Jul 13 2014

Looking Beyond the Obvious

BeyondObvious1Earlier this summer, I was up in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada with Chuck. This is a wonderful park that is one of the quieter national parks because of its location.  While I did photograph some of the beautiful mountains of the park, I also spent time getting down and dirty with the small critters, the insects and spiders, that live there, as well as the great flowers that were in bloom, too.  Chuck has commented on my predilection to look at the small stuff. I believe these small things can be as unique to a location as the obvious mountains, and as much a testimony of God’s wonder as those mountains, if we are only willing to stop and look.

BeyondObvious7There is no question that this can require a conscious effort because our tendency is often to focus in on the obvious beauty, especially in bold locations like a national park. By looking beyond the obvious, I guarantee you will be rewarded with unique and special moments of wonder and joy that others truly will miss.

BeyondObvious6A cool thing about getting down and dirty with the little things is that you can do it in all sorts of weather and light. The light might just be awful for the distant mountain because of the wrong time of day or the clouds don’t cooperate. Maybe even there is fog blocking your view. Up close, none of this matters! You can always find wonderful opportunities for wonder up close. Light in the wrong direction? Move to the right or left and it changes instantly. Terrible skies? No need to look at them. Gray conditions? That can give an enveloping light for close-up views that allows you to better see details and colors that might be obscured by brighter, harsher light.

BeyondObvious5I think it is significant that Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow … even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28) when talking about people being worried about things like impressing people with clothing and also, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)   He did not say to look at the beautiful mountains and what God does with them, nor did he say to look at the biggest and most dramatic animals. In addition, Christ fed the crowd with a few small fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 14:17-20). He started with small things. Could not Christ have created a feast with much more? Of course, but it was the small things that mattered.

Big things in God’s creation are made up of small things. The big obvious mountains are made up of so many small things, everything from rocks to trees to tiny flowers to spiders to deer to bees and so much more.

BeyondObvious4Big things don’t exist without the small things that they are made of. If our eyes are always looking up at the mountain tops, we will miss discovering much of the wonder of God’s creation right beside us.

– Rob


Jun 1 2014

Don’t Limit Yourself

e_CES0443A few days ago Seth Godin posted a blog where he wrote about how many people let others choose things for them.  He noted that when we listen to Top 40 radio stations we are letting someone else decide what we will hear.  Likewise, if we only read best-selling books we are allowing others to determine what we will read.  Godin noted that if we always do this we will miss out on much that is good.  Not all the good music makes it to Top 40 radio; there are great books that do not show up on anyone’s best-seller list.  He suggested that we be careful about always letting others make our choices.

e_CES0241I thought about that as Rob Sheppard and I photographed at Great Basin National Park in Nevada this past week.  I doubt that many lists of top national parks would include Great Basin.  Usually you find on such lists parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Arches, Grand Teton and Acadia.  These are the “popular” ones that you hear a lot about and that the masses flock to. I’ve been to each of these places more than once and they are indeed beautiful and spectacular locations, but there are many lesser known parks that are just as beautiful and spectacular in their own way.  Great Basin National Park is a good example.  It has mountains rising 13,000 feet above sea level. Within its borders you will find an abundance of wildlife and awe-inspiring vistas.  The park’s lower elevation is desert covered with sagebrush while its higher elevations contain beautiful aspen groves.  The park has a cave with stunning formations, while above ground there are a number of lovely streams.  Still, relatively few people know about this park.  It receives far fewer visitors than the more popular parks noted above.  If you only visited national parks that were popular you would likely never see Great Basin National Park.  You would miss getting to experience what is genuinely a national treasure.

e_DSC6872This is a good reminder that we must all be careful about letting others choose for us what we will see, listen to, read or visit. Popular opinion need not rule.  We have the freedom to choose ourselves and we should exercise that freedom carefully and frequently.  We need to be careful that we don’t limit ourselves.  This is true even when it comes to the spiritual life.  I fear that many people allow others to choose for them how to live the spiritual life.  There are many popular paths and it would seem that most people are content to follow one of these paths.  There are, however, countless paths that can be taken as we seek to heed Christ’s call to “follow me.”  In reality, there are as many paths available as there are followers.  We can choose to take the popular paths because…well, they’re popular or, with the Spirit’s guidance, we can elect to follow our own unique path.  The other paths are perhaps easier to follow but will likely not be nearly as meaningful or adventuresome.

At the conclusion of Joan Chittister’s book, Called to Question, she writes “Once we have come to the point that we can allow God to be for us always new, always beckoning—beyond any single way of worship, any one set of devotions, any need to be less than alive and full of the joy of it, any desire to close off people and life, any idea that the daily is dull and empty of real spiritual experience, we have begun to grow into the spiritual life.  Then we are finally ready to find God in the very lives we are leading right now.”

e_CES0060Chittister believes there are a number of paths one can take when it comes to following Christ and that we should strive to follow the one intended for us.  I would agree.  We will likely suffer if we choose to take some path simply because it is the popular one.  We will flourish and thrive best when we follow the path that God intended to be uniquely our own.  Thoreau talked about walking to the beat of a different drummer.  As Christians we have the same drummer, it just so happens that drummer has a different beat for each of our lives.  Let’s not limit ourselves to whatever beat happens to be popular today.  Instead, may we each listen for the beat intended for us and then move confidently and joyfully forward. This is where true spiritual growth takes place.  This is where we will find our greatest joy.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures above this past week at Great Basin National Park.)