Feb 28 2010

The Misunderstood Coyote

coyote 998

“…you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”  Revelation 4:11

One of the creatures I most enjoyed photographing earlier this month in Yellowstone was coyotes.  Maybe this is because I’m a “dog lover.”  Coyotes truly are beautiful creatures!  At the same time, they are one of the most hated animals in America.  Over the years they have been ruthlessly hunted, poisoned and maligned.  

It is true that from time to time coyotes kill some farmer’s sheep or somebody’s pet, but they still play a vital role in our ecological system.  If nothing else, they are an essential asset when it comes to rodent control.  Native Americans, however, have insisted for over 10,000 years that coyotes have much to teach us.  Perhaps they do.

One of the foremost coyote researchers is Bob Crabtree.  He notes, “The similarities between the social and breeding systems of the coyote and humans are striking.  Coyotes like humans, attempt to mate for life, are territorial, and build social units consisting of family members with parents, brothers and sisters helping to raise the young.”  Coyotes are very intelligent animals and have certainly proven themselves to be survivors.  Despite many attempts to eliminate them (or perhaps because of such attempts) their range has expanded dramatically in the past century.

In the book Track of the Coyote, Tom Skeele is quoted as saying “I think the future of predator control is dependent largely upon our ability to get away from looking at wildlife as being either good or bad but simply to respect its higher purpose, and I don’t mean its purpose for humans.”  I concur.

What gives us the right to determine whether an animal is good or bad?  Is its value solely dependent on whether we as humans benefit from its presence?  The Bible is clear in its teaching that God made all creatures and considers them good.  If God declares all animals “good,” who are we to say otherwise? 

I, for one, am thankful to live in a world that contains coyotes.  I am, in fact, grateful for all of God’s creatures.  Each and every one of them, coyotes included, deserve our respect.  And since each and every one bears the impress of its Creator, they also deserve our careful attention.coyote 191


Feb 17 2010

Solitude and Lent

bison 154In a number of instances we are told that Jesus went off by himself to pray.  The one who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” realized that he could not do what he was supposed to without time alone with God.  This is something we should all recognize.

In observing wildlife over the years I’ve noticed that frequently you will find animals that are typically found in groups or packs all alone.  I’m sure there is some pragmatic reason for them doing so.  We have a pragmatic reason as well; our souls need solitude.  We may have been created social creatures but we still need time away from others and time alone with our Maker.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.  We start today a 40 day (not counting Sundays) journey to Easter.  For centuries Christians have been encouraged to use this time for introspection.  We are called to remember our sins and our need for a Savior.  Most of us would prefer to forget our sins, and  many don’t like to be reminded that they can’t save themselves, but the season of Lent demands that we do so.  

Someone once said, “We must come apart or we will come apart.”  The season of Lent is a good time for us to make time for solitude.  It’s a  lonesome pine 852good time for us to slow down and look within.  The discipline of examining one’s sins is not meant to be a demoralizing experience; it is meant to bring us closer to the One who died for our sins and rose again the first Easter.

I would suggest you consider using the Psalmist’s prayer in the coming weeks: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)  Find some time alone each day to offer this prayer and to enjoy being in the presence of the One who made you (and the rest of Creation) and loves you most.


  (The images above were made on my recent trip to Yellowstone.)

Feb 14 2010

His Love Endures Forever

Old Faithful geyser 698It’s Valentine’s Day and just about everyone’s thoughts turn to love.  At church this morning I reminded my congregation that each time we gather for worship we celebrate the greatest love of all, God’s love.  God’s love was revealed first and foremost in the gift of His Son, Jesus, but I’m convinced it is also revealed in His Creation.

While I was in Yellowstone National Park this past week I had a chance to photograph the world’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful, three different times (the picture above was one of those eruptions).  This geyser got its name because the frequency of its eruptions is fairly predictable.  These days Old Faithful erupts about every ninety minutes.

There are many other things in nature that are even more “faithful” than Old Faithful.  Things like sunrises and sunsets, the ebb and flow of the tides, and lunar and solar eclipses are all precisely predictable. To me they are also reminders of God’s ever faithful love and care.

The Psalmist seems to have seen in God’s Creation a reflection of His love and faithfulness as well.  In Psalm 136 the writer praises God “who spread out the earth upon the waters” and then adds “His love endures forever.”  He gives thanks to the One “who made the great lights” and then adds “His love endures forever.”  He acknowledges that it is God who made “the sun to govern the day” then adds “His love endures forever.”  He affirms that it is God who made “the moon and stars to govern the night” and then adds again, “His love endures forever.”

Over and over again the Psalmist repeats the words “His love endures forever.”  He knew in his heart that the One who created the world loves us with a love that is everlasting.  As Christians this is the good news we have to share with others.  In God we experience a love like no other, a love that endures forever.  For this love I will be eternally grateful.


Feb 10 2010

A Lesson From the Animal World

trumpeter swans 307“Many times I wanted to gather your people as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me.” Matthew 23:37

My time in Yellowstone National Park is quickly coming to a close. It has been an incredible experience both photographically and personally. One of the things that makes this park so special is the abundance of wildlife and the relative ease of viewing the animals.

A couple of days ago we saw a trumpeter swan pair and their chick (or sygnet). Seeing the male and female swans keep their young one close by got me to thinking about how animals, as a general rule, do an excellent job of protecting, providing for, and teaching their young. Most animals are extremely protective of their offspring. A mother bear, for example, becomes a ferocious creature when she feels her cubs are threatened.

Adult animals also do a wonderful job providing for their young. Here I think a good example would be the way bald eagles bring food to the nest so that their chicks can eat. Another important role of adult animals is to teach their young how to survive. This includes instruction on things like where and how to find food or how to find protection from predators.

In protecting, providing for, and teaching their young, animals offer us a reflection of their Creator. The Scriptures reveal a God who longs to protect us, provide for our needs, and teach us how to live. If adult animals do such a good job of caring for their young, it should be clear that our heavenly Father will do an even better job of caring for His children.  In the scripture passage cited above Jesus uses the mother hen as an illustration of God’s loving care.

Baby animals soon learn how important it is to stay close to their parent(s). We humans should, likewise, realize how critical it is to stay close to our heavenly Parent. Here the animals can be our teachers.



Feb 7 2010

Fulfilling Our Role

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Genesis 1:15

bison 031Spending the past four days in Yellowstone National Park has been an incredible experience for me.  We’ve had great weather and more great photo ops than I could ever have imagined.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds.

So far the highlight has been all the wildlife sightings.  We’ve seen and photographed wolves, coyotes, bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, and even a bobcat. Watching the wildlife each day it is apparent that every animal has its place in the Yellowstone ecosystem and that the role each animal plays is an important one.  The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone has verified that.

I can’t say exactly what God’s purpose for every animal is but I am convinced that each creature fulfills its purpose.  The big question is whether we humans d0.  We learn in Genesis that one of our divinely appointed roles is to care for the rest of Creation.  We are to “tend the garden” and practice a dominion that is characterized by wisdom and love.  In short, we are to pursue “Creation care.”

In Rob’s recent entry he talked about creating a garden behind his home in California.  This is one example of bighorn sheep 162how we can fulfill our purpose.  Working to set apart or protect places like Yellowstone National Park is another.

Every single one of us can and should practice Creation care.  Whether we are old or young, rich or poor, male or female, live in the country or in the city, we can all do something to clean up, preserve or protect the environment God has bestowed upon us.

The animals here in Yellowstone are doing what they are supposed to do.  It is my hope and prayer that we Christians will strive to do the same.


Feb 3 2010

The Ongoing Work of Creation

Castle Geyser Rainbow blogI am writing these words while sitting in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.  In a little over three hours I’ll board a plane headed for Salt Lake City.  Once there I’ll be picked up by my friend, Stan Burman, and we will head north to Yellowstone National Park.  I’d be lying if I said I was not extremely excited.  Photographing Yellowstone in winter has been on my wish list for a very long time.  I have visited this park a number of times before but never in winter.  Numerous people have told me that Yellowstone in winter is extra special.

I sometimes get the feeling that the Psalmist must have just visited our country’s first national park when he wrote the words, “How marvelous are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have made them all.”  What an incredible place it is!  This ancient caldera is home to an abundance of majestic wildlife.  Bears, wolves, elk and bison get most of the attention but there are many more terrific species inhabiting the park.  Yellowstone also contains scores of magnificent waterfalls, rivers and lakes.  And then there are the thermal features.  I never tire of watching one geyser or another erupt high in the sky.  I always marvel at the thermal pools and mudpots.    Depending on the timing of your visit, the wildflowers can be spectacular too.  The sights, sounds and smells of Yellowstone make for an inspiring encounter with God’s Creation.

Yellowstone is also the kind of place that reminds us in a very powerful way that God’s Creation is an ongoing process.  God did not finish His work on the sixth day.  Although God did, indeed, rest on the seventh day of Creation He was not done.  To this very day He is still the Creator God at work.  He is the One who “makes all things new.”

I’m thankful that there are places like Yellowstone where the ongoing work of God seems so obvious but you do not have to be at such a special place to recognize this neglected truth. Wherever you are, if you look close enough you will see the hand of the Creator still at work.


(This image of Castle Geyser was taken during a summer trip to Yellowstone NP a few years ago.)