Feb 3 2013

Heaven Breaking Through

_CES7864I have found it interesting that some of the great Christian preachers/writers from the past that are known for their serious works have written such beautiful things about nature.  Jonathan Edwards, best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” wrote eloquently about Creation’s beauty.  St. Augustine, whose works are quite weighty to say the least, likewise, wrote lovely words about finding and experiencing God in nature.

cardinal 387Recently I came across another example.  William Law is widely known as the author of the devotional classic A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.  It is, as the title suggests, a serious book.  I guess that’s why I was surprised to read this lovely quote by Law, “All that is sweet, delightful, and amiable in this world, in the serenity of the air, the fineness of the seasons, the joy of light, the melody of sounds, the beauty of colors, the fragrancy of smells, the splendor of precious stones, is nothing else but Heaven breaking through the veil of this world.”  I really like what William Law says here.  He sees in God’s Creation heaven “breaking through” so that we might catch glimpses of it.  He felt that we can experience a bit of heaven here on earth by paying attention to what is all around us.  Others have certainly suggested the same thing.  In Celtic Spirituality one often reads about “thin places” where the veil between heaven and earth is quite tenuous indeed.

Those desiring to experience a bit of heaven on earth can find it, Law posits, in a lot of different places.   He speaks in comprehensive terms when he says “all that is sweet, delightful, and amiable in this world” but he goes on to offer some more specific examples: the air, the seasons, light, sounds, color, and smells.  I like the fact that he also includes “the splendor of precious stones.”  Law may have had jewels in mind here but I find so much beauty in common rocks.

RRG-425I encourage you to consider seriously (I just had to say that) the idea that glimpses of heaven are all around you.  In light of the current state of the world, it’s nice to know that there are “foretastes of glory divine” to be found.  How foolish it would be for us not to take advantage of them.  Wouldn’t you agree?


(I took the picture of the rocks in Maine. I photographed the cardinal in my yard today.  The tree in the field was also taken in Kentucky, near Red River Gorge National Geological Area.)

Apr 10 2011

St. Augustine’s Advice

The idea of nature being a “second book” of divine revelation goes back at least to the third century, A.D. When St. Anthony the Great was asked how he managed to be such a learned man without the aid of books he said, “My book is the nature of created things, and as often as I have mind to read the words of God, they are at my hand.” A little over a century later St. Augustine would echo this idea. In one of his sermons he said: “Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? What, heaven and earth shout to you, ‘God made me!'”

The past couple of days I have had a chance to get out and do some powerful “reading” in a place called Hawaii. This tropical paradise is actually one of God’s more recent chapters. Scientists would even note that it is a work in progress. The volcanic activity this state is known for is constantly reshaping the landscape and even adding land. I have to admit, I really like this particular chapter in God’s second book. It is an exciting place to visit and certainly God’s glory is made abudantly manifest in this beautiful place. Whether you look up, down or all around the enlightened person is certain to feel and see the presence of the Creator.

As I’ve already indicated, I’m glad to be here visiting Hawaii but one doesn’t have to travel to such an exotic location to feel and see God’s presence in nature. Wherever you live you can do this if you will just follow Augustine’s advice–“Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it.” In fact, I’m convinced you will learn more from this second book at home than you will in your travels. It takes time to read this “second book.” It’s pages must be read and reread several times. This is not something you can do on a vacation. O, sure you can still experience God away from home. It’s just that you will have a better chance of truly grasping what has been written when you can read the pages day after day, month after month.

The important thing to do is be attentive. Live each day in the awareness that God has provided you with two wonderful books to discover divine truths–the Bible and His Creation. Take time, wherever you are, to read from both books on a daily basis. Incredible riches await those who do!


(I took the top image of new life in a lava field at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Friday.  The second image was taken the same day at Punlu’u Black Sand Beach.  The image of the wave I took yesterday at Laupahoehoe Point.)

Oct 10 2010

A Book With No Words

BFSP Blackwater Falls 090St. Augustine is one of the most significant figures or voices in church history.  In seminary I read his Confessions and came to see why it is considered a classic of Christian devotional literature.  In this book Augustine notes, “God has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.”  I consider this passage to almost be on the same level as Scripture.  It rings true in my heart and explains a lot of things.

I also appreciate what Augustine had to say about God and nature.  Writing in the fourth century he said “Some people, in order to discover God, read books.  But there is a great book; the very appearance of created things.  Look about you!  Look below you!  Note it.  Read it.  God, who you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink.  Instead He set before your eyes the things He had made.  Can you ask for a louder voice than that?”

MNF 888I happen to be one of those people Augustine wrote about when he said some people read books to discover God.  I have a personal library of over 15,000 books.  I love to read and have learned much about God through the books I’ve read.  Still, I, and others, need Augustine’s reminder that there is another book that we need to be turning to—a book not written with ink.  In Creation we find a wonderful volume that will teach us much about the God we seek to discover. 

Augustine is pretty emphatic about this.  He says “look about you!,” “look below you!,” “note it,”  “read it.”   It was his conviction that we hear God speak louder here—in Creation–than in all the books written about God.   I suspect he would have even included his own books in this great claim.

If you are one who longs to “discover God” or want to know Him better, I encourage you to take Augustine’s advice.  Start reading that “book not written with ink.”  Get outside and get to know God.


(I took the images above in West Virginia last week.  The top image was captured at Blackwater Falls State Park.  The bottom image was taken in the Monogahela National Forest.)