Sep 15 2010

Learning About God & Ourselves From Nature

MR 427As I read the Scriptures I continue to be amazed at how often the biblical writers use nature imagery to make theological comparisons.  A case in point is the passage I’ll be discussing tonight at church, Hosea 6.  Starting in verse 3 the challenge is made to “acknowledge the Lord” and to “press on to acknowledge him.”  Then we read: “As surely as the sun rises he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Here we see God compared to the sun which rises each morning and to the winter and spring rains that you can count on like clockwork.  Such images prove helpful to us.  Since we must deal with an unseen God, it is beneficial when the biblical writers reveal that God is like something we can see with our own eyes.  “What is God’s faithfulness like?” we might ask.  The Bible says it is like the sun that comes up everyday—without fail.  It is like the rains that return each winter and spring.  In other words, God is as faithful as you can get!

In Hosea 6 nature imagery is also used to demonstrate our own unfaithfulness.  God says to His people here, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears?” (v. 4)  By pointing to the “morning mist” and “early dew,” both which come and go quickly, God declares that His people’s loyalty to Him is fleeting at best.  Here again, by referring to something in nature that everyone is familiar with, the point is driven home powerfully.

One of the primary goals Rob and I have in sharing our thoughts with you on is that people will realize that by paying attention to the world God has made they can learn much about God and about themselves.   As Hosea 6 shows, the Scriptures can help us do that.  When the sun rises tomorrow morning, I encourage you to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.  If you happen to experience a morning mist or see dew around you, you may want to consider whether these may be a reflection of your own loyalty to God.  There is so much in nature that makes us think about things that really matter.


(The image above of an Indian paintbrush surrounded by dew covered leaves was taken last month at Mount Rainier National Park.)

Aug 15 2010

John of the Mountains

MR 878Last week I shared with you the names of some very special photographers who have been mentors to me when it comes to seeing and photographing Creation.  There is yet another person I also have to point to as a mentor.  He died decades before I was born and as far as I know never took a photograph with a camera.  Yet through his writings I have probably learned more about seeing the spiritual side of nature than from anyone else.  That person is John Muir.

I discovered John Muir’s writings about the same time I decided to take up photography.  I immediately fell in love with his writings.  I admired the enthusiasm he exhibited as he described nature and how he frequently used scripture and theological language to express what he experienced in nature.

ONP 739One of my favorite books is John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe.  The following passage, written by Muir on one of his voyages to Alaska, is a prime example of what drew me to Muir.

“All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God’s eternal beauty and love.  So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best, and it requires a distinct effort of the will to get oneself in motion for a change of place.”

Later, in the same entry Muir adds, “And thus we find in the fields of Nature no place that is blank or barren; every spot on land or sea is covered with harvests, and these harvests are always ripe and ready to be gathered, and no toiler is ever underpaid.  Not in these fields, God’s wilds, will you ever hear the sad moan of disappointment, ‘All is vanity.’”

I suspect many of you are already familiar with the life and writings of John Muir.  If not, I encourage you to become familiar with them.  I know no better guide to seeing Creation.


(The top image was taken at sunset in Mount Rainier National Park.  The tide pool  image was taken at Tongue Point on the Olympic Peninsula.)

Feb 24 2010

Humility and Worship

WA-Mt-Rainier-NP-winter-sunriseIn the course of writing this blog I have indicated numerous times that the world we live in should be viewed as a marvelous gift from God.  Today I thought of a couple more reasons why Creation is such a wonderful gift.  First, it helps move us to worship.  I often share with my congregation that worshipping God is the most important thing we can do as humans.  Looking at and studying the natural world helps us realize the greatness of God.  This, ideally, will lead us to worship Him.

Second, and this is directly related to the first reason, it helps to keep us humble. When we look at God’s gift of Creation and contemplate the wisdom, power and love that are revealed in it we recognize our true position before God.  All of a sudden we don’t seem so big or in control of things.

In most of the Book of Job we find Job pretty confident that he understands how everything works (or should work) and that he has control over his own life, but in chapter 38 God finally speaks and asks “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”  God goes on to ask Job a lot of questions that reveal to Job that his understanding is lacking and that he is definitely not in control of things.

If you’ll take time to read Job 38-41 you’ll discover that most of God’s questions to Job pertain to the natural world.  Here are a few examples.  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”  “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?”  “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or seen the storehouses of the hail…?”   “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?  Can you loose the cords of Orion?”

By the time Job responds in chapter 42 he is a humbled man and is ready to offer God worship.  He says “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Like Job, in nature I find “things too wonderful for me to know” and this both humbles me and leads me to want to worship the Creator more.


(The image above was taken at Mt. Rainier National Park a number of years ago. Before this great mountain I definitely felt humbled!)