Mar 4 2015

Reading Scripture Visually

Psalm 1A few months ago my pictures began to be used to illustrate prayers by John Philip Newell on his Facebook page.  The person who puts the images and prayers together does a fantastic job.  There is always something about the image that corresponds to the prayer.  I always look forward to seeing which image is chosen.

Psalm 21Getting to see my photographic work appear with Newell’s prayers inspired me to begin working on a new project.  In January I was invited to participate in a peer group of ministers from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky.  We began by spending three days together at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.  We will continue to meet together once a month for the next year to year and a half.  Prior to leaving St. Meinrad we committed ourselves to reading through the Book of Psalms together.  We then established a Facebook page for our group and everyone was invited to share reflections on the various psalms we read each day.

Psalm 31On the first day we read Psalm 1.  Verse 3  of this psalm says the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on that law “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  When I read this I immediately thought of an image I took several years ago of a tree situated right next to a stream of water.  I located the file of the image and posted it on our Facebook page, along with the verse.  When we moved to Psalm 2 the next day I had another image come to mind so I did the same thing.  A number of weeks later I’m still doing the same thing each day.  I decided it would be a good discipline to examine each day’s psalm and try to connect it to one of the images of Creation I have captured over the years.  Some of the psalms are easy to find images for, others not so much.

I have found that reading the Psalms while searching for pictures to illustrate a verse or two is both challenging and helpful.  It forces me to look at the scriptures in a new way—visually.  I am convinced that reading the scriptures this way can help one find new meaning in the Bible.  It is something anyone can do; you certainly don’t have to be a photographer to approach the Bible this way.  Just use your imagination when you read the scriptures and see where it takes you.  Try to visualize what you are reading.  Perhaps ask yourself what type of image you would use to illustrate what you are reading.

Psalm 11The Book of Psalms is probably the easiest book in the Bible to take this approach but it will work with any book or passage from scripture.  I encourage you to give reading the Bible visually a try.  See if it doesn’t help you and open new doors of understanding for you.  “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

–Chuck

(I used the first image to illustrate Psalm 1:3, the second image for Psalm 21:13, the third image for Psalm 31:3, and the fourth image for Psalm 11:1.)


Sep 22 2013

Seeing Creation With All Five Senses

WY-Yellowstone-NP-Grand-Prismatic-SpringThomas Dubay once wrote: “Creation is a book proclaiming the Creator.  It is a book of beauty that our intellect reads, but through the passageways of our five senses.”  Regular readers of this blog know that we speak often of Creation being God’s “other Book” so Dubay’s opening sentence is nothing new for us.  Neither is his claim that Creation is a “book of beauty that our intellect reads.”  We have spoken innumerable times of the beauty of the natural world and our obligation to study it.  What is perhaps new is Dubay’s reminder that we read the book of Creation “through the passageways of our five senses.”

CRG-fallsAs the title of this blog suggests, Rob and I tend to focus on the sense of sight.  Most of our reflections offer encouragement to “see” God in Creation.  We offer suggestions on how we can all see God in the natural world He has made.  There is certainly nothing wrong with having this particular focus but it would prove helpful if we stopped from time to time to remember that our experience of God in Creation is also enhanced by the use of our other four senses.

The sense of hearing has greatly increased my love for both the Creation and God.  I have had the chance to watch glaciers calve in Alaska but in some ways it was the sound of the glacier calving that created a sense of awe and wonder in me.  I have viewed countless waterfalls over the years but the roar of the waters excites me just as much as the visual stimulation created by the falls.  I have watched sandhill cranes take off, fly, and land many times but for some reason when I think of sandhill cranes it is the unique sound they make that stirs my soul.

Bosque-140091The sense of smell certainly is a vital part of my experience of nature.  Oceans, deserts, old growth forests and places like Yellowstone National Park all have particular smells that make beholding them even more special.  The beautiful flowers I see and photograph along trails are wonders to behold but I also know that the scents emitted from these flowers make my experience of them all the more enjoyable.  In the Old Testament we learn that God desired incense offerings from humans.  It would seem in Creation God made sure that there would always be such offerings for His own enjoyment and ours too.

For me the sense of touch also plays a vital role in my enjoyment of and experience in nature.  I cannot resist the temptation at times to just reach out and touch the trunk of a tree.  I like feeling the various textures of rocks.  If I am near a stream I invariably reach down to touch its waters.  In my less sane moments I might even touch the needles of a cactus just to see what they feel like.  Touch is so important in our human relationships, why would it not be in our relationship with Creation?

ONP-058The sense of taste is probably the one I make the least use of in the natural world.  But even here it is not unusual for my experience of Creation to be enhanced by the use of my taste buds.  The taste of salt at the ocean, wild blueberries picked on the tundra, and even a snowflake on the tongue on a cold winter’s day can make one feel more alive and connected to both Creation and Creation’s Maker.

I would encourage you to explore ways that you can use all five of your senses to read God’s book of Creation.  They are, after all, God’s gifts to us and should be used in ways that will benefit us, both physically and spiritually.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 34:8.  Here the Psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  I think he could just as well have said,  “Taste, feel, listen, smell and see that God is good.”  By using all of our senses we will, indeed, come to see the goodness of God.  When it comes to “seeing Creation” our other senses will help enable us to see God more clearly than the use of our eyes alone.

–Chuck

(I took the first image at Yellowstone NP, the second at Columbia River Gorge, the third at Bosque del Apache NWR, and the fourth at Olympic National Park.)