with Bob Condly
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August 2017

One More Lesson from a Quiet Creation

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(Here are the links to the first and second posts in this series.)

To hear a silent creation, we must quiet ourselves. Nature reveals her depths to prepared souls.

In the words of the poet William Wordsworth,

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Why does creation have this effect on us? Why does it fascinate us so?

Because, as Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

The poet echoes the prophet:

“The whole earth is full of His glory.” – Isaiah 6:3c (NASB)

Wonderful news, the majesty of God infuses everything He has made!

Nature broadcasts God’s wisdom, but can we tune in?

The psalmist David recognizes this problem:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” – Psalm 19:1-6 (NIV)

Speech but no words, revelation without sound. How can we hear nature’s mute testimony?

By taking the advice of Jesus and becoming like children.

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In A Book of Silence, 75, Sara Maitland says that “Most small children experience this sensation of profound joy randomly and apparently frequently.” To illustrate her point, she notes that “Wordsworth mourned its passing in his ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ (1807):”

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,

The earth, and every common sight

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it has been of your;–

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The rainbow comes and goes,

And lovely is the rose,

The Moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

Waters on a starry night

Are beautiful and fair;

The sunshine is a glorious birth;

But yet I know, where’er I go,

That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.

When we’re caught up in the clamor of our culture, we have no attention to pay to the Lord. Distractions compete with His Word and His natural works. We’re deafened.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. When we still ourselves, created things become our teachers.

In his book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, 197, Robert Cardinal Sarah admits that “God seems silent, but he reveals himself and speaks to us through the marvels of creation. It is enough to pay attention like a child to the splendors of nature. For nature speaks to us about God.”

What does it take to discern the wisdom, majesty, even the presence of God?

Episcopal priest Rob Lord says, “Wherever you turn your eyes, the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it, except a willingness to see.”

All it takes is willingness. Not a high IQ or lots of money or a special location. Just humble obedience to Jesus. And we will see the glory of God.

Are we willing?

 

Another Lesson from a Quiet Creation

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(Here’s the link to last week’s post about this topic.)

To listen to creation, we have to quiet ourselves. As Larry King says, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” During my camping trip in the Catskills with the Boy Scouts, I discovered how silence allows for the life around us to emerge.

When we’re still, we can hear a quiet creation. But what does it want to tell us? What can we learn from its silent voice?

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-8

We pore over books about motivation, productivity, goals, and plans, but ants can reveal many of the same insights. For free! Watching them work inspires diligence and determination. It’s humbling to admit that insignificant creatures can serve as role models.

Nothing is too mundane for the Lord to use for our education.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:7-10

Quiet creation teaches us that God is in control. Life is in His hands.

Now we can dare to live without fear or worry. The poet William Wordsworth opens his magnum opus, “The Prelude,” with a paean of appreciation for the voice of creation:

OH there is a blessing in this gentle breeze,

A visitant that while it fans my cheek

Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings

From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.

Whate’er its mission, the soft breeze can come

To none more grateful than to me; escaped

From the vast city, where I long had pined

A discontented sojourner: now free,

Free as a bird to settle where I will.

What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale

Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove

Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream

Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?

The earth is all before me. With a heart

Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,

I look about; and should the chosen guide

Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,

I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!

Wordsworth expresses reckless confidence in a simple cloud to mentor him. But what seems dangerous and irresponsible succeeds in the kingdom of God.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you–you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:26-30

Jesus challenges His disciples to trust the Father completely.

Birds, flowers, clouds, ants–all these can teach us about living under God’s rule and authority. If we follow Christ, we shouldn’t be surprised if He uses silent creatures to reveal the will and heart of God.

Are we quiet?

And are we listening?

 

with Bob Condly

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