Feb 17 2013

“Sheddin’ Time”

whitetail-buckThis past Wednesday I was walking our dog, Sierra, in the back yard, when I came across something very interesting.  There on the ground before us was a beautiful antler left behind by a whitetail buck.   Just two days earlier I was telling a friend of mine that I had never seen a deer in our yard.  I still haven’t seen any deer there but I certainly have proof that they have been there.   When I posted a picture of the antler on Facebook another friend told me that this is “sheddin’ time” for deer, meaning that this is the season when deer typically drop or shed their antlers.  I had not heard that phrase before.

As I noted above, I found the antler on Wednesday.  That just so happened to be Ash Wednesday this year, the beginning of the season of Lent.  Lent is a forty day journey leading up to Easter.  It is a time when Christians are encouraged to do some self-examination and repent of their sins.  In some ways Lent might also be called “sheddin’ time.”  As we focus on the sacrifice of Christ we, too, may need to shed or drop a few things.

Whitetail-buck-in-frostAt the beginning of Hebrews 12 the biblical writer says “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us.” (v. 1)  The image painted here is that of a runner who throws off his robe, or anything else that might slow him down, in the race he is running.  There can be no denying that we all have sins and bad habits that slow us down in our Christian journey.  These need to be shed.  Lent is a good time to do so.

antler 531In Colossians 3 the apostle Paul writes: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (vs. 9-10)  The picture painted here is a bit different than the previous one.  Here Paul depicts dirty clothes being cast aside and fresh, clean clothes being put on instead.  He says a couple of verses later: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (v. 12)  Once again, there can be no denying that we all have dirty laundry–harmful attitudes and actions–that need to be shed.  Lent is a good time to do so.

It is currently “sheddin’ time” in the world of nature.  Hopefully it will also be “sheddin’ time” for many of us in our spiritual lives as well.


(I photographed the two whitetail bucks at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The bottom image shows the antler as I found it this past Wednesday.)

May 1 2011

In The Family of Things

I feel strongly about the things I write on this blog.  They come from the heart and represent to a large degree who I am.   I know there are others who share my same passions and convictions but sometimes—like now—I feel alone.  I know I shouldn’t expect everyone to feel the same way I do about things.  I just wish more people cared about connecting God and Creation. 

Last night I was reading some of Mary Oliver’s poems before going to bed.  One of the poems I came across, “Wild Geese,” spoke to me in a powerful way.  It continues to today.  In this poem Oliver says “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”  She then goes on to write, “Meanwhile the world goes on.  Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.  Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.”

In these words there is a needed reminder that life goes on.  Sometimes we get down and grovel in our despair.  We may have our own little pity party but all around us life goes on.  The world keeps moving.  The sun keeps shining.  The geese keep flying.  Knowing this might cause some to despair even more but it brings comfort to me.  I am gladdened by nature’s reminder that whatever it is I might be experiencing life goes on.

At the conclusion of “Wild Geese” Oliver says, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”  Here, too, I find comfort.  Sometimes I do indeed feel alone and lonely.  I feel that way when others don’t really seem to understand me or to care about the things that I do.  But as Oliver reminds us here, there is much in God’s Creation that beckons us to remember that we have a place “in the family of things.”  We do belong here.  I do.  You do. 

In His infinite wisdom the Creator has given all that He has made its place.  The rocks, the trees, the flowers, the clouds, the geese, the wind, the rain, the fish of the sea and the cattle of a thousand hills—they all have their place.  It’s no different for you and me.  We’re all in this together in more ways than we can imagine.  We are family.  I am not alone.  Neither are you.


(I took the top image of a large flock of snow geese at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.  I photographed the whitetail deer and fawn in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.)

Apr 3 2011

A Poet’s Gift

I have to confess that I don’t know much about poetry.  Another confession; I haven’t found a lot of poetry I really like.  I realize that this says far more about me than it does about poets and their work.  Until recently the only poet I read with much regularity is Wendell Berry.  This past week things changed.

In a conversation with my friend and blogging partner, Rob Sheppard, he asked me if I was familiar with the poetry of Mary Oliver.  I had to confess I had never heard of her.  Rob told me he thought I would enjoy her writing so upon his recommendation I bought one of her books.  Having now read approximately half of that book I owe Rob a huge debt of gratitude for introducing me to this Pulitzer Prize winning poet.

John Keats once said, “Poetry should… should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.“  Keats words ring true for me when I read Oliver’s poems.  She so eloquently writes about nature and spiritual matters that I feel at times her words have captured my “highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.”  Let me give you some examples.

Writing about a thrush in her poem “North Country” she says “There is no way to be sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are given, no way to speak the Lord’s name often enough, though we do try, and especially now, as that dappled breast breathes in the pines and heaven’s windows in the north country, now spring has come, are opened wide.”  In a piece called “The Faces of Deer” Oliver says “Each hoof of each animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches then lifts away from the ground.  Unless you believe that heaven is very near, how will you find it?  Their eyes are pools in which one would be content, on any summer afternoon, to swim away through the door of the world. Then, love and its blessing.  Then: heaven.”

In a poem called “Patience” Oliver encourages all who would find God in Creation to slow down.  She writes, “I used to hurry everywhere, and leaped over the running creeks. There wasn’t time enough for all the wonderful things I could think of to do in a single day.  Patience comes to the bones before it takes roots in the heart as another good idea. I say this as I stand in the woods and study the patterns of the moon shadows, or stroll down into the waters that now, late summer, have also caught the fever, and hardly move from one eternity to another.” 

Finally, in a poem called “Circles” Mary Oliver writes a passage that I’d love to use as my epitaph some day.  She says “I am so happy to be alive in this world I would like to live forever, but I am content not to.  Seeing what I have seen has filled me; believing what I believe has filled me.” 

I share these words of Mary Oliver with you because I believe that here is a woman who can teach us all much about how to see and experience God in nature.  I know that her words will cause me to see things differently now.  What a gift!


(I took the image of the whitetail deer fawn above in Shenandoah National Park.)

Oct 27 2010

The Source of Life

CVSP deer 704The Prologue to John’s Gospel (vs. 1-18) is an incredible passage of Scripture.  Last week I noted how John makes his claim here that Jesus (the “Word”) is one with God and is the Creator of all things: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  (v. 3) In the next verse John follows this up by saying that Jesus is the source of all  life: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  As Leon Morris points out, “It is only because there is life in the Logos that there is life in anything on earth at all.  Life does not exist in its own right.  It is not even spoken of as made ‘by’ or ‘through’ the Word, but existing ‘in’ Him.”

For Christians it is important to understand that Jesus is the source of both Creation and life.  It is because of him that everything exists; it is because of him that everything has meaning.  I agree with what William Hull says in his commentary on the Fourth Gospel: “…every person ought to see that God is the powerful and thoughtful creator of the universe in the light of the miracle of life which abounds in human experience.” 

If we understood Christ to be the source of all life perhaps we would have a greater respect for life—all of it.   Furthermore, understanding that life is not a given but a gift, perhaps we would also have a greater appreciation for life—all of it. 

Dolly Sods 648It is because I believe that Jesus is the source of all life I affirm that all creatures and plant species are important.  Christ’s desire was for them to have life, just as it was his desire for us to have life.  It is also because I believe that Jesus is the source of all life that I feel a kinship with the rest of Creation—I share a common Maker with them and, like them, owe my very existence to him.  It is this kinship with the rest of Creation that led Francis of Assisi to refer to various animals as his “brothers and sisters.”

Today I join with the author of the Fourth Gospel in offering praise to Christ for being my Maker and the Source of all life.  I encourage you to join in with us.


(Both the whitetail deer and aster images were taken earlier this month in West Virginia.)