May 26 2010

A Tale of Two Turtles

MNP desert tortoise 554In his most recent posting Rob talked about the intensive search we made for a desert tortoise while we were in Mojave National Preserve earlier this month.  For three days we looked for this elusive creature.  As Rob noted, our diligence paid off and the last day we were in the park we finally found a tortoise.  I was thrilled to get to see and photograph this iconic reptile.

This past Saturday I was working in my office at the church when two boys entered and showed me the box turtle they had just found.  They wondered if I might like to photograph it.  Needless to say, I did.  We took the turtle outside and I took several images of it before giving it back to the boys.  You can see photos of both turtles here—the desert tortoise that took days to find and the box turtle that was basically laid in my lap. 

box turtle 263Over the years I have discovered that seeing God in Creation is similar to my experience with these two turtles.  Sometimes it is quite easy to find God in His handiwork; at other times it requires time, effort and much searching.  The same thing can be said of my search for God in other areas.

I have no doubt that God wants to reveal Himself to us.  He truly loves us and wants us to know Him and love Him too.  He made Himself known most fully through the sending of His Son long ago but He continues to reveal Himself through the Scriptures and through Creation.  At times He makes it easy for us.  There’s no way we can miss His presence.  At other times I think He makes us work a bit to see how much we really want to see Him.

Through the prophet Jeremiah God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (29:13)  Sometimes the reason we fail to see God in His Creation is that we’re not looking hard enough.  Perhaps we’re expecting God to do all the work.  God is certainly out there waiting to be found but there are times when we must do our part too.


May 12 2010

The Gift of the Desert

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”  Mark 6:31

JTNP 755It’s nice to be back home in southeast Kentucky but I have to admit I find myself missing the desert.  I’m not really sure how to explain that.  I have no desire whatsoever to live in a desert; I prefer the lushness of the mountains around me here.  Still, there is something about the desert that beckons me. 

Over the centuries many have been drawn to the desert, often for spiritual purposes.  It has been noted that “The Jews traveled in the desert and became a community; Jesus went there to pray and to prepare for his ministry; and Muhammad received his commission in a desert cave.”  I can understand this; over the years I have spent a fair amount of time in the desert and it does something spiritually to me as well.  I just can’t seem to explain why.

MNP salt flats 472In her wonderful book, Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams offers insight that gives me a clue or two.  She writes, “It’s strange how deserts turn us into believers.  I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages, because you learn humility.  I believe in living in a land of little water because life is drawn together.  If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred.  Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.  There is no place to hide, and so we are found.”

Earlier in my life I saw deserts as literal “waste lands.”  I hardly view them that way today.  In ways that many people don’t understand, they are full of life.  They are full of life biologically and full of life spiritually.  For that reason we need to do everything we can to preserve them.  In some ways, the health of our souls may depend upon it.


(The top image was taken at Joshua Tree National Park.  The bottom image is a salt bed captured at Mojave National Preserve.)

May 9 2010

Seeing Creation With Others

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“…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

I enjoy solitude.  For me there are few things better than being alone out in God’s wonderful Creation.  I was reminded this past week, however, that being with a friend outdoors can be just as wonderful.  For that I have to say thanks to Rob.

This past week Rob Sheppard and I spent a great deal of time together exploring the natural wonders of southern California.  It was fun being with my friend but also highly rewarding for a number of reasons.  I always learn new things about photography when I’m with Rob but, in reality, when we’re together we don’t talk that much about photography.    We spend more time talking about two of our other loves, God and nature. 

On this trip we both took much delight in the things we saw and marveled at the wonders of God’s Creation.  We were both constantly pointing at things, calling for the other to look at something that had caught our eye.  For this reason I saw far more than I would have had I been alone. 

Rob knows a lot about the natural world.  He has purposely set out to learn as much as he can about the state he now calls home.  He especially enjoys the native wildflowers of California.  He speaks their names as though they are old friends.  Had I been alone, I would not have known the names of the flowers we saw and photographed. 

MNP barel cactus in desert 581Even though we were together for the week, when it came time to photograph we both did our own thing.  Rob is a far more deliberate photographer than I am and seems to stay put in one general area.  He accuses me of being more like a rabbit because when I photograph I’m constantly on the move.  This difference in style allowed me to have the solitude I treasure while still being with another.  But what I would have missed had I been alone was the excitement and joy he expressed over the things he saw when we got back into the car. 

When it comes to seeing Creation there are times when having a friend with you can be invaluable.  Thanks, Rob, for a wonderful week! 


(The top image is one of Rob photographing the Pacific coast not far from his home in southern California.  The other image was taken in the beautiful Mojave National Preserve.)

May 5 2010

All Good Gifts

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“Every good action and every perfect gift is from God.”  James 1:17

To celebrate my birthday last month Bonita and I went to see a local production of Godspell. Godspell is a musical based on the Gospel of Matthew.  I have loved this musical since it first came out in the 70s. There is a lot of good music in Godspell but there’s one song in it that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit the past few days. It’s called “All Good Gifts.” Here’s the first verse and chorus:

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…

MNP Kelso Dunes 432The reason I’ve been thinking of this song is that I have been blown away by the awe-inspiring beauty I’ve seen in southern California this week. Rob has shown me some incredible places! We’ve visited the Pacific coast, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the Mojave Desert. It’s all so beautiful! It is also all a wonderful gift bestowed upon us by our heavenly Father.

The appropriate response to a gift received is a word of gratitude. If someone gives us a nice gift we say “thank you.”  That being the case, considering the fact that all of Creation is a gift from God, shouldn’t we be saying “thank you” a whole lot more often?  “Thank the Lord, thank the Lord, for all His love…”


(The image above was taken earlier this week on the Pacific Coast.  The bottom image was taken last night at Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve.)