God Sure Can Paint
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy Power throughout the universe display.”
Lyrics from How Great Thou Art by Rev. Carl G. Boberg and Stuart K. Hine
How often do we look at “all the works Thy Hands have made?” When we look up at the Milky Way, do we stare in awe at what God created? Or see the trees rustle in the wind, and take pause to consider God set in place the forces that we call “the weather,” or think about the One who controls it?
During blustery days I often think about Matthew 14, and the times God got me through stormy rides on the water. And with those thoughts, my sincere hope I didn’t fail to say “thank you!.”
So, when is the last time you looked at something so beautiful in nature, and the words “thank you God,” just flowed out of your mind, your mouth, your spirit?
That happened to me just the other day. I was walking near the woods and came upon a scene (see above photo) where a bunch of trees, redolent with color, reflected in the water. All I could think was “God you sure can paint – thank you.”
Perhaps you too have recently admired something in nature that you might be thanking God. Maybe it was for a killer sunset, or tranquil sunrise, a shooting star, dramatic storm clouds, a lone bird in full wingspan flying near you against a cobalt sky, or something else that just stops you in your tracks, and makes you remember Who created what you are seeing.
Instead of visual, it could be the feel of a gentle breeze.
Maybe something you could smell that inspired gratitude. Aromas are among the most powerful and calming of the senses; ever have a long day at work, and walking into your home you catch the smell of a woodstove?
Maybe it was the hoot of an owl, or other sound that rekindled happy memories such as camping with friends, picnics with family.
“When nature spoke, one heard the very voice of God.”
Edwin S. Gausted
That said, how often do we think in terms of God speaking to or communicating with us through nature?
Perhaps your experience, like most Christians at one point in time or another might suggest it is hard enough to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit during quiet prayer time, let alone hiking, or just paying attention to our senses.
Yet there was a reason God created nature with a beauty only the Eternal Artist could impart.
“Search not the book called scripture which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation.”
The great pamphleteer of the American Revolution believed that nature was the universal language with which God communicates to all. He might be onto something.
When we take the time to be in the midst of our God’s Creation, to celebrate what He made, and spend moments intentionally devoted to appreciating Him, we embark on a unique and personal communion with the Almighty. It can transfix our thoughts from those focused on sad things, towards powerful and uplifting moments with our Personal Savior, allowing Him to transform us, and our thinking from negative to positive, from lamentation to gratitude, from self focused to God centered.
But the theme of God communicating to us through nature is not just the purview of Enlightenment thinkers. It is the very core of God’s relationship with His Creation, as stated by one of our Creator’s intimate servants – Job.
“7 But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you: And the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
8 Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you.
9 Who among all these does not know that the Hand of the Lord has done this,
10 In whose Hand is the life of every living thing, and the Breath of all mankind?”
Job 12: 7 - 10
Most New Englanders I know admit autumn is their favorite time of year. Even tourist visits seem to peak during fall foliage season. Of all the seasonal scenes the producers of the iconic “Newhart Show” could have selected for the opening credits, they chose autumn in New England. To be sure, all four seasons in our beloved part of the USA provide us with ample beauty, yet there is something special about the drama that unfolds before us every year in October. But do we think about the Painter of these fabulous New England scenes we admire from the shores of Long Island Sound to the Canadian Border?
“18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
It would seem, especially when one considers how many times we are exhorted to ‘give thanks’ throughout the Bible that gratitude is the language of intimacy with our Creator. And just taking a moment to look around, He gives us ample opportunity to be appreciative.
Moreover, if we are alive, or the fact that we have the ability to see, hear, feel, smell and taste warrants a prayerful thank you to the Almighty.
And yet, like God’s continuous blessings upon us – from His unbounded loving Grace, to the beauty all around us, to our heart still beating, to our brains still functioning, it is almost easy to take the foliage, and, most importantly His loving provisions, for granted. This can be especially true when we do not always enjoy the bounty we had expected out of our efforts in life, or deal with the unexpected challenges that may have beset us, or those we love. And as humans we all face various difficulties – some we share, others we quietly bear. Few escape the vagaries of life. But it is during these moments that God asks us to trust Him.
So how do we reveal our trust in God, and keep our special relationship with our Creator?
“17 Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines
Though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength.”
Habakkuk 3:17 - 19
Truth be told, as mere mortals, Habakkuk is easier read than done.
But God often challenges us to do what isn’t easy. That’s where faith comes in….moving forward powered by trust in the Lord.
God throughout the Bible, from the Old to the New Testament, repeatedly invites us into a personal relationship with Him. Sometimes that invitation comes from the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit – God indwelling in us. Other times it is from a sermon, or discussion with a fellow congregant. And maybe it is in the continuous conversation God has with us through His Creation, which Job and Thomas Paine would suggest, through nature.
I don’t know about you, but the next time I look at what God has created, I will think of it as an invitation from our Heavenly Father to take a moment to be with Him, to treat Him as a valued Friend I want to spend time with, to share in spiritual dialogue, to nurture the relationship He wants to have with all of us, and to say “thank you, Lord.”
Enjoy the view, an