Archive for the 'CreationSunrise' Category

Vacation For The Soul

Cheryl and I just came back from a week of vacation. Whew! Sixteen hundred miles of family and fun. The piled-high laundry, wear on the car, or toll roads can’t take away the joy.

Vacations are a great time to affirm the beauty and value of loved ones and friends, to have extended time with them for slow conversations, and for slow, warm cups of coffee. Sleeping in a few times was itself a luxury and rich gift from the Father. Florida and Georgia creation glories enveloped us. Lots of time just with Cheryl was indescribably wonderful during the nine days away. This time, we again proved we are increasingly and joyfully comfortable and safe and happy just being together. I found myself constantly darting minute prayers of thanksgiving for all these things.

Vacations can provide special moments with God, too. Reading the Psalms and a commentary one morning, I enjoyed Psalm 111 and its call to remember and worship the LORD for His great works. They were constantly all around me on vacation, just as they are daily here at home. His works in creation and life are “splendid and majestic,” including His “righteousness endures forever” (v 3). These are the joy of promised relief in a troubling and troubled world wherever we live. “His wonders,” the Psalmist notes, remind us of His grace and compassion (v. 4). Fabulous!

And then an “Aha” moment came my way that marked my time away as unforgettable. In the Psalm, the unnamed author singles out the unique benefits for those who “fear” (revere) God. Yes, all creation and her creatures enjoy “common grace.” But “His people” (v. 6, 9)—people of faith who trust and worship and live for Him alone—enjoy promised provisions (v. 5), an understanding and appreciation of God’s power and promised inheritance (v. 6), “redemption” (rescue), and wisdom for life (v. 10). I especially need more wisdom, don’t you?

Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord. One commentator noted the fear in Psalm 111 is not the debilitating, trembling, elementary fear of situations and people (though that is a benefit to followers of Christ), but is the primary, “comprehensive,” overarching life of true godliness and worship of God. Our life is both gathered with others as we praise God and private when we worship in thanksgiving for the glorious works of God in us and around us. “Nothing is more profitable…than to spend [our] lives in the celebration of the praises of God.”

Only rebels live in terrifying fear of God. Followers of Christ have this promise, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).

Please: Get away sometime or someplace—even daily—and give thanks to God for the works and wonders of Christ.

It will be a vacation for your soul.


“When the morning stars sang together

and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7




   creation’s morning choir

      billions upon billions of universes and galaxies and stars

      the entire adoring angelic realm




Cheryl and I are back from Alaska. Yes, Alaska! Have you seen it or imagined what that would be like?

Our souls still leap when we remember the beauty of what we saw and experienced. May that sense of awe never be cheapened or go away.

The glory of God in Creation, of course, shines all around us. It’s hard to beat where we live right here in East Tennessee. But oh how I love the Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound, and the Inland Passage of Alaska.

Language is a feeble friend to describe the immensity of brooding mountains, deep blue waters, the majesty of powerful whales, graceful eagles, and the delicate blues of glacier chunks.

I am using enormous words to attempt to paint a picture of Creation’s splendor: glory, awe, and majesty. Glory is the essence of God. Creation’s portrayal in Alaska and everywhere is but a small glimpse of His glory—His light, majesty, beauty, weightiness. Awe, our response to the glory of God, is what we are captured by. What startles your spirit—what grips you, amazes you, or seizes your heart and senses when you see our nearby fog-shrouded mountain, the rays and colors of sunrises or sunsets, the flight of an osprey, the dance of a deer, the never-ending variety of green colors in our trees, or the limitless shapes of leaves?

Psalm 29:1-4 and 9, note they all cry glory.

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

Some see the “temple” and “cry” as the language of worship, and Creation’s particulars as motivation for worship. Certainly! Creation is a start, calling us to bow before its Maker and to see—really see—some of who God is. I also note Scripture’s continual portrayal of God’s glory in creation’s elements themselves. Praying through Job 36-39; Romans 1; and Psalms 19, 33, 104, 148 bring together the sovereign act of Creation and the glory of God in and through its particulars, and will bow our hearts in reverence and joy all at once. Awe won’t be enough.

One such experience on our trip came to me through Flame. She is a humpback whale who spends summers around Juneau, Alaska. Identified by the unique identifying underside of her tail, she performed one dance after another as we shadowed her around area waters by boat—while she consumed some of her one ton of food a day. Power, beauty, grace, majesty—glory—abounded.

In the small and great things we see may we continually shout out to God, “Glory!”


Rhea Herald News, July 25, 2018



When I walked one morning last week the rising sun was sandwiched between two layers of dark clouds. Only a few feet above the horizon, it was blinding even through thick sun glasses. Behind me at the walking track was a normally sleepy mountain range. It frames our valley on one side and begins a plateau that goes for many miles toward the center of Tennessee. The mountain was glowing in a bright yellow I have never seen in twenty years of daily observation. Until the clouds took over and rain began, light and color surrounded me.

The weatherman promises this week will be stunning in its own way, with blue skies and warm spring temperatures. Now, maybe, we can get ahead of the weeds…

Truly, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Noting verses two through four, we watch and worship God and listen as creation and the sky continue to speak of God’s invisible attributes: “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Scripture affirms our senses are physical and spiritual instruments to energize our appreciation for creation’s glories and God’s gesturing offer of relationship.

“Glory” can be an elusive term. God’s glory is “The visible appearance of his beauty and perfection reduced to a blazing light.” It is His essence. Like His ways, it is inscrutable—unfathomable, mysterious, impenetrable, indecipherable. “Oh,” says Paul, “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways…for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:11, 36).

Do we love Jesus or do we love His gifts such as creation?

Romans 1:19-20a comments about God’s glory and creation, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” The context of Romans 1 sadly reminds us many, many have historically and now continue to reject God’s wooing invitation in the sky and have turned to themselves as the authority for what to worship and how to live.

Have you entrusted yourself for life and godliness to the One who made the feast in the sky?

Because of God’s grace, each follower of Christ is privileged to be like the yellow morning mountain—bright shining—glowing—with a glimpse of the One who made the sun and us. We are, “predestined to be conformed into His image” (Romans 8:29). “Amen,” as Romans 11:36 shouts!

Amen means “may it be.”

Five Visible Planets

Praise the Name of the Lord…

Praise him, sun and moon,

   praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens,

   and you waters above the heavens!

                                      Psalm 148:1, 3-4

Morning Moon is a waning crescent moon this morning, smiling hello before dawn. Always welcome (even in today’s twenty-something cold), its companions Venus and Saturn pointed to the horizon and paved the way for today’s blinding sunrise. It strikes me how brilliant these reflectors are and the joy they bring as night gives way to dawn’s early light.

I am so attracted to the animated creation language of the Psalms. I know, they are poetical exuberance over the reflection of God’s glory in “nature”/creation. But Oh, how we live for every glimpse!

Did you know January-February brings a unique opportunity to see all five of the visible planets simultaneously for the first time in ten years? Surely, the angels in heaven are clearing their calendars and making strong coffee every morning to not miss a flicker.

Keep Psalm 148 handy and check out and…plan your praises.

Stars and Hair

New Day, December 8, 2015

“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” Psalm 147:4

This morning’s astronomical center stage before the sunrise was a crisp, smiling, crescent moon brilliant co-star, Venus, both accompanied by a cast of luminaries quietly standing nearby. It was as though I could take a giant step and be on stage with them.

And yet they are so far away. Psalm 8 came to mind, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (3-4).

The holy distance and closeness of God stops us in our tracks. Theologians call this His transcendence and immanence. All at once He is immeasurable, inscrutable, and uncontainable, and still He cares about the number of hairs on our heads.

We long for and rejoice in and live for both.

Rain Again

New Day, December 1, 2015

“He made a decree for the rain” Job 28:26

Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

This is the third day of rain. Like awkward middle schoolers, we are tempted to respond to constant gray and rain as if we’re holding our square dance partner’s hand for the first time in front of a room full of giggling others. Go ahead and blush as you remember those fateful days.

Rain gets a lot of bad press. But what if our starting point on a rainy day—or yet another wet day—was this: God has not made a mistake. From all the menu items He could have ordered for this new day He directed nourishing, contemplative, cleansing rain to be our main meal.

In context, Job’s word, “he made a decree for the rain,” illustrates wisdom. “Where shall wisdom be found?” he asks. He answers his own question: “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.”

Rain, then, gives us wisdom to live. It can mock despair and wonderfully remind us of our Creator-God who is at work to display His glory and for our good.

Father, help me to not just look and complain but to see You.

An Autumn Wonder


“The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.”

Psalm 50:1

How great are cool and clear autumn sunsets in East Tennessee!

Mirrors Today

New Day, November 20, 2015

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

On a clear morning it is impossible to actually stare at the sunrise when the sun pops up on the horizon. We are unable to take in the sun’s brilliant glory.

This morning, the sunrise was reflected on the trees across the street. For a moment the trunks were colored with a pleasing yellow. They became a mirror of the sun’s brightness. Now bare without their covering of leaves, the trees appear bleached and reflect light starkly and with force.

I thought about the wonder of reflection and its protection for our eyes on earth—and our souls which aren’t yet ready for heaven. I then considered the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who reflects Yahweh, our Father. I longed for Christ’s coming and our living in His presence forever in the New Jerusalem, where my dimmed view of the Lord will turn into rejoicing as we see Him face to face. Knowing—seeing—through a mirror is so incomplete.

I reflected on the privilege, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Father, we see You in the glory of Your Son and, amazingly, we get to reflect Jesus. When will you ask me to reflect Him today? I know around me will be those blinded by darkness and You have privileged me to reflect the Light, Jesus Christ?

More of Christ

New Day, November 10, 2015

I will connect two seemingly unattached thoughts in a minute.

Clouds are in abundance and the sun hidden again this morning. Happily, most of the leaves are gone and the eastern sky is open. I stood outside, enjoying the heavy, moist, cool air. I was reminded of many Pacific Northwest days from our unforgettable years in Oregon. Hi Bert and Jon.

My first thought as I looked into the sky was of the great variety in God and His creation. Even the gray clouds had ripples and variations. I found great joy in the recent ordinariness of cloudy days. I speak with some silliness but respect when I say: How immense must be the heavenly library of how-to books for God to research how to make cloud formations to grab the attention of simple-minded Christ-followers like me. Thank You, Father.

And then my friend cancelled breakfast this morning. He woke up blinded in one eye and unable to “stand the light of day.” I think he meant literal light, which overwhelmed his other eye. He has had a lot of hospitalizations this year and I am genuinely concerned for him. Please pray for Bill.

For a moment my joy turned to sadness and, to be honest, a little frustration with God. You’ve been there haven’t you? Without wavering I can say Bill is one of the most Christlike men I have ever had eggs with. “Why” questions began to form, but then I made myself stop. With an unexplainable calling I hurried to Isaiah 40:18, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with Him?”

Our Father has not impulsively brought gray clouds or blindness. I recalled the Psalms: “in faithfulness you have afflicted me,” and, “You are good and do good” (Psalm 119:75, 68). Then, as I read further in Isaiah, I was captured by God’s purposefulness revealed to pagan Cyrus (Imagine!) when he said, “I named you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God…that people may know, from the rising of the sun [behind the clouds]…there is none besides me. I am the LORD, who does these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7).

Of course, Isaiah 40 is well-known for its beginning words to an exiled, chastened community: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” In the Christmas season favorite oratorio, “The Messiah,” Handel has Isaiah 40:1-2 sung as a solo by a tenor, moving in and out with robust strength and tenderness all at once. I think of the Father that way. Do you?

In Christ, the daily-ness of ordinary living is accented by gray clouds and surprising interventions of God. Every moment elevates us to greater privilege and purposefulness. We hear Paul echoing, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Blessing and more of Christ to you today Bill.

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