Sep 23 2014

What’s In A Name?

Maine 1000p-19Recently I spent a little time in Maine. My mother as well as my sister and her family live in Brunswick, just north of Portland. Before heading back home to Southern California, Vicky (my wife) and I went to Acadia National Park. While this was not a photo trip, I did, of course, spend some time photographing both in the Brunswick area and in Acadia.

I sent a group of photos to Chuck. This is one of his favorite places. It was my favorite place while I was there – my favorite place is always the place where I can be out in nature spending some time being close to and connecting with God’s Creation. Connecting with nature, and God, means for me, being aware of the totality of nature from bugs to landscapes, and photographing it all. Chuck liked my pictures and said he was glad I got to photograph some “creepy crawlies.” Kidding, I said that we lovers of God’s Creation don’t call minibeasts “creepy crawlies.”

Maine 1000p-13But this got me thinking. When Genesis says that God looked over his creation and said it was all good, I don’t think He said, “And those creepy crawlies are okay, too.” “Creepy crawlies” is a judgment of God’s Creation based on our prejudices, not God’s.

Maine 1000p-05The poet Maya Angelou used to emphasize how much words matter. I think they do. What words we use to describe our world affects how we see it, and this definitely affects how we see nature. How often have deserts and wetlands, for example, been called “wastelands” or “worthless” as a justification for destroying them? Or how often do you hear about a desert being “restored” or “reclaimed” or “made useful”?  I find it hard to believe God looks at His world with those descriptions. Once you spend some time in a desert, you discover what an amazing ecosystem it is with everything perfectly aligned to the environment. Just as it is. Without our help. Imagine that!Desert1

Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (NIV)”  I like the translation of this version by The Message, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” And of course there is Psalm 19:14, a verse memorized in so many Sunday School classes, “Let the words of my heart and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Now I really can’t believe giving prejudicial names to any of God’s creation, from spiders to people, swamps to mountains, is something that would be pleasing in God’s view.

Maine 1000p-06

– Rob

The pictures you see here are, from the top, sunrise at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, a daddy-long-legs (also called a harvestman), a jumping spider, Death Valley, and a tussock moth caterpillar.


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.)

Sep 18 2011

Still Crazy After All These Years

“First of all, we must be present to ourselves.” –Thomas Merton

I have a trip coming up in a couple of weeks to Maine.  I love New England in the fall and am really looking forward to returning to that beautiful part of our country.  I’ve pulled out all my travel books for the areas I plan to photograph and even ordered a few more.  This is all well and good.  It’s what I should be doing prior to a photo trip.  But while all this is going on I’ve already started planning a trip to New Mexico later in the year.  Now I have not only books on Maine lying around the house, I’ve got books and maps of New Mexico scattered about as well. 

This may sound crazy but I’m having trouble focusing on the Maine trip because I’ve been thinking more about the New Mexico adventure.  Part of the reason may be that I will be revisiting sites in Maine I have already photographed, whereas in New Mexico I plan to visit several areas I’ve never visited.  Still, you would think I’d be able to focus on the trip that comes first.

What is even crazier is due to all of my planning and looking forward to the trips which are yet to come I have hardly paid notice to what’s going on in the natural world around me here and now.  Midweek I received a book in the mail from my blogging partner, Rob.  Interestingly enough, the subtitle of the book is “Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.”  I had already started thinking about the madness of my always looking ahead and not living in the moment so when I got this book I felt compelled on Friday to go outside and see what was happening in my own yard.  The pictures you see here were all taken in my yard that day over about a twenty minute time frame.  When I made the effort to look there was plenty of beauty all around me.  It didn’t require any research or maps, no plane tickets or rental cars.  All it took was a deliberate act of living in the moment right where I was.

So, yes, I’m still crazy after all these years, but hopefully I’m learning.  And what I have written about here today goes far beyond just photography or viewing nature.  I fear that many of us miss out on much that God wants to show or tell us  day by day because we are too focused on either the past or the future.  The Psalmist declared, This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  (Psalm 118:24)  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.  This day, today, is a gift from God.  My primary job is to make the most of it.  I should strive to use all of my senses today to enjoy God’s Creation.  I should strive with all I have this day to love God and those around me.  Today, I should strive to live in the moment and be fully present.  And unless you’re crazy, so should you.