Nov 3 2013

Change, Fear and Creation

HS0139When I moved to western Kentucky six months ago I already had in the back of my mind the question, what will I do for fall photography?  Living in the mountains of eastern Tennessee and Kentucky the past twenty-four years had spoiled me.  For autumn beauty few places can match the splendor of the southern Appalachian mountains.  After that many years in the area there were numerous locations I could count on for spectacular fall images and I returned to many of them year after year.  But now I live between five and seven hours from those spots.  I knew I would not be able to return to this familiar territory this year and could only hope that I would be able to find something to photograph.  Part of me feared that I would not be able to find anything in my present region that would move me like my beloved mountains further east.

GG7146Thankfully I can report that I have found a number of wonderful locations to do nature photography in western Kentucky and southern Illinois and Indiana as well.  The scenery nearby may not have tall mountains but the beauty of God’s Creation is surely manifest here as well.  I’ve enjoyed photographing in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area since moving to Henderson, Kentucky, but really did not think it would be a good location for fall photography.  On Friday I learned I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I also made another trip to Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois on Friday and was impressed with the colors there.  There is a ruggedness to this location that already has found a niche in my heart.  Today I spent a couple of hours photographing at James John Audubon State Park.  Here in Audubon’s old stomping grounds I found a brilliant display of autumn’s palette.  As I drove home I found myself offering thanks for being able to live in such a beautiful part of the country.

ASP0294I share all of this to remind myself and you that the change we often fear can, at times, turn out to be a wonderful blessing.  I have never found change to be easy.  I understand that change is inevitable but at the same time when I know changes are coming fear is usually my first response.  I start to worry about whether I will be able to adapt to what is to come.  I stress out about the unknown before me.  Still, over the years I have come to learn that despite my fears I can always move forward because God is with me.  Countless times I have turned to Joshua 1:9 for comfort.  There God says “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   In God I find my constant in the midst of change.  He is, after all, the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

ASP0397I am also discovering that the constancy of God’s presence is evident in nature.  I do not have to be in the mountains to feel or sense God’s nearness.  The geography, flora and fauna may change in the places that I live and travel to but the One who made all things continues to reveal Himself to me through that which He has made wherever I happen to be.  In nature we find a perpetual reminder that in the midst of an ever-changing world there stands the unchanging Creator who has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  That makes facing change far less scary for me.  I hope it does for you too.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area, the second image at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois, and the bottom two images at John James Audubon State Park.)


Oct 27 2013

The Garden of God

GG9645This past Friday I had a chance to go to Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois to photograph.  This natural area is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is only a little over an hour from where I now live.  This was my first time to photograph this beautiful place.  I say it was my first time to photograph Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois but it was not my first time to photograph a Garden of the Gods.  There are at least three such places that use this name in America.  A few years ago I photographed at Garden of the Gods in Colorado.  It too is a beautiful place.  I haven’t visited Garden of the Gods in Hawaii but would like to one day.

CO-Garden-of-the-Gods-Siamese-Twins-077I’m not exactly sure why people have chosen to call these special locations “Garden of the Gods.”  Nor am I clear why it is “Gods” rather than “God” in the name.  As a Christian I affirm that there is but one God and that this God is the Maker of heaven and earth.  This God, interestingly enough, takes great delight in gardens.  The biblical story begins with the Garden of Eden and closes with a description of the New Jerusalem that is described as a city with many features of a garden.  In between there are lots of other references to gardens.

In the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery we’re told that in the Bible a garden is an image of both nature and sacred space.  The writer says “At a literal, physical level the garden is a place of life richly nourished, well attended to and appointed for the enjoyment of its human owners or residents.  As such, it is a touchstone of such motifs as provision, beauty, abundance and the satisfaction of human need.  Next to heaven, it is the preeminent image of human longing.” 

GG6892The word “paradise” is of Persian origin and referred to a walled garden.  I find that very interesting since we often refer to heaven as paradise.  When one of the thieves that was crucified with Jesus asked to be remembered when he came into his kingdom he heard him reply, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)  The New Jerusalem, noted above, is a walled city with wonderful life-giving trees inside and a flowing stream. (Revelation 21)  Some have suggested that the Garden of Eden might have been walled as well since the Bible says that the entrance was guarded by an angel once Adam and Eve were expelled from it. (Genesis 3:24)  Though it may have been an enclosed garden it was open to God.  Genesis 3:8 speaks of God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”   The garden was where God met with and talked to His creatures.

GG9503Although God can meet us whenever and wherever He chooses, I know that many people, myself included, feel God’s presence and hear His call frequently in the natural gardens of the world.  I am not a gardener but I have heard many people say that gardening is a spiritual experience for them.  They sense God’s presence in their gardens and talk to Him there.  For me this often happens in our national and state parks or other places of special beauty.  Ultimately, however, we might be wise to view the earth itself as the Garden of God.  This is the place He has put us to live out our lives and to commune with Him.

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God told the first humans that it was their job “to take care” of the Garden.  Hopefully we realize that this is still our job.  When we remember how important gardens seem to be to God and realize that it is in the garden that He comes to visit us, we should find plenty of motivation to be good stewards of the Garden of God.  It is in our best interest both physically and spiritually.

–Chuck

(The second picture was taken at Garden of the Gods in Colorado.  The other three were taken this past Friday at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.)