Apr 17 2017

There’s Always Something…

_CES4895Recently I had a chance to go to California and spend a week photographing with Rob Sheppard. It turned out to be a marvelous trip.  Everywhere we went there seemed to be something special waiting for us to explore and photograph.  Numerous times I found myself saying “Wow!”  Even more often I would catch myself saying “Thank you!” to God for the blessing of getting to see what I saw.  There were several adorable sea otters that we were able to spend time with around Morro Bay.  We also had many opportunities to enjoy this year’s super display of wildflowers.  At Carrizo Plains National Monument we saw wildflowers flowing across thousands of acres and even into the mountains.  It was a marvelous sight to behold.  We spent a good bit of time along the central coast of California and the beauty there likewise called for countless expressions of gratitude.  I felt incredibly blessed to see all I did.

A few days ago I was looking at a book I own which happens to be a collection of “famous prayers.” I came across one prayer that helped remind me that for those with eyes to see there are always blessings in nature waiting to be seen.  The prayer spoke to me and perhaps it will to you as well.  It was penned by John Oxenham and is taken from “A Little Te Deum of the Commonplace.”

_DSC3216“For all the first sweet flushings of the spring; The greening earth, the tender heavenly blue; The rich brown furrows gaping for the seed; For all thy grace in bursting bud and leaf… For hedgerows sweet with hawthorn and wild rose; For meadows spread with gold and gemmed with stars, For every tint of every tiniest flower, For every daisy smiling to the sun; For every bird that builds in joyous hope, For every lamb that frisks beside its dam, For every leaf that rustles in the wind, For spring poplar, and for spreading oak, For queenly birch, and lofty swaying elm; For the great cedar’s benedictory grace, For earth’s ten thousand fragrant incenses, Sweet altar-gifts from leaf and fruit and flower… For ripening summer and the harvesting; For all the rich autumnal glories spread—The flaming pageant of the ripening woods, The fiery gorse, the heather-purpled hills, The rustling leaves that fly before the wind and lie below the hedgerows whispering; For meadows silver-white with hoary dew; For sheer delight of tasting once again that first crisp breath, of winter in the air; The pictured pane; the new white world without; The sparkling hedgerows witchery of lace, The soft white flakes that fold the sleeping earth; The cold without, the cheerier warm within… For all the glowing heart of Christmas-tide, We thank thee, Lord!”

_CES5080Oxenham is right, there is always something in God’s Creation to catch our attention and elicit our praise and thanksgiving. Needless to say, some things catch our eyes or attention quicker than others but if we will really pay attention we will find plenty to give thanks for no matter where we are or what time of the year it happens to be.  What are you seeing right now that leads you to offer a prayer of thanksgiving?

–Chuck

(I took the three pictures shown above on my recent trip to California.)


Nov 26 2015

Two Thanksgiving Lists

_DSC6419“Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”  Psalm 100:3-4

Last week when I wrote my article for our church newsletter I encouraged our members to make out a Thanksgiving list, to identify the things they would give thanks for on Thanksgiving Day.  On Sunday we had a guest speaker at church.  Rev. Amy Cates likewise encouraged us to make out a Thanksgiving list but suggested we use the letters of the alphabet to do so.  I decided last night I would follow my own advice and hers and make out my own Thanksgiving list.  I chose to make two, one focusing on God’s Creation and the other on more general things in my life.  Here’s what I came up with.

e_DSC7882 (2)Creation Thanksgiving List: A-asters; B-butterflies; C-clouds; D-Denali National Park; E-Everglades National Park; F-ferns; G-grizzly bears; H-herons; I-Indian paintbrush; J-Jasper National Park; K-killdeer; L-lichen; M-mountains; N-northern lights; O-owls; P-pikas; Q-quail; R-rainbows; S-sea otters; T-trees; U-Upper Peninsula of Michigan; V-violets; W-waterfalls; X-xenogamy (look it up) ; Y-Yellowstone National Park; and Z-Zion National Park.

e_DSC9232General Thanksgiving List: A-art; B-books, C-church; D-dreams fulfilled; E-education obtained; F-family and friends; G-grace; H-hope; I-imagination; J-Jesus; K-Kentucky (my home state); L-love; M-music; N-nature; O-opportunities to serve; P-photography; Q-quests to fulfill; R-regular meals (so many don’t have this luxury); S-senses to enjoy life; T-travel opportunities I’ve had; U-University of Kentucky basketball; V-vehicles to drive; W-water (millions do not have access to clean water); X-x-rays (I chose this one because X is hard and also to offer thanks for living in a time when we have made so many medical advancements); Y-youngsters; and Z-zoos and the research that takes place in many of them.

I share my lists with you not just to tell you what I’m thankful for but to encourage you to do the same.  I suspect you’ll find that it’s not as easy as it might sound.  Some of the letters are easy to come up with things to be grateful for, others are rather difficult.  Still, it’s a wonderful and fun thing to do on Thanksgiving Day.

DSC_0097Finally, I want to thank all of you who take the time to read the Seeing Creation blog.  It’s good to know that there are others out there who share my passion for God, Nature and Spirituality.  I hope and pray you have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day.

–Chuck


Nov 18 2015

Learning From Nature Not to Rush

e_DSC3033“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

For the most part nature is rather predictable.  It has its rhythms and patterns and they remain more or less consistent.  The tides ebb and flow, the moon goes through its cycle of phases, the sun rises and sets at its appointed times, and the seasons change pretty much on schedule.  There are of course some exceptions along the way.  This time last year we had our biggest snow since I moved to Henderson and winter was still over a month away.  All in all, however, nature follows its steady course year after year.  Uninterrupted, nature has its own pace and doesn’t tend to rush things.

e_DSC3171I believe we would be wise to note this attribute in nature and learn as human beings to not always be in such a hurry.  Nature generally takes things slowly while we seem to want to rush everything.  Years ago the country band Alabama had a song with the refrain “I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”   That could be the theme song for a lot of us.  Whereas nature takes its time, we want to beat time.  The tendency to rush through life keeps us from living in the moment and from experiencing what God has in mind for us here and now.

ASP0328Right now a lot of people are in a rush to get to Christmas.  As early as Halloween I was seeing Christmas decorations around town.  What’s the hurry?  Especially considering that Thanksgiving is still a week away.  Might we not want to slow down in the coming days to do what the old hymn says and count our blessings?  According to the liturgical calendar Advent does not even begin this year until November 29.  Why the rush to Christmas?  It seems like in so many areas of life it is when we get ahead of ourselves that we get in trouble.  There may well be blessings we will miss if we start focusing on Christmas too soon.

_DSC2191By paying more attention to nature we may hear God telling us to slow down and take it easy.  We might also find the Creator urging us to develop a more “natural” rhythm for our lives, one where we are content to be fully present where we are and not be always rushing to get ahead to somewhere we would rather be.  When I listen to the waves on a beach, look above at the stars in the sky at night, or simply walk through a forest I get the sense that God is calling us to find our place in this world just like the waves, stars, and trees.  I truly believe our peace is in our place and that we will never fully experience the peace God intends for us if we mindlessly rush through life and are always getting ahead of ourselves.  Perhaps I’m wrong about this but I don’t think so.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown above at John James Audubon State Park here in Henderson, KY.)

 


Nov 27 2014

For the Fruit of All Creation

_DSC3980“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

This past Sunday we sang a song at church I was not familiar with.  It is called For the Fruit of All Creation.  The song was written by Fred Pratt Green almost forty-five years ago but it is new to me.  It is, appropriately enough, a hymn of thanksgiving.  The first verse speaks particularly of the blessings of nature: “For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God; for good gifts to every nation, thanks be to God; for the plowing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping, future needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.”

_DSC3862Thanksgiving is obviously a time for us to pause and give thanks.  Hopefully when we offer our thanks today we will remember to express our gratitude for “the fruit of all creation.”  This will, by necessity, also include acknowledgement that God has graciously provided for us a planet that produces fruit, a good earth that has for eons sustained us and all other life forms.

Most of us will sit down today to a table of plenty.  We will have abundant evidence of God’s provisions and nature’s bounty right in front of us.  On this day and every other day we should indeed give thanks for the “fruit” of the earth that sustains us.  Through Creation God has provided everything necessary to meet our physical needs.

e_DSC3707In recent days I have once again been reminded that “the fruit of all creation” meets more than just my physical needs.  I would have a difficult time surviving both spiritually and emotionally without its abundant fruits.  I found myself a couple of days ago in desperate need of the healing balm of nature.  I told a friend I was visiting with at the hospital that I was going to see my therapist.  I went on to say that by that I meant I was going to drive out to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area to look at the birds.  Being out in the open surrounded by the beauty and wildlife of this area truly is therapeutic for me.  I’m not sure I would be able to maintain my sanity for long without “the fruit of all creation.”

e_DSC3564With that in mind I hope that as you give thanks for God’s blessings today that you will include the many different ways the fruit of all Creation blesses and enriches our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

–Chuck

(The pictures used in this post are some I’ve taken in recent days at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky.)


May 5 2014

Joyful Gratitude

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

_DSC4257Recently, while reading Joan Chittister’s book The Breath of the Soul, I came across some very insightful words.  In a chapter called “Blessing” Joan claims bounty and beauty and abundance give us a foretaste of wholeness.  She says “These are the palpable manifestations of the goodness of God in our lives” and “they are simply signs that the God of life is a living, loving God.”  She goes on to say, “learning to celebrate joy is one of the great practices of the spiritual life.  It confirms our trust in God.  It affirms the greatness of creation.  It seals our dependence on God.  It attests to the beauty of the present and asserts our confidence in the beauty of the future.  It recognizes the mercy and love of God.” Finally, she says “When we celebrate the good things in life, we trace them to the Creator who gives without merit, openhandedly, out of the very goodness of community, love, and support that are by nature at the base of the human condition.”

_DSC3818I find in Chittister’s words a needed call to live my life in joyful gratitude.  I know for a fact that I am richly blessed.  When I do take time to count my blessings I am always amazed at just how blessed I am.  It is helpful to remember that the good I see in my life is a sign that “the God of life is a living, loving God.” I must ever keep in mind that God is the Giver of all good gifts. (James 1:17)  I must also bear in mind that such “bounty and beauty and abundance” deserves to be celebrated.  I will confess that many times when I give thanks it is out of a sense of duty or obligation.  Joy does not always characterize my thanksgiving.  I suspect that there is a big difference in simply listing the things I am thankful for and being keenly aware of the things I am thankful for.  The biggest difference may well be the presence of joy.

When I am outdoors in a natural setting I tend to be more aware of my immediate blessings.  I seem to be more joyful.  Part of the reason for this may be that bounty, beauty and abundance are more evident in nature for me than other areas of my life.  In God’s Creation I am often overwhelmed by the wonder of it all.  In my mind I know that there are just as many blessings in the other areas of my life but those blessings might not be as easy to see as the ones I find in the natural world.  At least not presently.

_DSC3747Over the years I have trained myself to see and experience the goodness of God in Creation.  I sense I need to begin to train myself to see better the blessings of God that are found elsewhere.   I need to be more open to experiencing the goodness of God in my family and friends, in literature and the arts, and in the very exercise of living itself.  There are so many other things that bring joy to my life.  These things are also cause for celebration for they, too, are things that can be traced back to God and are, indeed, “palpable manifestations” of God’s goodness and grace.

I encourage you to join me on this journey of not only counting one’s blessings but joyfully celebrating them as well.  Chittister is right, “learning to celebrate joy is one of the great practices of the spiritual life.” 

–Chuck

(I took the images above this past Friday at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A. (KY) and Garden of the Gods (IL).


Aug 14 2013

A Visit to Living Waters

_CES1078This past weekend I had a chance to spend some time alone at a wilderness cabin in the foothills of the North Cascades. The cabin, built along the lines of the one Thoreau constructed at Walden Pond, is placed in a beautiful setting on an eighty acre piece of property.  Although not totally devoid of outside noise it is a quiet place, a place where elk, bear and cougars roam.  Near the cabin is a lake where beavers maintain a dam and various ducks find a home.  I am a person who enjoys both wilderness settings and being alone but I will admit that even with the animals around the isolation of the cabin was a bit unnerving at first.  Still, I was glad to be there and to have a chance to study, pray, and photograph. It did not take me long at all to begin to sense the presence of God in this place.

_CES1167There are a variety of reasons why I sensed God’s presence at this location.  The primary reason is obvious to regular readers of this blog; the Bible clearly notes that God reveals Himself in nature and beauty.  There is another reason however.  The cabin and land is owned by Michael and Elizabeth Boone.  They call the place Living Waters and have dedicated it to God and His service.  They have prayed extensively over the land and share it periodically with others in the hope that their guests might experience God’s nearness in this special place.  For them, and those who visit it, Living Waters is holy ground.  I find it exciting and inspirational that people like the Boones will set aside a piece of property for a purpose like this.  Church camps have existed for years but it would be great if more individuals could or would do the same.

_CES7389One of the lessons I was reminded of while at Living Waters is how the Scriptures can come alive in a unique way when read in a natural setting.  Sunday morning I read through the Book of John and there were a number of passages that seemed to stand out simply due to where I sat.  One such passage, appropriately enough, was Jesus’ promise of “streams of living water” to those who believe in him. (7:37)  I also happened to read Psalm 50 while there.  This psalm begins with the words, “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken, and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.”  The idea of God summoning the earth seemed something very special in that particular setting.  Later in the psalm God says “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle of a thousand hills.  I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine…  For the world is Mine, and all it contains.” It was a powerful reminder that the various animals I had seen (including the rabbit shown here) and heard there all belonged to God.  I didn’t know the names of the birds I was seeing on the lake but God did.  I have no doubt that the words I read that day would not have meant quite the same to me had I been sitting at home.  Reading the Bible outdoors is something we should all attempt to do more often.

CES_1062Toward the end of Psalm 50 you’ll find the words, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the most high.”  In that wilderness setting I could not help but offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.  I was literally surrounded by the beauty of God’s Creation and felt His presence near; my heart swelled with gratitude.  It seemed that I could hardly walk around outside without offering a word of thanks to God for the beauty and wonders of His Creation. Something tells me that this is what God intended from the beginning of time.  The Creation is there constantly beckoning us to offer our praise and thanksgiving to the One who brought it all into existence.  I hope we’ll learn to pay attention to Creation’s call and give God the gratitude He is due.

–Chuck

(All of the images shown here were taken this past weekend at Living Waters. A huge thanks goes to the Boones and R120 for making my visit possible!)