Aug 12 2012

Nature’s Dictionary

One of the primary reasons Rob and I started this blog site over three years ago was to help people see God in and through His Creation.  Both the Old and New Testament teach us that God makes Himself known through the world He has made.  Our lives are enriched spiritually by contact with nature.  Creation is, in fact, one of God’s primary ways of speaking to us.

This past week, while reading Psalm 36, I was reminded that Creation also helps us speak to God.  Pay close attention to the references to nature used in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.  O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.  How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (vs. 5-9)

Here we see how nature not only reveals God to us but also gives us a means by which to speak of God’s greatness and our experience of Him.  Whether we are speaking directly to God in prayer or talking about God to others nature equips us with metaphors and images that enable us to describe more adequately our feelings.  The sky helps us describe the great scope of God’s love.  The mighty mountains give us a way to portray God’s righteousness. The ocean depths illustrate the extent of God’s justice. The wings of a bird provide us with a way to depict God’s protection.  God’s storehouse of treasures can be conveyed as a river of delights.  The gift of life itself can be viewed as a fountain.

There are certainly many other places in the Scriptures where nature helps give the biblical writers the words they need to pray to, or speak about, God.  At times you get the impression they would have been lost for words had it not been for what they saw in Creation.  Even Jesus asked us to “consider the lilies” and to “look at the birds” (Matthew 6) when attempting to teach us not to worry and to trust God to take care of our needs.  The apostle Paul, likewise, used imagery of nature throughout his letters to speak of the things of God.  He used things like trees, seeds, and fruit to convey his message.

We are invited to follow in the steps of Jesus, Paul, and the other biblical writers.  We, too, can use our observations of nature to help us pray and to speak about God.   Creation can become like a dictionary for us, providing just the right word we need to express our praise or to convey our thoughts about God.  If you’re not used to doing this I encourage you to give it a try.  You will soon discover that there is no shortage of possibilities.  Why, there are as many possibilities as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the shore or fish in the sea or ____________  (you fill in the blank).

–Chuck

(I took the top image of the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore in California; the middle image of the Russell Fork River at Breaks Interstate Park in Kentucky; and the bottom image of Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake at Denali National Park in Alaska.)


Jan 30 2011

Look For The Details

magnolia leaves 239As you may or may not know, my blogging partner, Rob Sheppard, has another wonderful site you can find at www.natureandphotography.com.  This past week Rob wrote a delightful entry called “Finding Photos When Nature Is Filled With Stuff.”  His main advice to photographers is to “go for the details” when they find themselves looking at a scene where there’s lots of “stuff.”  I think his advice is also pertinent to those who seek to find God through His Creation.

The Bible clearly teaches that God makes Himself known through what He has made.  That’s good news but it can also be overwhelming.  If God reveals Himself in Creation where in the world do you start to look?  There’s so much to see!  Sometimes for me it is the overall scene or my surroundings that make me aware of God’s presence but at other times I find it helpful to look for the details.  This calls for a more deliberate approach to “seeing Creation.”

magnolia leaves 234I was thinking about all of this yesterday when I was walking in my back yard.  This time of year things are kind of drab around here.  My initial thought was “there’s not much to see right now.”  Then I was drawn to our magnolia tree and the light reflecting off the tops of the leaves.  I drew closer and took a good look at the glossy leaves and studied the patterns that can be found on each if you look close.  I then turned a leaf over and was reminded how very different the underside of a magnolia leaf is.  It is a completely different color and not glossy at all.  Each side is different but both are beautiful.  Unfortunately, most folks would likely never take the time to turn a magnolia leaf over to see its other side.

For those desiring to see more of nature–and God’s handwriting in it–I have two words of advice.  First, slow down and look for the details.  Pay more attention to what is around you.  Draw closer.  You might even want to carry a magnifying glass or a pair of binoculars with you.  Be willing to explore more.  Exercise your curiosity.  Be adventuresome.

Second, ask God to help you see what is around you.  A friend of mine recently reminded me of a wonderful line from C. S. Lewis’ writings: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  This is similar to words penned by the Psalmist, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”  (36:9)  I am convinced that I see more in nature, as well as God’s hand in it, because I’ve asked Him to help me see more.  I believe that God honors our desire to see Him in what He has made so don’t be afraid to ask Him, in the words of the popular hymn, to “open my eyes that I may see.”   There’s no telling what He will show you…

–Chuck

(I photographed the magnolia leaves seen above in my yard this afternoon.)