Jul 7 2013

Sun and Clouds


“He covers the sky with clouds…” Psalm 147:8

On the Fourth of July I went down to the Henderson riverfront with my sister and her husband to watch the fireworks.   They had a live band playing ahead of time so we got there early and enjoyed the music as the sun went down behind the Ohio River.  I know some people think all sunsets are spectacular but photographically this one was not anything special.  There was a big red ball in the sky and a few clouds nearby.  Shortly after the sun actually set more clouds came in and it was then that things started getting interesting.  The sky became redder and redder.  Soon it was almost purple.  The colors in the sky and those reflected in the river below ended up putting on a show that rivaled, if not exceeded, the fireworks display that followed.  It was truly awesome!

I have been observing and photographing sunsets long enough to know that to have spectacular ones you usually need clouds to be present.   They are what provide the drama and the variety of colors in the sky.  In the short time I’ve been in Henderson I’ve driven to the riverfront numerous times to watch the sun set.  It’s always a pretty sight but if there are no clouds in the sky I don’t bother getting my camera out.  You’ve got to have the clouds!

Bosque 110149In the eastern part of Kentucky a lot of people are presently sick of seeing clouds.  It’s been raining a lot.  In fact, my sister-in-law in Frankfort posted a cartoon on Facebook this morning that said “To think, it only rained twice this summer.  Once for 45 days and again for 35 days.”  I can understand their disgruntlement.  When you have nothing but clouds day after day it tends to get you down.  If you’re a photographer it can drive you crazy!

It would seem that for good dispositions and great sunset photography you need the right combination of sun and clouds.   This is true for life in general if you substitute good times and bad for sunshine and clouds.  It appears to me that if our lives are always “sunshine” then we tend not to appreciate how blessed we are; we take the sunny days for granted.  If we only have “clouds” then life becomes dull at best and overwhelming at worst.

Bryce sunset crI believe God sees to it that we get what we need.  I’m not implying He causes everything to happen in our lives but I do believe that God is actively involved in them.  He knows that we need a combination of sunshine and clouds.  And sometimes He brings them together in such a manner that we find beauty, purpose or meaning in ways we could never have imagined or experienced in any other way.    It is for that reason I’ve learned to appreciate the clouds in my life.

In the Bible God is at times associated with light.  At other times God is associated with clouds.  If we are wise we will learn to discern His presence in both (literally and figuratively) and to pay extra close attention when He uses both at the same time.


(I took the top image this past Thursday in Henderson.   I captured the second sunset image at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico and the third one near Bryce Canyon in Utah.)

Jul 4 2010

God Bless America

WY-Yellowstone-NP-Lower-Falls-wideBeing the Fourth of July I suspect that in many churches today and at various Independence Day celebrations the song “God Bless America” has been sung.  This hymn by Irving Berlin is certainly a popular one.  Before its familiar chorus the song says, “Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.”  Today we should, indeed, be grateful for the beauty of this country.  I have had the privilege of traveling to many foreign nations but I have seen none that excel this one for its natural beauty.  When God created the land we call America He truly did bless it.

The hymn “God Bless America” is considered a patriotic anthem but it might just as well be an environmental one.  Here we sing “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”  In this “solemn prayer” we seek God’s blessings for that which He has made—the mountains, the prairies, the oceans.

I suppose it is fine to continue to ask God’s blessings on His Creation but just as much Creation needs our blessing.  It needs our care.  Many of the mountains in this country have been ravaged.  Our prairies have vastly shrunk due to urban development.  The oceans surrounding our country were terribly polluted even before the BP oil spill.  God blessed this “land that I love.”  We seem to have cursed it.

The way that we have treated our land makes me wonder if we even have the right to sing “God Bless America.”  How can we ask God to bless this land when we have misused it in so many ways?  I have written before that one of my fundamental beliefs is that with blessing comes responsibility.  How many of us have truly been responsible as stewards of God’s good earth?  Of America, “my home, sweet home”?

We seem to have forgotten—or never understood—that God blessed this land with natural resources not just so that we could prosper, but so that we might see and know Him in that which He has made.  My prayer today is that God will bless America with a love for its land and for its Creator.  Both deserve a greater love than we have given thus far.


(I took the image above of Lower Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park was taken a few years ago in early July.)

Jul 4 2009

America the Beautiful

nc-smokies-clingmans-dome-dusk-hHappy Independence Day!  This is a special day for Americans.  First and foremost we remember with gratitude today the price that those who went before us paid so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have.  There are, however, other things to be thankful for as well.  I, for one, am thankful for the incredible natural beauty God has blessed this nation with.  Of course, others have been grateful for this too.

 In the song “America the Beautiful” the writer, Katherine Lee Bates, speaks of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains.  After mentioning these she cannot help but declare, “God shed His grace on thee.”   Samuel Francis Smith, the writer of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” likewise spoke with gratitude about the beauty of our land when he wrote, “I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills…”

I have been blessed to visit and photograph many of our country’s natural wonders and on this Fourth of July I find myself giving thanks for what we have.  I also find myself concerned that we not take these natural treasures for granted and that they be preserved for future generations to enjoy.  I believe it is our patriotic duty to make sure that places like the Everglades (one of the most endangered places in the world) and the Smokies (pictured above) are protected.

Katherine Lee Bates was right, God did, in fact, shed His grace on this country by giving us so much natural beauty and resources.  One of my seminary professors used to say “with blessing comes responsibility.”  Yes, we have been blessed.  The question remains, will we also be responsible?

–Chuck Summers