Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Photo of the Month – The Gloriole

There are many, many things in nature that catch one’s eye, and a rarer few that catch one’s soul. One such thing caught me recently that delighted me so that I thought I’d share it with you.

Its common name is a sun halo, but there are other names for it that can even challenge pronunciation –aureole (aw-RAY-o-luh or AW-ree-oll) or gloriole GLO-ree-oll). It’s a refracted circle of light around the midday sun caused by ice crystals in high, hazy cirrus clouds, showing a faint rainbow coloring within the golden glow. And though I have written about it before (and that post may be found here if you’re interested), its recent appearance motivates me to a reprise. 

This atmospheric phenomenon is not even particularly rare, in fact happens with some frequency. And there are two good reasons why they are often missed. (Perhaps I should say three good reasons, as it first requires the curiosity to pay attention to one’s surroundings! There are SO many glories in God’s creation that are simply there for the enjoying if we would be watchful for them.) But here are the reasons even seasoned nature watchers can miss them. First, one needs to look nearly straight up, high into the midday sky, and craning one’s neck is often neither natural nor comfortable. Second, the kind of high haze that produces the halo also makes for a very, very bright sky, one from which we would typically avert our eyes, so our natural inclination is to avoid its brightness. I might not even have seen it myself if my daughter Maren had not texted me a photo from her home fifty miles away, asking if it was showing where we lived. Sharing this glory with her made the experience doubly delightful. 

The best way to find one is to look up occasionally on hazy, sunny middays to check quickly for the circle or the glow; if you see something promising, extend your fist to arm’s length to completely block the sun’s orb. There it’ll be, surrounding your hand. (You can also try this with the more common early or late day sun dogs, aka parhelia or mock suns; it gives you a better chance to appreciate their color as well.) Then enjoy the splendor! If you want to take a photo and find it awkward while holding your fist high in the air (!), position the sun behind a light pole, treetop, or even a building. I happened to be volunteering that day at our nearby historic Admiralty Head Lighthouse when my daughter texted, so ended up going outside and letting the tower do my blocking. (Forgive the vapor trails in the photos -- when I went back at a later break, the halo was gone.)

Fun fact: do you remember seeing religious art that depicts noteworthy holy people having a halo hovering over or around their head? These are also technically called an aureole or gloriole in religious tradition, based on the natural phenomenon. (Want to see a cute movie? Check out Millions,” a truly charming story of a modern day child who sees visions of historic Christian saints.) And here’s something else that could be fun to try: if you happen to see a gloriole while walking with a friend or loved one, have them get between you and the sun’s orb and position their head to block it; then get down low and far enough away to snap a photo with the halo seemingly surrounding their head. This will surely be a memorable expression of the high esteem in which they are held!

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear! (Matthew 13:43)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)

~~ RGM, June 15, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

From My Nature Journal on Earth Day: “…That Nothing May Be Lost”

I don’t want to make too much of it, but it seemed more than a coincidence. It was Earth Day, and I had been thinking a lot about that as the holiday approached. I was doing something completely common that day, practically an everyday experience, reading and thinking through a Bible passage. On that particular day the text happened to be an account jammed with familiarity, the Gospel text of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand, perhaps the most well-known miracle story in the Bible, one that many others and I recall from our earliest childhood days. 

But the story clips along familiarly. Late in the story Jesus has already done the unbelievable, the people have all been fed, and near the close of the account, as it is told, Jesus does a very pedestrian thing: he asks his helpers to gather up all the leftover pieces, “…that nothing may be lost.”  That phrase hit me in a curious way. I’ve seen it a million times, but perhaps never on an Earth Day. 

Consider this image of a vast number of people the likes of which you and I have only seen at a professional sporting or entertainment event. They eat until satiated, the account says. That’s a lot of food. But with all these people there is no doubt an enormous mess to clean up after lunch – fish bones, utensils and receptacles of sorts -- work done with twenty thousand or more oily hands (the text says ‘five thousand men;’ women and children would have at least doubled the number), fully two hundred thousand greasy fingers. And Jesus asks that the leftovers not be forgotten. I’m not sure what would have been done with them that day. The text doesn’t indicate it, though I have personally witnessed a feeding ministry in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where edible table scraps were gathered in large plastic buckets after hundreds had been fed, and then made available to the latecomers. Hunger is hunger.

But, “…that nothing may be lost,” Jesus said. 

Now, that was not a philosophy that would be new to Jesus. In numerous places he teaches about the value of lost things being found. Lost things are worth going after. Especially lost people. “I have come to seek and save the lost,” he even lovingly said. It seems his philosophy with people was the same as his philosophy with food scraps. Still, it was delightful to me on that Earth Day to reflect on the fact that Jesus was concerned that no food be wasted. 

So very much is lost in our consumer culture, so very much wasted. What if we lived by the philosophy that nothing of true value be lost? Yet, wherever humans have seemed to set foot, God’s creation almost always has degraded. 

God’s creation in its natural state, untrammeled by people, has an uncanny way also of not wasting anything. Poet, naturalist, author and innovation consultant Janine Benyus is the creative mind behind the philosophical concept of ‘biomimicry,’ defined as ‘the practice of learning from nature, then imitating what we find.’ It is a fascinating subject. (More can be found here.) But here is the crux of the concept in Benyus’ own words:

Nature runs on sunlight.

Nature uses only the energy it needs.

Nature fits form to function.

Nature recycles everything.

Nature rewards cooperation.

Nature banks on diversity.

Nature demands local expertise.

Nature curbs excesses from within.

Nature taps the power of limits.

In short, Benyus insists, nature ‘relentlessly creates conditions conducive to life.’ 

So does God, in lots of ways. And there’s no question in my mind whether or not God intended that very same thing with his creation. I believe God did. You and I, as co-sustainers with God of God’s good earth, are stewards, an old word that means we care for something as if it were our own, with the commitment to return it in as good or better of a condition than when we received it. 

It is not too late. Whether it’s Earth Month or not, take hold of the miracle that is creation. Honor it. Cherish it. And work to see that we lose nothing.

~~ RGM, April 24 2024

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Blowin’ in the Wind: “Seasons of Nature” -- by Ilana

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a periodic feature on my blog containing an assortment of nature writings – songs, excerpts, poems, prayers, Bible readings or other things – pieces written by others but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

I know I just did a “BitW” feature last month, and I cannot recall if I’ve ever shared a work by a family member, but I cannot resist avoiding either of these this month. My wife Gail and I just received a special gift from our eight-year-old granddaughter Ilana, and it tickled us so that I thought you might appreciate it as well. 

Each of our eleven grandchildren has their own special personality, and we love every one of them more than life itself. Ilana? She is a beautiful child full of the wonder of life, and of the love both of people and of God’s creation. She is also a ton of fun to be around in spite of the fact that she sometimes tells me I have been demoted to ‘the second-funniest person in the family’ behind our son, her Uncle Jarrett. But that never lasts long, and she typically and appropriately restores me to the throne quite quickly. (Sorry, Jarrett...)

And the girl DOES love God’s creation! It is always a pleasure to hike with her because she notices things, a key characteristic of nature lovers and all of us who find in nature an important spiritual pathway to God. She also calls herself Grandpa’s ‘nature companion’ whenever she and I hop on our ATV and pick up trash along the county road near our Michigan cabin. In other words, she is already concerned about Earth care. It’s therefore fitting that her name is even natural: ‘ilana’ is one of several Hebrew words for ‘tree,’ most often associated with oaks. That was not surprising when we first heard her name after her birth, as her father is a horticulturist, though I don’t know if that had anything to do with it at the time!

Upon our arrival for a visit last month, Ilana told Gail and me she had something for us, then with a shy smile gave us the hand-printed original of a poem she had written a few days before during a rest time she and her sibs take after lunch. We thought it precious, and so I present to you here Ilana’s “Seasons of Nature,” with her spellings and punctuation intact. Enjoy!

When the first snowflakes fall

When one by one they start then thousands shimer in the sky

When fluffy snow covers everything

When sparkling white they glisten megestic do they look

When few sounds nor animals are there only robins or none

Then do you know that Winter is here.

When the drifts are small yet get smaller each day

When the flowers peek from the wet soil

When the air is warm and damp

When animals wake up and continue their lives

When the areas are colerful 

Then do you know that spring is here

When the leaves on the trees turn green

When the air is schorching

When water is the want for outside fun

When ice cream and cold treats turn from a cream to a liquid faster than a hummingbird

When animals are everywhere trees, grass, sky

Then do you know that summer is here

When the air becomes colder and jackets required

When the leaves turn vibrant colers of yellow, orange and, bloodred

When nuts fall to the ground

When animals scurry to get food and store it for winter

When people start getting snow shovels and hot chochlate

Then do you know that Autum is here

I want to live nowhere else for

Seasons Make a year a year.

And, oh, I can’t forget her dedication from the back of the page: 



Papa and


Whom love

Me and Nature

Very much

With Love

Isn’t that delightful? The simple, fresh and wondering thoughts of a child… amazingly compelling. 

I don’t know if you’ve paid attention to a malady that is oft-touted by psychologists over the last two decades, but the dysfunction has to do with nature deprivation. Exposure to the natural world has been proven to improve mental, social and emotional health in profound ways, to say nothing of the spiritual dimension of celebrating the beauty of the Lord’s sanctuary. Nature outings are being prescribed as treatment for both adults and kids. We’d all do our children and grandchildren an enormous service by getting them outdoors regularly, establishing natural rhythms and opportunity for healing while they are young, whether they are super eager to go or not. 

Please excuse my diversion into preaching -- it’s an occupational hazard! So skip that paragraph, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and go back and read Ilana’s poem again. Then getcha self outdoors at the next possible opportunity.

~~ From a Grandpa ‘whom’ loves his grand-

children and nature very, VERY much, 

RGM, March 19 2024

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Blowin’ in the Wind: Mary Oliver -- “My Work is Loving the World”

("Blowin’ in the Wind" is a periodic feature on my blog containing an assortment of nature writings – songs, excerpts, poems, prayers, Bible readings or other things – pieces I haven’t written but that inspire me or give me joy. I trust they’ll do the same for you.)

I want to share with you today a poem from one of my favorites, Mary Oliver. My sister-in-law Beth recommended her to me one time when I was visiting her and my brother’s home. And what do you know? There just happened to be a book of Oliver’s poetry there at the bedstand in their guest bedroom. Once I found that my hosts went to bed a lot earlier than me, it gave me plenty of opportunity that visit to spend some time with her writing. 

Mary Oliver was an American poet who died in 2019. A Pulitzer Prize winner for her 1983 American Primitive, much of her work has a natural bent to it, which is what attracts me to it. Some of her critics call her too accessible, but to me, that is hardly a criticism but a compliment. When it comes to poetry, I need accessibility! Though not a woman of declared religion, I find not infrequent references to the divine or sacred in her work, which is welcome to me as a person of faith. Having written twenty books of poetry and six of prose, her collection Devotions is a compilation of many favorites written over a fifty year span from the 60’s to the twenty-tens, and would be a great place for new readers to begin.

The poem I share here is titled “Messenger” from her 2006 collection Thirst. Her life-long habit of solitary walks, and the place these played in her inspiration, may easily be imagined.

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.


Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters…


which is mostly standing still and learning to be


The robin, the rosehips.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing,

since all the ingredients are here,


which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

What are three of the important things that matter? Not only in natural observation but in life? Astonishment, joy and gratitude, she says. These not only build a life but call us deeper into creation care, because we care for the things we love. 

My work is loving the world. Not a bad gig. Sounds like Jesus.

~~ RGM, February 29 2024

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

From My Nature Journal: Is Creation Still Happening?

Sure, the typical default of us who believe that it truly was God who created all things is this sense that God did so at some point in the past, Genesis 1 and 2 and all. But I wonder about that sometimes. I like to think that creation is still happening. 

The deeper and deeper we go into the faraway cosmological mysteries of the universe and the nearby complexities of the human brain, for example, the more we seem to see how these things just eventually have a sense about them that we only discover a little at a time. To me, that is the revealing and unraveling of the creation story. And if that cannot be considered by some as creation still happening, perhaps it is at least simply God still creating something in us, and that not just for those with spiritual eyes (Matthew 13:13-15).

I watched the move Oppenheimer a couple nights ago. One cannot help but be impressed with humankind’s ability to garner previous knowledge in multiple disciplines and bring it to bear on a new creative challenge in crisis situations. Of course, what was created in that circumstance was a weapon of mass destruction with a checkered history since and an unpredictable and nerve-wracking future. Nevertheless, what was said could not possibly be done was done. What was not understood to make sense eventually made sense. We ‘discover’ things that border on or cross over into the realm of the unbelievable, but then, in time, they become not only believable but even logical. The imponderables become ponderable, then in turn plausible, comprehensible and finally understandable.

I recently read of a ‘new discovery’ of an enormous ring of galaxies reported to the American Astronomical Society. The laws of cosmological physics as we know them cannot account for such a thing as a ring of galaxies. The cosmos is relatively random, obeying known laws of nature such as gravity and inertia. It is supposedly just not possible for a ring of galaxies to exist, and this discovery challenges what seems to be known of the cosmos. Yet there it is a gazillion miles away.

And this is the way it seems again and again – not only in scientific cosmology but in medicine, technology, biology and the other sciences, sociology, exploration, you name it. 

Maybe even faith. Forgiveness given and received. Impossible? Relationships restored. Preposterous? Peacemaking. Outlandish? Healing of mind, soul or body. Absurd? Humans have the capacity to create monstrous things, but we also have the capacity to join in on what God creates for our good.

The Christian reformer Martin Luther once said, “God made the world out of nothing. It is only when we become nothing that God can make something out of us.”

Maybe creation never quits. 

For God chose… things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one can boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)

By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… All things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

~~ RGM, January 31, 2024

Sunday, July 16, 2023

From My Nature Journal: Call it Bloggers’ Block

Call it bloggers’ block or writers’ block or whatever, but anyone who regularly follows my blog has found that I haven’t posted during this calendar year. It certainly is not due to a flagging of interest in observing and celebrating God’s incredible creation. That is part of me. Appreciating nature is as strong a spiritual pathway for me as it has ever been. We get out into God's garden almost daily, hiked even today picking wild huckleberries along the way. 

So I’m not exactly sure what it is. Perhaps it’s what has seemed an unusual busyness of late, perceived or real, or the lack of motivation to do the work it takes to write. Both have likely impacted my inspiration. 

But I feel in my gut that what I am experiencing is just a hiatus. I’ll get back to it. Lord knows I have a thousand writing ideas I’ve gathered over the years tucked away in my files. Meanwhile, if you are missing it (as actually I am), of the 250 posts I’ve shared over these ten years, 60% of them are well-indexed. (I stopped that sometime back as well, and may choose to complete indexing before I begin writing again.) As your interest dictates, hit the index tab under the masthead and check the variety of subjects I’ve covered. I enjoy browsing them myself. 

And, by all means, get outside and take in God's Masterpiece.

~~ RGM, July 2023

Friday, December 30, 2022

From My Nature Journal: Flow

I stand atop a rickety footbridge, under which swiftly flows from the Canadian Rockies into its eastern foothills a cold and shallow but fairly wide stream, the Ghost River, northwest of Calgary. I have come to help lead a contemplative retreat for pastors who are in seasons of change or discernment, seeking direction and renewed vision from God. One cannot lead these kinds of retreats without also being moved to do much personal reflection and contemplation of their own. At least that is always true for me. 

The Ghost, at least in the fall season, runs through a fairly wide and open valley. The rocky streambed is easily four or more times the size of this late September flow. It must be quite a spectacle in the fury of spring runoff. But for now the river is completely contained beneath a small bridge, which may be moved into place on wheels over wherever the stream has finally chosen to make its path that particular summer. Crystal clear and certainly no more than a couple feet at its deepest, it runs swiftly, yet, because of the lack of large boulders, also quite smoothly, allowing the stream bottom to be almost plainly seen. It makes me feel I am soaring over the water, or even walking on it. 

Facing upstream, quickly on the flow comes. Then turning easily and facing downstream, quickly away the flow goes. I cannot help but think about the passage of time, coming and going, allegorically called to mind. Having done a pretty good job convincing myself that a person in his 60’s is not old, I cannot for the life of me convince myself the same as the next decade looms, now not far away. 

What seems to be flowing toward me as I face upriver? Aging, obviously, and what always seems the very speedy passage of time. Physical limitations will be coming on; that’s what older bodies do, something my doctor has been telling me since my thirties! Then there’s change, personal and corporate, local and global, always flowing toward me in one way or another. Cultural changes also come on steadily, some that delight me, others that surprise me, and a few that just plain make me mournfully sad. Unknown new relationships are coming my way. Yes, there are even new ministry opportunities that may flow to me that I cannot yet conceive. Heck, even death is certainly getting nearer, though hopefully not imminent, as unstoppable as the Ghost River. Of course, then, my heavenly reward is also nearing, though I confess I don’t think much about heaven, content with the fullness of life God gives me now and the ongoing mission God has called me to. And finally, my ultimate legacy flows toward me, where everything I have labored toward will be behind me, all of it tested for ultimate value; whether it will show itself as ‘silver, gold and precious stones, or wood, hay and stubble’ (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-12) remains to be known. 

These are the things that flow toward me. 

Turning around, what seems to be flowing away from me? Certainly ministry as I have heretofore known it these near fifty years. Similar to above, time always drifts downstream, along with my virility. Definitely. In some ways, my progeny seem to be rushing away, as well they all should, on into their own lives and futures. Thankfully, some of the the ‘wood, hay and stubble’ of my lifelong labors I can already see fading in the distance, some of them things I thought so important at the time. And then there’s culture again; it seems also not only to be rushing toward me but moving away, as I have a more difficult time keeping up with it all. And lastly, of course, old dear ones are flowing away, passing, people whom I have loved profoundly; yet by faith they are also in my future, me flowing strangely toward them. 

Still, no matter what is flowing toward me or away, coming or going, I find myself in a settled place. Perhaps this particular Ghost is Holy. 

An old hymn text occurs to me…

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace, 

Over all victorious in its bright increase:

Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day; 

Perfect, yet it growth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed, 

Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

~~ RGM, September 29 2022