Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Starry, starry night

Psalm 147:4 (NIV)

He determines the number of the stars
   and calls them each by name.
When we lived in Iowa and I worked at the newspaper, I tended to head to the office fairly early in the morning. It was an afternoon daily (no Sunday edition), and our deadlines moved progressively earlier in the morning throughout my four-and-a-half-year tenure. The other thing that changed during my tenure was the amount of my job dedicated to the actual production of the paper — editing copy, cropping photos, designing pages and so on.

Eventually my alarm clock was set to something like 5 a.m., or even earlier some days. The point is I was usually leaving the house before dawn, especially so in colder months. Though we lived in a city (in Iowa, a population of nearly 30,000 constitutes a small city), it was not a bustling community, and this was especially true in the middle of a November night.

All of that information is to explain how I came to be standing in my driveway nearly every day, staring up at a crystal clear night sky (there was very little light pollution) and feeling as if the stars had been set in place specifically for me. I took an astronomy class in college (and fared poorly, for a variety of reasons), and nothing we saw in that educational setting compared to seeing Orion beaming above my house, moving his way across the sky from day to day. I’m not sure which adjective is best to use, but majestic comes pretty close.

Mind you, this was not my only consistent exposure to the splendor of nature. My office was about two blocks from the Mississippi River, and a park at the north end of town featured the best place to gaze at the widest portion of the upper part of the river. I remember one ten-minute drive to the grocery store when I counted at least a dozen eagles soaring overhead. I like to think I took none of this for granted.

We live pretty close to Lake Michigan now, and that inspires its own kind of awe. The Des Plaines River, on the other hand, is not much to look at, unless it swells beyond its banks and enters the nearby grade school. But nowadays I have no reason to be outside in the middle of the night. In fact, I have some pretty good reasons to be inside at those hours, not the least of which being the skunk we apparently have on our property — or at least it was visiting last night when the milkman was supposed to be leaving a delivery.

If I want my boys to really see the stars and start to appreciate their splendor, chances are it’s going to have to be channeled through a Cub Scout camping trip. Hopefully I can supplement that lesson with some thoughts on our place in the universe, God’s role as creator and the importance of realizing that no matter how small we may seem in the scope of all creation, we still are intentionally made and capable of great things if we live in love.

Did I have such thoughts each morning in my driveway? Of course not. I Was on my way to work, after all, when I’d have much rather been asleep. And a lot of times it was pretty cold, or maybe I’d have to clear snow off the car or the driveway. But I’m willing to bet any person who believes God had a role in creating life has had at least one moment where an unobstructed view of a field of stars opened their minds to unabashed amazement at the beauty of it all. What a spectacular blessing.

A prayer for July 24:

Lord, thank you for the splendor of nature. There are so many reminders of the beauty of creation, each in its own way a testament to your power and majesty. Help me keep my eyes open to the beauty of this world, and help me to teach my children an appreciation of the blessing of life. May we never forget what a joy it is to be together on this planet. Amen.

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