Nov 23 2011

The Gift of Rain

As I write these words it’s raining outside.  That is quite appropriate in light of the words of the particular Psalm I’ve been thinking about here lately.  In Psalm 65 David says “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.  The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain,  for so you have ordained it.  You drench the furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.” (vs. 9-10)  Clearly the Psalmist wanted to offer God praise and thanksgiving for the gift of rain.  Most of us take rain for granted and at times even complain when we have too many rainy days in a row.  Perhaps we should remember here that David lived in an arid region.  People who live in deserts cannot take rain for granted.  Neither should we.

The rain that interferes with our outdoor activities and causes things to be “messy” remains one of God’s wonderful and priceless gifts.  Without the gift of rain there wouldn’t be food on our tables.  Without the gift of rain our rivers and lakes would dry up.  Without the gift of rain there would be no life.  The Psalmist recognized this.  In the remainder of Psalm 65 he adds, “You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.  The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.” (vs. 11-13)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  I suspect that you, like me, have much to give thanks for.  Like most everyone else I will give thanks for my family and friends, for my health and home, for food to eat and clothes to wear.  I will give thanks for my country and the freedoms we enjoy.  I will offer thanks for my salvation made possible through Jesus Christ and for my church.  Taking my cue from the Psalmist, this year I also intend to give thanks for the natural elements God has given to sustain us.  I will give thanks for the rain and water, for the air that we breathe, for the rich earth or soil, and for the sun and its light.  These basic elements are the foundation of our lives.  They are also all gifts of God.  So let us “shout for joy and sing.” And, yes, by all means, let us also give thanks!


P.S.  Rob and I would like to wish all of our readers a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.  We are very grateful that you take the time to read!

(Both of the images above were taken in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)

Dec 22 2010


RS-rain-1I was just in Costa Rica, photographing in the rainforest earlier this month. Then when I got home to Southern California, I felt like the rains had followed me home. It has been raining steadily here and it is wet, wet, wet.

The first thing that often comes to mind from the Bible about rainy days is the 40 days of rain and the story of Noah and the arc. That certainly represents a destructive rain, and some of the rain here in Southern California is destructive.

RS-rain-2But without a lot of rain, the rainforest would not exist. As you go up in altitude, the rainforest becomes the cloud forest, a place where you are often in the clouds. While the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica are in flatlands, much of Costa Rica is mountainous from an active volcano range and altitudes can go to 8,000 feet and more.

Even in “sunny” Southern California, rain is important. This is our rainy season. Plants are adapted to getting a lot of rain in the winter, then going without water for the rest of the year.

Both adaptations are pretty remarkable, I think, and showcase how amazing God’s creation is. The rainforest (and cloud forest) is adapted to a lot of rain throughout the year and responds with dense green jungle-like forest that includes an incredible amount of diversity in plants and animals. There can be hundreds of different species of trees in a single acre of rainforest.

Southern California, on the other hand, includes the chaparral, a distinct ecosystem like the rainforest is an ecosystem. The chaparral is adapted to wet winters and dry conditions the rest of the year. One thing you quickly notice is how large the leaves are in the rainforest where water is abundant and there is no cost to leaves losing water, and how small the leaves are in the chaparral, where there is a huge cost to losing water. And, like the rainforest, the chaparral would not exist without its rain pattern.

The Bible does give us a lot of references to the importance of rain. Psalm 147:8 — “He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.” Paul even talks about “appropriate” rain, rain that falls at the right times for the land, Acts 14:17 — “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”

RS-rain-3There is no question that people love sunshine. That is one reason that Southern California and the Southwest have exploded in population. Yet, rain is so important, too. It is good to give thanks for rain and all that it does for nature, recognizing that rain systems sometimes cause problems for people. I would pray for the people who are hurt by too much rain, but I will always be thankful for the rain.

— Rob

Sep 15 2010

Learning About God & Ourselves From Nature

MR 427As I read the Scriptures I continue to be amazed at how often the biblical writers use nature imagery to make theological comparisons.  A case in point is the passage I’ll be discussing tonight at church, Hosea 6.  Starting in verse 3 the challenge is made to “acknowledge the Lord” and to “press on to acknowledge him.”  Then we read: “As surely as the sun rises he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Here we see God compared to the sun which rises each morning and to the winter and spring rains that you can count on like clockwork.  Such images prove helpful to us.  Since we must deal with an unseen God, it is beneficial when the biblical writers reveal that God is like something we can see with our own eyes.  “What is God’s faithfulness like?” we might ask.  The Bible says it is like the sun that comes up everyday—without fail.  It is like the rains that return each winter and spring.  In other words, God is as faithful as you can get!

In Hosea 6 nature imagery is also used to demonstrate our own unfaithfulness.  God says to His people here, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears?” (v. 4)  By pointing to the “morning mist” and “early dew,” both which come and go quickly, God declares that His people’s loyalty to Him is fleeting at best.  Here again, by referring to something in nature that everyone is familiar with, the point is driven home powerfully.

One of the primary goals Rob and I have in sharing our thoughts with you on is that people will realize that by paying attention to the world God has made they can learn much about God and about themselves.   As Hosea 6 shows, the Scriptures can help us do that.  When the sun rises tomorrow morning, I encourage you to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.  If you happen to experience a morning mist or see dew around you, you may want to consider whether these may be a reflection of your own loyalty to God.  There is so much in nature that makes us think about things that really matter.


(The image above of an Indian paintbrush surrounded by dew covered leaves was taken last month at Mount Rainier National Park.)

Jul 3 2009



Growing up in Minnesota, we always had to have alternate plans for weekend picnics in the summer. You never could count on the sun, so you had to have contingency for rain.

I was just in New England last month visiting some family there and doing some workshops at the NANPA Road Show in Rhode Island. It had been raining before I got there, rained when I got there, and rained most of the time I was there. The photo here is of a beach rose in Cape Cod, and it was raining when I took the photo.

For whatever reason, rain has rarely kept me from getting out and enjoying nature and even photographing in it (if you are interested, I am giving tips for photographing in the rain on my blog at There is a beauty there that is definitely unlike sunny days. Sure, you get wet, but it can be worth it. I usually won’t go out in pouring rain — that is too uncomfortable. But there are a lot of rainy conditions that don’t have pouring rain.

I know that New Englanders have been getting very tired of all the rain. And when it keeps coming, it can be a little depressing. Yet, rain is critical for life … and I do truly see some different and beautiful views of God’s world when I am out in it. (It does help to dress for the conditions and even take an umbrella!). It can be a quieter time, a peaceful time if the rain is not too hard … a time to relax and enjoy the world as it is.

It says in Acts 14:17 — “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.” Rain affects many things throughout the seasons.

–Rob Sheppard