The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator’s power display;
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth:
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll
and spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice;
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”
–Words: Joseph Addison (1672-1719); paraphrase of Psalm 19:1-6
–Music: CREATION, Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809)
Audio recording of this hymn was captured on September 13, 2015 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle, Washington.
The song of my Beloved beside the stream.
The birds descanting in their clerestories.
His skies have sanctified my eyes, His woods are clearer than the King’s palace.
But the air and I will never tell our secret.
Christ has sanctified the desert and the wilderness shines with promise.
The land is first in simplicity and strength.
I had never before spoken freely or so intimately with woods, hills, buds, water and sky.
On this great day, however, they understood their position and they remained mute in the presence of the Beloved.
Only His light was obvious and eloquent.
My, brother and sister, the light and the water.
The stump and the stone. The tables of rock.
The blue, naked sky.
–Excerpt from Entering the Silence, by Thomas Merton.
Over the last few days, I have been attending an Episcopal conference called “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace” in Oklahoma City. To get to Oklahoma City, we drove from Kentucky through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and into Oklahoma. The drive was mostly beautiful. However, upon entering Kansas, we began to see signs for zones that had been burned…though not sure why. I believe it is called “range burning.” This was heavily prevalent in an area called Flint Hills. We drove through miles and miles here and there of grassland that had been burned. This continued through most of Kansas south of Wichita on I-35. And then, upon entering Oklahoma, we began to see lots of drilling machines…I’m assuming drilling for oil? I started to think about the fracking that I have heard has been going on in this region, and about the rise in earthquakes that have been attributed to this fact.
And I couldn’t help but think about the words of Isaiah:
The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
and few people are left.
The wine dries up,
the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted sigh.
The mirth of the timbrels is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
No longer do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
The city of chaos is broken down,
every house is shut up so that no one can enter.
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Desolation is left in the city,
the gates are battered into ruins.
For thus it shall be on the earth
and among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.
It is my prayer that in following Christ our eyes our opened to the damage we inflict on our land. As I have spent these last few days visiting these regions once inhabited by throngs of Native Americans, whose culture embraced the protection and stewardship of the land, I can’t help but wonder how our current society might learn to do the same. How can we learn to be faithful stewards of God’s sacred creation? How can we make our world a more beautiful place for our children? May God be with us as we encounter more numerous challenges that result from our abuse of this wondrous planet.
Out on a walk in the park the other day, I took this photo of the naked treetops reaching toward the sky. I stopped and stared for at least a minute. I got distracted when I realized passers by might think something was wrong with me…standing there staring up at the treetops. But then I refocused and stared some more and took this picture. I love finding beauty in unconventional places. The more I learn to see beauty in hidden places, the more I feel in communion with God with with all of creation. Thank you, God, for letting there be so much beauty hidden throughout all of creation!
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
~ John Muir, The Yosemite (1912)
John Muir has become one of my favorite writers about nature. I first fell in love with Mr. Muir when I watched a Ken Burns special on the U.S. National Parks. The series was intermingled with John Muir quotations, and it spoke about how intrinsic Mr. Muir was in working with the administration of his day to get the National Park system started. He was instrumental in the process, and he received all of his inspiration from the very thing he longed to protect. I shared one of my favorite quotations of John Muir a few years ago on this blog post, and I just came across the one above the other day and wanted to share. I have to say “Amen!” to that! I look forward to an upcoming trip I have planned for later this year to the first National Park in the United States: Yellowstone. With me, I will be taking a collection of John Muir’s writings with me. If what I have read so far of John Muir is any indication, I think I will enjoy the read.
I took this photo the other day of (what I think are) daffodil bulbs just beginning to sprout. I find this image beautiful…fresh, new life reaching to the sky through last autumn’s dead leaves. In death, there is always life. That is a promise that was made known to the world in Jesus Christ. The evidence of this is seen throughout all of nature…not just in these daffodils. Thanks be to God!