********** A Christian Journal **********

Growing in the Spirit of Jesus Christ

Friday, July 30, 2010

July 30, 2010 (my career - my faith)


I am a retired high school biology teacher,
having taught in the public school system for 30 years.

The question of how I justify my career
and my faith has often been asked.
No justification is necessary as there is no conflict.
Oswald Chambers said, “The boundaries
of our knowledge must continually enlarge and alter.
That is why no intelligent person would ever ask,
‘Does the Bible agree with the findings
of modern science?’ The question all enlightened
persons should ask is, ‘Do the findings of modern science
give us a better understanding of the scheme
of things revealed in the Bible?’”
Does each new scientific discovery lessen
the “miracles” of God and explain how events
took place without need for a “supernatural”
God directed intervention or does
each new scientific discovery
(our increasing knowledge)
perhaps give us another, very tiny, glimpse into
the workings and plan of God?
He not only created the earth and the heavens
but also the laws of nature and the universe
by which he uses to accomplish, even now,
His will. This is not to say
that God cannot step outside those laws
if he so chooses. I happen to think
however that God’s original
plan (His creation) is so perfect and His control
so without limit,
that He can, and does, work within
the parameters He set
from the very beginning.

Our knowledge is less than puny compared
to the awesome knowledge and understanding
of God… perhaps that is why… each small discovery
we make becomes, to us, such a glorified accomplishment
of man. Instead we should glorify the Creator.
“How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
His understanding is beyond comprehension!”
- Psalm 147:5 NLT
“Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
I am the one who made the earth
and created people to live on it.”
- Isaiah 45:9,12 NLT

What appears supernatural to us
simply shows how little we are capable
of understanding. We will never
be able to understand God
or possess even an infinitesimal
amount of His knowledge and wisdom.

Once again… to quote Oswald Chambers…
“What is a miracle?
There is no such thing as a miracle
to the soul who belongs to Jesus Christ.
There is nothing unusual in the work
that the Holy Spirit does,
even though it seems out of the ordinary course of nature
to our finite sense and judgment.
Jesus Christ can heal the body.
He can deliver the tortured mind.
God grant us the grace to know our ignorance
and to get out of the way with our limited knowledge,
so that we will let the Holy Spirit
bring our majestic Christ face to face
with the diseased, sick folk we have to face!”

Admitting our ignorance and believing
in the active presence of an all powerful
divine intelligence is a first step
toward wisdom and understanding.
A giant step is taken when we
allow Him to guide and direct us…
trusting, obeying, and following His will
for His glory.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 23, 2010 (my photography - my faith)


“I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator. …One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made. … The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." - St. Basil the Great

I started taking pictures when I was 13 or 14. My dad bought me a Leica Visoflex 2… my first “serious camera” when I turned 16 (1961). I remember his one main condition… learn how to take care of it and maintain it before you use it. He even had the sales clerk give me instructions. He knew he didn’t have to tell me to make “good use” of it… to learn about the art of making pictures and the process of photography in general… I was already hooked by then. Taking photos was… as Dorothea Lange said… “getting lost again”. That simple quote has become very important to me and my faith. For I believe that, as in photography… you must take the time to get lost in the art… you must get lost in the Lord in order to develop all that He wants you to be. He has a plan for our life… being receptive to Him is the only way to find it.

This camera was my answer to a “creative urge” that I have felt throughout my life. Lacking skills in artistic painting or sculpture, in writing novels or poetry, and having no musical talent, the camera was my crutch… the necessary link between my seeing eye and a produced image. Actually artistic painting and photography could be considered exact opposites. In one you start with a blank piece of canvas and add to produce an image… in the other, you start with the whole world and learn to isolate all but the essential image… “seeing” what already exists.

Photography increases your sensitivity to the world around you and helps you to see the essential. The same process allows your faith to grow… listen for Him in all you experience (that takes practice and commitment), eliminate the garbage, and allow Him to work within you, concentrating on the truth of His Word. Be ever mindful of Him.

I keep my images as simple as possible… sometimes (as several have told me) taking photographs of things others would either ignore or never even see… such as this image seen in dead leaf litter.

Having taken formal classes in photography, attending several seminars; reading extensively on photographic history, photographic art (the “masters” of photography), and many articles on photographic technique, I nonetheless shoot almost all of my photos on automatic… relying on the camera for the settings and concentrating instead on the subject and its surroundings. Post processing is done in Adobe Photoshop to slightly adjust the final image to appease my inner eye. Teaching a couple of classes in photography helped me clarify what I learned. Perhaps the whole photographic process is intuitive… an ability that comes through a lot of experience.

I have never lost the excitement of seeking, seeing, and capturing an image. Images are found everywhere and the child in me stands in awe of God’s creation. I am not a man of many talents… but I believe this is a gift from God… and in using His gift for His glory… I feel the Holy Spirit guides my eye. To quote Ansel Adams, “Sometimes I do get to places [and see things] just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.” I could not do as well if left to my own ability. Anything in these images that is praiseworthy is from Him… anything less… well, that is all mine.

Photography continues to have an impact on my developing faith and spiritual growth. My faith continues to influence my photography. It is how I see. "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C. S. Lewis

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010 (after the storm)

backyard after storm
showing our porch and the dead
Sugar Maple tree

7/12/10 (evening)
It has been hot here in the Northeast (USA).
We were spoiled by the cooler temperatures
over the last few summers.
Today there was a thunderstorm
with rapidly descending volumes of rain.
Now with just a gentle rain falling
my daughter and I have moved
out into the screened-in porch.
Our three cats joined us after spending
most of their time inside, darting back and forth
between the loud claps of thunder.
Kokomo is cleaning between the toes
of his oversized “Hemmingway” paw.
Zembie, the red/orange cat,
is surveying the backyard for birds
while perched atop the porch railing.
Willow, the older matriarch,
just lounges on her settee.

In the distance is heard the plaintive cry
of mourning doves.
My mother used to say that they were
crying for rain… guess they didn’t get enough today.
As a child I used to love to hear them… still do.
A friend recently told me that if he were to pick a totem,
his would have to be the Red-Tailed Hawk.
On his frequent road trips, he would see one
early most mornings.
I guess then mine would have to be the Mourning Dove.
Some find it a sorrowful cry (hence mourning)
whereas I find it peaceful and relaxing.
In the same way, I find a lot of Celtic music (even laments)
peaceful as I do the soulful music
of Native American flutes.

As for saddening, this week we lost a favorite
Sugar Maple tree… suddenly dying,
the leaves on the tree shriveled
and turned brown within a day or two. It felt like
losing an old friend. The tree provided us
with many years of privacy, shade, and gorgeous
autumn leaves but thankfully I caught
much of the autumn splendor on camera.
Perhaps I will replace it next year with an oak tree;
of which, we have none.

The bluebird house
in the far center of the backyard
is finally home to a pair of bluebirds.
Up to this year
other species have nested there.
Often, as is the case this evening,
we see the male making
several excursions for food…
what a spectacular flash of blue.

Tomorrow, the 13th, my wife,
her very special friend, and my daughter
have planned a shopping trip.
Called a FADDOWE (pronounced FAD-O-WE),
it refers to Faye and Darlene’s day out…
this time with Erin.

These excursions are always a lot of fun for them
and it gives me some time alone (on the porch)
with my books, a glass of iced tea (or coffee),
my thoughts/reflections and the Lord.

Take the time, every day, to spend alone with God.
Read His word and meditate on what you are reading.
Take the time to enjoy His creation.
Take the time to reflect on your relationship with Him…
nothing is better than getting close to Him.
Pray for wisdom and understanding
as you listen for Him to speak to your heart…
then trust and obey.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 09, 2010 (new growth)

deer damaged tomato plant

Our backyard borders a wooded area
and is frequented by a plethora of animals
and animal species.
We love the wildlife and have,
many times,
spoken affectionately about the diversity
of species, and total numbers,
that visit us.
Whitetail deer, rabbit, squirrel, chipmunks,
wild turkey, skunk, opossum, an occasional
eastern box turtle, and others drop by
from time to time.
Not a day goes by without several of these
making an appearance.

Food is plentiful throughout the habitat.
Why then do they feast on my few
native perennials and four tomato plants?
Perhaps it is the lure of “forbidden” fruit?
My attempts at keeping them away
have been mostly unsuccessful.
Dried blood, homemade pepper spray
(using Tabasco sauce),
a type of garlic scented spray, etc.
have met with little success.
I refuse, and can’t afford,
to spend much time or money
nurturing and protecting these few plantings.
Forget a fence and long ago I switched
my “weapon of choice” from a gun to a camera.
I shoot to capture God’s creation
in photography not to kill anymore.

Next year, I will try a few more plantings,
some of those that escaped
the attention of my animal friends,
and one or two new “experimental” plants.
The right garden for the area
takes time… I will let His will be done,
as I too continue to grow in Him.

It is the process, the journey;
the lessons learned
by which all is developed for good.

"What lies behind us
and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared
to what lies within us."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Today I have given you
the choice between life and death,
between blessings and curses.
Now I call on heaven and earth
to witness the choice you make.
Oh, that you would choose life,
so that you
and your descendants might live!”
- Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 02, 2010 (gardening again)

“I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God
it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.”
- F. Frankfort Moore
(A Garden of Peace)

Years ago, as a teen (late 50’s – early 60’s), I worked my summers
in a rather large “truck garden” (about 2 acres or so)…
you name it, we probably grew it.
In addition there was several different fruit trees,
nut trees, berry bushes, and a couple of grape vines.

The vegetable garden was maintained by my father
and I along with a neighbor, his wife, and son.
My mother also helped in the garden, although
she did most of the canning and freezing
for our family.
The trees, bushes, and grape vines
were my responsibility alone.
Then there was the grass mowing,
which if done in the same day,
took most of the “entire” day.

After my father passed away,
so did most of the gardening.
Eventually my wife and I sold the place
and looked for a larger house (1980)
for our growing family and
less yard to maintain.
All that gardening at a young age
left me somewhat jaded.
I had little desire to garden again.

Looking back…
my gardening experience was a character builder
and physically, mentally, and spiritually therapeutic.
There is a lot I miss even though it was
back breaking work.

“I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day,
and stand in deep contemplation
over my vegetable progeny
with a love that nobody could share or conceive of
who had never taken part in the process of creation.
It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world
to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil,
or a row of early peas just peeping forth
sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
(Mosses from and Old Manse)

As it turned out it also lent itself well
to my chosen profession…high school biology teacher
(majoring in botany during post graduate studies).

After we moved and during the next 30 years
I did some minor landscaping around the new homestead…
planting 8 trees, a row of lilac bushes, a forsythia hedge,
some flowers, etc. Not much working in the dirt
considering the long time span.

This year the forsythia hedge, which was getting
unmanageable for me, was removed
and I developed an interest in perennial,
native wildflowers. Not wanting to spend
a lot of money, the wildflowers selected were few.

Eventually, I hope to expand the plantings over an
8 by 40 foot section bordering one side of the property…
that is if the “native” animals
don’t treat it like their personal salad bar…
more on that later…

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
- Dorothy Frances Gurney
("Garden Thoughts")