Oct 20 2013

Learning to See God in Creation

_CES9205This past weekend I had the privilege of leading the fall photo workshop at Pennyrile Forest State Park in western Kentucky.  It was a fun event and there were lots of great people on hand.  One of the things that I found exciting was how many children participated in the workshop.  These kids were quite enthusiastic about their photography and were eager to learn.  There were a number of adults who, likewise, seemed eager to learn.  Several of them had purchased nice digital cameras but weren’t sure how to use the features that came on them.  I did what I could to help them grasp a better understanding of how their cameras worked and what they could do with them.

_CES9264Doing the workshop caused me to reflect on my own learning experience with photography.  I purchased my first camera as a teenager and enjoyed taking pictures from the start.  I did not, however, bother back then learning how my camera worked.  Today it seems a miracle I ever got a decent image.  Twenty-one years ago I decided I wanted to become a serious photographer and quickly discovered I had a lot to learn.  There was much to learn about the mechanics of the camera.  There was also a great deal to learn about composition and taking pictures.  Some things could be learned in a book.   Other things required experience or perhaps even a teacher.  I stuck with it and eventually got to the point where I could consistently take good quality images.  I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I still have a lot to learn.  As long as I continue to take photographs I hope I will also continue to grow in my skills and craft.

_CES9218Everyone who wants to learn how to photograph has to start with the basics.  I think the same thing is true with seeing God in Creation.   For me those basics are the recognition that God is the Creator of this world and that God seeks to make Himself known through it.  And just as I believe anyone can learn to take good pictures I believe anyone can learn to see God in Creation.  Like with photography, some will learn how to do so quickly, for others it may take more time, but anyone who truly wants to see and experience God in nature can learn to do so.  Here, too, there are books that can serve as instructional guides.  Reading about seeing God in Creation second hand, however, will only take you so far.  You will also want to get out and gain experience yourself.  Take what you’ve learned in the books you’ve read, or perhaps even on this blog, and then go out and allow God’s Spirit to lead you into your own rich and rewarding experiences.

_CES9320Thomas Merton once said that when it comes to prayer we are always beginners.  I suspect the same thing is true when it comes to seeing God in Creation.  There probably are no “experts” in the field, but we can all grow, over time, to learn and see more and more.  Having good eyes and ears will certainly help but in the end it is the eyes and ears of the heart that matter the most.  I believe God will honor the desire of all those who earnestly seek Him.  The prophet Jeremiah heard God say, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (29:13)  If we persist in our efforts to see God in His Creation, and do so with all our heart, we can count on having many wonderful experiences and revelations down the road.  That’s not my promise, it’s His.  In the end we will discover that God Himself will be our teacher and that He will make sure to show us the paths that will lead us into His presence.  How cool is that?

–Chuck

(The pictures shown above are some samples of what I took while at Pennyrile Forest State Park this weekend.)

 


May 8 2011

A Wonderful Day

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Yesterday I decided to check out a spot in Virginia I had heard about some time ago.  All I really knew was that there were three waterfalls on a short trail at this particular location.  This spot is less than an hour and a half from where I live but I had never been to it.  After an incredibly wonderful experience there I can only wonder why I did not go sooner.

Why do we tend to take for granted our local settings?  When I went to Hawaii last month I looked forward with great anticipation to photographing the waterfalls I would see there and yet there are some very nice waterfalls close by that I haven’t even visited.  Far too often we forget that there are natural treasures nearby if we will only take the time to visit them.

I suspect that my experience with the waterfalls has its parallels in the spiritual life.  We sometimes get to thinking that we can only encounter God at church, some special retreat or perhaps an inspirational concert.   We forget that He may be encountered anywhere and at any time.  It may be at church but it could just as well be in your own back yard.  It may happen at a nice retreat center somewhere but He may also make Himself known to you at a local park.  Sure God sometimes reveals Himself at inspirational meetings and concerts but He can also make Himself known through the singing birds outside your window or in a group of flowers in a nearby field.

In the Bible God makes Himself known in many different ways.  At times He was found in the clouds or in a fire.  He showed Himself to Moses in a burning bush and talked to Balaam through a donkey.  God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and to the apostle Paul through a vision.  Obviously God also revealed Himself through the giving of the Law, through the various prophets He raised up, and nowhere clearer than when He took on human flesh in Jesus Christ.  But the message is clear; God has, can and will reveal Himself in numerous different ways and we need to be open to His movements wherever we happen to be.

God seemed close yesterday when I visited the Upper, Middle and Lower falls of Stony Creek.  In the crested dwarf irises, bluets, star grass and lousewort flowers I beheld something of His glory.  It was one of those days when I was reminded that God is full of surprises and that one need not travel far to behold the beauty of Creation or the beauty of the Lord.  It was a wonderful day indeed.

–Chuck

(These are three images I took yesterday.  The top one is Upper Falls; the second one is Lower Falls.  The third image shows tiny flowers known as bluets.  The Falls of Stony Creek can be found in the Jefferson National Forest in southwestern Virginia.)