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.


Jan 20 2016

Clean Water

WY Grand Teton NP Oxbow BendThe subject of water has certainly been in the news lately. What has happened in Flint, Michigan, is quite tragic.  In order to save money the lives of thousands of children were put at risk by the state government.  While all this gets played out in the news Congress has been attempting to weaken clean water standards that currently are in place.  I find all of this very disturbing.  The availability of clean water is a necessity and must be insisted upon.

_CES2860A few nights ago I was reading Psalm 104 and came across a series of verses where the Psalmist talks about God providing water not for humans but for the rest of Creation. Take notice of what is said here: “He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.  The birds of the air nest by the waters;  they sing among the branches.  He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work…  The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon he planted.” (vs. 10-13, 16)

Apparently the provision of water is something that God takes very seriously. The Creator has made sure that all creatures, human and nonhuman alike, have the water they need.  In the Old Testament one of the names of God is Jehovah Jireh which means “the Lord will provide.”  From the beginning God has sought to provide for and meet the needs of His Creation.  God has gone to great lengths to provide water for “the beasts of the field, the wild donkeys, the birds of the air, the mountains and the trees.”  This is a wonderful reminder that God’s love and compassion extends to all of Creation, not just us.

_DSC1477If God was concerned enough to provide water for all the things the Psalmist mentions, and for us too, we can surely conclude that making clean water available to others ought to be a concern of those who are children of God. We should be concerned that so many of our oceans, rivers and lakes are dangerously polluted.  We should be horrified that something like what happened in Flint ever occurred.  If we are going to take seriously our call to be good stewards of the earth then we must do what we can to protect our water resources and support legislation that ensures clean water be provided to all.

According to the Psalmist God cares about things like this.  Hopefully we will too.


(I took the top image at Grand Tetons National Park, the middle one in the Ozarks of Missouri, and the bottom on in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

Jul 17 2013

Beware of Low Spirituality

CNS 6184“O Lord, how many are Thy works!  In wisdom Thou hast made them all; the earth is full of Thy possession.” Psalm 104:24

Yesterday our friends at R120 posted a quote from the British pastor Charles H. Spurgeon.  It comes from a sermon he preached based on Psalm 104.  Spurgeon declared, “This Psalm is all through a song of nature, the adoration of God in the great outward temple of the universe. Some in these modern times have thought it to be a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature; and I remember sorrowfully reading the expressions of a godly person, who, in sailing down one of the most famous rivers in the world, closed his eyes, lest the picturesque beauties of the scene should divert his mind from scriptural topics. This may be regarded by some as profound spirituality; to me it seems to savor of absurdity. There may be persons who think they have grown in grace when they have attained to this; it seems to me that they are growing out of their senses. To despise the creating work of God, what is it but, in a measure, to despise God himself?”

MI7847I find these words fascinating.  It is incomprehensible to me that anyone could consider it “a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature.”  I also find it hard to believe that a person would deliberately close his or her eyes to the beauty of nature in fear that it might harm them spiritually.  I have never met anyone who thought like this.  I certainly hope that if such people exist their numbers are few.  Still, the number of those who fail to realize that Creation is God’s “other Book” is large.   They may not have closed their eyes to God’s revelation through nature deliberately but they might as well have.  Unintentionally they have elected to practice a “low spirituality.”

Spurgeon offers a wonderful affirmation of Creation’s goodness and wisely notes that when we despise the work of God’s hands we “in a measure, despise God himself.”   We proceed on dangerous ground when we attempt to separate God from that which He has made.  Such an approach prohibits us from learning much about the Creator.  It can also keep us from recognizing the sacredness of the earth and our divine obligation to “tend the garden” or care for Creation.  Both of these side effects of a low spirituality are extremely dangerous.  Both of them actually put us in a position where we might very well “despise God himself.”

TTP7825Hopefully our goal is to practice a high spirituality.  There are many things that this would entail but undoubtedly one aspect of it would be to recognize the goodness of Creation and God’s revelation through it.  Failure to include this would seem to indicate that we have grown out of our senses and entered the realm of absurdity.  God forbid that should happen to any of us.


(I took the pictures used above last week during my visit to Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)

Aug 23 2009

Rejoicing In His Works?

CR Banff NP Peyto LakeToward the end of Psalm 104, having spent thirty verses praising God for His greatness made manifest in Creation, the Psalmist says in verse 31: “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works…”   What God has created is worth an eternity of praise!   It is the Psalmist’s hope that God can “rejoice in His works.”

We know that when God created the earth that following each creating day He paused and “saw that it was good.”  Like an artist (or photographer) standing before his or her work, God looked upon what He had made and took delight in it.  In the Psalmist’s words here he seems to be hoping that this delight will be ongoing, that God would always be able to take delight in what He had made. Did he have reason for concern?

I don’t know if he did then or not but as we observe God’s Creation now there does, in fact, seem to be reason for concern.  We have polluted the skies and water that once was clean.  We have destroyed mountains and made new ones piled high with waste.  We have hunted some of God’s creatures into extinction or destroyed their habitat to the point that they can no longer survive. We have poisoned the land and cut down the majority of the earth’s forests.  If present day scientists are correct we have even altered the environment to the point where the climate is being changed in a detrimental fashion. 

Is God still able to rejoice in His works?  My guess is that He still does find much to delight in (just as we do) but I also cannot help but feel that He must experience some degree of sadness at the current state of the world.  That which He created “good” has been marred.  Out of love for God we should all seek to do everything we can to preserve and restore God’s Creation.  It should be our concern, as it was the Psalmist’s, that “the glory of the Lord endure forever” and that He “rejoice in His works” always.


(The image above was taken at Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.)

Aug 19 2009

How Many Are Your Works, O Lord!

whale fluke 078Today my thoughts are still on that wonderful nature psalm, Psalm 104.  In verse 24 the Psalmist says, “How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”   The Psalmist realized that there was an amazing diversity of life on this planet but could not have begun to imagine just how diverse and numerous that life actually is.  Scientists have identified between 1.5 and 1.8 million different species.  They believe, however, that there are many more that have yet to be identified.  Some estimate there may be as many as 50 million different species in existence!  Hearing numbers like that we cannot help but echo the Psalmist cry, “How many are your works, O Lord!”

The Psalmist declared that God made all of these creatures “in wisdom.”  He believed that all of God’s Creation was made for a reason and served a useful purpose.  Interestingly enough, the Psalmist realized that it was not just the land that was full of life, so was “the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small.”   Scientists today would concur with the Psalmist concerning the oceans being filled “with creatures beyond number.”   We have only begun to scratch beneath the surface in discovering all that lies under the waters.

In verse 26 the Psalmist mentions one particular sea creature, “leviathan.” This creature is mentioned several times in the Scriptures, usually with negative connotations.  Here, however, it is simply identified as one of God’s many creations and that God formed it to “frolic” in the seas.  Some speculate that leviathan was actually a whale.

In the next verse the Psalmist notes how all of the creatures God made look to Him “to give them their food at the proper time.”  The God who made all the earth’s many creatures also provides for them.  I think this indicates that not only did God make them “in wisdom,” He also made them in love and cares for every species He made.  It would seem only appropriate that we care for each species as well.


(A number of years ago I had a chance to spend a week on a small boat photographing the Inside Passage of Alaska.  This gave me an opportunity to photograph the humpback whale shown above “frolicing” in the icy waters.)

Aug 16 2009

The God Who Provides

Yosemite NP 343As noted in my last blog, Psalm 104 is a beautiful nature psalm.  There is so much here that connects God with His Creation.  Starting in verse 5 the Psalmist gives us his own glimpse of Creation.  He speaks of God setting “the earth on its foundations” and covering the earth with water that would eventually flow over the mountains and into the valleys.  In verses 10-11 he writes, “He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between mountains.  They give water to all the beasts of the field…”  

In the next few verses the Psalmist indicates that God has designed His Creation to meet the needs of both animals and humans.  He notes that our basic needs are met by what God has made but also reveals that God went beyond meeting our basic needs to provide “wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine…”

Even non-believers will have to admit that this planet is put together in such a way that it perfectly meets our needs.  Those who are believers affirm this was all a part of God’s good plan.  He created a world where both animals and humans would have all that they need. We cannot help but marvel at the incredible power and wisdom it took to make such a world, but we should marvel just as much at the amazing love that stands behind Creation.  Like a loving parent God has done everything He can to make sure that this place we call Earth will meet our needs and provide joy for the journey.

There is so much about our life that we take for granted.  Passages like Psalm 104 remind us to be mindful of God’s many blessings and provisions.  They also call us to worship and thank our blessed Creator.  I hope you will take time in the days to come to pause and consider all the ways God has provided for your needs through His Creation.


(The picture above was taken in Yosemite Valley at Yosemite National Park this past May.)