Sep 18 2015

The Dangers of Biding One’s Time

_DSC8717Summer is my least favorite time to photograph for a number of reasons. Autumn, however, is one of my favorite times. I can’t wait for the fall colors to arrive. Most years I plan vacations to places that experience autumn before we do here in Kentucky so that I can photograph fall foliage over an extended period of time.  Autumn is such a special time! Here lately I’ve pretty much been biding my time until fall arrives to do photography. I was pretty sure there wasn’t much out there to see and photograph in early September around these parts. I was wrong.

_DSC8750A couple of days ago I decided to go out to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area with a friend to photograph. I really didn’t expect to see all that much but I knew it would be good for my mental and spiritual health to get out in nature. It quickly became obvious to me that I had been foolish to bide my time until fall to get out.   I was only in the Sloughs a couple of hours early Wednesday morning but I discovered so many wonderful treasures and got numerous images I really like.  It was amazing! If I had waited until fall colors arrived to go out to photograph I would not have the images you see displayed here.

My experience this week reminded me once again that at no time is there a shortage of marvels to see in God’s Creation. Admittedly, some days you will have to look harder than others to find these marvels but they are certainly there. The key is taking the time to look and being open to what is there each day.

_DSC8801Upon reflection, I’m convinced that our experiences with God are somewhat similar. I believe that God is there each day for us to see and experience but we may miss out by not being on the lookout for what God is doing or being open to the fact that God is actually there.  I also think we can get into a rut, not unlike my photography experience, and start looking so forward to an experience that is to come in the future that we miss what is happening this very day. Maybe it’s a spiritual retreat we are looking forward to, or perhaps a special conference or concert. We look ahead to these events and just know that we will experience God there. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to those times we know God is likely to reveal Himself to us.  There’s nothing wrong with this, that is, unless it keeps us from experiencing what God might want us to see, hear, or feel here and now.

_DSC8879In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” One of the things this verse teaches us is that none of us are smart enough to figure out just how or when God will show up in our lives.  If we are wise we will learn to live each day in eager expectation of what the present day might hold. I suspect if we did this we would experience far more of God than we presently do right now.

–Chuck


Nov 27 2014

For the Fruit of All Creation

_DSC3980“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

This past Sunday we sang a song at church I was not familiar with.  It is called For the Fruit of All Creation.  The song was written by Fred Pratt Green almost forty-five years ago but it is new to me.  It is, appropriately enough, a hymn of thanksgiving.  The first verse speaks particularly of the blessings of nature: “For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God; for good gifts to every nation, thanks be to God; for the plowing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.”

_DSC3862Thanksgiving is obviously a time for us to pause and give thanks.  Hopefully when we offer our thanks today we will remember to express our gratitude for “the fruit of all creation.”  This will, by necessity, also include acknowledgement that God has graciously provided for us a planet that produces fruit, a good earth that has for eons sustained us and all other life forms.

Most of us will sit down today to a table of plenty.  We will have abundant evidence of God’s provisions and nature’s bounty right in front of us.  On this day and every other day we should indeed give thanks for the “fruit” of the earth that sustains us.  Through Creation God has provided everything necessary to meet our physical needs.

e_DSC3707In recent days I have once again been reminded that “the fruit of all creation” meets more than just my physical needs.  I would have a difficult time surviving both spiritually and emotionally without its abundant fruits.  I found myself a couple of days ago in desperate need of the healing balm of nature.  I told a friend I was visiting with at the hospital that I was going to see my therapist.  I went on to say that by that I meant I was going to drive out to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area to look at the birds.  Being out in the open surrounded by the beauty and wildlife of this area truly is therapeutic for me.  I’m not sure I would be able to maintain my sanity for long without “the fruit of all creation.”

e_DSC3564With that in mind I hope that as you give thanks for God’s blessings today that you will include the many different ways the fruit of all Creation blesses and enriches our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

–Chuck

(The pictures used in this post are some I’ve taken in recent days at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky.)


Oct 29 2014

Dying to Live

_DSC2015The fall foliage has finally gotten nice in western Kentucky.  I’ve not been able to get out and photograph much due to demands at work but I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful colors as I drive around town.  The hues of autumn bring me a lot of joy.  That joy is tempered however by the knowledge that the colors will not last long.  In a matter of days the trees will be bare and will stay that way until spring of next year.  Realizing this I try to take time to enjoy the fall foliage while I can and encourage others to do the same.

One of my other fall rituals is trying to remember that there are important lessons to be learned from nature this time of the year.  For example, fall helps me to  remember that some of God’s blessings are fleeting and truly must be enjoyed while they are present.  If we wait until tomorrow it might be too late.  I also recall this time of the year that just as the autumn foliage brings sustenance to my spirit, when the leaves fall they give sustenance to the earth as well.  As trees lose their leaves it can seem like a death when in reality it is only a continuation of the circle of life.

_DSC1940A few days ago I did manage to go out one morning for a couple of hours to photograph in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.  While I was focused on taking images of cedar cypress trees in the Sloughs a friend pointed out to me some lovely acorns on an oak tree just a few feet away.  I took several pictures of the acorns and surrounding leaves.  Later it occurred to me that these acorns play a role similar to the leaves of the tree.  They, too, will soon fall to the earth below them and bring nourishment to both wildlife and the earth itself.  What might appear to be an end for the acorn is in some ways just a beginning.

_DSC1948Nature seems to have more than its share of reminders about God’s intricate economy.   Just as in the natural world death and life form a circle, it is clear in the Scriptures that death and life are closely tied together spiritually.  Those of us who are Christians affirm that both abundant life and eternal life are gifts made available to us as a result of the death of Jesus.  We also remember that there are numerous calls in the New Testament for followers of Christ to die to self.  Jesus once said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  If we are unwilling to die to self and live for both God and others we break the circle of life God intended.  At the same time, when we do die to self and live for both God and others not only do we find true life but we become channels of life for others too.

_DSC2384The selfish side of me would like to see the autumn leaves stay on the trees for a very long period of time but I realize that this is not what is best for the trees or for the earth.  The selfish side of me would also like to have the world revolve around me but, here too, I recognize that this is not at all what is best for me or for those around me.  As paradoxical as it may seem, if I want to experience life to its fullest and help others experience the same I must die to self.  Perhaps God knew that this would be a difficult lesson for some of us to learn or remember so and He gave us some great object lessons to help us grasp this truth.  All we have to do is watch the leaves and acorns fall to the ground this autumn.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY, and the rest at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A.)


Oct 22 2014

This Morning’s Lessons

_DSC1754I’ve not been able to get out and photograph for about two weeks so I went out early this morning to try to capture some new local autumn images.  We are still a good bit away from being at peak colors but it was still nice to be outside and to do some photographic work.  I was only able to photograph for a little over an hour but during that time I got some nice images and also was reminded of a couple of important spiritual lessons.

_DSC1797I started the day at one of my favorite places in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area—the Jenny Hole.  Last year I was able to capture a number of images I really liked there.  I discovered once I got there that the cedar cypress trees have already turned to their autumn rust color.  There was some nice side lighting shortly after sunrise but I had trouble getting excited about what I was seeing.  The scene looked practically identical to what I had photographed last year.  It didn’t make much sense to take pictures if they were going to look just like the ones I’d already taken.  As I started to walk back to my car I looked back and noticed something I had not earlier.  There were reflections of the cypress tree.  Last year the water still had duckweed and other vegetation in front of the trees and the reflection I saw was not present.  I found delight in being able to photograph this beautiful tree reflected in the water.

_DSC1839The lesson I was reminded of here is to pay more attention.  If we are not careful we will fail to notice things that are slightly different than they were before.  In doing so we will miss that which is new.  That can happen both when photographing and also in one’s spiritual life.  There are periods in my life when each day seems basically the same.  In those times I may be lulled into thinking nothing new is going on when, in reality, if I were truly paying attention, I would see that God was up to something new or different.  I know the Bible talks about Christ being the same “yesterday, today and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8) but I also believe that the Scriptures reveal a God who is always up to something new.  In Revelation 21:5 John hears God say, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  If we are wise we will strive each and every day to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  It may seem to be just one more day like every other when, in fact, God is trying to show us or do something new.

A few minutes later I drove to a small pond and noticed a yellow tree reflecting nicely in the water.  When I got out of my car I scared a duck that had been in the pond.  The duck flew off and its departure created lots of ripples in the water that disturbed the lovely reflection I saw when I first arrived.  I went ahead and took a few pictures but waited long enough for things to calm down.  Eventually, the reflection I first saw reappeared.  Every good photographer knows that to get mirror-like reflections the water has to be calm or still.

_DSC1807As I waited for the water to calm I was reminded that as a Christian I am called to be a reflection of my Lord.  The goal is to reflect Jesus as perfectly as I can in my life and conduct.  I have discovered that this is very difficult for me to do when my soul is troubled or I am physically stressed or tired.  I feel I offer a better reflection of Christ when I make sure to take time out to be still, to meditate, to cease from striving.  The problem is I often go long periods without taking the time to do this.  I’m afraid God often has to say to me the words He spoke through the prophet Isaiah long ago, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (30:15)  I really should know better by now.

I’m glad I was able to photograph this morning.  Not only did I get some nice images, God gently reminded me of a couple of lessons I needed to hear once again.

–Chuck

 


Jul 6 2014

Fresh Encounters With Beauty

_DSC1130“For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.” (Psalm 92:4)

_DSC1834Today my heart is filled with gratitude for the beauty of God’s Creation.  Over the past week I had a chance to make numerous visits to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.  During these seven days I discovered a couple of new places that turned out to be truly special.  One was a vast area, mostly dry this week, covered with tens of thousands of lotus plants in bloom.  It was a spectacular sight, to say the least.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before.  It was so beautiful I went back three days in a row so I could photograph it in different types of light.

_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC2181_DSC2181_DSC2176Later in the week I came upon yet another new spot in the Sloughs.  This place was a wetland that also contained numerous lotus flowers.  The difference between this location and the previous one is that the lotus flowers here were surrounded by a sea of purple pickerelweed.  The panoramic view here was stunningly beautiful.  It, too, called for multiple visits to do photography.

_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC2181Because I have visited so many national parks and other popular scenic areas it is hard to find scenes now that blow me away.  I have seen so much beauty it’s hard for me to be impressed at times.  The two spots I visited this week were definitely exceptions.  Being at both spots filled me with joy, awe and wonder.  I felt blessed just to witness such beauty.  I felt doubly blessed knowing that both places were only about twenty minutes away from where I live.

_DSC1834_DSC2181_DSC2181Before long both places will lose the beauty I beheld this past week.  The lotus flowers and pickerelweed blossoms will fade away and not be seen for another year.  Many of nature’s best shows are short-lived.   How grateful I am that I got to witness the show this year!  Knowing that the show will be repeated next year gives me something to look forward to.  I certainly don’t want to miss it.

One of the sad and ironic things about the two places I’ve described for you is that very few people even know about them.  Neither place is all that difficult to get to but they do require a bit of effort to view.    It doesn’t help that neither can be seen from the road.  I lament that so few people got to view this manifestation of God’s glory but I know that the handful of people who did witness the view were blessed by what they saw.

_DSC2181_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC0969_DSC1834_DSC1857_DSC1857_DSC1857All of this got me to thinking that there are no doubt countless such places across the globe.  Places of immense beauty that few people, if any, ever get to witness.  Does that mean that all this beauty goes to waste?  I think not.  I believe that the beauty we behold in the world around us is not just for our pleasure but for the Creator’s as well.  It is obvious that God delights in beauty.  God finds joy in the beauty of His handiwork whether we or anyone else notices.  I find that thought comforting but am quite certain that God’s desire is to share this beauty with us.  This beauty rejuvenates us, inspires us, and enriches our lives.  This beauty offers us a glimpse into the heart of God and reveals a love that knows no limits.  This beauty, as I said at the beginning, is enough to fill one’s heart with gratitude.  Oh yes, after this past week my heart is full!

–Chuck


May 18 2014

Color–A Foretaste of Glory Divine

eCES3465A friend of mine from here in Henderson texted me a few days ago and told me he was at an art museum in Indianapolis viewing an Ansel Adams exhibit.  I told him that he could have just stayed home and looked at my pictures.  I indicated to him that my pictures were certainly more colorful than that Adams guy.  Needless to say I was joking.  Ansel Adams is one of my photographic heroes, but it is true that my images are more colorful than his since he primarily did black and white work.  I enjoy looking at good black and white photography but am so very thankful to live in a world filled with color.

I took time this past Friday to go do some photography with a couple of friends in the nearby Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.  What a beautiful day it was!  The sky was a glorious blue and the spring greens were putting on a show.  The fields of yellow flowers we saw were so bright you almost needed sunglasses to view them without pain.  After I posted some pictures from the trip on Facebook a number of people commented on how beautiful the colors were.  It was that kind of day.

eCES3423The last couple of nights I’ve been working on a new digital slide show to share with a group on Tuesday.  Since I recently celebrated my one year anniversary in Henderson I decided I would put together a program that highlighted the natural beauty I had captured with my camera the past twelve months here.  When I looked at the folder of images I had worked on for the presentation I was taken aback by the amazing palette of color before me.  In my journey through spring, summer, autumn and winter I must have seen almost every color imaginable.  Seeing all those colors thrilled my soul.

It also reminded me of something I had read just a week before.  The movie Heaven is for Real is playing locally and I mentioned to someone I’d like to see it.  I was told I should read the book first.  I happened to have a copy so one day I sat down and read it.  I found the whole story quite fascinating but one of the things that really stood out for me was the young boy’s physical description of heaven.  After his near death experience Colton told his father that in heaven there are lots of colors—“rainbow colors.”  Numerous times in the book attention is given to the colors Colton saw in heaven.  This intrigued me.

eDSC5410Interestingly enough, the picture the Bible paints of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation is one filled with lots of beautiful colors.  We’re told the walls are made of jasper and the city of pure gold.  John adds, “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.” (21:19)  Among the stones identified are sapphire, emerald, topaz, chalcedony, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst.  I know what some of these stones look like but for others I haven’t a clue.  I doubt that we are supposed to understand any of this literally; it is more likely that these are just glimpses of the indescribable.  I have no doubt, however, that heaven will be beautiful.  It will not surprise me at all if it is more colorful than anything we have witnessed here on earth.  In fact, I suspect the colors we so enjoy are—in the words the song—only “a foretaste of glory divine.”  If God put so many wonderful colors into our temporary home, I can only imagine what colors await us in our eternal one.  That leads me to believe that there will be no black and white photography in heaven.  Sorry, Ansel!

–Chuck

(I took the three pictures shown above at Henderson Sloughs WMA this past Friday.)