Dec 3 2014

Things As They Should Be

RGG3519It is no secret that I love the outdoors.  I think I’m happiest and most at peace when I am in a nice natural setting.  There are lots of reasons for this.  First and foremost, I feel close to God when I’m surrounded by the work of the Creator’s hands.  Second, I delight in the beauty, mystery and variety to be found in Creation.  Third, I feel nature has a lot of lessons to teach us, many of them spiritual in nature.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that these are the three themes I tend to focus on most.

SFNF5134Today I thought of another reason why I enjoy being outdoors in nature so much.  There, for the most part, things are as they are supposed to be, things are as God intended.  I don’t find that scenario many other places in my life.  Not in my personal life, not in my church, not in my community, not in my state or country.  In so many areas things are not as they should be but in nature–at least where humans don’t adversely interfere–we see God’s plans being fulfilled day after day.  The mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys, coast or desert do what they are supposed to day after day.  The flora and fauna that live there do the same.  So do the rocks and minerals.  And because nature affords us this rare opportunity to be where things are as they should be I find peace and comfort there.

The reason we don’t see things as they should be in many other arenas is, of course, the fact that we humans have been granted an incredible gift called free will.  We get to choose whether we will live in the way God intended for us or choose a different path.  Apparently God chose to give this gift to us so that our relationship to Him would not be a forced one. (If we have no choice but to love God then it is no longer a relationship based on love.)  Considering all the discord, strife and injury that has resulted from our misuse of free will I can’t help but wonder if God wishes at times He had set things up a different way.  Today the order, harmony, and justice God must have desired is very hard to find.

SFNF4352That’s why it helps me to get out in nature on a regular basis.  I find solace being someplace God’s will is actually done.   Being in nature and observing all of this also serves as a reminder to me (and hopefully others) that things work so much better when we choose to follow God’s plan and purpose for our lives.  It is when we are selfish and greedy that we make bad choices that hurt us, those around us, and Creation itself.

GR4138The good news in all of this is that we can learn from nature and our past mistakes.  We can, in fact, be wiser in the future and strive more diligently to do God’s will.  Jesus taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  He also modeled this when he prayed repeatedly in the Garden of Gethsemane “Not my will but yours be done” to his heavenly Father.  I am convinced that the peace I find in nature can be found elsewhere, but not without our learning to seek first the kingdom of God.   I know I have no control over whether others do this but I do have a good bit of control over whether I do.  And so do you.  As we journey through this Advent season please join with me in praying that God’s will shall be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”


(I took the pictures used above earlier this year on a trip to New Mexico.)

Feb 4 2010

Special and Accessible Places of Peace

Garden Fall 08-1Over the years, I have discovered many special places in nature for peace and restful meditation. By special places, I am not talking about the bold locations like Yellowstone where Chuck is now. Those are definitely special places, but not very accessible for most of us.

When Jesus was troubled in the last hours before he was arrested before the crucifixion, he went to a very accessible place of natural things, the Garden of Gethsemane, to pray and have some time alone. It is interesting and informative that he did not go inside a building, did not go to a temple, did not go to a home, but went outside to a garden. This was a time of considerable stress for Jesus, and while his prayer is very important, I think his location is, too.

None of us feel the pressure that Christ did that night, but still, we have our own pressures to deal with. Nature is, for me, a great place to connect with life and with God, and therefore, to help me with that pressure. On 9/11 when all of those terrible visions were seen on television and the awful things of that attack became known, I went off into a local nature center’s preserve and photographed flowers. In all of that turmoil of death and destruction from the attack on the World Trade Centers, for me, becoming intimately involved with those flowers through my camera connected and grounded me to life. It has been said that a flower is the ultimate expression of hope for the future since a flower only exists to create seeds for future plants.

I have planted much of our yard into native flowers, shrubs and trees. They bloom all year round here in Southern California. Whenever I am stressed with my work as an independent author/photographer, I go out into that garden and take some pictures. There are also other places that are not far that I can go to and be at peace with nature and God. Finally, I also find my and others photography helps me reconnect with nature and helps me be at peace, too.

The flower here is a monkey flower from my garden. It blooms in winter to early spring and is a common plant in the chaparral ecosystem of Southern California.

— Rob