Dec 14 2011

“Winter Snow”

I have to admit when I heard what the special music was going to be for last Sunday’s service I wondered if it was actually a religious song.  The title of the song was “Winter Snow.”  It sure didn’t sound like a “religious” song but once I heard it sung by one of our youth I realized that my concerns were for aught.  In fact, it turned out that the song was both beautiful and inspirational, with a message most appropriate for an Advent service and for the readers of this blog.

Here are the words to “Winter Snow” as penned by Audrey Assad.  “Could’ve come like a mighty storm with all the strength of a hurricane.  You could’ve come like a forest fire with the power of Heaven in Your flame.  But You came like a winter snow—quiet and soft and slow—falling from the sky in the night to the earth below.  Could’ve swept in like a tidal wave or an ocean to ravish our hearts.  You could have come through like a roaring flood to wipe away the things we’ve scarred.  No, Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning.  No, Your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind.  It was still, it was small, it was hidden.”

I hope you’ll give some thought to these words in the days to come.  As the celebration of Christmas draws near we can find in nature a reminder of the miracle of the Incarnation.  The song writer is correct, Jesus could have come in any number of ways to the earth, but God’s plan was for him to come in a still, small, hidden way—to come “quiet and soft and slow” like a winter snow.

There is so much about Jesus’ coming I find incomprehensible.  Even with all the prophecies of the Old Testament I don’t think anyone could have imagined the Son of God coming as he did.  I am certain not even the prophets themselves could have imagined God becoming one of us “like a winter snow.”

If you’re lucky enough to have a good snow in the coming days (I know, some would consider that unlucky), I hope that you’ll pause to think about this song and the parallels there are between a winter snow and the birth of our Savior.  And whether you experience that snow or not, I hope and pray that in some still, small and hidden way you will experience Emmanuel, God with us, in your own particular way.


(I took the top image at Arches National Park.  The bottom image was taken at Bryce Canyon National Park.)

Jan 20 2010

The Benefits of Snow

ANP South Window snow“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.”  Psalm 137:16

Here is southeast Kentucky we have gotten far more snow than normal lately.  Rob tells me that along with the deluge of rain to the coastlands of California, the higher mountains are being laden with snow. 

When it comes to snow most people either hate it or love it.  The Bible, however, sees snow as a gift of God.  In most instances snow is beautiful to behold but it also serves many useful purposes.  Snow, like rain, brings moisture to the earth.  Snow provides protection for some animals and enables others to reach food sources they might not otherwise be able to get to.  To some it will sound strange but snow also provides insulation to both plants and animals that enable them to survive frigid conditions.

Humans tend to judge most things—like snow–by whether they benefit us or not.  This is just another example of our anthropocentric tendencies.  It seems clear that many of God’s gifts in nature are not primarily intended for us.  He sends rain and snow not just for the benefit of man but for all of His Creation. 

I think it would prove helpful if we periodically tried to look at the world from different perspectives.  For example, we could consider how plants might “view” rain or how animals might “look at” clouds.  By pursuing this exercise I suspect we would come to see both the wisdom and goodness behind God’s Creation.  We would likely also come to appreciate more the “web of life” so many naturalists have spoken of and recognize the hand of God behind it.

The image above was taken at Arches National Park last month.  Such beautiful formations are made possible by wind, rain and snow.  Hopefully I’ll remember that the next time I’m tempted to complain about some of the inconveniences that come with snow.


Dec 6 2009

Going Back Again

Delicate ArchYesterday I flew west in order to do some photography in southern Utah.  I have been out to this area numerous times and really enjoy “red rock” country.  I’m traveling with a friend, Steve Ausmus, who has not been to this area before.  Even though it had been a very long day and my back was hurting me, we decided upon arriving in Moab that we would go into Arches National Park and hike to Delicate Arch for sunset.  The picture here is one I took last evening. 

This is the third time I’ve been at Delicate Arch for sunset.  Some might question why I would make the effort to hike the mile and a half to the arch having done it two times before.  My response would be that each time you go it’s different.  I’ve not been here before in December so it was nice to see snow on the La Sal mountains behind Delicate Arch.  But there are other reasons I return to places I’ve been before.  Hopefully each time I go back I’m a little better at my craft and can compose nicer images.  Furthermore, each time I go back I’m different.  I will not see things quite the same way I did five or ten years ago. 

Arches sandThere are people who visit an area and then check it off their list.  They have no intention of going back;  they’ve “been there, done that.”  This attitude seems foolish to me.  As much as I enjoy visiting new places I love to revisit old ones too.  My appreciation and understanding of those areas grow with each visit.   It’s not all that different from my experience with Scripture.  Each time I go back and read one of the books in the Bible I’ve read before I find new truth or meaning.  Why?  Because I’ve changed since the last time I read that passage or I find myself in new circumstances.  It would be crazy for me to say that since I’ve read the Book of Psalms I’ll not read it anymore. 

 Try to avoid the “been there, done that” mentality.  In God’s Creation there are blessings that can come only by making repeated visits to places you have been before.


(The bottom picture I took this evening in Arches National Park near the Fiery Furnace area.)

Jun 4 2009

Do Deserts Miss the Rain?

High Desert Arches National ParkI know Chuck is going to go, “Not again!” He has heard this story before. But you have probably not. 

A number of years ago there was a popular song by a group called Everything but the Girl that was sung from the perspective of a woman who missed her lover. The title and premiss of a comparison was “Like the deserts miss the rain.” Now you have to think a minute about this, but if this woman misses her lover like the deserts miss the rain, doesn’t that mean she does not miss her lover? By definition, a desert does not miss rain because a desert is a place with little rain! Deserts, with their associated plants and animals, use rain quite wisely, in fact.

I think often we put our own perspectives on what is good or bad in nature rather than accepting that God made it. I think the Genesis writers said, “And God saw that it was good” because they felt God’s creation was good. 

Truthfully, it took me a while to really appreciate the desert and other dry lands. I grew up in the East and Midwest where lakes and streams were common. Back in Minnesota, we could get more rain from one thunderstorm than a desert might use in a year!

But as I spent time in places like Arches National Park as seen in this photo, I began to appreciate the unique ecosystem in a desert. This is no wasteland, but a place of very special life. Getting out in the desert and moving in close to life like this aster can really open your eyes to possibilities in such a dry place. If the location pictured here had lots of rain, you would see little of the rocks or the flowers as they would be smothered by a completely  different ecosystem. 

Speaking from experience, I think we sometimes want to control what we don’t understand, such as the desert, rather than appreciating it for what it is, a gift from God. The desert has been an uncomfortable place for humans, but it isn’t uncomfortable for the life that is there. They are adapted to those conditions. And I believe this is simply another example of the great work of art that God has created on our planet. Once again, for me, this is God’s “wildly wonderful world.”

–Rob Sheppard