Sunsets. People tend to stop what they are doing to watch them . . . snap pictures of them . . . enjoy the beautiful view.
My wife and I watched the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico recently. A crowd of people surrounded us, mostly strangers who had gathered at the beach to watch this nightly phenomenon. At the moment the sun fully slipped below the horizon the crowd broke out with applause.
Why do people respond like that? The book of Psalms offers a clue. The psalmist wrote of God ordering the sun to praise its Creator (Ps. 148:3). And wherever the rays of the sun shine across the earth, people are moved to praise along with them.
The beauty that comes to us through nature speaks to our souls like few things do. It not only has the capacity to stop us in our tracks and captivate our attention, it also has the power to turn our focus to the Maker of beauty itself.
The wonder of God’s vast creation can cause us to pause and remember what’s truly important. Ultimately, it reminds us that there is a Creator behind the stunning entrance and exit of the day, One who so loved the world He made that He entered it in order to redeem and restore it.
I came across a solitary flower growing in a meadow today—a tiny purple blossom “wasting its sweetness in the desert air,” to borrow from the poet Thomas Gray’s wonderful line. I’m sure no one had seen this particular flower before, and perhaps no one will see it again. Why this beauty in this place? I thought.
Nature is never wasted. It daily displays the truth, goodness, and beauty of the One who brought it into being. Every day, nature offers a new and fresh declaration of God’s glory. Do I see Him through that beauty, or do I merely glance at it and shrug it off in indifference?
All nature declares the beauty of the One who made it. Our response can be worship, adoration, and thanksgiving—for the radiance of a cornflower, the splendor of a morning sunrise, the symmetry of one particular tree.
Author C. S. Lewis describes a walk in the forest on a hot summer day. He had just asked his friend how best to cultivate a heart thankful toward God. His hiking companion turned to a nearby brook, splashed his face and hands in a little waterfall, and asked, “Why not begin with this?” Lewis said he learned a great principle in that moment: “Begin where you are.”
A trickling waterfall, the wind in the willows, a baby robin, a tiny flower. Why not begin your thankfulness with this?
I like to watch birds at play, so years ago I built a small sanctuary in our backyard to attract them. For several months I enjoyed the sight of my feathered friends feeding and flitting about—until a Cooper’s Hawk made my bird refuge his private hunting reserve.
Such is life: Just about the time we settle down to take our ease, something or someone comes along to unsettle our nests. Why, we ask, must so much of life be a vale of tears?
I’ve heard many answers to that old question, but lately I’m satisfied with just one: “All the discipline of the world is to make [us] children, that God may be revealed to [us]” (George MacDonald, Life Essential). When we become like children, we begin trusting, resting solely in the love of our Father in heaven, seeking to know Him and to be like Him.
Cares and sorrow may follow us all the days of our lives, but “we do not lose heart. . . . For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Can we not rejoice, then, with such an end in view?
Recently, I had what for me was a “Copernican moment”: I am not at the center of the universe. The world doesn’t revolve around me. It doesn’t move at my pace, in my terms, nor in accord with my preferences.
Most regions of the world are familiar with the amazing phenomenon of snow. Snowflakes are beautiful, uniquely crafted ice crystals. Individual snowflakes are fragile, and they quickly melt if they land on your hand. Yet, en masse they create a force to be reckoned with. They can shut down major cities while creating beautiful landscapes of snow-laden trees whose pictures decorate calendars and become the subject of artwork. They provide pleasure on the ski slopes and joy for children as they make snowmen and ammunition for snowball fights. All because they stick together.
When Amanda Benavides was a sophomore at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California, she began to rethink her views on Christian stewardship of the earth. Amanda had grown up thinking that being conscious of the environment had nothing to do with her relationship with Jesus. All this changed when she was challenged to consider the Christian’s role in caring for the planet—especially how that relates to reaching the most needy in the world.
In his book Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions, Mark Moffett reflects on his early childhood fascination with ants—an interest that didn’t die as he grew older. Moffett’s preoccupation led to his earning a doctorate at Harvard and then embarking on worldwide travel as an expert on the subject. His study has given him marvelous insights about these industrious creatures.
Scottish-American John Muir (1838– 1914) was raised by a Christian father who placed great emphasis on Scripture memory. By young adulthood, John allegedly could recite from memory all of the New Testament and large portions of the Old Testament.
In his historical novel Chesapeake, James Michener tells the story of multiple generations living near a marsh. One character, Chris Pflaum, is introduced as a restless 13-year-old sitting in class waiting for summer break. But when the teacher reads a poem by Sidney Lanier, the boy's heart is stirred.