by Al Tucker
Each October, like many photographers, I enjoy making a pilgrimage to Dolly Sods in Tucker County. This rugged terrain has a natural beauty that is unmatched in any other place along the East Coast. Blueberry plants turn a crimson red amongst the flag pine trees, verdant laurel bushes, and many rock formations. The chiseled flag trees are shaped by the constant wind that stunts their limbs on one side while on the leeward side, they grow to their full abundance. The vistas of autumn colored hardwood trees along the ridge lines, down the mountainsides and deep in the valleys create the most stunning scenes for photographers and visitors to behold. It is no wonder West Virginia is called Almost Heaven.
It is such a blessing to be up on that mountain to see the sunrise over the faraway peaks and experience God’s glory being revealed across the landscape. There was a time when my motivation to be there was to take a photo of that beauty so I could win a blue ribbon or similar worldly accolade. Now, my motivation to be there, surrounded by that majesty, is to experience the presence of God. A few years ago, I decided to drop to my knees to pray; to give thanks for the blessing to be able to come to such a beautiful spot, to be able to afford the equipment to capture its splendor, and to ask for His guidance in my remaining days. Since that time, I feel He has been shaping me like that weathered flag tree, to serve the purpose He has for me. I now know why He stayed so close to me over the years patiently trying to get my attention to “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Each year, I can’t wait to get up on that mountain to give thanks for enriching my life and continuing to seek His guidance.
It is getting more difficult each year for me to climb up those rocks or down a ravine to get the shots that I see. Likewise, my stamina wanes keeping me from going at the pace that I like. Some of my friends suggest that I slow down, kick back and relax. I often thought my golden years would be played out on golf courses. However, I lost my ability to putt and lost my love of the game. Who would have thought that would have been the best thing that could ever have happened to me? Rather than slowing down, I find life to be more exhilarating, seeking purpose, not comfort. I want to be like those whom the Psalmist writes “They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green” (Psalm 92:14).
As an engineer, I like to understand the fundamentals of things. To help me fully understand His purpose for me, I turned to the Bible and a Christian men’s study group. A couple of my greatest learnings from being in the Word, are “my faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21), and that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Each week, I try to find a “takeaway” from our studies or from church sermons to apply to my life as I strive “to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Peter 3:18).
I am so blessed and grateful in that He is ever faithful in revealing how I can put my faith in action. It is well with my soul.
Feature Image: Backyard Photography, Al Tucker