Oct 22 2014

This Morning’s Lessons

_DSC1754I’ve not been able to get out and photograph for about two weeks so I went out early this morning to try to capture some new local autumn images.  We are still a good bit away from being at peak colors but it was still nice to be outside and to do some photographic work.  I was only able to photograph for a little over an hour but during that time I got some nice images and also was reminded of a couple of important spiritual lessons.

_DSC1797I started the day at one of my favorite places in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area—the Jenny Hole.  Last year I was able to capture a number of images I really liked there.  I discovered once I got there that the cedar cypress trees have already turned to their autumn rust color.  There was some nice side lighting shortly after sunrise but I had trouble getting excited about what I was seeing.  The scene looked practically identical to what I had photographed last year.  It didn’t make much sense to take pictures if they were going to look just like the ones I’d already taken.  As I started to walk back to my car I looked back and noticed something I had not earlier.  There were reflections of the cypress tree.  Last year the water still had duckweed and other vegetation in front of the trees and the reflection I saw was not present.  I found delight in being able to photograph this beautiful tree reflected in the water.

_DSC1839The lesson I was reminded of here is to pay more attention.  If we are not careful we will fail to notice things that are slightly different than they were before.  In doing so we will miss that which is new.  That can happen both when photographing and also in one’s spiritual life.  There are periods in my life when each day seems basically the same.  In those times I may be lulled into thinking nothing new is going on when, in reality, if I were truly paying attention, I would see that God was up to something new or different.  I know the Bible talks about Christ being the same “yesterday, today and tomorrow” (Hebrews 13:8) but I also believe that the Scriptures reveal a God who is always up to something new.  In Revelation 21:5 John hears God say, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  If we are wise we will strive each and every day to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  It may seem to be just one more day like every other when, in fact, God is trying to show us or do something new.

A few minutes later I drove to a small pond and noticed a yellow tree reflecting nicely in the water.  When I got out of my car I scared a duck that had been in the pond.  The duck flew off and its departure created lots of ripples in the water that disturbed the lovely reflection I saw when I first arrived.  I went ahead and took a few pictures but waited long enough for things to calm down.  Eventually, the reflection I first saw reappeared.  Every good photographer knows that to get mirror-like reflections the water has to be calm or still.

_DSC1807As I waited for the water to calm I was reminded that as a Christian I am called to be a reflection of my Lord.  The goal is to reflect Jesus as perfectly as I can in my life and conduct.  I have discovered that this is very difficult for me to do when my soul is troubled or I am physically stressed or tired.  I feel I offer a better reflection of Christ when I make sure to take time out to be still, to meditate, to cease from striving.  The problem is I often go long periods without taking the time to do this.  I’m afraid God often has to say to me the words He spoke through the prophet Isaiah long ago, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (30:15)  I really should know better by now.

I’m glad I was able to photograph this morning.  Not only did I get some nice images, God gently reminded me of a couple of lessons I needed to hear once again.

–Chuck

 


Jul 14 2013

Reflections on Reflections

MI7917If you happen to be one of my Facebook “friends” you know I am in Florida right now.  I’m attending my denomination’s General Assembly in Orlando but I came down a couple of days early so I could photograph at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.   While in that area I posted several pictures I had taken.  A number of those images included reflections.  Rob jokingly calls me “the reflection guy.”  Maybe I am.  I certainly take a lot of images of reflections.   The past day or two I’ve been pondering why I gravitate to reflections.

One reason is quite simple; I think they are pretty.   If it is a particularly beautiful scene that is being reflected you get two of everything.  That makes it twice as nice!  I also like reflections because they have a calming effect on me.  They create in me a sense of peace and tranquility.  Beyond these reasons I have to confess that there is just something about reflections that move me or touch my soul.  I wonder if part of the reason for this is my awareness that we are all called to be reflections of God’s light and love.  I see this as being one of the primary reasons for my existence.

MI6158In the Gospel of John Jesus declared that he was the “light of the world.”  Elsewhere he told his followers that they, too, were the light of the world.  It is pretty obvious that those who are disciples of Christ are meant to reflect his light to others.  Unfortunately, we do so imperfectly, even at our best.  If you pay close attention to reflections out in nature you’ll notice that the reflection is always a bit darker than the subject it is reflecting.   That is certainly also true when we reflect Christ’s light.  We never really offer a perfect reflection but our goal should be to offer the best reflection that we can.

When I photograph reflections I generally want still or calm waters.  They offer me the condition I need to render near mirror like reflections.  I have a feeling that the reason a lot of us offer poor reflections of Christ is that there is a lack of calmness or stillness inside of us.  The waters of our soul are often turbulent or choppy.  This keeps us from offering to others a clear reflection of Christ which, in turn, keeps us from fulfilling our true purpose in life.

MI7803If we want to do better than this (and I do) then we must find ways of stilling the soul.  In Psalm 46:10 the Psalmist has God say “Be still and know that I am God.”  Somehow, someway, we have got to learn how to be still.  There are a number of things we can do to promote this stillness.  We can discipline ourselves to slow down some.  The fast paced lives most of us live is not conducive to stillness.  We can and should learn to live in the moment.  Fretting about the past or worrying about the future does not help our cause.  We can follow Brother Lawrence’s advice and “practice the presence of God” moment by moment.  We can learn to meditate, something the Bible encourages.   We can spend more time in prayer.  I find worship to be something that helps create peace within.  Likewise, I know that time spent in the splendor of God’s Creation often brings about the desired result.

MI7758Yes, there are a lot of things we can do to help us be better reflections of Christ and his love.  There are any number of things we can do to promote the stillness inside that will help create beautiful reflections.  But in the end we still need God’s help.  In the 23rd Psalm the writer speaks of God leading him “beside still waters.”  We, too, need to let God direct our steps and allow Him to take us where we need to be.  There will be times in our lives when our souls are so storm-tossed that we will need a miracle for others to see Jesus in us.  The good news I have to offer you here is that the one who calmed the sea long ago can calm the storms in our souls today as well.   Yes, the one who calls us to be reflections of himself can and will help us do just that.  And when we let him, it is a beautiful sight to behold.

–Chuck

(I took all of the images above at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge this past week.)