Black and White Challenge

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

My daughter-in-law Carlie tagged me in a Facebook challenge to post seven black and white photos in seven days with no explanation or words. At the time, my life was spinning too fast to take her up on it, but tomorrow the holiday festivities begin with the first family arriving, and between now and the New Year, we have high hopes of seeing all twelve of our children (counting our in-law kids) and eighteen grandchildren except those who live in Belgium. Therefore, my life is going to be even busier . . . possibly too busy to write my blog! So, I’m thinking to have a series of seven black and white photos that depict what life has been like over the past few weeks (albeit interrupted over the weekend with my usual recipe post on Saturday and a scripture meditation on Sunday). Perhaps over the Christmas to New Year week I can post a series of color photos that relate to our holidays and the joy of family (from another popular challenge going around Facebook these days called “Grandma”).

Because my heart is to share the Lord, I’m allowing myself one scripture verse caption for each photo, but I won’t indulge in any other explanations or words. Hope you enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Planet Earth and Planet Earth II

I suppose everybody on earth but me has seen the incredible nature documentary series, Planet Earth II, produced by BBC in 2016 as their first ultra-high-definition T.V. series, narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, and enhanced with theme music composed by Hans Zimmer.                          (Could it get any better than that combination?!) There are six episodes, including studies of the wildlife on islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and (believe it or not) wildlife in our cities. Our son Joel saw the documentary on “Cities” at a friend’s house and came home with such enthusiasm that we immediately discovered the series is available on Netflix (and probably other online sources).The photography is absolutely breathtaking, and they used innovative techniques, such as setting up to 25 “camera traps” in the remote mountains of India to trigger photographs of the elusive snow leopards.                               Every episode was mesmerizing and marvelous!                               What an amazing world God has created for us! If you watch all six episodes and are wishing for more, Planet Earth II is actually a sequel to Planet Earth, an 11-episode natural history documentary published by BBC in 2006 that was so popular it was broadcast in over 130 countries in 15 months!  The original series took five years to film and was the most expensive nature documentary series BBC had ever produced up to that time.                        It won many awards, including four Emmy Awards. Although the original Planet Earth series definitely showcases animals in each environment, I think the earlier series highlights the geographical marvels  of our world even more than the wildlife. The beauty of our earth blows my mind! “Our planet is still full of wonders…It’s not just the future of the whale that today lies in our hands: it’s the survival of the natural world in all parts of the living planet. We can now destroy or we can cherish. The choice is ours” (David Attenborough).  I believe God wants us to cherish His creation, tend it, and take care of it!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28).

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

 

Reflections on the Eclipse: To Celebrate, To Share, and To Remember

Did you get to see the eclipse yesterday?  Three of my friends joined me for lunch  and a wonderful afternoon of attempting to take photos of the eclipse.  We tried a bunch of different options,  and I used three different cameras,  but I was very disappointed with what I got!  😦   Between the clouds and the power of the sun,  which overpowered my camera’s ability to shut out the light properly (and I hadn’t thought ahead enough to buy a good filter),  I had no really clear closeup of the event.

Thankfully, two of my friends made the long trek to Central City, Kentucky and came back with some incredible photos (which they’ve kindly allowed me to post).                      Their story makes me grin, so I want to share it quickly!  Justin calculated the “perfect” location, which had a slightly shorter totality for viewing but also made it possible for them to leave the area sooner and beat the tsunami of traffic heading back north, so they were home by 6:30 pm! Brilliant plan, all the way around, don’t you think? And, aren’t their photos fabulous!

This makes me so happy, because I have etched into my brain a memory of Justin as a seven-year-old, looking rather forlorn as he sat shivering on the steps of our home by the frozen pond where a motley group of hockey enthusiasts (ages 37 to 7, from our church family) were playing hockey. Justin’s lips were a bit blue, so I asked him if he’d like to come in and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

“No!” he answered resolutely! “I just want the puck!!” Tall order for the youngest kid on the ice!  Yesterday (and doubtless oodles of times in the past 30+ years), Justin got the puck! Way to go, Leah and Justin!!

Well, back to my reflections on the eclipse. I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates us to create images. I think for most of us it’s about “makin’ memories” to celebrate the special times in our lives…to memorialize the events, share them with others, and keep the memories alive. Although some religious groups (both among Muslims and Christians) believe that people should not make any replication of anything lest it be idol worship (which is why ISIL is busy destroying statues), I personally believe God was forbidding only the creation of images for the purpose of worshiping them. Delighting in what is pure and good, and commemorating special occasions with photos, seems like an ideal way to make, share, and remember happy events!

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:1-6).

(Photo credits: A very special thank you to Leah and Justin Hamilton for letting me use their 4 outstanding photos of the eclipse, which they took in Central City, KY yesterday. You guys are awesome! The rest are from my home here in Michigan, where I shared a very happy afternoon with Brenda, Jane, and Bonnie. You guys are awesome too!)

The Milky Way from El Teide Mountain in Spain

 

Did you enjoy watching any fireworks last night? Here in America, most of us try to find some place where we can celebrate our Independence Day with a display of color and light bursting through the night sky. However, today I want to share something so glorious that it makes man’s handiwork seem like child play. If you have three minutes to invest in transcendent beauty, here’s a link to one of the most majestic and soothing videos on stars I’ve ever seen. It’s called “The Mountain,” by TSO photography, and it was filmed in April, 2011, although I just saw it recently. The photographer was visiting El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, which is one of the world’s best spots for filming stars (real stars!). On the website, he gives more details on how and what he did during that week of filming. Hope it thrills your soul as it has mine!

PS—You might want to shut it off as soon as it ends, because the one that started on my feed after this one ended was as bad as this one is wonderful. 😦  Sorry. I wish the internet was safe and pure, but it is not!

(First photo with Psalm 19:1 inscribed is the handiwork of Bob Hardee.)

The Wild Bergamot and The Bees: a Lesson in Unintentional Consequences

bergamot-and-black-eyed-susans-charylene-powersEven though many of the wildflowers have gone to seed in August, the wild bergamot plants are thriving. As I walk the trails at the John Luton Prairie Restoration Park, I immediately notice a great number of black and yellow bees. The buzzing bees traverse from flower to flower gathering the nectar they need to survive. My desire is to take advantage of the afternoon sun; photographing this beautiful prairie and all the inhabits that call it home.bergamot-by-charylene-powersThe Flower  – Wild Bergamot
The soft lavender flower heads of the wild bergamot plants look like a little fireworks display.  The unending historical medical uses for this plant include; poultices for boils and lacerations, as well as minty tea infusions for headaches, indigestion and colds.  The Ojibwe tribe placed these leaves in warm water baths for their babies. In addition to medical uses, the Indigo Buntings build their nests using the strong square wood stems. charylene-powers-birdThe Pollinators – Bees
It is estimated that a third of the food we eat is dependent on bee pollination.  Bees pollinate by carrying pollen on their bodies from the male part of the flower to the female part of the same kind of flower. The stiff hairs all over the bees’s bodies attract the pollen. The bees gather nectar from the flowers to eat. As the bees feed themselves, they provide a service that feeds all of us.bee-on-bergamot-charylene-powersObservations
Focusing on the task of gathering nectar, seems to be all consuming for the bees. When I move in to take my shot, the bees do not notice me, even though I am inches from them. I’m sure  my desire to get a close up of flower and bee will result in a stinging retort from the bees. However, they just keep doing what God has intended them to do. I need to be this focused with my assignments from God.

“So be careful to do what the Lord you God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deuteronomy 5:32, NIV)

Thoughts to Ponder
I think of the work of the bees and what they actually accomplish. They gather nectar to sustain themselves and pollinate our food source for us.  The work of pollination is really an unintentional consequence on their part. God has a bigger plan in mind for the work He has given to the bees. A plan that the bees cannot even imagine nor will they ever know. What about my assignments from God?  Am I as focused as the bees? Does God have a bigger plan in mind for the assignments He has given to me?  A plan that I – like the bees – cannot even imagine nor will I ever know.

bergamot-field-charylene-powers“As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV)

(Guest author: Charylene Powers. Thank you, Charylene. This is just beautiful!)

Trip Notes on an ArtPrize Journey

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-lots-of-kids-visit      If you’re thinking about ArtPrize 9, I’d like to encourage you to go for it, early-visitors-to-artprizeeven though last Friday marked the end of this year’s ArtPrize 8 adventure for me, and I feel a bit like my husband used to after a camping trip to Disney with our kids when they were young.hanging-the-mural-for-artprize For about the first week, he’d say, “NEVER AGAIN!” But, slowly he’d regain his energy, forget the problems, and remember all the joys on the journey. Within a month or two, he’d be daydreaming about our next big adventure. artprize-8-mural-installed-in-back-lobby-of-holiday-innThis has been my reaction to ArtPrize also. My mural didn’t win any awards, nor did anybody find it an indispensable addition to the decor of their institution.silvio-reinstalling-collagesSo, my trusty builder friend, Silvio, helped me bring all twenty collages home, and he’s hung them up to brighten Tanglewood Cottage. hanging-collages-at-homeThe last time our home decor was updated was twenty-three years ago when we moved to GR…so it’s about time for a facelift anyway.

variegated-rose-copy    Also…I’m already dreaming about a next possible project for ArtPrize 9!   🙂  artzprize-8-kathryn-w-armstrongs-mural-being-installed-at-the-holiday-inn        Am I discouraged? No. Wouldn’t it have been great to win? Of course. artprize-8-installation Was it worth all the effort? You bet!
trump-visits-artprizeAll sorts of people come to ArtPrize from everywhere!
larry-and-kari-visitingI talked to literally hundreds of people, including lots of friends.groups-of-school-children-visit-artprize-8and dozens of groups of school children.friends-stopping-by-kathryn-w-armstrongs-mural-for-artprize-8 Friends stopped by to encourage me, lisas-family-visits-artprizemany bringing members of their family whom I’d never met before.bonnie-visits-artprize-8Some friends brought friends while I was gone and left me sweet pictures! young-friends-visiting-artprizeChildren of friends stopped by with their school groups, kathi-with-old-and-new-friendssome bringing new young friends to meet me!julie-and-melissa-at-artprize I even had cousins from out of town visit, childhood-friend-at-artprize-8and I reconnected with some folks that I hadn’t seen since childhood! artprize-8Visitors took about 1,500 business cards (with John 3:16-17 on the back)joel-and-trevor-at-artprize-8 and over a thousand flyers.

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-artprize-8So, if you’ve got artistic creativity bubbling up inside, may I encourage you to go for it? Even if you don’t win a prize, you “win” in friendships, and you might be able to invest in the happiness of others. Besides all that, who knows? You could possibly end up with something you’ll treasure for your own home. 🙂

Want to know what my flyers said? Here it is:from-the-rising-of-the-sun“From the Rising of the Sun”

Einstein put it this way: “I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

My mural is one such tiny library of God’s works, initially inspired by the most glorious sunrise I’ve ever seen over my cozy lake home here in Grand Rapids. It was September 18, 2013, the first day of ArtPrize 5. Deep pinks reflected from the sky, shimmering across the lily pads and setting our lake ablaze with color. I ran outside and took dozens of photographs, thinking to myself, “This sunrise is God’s ArtPrize entry! He is the most magnificent artist of all, and nothing will compare with what He’s done.” Later, while enjoying all the creativity at ArtPrize with two of my closest friends, one of them asked spontaneously, “If you ever entered ArtPrize, what would you do?” None of the three of us had ever talked (or thought) about entering ArtPrize before, but it struck a chord in me. I answered without even thinking: “I’d make a collage of photographs trying to capture the rapture I felt this morning. I wish I could bring ‘God’s ArtPrize entry’ to ArtPrize!”

It’s taken three years of dreaming, praying, sorting, developing, and anguishing to bring to birth what eventually became a deep passion: to share the best of my photographed visual experiences as a gift to you. I searched my 180,000-photo collection, gathered from around the world over the past thirty years, and made a mural that I hope will fill you with the same warmth and wonder I’ve felt while drinking in the beauty of our great earth.

The title of the mural comes from Psalm 113:3, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” I’ve read that 99 percent of Americans report feeling some spiritual awareness and 84 percent claim religious affiliation worldwide, but if you came from a background anything like mine (with an atheistic father and an agnostic mother), you may not immediately go from experiencing the transcendence of beauty to worshiping the Creator.

The transition from believing in a Creator to worshiping the Lord came to me in a flash when I heard the gospel for the first time. The gospel is the good news that God is Light, Love, and Life. I’d never heard John 3:16–17 before: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” I was overwhelmed by the thought that God loved me personally, sinful and imperfect as I was (and still am) . . . that He loved me so much He sent his uniquely begotten, holy Son to earth to live a perfect, sinless life and die in my place to pay the price for my sins. This same Son, Jesus Christ, not only died, He rose again after three days, proving to the world that He has the power to give everlasting life to all who will believe in him and accept his gift of salvation, freely given to us but paid for by the precious blood of Jesus, the “Lamb of God.”

God makes this offer to each of us! If you’d like to know more, please ask me or visit my blog, “Summer Setting,” at kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com. I pray that you experience all of God’s best at ArtPrize 8!