Mar 14 2016

Spring, Heart Surgery and Creation Care

Westerm-CottontailSince my recent heart attack and bypass surgery my time outdoors has been quite limited. I walk in our neighborhood when the weather permits and get out otherwise only to go to rehab or make a quick trip to the office. Even with the limited exposure to the outdoors it is apparent that spring is currently making its presence known. Jonquils are in bloom, redbuds are starting to bud, and a number of wildflowers are emerging. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to get out and photograph the wonders of early spring this year but I still find much comfort and joy in the return of spring.

flowerSpring is a time of renewal and restoration. After winter’s cold and darkness spring gives us hope of better days to come. It brings the promise of longer days, rising temperatures and an explosion of color.   This year I find myself looking at spring differently.   Due to my health issues I see myself not just as an observer of spring but also as a participant in the cycle of spring. Like the world of nature, my body is going through a period of renewal and restoration. Following surgery my body is going through a season of healing. Although I still have a bit of pain and discomfort I live with the hope of better days to come.

Viewing myself as a participant of spring has caused me to also do some thinking about being a part of Creation itself. Even though we don’t admit it often we humans are just as much a part of Creation as flowers, birds, trees, and the rivers around us are. We owe our existence to God. One biblical writer declared that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  (Ps. 139:14)  It would be difficult for someone to debate that truth.   Like everything else, we were made by God and for God. Like the rest of Creation God made us in such a way that we can fulfill our divine purpose.  God made our bodies so that we can be and do what God planned for us.

robin 1I write often at this site about the need for us to be good stewards of God’s Creation.  What a lot of us may have forgotten is that our own bodies are a part of that Creation and that we must be good stewards of them too. I will confess I have not been a very good steward of my own body. Over the years I have not taken very good care of it. I have failed to eat right, exercise properly, and get the rest my body needed. When I had the episode with my heart a few weeks ago I did not ask “Why me?” I knew it was my own fault. I had no one to blame but myself.   I had not been a very good steward of the one part of Creation I have the most control over and I paid the price.

There is always a price to be paid when we fail to be good stewards of God’s Creation. The earth or we ourselves invariably suffer. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a good example of how failure to be good stewards can lead to sickness or death. Elsewhere rivers and lakes, even the oceans, are also being polluted and that pollution is causing ill effects for plants and animals and humans alike. There are countless examples of ways we have failed the earth and are now having to pay the price. We simply cannot treat the earth any way we please and not expect there to be some very serious repercussions.

My current health issues have helped me to see anew the importance of being a good steward of all aspects of God’s Creation. There is a very good chance I would not be alive today if a team of doctors had not intervened and performed the surgery I needed.  In the same way, plants and animals, whole ecosystems, and, yes, even fellow human beings may well die if we do not intervene. May God help us all to intervene where and when we can.


(I took the top picture in Wyoming, the second picture in South Carolina, and the bottom image here in Henderson, KY.)

Mar 25 2015

Hope Springs Eternal

_DSC8730I am blessed to live just a mile from John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky.  After work today I decided to head that way and take a walk.  It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that spring has definitely arrived in western Kentucky.  Not only were there the proverbial robins hopping around, there were wildflowers everywhere.  I saw Dutchmen’s breeches, toothwort, squirrel corn and bloodroot in bloom.  I also observed Virginia bluebells, trillium and anemones beginning to emerge.  In only a matter of days there will be a wonderful floral display for anyone willing to take even a short walk in the woods.  If I had taken the same walk just a couple of weeks ago I would not have seen the many flowers I did this afternoon.  Winter still held its grip on the landscape.  I may not have been able to see them then but I would have known that they were coming.  Spring wildflowers are as predictable as spring itself.  Even on the most frigid snowy day of winter you know it’s just a matter of weeks before you will begin to see new life emerging from the earth.

_DSC8705Alexander Pope long ago penned the famous line “hope springs eternal.”  Nature has a way of reminding us that things do not remain as they are.  Spring always follows winter.  In fact, it is the hope of spring’s arrival that enables a lot of us to get through the dreary and cold days of winter.  In winter’s darkest hour we know a brighter day is coming.

There is a corresponding truth in the spiritual realm.  Many people experience times in their life that may well be compared to the cold and dark days of winter.  These times can come in any season of the year or in our lives.  We get discouraged or depressed.  We feel lonely and isolated.  Some may begin to lose hope when winter seems to characterize their lives.  But I believe that hope truly does spring eternal, that there is always hope of better days to come. This hope is based purely on my faith in God.

_DSC8718Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  When it’s winter in our lives, just like when it’s winter in nature, we have the assurance that spring will come.  My faith leads me to believe that with God in the picture there is always a better day to come.  I am certainly not naïve; I realize that here on earth that the “better day” we desire does not always arrive.  Still I am “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  I believe that this life is not all that there is and that there is a far better day waiting for us on the other side of death’s door.  One way or another a better day is coming!

I think I now understand why God arranged for Easter to take place in spring…


(I took the pictures used above at John James Audubon State Park this afternoon.)

Mar 20 2014

Seasons and Sustainability

WV-Hawksnest-SP-598-lrToday is a day a lot of folks have been waiting for.  It’s the first day of spring.  Of course that doesn’t mean the weather is automatically going to change from cold to warm but it does, at least, signal that there won’t be much more cold weather to come.  This truly has seemed like a long winter.  Here in western Kentucky the cold weather actually arrived prior to the official start of winter and it seems to have held on for dear life ever since.  I don’t mind the cold that much myself but I am one of those looking forward to spring.  It’s a great time of the year and probably my favorite season to photograph.

dutchmen's-britchesThose who have been worried that spring wasn’t coming had no need to be concerned.  God Himself has guaranteed that the four seasons will continue as long as the earth remains.  This, in fact, was what God told Noah after the ark finally landed.  God said He would never destroy all living creatures again and then added, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)  Until the earth is no more the seasons will remain, as will day and night, for the God who created the world is committed to its continuation and sustainability.  That is certainly good to know.

The question that should haunt a lot of people today is whether they are also committed to its continuation and sustainability.  Far too many people are only concerned about the earth meeting their needs here and now.  They are not thinking about the fact that how we use the earth’s resources today will determine what the generations that follow us will inherit and how they will live their lives.  If what we leave for those who follow us is a depletion of the planet’s resources, dirty air and water, and an altered climate we are guilty of a horrible sin.

Westerm-CottontailGod clearly reveals that He stands committed to keeping the earth going but as with so many other things, He depends in part on us to make sure that His will is done.  Are you doing your part?  To insure a viable future for those who will follow us we must!


(I took the top image at Hawksnest State Park in WV, the Dutchmen’s breeches in Great Smoky Mountains NP, and the western cottontail at Devil’s Towers N.M. in Wyoming.)

Mar 9 2014

Putting on the Lens of Faith

_CES0147Today it felt like spring so late in the day I took a drive out to Henderson Sloughs looking for some signs of spring.  I guess I was kind of rushing things because I didn’t find many signs.  I saw no flowers and only a few trees budding.  The vast farmlands lay barren.  I enjoyed my drive nonetheless and was able to take some nice images along the way.  A number of times I found myself thinking, “It won’t be long until spring kicks into gear and everything will look different.”  If someone were to have asked me how I knew this, considering there were few signs of spring present, I would have just indicated that looks can be deceiving.  It might not appear like much is happening now but as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise spring will make its grand arrival.  It does not matter what things look like today, spring is coming soon.

Nature’s lesson that looks can be deceiving is an important one.  It is a lesson that often translates into our spiritual lives.  Here, too, things can sometimes appear dismal.  We all go through barren times when we may wonder if things will ever change.  As we look around us we might conclude that there is no hope.

_CES0175In such times we need to put on our lens of faith and remember that with God there are no hopeless situations.  We need to recall God’s faithfulness in the past and His promise to see us through the various trials and difficulties of life.  Even when things appear hopeless we should remember that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  In His own time and in His own way God always comes through for us.

_CES2688I certainly realize that there are indeed situations where we might find it hard to affirm this truth.  There have been numerous occasions in my own life where God did not appear to be anywhere near.  What I eventually learned in each situation is the lesson nature teaches us, that looks can be deceiving.  He was in fact there with me despite my failure to see Him.  In extremely trying times I still may feel that God is nowhere near but my past experiences have taught me that in such times I need to put on the lens of faith and place my trust in God.  It is in such times I must remember the apostle Paul’s words, “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Despite the lack of signs I saw today I do believe that spring will soon arrive.  In the same way, I am convinced that whenever we are in need, God will soon arrive as well.  You simply cannot always judge things (or God) by appearances.


(I took each of the pictures shown here late this afternoon at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.)

Mar 5 2014

Beauty From Ashes

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

dutchmen's-britchesToday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent.  It is a season that traditionally has carried a somber mood.  People use the days of Lent for penitence and as a preparation for the celebration of Easter.  The black ashes that are placed on the foreheads of believers is representative of Lent’s dark mood.  This year, however, I have noticed that a lot of people are challenging the idea that Lent must be so somber and dark.  Yes, it is meant to be a time to look inward but it should also include the idea of darkness being overcome by light.  Appropriately enough, the word Lent means “lengthening.”  This special time in the liturgical year always comes when the days are lengthening with the arrival of Spring.

On a couple of blogs I have even seen suggestions that Lent is a great time for people to get outdoors and to contemplate what is happening in the natural world.  During the Lenten season not only will the hours of daylight become longer and longer, we will also witness the renewal of the earth as flowers blossom, trees bud, and the wildlife absent during the winter months make a reappearance.  Spring is a glorious time in the world of nature.  The greening of the earth in locations like where I live remind us that the gloom of winter does not have the final word.  Darkness gives way to light; what appears dead is revealed to be full of life.

wild-geraniumsNeedless to say, I concur with those who say Lent is a wonderful time to get outdoors.  That does not mean I believe that the somber spirit of Lent should be totally eliminated or that acts of penitence are not appropriate.  I just happen to believe we need the balance that nature can provide to the season.  By all means I need to take notice of the darkness that still yet resides in my soul.  It would be foolish of me to deny or ignore those areas where I am not what my Creator desires for me.  But if I focus on only the darkness and sin in my life I could easily succumb to despair.  I hardly think that is what God desires.

What I do believe God desires is that each of us experience a renewal not unlike that which we observe in the realm of nature.  Our goal is hardly to linger in the darkness but to move more and more into the light.  Lent calls for Spring in our souls.  And just as the lengthening of the hours of daylight takes time, so does the lengthening of the light within us.  Lent reminds us that the spiritual journey is not a short one.  It also serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of the spiritual life.  Spring will follow Winter, but Summer and Autumn will also come.  Behind these Winter will reappear and then, of course, once again Spring and so forth.

Kingdom-Come-SP-Raven-Rock-springRight now people around here are eager for winter to transition to spring.  It has been a long cold winter.  Hopefully we are just as eager to experience the renewal of our souls.  Lent gives us a chance to help make this happen if we will let God’s two books, the Scriptures and the Creation, guide our steps.  It is indeed my hope and prayer that beauty will rise forth from the ashes of this day in your life and mine.


May 2 2011

Resurrection Sunday and Nature

I am guessing that you probably never thought to put Christ’s resurrection together with nature. Frankly, I didn’t either. The resurrection is a core part of a Christian’s beliefs and represents a great gift from our Creator. Our sins are forgiven because Christ died for our sins.

We had a wonderful Easter service on Resurrection Sunday, but during the service a week prior, we sang a song that got me thinking. It was a contemporary praise song based on “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and a lyric said that “Were the whole world of nature mine, that were a present far too small: love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Now that hit me wrong. Yes, Christ dying for our sins was a wonderful thing. But to then say that God’s other big gift, the creation of heaven and earth, is less important is mixing up things that I don’t think should be mixed up. We would not exist, nor would there have been a need for Christ to come, if we had not been part of God’s creation. God’s gift of the world of nature is an amazing gift, and not small by any standard. Anyway, giving God back his own present is a little weird.

Think about what an amazing gift our world is. We cannot live without it. So much of what we know is beautiful comes from it. The gift of forgiveness is so very important, but so is the gift of life, indeed the gift of all life. There is no reason to minimize either gift by comparing them at all.

Many years ago I was at my parents’s church and the pastor there gave a memorable Easter sermon. He talked about how Christ resurrection was like the spring (I know this is a common theme, but this pastor did this very well) — after the tough times of winter (this was back in Minnesota and we knew tough winter!), spring came, just like after the tough times of the Crucifixion, the Resurrection happened. Spring is a time of renewal, and you can see the Resurrection as representing renewal, too. I think connecting God’s gifts of Christ and nature in this way is a good way of giving thanks for both.

The flowers are California poppies shot about a week ago in Central California — an always exuberant expression of spring.

— Rob