Life, death, and a sunrise

You might think I’m reading too much into it, but I see every gorgeous #sunrise as a promise. It’s a reminder that God is who He says He is. He is good. He loves us. It’s a promise of things to come. The light will always break through the darkness. The things He creates are beautiful works of art. I’m not just talking about this sunrise or the Andromeda Galaxy. I’m talking about you and me. He created us. We are beautiful works of art, living in a messed up world.

After watching hundreds of sunrises, I have an observation. The most glorious sunrises often follow the darkest nights full of wicked storms. We might be tempted to shake our fist in rage at the heavens, cursing God for the storms…demanding answers. But we must remember…this isn’t the world He created. This is not “as good as it gets.” He has better plans and a better home for us. This world is a waypoint on the journey.

This past weekend was full of life events for me. A good friend had a precious baby on Friday… a glorious celebration of life in spite of numerous difficulties. I enjoyed some great time with friends and family. Those were treasured moments And my uncle passed away unexpectedly at 48, leaving many of us asking “Why?” These are the highs and lows of life. I witnessed them all in one weekend.

In the middle of it all, there was God. With us. Within us. Reminding us the He is good and that we are His finest masterpiece. Life comes and goes. We celebrate the new and grieve those who are gone. New life is a reminder of the potential that is within us all. Those first beautiful breaths cry out defiantly, storming this crazy planet with innocence…declaring that good does still exist, regardless of how things may appear at times.

My uncle’s last breath is a reminder of the weight of eternity that is written in our hearts. No matter what you believe, your life on this planet will end. No matter your worldview, you have no idea how many more breaths you have. Time is short. Time is precious. But even as I stood in my uncle’s apartment yesterday waiting for the medical examiner, a beautiful light was shining through his colorfully painted windows. It was a midday echo of the sunrise, created by combining my uncle’s unique talents with God’s great glory. “I’m here. I’m walking through this with you. With all of you.” A quiet prayer among acquaintances brought comfort and the first steps toward healing. A police officer spoke incredible and uplifting words of faith and encouragement. God was there. Shining through. Yes, this life is temporary. And for those of us mourning a loss the hole left in our life feels like it can’t ever be filled.

The grief and emptiness has a meaning and we would be wise not to be too quick to dismiss it. It’s a reminder that this isn’t the end. We weren’t designed for loss, so loss wounds us terribly. But in that loss we can feel the promise of a world to come. A world where this is no more sorrow, no more suffering, and no more pain. A world where reconciliation isn’t simply possible, but is reality.

That’s what I see in every beautiful sunrise. A promise of the glorious things to come. Faith. Hope. Love. Redemption.

 

I missed it

IMG_6042I missed the sunset yesterday. It was beautiful. I wasn’t at one of my favorite spots. I didn’t see the vivid blue, orange, purple, and red hues bounce off the water and clouds as the sun quickly descended behind the hills.

I was at home, taking the dogs out.

I knew it was a good one. Even without seeing the source, I knew it was beautiful. Just look at those clouds, quickly captured with a smartphone while chasing dogs.

We don’t always need to see the source to see the beauty, do we? There are other signs, if we pay attention. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote: “I believe in Christ as I believe that the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but because I see everything else.” IMG_6032

When it comes to God, we easily fall into the trap of demanding answers from Him. We demand that He show Himself and answer all our questions. To give us the reason for all of our hurts. When He doesn’t, we grit our teeth and let our anger boil.

Take a deep breath. Look around. There are signs everywhere. He’s speaking to us all the time, but on His terms and in His way, not ours. Even when we can’t see His face, we can see the reflection of His love and promises all around us if we take the time to pause and look for it. Our circumstances don’t reveal His nature to us, but His nature can be discovered from within our circumstances. Exhale. Inhale again.

Then back to chasing those ornery dogs.

Reflections

#reflections…

My life has been one big quest for truth. Scientific truth filled my younger days, with dreams of astrophysics, exploration, pulsars, and black holes. Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Hawking, Cousteau, Armstrong.

More recently, it has been spiritual and theological truth. Tozer, Manning, Apostle Paul, Chandler, Craig, Turek. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s small minded to believe in absolute truth, and I don’t believe that science and theology conflict. They can’t. But that’s not my point today.

My point is that through my pursuit I recently realized that I have been forgetting another truth-pursuit…internal truth. Once again, internal truth doesn’t conflict with science or theology…it can’t. But they all must be integrated and consistent. Unity of the mind, heart, and spirit are vital to a life of meaning, purpose, peace, and contentment.

As I walked by the lake this morning and yesterday, I reflected on the disconnect that comes all too easily. I reflected on how easy it is to comfort others with #truth while ignoring the direct application to one’s own life. We’re prone to lift others up with words of comfort and affirmation while allowing our inner critic to feed our heads with insults and put downs. So this journey is a quest to unite the voices by allowing the inner dialogue to reflect the outer. To allow myself to hear and apply the words and vision I so often share with others. This may be the most challenging quest yet. But what a beautiful and glorious journey it will be.

 

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Stumbling across serenity

After we ordered dinner and paid, the waitress said “You can’t eat here. Take away only, love.”  We had been on our feet all day. I was hungry. Like a hippo. Carrying our dinner around Greenwich looking for a park bench wasn’t my idea of a relaxing meal.

“Let’s head back up to the pier.” It was just a few blocks away. Once there, we spilled IMG_5363ketchup on our shirts and mustard on our jeans while balancing the burger and chips on our laps. But the breeze of the Thames was relaxing and refreshing. And then…there was the sky. Peeking through the clouds and reflecting off the river…it was more gorgeous than we expected or could have imagined. We accidentally found a hidden gem of beauty and serenity.IMG_5374

We were in the UK for 9 days. Of all the unbelievable things we saw, this was my favorite moment. Stumbling across serenity. That’s how life can be. We plan, prepare, dream, and build. Then life reveals its own unexpected surprises.

So when your plans don’t go quite how you intended, look around for unexpected beauty. There isn’t always a silver lining…sometimes it’s golden.

Stonehenge, sunrise, solstice!

IMG_4879The summer solstice is the biggest day of the year at this ancient “Wonder of the World.” Our colorful tour guide (a whimsical fellow who was a writer and poet when he wasn’t a guide) informed us that more than 40,000 people were expected that day. He had done the coveted “double shift,” leading a tour at sunset late in the evening followed by sunrise on the solstice.IMG_5618

“You can feel the vibes!” the Bard of Bath told us, with a voice equal part reverent whisper and jubilant squeal. He also told us he won the title of “The Bard of Bath” in a writing contest years ago. Personally, I believe him.

Most of our fellow sunrise watchers were definitely feeling the effects of something beyond everyday reality. The atmosphere was vibrant and chaotic.

It was impossible to remain inside the inner circle of stones. Although the sea of humanity was fluid IMG_4886and welcoming, the chaos was virtually impossible to navigate. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t establish a solid claim on any patch of ground in the inner ring. We allowed the tide to wash us just outside the inner ring and stood firm at the base of a gigantic monolith. It was the perfect vantage point to watch the creator paint a masterpiece in the heavens.

The crowd was a strange mix… there were tourists and families just like us. There were a few people dressed in full druid (or wiccan) garb, exuberantly cheering and chanting. Joey snapped a picture of Gandalf. Just after sunrise a middle aged man with a saxophone started playing jazz standards while leaning on a stone. Most people seemed to be there simply for the party. For them it had been a long night, full of thrills and mood altering substances (from beer to Monster to “other things”). They were trying to hang on for the grand finale. Most made it, too. Others slept through sunrise wrapped tightly in a blanket, oblivious to the thousands of pairs of feet trampling by mere inches from their slumbering heads.

The morning forecast called for overcast skies but no rain. The cotton ball clouds stretched all the way to the horizon, but then broke. Right where the sky touched the ground, there was a big enough opening to let the brilliant rays from the rising sun break through and dance off the clouds. For a full hour before sunrise the heavens were full of brilliant oranges, purples, pinks, reds, and yellows. And then…sunrise.

That’s when things got really weird. Someone at Stonehenge on the solstice probably saw a glimpse of the sun. We, however, did not. After the stunning pre-dawn show, as soon as the sun was above the horizon, it was behind the clouds. All the color drained from the sky and the world turned a colorless gray.

We wandered around the post-dawn monochrome field and stones for a few minutes. Maybe we were wondering if the sun would break back through in spectacular fashion. Maybe we realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we weren’t quite ready for it to end. Once the crowd began to disperse, the chill really set in. As we made our way back to the bus, the Bard was talking again about vibes and burial mounds. History and harmony. We certainly experienced both. It was unforgettable and unrepeatable.

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May I show you a picture?

A few pictures from the month of May…

From the Canon:

From the iPhone 6+:

From the Nexus 6:

 

The downtown skyscraper shots were all taken with the phone’s forward facing camera. I’ve only had the Nexus 6 for a few days. New “cameras” are always a good excuse to go shoot stuff. Dandelions, dogs, and downtown…all good subject.