Instead of focusing on ugliness, despair, and evil, I am trying mightily to find that love - that beauty - in God's creation. In doing so, I came across some pictures that illustrate that wondrous and transcendent beauty that is ultimately created and held in its very existence through God's own will. I do hope you will find that same beauty that I see in the following pictures accordingly.
This is a picture I personally took several years ago from in front of the picture window over the altar of the Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park. I commented to some other visitors there at the time how it must be difficult for any pastor to come up with a sermon to surpass the beauty of this scene above the altar. One older lady said that she was an Episcopal Minister that had preached there before and that I was indeed correct.
This is a picture of the Milky Way over the Anasazi Indian ruins at Hovenweep National Monument. The stars anywhere on a cloudless night away from the small town lights in Southern Utah are simply magnificent! They truly make me feel small, and yet very special, to be a part of this unfathomable universe God has created for us.
Michelangelo's masterpiece, "The Creation of Adam", which he painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is truly amazing and beautiful! Seeing this painting in person in the Vatican is definitely something that I would love to do before the end of my earthly days.
The next picture is of a coral reef and it is truly breathtaking in it vibrancy. It almost feels other-worldly in its beauty. Years ago when I was in the Navy I was lucky enough to be stationed in both Puerto Rico and then Okinawa, Japan. Both places had beautiful places where I snorkeled and saw just such amazing reefs and the life that they sustained.
A Monarch butterfly was flitting around in the warm Autumn sunshine when my wife noticed it and took this picture down by Capitol Reef National Park in Southern Utah a few years ago. There was an ever so slight breeze and the warm sunshine was dappled on the ground as it was filtered by the huge cottonwood trees above us that lined our wooden path. Among that scene, several of these beautiful butterflies would occasionally lite on the vibrant yellow flowers swaying in that gentle breeze.
The beauty of the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist which was given to us by Christ himself at the last supper is something that sustains me and many millions of Christians throughout his beautiful world. What could be more beautiful than a God that would lay down his life simply out of love for someone like me?
Another one of my most favorite places on earth is the serenely beautiful Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park in western Montana. There is something about this place that simply brings peace to my soul.
The stunningly beautiful site of Machu Picchu was built by the Incas around 1450 in the mountains of Peru. Visiting this location someday is definitely on my bucket list. A friend of mine will be venturing here later this summer! I am very excited for her and hopes she takes lots of pictures to share!
This world's beauty is also reflected by many of the people that live on our planet. This picture is of my oldest granddaughter when she was just a baby. She has grown up to be a teenager now and is one of the most beautiful people I know. Her spirit is so full of love, light, and God's joy. Those are the things that make her so beautiful. That said, she is also exceptionally beautiful on the outside too.
When I was a boy and a teenager, I spent a lot of time camping and hiking throughout many wild and gorgeous places throughout the Pacific Northwest. One of my favorite spots was around Mt. Jefferson in the Cascade Mountain range in central Oregon. It was through my hiking and exploration of such beautiful places that I learned to love and come to deeply appreciate the natural wonders of our world that we must ensure are secured and protected for all of mankind to marvel at in future generations.
This is another picture that my beautiful wife took several years ago on our trip back from exploring the beautiful red rock country in southern Utah. The clouds that day were truly amazing and seemed to be like giant tufts of cotton that God had just suspended in the warm Fall sky.
This is a picture of another of my favorite places on earth. (I know - I know - I have lots of favorite places!) I took this picture of Bryce Canyon on that same trip as the one from the picture above. God's artistry as displayed in the beautiful sand stone spires, called hoo doos, is something that I have never seen anywhere else in this beautiful world.
Another item that I have on my bucket list is to someday travel far enough north in Alaska to be able to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I have always been fascinated by this atmospheric phenomenon.
Another place of beauty where I spent plenty of my teenage years was along the magnificent Oregon Coast. I have always appreciated the rugged landscape of the coastline throughout much of the Pacific Northwest far more so than the over-crowded sandy beaches of southern California. God's handiwork is often on display in the rock formations and the crashing breakers that line the Oregon and Washington coastlines.
I never get tired of seeing God's painting of magnificent sunsets. From my time growing up in Oregon to the present time as I watch the setting of the sun over The Great Salt Lake and the Oquirrh Mountain range from my back deck, I always feel a sense of awe and wonder. Below is scene of black-eyed Susan's in a field as the sun sets in the distance. I don't know where this picture was taken, but it is a common scene around here and could have easily come from this area.
God has also graced humankind with many great gifts and talents. Some of those talents have been used to make beautiful structures and works of architecture, in particular in houses of worship to him. The below picture is that of the the altar at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The superlative detail in the craftsmanship is truly beautiful.
Sometimes there is even a sense of beauty in the destructive and creative forces of God in nature. Such is the case during an eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii! While it would be unsettling to be close to this eruption, the beauty of it is certainly evident.
And finally for my last picture of beauty! The Catholic Church teaches that God calls each of us to a vocation. Vocation in this context doesn't simply mean a "job", but rather a specific life calling. Those vocations are meant to impart God's graces and happiness for the individual that strives to live that vocation faithfully. The vocations that one can be called to are to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders as a Priest, Deacon, or consecrated religious man or woman. Further, one can be called to the vocation of lifelong sacramental marriage. Finally one can be a consecrated single person.
My vocation for the last 23 years of my adult life was that of a married person. God blessed me with the most beautiful woman, both in her spirit and in her countenance, to be my beloved wife. With her passing, I am praying and discerning which new vocation he is calling for me to follow. I was blessed with such beauty in my marriage with my Jenny. I am sure that whatever my future vocation holds for me, God will also bless me with much beauty to be found within it as well!
Lastly, I pray that each of your reading this will listen in your heart to God's calling to find and live your vocation in order that you too will be able to see the beauty that is so easily found and evident everywhere in God's creation! Amen!