May 8 2013

42 and Good Nature and Bad Nature

Recently my wife and I went to see the movie about Jackie Robinson, 42. What an amazing story of courage by both Robinson and Branch Rickey! But even more, it gave a feeling for a time and its challenges that made a part of history come alive.

Madrona Marsh, Torrance, CASo what does this have to do with nature and photography and our connection to God? 42 made me think a bit. Society had treated blacks pretty poorly, and Robinson and Rickey faced some serious challenges. There were “welcome” people (white) and “unwelcome” people (blacks). Unwelcome people did not matter and could be treated badly without consequence. Obviously that has changed quite dramatically from Robinson’s day.

That definitely translates to nature. How often do you hear people talking about nature in terms of welcome and wanted, such as a furry or feathered animal, and unwelcome and unwanted, such as lizards or insects? Or people absolutely love places like the Great Smoky Mountains or Yosemite, but treat the small local marsh as an inconvenience.

SC 42-04We may have improved our treatment of our fellow man, but a lot of folks have not improved society’s treatment of nature when it is not furry, feathered or a national park. In fact, those “outcasts” of nature are often neglected and treated very poorly indeed.

Chuckwalla, Joshua Tree National Park, CaliforniaI don’t remember Genesis saying that God created the earth and then separated the animals into good and bad according to man’s standards or natural places into wanted and unwanted. In fact, the Bible is very specific:

“God called the dry ground land, and the gathered waters He called seas. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10.

“God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems … and every winged bird … And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:21.

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds…and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “… whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Obviously, Jesus is talking about how we treat our fellow people, but given how important God’s creation is, that statement could easily apply to how we treat the “least” of nature, especially since it is us that is passing judgement on what is “least”, not God.

Sometimes you will hear people say, “Well, I don’t understand the purpose of (some animal)” – a rather condescending statement toward God. Did God ask for our blessing on His creation? Genesis says he blessed creation before he created man.

We all struggle at times with our own importance rather than putting God first. And if we really want to put God first, I believe it starts by respecting His creation, and simply accepting that life on earth is important regardless if we “get it” or not. How can we possibly understand everything that God understands? If someone started destroying “lesser” works of art by someone like Picasso because they did not “get that work”, they would be arrested and put in jail. Is God less than Picasso with his creative work? I don’t believe that.

The first photo is from Yosemite National Park, the second a small marsh in Torrance, California. The hummingbird is from Costa Rica and the chuckwalla lizard is from Joshua Tree National Park.

— Rob

Jan 19 2011

Created For Work

trumpeter swans 504The Sunday School class I teach has been studying John Ortberg’s latest book, The Me I Want to Be.  The last couple of chapters we’ve looked at have to do with our work or vocation.  At one point Ortberg writes, “God says in Genesis that human beings are to ‘rule’ over the earth, or to exercise ‘dominion.’  We often think of these words in terms of ‘dominating’ or ‘bossing around.’  But the true idea behind them is that we are to invest our abilities to create value on the earth, to plant and build and write and organize and heal and invent in ways that bless people and make the earth flourish.”

Although some people view work as drudgery we were created to work.  This may even be a part of what it means to be created “in the image of God.“ (Genesis 1:26-27)  The God who works made us to work as well.  Now obviously work can be understood in a variety of different ways but the truth remains that we are all supposed to use the gifts and abilities God has given us in fruitful service one way or another.

frosted cow parsnip 360Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “When you arise reluctantly in the morning, think like this: ‘I arise to accomplish a human task.  Should I then complain, when I am about to do that for which I was born, and for which I was placed on earth?  Or was I created to pamper myself under the blankets, even if that is more pleasant?’  Were you born, then, to enjoy and, generally to feel, but not to act?  Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees who all perform their own tasks and in their own way helping to let the cosmos function?  Don’t you then want to do your work as a human?  Don’t you hasten to do what is befitting your nature?”

Aurelius’ words remind us that even plants and animals have work to do.  God has fashioned them and given to them what they need to do this work.  Pay close attention to nature and you will see this is true.  In the same manner, God has made each of us to work and given to us what we need to do the work He created us for.   Our lives will be fuller and the planet healthier if we will “invest our abilities…in ways that bless people and make the earth flourish.”


(I took the two pictures above last winter while visiting Yellowstone National Park.)

Sep 22 2010

The Testimony of the Seasons

CO-Rocky-Mountain-NP-tundra-003A little after 11:00 tonight autumn will officially begin.  I’d be more excited about that if they weren’t predicting a high of 94 degrees here tomorrow.  I’ve seen a number of recent news articles indicating that this summer has been the hottest one on record.  This fall may prove to be warmer than normal too.  Still, I have no doubt that the temperatures will soon be more comfortable (for me, anyway) and that the annual brilliant show of autumn colors will shortly begin to make an appearance.

The changing of the seasons is actually something God has promised.  In Genesis 8:22 it says, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  This is the promise God gave to Noah following the Flood.  Much later the prophet Daniel would remind others that it is God who causes the seasons to change.  He said, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes time and seasons…”  (Daniel 2:20-21)

CO-Maroon-Bells-021Even further down the road the apostle Paul spoke of God being behind the changing seasons and how this bears witness to His goodness and faithfulness.  Speaking to a group in Lystra who thought he and Barnabas were Hermes and Zeus because they healed a crippled man, Paul said “turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony.  He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

As the seasons change once again today we are reminded that God has ordered this and that it is part of His good plan for Creation.  We are also reminded that the One who consistently brings this cyclic succession is faithful and can be counted on.  This truly is the testimony of the seasons!


(The top image I took at Rocky Mountain National Park in late September.  The bottom picture of Maroon Bells was also taken in Colorado about the same season of the year.)

May 2 2010

The Giving Tree

backyard 177b

“They are strong, like a tree planted by water…” (Psalm 1:3)

This past week numerous trees were planted around the world. This occurs each year as part of Arbor Day. Many of those who participated probably didn’t realize that by  planting trees we join with God in the work of Creation.

Trees play an important role in the Scriptures. In the opening chapters of the Bible God creates trees. Adam and Eve are charged to tend to or care for these trees. At the end of the Scriptures we find a description of the Celestial City. John tells us there will be trees there that bear fruit perpetually. Between Genesis and Revelation there are numerous other references to trees.

For me trees reflect something of the character of God. It would seem that trees, by their very nature, are givers. They give shade. They give fruit. They give oxygen. They give pleasure. When they shed their leaves they give back to the earth. Like God, they are always giving.

Seeing trees can serve as a reminder that we, too, are supposed to be givers. Far too many people live their lives as takers. I’m convinced life has far more meaning and joy when we give.

To be givers we must have resources to give. Here, too, we can learn from the trees. They all have roots which take from the soil so that they can be able to give. We, too, must have something to draw from. Actually in our case it is Someone. As we allow our roots to grow deep into God and His Word we are enabled to be the givers we were created to be. Just like the trees…


(The image above was taken behind my house a couple of weeks ago.)

Nov 4 2009

A Time to Rest

Smoky-Mountain-Sabbath-crFrom where I sit fall seems to be quickly coming to an end.  I realize that technically it is only half over but once the leaves come down everything seems different.  Things are quieter now.  It’s almost feels like Creation is taking a rest.  In one sense, I suppose, Creation never rests—something is always happening—but this time of year, in the area where I live, things become a lot stiller. 

From the beginning God has called for rest.  It actually plays a prominent role in Scripture.  We learn in Genesis 2 that God rested on the seventh day of Creation.  Later He would tell His people through Moses that they, too, must rest on the seventh (Sabbbath) day.  Not only were the people to rest, so were the animals.  Later, provision for the land to rest was also included in God’s law.  There can be no denying that rest is part of God’s intention for His Creation. 

A number of years ago I was asked by a hospital to do a photographic representation of the seven days of Creation.  The image above is the one I chose to represent the seventh day.  The colorful leaf in the image rests against a rock in the stream, symbolizing for me the rest we find in God. 

Throughout Creation there are reminders of the need for rest.  Considering our busy helter-skelter lives, they are very much needed reminders.  We all need rest physically, spiritually and emotionally.  Creation declares this loud and clear.  That it does should not surprise us when we remember that the Creator Himself recognized the need for rest and commanded it.    

In the fallen leaves around me I see God’s reminder that we all need periods of rest, times to be still and know that He is God.  The picture above also reminds me to give thanks for a place to rest, on Christ the Solid Rock. 


Sep 22 2009

Sunset, Sunrise

Clingmans Dome sunsetIn Rob’s last entry he praised the virtues of sunrises.  As soon as I read the blog I sent him an e-mail telling him his message was not convincing, that I’d still rather sleep in and settle for sunsets (I’m not a morning person!).  He responded by calling me “one of those lazy folks who can’t appreciate the welcoming embrace of early light.”  The truth hurts!

In my e-mail to him I tried to make a biblical case for the priority of sunsets.  Interestingly enough, in the biblical account of Creation the day does not begin in the morning but in the evening.  Throughout Genesis 1 we read, “There was evening, and there was morning….”   In a strange sort of way, sunsets come first.

Various answers have been offered for why evening is placed first in the Creation story.  I like the pastoral answer best.  By placing evening first and morning last we are reminded that light always follows darkness.  This is most encouraging for those who are going through periods of “darkness” in their life, for those who cannot presently see what path to follow.  It means there is hope.  In the words of the Psalmist, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (30:5)   This truth is reiterated in the Book of Revelation where we are told that in heaven “there will be no more night.” (22:5) 

In one of my all-time favorite movies, Fiddler on the Roof, two of the main characters sing a song called “Sunrise, Sunset.”  The chorus to the song goes, “Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days; seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.”  It is a beautiful song but I think the writers got it backwards.  It should be “Sunset, Sunrise.”  This is the hope we have as Christians, a hope confirmed the first Easter morning when Jesus rose from the grave.

Rob is right; sunrises are special.  But so are sunsets…


(I took the sunset picture above at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—no early wakeup call, alarm clock, or coffee needed.)