December in Colorado—and life in general—has kept me inside far too much lately. I’m desperate to get outside and find some nature to wallow in. It’s not just that the daylight, limited as it is at this time of year, helps ward off depression. It’s that, in spite of all my Christmas preparations and Bible reading, God seems distant—and I know just where to find Him.
While God is always with us, we all have our favorite way of experiencing His presence. It may be in church, or listening to music. You may find God clearly visible in others. I have learned from experience that God carries us when times are tough. Then, there are those of us who see God more clearly when enjoying His creation.
I find that God simply delights in showing off what He has made for us. It’s as if He wants us to put his workmanship on the fridge, where we can proudly show it to everyone who visits. After 15 years of birding, and a lifetime as a nature-enthusiast, I have a long list of times when God has specifically shown me something special.
For example, there was the time that I accompanied our daughter, Karin, to Portland, Oregon. Her husband had a potential job offer there, and she wanted to see if it was someplace she’d like to live. It was mid-winter, and the sun came up fairly late. We were riding in a van driven by some friends, on our way to look at a neighborhood, when we crossed a bridge just as the sun broke over the horizon. The river below was shrouded in mist, and the entire scene reminded me of an oil painting by one of the Old Masters. I yelled to pull over, jumped out of the car, and took what is still one of my favorite photos. Here it is, just as it came out of the camera:
A similar event happened when Pete and I were again in Oregon, this time for a vacation. I knew I wanted to photograph the sunset at Cannon Beach, well-known for its beautiful coastline. I also knew that gorgeous sunsets were rare there, as the sky was often willed with dense clouds and fog. We were late, but managed to pull up just in the nick of time. I hurriedly set up my tripod and camera, and managed to be read to shoot just as the sun broke through—for about five minutes. Then, suddenly, colors turned to drab grays, it got too dark for my camera, and the moment was over. God’s timing was perfect.
Of course, you could say that these were coincidences. Maybe. But are there actually any coincidences when God is in total control? I much prefer to think of them as blessings.
One of the my favorite blessings was when I was just starting out as a new birder. I knew that some birds got lost during migration and showed up in unexpected places. In this instance, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher had managed to make its way from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, where it belonged, to Denver. Pete and I “happened” to be in Denver that day, and we decided to go look for it. After making some inquiries, we drove across town—at rush hour—to the park where the bird had most recently been seen.
And there it was! I was stunned by how gorgeous it was, a male with black wings against pure white feathers, and salmon underparts toward the tail. It was an impressive bird no matter how interested in birds you are.
After several minutes of posing for me, it took off for parts unknown. We were the last ones to see it in Colorado. I didn’t have a camera in those days, but there have been special birds since then, as well, including a Eurasian Wigeon that must have taken a doozie of a wrong turn to end up in Colorado, and a Purple Sandpiper far, far from home, as the map shows.
There are more stories—the hike in Saguaro National Park, the person I met in Puerto Rico, the Ridgway’s Rail I saw in California, and an entire road trip from Washington to Colorado. I’ll have to save those for another day.
What I’ve learned, however, is that God loves abundance. He wants us to know Him, and one way He reveals Himself to us is through His creation. Why else lavish the meadows with wildflowers. Why else create sunsets of such vivid hues? Why else would think the world needs 350,000 species of beetles?
God loves us abundantly, too. He delights in my delight. He isn’t stingy with his love, but rather exuberant, piling blessing upon blessing designed to bring smiles. Our response is to worship Him in all His glory.