Dec 9 2012

Sanctuaries of Peace

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”   Isaiah 55:12

Today is the second Sunday of Advent and the theme for this particular Sunday is peace.   Peace, though greatly desired by most people, can be hard to find these days.  It definitely seems to be in short supply.  Nations do battle with one another.  Arguments rage in the halls of Congress.  There is ongoing conflict in most homes and places of business.  I suspect that in the end all of this is symptomatic of the lack of peace that resides inside our own hearts.  Today we remember the coming of the Prince of Peace but at the same time cannot help but lament the lack of peace evident in the world and in our own lives.

One of the things I have come to realize is that I need peaceful refuges or sanctuaries in order to maintain what peace I do have.  This morning I went to church early and after turning the lights of our Chrismon Tree and Christmas wreaths on I simply sat and soaked in the sense of peace that pervaded the place.  I have in my home a study which is also for me a peaceful sanctuary.  There I am surrounded by my books and can find a variety of music to listen to that contribute to my peace of mind and soul.

I spent a couple of days in southern Florida with Rob this past week and while there I had a chance to take some walks in swamps and hammocks.  It always amazes me how God’s Creation generates feelings of peace and tranquility within me.  Yes, even in swampy areas filled with spiders and snakes and alligators I felt a peace I do not find in the normal hustle and bustle of life. The places Rob took me were all near populated and/or commercial areas.  Not far away thousands of cars were making their way here or there, but in these pockets of wildness I found sanctuaries of peace and a sense of the presence of God.

I am thankful that no matter where you live nearby there is likely to be a natural sanctuary of peace.  Due to crime most churches are not able to keep their doors unlocked at all times.  For that reason few people have the option I do of going into a church sanctuary anytime they want and spending peaceful moments there alone.  But in nature we can find a place of peaceful refuge twenty-four hours a day.  I realize that some parks also have locks but there are always pockets of wildness waiting to be made into sanctuaries of peace.  I cannot help but believe that the God who first made Himself known to others in a garden still waits in a variety of gardens and natural habitats to make Himself known.  And when we give God that opportunity the peace we so urgently need is usually found as well.  Where do you find your own sanctuaries of peace?  Have you been there lately?

–Chuck

(I took the images above near West Palm Beach, Florida, this past Thursday and Friday.)

 


Jul 13 2011

All Thy Works Shall Praise Thy Name

 

I have been in Nashville this week for the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Nashville is a nice city but I have to admit that I don’t really enjoy staying in “concrete jungles” where so much of the natural world I love is missing. Still, I’ve enjoyed being here, getting to see a lot of people I know and care for, and participating in some wonderful worship services.

One of the things I’ve been reminded of in our worship services here is how many hymns and praise songs make reference to God as Creator or to Creation itself. A few days ago we were singing the classic hymn by Reginald Heber,“Holy! Holy! Holy!”, and on the screen I saw the words “All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea. Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and Mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Other songs we have sung have echoed the call for all of Creation to join in offering praise and worship to God, the “Creator of heaven and earth.”

Recently I started reading Machael Abbate’s book Gardening Eden. Here he says “In His unfathomable wisdom, God designed everything in the universe to all work together in immeasurable complexity so that it could relentlessly glorify Him. As odd as it may sound, it is not just humans that are expected to recognize God’s power, wisdom, and love. Everything He created is intended to join in the chorus.”

The Scriptures certainly give evidence that all of Creation is meant to give God praise. Psalm 145:21 says “Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.” Elsewhere the Psalmist wrote, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it: let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.” (Ps. 96:11). The prophet Isaiah says “The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (55:12) God told Job that at Creation’s dawn “the morning stars sang together” (38:7) and when the Pharisees sought to silence people giving Jesus praise as he entered Jerusalem he told them “I tell you, if my followers didn’t say these things, then the stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:40)

It would seem that the testimony of both the authors of Scripture and the hymns of our faith understood that all of Creation is meant to join in together offering God praise. What a shame it will be if we humans who were created in the image of God, and have the capacity to experience communion with Him like no other part of His Creation, fail to give Him the praise He deserves! Apparently the rest of Creation is doing its part. Are we?

–Chuck

 (I took the two pictures above on my trip to Hawaii this past April.)