Mar 2 2011

“Hope Springs Eternal”

Bernheim-Forest-spring-hIt’s a beautiful day here in eastern Kentucky.  When I took my dog out a few minutes ago the sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing and I could see some trees starting to bud.  I realize that Spring has not technically arrived yet but it’s clear it will soon be here.  As I was walking outside the phrase “hope springs eternal” crossed my mind for some reason.   I couldn’t recall where these words came from so I looked it up.  They were spoken by Alexander Pope in his Essays on Man: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast, man never is, but always to be blest.”

When I found the source I also came across several other wonderful quotations that speak of hope.  Emily Dickenson wrote “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tunes without the words and never stops at all.”  A more contemporary writer, Anne Lamott, writes “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”  Finally, Charles L. Allen wrote “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”

Hope is a very important part of our lives.  It has been said that humans can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.  It is literally true; people do not survive long without hope.

nuthatch-In recent days some things have happened that have gotten me down.  I have been both discouraged and frustrated.  I don’t like being in this state but things happen and this is part of life.  Thankfully, I have learned from God’s “two books,” the book of Creation and the book we call the Bible, that bad times don’t last forever.  Most of the trees in my area are bare right now but soon all will be green.  Nature has many reminders that life goes on; things do not remain the same.  The Bible, likewise, is filled with passages that remind us that with God in our life there are no hopeless situations and that one way or another a better day truly does lie ahead.  The apostle Paul went so far as to say “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

Later in Romans 15 Paul shared a blessing with the church at Rome.  He said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (v. 13)  That is my prayer for you today as well.  In Creation and the Scriptures I have come to see that Alexander Pope is right, hope really does “spring eternal.”

–Chuck

(I took the top picture one spring at Bernheim Forest in central Kentucky.  I took the image of the nuthatch in my yard when I lived in Middlesboro, Kentucky.)


Jan 16 2011

Reflections on Snow and Grace

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” — Anne Lamott

Elkmont 177This past weekend I had the privilege of going to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to speak once again at the annual Wilderness Wildlife Week.  This is an outstanding event held each January and if you are not familiar with it I’d encourage you to check it out sometime.  While I was in Pigeon Forge I was able to drive into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a couple of times to photograph.  The fact that the park had received several inches of snow prior to my arrival made this an extra special adventure.

I love being able to get out in the woods after it has snowed, especially before a lot of other people get there and create a bunch of tracks.  A snowy landscape is so beautiful and pristine.  It is absolutely amazing how a heavy snow can transform a scene.  Things that might have looked ugly or unattractive before become stunning in appearance.  I thought about this yesterday as I was photographing in the Elkmont region of the park.  I remembered, as I usually do when it snows, the Bible’s wonderful promise, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)  This led me to think further on God’s grace.  There are so many things about snow that remind me of His grace.

Elkmont 180On U2’s album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” there is a song called “Grace.”  In the final line of this song Bono sings, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”  God’s grace, like snow, makes beauty out of ugly things.  I know that for a fact.  I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it in the lives of countless others.  Like gently falling snow God’s grace covers all those who are open to receiving it.  As it blankets us we find ourselves changed.  We look different.  We feel different.  We are different.  Through God’s grace our sins are “covered.”  What was dirty is made clean.  What was ugly is made beautiful. 

 

Today I find myself very grateful for snow and for God’s amazing grace.  I hope you do too.

–Chuck

(I took both of these pictures yesterday in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains N.P.)