Sep 30 2012

Companions For Life

Last night I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for our church choir director.  Thanks to a break in the weather the service was able to be held outdoors high on a mountaintop in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Everything about the service was beautiful, including the surroundings.  As the bride walked toward me and I took in the awe-inspiring surroundings my mind couldn’t help but wander back to the Genesis story where in another garden setting God provided a wife for the first man, Adam.  Genesis 2:18 declares, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.” 

What comes next in the story is kind of funny to me.  The Scriptures say that God “formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.  He brought them to the man to see what he would name them…”  After this we read, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”  Apparently Adam didn’t think any of the creatures God had created would make an appropriate mate.  I don’t understand.  What could be wrong with a porcupine or a giraffe or an ostrich?

Because Adam found “no suitable helper” among the creatures “the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (vs. 21-22)

When Adam saw God’s new creation he was ecstatic.  In this woman God provided the “suitable helper” Adam needed.  After this is noted we read the words, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  (v. 24) The story recorded in Genesis 2 seems to serve as the beginning or institution of marriage.  Interestingly, I used these same words in Melanie and Ryan’s wedding last night.   There in that beautiful outdoor setting they seemed so very appropriate.

I realize that I do not write much about the human side of Creation in this blog but it certainly is part of the story too.  In the Creation accounts found in Genesis 1 and 2 it is very obvious that God created a world where the needs of all might be met.  He created a world where fish and birds and mammals and insects and trees might all thrive.  Without a doubt God also wanted His human creation to thrive and realized that for men and women to flourish they would need companions.   I won’t go so far as to say everybody should or must get married to be complete but I will say that I believe that we humans are made with an inherent need for others.  Even those, like myself, who are introverts recognize that life would not be worth living were it not for the friendship, love and companionship we find in others.  I guess there is a sense in which all of my family and friends are “companions for life” for my life wouldn’t be the same without them.  They all give me so much life!  So today I would like to give thanks for God’s provision of companions.  I am very thankful for my wife, Bonita.  I am also extremely grateful for my family and friends.  In fact today I give thanks for all those God has allowed to cross my path thus far, and that includes you.  Thanks to all for the “life” you give me!


(I took the top picture several years ago at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The middle picture is the happy couple, Ryan and Melanie Brown, last night.  The bottom image is of my wife and I.  Rob shamed me by posting an image of his wife earlier this week so I felt compelled to do this.)

May 16 2012

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Some of the most famous words attributed to Francis of Assisi are the following: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, and first my Lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.  How beautiful he is, how radiant in all his splendor!  Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.  All praise be yours, my Lord through Sister Moon and stars; in the heavens you made them bright and precious and fair…”

I suspect many would view St. Francis’ words as whimsical or strange.  Who goes around calling the sun her “brother” or the moon his “sister”?  Not many, I suppose, but I’ve come to appreciate the way Francis and others over the centuries have viewed various elements of God’s Creation as family members.  In fact, I wonder at times if some of our environmental woes may have been averted if we had not lost grasp of our familial connection to the rest of the earth.  Everything that exists—the sun, moon, earth, plants, animals, humans—has the same source, God.  We all come from God and we all belong to God.  That makes us family, does it not?

Two key ingredients in any healthy family are love and respect.  I am very thankful to be a part of a family where these two virtues are abundant.  Where these virtues are absent trouble is inevitable.  This is true not just for our immediate family but also for our extended family that includes all of Creation.   Every person and every thing that God has made deserves our love and respect.  If we do not extend them this there will be trouble.  You can count on it.

The rest of Creation is due our love and respect, if for no other reason, because God made it and it manifests His glory.  St. Francis’ words cited above reveal his belief that praise comes to God through all that He has made.  Note carefully his words “through all.”   Recognizing that all of God’s Creation should be viewed as family helped Francis see the beauty inherent in God’s handiwork.  This beauty, in turn, led him to offer his worship and praise to the Maker of heaven and earth.

Each day and each night we have visual reminders in the sky of God’s goodness and love.  Let us give thanks for “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon” for the light—both physical and spiritual—they shine upon us.  Let us also join with them in offering our praise to “the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).  It’s a wonderful thing, after all, when families can do things together…


(I photographed the sunrise and moonset shown above a couple of weeks ago in Big Bend National Park.)


Sep 6 2009

We Are Family

sea ottersOver the years biologists have come up with various names to identify groups of animals.  Alligators form a congregation, beavers a colony, birds a flock, frogs an army, gorillas a band, lions a pride, monkeys a troop, sea otters (like those above) a raft, owls a parliament, sharks a school, whales a pod, and wolves a pack.  Human groups go by different names: crowd, community, gang, mob, tribe, etc.  But what if we wanted to come up with a group name for all creatures, what would it be?  I’d like to suggest family.

Obviously there are many things that are distinctive for each animal group but there is also much that they all have in common, especially theologically.  For starters, we all owe our existence to God.  Every creature, including man, can say with the Psalmist “It is He who has made us and not we ourselves.” (Ps. 100:3)  Second, God has declared all of His creatures to be good.  Following the fifth and sixth days of creation (the days all creatures were made) we are told “God saw that it was good.”   Third, we have all been “blessed” by God.  This, too, has been made clear in Genesis 1 (see v. 22 and 28).

 There are still other things all creatures have in common.  Fourth, we have each been given the ability to reproduce and perpetuate our species.  For all of His creatures God said “Be fruitful and multiply” (once again see v. 22 and 28).   Fifth, we are all mortal.  No creature can live forever.  Finally, we all look forward to Creation’s fulfillment in the age to come.  This is the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 8.  He writes, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (vs. 19-21)

There truly is much that all God’s creatures, including man, share in common.  That being so, wouldn’t it help if we began to look at all creatures as family?  I cannot help but believe that is precisely what God intended “in the beginning.”