“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17
Some people simply can’t fathom it (they don’t want to because of what they think it would mean for them personally), but if you believe that the opening verses of the Bible are true, have you stopped to really consider how profound it is that God spoke this world into existence. From the electrons to the stars, God created and continues to sustain all the world as we know it…and yet, we struggle to believe that he will be able to take care of us.
After searching all week for something to share in this “Visual Verses” series, I ended up watching a show by Chip Ingram that was about dreaming God-sized dreams for His glory. The verse from Jeremiah reminds us what God is able to do – really that He is able to do anything! When we consider whether we can afford to trust God as we begin to let ourselves become passionately invested in our God-honoring dreams, His creation is a reminder that He knows how to follow through on a project…BIG TIME!
One of God’s “big time” productions that I’ve had the blessing to witness in person is the Chugach Range that stretches east from Anchorage along the Gulf of Alaska. I have a profound attraction to big mountains, so this view up the Matanuska Glacier made quite an impression on me. It felt like I was looking into another world almost or through a portal to the Himalayas.
I could sense that standing amongst the mountains that make up the backdrop for this image would provide a perspective of scale unlike anything I’ve experienced. It remains something that I know about but have not experienced, just like those who haven’t stepped out, in faith, to the work for which God has called them. You can know a great deal about God, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I want to stand in the middle of the Mountains. I want to experience God’s love, grace, and power.
“The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.” – Job 38:14
The book of Job has long been a favorite of mine, especially the part in the closing chapters where God questions Job. Today’s verse comes from one of those passages where God is establishing his sovereignty and forcing Job to measure himself against the wisdom and power of God.
My understanding is that the comments about the clay and the garment are meant to illustrate how the whole world bears the impression of its maker. Each admirable quality of the Earth and the life it carries is truly a result of that same quality within God’s nature. He creates the gentleness in the mist out of his own gentleness. At the same time, the sturdy rock walls contain only a fraction of God’s unchanging permanence. The perseverance of trees perched high on an inhospitable slope is a reminder of His perfect faithfulness. “The [whole] earth takes shape like clay under a seal…”
The accompanying photo was made during my one visit to Tracy Arm, and it came to mind as I pondered how best to illustrate the verse this week. High ISO and some leveling were necessary to compensate for the fact that the image was recorded from a moving boat, but the quality of the file did not suffer much due to the advances in modern DSLR sensors. Whether or not we’re experiencing remote and dramatic wildernesses, God’s creation surrounds us and reminds us of who He is…and will be.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
I found this verse while scanning the context of the passage in last Sunday’s sermon, and it has stuck with me all week. Almost immediately, I knew I wanted to share it here, so I’ve been reading the verse daily and trying to put it into practice. Since we all have struggles in trying keep our thoughts from being corrupted by the desires of this world, there is great value in strategies to keep on track that come directly from God’s word.
One thing I’ve noticed about the time I spend photographing God’s creation is that I never have to battle the inclination toward thoughts that are impure, unkind, or destructive in nature. It simply isn’t there when I am focused on seeing the beauty in the world. I believe that is precisely the point this verse is making. When we meditate on what is good, we protect ourselves from the temptations that often begin in our mind.
Now, if I only acted on this truth when there was a camera in my hand, I would be missing out on most of life’s opportunities. This past week, I’ve taken time almost every day, to study one of Juneau’s most lovely fall color displays from my classroom window. The cottonwoods that line the far bank of the Mendenhall River are quite a ways off, but I honestly don’t know if there is a better vantage from which to appreciate them than where I stand in the school. Taking even a few seconds to study the variation in density of remaining leaves or the yellow-orange colors has saved me countless times in a place where maintaining positive, God centered, thoughts is a considerable challenge.
The accompanying photo is from my ever growing “Craftsmanship” series. It is a horizontal stitch of three or four vertically oriented images made with a moderate telephoto focal length. The wall of ice visible in the completed panoramic represents a section that was roughly 8-10 feet high and 16-20 feet long. An image like this doesn’t necessarily grab your attention like a wide-angle photograph featuring fleeting and colorful light. Instead, it provides something to study. It gives me something “pure” and “lovely” to ponder for a long time, and I hope it does the same for you.
A few weeks ago, I began a series of posts on Google+ that I’m titling Visual Verses. Not believing it was the right time to make it public there, the posts are going out to a very limited audience. I imagine that people who visit this journal know what to expect in terms of content, so even though many of the images will be repetitions of those previously shared, I decided to post the series here as well. The first installment follows…
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” – Romans 12:3
This verse was part of the r12 study that Breea and I have been doing on Sundays (actually Della has been there too). The point made in the material is that we should be so comfortable, even grateful, for the way God has made us that we feel free to think very little about ourselves at all. When we’re busy trying to cover up who we are underneath with a flashy exterior, it becomes practically impossible for us to reflect Christ in our lives.
As I stood on the edge of the turbulent Herbert River, I marveled at these two perfectly calm pools in the adjacent granite. Unlike the river, they were wonderfully transparent, showing fascinating patterns of rippled silt on their bottoms. At the same time, and from the right perspective, they provided a most accurate reflection of the softly colored sky.
I pray that you are letting God show you that who you really are is precisely who He made you to be. When you accept that, then you will be able to begin showing the world who he really is.
I might be in the minority of landscape photographer’s when I say that time alone in the natural world, unspoiled by human “progress”, it not a requirement to experience a full and meaningful life. I love getting away and building a personal connection with God’s world, but I don’t hold to the opinion that people who don’t do that are sad, deprived, and misguided. What do I think is essential to a life of joy? I think the true purpose we have is getting honestly and heavily involved in relationships. Of course, our relationship with God has an incomparable value, but that friendship just drives us deeper into others. As far as family relationships go, there are few so rewarding to witness than those between grandchild and grandparent. This is especially true when the grandchild is your own daughter, and the grandparent is your own mom or dad.
I knew that the title of this post would be cliche before I was even done deciding exactly how it would read, and I don’t pretend to have any special vision for what Heaven will really be like, but I do think that we catch glimpses of God’s idea of perfection here on Earth, and I do live a short drive from a place for which superlatives feel inadequate. I was so excited to share this photo from last night that I worked hard to get it prepped enough by eight o’clock this morning. Then I rushed off to an especially long day at work, and now it’s nearing nine at night. Well…better late than never.
As you may have already noticed, I’m always looking for silt while visiting the Herbert River. Sometimes the right conditions (shifts in the river’s path or level) have planted fascinating patches all over the place, and sometimes there’s nothing to be found. While my most recent trip did include finding a couple nice sections further downstream, I wasn’t having any luck where the river flows over the smooth granite bedrock. That is, I wasn’t having any luck until I noticed these wonderful ripples hidden underneath this shallow pool. In this case, I was provided with an opportunity to try something different than what I’ve done in the past. Instead of isolating the patterns in a small section of silt, I tried to contrast the main pool with another, further away, that featured a clean and colorful reflection. At the same time, the hint of fall foliage at the back is set against the cool blue of the granite under a clear sky. I hope you enjoy it.
In order that I might have no reservations toward being a dutiful husband today on my lovely wife’s birthday, I stole some time last night for another visit to the upper Herbert River area. More of the leaves had turned since a couple of weekends ago, but the severe storms we’ve had have also taken their toll. With a fairly significant frost this morning, it seems clear that Autumn is practically over around here. Still, it was a gorgeous and tranquil night. Big shifts in the path of the river uncovered some wonderful patches of sculpted silt, which is the featured subject of this post’s photo. I made it right before packing up my camera and hurrying back to my bike, long after the sun had gone down and nearly all color had left the sky. The highly reflective surface of the silt picked up the deep, night sky blue in place of its typical neutral tones.
There are more photos from the trip to share I think, but they will all take more time to prepare than did this one. Until they’re ready, have a great start to your week!