Flowing from my heart . . .

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

~Proverbs 4:23

Yes, this blog started as a “reporting” of my experiences of living “Retired in Costa Rica” and the first few years have lots of “how to” or sharing my experiences of the big transition to a legal resident of Costa Rica. Now that I’m a “Residente Permanente,” it is more of the experiences “flowing from my heart,” and the God I love, and his beautiful natural world that he created for us to enjoy and manage. I hope my current nature blogging motivates just a few people to help save the natural world all around this globe, to love it and to be inspired by it while much of the world’s humans are systematically destroying forests and all the nature within! Nature is the theme of my blog now! But I will not change the name because that is still who I am, a retiree in Costa Rica! 🙂

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

~Albert Einstein

I remember as a child in El Dorado, Arkansas (14 miles from the Louisiana state line) walking the three blocks or so to a small city park with a little pond and being amazed at all the life and activity seen in just the shallow edges of the water and wanting to look at drops of that water through a microscope for the protozoa and other life a book had told me about.

WARNING: This is a longer than usual blog post but still with nature photos! 🙂

No, we don’t need more sleep. It’s our souls that are tired, not our bodies. We need nature. We need magic. We need adventure. We need freedom. We need truth. We need stillness. We don’t need more sleep, we need to wake up and live.

~Brooke Hampton

Though I focused on science through high school and the first year of university, I never became the scientist or the medical doctor I then dreamed of being. But from Boy Scout camping trips to family vacations, I continued to explore nature with amazement until while at the University of Oklahoma my amazement shifted from nature to the very God who created it all – theology – for awhile.

I finished in another University back in Arkansas (Ouachita) with a Sociology degree followed by a Masters in Religious Education at Southwestern Seminary in Texas.

But this new “religiosity” and plans to be a minister or missionary was not without that continued love of nature and the God who created it! There was an interim summer of Boy Scout leadership work, many outdoor church camps I directed, plus retreats and simple camping trips with small groups of RAs and others that became a signature of my work as a Youth Minister in Baptist churches in Texas and Florida and later part time in Tennessee while serving in the world’s largest religious publishing house (LifeWay). And before that I was the SBC National Pioneer RA Director in Memphis where I rewrote the RA Campcraft book and conducted many camping conferences. 🙂

“Nature is God’s living, visible garment.”

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Though it may have started before “the conservative takeover” of the Southern Baptist Convention, it was around then that I felt “trapped” with the necessity to earn a living for a family while my lifetime work experience meant I could not then earn a decent living anywhere outside church work (my training & experience). And as if that feeling of being “trapped” was not enough, at age 59 the declining SBC and it’s publishing house (LifeWay) had to “downsize” staff in large one-hundred unit spurts and so my job was eventually deleted. I got early retirement without Social Security which then had a minimum age of 62 to start receiving a check (I needed 3 more years of work). This became another crisis point right after the crises of divorce, death of one of my children, emotional loss of the other child, death of both parents plus now the loss of my retirement dream house that I could no longer afford. Again, I humbly turned it all over to God and begged him for help. I needed 3 years of work and wanted something to continue a feeling of purpose in life (not a greeter at Walmart!). 🙂 My prayers were miraculously answered.

Through the recommendation of a friend, I was asked to come to the SBC International Mission Board to work in the International Service Corp Masters Program as the Business Facilitator in The Gambia West Africa Mission for 3 years (exact number of years needed for SS). The job was a volunteer job with all expenses paid including a place to live, a vehicle and a

small stipend for spending money & groceries. Good enough for me! 🙂 While my LifeWay retirement pension check would then mostly go into a savings account for 3 years to help with my return housing and a car when I returned to the states. Beyond getting the job, there are a lot of other miracle stories in The Gambia, as well as God leading me back into a deeper love of his nature through my West African adventures sandwiched between many services to twelve missionaries and bureaucratic red tape and meetings. It is where I first started “birding” or really, photographing birds! And haven’t stopped since! 🙂

That was December 1999 to November 2002 in West Africa. When I returned to Nashville with dengue fever (another story), I had the additional income of my Social Security Check and got an “affordable housing” row house in downtown Nashville and became a local nature photographer traveling to all 54 Tennessee State Parks making photos and selling them in Arts & Crafts Fairs, 2003 to 2014 when I felt it was God beckoning me to Costa Rica, my then new favorite nature place, and the beginning of a new nature-focused life and this blog “Retired in Costa Rica.” Pura vida! 🙂

On the 24th of next month I will have been here 9 years without returning to the states a single time, which I can’t afford and I have no reasons to return. 🙂 Whether in my garden here in Atenas, Alajuela Province, Central Valley, Costa Rica or on short visits to Costa Rica’s wonderful and many national parks and nature reserves, I have stayed focused on God through nature without joining the nation’s primary church, Roman Catholicism, or one of the few evangelical churches here that still represent the radical right which I was escaping when I left Tennessee. But without a church now, I am actually closer to God than at any time in my life. I continue my nature photography just for fun and worship of God, not to make money! I call it “Nature as Art.” 🙂 And though I have been selling some of my work, I am in January getting out of the gallery I helped start and will no longer try to sell any of my photos other than through my website where they’ve always been available through my SmugMug Photo Gallery or shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, etc at CafePress and of course photo books from my Blurb Bookstore, all linked to on this website.

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting system through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only tune in.”

~George Washington Carver

Sorry this became so long and almost a summary of part of my life, but when I start talking “from the “flow of my heart” it is hard to know where to stop! And my love of nature is rooted in many historical events of my life from childhood to retirement. Forgive me for sharing too much! And of course you don’t have to read it! 🙂 Just look at the pictures! 🙂

I’m keenly aware that at age 83 I am probably near the end of my life and thus I sometimes want to express feelings “from the flow of my heart” and this was one of those times, prompted by a devotional I read with that leading Proverbs verse above that I may have read too much into. God bless you if you read all of this and you can read more about my life adventures on the ABOUT menu or current adventures by subscribing to this blog for the ongoing nature pix. And for more of my “spiritual” writings, check out my HIS SPIRIT page of this website.

And I love to hear from readers! Just use the “Comments” space provided below each blog post. 🙂

¡Pura Vida!

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

~John Muir

19 Replies to “Flowing from my heart . . .”

  1. Charlie, what a lovely outpouring about your life, your devotion to God, and your passion for nature. I read the whole blog and was happy I did! I, too, find my joy, comfort, solace, and connection to life through God’s ever-amazing creation all around us. Thank you for sharing and for being an inspiration to others.

  2. I appreciate your taking the time to share so much with us. Your life is an inspiration and a testimony of God’s care through the ups and downs of life.

    1. Thank you so much Robbie! And please know that you are an inspiration to me too! As I said to Shannon above (you would like her, a long time resident here), I’m not sure what makes me go into such “sharing” modes, but it seems to just happen sometimes. Maybe because this local art gallery project did not work out the way I expected and I’m getting out by the middle of January for complicated reasons I can’t share, but its been an emotional experience for me (negatively) which lead me to express some positive feelings, maybe. 🙂

  3. This is a beautiful post Charlie! You have touched and helped so many more than you will ever know in your lifetime. It is such a blessing that you have been able to retire in Costa Rica. I have looked up to and been inspired by you since I was born and I always will big brother!

    1. Thanks so much Bonnie! And you are truly a very special little sister! I always regretted that I had only the first 5 years of your life to be with you which means I missed some of the most important experiences of your life. I try not to get mushy sharey like that too often, but I had just gone through another disappointment which I guess causes me to write like that. But I’m back to just sharing nature again for awhile. 🙂

  4. Dear, Dear Charlie!!!

    Your words are more beautiful than you photo’s! You have guarded your heart well!

    Sending you lots and lots of love and thanking God for you!


  5. You are having a wonderful life and thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for nature and your life stories

  6. Charlie, you are aging well…very positive. It’s hard to believe you’ve been gone from Nashville for 9 years. We had some good discussions while greeting folks at 7 th Ave door. of First Baptist Church.
    The art shows you were part of and other memories.
    Bruce and I both look forward each morning to your view of our world. The pictures are always wonderful. Thanks much.
    Bonnie and Bruce

    1. Thanks Bonnie! And yes, there are some good memories from the 7th Ave door greeting times and the art shows and preacher meetings, etc. but it was time for a change and I’m pleased with that too! Slowing down is not easy, but it is necessary too! 🙂

  7. Charlie, thanks for sharing from your heart. God is truly seen in the creation all around us, and you help us see it more clearly. I look forward to your beautiful photos.

    Didn’t know you grew up in El Dorado. When I was growing up in Birmingham, I was part of a youth choir in high school that toured the southwest. One of our stops was El Dorado, probably First Baptist there. You were probably already in college or seminary then. I’m 75.

    1. Charles, it was so good to hear from you! And to know that our paths “almost” crossed in those early days! 🙂 In 1955 Dad took a job in Tulsa and we left El Dorado just as I was entering the 10th grade, so my high school was in Tulsa, then to OU and back to AR for Ouachita before Southwestern Seminary.

      And thanks for keeping up with this ol’ guy and reading any of my blog posts! And I want get into such ramblings too often! 🙂

  8. Hey Charlie, I just returned to Franklin from three weeks in Louisiana visiting family and attending wedding of Todd Young’s eldest daughter in Shreveport. I saved this daily blog post so I could read it all after I returned home. I really appreciate your openness in sharing and can relate to most of it having been your friend in Nashville and visiting you in The Gambia and Costa Rica. I turned 82 while in Louisiana and can relate to your comments about these being the last days of our lives. Love you and pray for you, Charlie!

    1. Thanks Reagan! I’m not sure what sometimes makes me want to share such personal and emotional things, but it happens occasionally. The local art gallery was not working out like I expected and I resigned from that cooperative and I think I was a little down from that effective January 15, but I’m back to making nature photos for my own enjoyment and a little 3 night trip to Macaw Lodge later this month, so back “up” again! 🙂

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