May 18 2016

Careless in the Care of God

_DSC5775In Eugene Peterson’s amazing translation/paraphrase of the Bible, called The Message, Matthew 6:26 reads “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.  And you count for more to him than birds.”  Ken Gire once wrote a wonderful response to this.  He said: “’Careless in the care of God.’  And why shouldn’t they be?  For their food, He provides insects in the air, seeds on the ground.  For their search for food, He provides eyes that are keen, wings that are swift.  For their drinking, He provides poolings of rainwater.  For their bathing, He provides puddles.  For their survival, He provides migratory instincts to take them to warmer climates.  For their flight, He provides bones that are porous and lightweight.  For their warmth, He provides feathers.  For their dryness, He provides a water-resistant coating.  For their rest, He provides warm updrafts so they can glide through the air.  For their journey, He provides the company of other travelers.  For their return, He provides the companionship of a mate.  For their safety, He provides a perch in branches far from the reach of predators.  For their nest, He provides twigs.  And for every newborn beak, He provides enough worms so that they can grow up to leave the nest and continue the cycle of life.  It’s no wonder they’re so free from the cares of this world.  The wonder is, if we count more to Him than birds, why aren’t we?”

_DSC5759When I read these words earlier this morning I have to admit I was convicted. Lately I’ve been worried about a lot of things and the word “careless” would definitely not describe me at this point in my life.  Jesus’ instructions to “look at the birds” was one of his ways of trying to get his followers not to worry so much.  He encouraged them to look around and pay close attention to the birds and the wildflowers that grew nearby.  Both, he said,  serve as reminders that God takes care of them and provides what they need.  Jesus then informed these followers that God cares even more for them and they shouldn’t worry, for if God meets the needs of the birds and flowers God will assuredly meet their needs as well.

_DSC3499I love the way Ken Gire lays out for us the many ways God provides for the birds. He lists so many ways and I’m sure others could be added to his list.  Surely the recognition that God goes out of His way to care for the birds ought to be enough to make us pause when anxious thoughts come our way.  Hopefully it will help me worry a whole lot less and move me to the point where I am “careless in the care of God.”

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown above at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.)


May 6 2015

Gone to the Birds

_DSC9845I guess I’m finally going to have to admit it.  I’ve become a birder.  I never thought that would happen but the evidence is overwhelming.  In recent months I’ve spent over $100 on bird books,  attended three programs on birds, and spent a small fortune on bird seed and other birding supplies.  I’m currently reading a fascinating book on bird language called What the Robin Knows by Jon Young.  I’ve started keeping my long lens in the car so that if I come across a good opportunity to photograph a bird I’ll be ready.  I’ve even been listening to recordings of bird sounds so I can better identify the birds I’m hearing around me.  I haven’t reached the obsessed stage yet but I’m afraid it’s coming.

_DSC9904I’ve always liked birds.  Don’t most people? I’ve enjoyed taking pictures of them for a number of years.    Yes, I’ve liked birds for a long time but it wasn’t until I moved back to western Kentucky a couple of years ago that I really started getting interested in them.  Where I now reside is by anyone’s definition a birder’s paradise.  It is located on a major flyway and has an abundance of remarkable habitat that draws many birds to the area.  John James Audubon lived here long ago and the area no doubt contributed to his own passion for birds.  A state park that bears his name is located just a mile from my home and it has a plethora of bird species year round.

_DSC9807Having so many species of birds at my back door (literally) has sparked my interest in birds.  I’m still not very good at identifying a good many species and I find distinguishing bird calls to be incredibly difficult and frustrating.  Still, I intend to work on both disciplines and hopefully will make improvements in the coming months.  I have a feeling I’ll never be that good at it but I guess I’m finally ready to officially join the ranks of birders.

_DSC0071Jesus once encouraged his disciples to “look at the birds of the air.” (Mt. 6:26)   Since it is estimated that there are around 10,000 species of birds that may take a while.  He also told a group “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” (Mt. 10:29)  Both biblical passages remind me that we can, in fact, learn much from “the birds of the air.”  The late theologian and preacher John Stott has a wonderful book called The Birds: Our Teachers.  If you are interested in learning spiritual principles derived from observing birds I highly recommend this book.  Perhaps if I pay careful attention I might learn a few lessons as well.

O.k., I feel better getting that off my chest.  Birders of the world (all 22 million of you) take note; you have added one more member to your tribe.  I hope you will accept me and be patient with me.  I have a lot to learn!

–Chuck

(I took the images shown above–northern cardinal, rose-breasted grosbeak, goldfinch and prothonotary warbler over the past week at my home and at Henderson Sloughs WMA.


Jul 13 2014

Looking Beyond the Obvious

BeyondObvious1Earlier this summer, I was up in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada with Chuck. This is a wonderful park that is one of the quieter national parks because of its location.  While I did photograph some of the beautiful mountains of the park, I also spent time getting down and dirty with the small critters, the insects and spiders, that live there, as well as the great flowers that were in bloom, too.  Chuck has commented on my predilection to look at the small stuff. I believe these small things can be as unique to a location as the obvious mountains, and as much a testimony of God’s wonder as those mountains, if we are only willing to stop and look.

BeyondObvious7There is no question that this can require a conscious effort because our tendency is often to focus in on the obvious beauty, especially in bold locations like a national park. By looking beyond the obvious, I guarantee you will be rewarded with unique and special moments of wonder and joy that others truly will miss.

BeyondObvious6A cool thing about getting down and dirty with the little things is that you can do it in all sorts of weather and light. The light might just be awful for the distant mountain because of the wrong time of day or the clouds don’t cooperate. Maybe even there is fog blocking your view. Up close, none of this matters! You can always find wonderful opportunities for wonder up close. Light in the wrong direction? Move to the right or left and it changes instantly. Terrible skies? No need to look at them. Gray conditions? That can give an enveloping light for close-up views that allows you to better see details and colors that might be obscured by brighter, harsher light.

BeyondObvious5I think it is significant that Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow … even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28) when talking about people being worried about things like impressing people with clothing and also, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)   He did not say to look at the beautiful mountains and what God does with them, nor did he say to look at the biggest and most dramatic animals. In addition, Christ fed the crowd with a few small fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 14:17-20). He started with small things. Could not Christ have created a feast with much more? Of course, but it was the small things that mattered.

Big things in God’s creation are made up of small things. The big obvious mountains are made up of so many small things, everything from rocks to trees to tiny flowers to spiders to deer to bees and so much more.

BeyondObvious4Big things don’t exist without the small things that they are made of. If our eyes are always looking up at the mountain tops, we will miss discovering much of the wonder of God’s creation right beside us.

– Rob