May 9 2012

Speechless

“There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

Last night as I was driving home from the airport in Louisville I played a CD by my favorite contemporary Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman.  In his song “Speechless” he sings these words: I’m astonished and amazed; I am silenced by your wondrous grace.  You have saved me, You have raised me from the grave.  And I am speechless in your presence now.  I’m astounded as I consider how You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless.”

As I listened to these words I certainly concurred with Steven’s sentiment; God’s love and grace often leave me speechless.  So too does the beauty of God’s Creation.  Several times on my recent trip to the desert southwest I could only stand in awe at what I was seeing.  I was “astonished and amazed” as I looked at the marvelous formations in Carlsbad Caverns.  I was “astounded” by the beauty of Big Bend National Park.  I was left “speechless” as I looked out on the pristine dunes of White Sands National Monument.  There were so many times on this trip that I was overwhelmed by what I saw, and at times heard, in God’s Creation that I simply had to stand in wonder, awe and silence.

This was not a new experience for me.  Countless times I have beheld beauty that humbled me and left me speechless.  I say “beauty” but in reality it is the Creator that leaves me overwhelmed and lacking words to express what I’m feeling.  As a pastor I make my living talking about God but there are times when words get in the way.  I can understand why the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (5:2)  When we encounter God, wherever or however that might be, the best thing we can do at times is be silent.

There is no doubt a time to lift up our voices in praise to God.  Every single day we should offer Him words of thanksgiving.  But it is not a bad thing at all to “be still and know” that God is God. (Psalm 46:10)  Christina Rossetti once said, “Silence is more musical than any song.”  I cannot help but feel God is honored when we stand speechless before Him.  It is in those moments we let God be God and that is enough.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Big Bend National Park, the middle one at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and the bottom one at White Sands National Monument.)


Apr 29 2012

“The Good Life”

In a few hours I will begin a journey that will take me out west to the Chihuahuan desert.  This desert region is found mostly in Mexico but does extend into southern New Mexico and Texas.  The only section of this desert that I’ve visited before was at White Sands National Monument.  I am looking forward to getting to explore other portions of it as I photograph Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park.

While doing some preparatory reading for this adventure I picked up John A. Murray’s book, Cactus Country.  Here I found these words: “Like any desert, the Chihuahuan has much to teach us about nature and life, especially the good life.  It is a place to get outside of time for awhile, to listen to the song of oriole and the breeze in cottonwood leaves, to watch the sun rise and the sun set, to look up at the distant stars in renewed wonder.”

I agree with Murray that the desert, along with other ecosystems, has much to teach us about nature and life, “especially the good life.”  I don’t know for sure what Murray meant by “good life” but for me it is the life God meant for us when He created the world.  I believe that the Creator put the world together in such a way that we can, if we pay attention, learn much about life and how it is meant to be lived.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been reading from the Book of Proverbs before going to bed at night.  Numerous times in this wonderful collection of wisdom the writer discerns lessons from the natural world.  In Proverbs 30 alone the biblical writer makes references to the earth’s winds and waters, its land and fire.  Further references are made in this chapter to ravens and vultures, eagles, snakes, badgers, locusts, lizards, lions, roosters, and goats.  Even the lowly ant is mentioned as an example of something small, but wise, since ants “store up their food in the summer.” (v. 25)

I encourage you to learn about nature and life, especially the good life, from your surroundings.  People have been doing so since the beginning of time.  I know school will soon be getting out for a lot of folks but maybe it’s time for some of us to just begin.  May we all be open to learning what we can about the “good life” through the Scriptures and God’s “other book.”

–Chuck

(I took the two images above at White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico.)