Feb 12 2012

The Gift of Today

In Psalm 118:24 we read the words, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  I’ve heard these words quoted my entire life.  Usually they were spoken by ministers at the beginning of a worship service.  The Psalmist words are certainly appropriate at such a time, but they are actually words to be affirmed each and every day.  Every single day is a gift from God.  Every day God continues His work of Creation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “The day was God’s first creation, something miraculous and mighty in the hand of God.  For us the day has completely lost its creaturely and wondrous nature.  We use it—and abuse it—but we don’t accept it as a gift.  We don’t live it.”  He also said, “The daily works of God are the rhythms in which creation occurs.”  Bonhoeffer’s words have caused me to recognize anew how every day is a gift from God and also evidence of the Creator’s ongoing work of Creation. 

During Communion at church this morning our two wonderful accompanists played the song “Morning Has Broken.”  The words of this song echo both Psalm 118:24 and Bonhoeffer’s belief that each new day reveals evidence of the Creator’s hand.  The first verse says, “Morning has broken like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird.  Praise for the singing!  Praise for the morning!  Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!”  The last verse adds, “Mine is the sunlight!  Mine is the morning born of the one light Eden saw play!  Praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s re-creation of the new day!”

I have a feeling that if we could begin each morning reciting Psalm 118:24 and reflecting on the words to “Morning Has Broken” it would go a long way in getting our day off to a good start.  Such a practice would surely lead us to begin the day offering praise to the Giver of all good gifts and would help prepare our eyes to see more of God in the gift of His Creation.  Why not give it a try?


(I’ve included two daybreak  images I captured on my trip to Maine this past fall–the top one from Acadia National Park and the bottom one from Baxter State Park.)

Oct 9 2011

See Any Moose?

“See any moose?” That was the question I heard time and time again this past Thursday and Friday morning. I was at Baxter State Park in Maine photographing the wonders of fall in New England. Both mornings I got up early to take pictures of sunrise at Sandy Stream Pond. Both mornings I stood in awe of the beauty before me. After staying at the site for more than an hour each day I would head back up the trail to my car so I could go explore other sections of the park. Along the way back both days I ran into numerous photographers heading to the spot I had just left. Everyone asked the same thing: “See any moose?”

Now I know Sandy Stream Pond is known as a good location for viewing moose but it struck me odd that several photographers only thought of it as a place to photograph moose and not a place of incredibly scenic beauty. I would have been thrilled to see a moose there but my experience at Sandy Stream Pond was hardly diminished because there were no moose sightings. In fact, the light was so beautiful my first morning there I’m not sure I would have even taken time to photograph a moose had there been one present.

I later heard that no moose had been spotted at Sandy Stream Pond for three or four days. That meant there were a lot of disappointed photographers. Ironically, after I left Sandy Stream Pond on Thursday I took a short walk to Tracey Pond just to see what it looked like. When I walked down to the shore I looked up and spotted a bull moose not far away. There were no photographers in sight.

My experience at Baxter State Park got me thinking. We photographers can miss out on a lot of wonderful things when we get so focused on one subject. (I still can’t get over how the wildlife photographers were not interested at all in the scenic beauty of Sandy Stream Pond!) Furthermore, we can miss out on a lot if we get to thinking there is only one spot to find what we’re looking for. In both cases the same thing can happen spiritually. Some of us may be so focused on just one aspect of God that we miss seeing or experiencing other aspects of His greatness which are there right before us. Likewise, some of us might just discover that an intense search for God–especially if we keep looking in the same spot all of the time–may prove counter productive. God is just as likely to surprise us with His presence in some unexpected place as He is to be found in some more familiar location.

I was reminded at Sandy Stream Pond how important it is that I stay alert to God’s presence everywhere I go and to remain open to His surprises. The Bible is filled with examples of where God surprised people with His presence. (Examples include Moses at the burning bush, Elijah in his cave, and Simon Peter in his prison cell.) The Scriptures indicate that God is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” If that is the case, why should we not expect to be surprised today?

I didn’t see any moose at Sandy Stream Pond this past week but I did experience something of God’s glory. I’ll take that over a big ole moose any day!


(I took the moose image at Tracey Pond in Baxter State Park.  The other two images are from Sandy Stream Pond the same morning.  Interestingly enough, I was surprised to see another bull moose last night on top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.)

Oct 2 2011

Autumn’s Lessons

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

 George Eliot once said “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”  I don’t know much about George Eliot but I have to agree with him on this one.  I love autumn and would, indeed, like to be a bird that could fly about the earth just so I could experience one autumn after another.  In a sense I guess I’ll be doing just that this coming week.  In a couple of days I’m flying (by plane) to Maine so that I can photograph the beauty of autumn in New England.  Each year I try to go somewhere that fall colors arrive earlier than they do here in the southern Appalachians.  I do this so that I can experience the splendor of fall more than once.

There is much about autumn that I enjoy.  I love the cooler temperatures that come with this season.  I enjoy the evenly balanced hours of daylight and darkness.  Autumn brings back wonderful memories of fall festivals when I was a kid, hayrides, and playing in leaves.  But most of all, I enjoy the colors of autumn.  Primarily I’m referring to the reds, yellows, and oranges of fall foliage but, as Rob would be quick to note, there are also delightful colors to be found in fall wildflowers.  Here my favorite is the unique blues of asters.

One of the things I don’t like about autumn is the beautiful colors do not last long.  By the time November rolls around most of the leaves will be off the trees and the flowers will have died.  Even if I were a bird I could only fly so long and then there would be no more autumns to enjoy.  Winter inevitably arrives.  It helps if we can admit this upfront.  If we know that something will not last forever hopefully we will be wise enough to enjoy it while we can.

As I continue thinking along these lines I realize that the brevity of autumn is a good reminder for all of us to live in the present moment and to make the most of the occasions we have to enjoy Creation and life itself.  It’s a call to “seize the day” and not wait until it is too late to do certain things we should.  This could be viewing nature’s glory but it might also be telling someone we love them or perhaps “I’m sorry.”  Autumn’s brevity also includes the reminder that the things and people we love and enjoy most will not be here forever and, for that matter, neither will we.  For that reason we should never take anyone for granted or even a single day of our lives.  Yes, autumn has much to teach us if we are ready to listen, ready to learn.  May God help us all to be good students.


(I took the top image at Baxter State Park in Maine.  The bottom two images were captured at Acadia National Park, also in Maine.  I plan to visit both parks this coming week.)