when it comes to seeing God everywhere. 

In his book, We Have Seen the Lord, William Barclay writes: “To Jesus the whole world was full of signs; the corn in the field, the leaven in the loaf, the scarlet anemones on the hillside all spoke to him of God.  He did not think that God had to break in from the outside world; he knew that God was already in the world for anyone who had eyes to see.  The sign of truly religious persons is not that they come to Church to find God but that they find God everywhere; not that they make a great deal of sacred places but that they sanctify common places.”

There have been a lot of places in nature where I have definitely experienced and discovered God.  One such place is Camp Denali in Denali National Park (pictured above).   Beholding such awesome beauty as that found in Alaska, it would be hard to not see God.  The challenge for me is to find Him in the not so obvious places.  At Camp E.D.G.E. it’s not just the kids who have been learning.  So have I.

–Chuck Summers