Feb 21 2016

The Strength of My Heart

_DSC7912A few years ago I came across a verse in the Book of Psalms that deeply moved me. It was Psalm 73:26 that says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I’m not exactly sure why the verse came to mean so much to me back then but it takes on even more meaning to me today as I sit in the hospital awaiting open heart surgery tomorrow morning. At this point my physical heart has failed me but God nonetheless remains “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I cannot deny that it is a very disturbing thing to have a heart attack and then learn that you are in need of four or five bypasses. Those things have a way of turning your world upside down. But one thing I’ve learned is that although my world may have been turned upside down the world itself continues to turn and God remains in control of it. I think the Psalmist must have recognized that too and it is what enabled him to say that though his flesh and heart may fail, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I know, as he knew, that as long as I am on earth it is God who gives me the strength to carry on and that when this life comes to an end it will once again be God who will give me strength to carry on “forever.”

_DSC0890In so many ways the Bible reveals God to be the One who gives us strength and who protects and provides for us at all times, but especially during troublesome times. In a number of instances references to elements of Creation are used to help make the point. In Psalm 46 we read “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (vs. 1-3)  Yesterday, my dear friend, Ken Jenkins, reminded me of another passage that offers this same assurance and encouragement. The prophet Isaiah says “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God.” (43:1-3)

e_CES8881There are countless other biblical references that could be cited here. The overwhelming evidence of the Scriptures is that God loves each of us immensely. God knows the burdens we bear and the trails we are going through. My current heart issues are no secret to God. I have complete confidence that the One who made the heavens and the earth actually is concerned about me and whatever the outcome of my surgery will be that God will see me through to the end. My study of God’s two books, the Scriptures and Creation, teaches me that I am in very good hands. And just in case you didn’t know, so are you.

–Chuck

(I took the baby barred owl image at Corkscrew Swamp in Florida, the second image at Lake Superior in Michigan, and the bottom image at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.)


Oct 6 2014

Though the Earth Should Change

_DSC0854I have just spent a wonderful week photographing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a great time away from the stress of moving into a new home and the usual pressures that come with being a minister.  Even more so, it was a great time to be out in the beauty of God’s Creation and to enjoy the splendor of autumn in the North Woods.  I have witnessed autumn in a number of locations all across North America and would concur with those who say autumn in the UP is hard to beat.

_DSC8504This was only my second trip to this region.  A friend I traveled with has been over thirty times.  One of the things that came up in many of our discussions was how various things had changed.  We hiked to one of the most popular waterfalls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and when we got to the platform designed for viewing the falls my friend was disappointed to discover that the trees in front of the falls had grown so tall that they basically blocked the view of the falls he remembers so fondly.  We stopped at another waterfall that both of us had visited on previous trips and were surprised to see that the falls had completely dried up.  Many times throughout the trip we were reminded that in nature things change.

Due to technological advancements the past couple of generations have experienced change at a far more rapid rate than those that went before them.  I remember as a kid marveling at Dick Tracy’s wrist radio transmitter.  Today the iPhone I carry in my pocket does far more than could have been imagined back in that day.  I have been photographing seriously about twenty-two years.  I marvel at how much has changed with cameras in that time.

_DSC8928The changes we have experienced in just the past few years is enough to make one’s head spin.  It is also enough to cause one to be unsettled.  How can one have any sense of peace or security in an ever changing world?  Some might answer that one cannot find either but I would suggest they are wrong.  More than ever I’m convinced that there is one place, or more accurately one person, where we can find a still point and a source of security and that is in God.

_DSC0942A passage that gives me both comfort and hope can be found in Psalm 46.  Here we are told “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” (vs. 1-3)  Many times during this past week as I have contemplated changes in both nature and society I have given thanks for the refuge we find in God.  I have also reflected more than once on these words from my favorite hymn, “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.  As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”  In a world that is forever changing it is good to be able to point to and hold on to One who never changes.  Wouldn’t you agree?

–Chuck

(The images used above were taken this past week on my trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)