The Draw of God

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  (Psalm 19:1-4)

Looking across Yellowstone Lake at the snow capped mountains and seeing the last quarter moon, I am awed by the beauty of creation.  I can make myself aware that I am also looking at astronomical phenomenon, as well as viewing history, meteorology, geology, biology, chemistry and physics.  And while I can do all of this without any reference to God the Creator, as a believer, the physical cosmos also tells me about the glory of God.  Obviously nature has no words to speak of, but the believer hears its voice, and knows the words and understands the revelation (see Psalm 19).

Science views all of this ‘neutrally’ – it sees nothing but the empirical world, whereas for the believer the physical world is a sign pointing to a greater reality and to a Creator.  For the believer, the world is not neutral, but is a gift from God to us, not just a thing or things, but a gift that reveals the love of the Giver, and that the Giver of the gift is in fact, Love.  It is a gift that we are given to care for and for which we give thanks to the Creator.  The physical world speaks of the spiritual world for they are the same reality, and it invites us to see beyond the mirco- and macro empirical worlds which are the limits of science and to see into the infinite and eternal.

(Psalm 65:1, 5-13)
Praise is due to you . . .  O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.

By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.

Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy. 

Creation and nature are not ‘neutral’ in their relationship to us, for they do proclaim the glory of God.  They draw us to God, which is what God created them to do.  They all do God’s will naturally, and invite us to do the same.  Creation is not indifferent to our knowing God but rather tells us of God’s glory so that we will embrace our Creator.  Creation draws us to our Creator – a strange reversal of roles in the world of the Fall, for we were created by God to be the mediator bringing all creation to the Creator.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  (Romans 8:19-23)

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.  (Romans 1:19-23)

We can find similar sentiments in the writings of the philosopher Lucretius who died about 50 years before the birth of Christ.

” . . . we are all born from the same celestial seed; all of us have the same father, from which the earth, the mother who feeds us, receives clear drops of rain, producing from them bright wheat and lush trees, and the human race, and the species of beasts, offering up the foods with which all bodies are nourished, to lead a sweet life and generate offspring . . .”  (De rerum natura, bk. II, lines 991–97)

More of my photos can be viewed at Cincinnati Zoo 2018-6.

On Recreation

Sunset over the Grand Teton mountains

Even the desert fathers believed it necessary to rest and recreate.  Below is story about St. Anthony defending his fellow monks when they once were observed jesting and enjoying themselves by a man who disapproved of such behavior among monks.

So vacations are time to have some fun while enjoying the blessings of God’s creation, even things millions of years old or extinct!

Some have been brought back from near extinction as humans realized we really can have a negative impact on creation or a positive one – human choices and behavior matter.

Even if God takes millions of years to form things, He has all the time in the world to bring His will to fruition.

The animals themselves seem to enjoy frolicking in God’s creation.

So too we humans enjoy God’s creation and each other’s company.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Though it was June and we saw plenty of snow, not everything white is ice or snow.  The hot springs make beautiful formations from the minerals they spew forth.

Sunrise at Cooke City, Montana, facing west.

From the desert fathers:

“There was somebody in the desert hunting wild animals and he saw Abba Anthony jesting with the brothers.  The elder wanted to convince the hunter that he had to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.

He said to him: ‘Put an arrow to your bow and draw it.’  He did so.  He said to him: ‘Draw again,’ and he drew.  Again he said, ‘Draw.’  The hunter said to him: ‘If I draw beyond its capacity my bow will break.’  Said the elder to him: “So it is too with the work of God.  If we draw on the brothers beyond their capacity, they will quickly break.  So it is necessary to come down to the level of the brothers from time to time.’

The hunter was conscience-stricken when he heard this and went his way greatly benefitted from the elder.  The brothers withdrew to their place strengthened.”  (GIVE ME A WORD,  pp 33-34)

You can see all the photos I took on my tour of Yellowstone and environs at  2018 Yellowstone Vacation (just click on any icon to view the set of photos).  You can see a select few photos at Yellowstone Favorites and Vacation Favorites.  Meanwhile, back home our best friends awaited our return:

Picturing Psalm 104:29-35

Previous Post: Psalm 104:23-28

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created;

and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;

may the LORD rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,

who touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.

Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.

Bless the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD!

Picturing Psalm 104:11-15

Previous Post: Psalm 104:1-11

giving drink to every wild animal;

the wild asses quench their thirst.

By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;

they sing among the branches.

From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,

and plants for people to use,

to bring forth food from the earth,

and wine to gladden the human heart,

oil to make the face shine,

and bread to strengthen the human heart.

Next: Psalm 104:16-22

Unseasonably Springing

27853124798_9568945c77

We have had a cold spring in our area.  Winter has held on to the temperatures and brought us snow flurries, while the song birds are heralding spring in trees which are budding while flowers have appeared in fields and flower beds.

39914685960_4c8061c73a

So when the day seemed even remotely springlike, I took my camera and walked the paths at Cox Arboretum.   The weather may not be springing, but I tried to put a little spring in my walk.

40822587525_db3328d5e1

I did see my first caterpillar, ant and  (my favorite) bee of the season – welcome signs of spring.

41681524322_9244481c2b

In the Orthodox Church we frequently pray for “seasonable weather” which perhaps in our modern minds shaped by media weather reports translates into average or normal weather, though in our hearts we want it to be at least fair weather, preferable good or nice.

41681539232_85254a54be

But there is an old Arab saying which has it that “All sun makes a desert.”  We need the rain, clouds and cool weather to make our gardens grow.

41681595812_48641e8c89

“Unseasonably.”  This to me is a strange word in the vocabulary of media meteorologists.  In the middle of winter they might say on the coldest night of the year that it is “unseasonably cold.”  They seem to mean it is below average in temperature, but in what other season except for winter would we have those bone chilling temperatures?

41681606712_d6403c933e

We seem to have had an unseasonably cold spring this year, though I don’t know if the weather data would affirm that or whether we have been well within what is normal for this time of the year.

27852995808_44aaaa6285

A little ditty, I remember from my youth:  “Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not, it’s not a matter of weather or not.  Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.”   Searching on the Internet, I see that limerick has many avatars, none of them exactly as I remember it.

41004447484_44f9c9d216

You can find all of my photos from my walk at  2018-4-26 Cox Arboretum.   Despite the weather, the birds keep singing every morning.

41004172984_b47bc524be

Two of Every Sort of Animal

39757427322_5cb63c959c

The story of Noah taking the animals in the ark mentions at one point taking two of each kind of animal with him.

39757340072_657c9a771f

But the Noah narrative is actually made of two versions of the story woven together in one tapestry and makes no effort to harmonize the two versions.  The other version mentions taking seven pairs of clean animals and birds.

24918814727_37c4220325

When the animals follow Noah into the ark as if he is the chief shepherd to all animals, it is the first time in Scripture that the animals are said to follow the dominion of humans.

39789168111_e183f23968

The story portrays humans and animals in a harmonious relationship with humans having proper dominion over the animals.

39846092321_334f77b947

Inside the ark itself the story suggests another paradise with humans and animals living peaceably together, though outside the ark the raging waters will threaten death to all.

39078784204_245d719f12

“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

39789142541_e56d065f5b

Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.

39757430742_6bfb4eb4de

Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”  (Genesis 6:19-21)

The ark was to be a protective storehouse of plants and animals that God would keep safe from the chaotic torrential downpour that would inundate the world.  As destructive as the deluge might be, God was preserving all the species on earth.

39788938641_378b51b413

What a menagerie of animals was brought together – just like in Paradise.

38890006365_6bdfd364b8

“… they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind,

24918444787_789653169a

and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.

28010406189_c7ea2a15c2

And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. ” (Genesis 7:14-16)

28010662669_f0a8338364

All of the above photos were taken at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  You can view all of my photos from there at SDZSP 2018 .   Photos from a previous visit are at SDZSP 2012.

4035786831_c8fda864f4_n

2017 A Few Favorites

31697346124_a664e6deb4

While most people published their favorites lists for 2017 weeks ago, I’m just now getting around to sharing a few of my favorites from among the photos  took in 2017.  Above:  nature itself shows us that creatures are competitive in survival.  No “Disneyfication” of nature.  I love watching the birds at the feeder in winter, but love is not the default mode for them.  They compete for survival.  Only humans are capable of the Christian love which takes us beyond our genes and self-preservatoin into the realm of free will and choice and love.  Self-denial turns out to be a key in what it is to be human.

33012171791_e6ed3f3c48

Even as the storm approached at sunset, I could see beauty in the world.  It was early spring and the leaves were not yet out.  There was a chill in the air – but the colors were eye catching.  I enjoyed the moment – literally the moment, for many things pass away quite quickly in life even when we feel they last for a long time.

33698729240_f82e233d1b

34123578511_d20a6f1244

Spring comes and I am glad for it.  I am not a winter person.  Spring bursts forth with life and hues and scents, all speaking of life and the Creator.  I’ve paid far more attention to these details since having a camera.

35129341440_51be248728

35407330551_662500afbf

Sunrises and sunsets are stunningly wonderful to observe.  They can be awe inspiring, and yet because they are a daily occurrence, they seem invisibly mundane to so many.  No wonder the ancients felt dawn and dusk were hours of prayer.

35329798774_245c3f3d4c

35534188842_aca3802874

From the smallest of creatures comes great things.  We forget how dependent we are on insects for example to pollinate plants for our food.  We stomp on them for the fun of it, and otherwise ignore them thinking we could live without them.

35759574123_71a8503968

37094056555_cf944e5eb8

There are human wonders as well at which I marvel.  Humans have been gifted to do marvelous things through math, science, engineering, art and architecture.  We are capable of great works and of creating things not only pragmatic, but beautiful.

36015860784_c02c4e33a8

37600463382_8fcf223f9f

And I often just enjoy whatever it is I am blessed to see on a given day.  Nothing special, and yet everything is special.  You can view all of my favorite 2017 photos at Fr. Ted’s 2017 Favorites.  Favorites don’t necessarily mean “best” –  they are personally the ones I enjoy the most.

The Sun – Serving God and Humans

“… the sun knows its time for setting.
You make darkness, and it is night,

when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.

The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.

When the sun rises, they withdraw

and lie down in their dens.

People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.

O LORD, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

(Psalm 104:19-24)

Springing to Life

33443966963_baf21dcd4a

It has been pretty chilly in this part of the world lately.  We had some warmer days in February!  Above a wild Dwarf Iris.  Outstandingly beautiful.

34123748861_44514cab4c

Above, another view of the Dwarf Iris.  A marvelous wild flower, which like many flowers can be viewed for only a short time before the flowers disappear.  Generally in the Bible the flower is a symbol of fading or temporary beauty.

34391919185_aed324012a

Peonies are cultivated and have flowers that do last a short while.

34261615881_c64977fc31

The center of the Peony – the purpose of flowers is to produce seeds, not just beauty.  We cultivate flowers for their colors, shapes and fragrances.  In nature those attributes are needed more to attract pollinators.

34123584121_1dc48f4b0e

I was totally enamored by the color of the cones of the Weeping Blue Spruce above.

33870273560_fb8ae943c1

Looking down on the Spring Larkspur it had a geodesic dome shape.

33412804004_899fdedbba

Dogwoods were still in bloom the day I did my short walk at the Cox Arboretum.  You can see all my photos at Cox Arboretum, April 2017.

 

A Misty Fog

33020001235_eba0e9c4cb

“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. . . . and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.  (Jeremiah 51:15-16)

32638071240_814a52e0d0

The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is the same God who created the universe who makes fog appear on earth.   Yesterday morning was one of the foggiest days I’ve seen for a long time – perhaps a sign that God the Creator is still at work on earth.  A combination of a warm winter day with lots of moisture in the ground produced the dense misty fog.  It made it a difficult drive – for one could only see about half a block ahead.

32978396026_88c3aee518

It did remind me of the second creation account in the book of Genesis where a mist came up from the earth just before God created the first human.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:4-7)

In the Wisdom of Sirach, there is an interesting interpretation of the above Genesis passage, for the mist turns out to be Wisdom who says:

“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
(Sirach 24:3)

You can see all the photos I took in the morning fog at Foggy Morning 2-20-2017.  The weather pattern may repeat itself again later this week so we may have more heavy, dense fog.  It would be great if it were the Wisdom of God.