Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. ~ John 14:21 ESV
Writing this post was a bit of a dare. I'll jump if you'll jump, Betsy and I timidly agreed. It can seem so self-serving to ask others to affirm you. And yet - do any of us want to waste time pursuing fruitless endeavors?
The responses you kindly left here and elsewhere have been beautiful grace gifts. I hold each of them close and humbly accept the common threads and high standards they demand. Thank you - each of you - for your passion-clarifying words.
The grace and clarity continued to unfold on Sunday, with a gift that I'm processing still - a small and yet peculiar manifestion as though it came to me directly from the hand of God Himself...and I risk being misunderstood as I consider these words from Spurgeon ...
The Lord Jesus gives special revelations of himself to his people. Even if Scripture did not declare this, there are many of the children of God who could testify the truth of it from their own experience. They have had manifestations of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in a peculiar manner, such as no mere reading or hearing could afford.
Except for the dust cover, the gift - a book - seemed brand new. "It was an inexpensive Tallahassee thrift store find, but it had "Pat" written all over it," Kevin - who knew nothing of that self-serving post of mine - explained. He placed the large, thin hardcover book in my hands just as the morning worship service began, and I ran my fingers along the title: Psalmist With A Camera.*
In awe I opened the cover...
Photography, like all art, expands our vision. As the psalmist sang praise with words, Gail Rubin used her camera to capture her vision of the beauty and inner harmony she saw in the flora and fauna of Israel. When she set forth on what she would later describe as a "biblical safari" to photograph all the birds and animals mentioned in the Bible and still present in the Holy Land, she began to acquaint herself with the source for her project, the Hebrew Scriptures.
Thumbing through the glossy pages to the back cover, tears threatened to spill over as I continued to read...
Gail Rubin's photographs "...are epiphanies of nature, assisted by the hand of a sensitive photographer with an artist's vision."How manifold are thy works, O Lord!...the earth is full of thy creatures. ~ Psalm 104:24
Could that be me, Lord? A sensitive photographer with an artist's vision?
I read more about the sensitive Gail Rubin as we drove home from church. She was a young Jewish woman from New York - an editor who blossomed into a photojournalist. In June of 1969, she traveled to Israel on vacation, fell in love with the country and decided to extend her stay. Still in Israel after the 1973 war, she concluded that the pace of photojournalism did not suit her shy, contemplative personality, so she began to concentrate on nature photography and to work on projects with the Israel Nature Reserves Authority. On March 11, 1978, while photographing rare shore birds near the beach at Ma'agan Michael north of Tel-Aviv, she was murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the age of 39. I grieve that she died without knowing Jesus and the whole of Scripture beyond the Hebrew prophets and psalms, and yet I think if I had known her, she'd be the closest of friends.
All afternoon I continued my search to know more about Gail - her all-too-short life, her photography, and the circumstances of her tragic death. Buried in Union Field Cemetery in Queens, New York, it's on her gravestone that the words Psalmist with a camera are inscribed.
In the introduction to Gail's posthumously published book, Rabbi Michael Graetz wrote...
Her work...has the magical quality of inspiring the viewer, so that he will walk in the fields and see the world as he had never seen it before. One who has seen her photographs can never again read the prophets or the psalms without visualizing the harmony and beauty they reveal. In that sense she joins in the long history and tradition of biblical exegetes whose insights illumine the Scriptures. With the psalmist she says, "I will sing praise to my God while I have any being."
As I remain in awe of how this thrift store find came to be my treasured gift, I think of Ann Voskamp and her response to discovering Eucharistique in the monastic bookstore in Paris...
Back by old wooden stairs climbing up stone wall, standing in a pool of afternoon sun, I pick up a CD of hymns. I read and I shake my head in wonder. Can that really be the title?** p.220
...and I, too, shake my head in wonder - at the timing and that God would so lovingly speak affirmation to me - a peculiar manifestation - through a thirty-year-old book in a second-hand store hundreds of miles from home.
*Rubin, Gail (1979) Psalmist With a Camera, Photographs of a Biblical Safari New York, Abbeville Press, Inc.
**Voskamp, Ann (2010) One Thousand Gifts Grand Rapids, Zondervan