Apr 6 2014

Crazy Thinking

_CES2809For some crazy reason there is a huge disparity between the way I think and the way I see things.  If I have ninety-nine good things going on in my life or at work and only one bad thing, I tend to dwell on and stress over the one bad thing.  That is not good and I know it.  When it comes to seeing, especially with my nature photography, it tends to be right the opposite.  If I’m out photographing and 99% of what I’m around is ugly or boring and 1% is beautiful, I’ll focus on the beautiful and make the most of it.  I wish I thought more like I see.  I have a feeling God would rather have me focusing on the positives in my life than the negatives.  I’m not much good to Him or anyone else when I’m stressed out and fretting too much over the bad.

_CES2610I got to thinking about all of this the past couple of days.  This past week I spent five days photographing in the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas.  I had never been to this region and was really looking forward to doing some spring photography there.  When we arrived, however, there were very few signs of spring.  Apparently the cold and prolonged winter we’ve had in the south has caused there to be a significant delay in the arrival of spring in the natural world.  I thought for sure I’d be photographing redbuds and dogwoods and wildflowers but for the biggest part of the trip these were absent.  For all practical purposes it might as well have been February.

Some may have despaired and given up after discovering the conditions were not what one expected but I have learned over the years that there is always beauty to be found somewhere.  It may not be found in what you had hoped for but it is there nonetheless.  By focusing on some of the springs and waterfalls in the area, as well as some pretty remarkable geological features, I was able to take a lot of lovely images.

_DSC2962Somehow I have got to figure out a way to take the same approach with my thinking.  It’s absurd for people (me or anybody else) to ignore or minimize the good and beautiful in their life because one or two things in it are not so good or beautiful.  Such negativity is harmful. It keeps a person from living a life of gratitude and also robs them of a tremendous amount of joy and peace.  I certainly realize one should not ignore his or her problems and that they do, indeed, have to be faced and dealt with.  What I must learn to do, however, is not let my focus get distorted so that the problems become larger than they actually are.

Jesus said that he came so that we “may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)  One way I can experience more of this abundant life is by focusing not just my eyes but my mind on the blessings in my life.  I have a feeling that doing so will give me a new perspective on my problems and might just enable me to do a better job of dealing with them.  What do you think?

Chuck

(I took the top image at Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the middle one at Elephant Rocks State Park, and the bottom on at Buffalo National River.)


Jan 2 2013

Water and Life

UP-Miners-Beach-396I’ve been thinking about water the past few days.  During my holiday travels I saw a lot of rain and a fair amount of snow.   While driving to Florida and back we also saw many rivers and lakes.  I suppose anyone living outside of a desert sees water in some form or fashion on a regular basis.  It is certainly a very important part of our lives and a vital part of nature.  Leonardo Da Vinci once said “Water is the driving force of nature.”   In addition to being crucial to our existence there is something special about water.  The famous anthropologist, Loren Eiseley, once wrote “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  Water brings us both life and enjoyment.  It truly is one of God’s greatest gifts.

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John there is a story recorded of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well in Sychar.  In his conversation with this woman Jesus asked her for a drink of water.  When she raised questions about the appropriateness of this request Jesus responded, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  The woman was confused by Jesus’ words.  She didn’t understand what he meant by “living water” so he added, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jenny-Wiley-SP-last-light-It is not hard to see how water is a metaphor for life in both nature and the spiritual realm.  It would seem to me that just as water is essential for our physical well-being Christ is essential to our spiritual well-being.  In fact, I cannot experience life in its fullness apart from him.  When Jesus speaks of “eternal life” he is not just talking about life after death; he is referring to something we experience here and now.  It is the “abundant life” he spoke of elsewhere. (John 10:10)  That “life” is only possible when we receive the “living water, the life, Christ offers us.

TN-Great-Smoky-Mountains-Spruce-Flat-FallsHopefully when we see it rain or notice the various bodies of water we encounter day by day we can remember our need for “living water.”  Apparently this is something the Scottish author, poet and minister, George MacDonald recognized.  He once wrote: “There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen: it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier. The very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyze. The water itself, that dances, and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst–symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus–this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace–this live thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table–this water is its own self, its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.”   Hopefully, we, too, can learn to let the water we see, drink, swim and bathe in be a perpetual reminder of the “truth of God” and of our constant need for Christ.

–Chuck

(I took the top picture at Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the middle image at Jenny Wiley State Park in Kentucky, and the bottom one in Tennessee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)


May 30 2012

Made to Play

Last week Rob Sheppard did a wonder blog on his “Nature and Photography” site about play and photography.  He encouraged photographers to be more playful in their endeavors and noted how important it is to have fun when photographing.  For me his posting struck a nerve.  I have been guilty of taking my photography too seriously at times and missing out on the fun he talked about.  Unfortunately, I have also been guilty way too often of taking life too seriously and not experiencing the fun and play I’m confident God intends for us to enjoy. Michael Yaconelli wrote in his delightful book, Dangerous Wonder, these words: “Play is an expression of God’s presence in the world; one clear sign of God’s absence in society is the absence of playfulness and laughter.”

Several years ago the eminent theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, actually wrote a book called Theology of Play.  Moltmann said “The first thing liberated beings do is to enjoy their freedom and playfully test their newfound opportunities and powers.  Why are we seeing so little of this?  Have the old Pharisees and the new Zealots with their conservative and revolutionary legalism scared us away from freedom, from joy and spontaneity?  It is unlikely that anything good or just will come about, unless it flows from an abundance of joy and the passion of love.”  Later Moltmann even argues that God is playful and says “the creation is God’s play, a play of his groundless and inscrutable wisdom.  It is the realm in which God displays his glory.”

There are a number of biblical references, especially in the Book of Psalms, that would seem to indicate that not only is playfulness a part of God’s nature but His intention for the various aspects of His Creation as well.  Psalm 96 declares, “Let the earth be glad, let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” (vs. 11-12) Psalm 104:26 speaks of leviathan, which God “formed to frolic” in the seas.  Obviously there are also numerous passages that indicate that humans are meant to enjoy life too.  In fact, Jesus once said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

In a world that is marked by so much stress and divisiveness there is a great need for more joy and playfulness.  All of us would be much healthier (physically, mentally and spiritually) if we played more.  God has provided us with plenty of opportunities to do so through His Creation.  There are rivers, lakes and oceans to swim in.  There are mountains to scale and paths to traverse.  There are trees to climb and caves to explore.  There are wondrous flowers to smell and look at.  A lot of us have pets just waiting for someone to play with them.   There really is no excuse for us not to be more playful.

Rob said in his blog that being playful with one’s photography can help make a person a better photographer.  I would suggest that being more playful in general can help make us better persons.  Is it time you went out and played some?  You were, after all, made to play!

–Chuck

(I photographed both the grizzly cubs and the sea otter in Alaska.  I took the picture of the boy playing with a tire in the Dominican Republic.)