Mar 7 2012

Caring “A Whole Awful Lot”

Last night my wife, mother and I went to see “The Lorax,” the new movie based on the book of the same title by Dr. Seuss.  It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I loved it. In a fun and good-natured way it drives home many lessons related to Creation Care.  Perhaps its strongest message is that one person can make a difference.  It also stresses the fact that until a person truly cares about something, he or she is not likely to make a difference.  In both the movie and the book you’ll find the words: “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

From what I’ve read “The Lorax” has done exceptionally well at the box office.  I find that encouraging.   I’ve even seen on Facebook where people have said after watching the movie they wanted to go plant a tree.  (For the uninitated, the movie and book imagine a world where all the real trees have been destroyed.) Wouldn’t it be great if lots of people did just that?  I’d like to think that this presentation of Dr. Seuss’ book will cause people not typically receptive to environmental issues to be more open to them.  It certainly has that potential.

Unless one wants to read something into the fact that the Lorax descends and ascends from the heavens, there’s really no religious emphasis in the movie.  Since the movie is based on the book I didn’t expect there to be.  Still, one can read (or watch) between the lines and see an affirmation of Creation.  It stresses that it is the natural world, and not the artificial one, that is life-giving.

I especially liked the song “Let It Grow” in the movie.  It comes at the climax of the film when the people of Thneedville choose to let the last truffula seed grow.  As the song filled the theatre I found myself wishing this sentiment would spread to the masses.  God’s Creation is good and should be both nurtured and preserved.  And it should be nurtured and preserved, as I’ve stated numerous times at this site, not just because it sustains us and is beautiful but because it was created to bring glory to God.

I still think that in the end this is the greatest reason for us to care about nature and the environment.  The other reasons are no doubt important, too, and lead me to be concerned, but it is the God-connection that makes me care “a whole awful lot.” If more Christians would choose to care a whole awful lot things would get better.  Wouldn’t they not?


(I took the top image of giant sequoias in California’s Sequoia National Park.  I photographed the forest scene shown in the second picture in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest.)


May 29 2011

Names and Places

This past Friday I got to spend an entire day photographing.  Although I was able to photograph a variety of subjects the day began and ended taking pictures of waterfalls.  It started with a beautiful waterfall called Creation Falls in the Red River Gorge National Geological Area.  It concluded at another pretty waterfall, Broken Leg Falls, in the Daniel Boone National Forest.  The two waterfalls are very different but both are quite scenic and made delightful photographic subjects. 

On my way home I kept thinking about how the two waterfalls were both lovely but that their very different names seemed to affect my experience and enjoyment while in their presence.  The name “Creation Falls” put me in a contemplative mood and made me mindful that Creation was putting on a show for me.  It made me mindful of the Creator’s presence and prompted words of praise and thanksgiving.

The name “Broken Leg Falls,” however, had a different affect on me.  I’m not exactly sure how this falls got its name but after taking the perilous trail down to the bottom to photograph it I think I have a clue.  This waterfall was delightful to behold but for some reason its name bothered me and dampened my mood.  I confess I have the same feeling whenever I visit Dog Slaughter Falls near Corbin, Kentucky.  Shakespeare may have believed that a rose by any other name would have smelled just as sweet but I’m not convinced that names don’t influence how we feel about things or experience them.

On visits out West I have photographed Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Devil’s Canyon in Montana.  In both places I couldn’t help but wonder what the devil had to do with either one.  Both the tower and the canyon are majestic examples of God’s Creation and deserve better names.  Why do so many places have the “Devil” added to it?  (The only place I’ve thought it appropriate was the “Devil’s Golf Course” in Death Valley National Park. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.)

Names are very important. The Scriptures certainly back this up.  In biblical times place names and people’s names typically told a story.  Names also were more than what someone might call you.  Names represented one’s character.  In fact, in numerous cases when a person’s  character changed he received a new name.  Abram becomes Abraham.  Jacob becomes Israel.  Simon becomes Peter.  Saul becomes Paul.  Names make a difference.  They did then; they do now.

Obviously, I cannot change the name of places I feel deserve a better moniker.  I’d like to, but I cannot.  I guess this boy born half way between Possum Trot and Monkey’s Eyebrow will just have to accept that some of God’s wonders have gotten stuck with rotten names and try not to let it interfere with my enjoyment of those wonders.  It won’t be easy but I’m going to try.  Wish me luck…


(Top image: Creation Falls.  Bottom image: Broken Leg Falls.)

Feb 9 2011


RRG Auxier Ridge 221Last night I had a chance to go to Lexington to see the University of Kentucky play Tennessee in basketball.  As a diehard U.K. fan this was a real treat for me.  The drive to Lexington and back is a pretty one.  At one point the road skirts one of my favorite places to photograph in Kentucky—the Red River Gorge National Geological Area.  As I drove through this area yesterday, and then again this morning,I couldn’t help but recall my last photo trip there and what happened shortly thereafter.

RRG Auxier Ridge 212Having been inspired by the beautiful images of Auxier Ridge taken by my friend John Snell, I decided in October to visit this incredible area of the Red River Gorge located in the Daniel Boone National Forest.  A friend and I left Pikeville early so that we could hike the two miles to the ridge for sunrise.  It was an incredible morning!  Fog lay in the valleys and as the sun began to rise there was glorious light cast on the colorful autumn foliage and sandstone ridges.  I was able to take numerous images I really like that day.  As the morning wore on we soon noticed that there was smoke rising from a number of campsites in the valley.  This caught our attention because due to a recent drought there was a fire ban in the Gorge at the time.

A couple of days later I learned that a fire broke out in the Gorge as a result of one of these illegal fires.  An estimated 1,650 acres of some of Kentucky’s most beautiful scenery was torched.   The trail to Auxier Ridge remains closed to this day  and will be dangerous for a long time to come.  Eventually the forest will recover but not in my lifetime.  This makes me sad. I’m sad for myself but also for all the other people who will not have the chance to view what I did this past October.

The Auxier Ridge fire reminds us that our actions do have consequences.  This fire should never have happened.  It’s not surprising it did, however, for it has been estimated that over 200 illegal fires were lit during the ban in the Gorge.   How could that many people be that selfish or irresponsible?

RRG Double Arch 242I ask this question and yet millions of people are treating the earth today in the same exact selfish and irresponsible way.  We have developed a mindset that anything that benefits “me” is permissible.  We feel we can pretty much do with the earth anything we want.  This past Sunday we read in my church Psalm 24:1 which says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  We really do need to remember that the earth is the Lord’s, not ours.  At a Creation Care workshop this past Saturday in Frankfort, KY, I heard Matthew Sleeth speak on our responsibility to the earth.  He asked if God were to give us a brand new car to borrow would we bring it back to him later on all beat up and battered?  Or would we try to take care of it?  I think the answer is obvious and, yet, we are constantly beating up the earth as though it were not a wonderful gift from God on loan to us.  I’m angry at those who caused the fire in the Red River Gorge this past fall.  There’s no excuse for their selfishness and irresponsibility.  But what my drive to Lexington and back has also reminded me of is that there is no excuse for my own selfishness and irresponsibility when it comes to seeing Creation as God’s gift to us and my call to be a faithful steward of it.  We simply cannot continue to live and act as though there are no consequences to our actions!


(I took these images of Auxier Ridge this past October; the day the fire started.)