Back in 1983, when Stephen Payne was going to Chico State, he and a friend, he told me in an email, “decided on a lark to build a raft out of inner tubes and plywood and float down the Sacramento River for two days.” Aside from almost capsizing in a patch of whitewater, they made it, a cause for thanksgiving.
Now living with his wife, Laura, in Southern Oregon (with an uncle and aunt in Orland), Payne finds continuing reasons for thanksgiving, not least of which is Laura surviving stage-4 melanoma. Yet, as a Christian, he recognizes that “in the midst of the storm, when all had seemed bleak, it was not easy for me to remain grateful to God.”
He found comfort in the Psalms which provide assurance that “the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” Thus, “whether he answers as we hope or not, he is still faithful, and he is still good.”
That conviction is expressed in his coffee-table book “I Lift My Eyes To The Hills: God’s Help In Times Of Trouble” ($19.99 in hardcover, self-published, available at www.liftmyeyestothehills.com), featuring his stunning full-color photographs of the natural world (and its people), all set within the context of the Psalms of thanksgiving.
Ten chapters each focus on a verse, such as Psalm 96:12, “let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.” Payne presents a brief exposition; a set of his glorious images taken in Oregon, California, and around the world; his own accounts of nearly capsizing as he faces metaphorical whitewater; and chapter discussion questions.
He and Laura spent a decade with Wycliffe Bible Translators translating the New Testament for the Kwatay people in Senegal; Steve now trains national translators. Through it all he continues his love of photography.
Tourists snap the sunset’s “burst of color” and then leave, but with patience the photographer begins to see “the high clouds overhead start to glow with the pastel shades of alpenglow.” That, he writes, is like committed love, for God or one’s spouse: “enduring, soft, tender, and patient,” even in the midst of rapids.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. Send review requests to email@example.com. Columns archived at https://dielbee.blogspot.com