“Yukon Gold”

Stand and consider the wonders of God.
Out of the north comes golden splendor;
Around God is awesome majesty.

--Job 37:14, 22

Fifteen years ago, I began practicing a subsistence lifestyle in Alaska's remote upper Yukon River Valley as a means by which to search out and identify those things that truly mattered in life and those that did not. I streamlined and simplified my existence dramatically in order to experience the truths that would result from living a "raw reality" in one of the most unforgiving environments on the planet. This approach involved a great deal of sacrifice and self-discipline over a considerable period of time. The results, however, have been valuable beyond measure--and my search is now over. The gifts of truth and discernment are certainly life's greatest treasures.

Prior to undertaking this “process of elimination lifestyle,” I had been employed as a U.S. Navy SEAL Officer, a State and Federal Law Enforcement Officer, a Fish and Wildlife Technician, a Wilderness Guide, and a Public and Private School Tutor. As such, I was certainly no stranger to society or to “the ways of the world.” While working in all of these previous capacities, however, I was indeed a stranger to the God of the Bible.

Like many, I “believed in God” but I did not know Him. I simply tried to be a “good” or “moral” person but all too frequently, my conscience alerted me that I failed to consistently satisfy even my own standards. Having come close to losing my life on any number of occasions, and having accomplished nearly every goal that I had ever set before myself (yet with no lasting satisfaction or fulfillment), life was beginning to seem meaningless and empty. What was my purpose and where was I heading? Well, I just didn’t know. This realization came despite many awards, considerable recognition, and a resume that read like an adventure novel. I was working hard and “achieving” much, yet I was accomplishing nothing of any lasting value.

I now look back in absolute amazement as I consider how a person such as I could have spent so much time in so many different places on this planet and yet never have heard an accurate account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the time, I was totally unaware that I was a member of “the legion lost” and “the walking dead.” I was, in fact, among the “many” who Jesus described as being on the broad way to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

I needed some answers, and having already invested a tremendous amount of time and energy according to the world’s prescription for success, I knew that I needed to turn elsewhere for guidance. My life was speeding by and it seemed to me that I had nothing of any significant meaning to show for all of my efforts to date. So, that is how I found myself at the place where this narrative began. Having thrown all else overboard, I endeavored to add back only those things which would earn their keep from an eternal point of view. This, of course, was much easier imagined than done since I first had to identify these things before I could even begin to embrace them. As such, I needed to adopt a standard for establishing my selection criteria. It was by God’s grace alone, that I wisely chose to use the Bible for my moral compass and measuring stick when I set out to “start over” in life.

In Scripture, God has written, “You will seek Me and you will find Me when you search for Me with ALL your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). This means that anything less than maximum effort, total devotion, and unswerving allegiance will fall short of the mark. God clearly wants (and deserves) “first place” in our lives. He is to be the center about which all other things and relationships revolve. The Bible also says that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). As I have already mentioned, it was primarily such a “failure to hear” that was responsible for my original deficit of authentic faith.

And so it was, by God’s circumstantial providence and by His word, that my early restructuring initiatives were necessarily divided between two mainstays: spiritual development and physical survival. There simply wasn’t going to be any time or energy available for trivial things, needless distractions, or misguided affections.

On the one hand, I began to saturate myself with God’s wisdom through diligent Bible study and, whenever possible, supplemental audio sermons, Christian radio broadcasts, and apologetic reading materials. On the other hand, getting ready for winter here became a year-round job. Doing things the “old-fashioned" way takes time–and operating as a “one-man-band” raises the hurdle even more. When temperatures in Interior Alaska plunge to minus 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit with only three hours of available daylight, it is simply too late to play “catch up.” A person has to be prepared in advance.

And so it went that my days became portioned between concentrated spiritual and physical effort--and my days were very full. For the first time in my life, I truly knew what it meant to live purposefully and to waste no time. It soon became (and still remains) my daily prayer that God would “teach me to number my days” (Psalm 90:12), and that I would not be found wasteful or foolish in any dimension.

Needless to say that, over time, such a regimen enabled me to build a very firm spiritual foundation as well as a very satisfying lifestyle. Using the Bible as my ultimate reference manual for ALL matters, I became increasingly confident in my ability to address any difficulty which God might allow. While this certainly did not mean that my life became “easy,” or that I did not experience loss or discomfort, it did mean that I minimized the possibility for self-defeat.

As my faith and understanding matured, I began to seek out fellowship from near and far and, in time, I found myself richly blessed with the friendship of several noteworthy pastors, ministry leaders, and Christian program producers. As a result, I received a great deal of encouragement and I eventually experienced a true and lasting conviction that my faith was indeed living and real.

Regarding my present occupation, it was only in recent years that I decided to advance my creative pastime of wilderness landscape photography to the professional business level. For many years, I simply chose to share my images with others as gifts in the forms of hand-fashioned prints and greeting cards. Along the way, however, comments and compliments from a significant number of friends, relatives, and associates caused me to consider the possibility of a formal career in photography. Although it certainly seemed to be a “long-shot” consideration at first, its undeniable persistence kept me from dismissing it entirely.

I eventually began to apply my faith to the matter by prayerfully evaluating whether or not the various aspects of such a business might somehow be useful in furthering God’s kingdom purposes. Over time, it became increasingly more reasonable for me to believe that things could actually work out in a God- honoring way. The concurrent interest and prompting of several world-class artists and photographers finally convinced me to take the next step and begin taking pictures "for real.”

Along these lines, my chosen manner of living has not only helped to enable my spiritual “success,” but it has also afforded me the discipline and framework necessary to succeed in an extremely competitive profession. The present world is flooded with photographic images and practically everyone owns a “good” camera. As such, my work has to stand out. My photographs must be particularly striking and uncommon from a marketing perspective. With this in mind, an important benefit of having adopted such a narrowed lifestyle was that it forced me to develop some very discriminating standards as well as an elevated "threshold of significance.” When applied to my work, this has translated into a photographer who is not easily impressed. It takes something fairly stirring to make me stop whatever I might be doing at the time and reach for my camera. I do not go out on "photo shoots" per se as I have neither the time nor the resources. Rather, I live and work in the country and I wait to be interrupted by the irresistible.

My work might best be described as “wilderness river-scape photography”–the art of merging both static and dynamic environments into a seamless, uninterrupted image. This type of photography affords me a very effective means by which to "decompress" from my previous stress-saturated occupations as I focus on the magnificence of God’s creative genius. It is my hope that others may likewise benefit by viewing the results of my efforts to preserve priceless moments in time.

If I come up with a half-dozen "keeper" images per year, I am doing very well. They don't come easily, nor do they come often. When they do come, these blessings must be shared. Favored mediums for my photographic expressions include the Scripture-versed cards, prints, and calendars that I now produce. These items match striking images of Creation with the timeless words of the Creator Himself. As such, you get "the whole picture" and then some. Combining God’s handiwork with appropriate verses from the Bible produces a very powerful result. Having the ability to honor God in such a way assures me of great purpose, contentment, and satisfaction into the future.

By the grace of God, my work is now on display in prominent gift shops, fine art galleries, Christian book stores, and museums across the country. My work is also available for online viewing and sales at www.brianheaphy.com. To see my Inspirational Card, Print, and Calendar images along with their corresponding verses from Scripture, you may go to the “Catalog” page of my website and then click on the appropriate product headings.

In summary, God has granted me a tremendous opportunity to be a capable witness for Him. By His providence, my background and experience afford me legitimate credibility while my present profession allows me a very effective platform. All that remains is that I choose to invest in God’s character daily by placing my entire trust in the authority of His word. In so doing, I may utilize every situation and circumstance in my life as an occasion to bring Him glory by simply obeying His commands (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Peter 4:11).

I certainly cannot change the past with respect to my failure to hear an accurate presentation of the Gospel until later in life. I can, however, spend the present time looking out for the eternal security of others by offering them the very same opportunity that I missed.

As Christians, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ someday and we will all have to give an accounting of those things which we have done in order to further God’s kingdom purposes in this world (2 Corinthians 5:10). More specifically, we will be asked to account for what we have or have not done with respect to effectively proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it is within each of our abilities to use our lives in ways which will allow us to answer this question joyfully. According to the Bible, this is to be our primary concern (Romans 10:14-15, Mark 16:15, Luke 19:13).

Brian Heaphy is a former U.S. Navy SEAL Officer, Federal Officer, and Wilderness Guide who now makes his home in Alaska’s remote upper Yukon River Valley. While practicing a subsistence lifestyle, he photographs Creation and writes about “Living On Purpose at The Speed Of Life.”® Brian most enjoys formatting his award-winning images as Scripture-versed Wall Art & Tabletop Displays, Christian Note Cards & Christmas Cards, and Scripture-versed Calendars & Monthly Planners. All of these items, along with their standard (non-versed) versions, are available for online viewing and sales at www.brianheaphy.com. Brian’s work may also be found at fine art galleries, museums, and gift shops nationwide.

All images and authorial texts Copyright © Brian M. Heaphy. Scripture verses and verse segments are taken from The New American Standard Bible ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Emphasis (word capitalization) added by author.

1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1992), devotional reading for September 7th.

1 John Piper, For Your Joy (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2005, 2009), 12, 29.

1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1992), citing a familiar theme regarding “mountaintops” and “valleys” found in the devotional readings for October 1st and April 16th.

1 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1992), devotional reading for February 8th.