catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 10 :: 2011.05.20 — 2011.06.09


Pictures everywhere

I see pictures everywhere. My camera sits on my hip, strap set over my shoulders and as I walk, I see colors, images, faces and angles that bring to life the world around me. Most of the time, the things that compel me to aim and shoot are ordinary: a wall with exposed brick; a tattered, old barn door; a field stretching for miles with dry stalks and barren colors. My eyes move from point to point, like radar, hoping for just the right moment, with just the right mix of perspective.

Sadly, life for most people has become tangled in a rush of movement. Deadlines, schedules packed with appointments and busyness for the sake of busyness leave us walking through life in chaos, spinning us in a fog with no larger sights to see. Often we are obligated by urgent, sometimes pointless demands that narrow our existence down to the here and now. The present presses in hard and steals our vision of future things, higher things. In the meantime, we wait and desperately want for more. In the unsatisfying swirl, something valuable gets lost. A lack of beauty leads to a lack of depth. Surface living becomes the acceptable, empty reality for those who fall into this trap.

The sights we see are profound when our eyes are keen and sharp, scanning for artwork in real life. Just yesterday, I made eye contact with a fat, wooly sheep on a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Through my zoom lens, the blades of grass around his small hooves and the mess of matted wool made him appear twice the size he really is, and this brought a smile to my face. In Cape May, New Jersey, on a quiet bird walk, I was mesmerized by the muted colors of the landscape, reminding me of the dreary and haunting paintings of Andrew Wyeth that pull me in as I stare at his strange images. The tall, dry, cattails that will be reborn in the next month or so, were brittle and fragile, but peaceful and breathtaking in their own right. To see the red-tailed blackbird, we had to wait quietly. Silence seems to be the best way. Cautious investigation. Listening with great care and attention. Looking with eyes wide and alert. All senses activated by the simplicity of nature and the higher lessons she exposes. More often than not, the simplest snapshots and the most basic combinations of hues are lost, unappreciated and missed altogether. We have gone from looking up and out and all around with intentional eyes, to looking TV’s, video games and computers in dark, indoor rooms. This exchange is powerful and devastating.

The Word of God speaks of stillness, the tilling of soil, longsuffering, waiting, listening and seeking. True salvation is like the man who found a treasure in a field, went and sold all he had to purchase the field in order to have the treasure in his grasp. It is quite reasonable to compare our believing faith to hard work, training, searching and the slow growth of a seed in fertile soil. All of these word pictures remind us that we must dig; we must keep a sharp mind and a clear vision. As I have grown older, it is more and more obvious to me, that the real world is the spiritual world, but we have stopped scanning our daily lives for the presence of the Divine. Much like the pictures all around us, the messages of God’s truth, character and salvation, are budding like new trees in spring. But as we do so easily, and so naturally, we turn “indoors” and begin to settle for the simple, stripped down message of our faith. What started with the prophets and led to a death and resurrection has been depreciated to an image, a label, a title to describe what we believe. Sadly, we miss the point, and most of all, the beauty of this treasure. Our vision atrophies and we become blind to the glory of God, God’s Kingdom and the purpose of our lives. Faith is seeing in pictures, looking all around for evidence of the sacred in the thread of the ordinary. One of our best disciplines is to turn off the small stories around us that bear no weight and look instead for the mist of Heaven lining earth’s surface before our very eyes.

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