Making Photographs

 Guest post by Thomas Jay Oord A theologian. With a camera. Exploring nature. In Chicago. Those four elements introduce intriguing possibilities and enlightening experiences. I know, because I am that theologian-photographer who made photographs in Chicago. Making Photographs I say I “make” photographs. Good photography often results when a photographer works from a vision and uses…

Stealing Lilacs

Yep. It’s come to this. I’m stealing lilacs from the parking lot of a Subway sandwich shop. This was after I nearly caused a multiple car pile-up just off Interstate 55 because I was looking for places to pull over and “borrow” blooming purple lilacs from the roadside bushes.  How did it come to this?…

Sluggish Faith: Act Two

Recall act one from the last post. Woman walking to work. Finds slug. Pokes it with a stick. Lessons learned about noticing connections, full-bodied faith, and hanging on. Sluggish faith clings on. Act two. The camera pulls back on the scene. Act one was the close-up. The focus was drawn close, an intimate portrait of…

Sluggish Faith: Act One

When water and worms emerge on Chicago sidewalks after April rains, walking is like a game of hopscotch. On a recent Monday morning, I half-stepped, half-jumped my way to get to my writing group. Most Mondays, the walk comes after the marathon-sprint to get the kiddos dressed, fed, in the car, and on the way…

Roadkill and Resurrection Animals

My first urban nature piece was about an encounter with an opossum in my backyard with my toddler. We peered at one another for a long time through the window of our patio door. No one really knew what to make of the other. The encounter was suppose to tell a story about the about the opossum…

Squirrels as Spiritual Icons

A warm welcome to photographer/theologian Thomas Jay Oord. Thank you for your guest post! As far as I know, no scripture or great piece of spiritual literature praises the squirrel. We find references to foxes, eagles, snakes, and locusts. Judah is a lion. Doves are harmless. Sparrows have value, even though not much. But nothing…

Dog Days of Winter

Dog days are suppose to be reserved for the summer, but I feel them in my heart in the gray, windy, last gasps of Midwestern winter. Dog days of winter. When the wind still bites at the tips of noses and fingers. Before the sun has returned in glory to the sky. Before the warmth…

Singing with Owls

The images for this post were taken at night in Nichols Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago (photo credit: Dr. Thomas Oord). For years, I lived in an apartment that overlooked this very spot. But, I never would have seen it like this, not at night. My backyard was simply unavailable after the…

Wow, Maple Trees

In our house, bedtime prayers follow Anne Lamott’s essentials: “Help. Thanks. Wow.” It’s not because this is the best or only way to pray, but for us it takes a very abstract practice into a lived liturgy. Help. Thanks. Wow. Some days, we can manage that. However, we usually begin with thanks. On a good…

For the Birds

Today, we are taking 15 minutes to count birds in our backyard. We are joining thousands of amateur birders in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is held annually in February as a grand citizen science project. Here are some of the questions that participation in the bird count by folks around the world can…

Wild Worms

In my calendar, it is Ash Wednesday. The first day of Lent begins as an explicitly earthy church day. Christians, sometimes after a day of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday pancakes and doughnuts, launch the season of Lent with a reminder that our stories are intimately connected to the dirt. “Remember you are dust and to dust…

Linnaeus for Lent

Here’s the idea. Take approximately 40 days to get better acquainted with about 40 species in the Chicago-land area. Why do I see robins, the harbingers of spring, in mid-winter? What are the names of the trees that I pass on my walk to work? What is with All. The. Geese? Could I really see…