Jan 30 2015

A Winter Lesson on Prayer

Zion NP 106Last week my friend, Lon Oliver, gave me a copy of Song of the Sparrow which is a collection of meditations and poems to pray by Murray Bodo.  While flipping through its pages I noticed there was a section on winter called “Grey Days.”  Since we have had more than our fair share of grey days lately in western Kentucky I decided to start reading there.  I’m glad I did because I immediately found the following meditation on snow and prayer.

Arches South Arch 086“There’s something about snow on the landscape, something clean and protective, that insulates the heart and makes you feel secure.  You don’t notice the cold because usually you are inside a house or car looking out.  And in a world of snow quiet subtly seeps into the heart.  The atmosphere for prayer is something like this experience.  There must be silence outside, and the outside world must be somehow removed for the time of your watching.  You then see your world from a new perspective.  And even if it is cold and barren, you view it from the inner warmth of your own heart in union with God, and it looks white and beautiful again. Then you are ready to walk into the white snow made beautiful and warm by your new vision.”

I appreciate Bodo’s words but have to admit that putting them into practice is easier said than done for me.  I find it difficult to “remove” the outside world.  When I attempt to pray I am often so distracted by the outside world that the noise becomes deafening.  I know this is a common experience for many others and that gives me a bit of comfort.

Bryce Canyon 810The exterior world definitely has a way of dominating our interior world.  This keeps us from experiencing true quiet and peace.  It also affects the way we look at things.  Bodo is certainly correct; it should work the other way around.  Our interior world, or spiritual life, should ideally be influencing how we see the outside world.

Thomas Merton, who was born one hundred years ago tomorrow, once said when it comes to prayer we are all beginners.  After all these years I often do, in fact, feel like a beginner.  I realize however, that the approach Bodo writes about is possible and that with time and practice even I can come to the point where though it is cold and barren I see things from the inner warmth of my own heart in union with God.  I hope and pray I get there someday.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used above while on a winter trip to Utah a number of years ago.)


Mar 20 2014

Seasons and Sustainability

WV-Hawksnest-SP-598-lrToday is a day a lot of folks have been waiting for.  It’s the first day of spring.  Of course that doesn’t mean the weather is automatically going to change from cold to warm but it does, at least, signal that there won’t be much more cold weather to come.  This truly has seemed like a long winter.  Here in western Kentucky the cold weather actually arrived prior to the official start of winter and it seems to have held on for dear life ever since.  I don’t mind the cold that much myself but I am one of those looking forward to spring.  It’s a great time of the year and probably my favorite season to photograph.

dutchmen's-britchesThose who have been worried that spring wasn’t coming had no need to be concerned.  God Himself has guaranteed that the four seasons will continue as long as the earth remains.  This, in fact, was what God told Noah after the ark finally landed.  God said He would never destroy all living creatures again and then added, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)  Until the earth is no more the seasons will remain, as will day and night, for the God who created the world is committed to its continuation and sustainability.  That is certainly good to know.

The question that should haunt a lot of people today is whether they are also committed to its continuation and sustainability.  Far too many people are only concerned about the earth meeting their needs here and now.  They are not thinking about the fact that how we use the earth’s resources today will determine what the generations that follow us will inherit and how they will live their lives.  If what we leave for those who follow us is a depletion of the planet’s resources, dirty air and water, and an altered climate we are guilty of a horrible sin.

Westerm-CottontailGod clearly reveals that He stands committed to keeping the earth going but as with so many other things, He depends in part on us to make sure that His will is done.  Are you doing your part?  To insure a viable future for those who will follow us we must!

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Hawksnest State Park in WV, the Dutchmen’s breeches in Great Smoky Mountains NP, and the western cottontail at Devil’s Towers N.M. in Wyoming.)


Feb 9 2014

Finding Contentment In Any and Every Season

_DSC1497I could not begin to count the number of times I have heard in recent days the words, “I’m ready for spring.”  Here in western Kentucky we have had, like much of the United States, quite a winter.  We’ve had a lot of snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures.  The longer the winter goes the more complaints I have heard about this most unfavorable season.  Some whine “I’m tired of all of this snow and ice” while others wish winter “would just go away and leave us alone.” I heard someone say “You can bet I won’t complain about the heat this summer after this.”  If I was a betting man, I’d wager this person will still complain about the heat come August.  That’s just the way we are.  When it comes to arctic blasts and tropical heat waves we seldom seem happy.

_DSC1403I happen to enjoy winter a lot.  As I get older the extreme temperatures are a bit more painful and apparently I am not as sure on my feet as I once was, but still it is a wonderful time of the year.  In places like I live winter offers us beauty you cannot enjoy any other time of the year.  With the leaves off the trees you can see things as you drive down the road that you cannot see when the foliage is full.  It’s almost like shades have been drawn back so that we can see what we’ve been missing. In winter the birds come more frequently to my feeders and if it snows you can count on a good show from them all day long.  When there’s snow on the ground you can see the tracks of the various critters that have visited your yard and you may even be surprised by what creature a certain set of tracks belong to.  In winter you will likely view wildlife that are not present other times of the year.  I’ve been photographing short-eared owls quite a bit the past month.  It is my understanding that they will not be here once winter has passed.

Winter’s cold, its snow and ice, also causes most people to slow down a bit.  This is quite conducive to helping us pay more attention to our surroundings.  When I slowed down this past week I found many wonders through the viewfinder of my camera.  Using a macro lens I discovered beauty and things to marvel at that, once again, will not be available to me once the cold weather has passed.  Some may wish winter’s demise or spring’s early arrival but I, for one, am grateful to God for the wonders and beauty of winter.  I feel incredibly blessed to have seen the things I have in recent weeks.

_DSC1550Upon reflection, I think that our general discontent with the weather is a sign of an even greater discontentment.  It seems like far too many people spend their time wishing their life away.  They’re always hoping for a better day to come.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with hoping for better days but the fact is none of us have any guarantee of tomorrow and if we spend all of our time wishing for better days we may very well miss the wonders, miracles and beauty of today.  I suggest we quit complaining about the weather and make the most of today.

The apostle Paul once wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12)  Perhaps we should make it our goal to be  content in any and every season.  That contentment will not only make us happier individuals but may well enable us to see far more of God’s handiwork than we are currently seeing.  Finding contentment and seeing more of God in Creation are certainly worthy goals to pursue.  Wouldn’t you agree?

–Chuck

(I took each of the pictures shown here last week in Henderson County, Kentucky.)