May 25 2014

Travel On

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land that I will show you.’”—Genesis 12:1

Giant Geyser 1 (v) crDo you like to travel?  I do.  I know there are some people who have no desire to leave the area they live in but my life has been incredibly enriched by the travels I’ve made over the years.  I see much value in going other places.  You can, no doubt, learn much in books or by watching television but for me there is no substitute for travel.  A few days ago I did a presentation on the beauty of the area where I am currently living.  As I put the show together I found myself thinking that a person residing here doesn’t have to go far to find beauty.  I even commented to a group that I’m surprised more people don’t travel here to view or photograph the beauty that is all around us.  But that doesn’t mean I am or should be content with seeing or experiencing what is found only in my local area.

Kenai glacier calvingTomorrow I’m flying out to Los Angeles to meet up with Rob.  We will spend a good part of the upcoming week exploring an area of Nevada neither of us have visited before.  I know very little about the places we will be going to but I have no doubt that I will learn much in the days to come.  I will see and do things I could not if I stayed home.  The journey will broaden who I am.  It will allow me to experience aspects of God’s Creation that are not available to me here where I live.

Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”  There is much truth in these words.  In my travels to Europe and the Middle East as a young adult  I had my eyes opened to a number of things that challenged my own prejudices, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.  When I spent some time a few years ago on a medical mission trip to Haiti the same thing happened again.

whitetail fawn 6 (h) crMy travels throughout North America to photograph its scenic wonders have, likewise, caused my mind and understanding of things to be altered time and time again.  There is more than one kind of prejudice, bigotry  and narrow-mindedness.  For example, I once thought of deserts as vast wastelands.  I now see them as marvelous and magical places where life abounds.  By visiting other areas and seeing new places and things I have come to appreciate much that I once did not like or understand.  In numerous ways my life is richer because I have traveled as much as I have.

_CES1723I would not be the same person I am today had I not viewed the northern lights and watched glaciers calve in Alaska.  I would not be the same person had I not found myself dwarfed by giant redwoods and sequoias in California.  I would not be the same had I not watched geysers erupt in Yellowstone National Park or heard pounding waves crash against the rugged shores of Maine.  I would not be the same person had I not viewed the simultaneous lift-offs of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes in New Mexico or spied on newborn fawns taking their first steps in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.

I could go on and on.  I believe I am a wiser and better person on many accounts because of the travels I’ve done over the years.  I have even learned much about God that I might never have discovered had I not ventured out beyond the safety of my own home and community.

Throughout the Scriptures it seems like God is always calling someone or another to take a journey.  I think I understand why…


(I took the top image of Giant Geyser in Yellowstone NP, the calving glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, the newborn fawn at Shenandoah National Park, and the redwood trees at Humboldt State Park in California.)

Nov 13 2011

Our Starved Imagination

I came across an interesting quote from Oswald Chambers this past week.  In his classic devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, he wrote: “Nature to a saint is sacramental.  If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in Nature.  In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it.”  What I found interesting about this passage is not Chamber’s recognition that nature is sacramental or that God comes to us through His Creation but that what often hinders us from experiencing this is our lack of imagination.

I have to admit that early in my life I did not consider imagination to be very important.  I felt I should focus on what is “real” or “factual.”  For this reason I even refused to read anything that was considered fiction.  I really don’t know what led me in that direction but eventually I learned that the imagination is very important, even in the spiritual realm.  In his Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius encourages people to use their imagination in visualizations of biblical stories to grasp better their meaning.  C. S. Lewis, one of my favorite Christian writers, once said “Reason is the natural order of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.”  Today I cannot deny or minimize the value of imagination in many areas of life.

If you and I are going to experience God in nature then we must learn to exercise our imagination or, to follow up on what Chambers said, feed it.  If we starve our imagination we won’t recognize God’s Spirit in the wind that blows across our face.  We won’t see signs of God’s faithfulness in the changing of the seasons or even the passing of one day to the next.  Without the use of our imagination we might miss the expressions of divine love that can be found in the birds at our feeders, the flowers along the side of the road, or the gentle cascades of a stream. 

Mark Twain, who certainly had a way with words, once said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  When it comes to seeing God in Creation that is unquestionably true so go feed your imagination; do whatever it takes to get your imagination in focus.  So much depends upon it.  It really does.


(I took the abstract water reflection at Jenny Wiley State Park in Kentucky.  The middle image shows a pattern formed by lichen on a granite stone in Acadia National Park.  The bottom image shows a magnolia blossom in my yard.)