May 29 2017

Planet Earth II

_CES5265Recently I purchased the BBC series Planet Earth II narrated by David Attenborough.  I’ve spent the last few days watching the DVDs.  As one reviewer of the series stated, “’Five stars’ isn’t really enough for this program.”  I highly recommend the series to anyone who is interested in nature.  The videography is absolutely amazing and the narration riveting.  You will no doubt learn much as you watch the segments dedicated to Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, and Cities.  You will also likely find yourself longing to know more.

I am thankful for nature series like Planet Earth. They enable a person to experience vicariously the wonders of God’s Creation.  Watching Planet Earth II I saw creatures and landscapes I will never be able to see firsthand.  I also learned much about this planet that I did not know.  I found myself marveling over how various animal species have been able to adapt to their environments and how everything in nature in interconnected.

_CES5221Watching Planet Earth II proved to be something of a religious experience for me.  Over and over I found myself echoing the words of the Psalmist, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (104:24)  Time and again I found myself offering thanks and praise to God for being the Creator of such a marvelous planet.

_DSC8099There were portions of the series, however, that were sobering. The producers did not hide the fact that many of the earth’s species and landscapes are now threatened by climate change, various forms of pollution and loss of habitat.  The very earth which supports human life is being devastated by those same humans.  I’m glad this tragic element was included in the series because we need to be informed.  Rachel Carson once said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” I can’t imagine a person watching the Planet Earth series and not wanting to do more to save our threatened world.  If for no other reason than this I would recommend this program to you.

Needless to say, there are lots of other great nature programs to be seen on television. I encourage you to watch them from time to time so that you, too, may marvel at the wonders of God’s Creation and be inspired to do something to preserve and protect that Creation.

–Chuck


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.

–Chuck

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


Jan 25 2012

A Drop in the Bucket

In Psalm 104 the Psalmist declares “How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (v. 24)  Elsewhere in this psalm the biblical writer mentions a number of creatures.  He refers to “wild donkeys,”  “birds of the air,”  “the cattle,” “the stork,”  “wild goats,” “the coneys,” “the beasts of the forest,” “lions,” and “leviathan.”  He also mentions other aspects of God’s Creation: the clouds, the wind, the mountains, springs, grass, trees, the moon, the sun, the forest, and the sea.  Without a doubt, the Psalmist recognized all of Creation to be God’s wonderful handiwork and a manifestation of His wisdom.  God’s Creation is seen as a reason for joyful praise.

I find the many references in Psalm 104 to different parts of Creation to be interesting.  It is obvious this writer was a student of nature and an astute observer of the world around him.  The Psalmist was overwhelmed by the wonder and vastness of God’s works.  What he didn’t realize when he wrote these words was that what he had observed was just a “drop in the bucket.”  He could only write about what he had seen in what we call the Middle East.  If he was overwhelmed by what he saw in his own small part of the world, just imagine what he would have thought if he could have known about all the other creatures and wonders of God’s Creation he could not see or know about.

Recently I purchased a copy of Smithsonian Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth.  In this large 648 page book the editors seek to introduce the reader to “everything on Earth—from rocks to redwoods, microbes to mammals.”  The book features over 5,000 beautiful illustrations and photographs.  It truly is a feast for the eyes and contains a wealth of information.  The price of the book is a bit steep, $50, but I discovered you can purchase it on Amazon.com for almost half of that.  It is a book I highly recommend to all lovers of nature.

If you purchase the book or check it out at the library I’m certain you will find yourself saying with the Psalmist, “How many are your works, O Lord!”  I have been blessed to do a good bit of traveling in my life and have certainly seen a lot, but this book has reminded me that like the Psalmist, what I have seen is only a drop in the bucket.  Being made aware of the vastness and variety of God’s Creation I stand in awe of the Creator and join the Psalmist in offering my joyful praise to Him.  Our God truly is an awesome God!  Just look around you…

–Chuck

(I photographed the Olympic marmot at Olympic National Park, the chukar at Haleakala National Park, and the butterfly and milkweed at Shenandoah National Park.)


Nov 9 2011

Embracing Diversity

“How many are your works, O Lord!” (Psalm 104:24)

We truly do live in a remarkable and diverse world.  I did a few Google searches and discovered that there are an estimated 1.5 million different plant and animal species in the world today.  There are over 10,000 different species of birds and an incredible 900,000 different species of insects.  The various species of flowering plants number around 400,000.  There are 25,000 different kinds of cherries and 264 different kinds of monkeys.  The estimated number of different trees is in the tens of thousands.

These numbers not only speak of our planet’s amazing diversity, they also tell us much about its Creator.  How can anyone look at the earth’s biological makeup and not conclude that God values diversity?  As the Creator God could certainly have settled for five or ten different species of mammals but we know of approximately 4,260.  Had God wanted to He might have created only thirty or forty different species of fish; instead there are around 32,000.  There’s just no getting around it; God is definitely into diversity.

When we recognize this about God it may lead us in a couple of different directions.   It might humble us and cause us to offer this creative God words of adoration and praise.  Certainly God is worthy of such praise.  It might also cause us to question how open to diversity we are.   As humans created in the image of God should we not prize or value diversity as well?

In her book, Claiming Earth as Common Ground, Andrea Cohen-Kiener writes “Just as in the natural world, our diversity is a treasure, not a plague.  If we look at species of bugs and plants, life flourishes in unique cracks and crannies, from the desert dune to the deep, deep sea.  God, it seems, treasures diversity more than we do.”  I’m afraid Andrea is right.  God does, in fact, seem to treasure diversity more than we do.  But is that the way it is meant to be?  I doubt it.   I can’t help but believe that each of us would benefit from seeking to embrace more diversity in our lives.  We tend to share friendships primarily with people who are “like us.”  Many people have a very limited range of interests.  They eat the same kinds of food all of the time, listen to the same types of music and read the same sort of books.  Our lives would be far richer and broader if we sought to be more like the Creator of heaven and earth.  Are there ways you might begin to embrace more diversity?  If so, what’s stopping you from doing so? 

Recognizing God’s propensity for diversity should also cause us to do all that we can to preserve the various species He has created.  Many species today are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss, pollution, climate change and illegal poaching.  Should this concern us?  If we share God’s love and concern for diversity the answer is a resounding “Yes”.  As a result, we must not only embrace diversity but also seek to perpetuate it.

–Chuck

(For this entry I’ve chosen a “diversity” of species I’ve had the privilege to photograph: a bull elk, an indigo bunting, a tiger lily, and an alligator.)