Sep 22 2021

Letting Things Go

Today is the first day of fall.  Here in western Kentucky it certainly feels like it.  All of a sudden the temperature has dropped significantly, the wind is blowing, and the leaves are falling.  I am so thankful to live in an area that has four distinct seasons and I always look forward to the arrival of autumn.  

In recent days I have seen a familiar meme reappear on social media.  It says “The trees are about to remind us how lovely it is to let things go.”  I think there is something powerful to this quote.  In each of our lives there are things we need to let go of.  Things that hold us back and keep us from experiencing the joy and abundant life God intends for us.  As I look at my own life I see a number of things I need to let go of.  Let me mention just a few…

First, I need to let go of anger.  We live in very divisive time.  It seems like just about everyone is angry at someone or some group.  Unfortunately, I find myself feeling this anger periodically as well.  Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins and for good reason.  It can kill the soul and relationships quicker than anything. The Bible speaks to us of the dangers of anger.  At one point the apostle Paul warned, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26)  What did Paul mean by this?  He meant we should not hold on to our anger, that we should let it go.  There will be little joy and peace in our lives as long as we remain angry.  If there is anger in your life, it is time to let it go.

Second, I need to let go of my pride.  The pride which is a sin causes people to think that the world revolves around them.  They tend to think too much of themselves and not enough about others.  Here, too, I am guilty.  I do not always give others the love and attention I should.  My foolish pride gets in the way.  The fact that pride is also one of the Seven Deadly Sins leads me to believe that this is a common struggle.  I know my life would be richer and more meaningful if I could learn to let go of my selfish pride.

Third, I need to let go of regret.  In life all of us make mistakes.  We all do things we shouldn’t and many people go on to live their life with the heavy burden of regret or remorse.  Even years after we’ve messed up we still beat ourselves up over our failures.  I admit that I struggle with this.  Although we should always learn from our past mistakes, we should not hold on to them.  God doesn’t want us to.  The Scriptures make it clear that God forgives us and that we are to forgive ourselves as well.  The simple truth is that the past can’t be changed.  It does us no good to hold on to it.  When it comes to our regrets, now would be a good time to let them go. 

I could go on listing things I need to let go of.  My tree has many leaves that need to fall.  I share my truncated list just to get me (and hopefully you) thinking about the things that need to be let go.  As you see the trees shedding their leaves this fall let them remind you of the things you need to let go of.  Autumn teaches us that we’re not intended to carry all that weight.  It truly is a lovely thing to let things go that are dragging us down.  I hope you have a wonderful fall.  Blessings!

Chuck


Nov 26 2019

Thanksgiving and Contentment

As Thanksgiving Day approaches I’d like to ask you what your current level of contentment is.  I ask this because I happen to believe that there is a direct correlation between thanksgiving and contentment.  This belief was reaffirmed last night when I came across the following prayer found in Edward Hays’ book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.  Hays writes, “O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.  As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches.  You are the season of retirement, of full barns and harvested fields.  The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed.  I sense in you no regrets: you’ve lived a full life.  I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeking happiness through more and more possessions.  As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.  Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received, may I know that it’s enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God’s grace.  May I know the contentment that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower.  May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure…” 

Hays is right; we can all learn something from the season of Autumn.  Contentment, may well be one of those lessons.  There is an “at-homeness,” a sense of peace, in Autumn that we should seek to emulate.  This peace, however, may not come naturally for we truly do live in a society that is “ever-restless.”  That society is also quite materialistic in nature.  It does little to make us content with what we have.  In fact, our society seeks to limit our contentment by constantly reminding us of things we do not have.  May we learn from Autumn that what we have is enough, that our striving for more can cease, in the “abundance of God’s grace.”

Thanksgiving Day is appropriately enough observed during the season of Autumn.  At this time we are all encouraged to count our blessings and be grateful.  I am convinced that if we will do this, and keep on doing it, we will experience far more contentment than we typically do.  By focusing on our blessings, on what we do have, we experience a peace that will never come when our attention is on that which we don’t have.  By focusing on our blessings, we come to the realization that we are “rich beyond measure.”

Autumn’s bounty reminds me of the many blessings God has poured out on my life.  This Thanksgiving I have much to be thankful for.  I suspect you can say the same thing.  My prayer for you is that in giving thanks you will also experience contentment.  That gift, in and of itself, is something to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!

–Chuck


Sep 28 2018

The Weighty Season

Autumn officially arrived last week so I thought this would be a good time to share one of my favorite Wendell Berry “Sabbath Poems.” This one can be found in his book, A Small Porch.

“Again the air is full of falling: the falling of leaves in the weighty season that brings all home again to the lowly miracle from which they came. Nature, the mother and maker, requires that life take form, enflesh itself in the shapes and habits of the world’s unnumbered kinds.  And then she requires each one at last to shed its guise, giving up its matter to the life to come.  Think of a world of no fall, no gravity calling downward, homeward, bringing all by the light uprisen down to rest in the resting land–a world, instead, where all that dies would fly upward and outward, nameless and alone.  How sterile then would be the earth, seasonless the year.  The year is the showing forth of the heavenly love that is the being of the present world.  The leaves, opening and at last falling, hold a while the beauty of God who made them by the work and care of Nature, His vicar and our mother.  His only is the light of which all things are made, the beauty that they are, the delight that is our prayer.”

 There are many things I like about this poem about the “weighty season” we call fall. I appreciate the way Berry alludes to the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life itself.  There is indeed a rhythm to life that comes from the hand of the Creator.  Like Berry, I cannot imagine life without this intrinsic cycle.

I especially appreciate the notion expressed that “the year is the showing forth of the heavenly love…” With each passing day we have the opportunity to experience anew the love of God.  That love may be experienced numerous ways but one of the best is through nature.  Even in the falling leaves of autumn we can know God’s love and discern God’s wisdom and ways.  The leave, along with the rest of Creation, “hold a while the beauty of God.”

Berry’s “Sabbath Poem” likewise reminds us that God, who is Light, is the Source of all that is. All of Creation, including us, owes its existence to God.  All of Creation, including us, shares in the Beauty of God.  It is no wonder, then, that all of Creation, including us, becomes “the delight that is our prayer.”

 –Chuck


Nov 11 2015

Reflections on Autumn

_DSC2202“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Well, another fall has come and gone. Oh, I know it’s just November 11 but that’s the talk I hear from a lot of nature photographers.  It seems like for many the only thing good about autumn is the two to three weeks of beautiful fall foliage.  Considering how spectacular those two to three weeks can be I kind of understand where they’re coming from—anything after that pales in comparison.  Perhaps, but I’m not quite sure about that.  I love photographing fall foliage as much as anyone else but I believe autumn has so much more to offer than just colorful leaves and reflections.

_CES1077Where I live in western Kentucky we are well past peak fall foliage. Many trees are already bare and the rest of them will be soon.   Even so, I’m excited because I know before long the great flocks of snow and speckled geese will be arriving at the Wildlife Management Area nearby.  They will be joined by tundra swans and a number of other species that we do not see the rest of the year.  The return of the birds is as much a part of autumn as the turning of the leaves.

Another thing I like about late fall is the new vistas that are available.   When the trees are bare you can see into places and spaces not possible when the trees are covered with leaves.  A walk in the woods takes on a whole new look and feeling in late autumn.  The incredible patterns of tree branches hidden when covered with leaves in and of themselves become a wonder to behold.  In some ways there is more to see in late fall than at other times of the year.

_CES1499

Upon reflection it seems kind of strange that so many people associate autumn primarily with colorful leaves. There is certainly far more to fall than beautiful foliage.  Perhaps if we could remember this we would enjoy the season more.  And that goes for each of the seasons.  Winter is about more than snow, spring is about more than flowers blooming, and summer is about more than sunny days.  The Creator has blessed us with so much to see, experience and enjoy throughout the entire year but if we are not careful we’ll miss a lot of it.  I suggest we be careful…

–Chuck

(I took the pictures shown above near my home in Henderson County, Kentucky.)

 


Sep 18 2015

The Dangers of Biding One’s Time

_DSC8717Summer is my least favorite time to photograph for a number of reasons. Autumn, however, is one of my favorite times. I can’t wait for the fall colors to arrive. Most years I plan vacations to places that experience autumn before we do here in Kentucky so that I can photograph fall foliage over an extended period of time.  Autumn is such a special time! Here lately I’ve pretty much been biding my time until fall arrives to do photography. I was pretty sure there wasn’t much out there to see and photograph in early September around these parts. I was wrong.

_DSC8750A couple of days ago I decided to go out to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area with a friend to photograph. I really didn’t expect to see all that much but I knew it would be good for my mental and spiritual health to get out in nature. It quickly became obvious to me that I had been foolish to bide my time until fall to get out.   I was only in the Sloughs a couple of hours early Wednesday morning but I discovered so many wonderful treasures and got numerous images I really like.  It was amazing! If I had waited until fall colors arrived to go out to photograph I would not have the images you see displayed here.

My experience this week reminded me once again that at no time is there a shortage of marvels to see in God’s Creation. Admittedly, some days you will have to look harder than others to find these marvels but they are certainly there. The key is taking the time to look and being open to what is there each day.

_DSC8801Upon reflection, I’m convinced that our experiences with God are somewhat similar. I believe that God is there each day for us to see and experience but we may miss out by not being on the lookout for what God is doing or being open to the fact that God is actually there.  I also think we can get into a rut, not unlike my photography experience, and start looking so forward to an experience that is to come in the future that we miss what is happening this very day. Maybe it’s a spiritual retreat we are looking forward to, or perhaps a special conference or concert. We look ahead to these events and just know that we will experience God there. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to those times we know God is likely to reveal Himself to us.  There’s nothing wrong with this, that is, unless it keeps us from experiencing what God might want us to see, hear, or feel here and now.

_DSC8879In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” One of the things this verse teaches us is that none of us are smart enough to figure out just how or when God will show up in our lives.  If we are wise we will learn to live each day in eager expectation of what the present day might hold. I suspect if we did this we would experience far more of God than we presently do right now.

–Chuck


Oct 29 2014

Dying to Live

_DSC2015The fall foliage has finally gotten nice in western Kentucky.  I’ve not been able to get out and photograph much due to demands at work but I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful colors as I drive around town.  The hues of autumn bring me a lot of joy.  That joy is tempered however by the knowledge that the colors will not last long.  In a matter of days the trees will be bare and will stay that way until spring of next year.  Realizing this I try to take time to enjoy the fall foliage while I can and encourage others to do the same.

One of my other fall rituals is trying to remember that there are important lessons to be learned from nature this time of the year.  For example, fall helps me to  remember that some of God’s blessings are fleeting and truly must be enjoyed while they are present.  If we wait until tomorrow it might be too late.  I also recall this time of the year that just as the autumn foliage brings sustenance to my spirit, when the leaves fall they give sustenance to the earth as well.  As trees lose their leaves it can seem like a death when in reality it is only a continuation of the circle of life.

_DSC1940A few days ago I did manage to go out one morning for a couple of hours to photograph in Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.  While I was focused on taking images of cedar cypress trees in the Sloughs a friend pointed out to me some lovely acorns on an oak tree just a few feet away.  I took several pictures of the acorns and surrounding leaves.  Later it occurred to me that these acorns play a role similar to the leaves of the tree.  They, too, will soon fall to the earth below them and bring nourishment to both wildlife and the earth itself.  What might appear to be an end for the acorn is in some ways just a beginning.

_DSC1948Nature seems to have more than its share of reminders about God’s intricate economy.   Just as in the natural world death and life form a circle, it is clear in the Scriptures that death and life are closely tied together spiritually.  Those of us who are Christians affirm that both abundant life and eternal life are gifts made available to us as a result of the death of Jesus.  We also remember that there are numerous calls in the New Testament for followers of Christ to die to self.  Jesus once said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)  If we are unwilling to die to self and live for both God and others we break the circle of life God intended.  At the same time, when we do die to self and live for both God and others not only do we find true life but we become channels of life for others too.

_DSC2384The selfish side of me would like to see the autumn leaves stay on the trees for a very long period of time but I realize that this is not what is best for the trees or for the earth.  The selfish side of me would also like to have the world revolve around me but, here too, I recognize that this is not at all what is best for me or for those around me.  As paradoxical as it may seem, if I want to experience life to its fullest and help others experience the same I must die to self.  Perhaps God knew that this would be a difficult lesson for some of us to learn or remember so and He gave us some great object lessons to help us grasp this truth.  All we have to do is watch the leaves and acorns fall to the ground this autumn.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY, and the rest at Henderson Sloughs W.M.A.)