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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, shoot! Looking back. (#31days)

The 31 days of pictures and words are almost complete. Relationships, events, and adventures. Serving soup, vacations, musicals, the state fair, birds of prey, a museum, road trip, the start of a semester (and degree program), a festival, and a Crowder concert. It’s amazing how much “life” can be crammed into just a few weeks.

Honestly, only a very small percentage has made it to this blog. It’s too busy unfolding. It’s tough to pause long enough to document it all.IMG_0181

I’ve got a portable drive full of photos…concerts, falcons, festivals, and corn mazes. I’ve got a head full of stories…carnies, dreamers, chaplains, professors, and hillbillies. I suspect most of these will never see the light of day. Maybe when I’m old and grey (er) I’ll look at the pictures again and try to make sense of them. Maybe then I’ll have time to look back.

For now, I’ll keep pressing forward.