The cathedral group overlooks the snake river as a fiery sunset lights up the sky. To the north, cascade canyon empties into Jenny lake, and to the south, death canyon to Phelps lake. Grand Teton rises majestically in the middle, with several other of the highest peaks in the park, dominating the skyline.
I am thankful for the faithfulness of God and for His mercy. This has been a year of learning His attributes, yet not just knowledge, but a real having to fall upon them.
The more I grow, the more I realize I have so much to learn. But experiencing His love and mercy towards me, however undeserved, the more I realize how much I need Him.
The Christian walk is a paradox.
This particular evening of this photo was unexpected. The trip was coming to a close, and I was ready for some Chinese food. Jackson Hole has some of the best Chinese food in my humble opinion. But being so close to the park, I had to say goodbye to my favorite place outside of home and among believers.
Despite knowing the crowds would be ever present, I suggested we just go to Schwabacher's Landing, a very beautiful, peaceful, but popular location in Grand Teton National Park.
Schwabacher's is located at a calm stretch of the Snake River that winds through the valley below the Teton range where reflections of the mountains can be seen glimmering in the water. Ducks, beaver and moose (I've yet to see one there in person) visit the area.
Despite the plethora of photographers, I thankfully found a spot overlooking the river, with the cathedral group, which is the central section of peaks in the Teton range, sillouheted by the setting sun.
The sky quickly lit up like fire both towards the peaks, and towards the east. It was a beautiful evening, and a gift. It causes me to think of Gods kindness.
I may cover His faithfulness in more detail in a future post, but for now I just want to look back at that trip and the gifts of God.
Photographically it was almost perfect for me. But one thing I lacked was courage and love to witness much. But I am thankful for an opportunity the next morning as we were leaving to return home to at least share something.
We got to spend some time in the shuttle from our car rental to the airport talking to a young family from the south. Once the shuttle moved, that's when it hit me (not the shuttle, a thought), share a tract. Thankfully I had in my wallet some fun tracts from Living Waters. I prayed and had to force myself, but when we stopped at the airport I shared the tract with the families little girl. The tract is an optical illusion, so I figured I'd do a little 'magic trick'. I think she liked it, and I gave the tract to the mother.
Yeah I know, it's not the most exciting or dramatic story, no one got saved on the spot, no revival, but I trust that God in His faithfulness will bring about whatever fruit He chooses in that episode.
I wish I was more faithful, but His faithfulness is perfect.
So it was a trip where I got to experience first hand several of the attributes of God, a theme that seems to be prevelant this year for me. I'm thankful.
Honestly though is the character of God not experienced always? His goodness to all, His grace in salvation? His majesty alluded to in a sunrise, even His wrath displayed in reminders of the fall and the flood. His love, His mercy, all shown to us that He has saved by grace through faith in Christ. To God be the glory, for He is faithful.
No I suspect this is not, if the Lord in His grace sustains me and doesn't tarry, the end of me talking about His attributes, but it seemed right to post about the last few hours of my recent stay in the beautiful and inspiring west.
"Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
“Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org”
Hiking alone in bear country is a little nerve wracking. It's probably not the most advised idea in the world, but being a landscape photographer it kind of comes with the territory. During such an experience, you have a lot of time to pray and you might take advantage of it, because if you're like me at all, you're probably not going to be all that calm.
This particular morning began early, about 2:45 A.M. An hour and a half drive or so later and I was dropped off and ready to hike, sort of. I'd never been alone in grizzly country at 4ish in the morning so I wasn't sure how to feel.
But as I began to walk I got a chance to pray and think and frankly, repent. The day before was the flight in, and it was a long day. I was grumpy and anxious for a lot of it. The details of the trip were stressing me.
The irony of it is that I spent a portion of the flight looking in my Bible at the goodness of God.
I'm sure we've all heard the phrase, in some form or another, "God is good always, and God is always good". It's nice, catchy, but I hope we take stock in what we're really saying.
"The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works." Psalm 145:9
Knowing this, I still fret and worry and struggle. Details.... Does anyone else worry about the details?
Yet God in His infinite wisdom works them out. In spite of me. And this particular morning as I hustled and slowly stopped being afraid of Yogi, for a brief moment, my mind returned to the goodness of God.
Yeah no patting myself on the back, it's not like it lasts. But in my seeming inability to trust in His goodness, He is still faithful.
He in His goodness blessed me with a beautiful and solitary place. I could hear the bugle of elk, see the fog rising above the lake, and the first hints of light on the face of a distant mountain. He even kept me from falling into freezing cold water, and from getting attacked by a grizzly. You might laugh, but both were thoughts I was thinking!
And that was just the start of the trip, and the blessings continued. I don't know why other than to say that God is good.
But is He not still good in the darker times? He is. And as I usually do, I seem to go back to Romans 8:28... You should know this one by now from reading my blogs.
He works all things for what? For good.
Ephesians 1:3 tells just how good He has been to us.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,"
And of course, He displayed His goodness at the cross, providing salvation for those that would believe.
So do I still worry? Yeah I do, and I fret, and I get lost in the details, and I need His help to overcome, desperately. But God is good always, and He is always good.
"Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation."
A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. It's a nice thought, but a picture doesn't always tell the whole story. I can't explain why, but it seems that every time I go on these travels, it becomes more than just a get away or a photo excursion.
The Christian life is a journey of challenges from within and without, and I am not an exception to this. The sinful flesh rears its ugly head all too often. Discouragement is another issue that creeps in. Whether it's from personal, local, national, or from the world, it can be easy to lose sight of our hope in Jesus, and focus instead on the problems of the day.
What does all of this have to do with this photograph? Well I want to point out a few things I think we can learn from the experience surrounding this shot.
1. The Joys of Heaven
Never have I had to push through as much as I did doing this hike. I started late, and was rushing to get to this point before the sun came up. It being an unofficial trail (nope not giving the name on this one, sorry, I'm siding with the people in charge there, who did say I could go, but I know they don't encourage it and so I won't either), it was not easy. I'm an east coast boy, so 9000 feet elevation is hard on the lungs. Oh have I ever mentioned I'm not exactly in shape? Yeah that plays into this too. Thankfully I wasn't alone. There was a group of guys that caught up to me and even passed me for a little. Most importantly though I have my Father with me.
If I wasn't rushed, it might've been easier, but I had to push through the wanting to quit before making it to the top. I almost fell while rock scrambling, I cut my hand, kind of wanted to puke, and well, yeah, I'm not making this sound fun. Honestly, it wasn't.
I asked God to give me hind's feet, referring to a verse that I don't think was meant for me in context (Habakkuk 3:19a), but it came to mind and it made sense. I need His help totally. I sung Leaning on the Everlasting Arms under my breath as I went.
Finally I neared the top. As I did, it's like all the fatigue and pain went away. I stood instead, amazed at the spectacle before my eyes as clouds hit by the rising sun covered the lit (lit by light, I'm not trying to be chill, or cool, or whatever it is the young people say now) face of a mountain above a beautiful lake, over 9000 feet in the air. The hunger and thirst went away and I tossed down my backpack, pulled out my camera and tripod, and hurried to get a shot, being quite thrilled along the way.
This life is hard. I think this year more than a lot emphasized that. But I know based on the promises of God in His Word, that one day every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more sorrow or despair. No more sin. And at the same time, all of that heartache will fall away paling dramatically in comparison to the awesome and amazing presence of our God, with Whom we who are in Christ will spend eternity.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4
2. The Joys of His Gifts
At the same time, God does provide us with some wonderful gifts. Our situations and circumstances are ever changing, but He does not, and we can trust that about Him.
"Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." James 1:17
3. It's Not About Us
On a personal level I've been battling some self centeredness. Combine that with indecisiveness and you've got an unhealthy duo. But with it being brought to my attention, plus my own awareness of it, well, I have to go to God with it. It seems these kinds of things get brought up when I'm away.
Yet in my sin and mess and humanness, God is strong, and He has been so kind and merciful to me. He is faithful and uses feeble people for His kingdom. This life is not for our glory, but for His. He works all things for our good and for His glory. Our good isn't always a bed of roses. We have to deal sometimes with our own sinful nature, and trust me, it likes to stay around.
But God is gracious, incredibly so.
4. God is Sovereign
Another thing I believe God was showing me, and I hope I learned (dubious), is that He is totally and utterly sovereign.
There is not one aspect of this life that is outside of His control, and while I know that can open up a can of worms for some people, combining that fact with the rest of His character, we know that in all things He is working things out for the good of those that love Him.
As I said in the previous point that isn't always rainbows and kittens and puppy dogs. Sometimes it's grit and pain and struggle. Because He is molding us into the image of His Son.
That all being said, life in general is under His hand. As a photographer all I can do is my part, learn my trade, be in place, compose, and wait for the weather. If God brings about or allows a beautiful sunrise, well great. But if He chooses not to, is that not still the best He has for me? That concept is really not easy for the believer, especially when trials come, and I mean real serious ones.
Yet Romans 8:28 is in the Bible. And the Bible is sufficient and true. No I can't tell you it's easy, I'm no one anyway. But I know that He provides for His own, and His provision is best.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
This particular morning, for reasons known to Him, He chose to give me the strength to get to the top of the hill, and to provide glorious light on the face of the mountains. He could've just as easily chosen not to. He is good, this I know, and either way was His best for me. Again, this is not an easy concept, I'm just sharing things I've been thinking about these past few days.
And so it all came to a head. My sin, God's forgiveness. My failings, God's providence. My lack of any real control, and God's total control. And so when I say that this was a physical, but even more so spiritual and emotional experience, you get a glimpse as to what I mean.
Does a picture say a thousand words? Sure. However the heart and soul behind it is not always heard or felt. But I hope that the glory and grace of God shines through in this image that pales in its attempt at showcasing the beauty of Him and the beauty He created.
by: Jeremey Voit
Jeremey is a photographer based in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. He loves travel, nature, and experiencing and sharing the beauty of God's creation.