May 4 2011

Echoes and Sign Language

One of my favorite inspirational books is Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul: Experiencing God in New Ways.  I was looking at this book earlier today and came across a passage I had forgotten about that I’d like to share with you.  In a chapter called “Opening the Window” Gire pens the following words:

“Like rain and snow, the word of God permeates the earth.  To say God’s word can be found only in certain places, like the Bible, for example, is to say, in effect, that rain water can be found only in lakes where it is most visible.  But everywhere we look there are traces of His word.  In the circumstances of our lives.  In every nook of humanity and every crannied flower of creation.”

Gire goes on to make an excellent case for looking for God in Creation.  He says, “If God created the world with words that went forth from His mouth, words like ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,’ it follows that the sun and moon and stars are echoes of those words and that something of the divine mind and its purposes can be understood by studying them.  If we look with the right eyes, listen with the right ears, we will understand the natural creation as a form of sign language through which God expresses Himself.”

I like the idea of seeing in the world around me “echoes” of God’s words spoken when He created the universe.  Genesis 1-2 makes it clear that God spoke the world into being.  Those words continue to echo throughout Creation and we have the wonderful privilege of listening to and seeing the result of His spoken word.

I also like Gire’s analogy of God’s revelation through Creation being like “sign language.”  My wife, Bonita, happens to know sign language quite well.  She is a wonderful and gifted interpreter.  Through her hands she can translate what others are saying but in order to receive the message being interpreted one must know sign language.  I confess that I do not know sign language but if I took the time to study it I could learn to listen to what Bonita is saying with her hands and motions.

When it comes to interpreting God’s “sign language” in Creation we must also study the language and become familiar with the signs.  The Bible will help us do this but it will also be necessary to study natural history books and field guides.  We will have to work hard to develop our observational skills and spiritual sensitivities.  That may sound like a lot of trouble but when the end result is the ability to experience God more fully I cannot help but believe that the effort will be well worth it.


(The two images above were taken last spring while visiting Joshua Tree National Park with my blogging partner and friend, Rob Sheppard.)

Apr 27 2011

Death and Life

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”  1 Corinthians 15:22

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that a few weeks ago I introduced you to a delightful website where you could view a live cam on an active eagle’s nest.  Yesterday I was saddened to learn that the mother eagle at this nest had been hit by an airplane and killed.  This eagle had been taking wonderful care of her three eaglets and had touched the hearts of thousands of people across the globe.  This horrible accident was just another reminder how fragile life is and how death is an inevitable part of life.

The picture you see above was taken on the hill in my back yard.  This skull was here when we moved into our house three years ago.  I elected not to remove it.  Why?  I felt it would serve as a useful reminder to me of my own mortality.  A lot of us live our lives as though we will never die.  The fact is we all will one day die unless Christ returns first.  This cow’s skull makes me mindful that I should live my life with the end in mind.  It makes me want to do all I can to make life meaningful while I have the chance. 

There are certainly a lot of reminders in nature that death is a part of life.  When we look around us we see dead animals on the side of the road, trees that have died, and plants that have perished.  In God’s wonderful economy death actually plays a key role in the giving of life.  Plants and animals return to the soil and make it more fertile.  Through death life goes on.

Some feel that this same cycle is what we face as humans.  We live, we die and then we return to dust.  That’s it.  The Scriptures, however, point to something else.  Here too we learn that death leads to life but the difference is that in God’s hands we are restored to life ourselves.  This, of course, is the message we celebrated a few days ago on Easter.  The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that life goes on for those who follow Christ.  For these death becomes the entranceway to life on a far higher level than that we experience here on earth.  (What happens to other living creatures is not clearly noted in the Scriptures; I can only hope that they too are a part of the “new creation” the Bible talks about.)  

When the words are paired we usually see them in this order—life and death.  God would have us reverse this order and see that life follows death.  Obviously we live now and are meant to make the most of life here on earth.  We do this by loving God, our neighbors, ourselves and God’s Creation but it is comforting to know that this life is not all that we have.  There is more—so much more—to come once we pass through death to life and the home God prepares for us even now.


(The bottom picture was taken at Joshua Tree National Park.  The shadows on the rocks remind me of the words found in Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil,  for you are with me.”)

May 12 2010

The Gift of the Desert

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”  Mark 6:31

JTNP 755It’s nice to be back home in southeast Kentucky but I have to admit I find myself missing the desert.  I’m not really sure how to explain that.  I have no desire whatsoever to live in a desert; I prefer the lushness of the mountains around me here.  Still, there is something about the desert that beckons me. 

Over the centuries many have been drawn to the desert, often for spiritual purposes.  It has been noted that “The Jews traveled in the desert and became a community; Jesus went there to pray and to prepare for his ministry; and Muhammad received his commission in a desert cave.”  I can understand this; over the years I have spent a fair amount of time in the desert and it does something spiritually to me as well.  I just can’t seem to explain why.

MNP salt flats 472In her wonderful book, Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams offers insight that gives me a clue or two.  She writes, “It’s strange how deserts turn us into believers.  I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages, because you learn humility.  I believe in living in a land of little water because life is drawn together.  If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred.  Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.  There is no place to hide, and so we are found.”

Earlier in my life I saw deserts as literal “waste lands.”  I hardly view them that way today.  In ways that many people don’t understand, they are full of life.  They are full of life biologically and full of life spiritually.  For that reason we need to do everything we can to preserve them.  In some ways, the health of our souls may depend upon it.


(The top image was taken at Joshua Tree National Park.  The bottom image is a salt bed captured at Mojave National Preserve.)