Oct 6 2014

Though the Earth Should Change

_DSC0854I have just spent a wonderful week photographing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a great time away from the stress of moving into a new home and the usual pressures that come with being a minister.  Even more so, it was a great time to be out in the beauty of God’s Creation and to enjoy the splendor of autumn in the North Woods.  I have witnessed autumn in a number of locations all across North America and would concur with those who say autumn in the UP is hard to beat.

_DSC8504This was only my second trip to this region.  A friend I traveled with has been over thirty times.  One of the things that came up in many of our discussions was how various things had changed.  We hiked to one of the most popular waterfalls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and when we got to the platform designed for viewing the falls my friend was disappointed to discover that the trees in front of the falls had grown so tall that they basically blocked the view of the falls he remembers so fondly.  We stopped at another waterfall that both of us had visited on previous trips and were surprised to see that the falls had completely dried up.  Many times throughout the trip we were reminded that in nature things change.

Due to technological advancements the past couple of generations have experienced change at a far more rapid rate than those that went before them.  I remember as a kid marveling at Dick Tracy’s wrist radio transmitter.  Today the iPhone I carry in my pocket does far more than could have been imagined back in that day.  I have been photographing seriously about twenty-two years.  I marvel at how much has changed with cameras in that time.

_DSC8928The changes we have experienced in just the past few years is enough to make one’s head spin.  It is also enough to cause one to be unsettled.  How can one have any sense of peace or security in an ever changing world?  Some might answer that one cannot find either but I would suggest they are wrong.  More than ever I’m convinced that there is one place, or more accurately one person, where we can find a still point and a source of security and that is in God.

_DSC0942A passage that gives me both comfort and hope can be found in Psalm 46.  Here we are told “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (vs. 1-3)  Many times during this past week as I have contemplated changes in both nature and society I have given thanks for the refuge we find in God.  I have also reflected more than once on these words from my favorite hymn, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.  As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”  In a world that is forever changing it is good to be able to point to and hold on to One who never changes.  Wouldn’t you agree?


(The images used above were taken this past week on my trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

Nov 29 2009

A Message From an Angel

UP-maples-in-snow-976The season of Advent, which begins today, is filled with angels.  Christians everywhere will recall the angel Gabriel announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary and how a chorus of angels sang the night Christ was born.  This past week I had a message from an Angel too.  Before you conclude I’ve lost it, Angel is the name of one of my church members.  She and her family moved to southeast Kentucky last year from Michigan.  Recently I sent Angel and her husband some of the pictures I took in Michigan last month.   In an e-mail she responded to them by saying, You have an amazing gift in capturing beauty that so many of us walk by during the hustle of life.  When I stop and think about it I’m not sure that what we are hustling to is more important than what we are missing.  In general it isn’t!  I haven’t seen my laundry go anywhere when I stop to smell the roses or watch the kids have 10 more minutes of fun.” 

I appreciated Angel’s kind words about my photography but was even more moved by the words that followed.  Often we really do miss out on “seeing Creation” because of “the hustle of life.”  We don’t think we have time to pay attention to the wonders of God’s Creation around us.  In my opinion, if we are too busy to do this we are just too busy.  Angel’s right, a lot of the things we think are so urgent really aren’t.  

The Advent season is for many of us the busiest time of the year.  There are so many demands on our time and energy during this season.  I hope in all the hustle of buying and receiving gifts these coming weeks you will not fail to take notice of some of the delightful gifts God has given us in the world of His Creation. 


(I took the picture of maple leaves in snow shown above last month in Michigan.)

Oct 14 2009

Loving Creation

UP HNF leaves 178One of my favorite novelists is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I’ve read most of his novels but my favorite is The Brothers Karamazov.  In a section of this classic book one of the characters says, “Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.  Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light.  Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.  If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” 

Jesus taught that the “greatest commandment” is that we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength.  I think loving God’s Creation is also pretty important.  In fact, loving what God has made is one way we can show our love for God.  And if Dostoyevsky is right, it is also one way that we can come to know God better. 

It is also important that we come to love God’s Creation so that we can protect it.  We have a natural tendency to protect that which we love.  If people don’t care about the earth or the environment, they will not likely make an effort to preserve and protect it.  

There are a number of ways we can come to love Creation more.  First, we can do so by spending more time outdoors in nature.  I like looking at pictures of nature but they are no substitute for the real thing!  Second, we can study about the world God has made.  By reading books on natural history or individual species I have come to love and appreciate God’s Creation in new ways.  There is no shortage of wonderful books that will help you better understand God’s handiwork.  Third, pay close attention to the role nature plays in the Scriptures.  Literally from beginning to end the Bible shows us how important God’s Creation is to Him and for us.   Realizing this will lead us to love His Creation more. 

Loving Creation may not be the “greatest commandment” but it is definitely something Christians should strive to do. 


(The leaves above were photographed on Monday in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest.)

Oct 11 2009

The Best Remedy

UP Bond River Reflections 397In the Diary of Anne Frank Anne writes, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”  I can’t say that I was afraid, lonely or unhappy before coming to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan but being alone in nature this past week has certainly been uplifting for me.  For the past six days I have been here soaking in the magnificent beauty of God’s Creation.

I saw a shirt recently that had had a saying Anne Frank would have approved of; it said “Nature is good for the soul.”  I truly believe that this is exactly as God intended it to be.  For humans “the simple beauty of nature” is meant to be therapeutic.  Things like sunrises, sunsets, crashing waves, singing birds, autumn foliage, and waterfalls can bring peace and tranquility to the soul.  They can lift one’s spirits and move a person to worship the One responsible for these precious gifts.

UP PRNL 825I’ve included two images from this past week that have special meaning to me.  While photographing the reflections above Bond Falls and the waterfall on Miner’s Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore I experienced a sensation that God was quite near.  At both locations I found myself repeating the words “thank you” over and over again.  I was thankful for the opportunity to photograph such beauty and even more thankful for God making it possible for me to do so.  He truly is an awesome God!

Getting away on vacation has not brought me much physical rest but it certainly has provided the rest I needed for my soul.   Now if I could just discipline myself to take more mini-vacations in nature once I get back home…


Oct 7 2009

Just Because?

UP near Twin Lakes 481Yesterday I arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I was welcomed with a riot of color.  This is my first trip to the U.P.  Friends had told me that the fall colors here rival anything else in the United States.  They were right.  As you can see from the picture above, the foliage here is awesome!

I have indicated before that I love autumn and that it is mostly because of the incredible display put on by the hardwood trees.  A number of years ago, while doing some research on my first book, I discovered that although scientists know how the leaves change each fall, they cannot explain why.  The “how” is pretty simple.  Each fall as the days grow shorter, the nights cooler and the summer rains diminish, there is a dramatic reduction in the production of chlorophyll.  This allows the pigments that were there all along to show their true colors.

The “why” is the tricky part.  In nature colors are typically there for a purpose.  For example, bright colors in a bird will help attract a mate. The colors of flowers, likewise, draw in pollinators.  The beautiful colors of fall, however, don’t appear to serve a purpose.  They’re just beautiful.

Someone might reply to the question, “why do leaves turn beautiful colors in fall?” with the answer, “Just because.”  I don’t buy that.  I’m convinced that the beauty of fall is simply God’s gift to us.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”    Autumn is the time God makes the leaves extra beautiful (they’re still beautiful in spring and summer).  So my answer to the question, “why do leaves turn beautiful colors in fall?” is “just because—just because God loves us.”  The colors of autumn are a gift of His grace, and a wonderful gift at that!