God acts within every moment
And creates the world with each breath.
He speaks from the center of the universe,
In the silence beyond all thought.
Mightier than the crash of a thunderstorm,
Mightier than the roar of the sea,
Is God’s voice silently speaking
In the depths of the listening heart.” Adapted front the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell, Psalm 93.
Nature calls me, and as Richard Foster writes, she is one of two required reading books in Christian theology. As a nature lover for decades, I have stood on high vistas and taken snapshots with the intention of shoving everything into one over-sized stuff-bag to minimize printing costs. In this new era, it costs nothing to simplify and isolate, to remove the other stuff, and focus on a single heart-beckoning feature.
A year ago, my DSLR was set to auto. At the insistence of an online instructor, I took the plunge and twisted the dial to manual. I was determined to step around the mental block called f/stops and take new territory. In the process, I learned to look around the edges of the frame and eliminate body parts and other protruding stuff. I didn’t realize how my spiritual eyes would open as I slowed the pace and focused with my natural eyes. I found myself eliminating distractions from my everyday life as well as from my art.
Let me back up. Just after I jumped into a 24 lesson series by National Geographic Photographer, Joel Sartore, I began a study on contemplative prayer. Here I discovered how to write breath prayers that spoke to my soul’s deep desire. Having just discovered the philosophical definition of beauty—beauty is truth packaged with love, joy, and peace, I longed to push my photography to the next level where beauty would reveal the nature of God.
My soul begged to release beauty. If I could intentionally make a photographic frame that exposed beauty, perhaps it would whisper truth to aching souls. I know Jesus is truth and I also know much of contemporary culture is done with Bible banging. They must hear from the other required reading source.
For my breath prayer, I chose the name for God, Bright Morning Star, acknowledging that photography is painting with light just as the stars paint trails across the midnight canvas.
For several weeks I whispered this gentle prayer.
Bright morning star, release beauty through me.
I continued to post photos to Facebook. Soon, the word beautiful popped up in comment boxes for both my photos and for me!
I began this journey with bold landscapes, but as winter drew the shades, I settled into drawing beauty from the commonplace and the frequently ignored. In walks around our cabin, I let my camera and my heart find overlooked beauty.
I recalled how last summer, during an afternoon on my hammock, I preserved this idyllic scene like a box of cling peaches put up for winter meals.
Yesterday, I snowshoed near the sturdy tree that holds my summer-time hide-away and observed how this conifer mother hovered over a tiny little seedling. I found Thomas Merton’s words, “It is essential to experience all the times and moods of one good place.” I recalled how this Trappist monk viewed his camera as an “instrument of contemplation.”
Now when I step out on another photographic jaunt, my camera swings around my neck while my soul is set on contemplation. I find a worshipful attitude reveals God’s nature more succinctly.
What began as a desire to conquer f/stops has become a ministry that is now entering the marketplace. Friends are requesting copies of photos so I jumped into www.pixingo.com/marlee/bigpicture so I could have my own self-publishing platform from which to spread the beauty.
Recently a mother on Facebook, whose son was disappearing within the grave clothes of the soul, requested friends pray “Lazarus, come forth”! I searched through my archives for a frame that whispered peace to me. Instead of simply leaving it to disappear into the Facebook digital attic, I offered to mail her a greeting card containing the picture. I titled it Lazarus, come forth. Surprisingly, I now see in the frozen piles of snow the grave clothes concealing a human form. I encouraged her that the sun/Son will melt the snow. I will not soon forget her response that came the same day she posted that her son was shifting toward the light.
“I am touched beyond words by your photograph and the words you wrote within…on my writing desk and will remain there throughout this season.”
I should not be surprised. Once again I pray, Bright Morning Star, Release beauty…and love and joy and peace… through me.”