Aug 24 2017

My Partial Eclipse

Clingmans Dome sunsetThe much heralded total eclipse of the sun has now come and gone. Did you see it? I’ve heard some people share what an amazing experience it was. I’ve heard others speak about how disappointing it was. Some confessed to me they never looked out that day, they just watched it all on television. I watched the eclipse from our church’s playground. Thankfully I had a pair of safe glasses to use to watch the moon cover the sun to varying degrees. When the moon almost covered the sun the streetlights around the church came on and the crickets began to chirp. The quality of the light definitely changed making it a surreal moment. Here in Henderson the moon covered 99.4% of the sun. I thought that would surely be close enough to a total eclipse that I could take some photographs. But I was wrong. Even at the peak moment there was too much light for me to risk taking a picture. If I had purchased a solar filter I could have done so but, once again, I was convinced we would be close enough to a total eclipse that I wouldn’t need one. Oh well, live and learn.

Slot Canyon light shaftI did learn an important truth on Monday, one that concerns the spiritual life.  I learned that it doesn’t take a whole lot of light to make a big difference. Even when only .6% of the sun was visible it was still bright, so bright I had to have my solar glasses to look at it. Here we should all be reminded that Jesus, who was himself the “Light of the world,” has called each of us to be “the light of the world” also. The Bible says we are to let the light of God shine through us before others. Why is this important? The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Because there is so much darkness in the world. There is so much hatred, ugliness and division. Racism and injustice are prevalent. Greed, lust, and anger continue to dominate the scene. Wars and rumors of war are in the news daily. The amount of darkness in the world is staggering, so much so that we may wonder if there is any hope for the world. But there is hope. Darkness can be defeated. It doesn’t take a lot of light to dispel the darkness. That’s why it’s so important that we let our light shine. I may not be but a single light but I can make a difference. My church may not be a large church but if we shine together it can make a huge difference in our community and beyond. John 1:5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I hope we will all do our part to make sure that God’s light continues to shine in and through us. I hope we will do our part to dispel all the darkness we can. For God’s sake, and that of others, let your light shine!

Chuck

 


Dec 16 2014

Too Much Darkness

e_CES8771It sure does get dark early this time of year in western Kentucky.  That has been one of my major adjustments since moving here and finding myself in the Central Standard Time zone once again.  A lot of people in this area go to work in the dark and when they get off of work it’s already dark again.  Darkness arrives early and it makes the nights seem so very long.  I don’t like it.  It’s depressing.  It messes with my mind.  And for a few more days it’s only going to get worse.  But there’s the good news, it’s only for a few more days.  The winter solstice arrives next week and slowly, but surely, the hours of daylight will lengthen.

It is knowing that the long nights will not last forever that makes them endurable.  When you have hope of longer and brighter days to come you can bear the shorter and darker days.  That hope sustains you.  That hope sees you through.

DV-moonSuch thoughts seem appropriate during the Advent season.   This time of year we remember how long ago God’s people longed for the coming of a Savior and how the prophet Isaiah declared that one day things would be different.  He wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (9:2)  Ironically, it was a great light that led a group of Magi to the one born to be King of the Jews.  Later, when Jesus began his teaching ministry he announced “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  In so many ways Jesus did, in fact, bring light to the world.  During Advent we pause to remember how that light made its entrance.

TB-880Advent, however, is more than just a time for looking back and remembering.  It is also a time for looking ahead.  Before Jesus left this world he promised that he would one day return.  That has not happened yet but we live with the confidence and assurance that someday it will.  That is good news, especially in dark days like these.  And here, by dark days, I am not referring to the shortage of daylight.  All you have to do is watch or read the news and it becomes obvious that a deep darkness pervades much of the world.  Scores of innocent children are murdered while they are at school in Pakistan.  Various groups of people suffer regularly from racial injustice.  Thousands die each day from hunger and poverty related illnesses.  Violence raises its ugly head unrelentingly.  Climate change and pollution threaten the lives of millions.  Yes, there’s a lot of darkness out there.

The darkness around us will not last forever however.  A better day is coming.  In fact, there is a time approaching when there will be no more darkness.  That is something that we are promised in Revelation 21:25.  The one who is the Light of the world will prevail and his kingdom will one day be fully established.   In the meantime, followers of Jesus must never forget that he said we, too, are “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)  As long as darkness remains in this world we have work to do, we must let our light shine.  Until the Second Advent takes place we are charged to do all we can to dispel the darkness around us.  I need to be a light for you.  You need to be a light for me.  We need to be a light to all those around us.  It’s what the one born in Bethlehem is counting on us to do.  I pray we will not let him down.

–Chuck

(I took the images used above in New Mexico and California.)


Jul 27 2014

Seeing the Light in Darkness

e_DSC4090I spent the past week at the Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico.  It was an incredible experience on numerous levels.  I enjoyed learning from John Philip Newell as he talked about his new book, The Rebirthing of God.  He and his wife, Ali, also led in worship each morning and evening.  The services were spiritually uplifting.  The landscape around the Ghost Ranch was also incredible.  I have traveled extensively around the Desert Southwest and without a doubt this was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen there.  Each day I had a chance to get out and do some photography in the area.  This, too, proved to be spiritually uplifting.  I always seem to sense God’s nearness in the desert for some reason.

e_DSC4584One very pleasant surprise for me at the Ghost Ranch was the night skies.  Two nights the skies were completely clear and those nights I witnessed the glory of the heavens as never before.  The Milky Way seemed almost close enough to touch.  I was in total awe.  The words of the Psalmist kept coming to mind: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place; what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (8:3-4)  I did indeed feel humbled beneath the vastness of the heavens above but at the same time I recognized that the One who made those stars dwelt within me and was close by.  The transcendence and immanence of God was apparent at one and the same time.  I could not help but offer my worship to the Maker of heaven and earth.

e_DSC4596Each morning as a part of our workshop we were asked to go outside and spend twenty minutes in silence.  On the day following my close encounter with the Milky Way I spent my twenty minutes laying down on a large stone beside a giant cottonwood tree looking up at the sky.  The sky was a beautiful blue, punctuated with fluffy white clouds.  After a while it dawned on me that I was looking up in the same area I beheld the stars the night before and that those stars were still there extending their light.  Because of the brightness of the sun the stars could not be seen but they were there nonetheless.  This was, of course, something I already knew, but it did drive home a truth that I had not pondered previously—some manifestations of God’s glory can only be experienced in darkness.

While at the Ghost Ranch I finished reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.  This inspirational work has made me look at darkness in a new way.  She offers many compelling reasons to embrace the darkness, both physical and spiritual.  At one point Taylor writes, “If we turn away from darkness on principle, doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn’t there a chance that what we are running away from is God?”

e_DSC4598I am convinced more than ever that we must learn to approach the dark periods of our life in a new light.  We tend to think of darkness in negative terms but it may well be that the darkness is needed at times for God’s glory to be revealed.  There are lessons that God can only teach us, things that the Creator can only show us, in the dark seasons of our life.  This doesn’t necessarily make those dark seasons easier to endure but it does offer us a glimmer of hope—that in the darkness we may just see a light or manifestation of God that could not be seen otherwise.  The skies above New Mexico and the testimony of many of the saints of history all bear witness that this is true.  When you find yourself in darkness—whether physical, spiritual or emotional—I encourage you to look for that which might not be seen otherwise.  It may just be that it is in the darkness where you will see God the clearest.

–Chuck

(I took the images above at or near the Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico this past week.)


Jun 27 2012

The Light of God

Yesterday I started reading Philip Newell’s book, The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Sprirituality. I can already tell I’m going to love it. Its seven chapters are divided up by the seven days of Creation. Genesis 1:3-4 says “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” This passage is the focus of the first chapter.

Concerning Genesis 1:3-4 Newell says, “To say that light is created on the first day is to say that light is at the heart of life.  It is the beginning of creation in the sense that it is the essence or centre from which life proceeds.  At the heart of all that has life is the light of God.”  Newell makes sure to distinguish the light spoken of on the first day of Creation from the sun and moon that are created on the fourth day.  It is the light created on the first day that makes everything else possible.

Newell goes on to say “the heart of all life is the light of God.”  What he says next I find most intriguing. He claims “The more deeply we move in relation to any created thing the closer we approach ‘the divine brillance’ at the centre.”  In other words, the more we get to know other life forms the more we will come to know and experience the light which comes from God.  This means learning more about the flora and fauna that surround us, not to mention our fellow human beings, can bring us much spiritual benefit.

Even though the Scriptures declare that “God is light” Newell is careful to distinguish the light created on the first day of Creation from God Himself.  He says, “God is always more than that light. Though invisible, it is a created light and can never truly reveal the Uncreated.  God expresses the light of creation into being and yet is beyond creation; he is simultaneously immanenet to the universe and transcendent to it.”

Towards the end of the first chapter Newell draws some practical implications of what he has written.  He says “God is to be found not by stepping aside from the flow of daily life into religious moments and environments, or from looking away from creation to a spiritual realm beyond, but rather by entering attentively the depths of the present moment.” What wonderful advice! I encourage you to give Newell’s words some thought and to begin looking harder and deeper for that light which God spoke into existence the first day of Creation long ago.  As God Himself said, that light is “good.”

–Chuck

(This week I’m in Louisville on a summer mission trip with a group from my church.  We’re helping out at a facility with about 500 elderly residents.  On the grounds there are some nice gardens.  I took the pictures shown above there.)


Dec 21 2011

“A Light Has Dawned”

The winter solstice is once again upon us.  This is a day that has been celebrated for centuries.   The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  Once it passes the hours of daylight slowly begin to lengthen.  Ancient people found this as cause for celebration.  They were reminded each year at this time that darkness would not prevail.   Many people believe that Christmas came to be celebrated this time of year for the same reason.  We do not know for a fact what month Christ was born.  Some scholars believe it likely occurred in the spring rather than at the start of winter but the date of December 25 may well have been chosen to coincide with the winter solstice because the message of Christmas likewise declares that darkness will not prevail.

Long before Jesus came the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  This prophecy has been linked with Christ for centuries.  His coming brought light to the world, a light that darkness cannot extinguish.   Jesus himself said “I am the light of the world.”  (John 9:5)  Reflecting on Jesus the author of the Fourth Gospel said, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Darkness can be a scary thing both literally and figuratively.  We all know that darkness often conveys the idea of danger.  It can also be a metaphor for despair.  Darkness pretty much describes what life is like apart from Christ.  Without him things are gloomy.  Without Jesus there is little hope.  Without Christ we live in “the shadow of death.”  If I had to describe in one word what my life would be like apart from Jesus I could think of no more appropriate word than “darkness.”

As the winter solstice approaches and the celebration of Christmas draws near I give thanks that into this world of darkness “a light has dawned.”  I rejoice knowing that because of what God did that first Christmas long ago darkness does not have the final word.  Even though there is still plenty of darkness in the world I remain confident that this darkness will not prevail because that child born in Bethlehem truly was and is “the light of the world.”

–Chuck

(I took the top image of Skylight Cave in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  I took the bottom image at Sequoia National Park.)


Mar 20 2011

Reflecting the Light

Super Moon 132If you were out last night and the skies were clear you may have noticed a beautiful full moon.  You may even have thought it looked bigger than usual.  Actually it was.  Last night we experienced what some have called a “super moon.”  Because the moon was at the closest point it gets to the earth and it happened to be a full moon the view of our lunar neighbor was extra special last evening.  It will be quite a while before the conditions are the same again so I hope you got to see it.

The moon has fascinated humans from the very beginning.  It continues to be a source of fascination for me.  Early in my life I dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were my heroes.  Needless to say, my dream of becoming an astronaut never materialized.

For quite some time the moon has been a reminder to me of an important spiritual truth.  In the Gospels Jesus indicated that he was “the light of the world” and in the Sermon on the Mount he went on to say “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Super Moon 163This passage raises an interesting question.  Is Jesus the light of the world or are we?  The answer in once sense is obvious; we both are.  But there is certainly a difference in the light we share and the light Christ shared.  Jesus, as the Son of God, shown with his own light.  Our light, however, is derivative.  We shine as the light of the world only as we reflect the light of Christ.  It’s here where the moon helps us out.  As every elementary school child learns, the moon has no light of its own; it simply reflects the sun’s light.  In the spiritual life it is the same.  We have no light to share of our own but we are able to be reflections of Christ’s light.

When I look up at the moon I’m often reminded of our calling to be “the light of the world” and how if I am to let my light shine at all I must remain close to the true Source of light and reflect his light to others.  If we let things get between us and the Source of light we do not offer much of a reflection.  It’s imperative that we remove anything that hinders Christ’s light from shining on us and from us.  In a world filled with as much darkness as ours, I’m hoping there will be lots of “super moons” out there and that I can be one of them too.

–Chuck

(I took both of these images last night in my back yard.)