In Rob’s last entry he praised the virtues of sunrises. As soon as I read the blog I sent him an e-mail telling him his message was not convincing, that I’d still rather sleep in and settle for sunsets (I’m not a morning person!). He responded by calling me “one of those lazy folks who can’t appreciate the welcoming embrace of early light.” The truth hurts!
In my e-mail to him I tried to make a biblical case for the priority of sunsets. Interestingly enough, in the biblical account of Creation the day does not begin in the morning but in the evening. Throughout Genesis 1 we read, “There was evening, and there was morning….” In a strange sort of way, sunsets come first.
Various answers have been offered for why evening is placed first in the Creation story. I like the pastoral answer best. By placing evening first and morning last we are reminded that light always follows darkness. This is most encouraging for those who are going through periods of “darkness” in their life, for those who cannot presently see what path to follow. It means there is hope. In the words of the Psalmist, “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (30:5) This truth is reiterated in the Book of Revelation where we are told that in heaven “there will be no more night.” (22:5)
In one of my all-time favorite movies, Fiddler on the Roof, two of the main characters sing a song called “Sunrise, Sunset.” The chorus to the song goes, “Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days; seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.” It is a beautiful song but I think the writers got it backwards. It should be “Sunset, Sunrise.” This is the hope we have as Christians, a hope confirmed the first Easter morning when Jesus rose from the grave.
Rob is right; sunrises are special. But so are sunsets…
(I took the sunset picture above at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—no early wakeup call, alarm clock, or coffee needed.)
My father would have been 85 years old today. He died 24 years ago but I still miss him a lot. Robert Edwin Summers, Jr. is remembered for his love of his family, his strong work ethic and his faith. He was a very good father.
The reason I am writing about my Dad today is not just because it is his birth date. I also want to recognize the role he played in my love for nature. When I was very young my family took a vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was one of my father’s favorite places and we made a number of trips there, usually in the fall. As a youngster, I fell in love with the mountains.
Also in my childhood Dad bought a boat and camper. Although we did not go often we spent some wonderful times as a family in the Land Between the Lakes area in western Kentucky. What fun it was to swim in the lake and camp in the woods!
I am very thankful for the exposure my father gave me to the outdoors and nature as a child. I have no doubt that it had much to do with my current love of Creation. All of this leads me to my present concern that many children today are not getting the same exposure. It seems fewer and fewer kids are connected to nature.
I recently came across an article that shares four reasons exposure to nature is essential for our children’s well-being. The reasons shared are 1) time outside has a direct impact on a child’s development; 2) time outside can help prevent sensory over-load and over-reliance on the material world; 3) time outside boosts creativity, confidence and focus; potentially relieving symptoms of attention and learning disorders; and 4) time outside can help our children appreciate and understand the planet despite confusing and troubling messages from the media.
To this list I would add time outside can help children better understand and experience God. As Rob and I frequently point out in this blog, God often reveals Himself through His Creation. Children will not have a chance to experience this if they are not given opportunities to enjoy nature. I am so thankful for a father who helped instill in me a love of nature and in the process an even greater love for my heavenly Father.
(The picture above was taken at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)
Happy Independence Day! This is a special day for Americans. First and foremost we remember with gratitude today the price that those who went before us paid so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have. There are, however, other things to be thankful for as well. I, for one, am thankful for the incredible natural beauty God has blessed this nation with. Of course, others have been grateful for this too.
In the song “America the Beautiful” the writer, Katherine Lee Bates, speaks of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains. After mentioning these she cannot help but declare, “God shed His grace on thee.” Samuel Francis Smith, the writer of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” likewise spoke with gratitude about the beauty of our land when he wrote, “I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills…”
I have been blessed to visit and photograph many of our country’s natural wonders and on this Fourth of July I find myself giving thanks for what we have. I also find myself concerned that we not take these natural treasures for granted and that they be preserved for future generations to enjoy. I believe it is our patriotic duty to make sure that places like the Everglades (one of the most endangered places in the world) and the Smokies (pictured above) are protected.
Katherine Lee Bates was right, God did, in fact, shed His grace on this country by giving us so much natural beauty and resources. One of my seminary professors used to say “with blessing comes responsibility.” Yes, we have been blessed. The question remains, will we also be responsible?
George Washington Carver once said, “Nature is an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour—if we will only tune in.” By now you know that I agree with Carver. If we will slow down and listen carefully, God has much to say to us in His creation. Many of the things we hear will be comforting or encouraging words, but at times the message may be challenging.
A few weeks ago I made a day trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my friend Bill Fortney. Bill wanted to go to the Tremont area so we could photograph the beautiful Middle Prong cascades. As you can see from the picture, this is a lovely and inspiring location.
When I am in places like this there is a passage from the prophet Amos that invariably comes to my mind. Amos says, “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Roaring rivers and streams cause me to remember that there is much injustice in the world today. There is racial injustice, economic injustice, environmental injustice, social injustice and a host of other injustices. Countless people suffer today because justice and righteousness are all too often lacking.
A few verses after Amos made his familiar admonition he declared, “Woe to you who are complacent…” Although these words were spoken over twenty-five hundred years ago I believe that it is, in fact, complacency that remains a major contributor to the many injustices in the world. I know I am guilty of being complacent far more often than I should be. For this reason I remain thankful for God’s “unlimited broadcasting station” of nature and how it reminds me time and time again of His desire to see “justice roll on like a river” and “righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Now it’s up to folks like you and me to see that it happens!