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!


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?


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

Oct 23 2013

The Importance of Focus

_CES9385Late yesterday afternoon I had a little free time so I drove over to John James Audubon State Park, about five miles from where I am currently living.  There has been very little evidence of fall foliage in town but I wanted to go to the park to scout it a bit, thinking ahead to when the colors do get good.  I was pleasantly surprised to find isolated patches of color in the trees around one of the park’s lakes.  I took a few pictures, hiked a couple of the trails and then went home.  I posted four pictures I had just taken on Facebook and then left to go teach my Tuesday night Bible study class.

_CES9375When I got home later in the evening I saw where a number of people had “liked” my images on Facebook but what surprised me was the number of comments that accompanied them.  People talked about the beautiful colors and one indicated that the image captured “fall” for him.  I was amused by the comments because there was actually very little color in the park.  I would estimate that the foliage was only around 15% peaked and that was just at the lake.  I hiked two or three miles and saw almost no fall colors at all in the woods.

_CES9369The experience has made me think some today.  By focusing on just a handful of trees I was able to compose images that gave the impression that fall was in full swing here.  People were excited by what they saw while I went home disappointed that we didn’t have more fall colors right now.  Now admittedly, others only saw what I showed them through my lens.  They didn’t see as I did that almost all the other trees were still green. Still, I have to ask myself why I didn’t focus more on the beauty at hand.  This reminds me in a roundabout way that what we focus on in life is very important.  I had made a conscious effort to focus on the beauty in a few trees with my camera but my mind seemed to be more focused on the lack of color elsewhere.  It is apparent now that my focus or attitude should have been different.  I should have been more grateful for what I did see instead of bemoaning what I didn’t.

This is something I, and a lot of other people, struggle with in other areas of life.  We tend to dwell more on what we don’t have instead of what we already d0 have.  This robs a person of much peace and joy.  It creates discontentment when that is not necessary.   All of this hits close to home—literally.  My wife and I still haven’t sold our house in eastern Kentucky so we have been living in temporary housing for the past few months.  It’s a small duplex and we are using borrowed furniture.  Over 80% of what we own is five and a half hours away.  This has created a lot of inconveniences and I will confess that it has bothered me greatly.  I find myself often dwelling on what I don’t have or what I’m missing.  The more I dwell on it the more depressed I become.

_CES9383I’m not sure that I will ever like living in this setting but I have come to realize that I will be much better off if I will focus on the good in my life, that which I have, instead of that which I’m missing.  I still have my wonderful wife with me and our beloved dog.  I don’t have all of my books and music here but I have a lot of my favorites with me.  Unlike a lot of other people, I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, plenty of clothes and cabinets filled with food.  In other words, I am richly blessed.

I have certainly been reminded that I need to work on my focus, not just in photography but in every area of my life.  I hope one day I can get to the point where I can say with the apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  (Philippians 4:11)  That sure would be nice.


(The pictures shown above are the ones I took at John James Audubon State Park yesterday.)

Sep 1 2013

Letting Go & Getting Low

_CES1751It happened again.  On the last day of my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest I experienced something I’ve written about before.  I once again went out photographing with high hopes of capturing a certain image that did not materialize but in the end got something better.  Mount Shuksan reflecting in Picture Lake is one of the most iconic images in Washington State.  I so hoped to capture my own stunning image of this well-known scene, even if it did involve a three hour drive to get it.  My friend, Mike, and I made the trip up to Picture Lake.  When we got there  I just knew that I was going to get the iconic image I had seen so often.  The lake was there.  The mountain was there.  Even the light was good.  Nothing stood in the way of getting my picture.  Or so I thought.  When we got down to the lakeshore it became apparent that the wind was blowing just enough to prohibit a good reflection.  I kept thinking that the breeze would calm down but after an hour and a half it had not.  Needless to say I was disappointed that we had come all that way and I was not going to get the image I coveted.

_CES1861We decided to drive on up to Artist Point.  From this area you have great views of both Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker.  I spent an hour or so taking pictures of both mountains but just could not release my disappointment of failing to get “the shot” I had wanted down below.  Later I started walking around the trails in the  area and found one that led slightly uphill and followed it.  It wasn’t long before I came upon a sheltered pool that had formed from the thawing of snow in the area.  From the trail it did not look like much but I had a hunch that if I walked down to the pool and got low there might be some nice reflections of Mount Shuksan.  I was right.  The scene was utterly spectacular.  I spent the next hour and a half photographing beautiful reflections.  I did not get the image I had originally come for but now believe that what I got was something better.  Thousands of other photographers had captured the image at Picture Lake.  I suspect very few had photographed the small pool I found on the top of the hill.

_CES1952So once again I was reminded of a very important life lesson.  Sometimes we do not get what we want but God often has a way of giving us something even better . Our disappointments in life may well become a prelude to something wonderful and good.  I offer two further reflections on my experience that evening.  First, wanting what everybody else has can be a dangerous game.  There is a good reason “Thou shalt not covet” is one of the Ten Commandments. (Ex. 20:17)  Wanting what someone else has–be it an iconic image, a certain vehicle, watch or television–can lead to a great deal of frustration, disappointment and unhappiness.  Furthermore, by focusing on getting what everybody else has we may not leave ourselves open to receving something better.  I tend to believe that God has more to offer us than just the status quo.

_CES1948Second,  I was reminded  that evening that to receive some of God’s blessings we have to be willing to get low.  Just as I could not have gotten the images I did without getting very low to the ground I truly believe that unless we are willing to humble ourselves and “get low” that it is very unlikely that we will experience the best God has to offer.  When we are full of ourselves we are not in a position to be receptive and therefore may well miss out on the blessings God wants to give us.  So I suggest that we learn to let go and stay low.  By letting go of the necessity to have what everyone else does and staying humble we are far more likely to find peace and contentment.  God will likely bless us with much more than this but even if He does not these are two valuable treasures we can give thanks for and two treasures most people are still searching for.