Sep 29 2019

Rocky Mountain High & Psalm 104

I recently got to spend several days photographing at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  It was a truly wonderful experience!  This park has so much to offer—majestic mountains, beautiful lakes, abundant wildlife, and stunning vistas around almost every turn of the road or trail.  As is typically the case when I visit our national parks, the trip proved to be a spiritual experience.  For me there is nothing like the beauty of God’s Creation to stir the depths of my soul. I read the words of Psalm 104 while on the trip and they seemed so fitting.  I found myself echoing the opening words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.  O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”  (v. 1)  How can you view such beauty and not offer praise to the Creator?  We had a number of experiences where we got to see alpenglow on the mountain tops.  This special light reminded me of the Psalmist’s words, “He wraps himself in light as with a garment.” (v. 2)

In the mountains it did, in fact, seem as though God “makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” (v. 3)  Looking up at those grand peaks I had to affirm that “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” (v. 5)  Viewing the waterfalls and streams in the park it was clear “He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.” (v. 10)  We photographed birds next to one stream and this seemed to correspond with v. 12, “The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.”  As I photographed a pika and a marmot in the higher region of the park I couldn’t help but think of v. 18, “The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.”  Seeing the mule deer emerge at dusk made me think of the words “You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.” (v. 20)   Spending time watching herds of elk I couldn’t help but affirm with the Psalmist “How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (v. 24)

Having spent a number of days in Rocky Mountain National Park it seemed appropriate to pray “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.” (v. 31)   It also seemed appropriate to sing.  The Psalmist said “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  May my meditation be pleasing to him as I rejoice in the Lord.” (vs. 33-34)  On the last morning of the trip, as I photographed the first light on several peaks, I played John Denver’s song, “Rocky Mountain High,” on my iPhone.  It somehow seemed appropriate.  Even more appropriate, however, are the words of Psalm 104.

–Chuck


Apr 18 2016

It’s God’s World!

_DSC5249Yesterday was Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church. We had a chance to sing hymns and offer prayers that honored God as Creator. We were even reminded during Communion that the bread and wine are gifts of the earth provided by the One who made it.  For my sermon I chose to focus on the words of the hymn “This Is My Father’s World.”  I did this so I could emphasize a very important biblical truth, this world doesn’t belong to you or me.  As the Psalmist boldly declared, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (24:1-2)  I like the way George McKinney, Jr. put it, “The creation of our Lord does not belong to the rich who possess it nor to the poor who need and want its resources. Neither the greedy nor the needy can claim ownership!”

So many of the environmental problems we face today have resulted from our failure to understand or remember that the earth is not ours to do with as we please. The earth belongs to God.  We do learn in Genesis 2:15 that we have a role to play in God’s Creation and that involves taking care of it.  Unfortunately we have been far more prone to abuse Creation than take care of it.  Many people see the earth and its resources as simply a means for getting rich.  Far too many people abuse the earth’s resources without any concern for others or for those who will come after them.  No wonder we find our planet in the shape it now is.

_DSC5227When I was a teenager I remember a television commercial that featured a lone Native American standing on a high precipice observing the decimation of this country’s natural beauty and as the camera zoomed in you saw a tear falling from his eye. It was a very powerful presentation and got a lot of people’s attention.  I have a feeling that if we could somehow get a close-up look at God’s face these days we might find a similar tear and for the same reason.  In essence, we have trashed the beautiful world God so graciously gave us.  We have failed to be the stewards of Creation God commissioned us to be.

In the final verse of “This Is My Father’s World” the writer says “God trusts us with this world, to keep it clean and fair.  All earth and trees, the skies and seas, God’s creatures everywhere.”  These may just be the words of a hymnist but they echo the teachings of the Bible.  God did, in fact, entrust us with this world, “to keep it clean and fair.”  Our heavenly Father expects us to honor the earth as His creation and to take the steps needed to reverse damage that has already been done and to work to preserve what we can for future generations.

_DSC7790Last week I spoke at the funeral of a friend whose favorite song was “Rocky Mountain High.” He wanted it played at his service so we did.  As I listened to the words one line in particular caught my attention.  It’s the one where John Denver sings “I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.” I could relate to that.  I can honestly say my life is richer because I have seen, and here where I live now continue to see on a regular basis, eagles soaring above me.  But not that many years ago there were concerns about whether bald eagles would even exist in this country now.  The effects of the pesticide DDT seriously threatened their existence and had there not been tremendous pressure put on public officials to remove DDT I would likely not have the privilege I do here of seeing eagles on a regular basis.

Those who fought the battle to eliminate DDT made a difference. If we are going to take earth stewardship seriously, we need to be looking for places where we can make a difference too.  Got any ideas?

–Chuck

(I took the top two pictures on a recent trip to southeast KY.  The eagle was photographed near where I live in western KY.)


Aug 18 2013

“Singing Skies and Dancing Waters”

_CES0180While being driven around the North Cascades last week my traveling companion, Michael Boone, played for me some of his favorite music.  At one point he played an old John Denver song I don’t remember hearing before.  I immediately fell in love with it.  I liked the melody a lot but it was the words that really affected me.  By all appearances the song seems to be written with God in mind and how Denver at one point in his life came to experience God in singing skies and dancing waters, laughing children growing old, and in the heart and in the spirit, and in the truth when it is told.”

_CES0352In the middle of the song he seems to allude to a time when he did not feel God’s presence and how he came to sense it once again.  Here are the words: “My life became shady, and I grew afraid, and I needed to find my way home.  I just couldn’t see you, I thought that I’d lost you; I never felt so much alone.  Are you still with me?   Somehow in reason, I lost sight of seasons;  I’m growin’ out, growin’ in.  Sometimes in evenings, when daylight was needed I thought I’d never see you again.  Are you still with me?  Are you still with me?”  It is here that God answers him: “I’m with you in singing skies and dancing waters, laughing children growing old; and in the heart and in the spirit, and in the truth when it is told.”

At the end of the song Denver looks to the future and sings, “If my faith should falter and I should forsake you, and find myself turning away, will you still be there?   Will you still be there?”  Once again God answers him, “I’ll be there in singing skies and dancing waters, laughing children growing old.  And in the heart and in the spirit and in the truth when it is told.”

_CES0928I love the way the song is put together.  It is a very honest reminder that things we learn at one point in life may be forgotten and the lesson needs to be repeated.  It also seems to be an admission of the struggle that is universal in the faith journey.  We believe something now but will we believe it tomorrow?  Will we need to learn all over again, and come to accept once more, truths from the past?

Destruction Falls 526I appreciate John Denver’s reminder that among the places God can be found is in “singing skies and dancing waters.”  That has certainly been my experience.   I have felt God’s presence in the beauty of His Creation innumerable times.  There have, however, also been times in my life when God has not seemed near.  I bet that is true for you as well.  When those lonely and painful times come it is nice to be reminded that God is present in very visible and visceral ways through nature.  And if, for some reason, we worry about whether God will be there for us down the road it might not be a bad idea to pull up this song and hear God say once again, “I’ll be there in singing skies and dancing waters, laughing children growing old.  And in the heart and in the spirit and in the truth when it is told.”

Thank you, John Denver!

–Chuck

(I took all of the images above in Washington State’s North Cascades.)