May 9 2012

Speechless

“There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

Last night as I was driving home from the airport in Louisville I played a CD by my favorite contemporary Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman.  In his song “Speechless” he sings these words: I’m astonished and amazed; I am silenced by your wondrous grace.  You have saved me, You have raised me from the grave.  And I am speechless in your presence now.  I’m astounded as I consider how You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless.”

As I listened to these words I certainly concurred with Steven’s sentiment; God’s love and grace often leave me speechless.  So too does the beauty of God’s Creation.  Several times on my recent trip to the desert southwest I could only stand in awe at what I was seeing.  I was “astonished and amazed” as I looked at the marvelous formations in Carlsbad Caverns.  I was “astounded” by the beauty of Big Bend National Park.  I was left “speechless” as I looked out on the pristine dunes of White Sands National Monument.  There were so many times on this trip that I was overwhelmed by what I saw, and at times heard, in God’s Creation that I simply had to stand in wonder, awe and silence.

This was not a new experience for me.  Countless times I have beheld beauty that humbled me and left me speechless.  I say “beauty” but in reality it is the Creator that leaves me overwhelmed and lacking words to express what I’m feeling.  As a pastor I make my living talking about God but there are times when words get in the way.  I can understand why the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (5:2)  When we encounter God, wherever or however that might be, the best thing we can do at times is be silent.

There is no doubt a time to lift up our voices in praise to God.  Every single day we should offer Him words of thanksgiving.  But it is not a bad thing at all to “be still and know” that God is God. (Psalm 46:10)  Christina Rossetti once said, “Silence is more musical than any song.”  I cannot help but feel God is honored when we stand speechless before Him.  It is in those moments we let God be God and that is enough.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Big Bend National Park, the middle one at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and the bottom one at White Sands National Monument.)


May 2 2012

Rock of Ages

In Psalm 139 you find these words: “Thou has enclosed me behind and before, and laid Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee.” (vs. 5-12)

I thought of these words yesterday as I walked through Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. It was my first visit to this famous cave and I have to admit I was very impressed. Both the size and beauty of Carlsbad Caverns is awe-inspiring. I constantly found myself amazed by the work of the Creator’s hand. I also found myself sensing His presence. Far below the earth’s surface I realized that what the Psalmist wrote about long ago is true; there is nowhere you can go to escape God’s presence.  His love and grace follow us wherever we go.  I concur with the Psalmist, “such knowledge is too wonderful to me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.”

One of the things that crossed my mind while touring the cave was that all of this beauty existed long before any human being entered it. I cannot believe that it was made beautiful eons ago just so humans could one day enjoy looking at it. I am more inclined to believe that God Himself delights in beauty and, as I have written about recently, He created it for Himself.

Each day when the tourists leave the caverns the lights are all turned off. It is so dark you could not see your hand if you placed it in front of your face. That is the cave’s natural state. Without the artificial light’s illumination no one can enjoy the cave’s beauty, no one but God that is. The Psalmist declared that “darkness and light are alike” to God.  He can, and I am confident does, enjoy His handiwork without any light whatsoever. When I ponder these things I cannot help but offer praise and adoration to my God and Savior.

Towards the end of the tour we came upon a formation with the name “Rock of Ages.” I couldn’t help but think how appropriate it was that someone named such a glorious formation this. I hope those who see it will make the connection to the hymn of the same title. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ truly is the Rock of Ages and for that I am eternally grateful.

-Chuck

(I took these images yesterday at Carlsbad Caverns.  The bottom image shows the formation, “Rock of Ages.”)