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.)


Mar 31 2013

Easter’s Uniqueness

zebra 554Over the years many have noted the appropriateness of Easter coming during the season of spring.  Easter is very much about renewal on our part but when it comes to finding parallels to what Jesus experienced in nature it is a pretty difficult thing to do.  For many years people have used the butterfly as a symbol for Easter.  Some think the caterpillar that enters a cocoon and comes out a butterfly is a reminder of the resurrection.  That, to me, seems more like a symbol for change or metamorphosis than resurrection.   The caterpillar does not die and then come back to life.  It is simply transformed.

resurrection fern 703When Rob and I were in the Everglades late last year we took a naturalist-led tour through a swamp and were told about a plant known as the resurrection fern.  It grows on trees and during dry spells it basically withers.  Once it rains, however, the plant revives and becomes a vibrant and verdant fern once again.  Once more, this is a matter of rejuvenation, not resurrection.  The plant did not die and then come back to life again.  Perhaps the closest we come to a parallel in nature is the one Jesus himself gave.  He once said, “I tell you the truth, 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)  Even here, however, it is not a literal death that occurs.

I stress the differences here because I feel that it is important to understand how unique and special the Easter event is.  There are no true natural parallels.  Plants and animals do not die and then come back to life again.  Neither do humans; not, at least, after two or three days, and when they are medically revived it is only to  die permanently later.  We cannot minimize what happened when Jesus rose from the dead.  It was not a natural phenomenon.  Instead it was the grandest miracle of all.

_CES2288It has been said that Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a new Creation.   After Easter everything changes; the old order of things passed away and the world began a brand new era.  I could not begin to explain it in words but I do believe that the resurrection of Christ has cosmic implications.  What happened on Good Friday and then Easter has changed the world forevermore.  It offers to humans and Creation alike hope.  On this day I celebrate that hope and encourage you to join with me in doing so.  Happy Easter!

–Chuck

(I took the Zebra butterly and caterpillar images at Cypress Garden in South Carolina and the resurrection fern image at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)