Hope Kindled by God’s Creation

“The land is as the garden of Eden before them,  and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.”  Joel 2:3

As we look about, it can seem all is being laid waste in our society. A virus cancelling church services, political rivalries, racial unrest, lawlessness… all so troubling. But while paddling through the swamp during the coronavirus quarantine, suddenly the Holy Spirit caused hope to spring up in my heart as I watched an Anhinga perched upon a young cypress tree. God’s creation – and God’s Word – restored hope in my heart!

Anhinga bird perched atop a cypress tree with Spanish Moss; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

The naturalists of old write of towering cypress – some as high as 120 feet – standing guard for centuries in the Okefenokee Swamp. But all that changed in the early 20th century. All were laid low. It began in 1909: the pristine Okefenokee began to bustle with cacophony of industry as logging skidders, sawmills and railroad tracks invaded the Swamp. The trees – and the birds! – were gone.

C.T. Trowell wrote, “Systematically, the Hebards extended their logging operations across the Okefenokee. Extending south from Hopkins to Cravens Island in 1912, they reached Pine Island and Mixons Hammock by 1915. Within a year they were cutting the timber between Mixons Hammock and Minnies Island and the railroad was extended across Jones Island to Billys Island. Between 1922 and 1926, they logged the cypress around Floyds Island.”

A young Cypress Tree reaches toward the sky in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

Would the Okefenokee ever recover? Cypress trees grow very slowly. At a reported growth rate of only about a foot per year in their early stages, it could take 300 to 500 years for the Cypresses of the Okefenokee to once again tower over the habitat as they did prior to 1909. But with the establishment of the Okefenokee as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937, the healing has begun.Today, there are already some scenic waterways through the Okefenokee – tall cypresses mirrored in the tanin-darkened waters – that hint at these former days.

“But fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm.”  Joel 2:21-25

The birds have returned! Swallow-tailed Kite; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May, 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

So if there is hope of restoration kindled in the heart upon looking at a young Cypress tree, how much more for our society upon looking at God’s Word! There is a hope that things laid bare can one day live again and be renewed to their former glory. If not in this lifetime, certainly in the next.

As Christians, we cease not to pray for our nations, nor forget the restoration that awaits in the New Earth for those who trust and hope in Jesus Christ!


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Joy in the Sharing

Psalm 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation

Female Northern Cardinal; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March, 2020 ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

“What kind of a bird is that?” a friend at church asked excitedly while pointing toward a nearby tree. It was just a typical female Northern Cardinal, yet I experienced a spark of joy as I provided the answer! Not because a cardinal is an overly exciting bird, but simply because someone asked me about a bird!

Over time, things can become stale. When migration ends and we’re left with the usual summertime residents, birding can become boring. As our bird lists get longer, lifers are harder to come by and our joy wanes.

In much the same way, our Christianity can also become lukewarm over time. The joy fades with the same Bible reading plan year after year; the same pastor standing in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday; the same few members doing all the work. Church activities become just another check box on the daily to-do list. Is that you?

In the book Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White, bird guide Carlos A. Bethancourt gives us a clue how to break that boredom and restore joy: “When I see the joy and delight on the faces of the birders – some first-timers to the neotropics – I often think back to my first sighting of that species, and it’s nearly as exhilarating for me as if it were my lifer as well. My excitement is in the sharing.

The Lord Jesus commissioned us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” This command wasn’t solely for the growth of the church, but for our own sakes! Jesus knows the exciting rejuvenation and joy that we’d experience in sharing the gospel. There is nothing better than stepping out in faith and sharing your testimony with a stranger to exhilarate your Christian walk. Has your Christianity become lukewarm, stale, or boring? The joy is in the sharing!

Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

By Design: Woodpeckers

“I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall.” Obviously, that’s an expression we use to describe a pointless pursuit that accomplishes nothing but pain. However, it is an action that a woodpecker does on purpose… and apparently by design!

“God’s plan for the world stands up, all his designs are made to last.” Psalm 33:12, The Message

Silhouette of a Pileated Woodpecker at dawn. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. May 4, 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

I always marvel as I watch woodpeckers hammer away… chunks of bark and wood flying everywhere. I could only imagine how much my brain would be rattled if I were to try it myself. With all the concerns about concussions in high school and college athletes, it is clearly something humans weren’t designed to do.

But that is not true of the woodpeckers. The ability to hammer on hard objects with the front of their face is undoubtedly designed by a Creator. In Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, Dennis Peterson writes, “The woodpecker is totally different from other birds. Every part of his body is especially fitted for drilling into wood.”

Red-headed Woodpecker; Greene County, Georgia birding, June 13, 2020. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

The woodpecker’s beak alone is designed for the job. It is harder than that of other birds, and the base of the bill is fitted with a shock-absorbing tissue not found in some other species. To go along with a beak designed for drilling, the woodpecker has a specialized tongue. Fashioned to fit into those freshly drilled holes, the woodpecker’s tongue is four times longer than the beak and wraps around the back of the bird’s skull! The tail, legs and claws are also specialized designs to help the woodpecker hold in place during his jack-hammer feeding sessions. And a keen sense of smell helps the woodpecker determine the precise drilling point to maximize the chance of excavating an insect.

All these wonderfully engineered traits could only come about by design. Partially evolved traits in a primitive ancestor would only result in broken beaks and a lot of headaches! These features are obviously designed to the woodpecker’s advantage and keep it from pointlessly beating his head against the wall!


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Desert Oasis – The Church

“He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.” ​​Psalm 107:35

Gambel's Quail, Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson Arizona

Gambel’s Quail; Sweetwater Wetlands Park; Tucson, Arizona USA. June 10, 2018. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

In the midst of dry, heat-baked Tucson, Arizona there is a lush, green, water-filled oasis. This birding and wildlife hotspot is called Sweetwater Wetlands. Over 300 species of birds have been listed in this riparian paradise. Having visited three times, I was amazed at the number of birds and other critters that can be spotted in under an hour. It is a place of refuge and provision, even as the Arizona heat soars above 100 degrees.

Sweetwater Wetlands is a man-made wetland created from reclaimed waste water that is pumped into a series of pools and streams. Willows and Cottonwoods provide shade and perches; a thick green, organic covering lies over the water’s surface; gravel paths circumnavigate the cattail, bulrush and willow lined ponds. Based upon the number of bird species, and the number of birders that visit the park, it is a welcoming habitat for all.

American Coot Sweetwater Wetlands Park, Tucson Arizona

American Coot; Sweetwater Wetlands birding; Tucson, Arizona USA. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. June 10, 2018.

Even we humans need a welcoming refuge! History has always had its ups and downs; from times of prosperity to periods of drought and devastation. The United States alone, in its relatively brief history of existence, has fought in over 120 wars! And on the personal level, our lives can be filled with the vacillations of economic hardships, medical issues, and relationship dramas. It is for this reason that Jesus spoke the words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

But just like the man-made desert oasis provided by Sweetwater Wetlands, there is a God-made oasis in the parched desert of this world: that oasis is the church! Through all the riot and uproar of the centuries, the church has always stood as a beacon and refuge for ailing humanity. Like the reclaimed wastewater of Sweetwater, the church is filled with men and women whose once wasted lives have been redeemed, repurposed, and renewed by the blood of the Lamb!

Neotropic Cormorant; Sweetwater Wetlands Park; Tucson, Arizona, USA. June 14, 2018. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

As the nations rage and people plot in vain (Psalms 2), the church cannot be silent. We must stand together, as the church as has always stood, and welcome the weary into the refuge of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can quench the thirst of hurting man in this world, and in the world to come.

Isaiah 35:5-7 “Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song. Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain. Even lowly jackals will have water to drink, and barren grasslands flourish richly.”


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Hidden in Plain Sight

My testimony, told through an American Bittern, of finding a Creator and Savior that was there all along…

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

The American Bittern, a master of camouflage; Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia. March 13, 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

My daughter and I were only ten minutes into a four-day canoe trip through the Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp and already we had missed something. As a tourist-laden pontoon boat passed by, the naturalist on board pointed out an American Bittern camouflaged in the marsh grasses. We had paddled right past it, hidden in plain sight!

But we can’t be blamed. A prominent ornithology website says, “You’ll need sharp eyes to catch sight of an American Bittern. This streaky, brown and buff heron can materialize among the reeds, and disappear as quickly, especially when striking a concealment pose with neck stretched and bill pointed skyward.” With his bill pointed upward, our bittern blended in perfectly with the tall brown grasses that lined the water’s edge. Again, perfectly hidden in plain sight.

American Bittern; Okefenokee Swamp Georgia. March 13, 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

I began to remember that same “hidden-in-plain-sight” feeling just after surrendering my life to Jesus Christ while in college. As Christ continued to reveal Himself to me in those first days of salvation, I was mesmerized by the fact that the truth of the gospel had been there all along, right in front of my nose, but I never saw it. And over the years, as my love of the outdoors and my study of wildlife continued, the evidence of God’s hand as Creator became more and more obvious: overwhelming evidence of design, the complexity of biology, genetic programming within animals, the beauty found in nature… all things that point to a Designer. And they were all right there all along, hidden in plain sight.

But why don’t we see them? Two reasons: In part, we are blinded by an outside force. The Bible states that, “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And we are also blinded by our own internal biases against the Bible that cause us not to see the evidence of God in creation. When speaking of the past creation and future destruction of this world, Peter wrote, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” (2 Peter 3:5).

Even though my daughter and I paddled right by that Bittern and didn’t recognize his presence, he was still there. He was just hidden in plain sight and merely needed to be pointed out to us. For twenty years, I paddled right through life not noticing Christ. But when someone pointed Him out on December 1, 1993, I realized He was there all along, hidden in plain sight and the overwhelming evidence became more and more obvious.


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Satisfying Shallows and Delightful Depths

“He led me through water to the ankles…, he led me through water to the knees…, he led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass over.” Ezekiel 47:1-5

Bonaparte`s Gulls frolicking in ocean surf, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. March 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

Birdwatching. Birding. Ornithology. In most minds, those three terms conjure differing depths of avian appreciation. Bird enthusiasm ranges from the simple enjoyment of backyard birds, to submerging in state lists and big years, and even deeper into the intellectual fathoms of anatomy and natural history. The books upon the shelf range from Your Backyard Feeder to Latin Terms for Taxonomists.

In the same manner, the Bible is book of unending fathomage. From inspiring daily devotionals, to word studies and commentaries, and into the depths of theology, the Sacred Writ can be enjoyed and experienced on so many different levels.

Stack of Antique New Testament Bibles. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

But is one level of devotee better than another? Is the ornithologist more serious or dedicated than a birder? Is the theologian more important than the lay congregant? Are we only dipping in our toes when we should be swimming deeper? Are we drowning in the depths and neglecting the satisfaction of the shallows?

In reality, one can be all things, or be what one desires! In his chapter of Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White, David A. La Puma writes, “Find out what you love about birds and dive in; the pool of knowledge is deep and rich and full of others happy to help you along the way.” An ornithologist can still enjoy birdwatching just as a theologian should still delight in daily devotionals.

Our Christian life and experience, just like birding, should enjoy the shallows, wade into the depths, dive the deep ocean trenches, and swim back again. Just as you would enjoy cardinals and chickadees at your backyard feeder, or decide to tackle identifying the gulls, sparrows and peeps, enjoy your yearly reading plan through the New Testament and Psalms, and simultaneously sound the depths of Biblical wisdom and application. Find out what you love about the Word of God in this season of life and dive in. The only wrong thing to do is to completely dry up!


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.