Aug 3 2014

No Ugly Landscapes

_DSC2766Last night I came across the following quotation by John Muir: “God never made an ugly landscape, so long as it is wild.”  Muir’s words made me smile.  In the past couple of weeks I have stood in the presence of a variety of landscapes.  I’ve looked up at 700 foot tall sand dunes and down into a 565 foot gorge.  I’ve driven through the high Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains and across barren desert flatlands.  I have photographed wildflowers in the sloughs near where I live and wandered amongst some unique geological formations in southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest.  The landscapes I have beheld in just this short time have been amazingly diverse and just as amazingly beautiful.

e_DSC3572e_DSC3572RGG3572I’m convinced Muir was right; “God never made an ugly landscape.”  Now there was a time when I would not have said this.  When I was much younger I was quite prejudiced concerning landscapes.  They had to be green or I didn’t like them.  Needless to say this gave me some trouble when I visited the desert.  I also loved  mountains and found it hard to appreciate any landscape that did not include these.  This is another prejudice I’ve been able to overcome.  Once you take the time to visit and truly get to know the various forms of landscape that exist you cannot help but come to the same conclusion as John Muir, there are no ugly landscapes.

All landscapes bear something of the beauty of their Creator.  Admittedly, that beauty is easier to find in some places than others but it is everywhere if you have the eyes to see or are willing to take the time to let that beauty make itself known to you.  Just as we often discover beauty in people we never thought we would once we let go of our prejudices and spend time with them, the beauty of natural landscapes can become clear when we approach them with an open mind and heart and without rushing past or through them.  Since the Bible declares that God makes Himself known through His Creation it is very important that we learn to find the beauty that is present in all wild landscapes.

_DSC5600Some of the prejudices we have concerning landscapes seem to have been imposed upon us.  Many have no desire to visit Death Valley National Park in California just because its name seems to imply a horrible landscape.  That is hardly the case.  Death Valley is beautiful!  Some would not consider visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota because, after all, it is “bad land.” Wrong again.  In early and late light the beauty of the Badlands will take your breath away.  Titles like these are about as useful as the labels we give people.  They prejudice our thinking and keep us from exploring the beauty that is to be found in such places.

DV-986Muir believed that God made no ugly landscapes but he did not say there are no ugly landscapes.  The fact that he added the words “so long as it is wild” indicate that what ugly landscapes he had beheld were not made that way by God but by the hand of man.  Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed a number of those ugly landscapes myself.  I’ve seen the scars left from mountain top removal and the clear cutting of forests.  I’ve visited many places where natural beauty once was prevalent but now can hardly be found.  Perhaps it was inevitable that this would happen but that makes it no less sad.  In such places the glory God intended to reveal will not be found.

BL7199I feel incredibly blessed to have traveled as much as I have during my life and to have seen so many different types of beautiful landscapes.  Each one has led me to a greater admiration of the Creator and has also taught me things I needed to know about God and myself.  If you’re looking for a good reason to visit some new landscapes, I’m not sure there is a better one than that.

–Chuck

(I took the first image at Great Sand Dunes National Park, the second one at Rio Grande Gorge, the third at Illinois’ Garden of the Gods, the fourth at Death Valley National Park, and the fifth one at Badlands National Park.)


Feb 10 2013

A Broken Hallelujah

Highland-Hammock-SP-079During our worship service this morning one of our youth sang a song recorded by Mandisa called “Broken Hallelujah.”  I had not heard the song before but was deeply touched by it.  This beautiful song acknowledges that when our hearts have been broken “in a thousand pieces, maybe even more” that it can be difficult to offer God the praise He deserves.  Here are the words to the chorus: When all that I can sing is a broken hallelujah, when my only offering is shattered praise, still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins.  I will worship You and give You thanks even when my only praise is a broken hallelujah.”  There can be no denying that there are times in each of our lives when it may be hard to praise God but that it is a noble thing when a person offers Him praise nonetheless, even if it is only a broken hallelujah.

On the way home from church I thought about the song and how the words had fit my life on a number of occasions.  It also hit me that there is a sense in which God’s Creation also at times has to offer a broken hallelujah.  The Bible teaches us that all of Creation offers God praise but considering what we have done to the earth perhaps in some places only a truncated or limited offering of praise is possible.  I think of clear-cut areas I’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest, mountaintop removal sites in the southern Appalachians, and areas drained for development in the Everglades.  I think of the polluted rivers and lakes I’ve seen, as well as urban settings covered with smog.  In so many places and in so many ways we have hindered Creation’s ability to offer God praise.

Hazard-926eI would like to think that even in those places where humans have altered the landscape and brought pollution that broken hallelujahs continue to be offered.  I would also like to think that through conservation efforts and by being better stewards of Creation we can help restore some of these areas and enable nature itself to offer a greater offering of praise to its Creator.  In fact, since I have been inspired numerous times by Creation to offer my own praise, I feel obligated to do what I can to help Creation fulfill its own task of worshiping God.  How about you?

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Highland Hammocks State Park in Florida.  The bottom image is a picture I took from an airplane of a mountaintop removal site near Hazard, KY.)