We’ve been enjoying (or not) several days of Summer for the last week or so. It was really HOT for the Great Lakes region, where the lakes and northern latitudes generally have a tempering effect, especially this early in the season. Finally, the rains came to break the spell, bring much-needed moisture, and lower the temperatures a bit.
God has created a world of seasons– some areas of the world see two seasons– rainy and dry; others have four–winter, spring, summer, and fall; some have a dozen–deep winter, early thaw, false spring, winter’s last surprise, mud and flood, bug season, summer, autumn, scorching return to summer, “fall,” mud and flood (round 2), and endless snow. But God is faithful through all the seasons in every region. The sun rises and sets; the seasons come and go (mostly) in orderly fashion. We may joke or complain about summer in Michigan coming on a Tuesday this year, or grouse about the hot days or “endless snow,” but God doesn’t give us three years of winter followed by 20 years of drought. We don’t have six weeks of unrelieved darkness in the middle of summer, or a day when the sun “rises” in the west.
We tend to take the days, months, and seasons for granted. God has set them in place for our benefit and His glory. Let’s enjoy them.
For the Beauty of the Earth The United Methodist Hymnal Number 092 Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint Music: Conrad Kocher; Arr. by W.H. Monk Tune: DIX, Meter: 77.77.77 1. For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
2. For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
3. For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight, for the mystic harmony, linking sense to sound and sight; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
4. For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
5. For thy church, that evermore lifteth holy hands above, offering up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
6. For thyself, best Gift Divine, to the world so freely given, for that great, great love of thine, peace on earth, and joy in heaven: Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
This week, may we raise hymns of grateful praise to the creator of all the beauty of the earth.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all tings were created by him and for him.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Years ago, Louis Armstrong recorded a song, called “What a Wonderful World.” Video and lyrics here. It’s a pleasant song, pointing out all the wonderful things to see and hear in the world around us…people sharing greetings, day and night, rainbows, children…but it is also a wistful song. Armstrong sings it as an observer, more than a participant. He sees all the wonder of the world around him, and he sees hope for the future. The flowers and rainbows are there for all to see; but the greetings are not for him; the children are not his and will surpass him in knowledge and opportunity.
I could name a dozen other songs or poems with similarly ambivalent messages; songs about smiling, hiding one’s tears, hoping for tomorrow and happy days returning. Such songs acknowledge that our world is filled with wonder, beauty, and joy; they also acknowledge that sprinkled amid the wonder there is heartache and disappointment.
It is tempting in times of hardship to focus on the negative and miss the wonder that still exists around us. It can also be tempting to resent the joy others experience as they soak in the wonder that seems to taunt us.
Some people ask, “How can you believe in God when you see all the pain and suffering and evil in the world?” And others answer, almost flippantly, “How can you doubt God when you see all the beauty and grandeur in the world?” To someone who is in pain, this is the kind of answer that rubs salt in open wounds. It’s not that the answer lacks logic or merit, but it is devoid of compassion.
The truth is, that even in the midst of extreme suffering, we DO live in a wonderful world. The sun still shines, there are still rainbows, and happy children, and, most of all, HOPE.
The Bible speaks of hope as one of the “remaining” virtues– Faith, Hope, and Charity (or Love). We hear this, and study it, and recite it, but do we really appreciate it for the wonder it is? Hope may fade in the midst of chaos, but it is not easily suppressed or smothered. Hope gives us strength when we are struggling; it gives us a reason to look up from the ashes and see the sun. Hope gives us the motivation to work and build after a disaster; to risk new adventures; to plan for a future.
Our world needs hope–we need encouragement to reach out; to build and rebuild our communities; to look forward with vision, and set goals to reach that vision. And we need hope to turn our eyes to the source of that hope– for we do not hope in vain!
Even in our fallen world, God is wooing us with wonder, beauty, joy, and HOPE. What we will find in the redeemed world is beyond our wildest imagination
I love spending time in nature– walking, riding, or biking through woods and meadows, hills and valleys, along lakes or rivers. God has created such beauty and majesty in every part of our world! I grew up surrounded by woods and water– lakes, rivers, old forests and new-growth woods, with lots of farmland and meadows spread out over low rolling hills. So it is always with wonder that I look upon mountains, deserts, rain forests and jungles, and tropical settings because they are not part of the “normal” landscape for me. Even so, I never tire of the sites that greet me year-round–the steady breaking waves rolling in off Lake Michigan; the babbling of a small river or stream over field stone as it races down a small hill toward a pond; trees bowing and dancing in the wind just before a storm…
Nature is not just beautiful. It gives us yet another way to experience God’s “nature”– his character and provision. God is steady like a rock– strong, enduring, a safe refuge. God is refreshing and life-giving as a river– ready to wash away aches and soothe us. God is eternal, and his love is as vast and deep as the ocean. God is mysterious as the forest–giving shade and cover, and concealing treasures, and ancient secrets. God is as open as a meadow, as pure as an ice shelf, as glorious as a desert sunset.
God uses his glorious creation to illustrate his “nature.” I pray that we can experience the both aspects of God’s nature today, and praise Him for who He is and how He has revealed Himself all around us.
Tigers and turtles; flamingos and fleas; whales and warthogs; skinks and skunks; rocks and rosebuds; Eskimos and Ecuadorians–God’s world is filled with variety. Chirping birds and thundering herds; roaring seas and buzzing bees. Colors, sounds, smells, and sensations– we are surrounded by glimpses of glory, echoes of eternity, and hints of Heaven.
Often, we take for granted the beauty of God’s creation– we don’t stop seeing it, we just stop marveling at it. Instead of drinking it in, we drown it out. We criticize, analyze, and theorize…why did God make rats? how does He exist outside of time? when will He change the seasons this year (will we have spring? how long will winter last)? what is the purpose of dust? why are some animals (or rocks or plants) colorful, or noisy, or deadly, or smelly, or slow? And we miss the forest for the trees– we get caught up in the amazing details and infinite variety in creation, and miss the majesty of the creator– His sense of the ridiculous in things like tumbleweeds and walking sticks, dust devils and platypuses, or His artistry in butterfly wings, dew on spiderwebs, and cascading waterfalls– in geodes and dimples and mewling kittens. We miss the elegant design in a bees knees, or galaxies, or a banyan tree.
God creates– it is an element of His character. And we are made in His image– we long to create. From drafting sentences to making a pie to shaping a piece of wood into something sturdy and useful– we long to produce, to concoct, to cause growth, to heal, to nurture, and to effect change. We are also created with a deep appreciation of creation– the wisdom and the work it takes to set planets spinning, and ecosystems cooperating, and to unfold a new sunrise every morning.
If you haven’t already, take a few minutes asking God to open your eyes and ears to the song and dance of creation today–from dandelions to darting dragonflies to the amazing variety of people dodging traffic or making conversation around you. Join in!