Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Good Heavens

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).

My wife occasionally accuses me of selective hearing, screening out messages that might be inconvenient or unpleasant or otherwise disrupt important endeavors like reading and napping. She may be right, but I maintain that most men are thus afflicted. This isn’t a deliberate inattentiveness. I never consciously choose to ignore my wife. But I’ll admit that there are times when I’m just not dialed in.

What is true of my domestic life seems to be equally true spiritually. The heavens are declaring the glory of God. The skies are making proclamation, pouring forth speech. This happens every day, all day long. And too often I’m not dialed in. As best I can tell I don’t deliberately ignore God or God’s voice. But for whatever reasons, I too easily miss what the heavens are declaring.

This wasn’t true two weeks ago. There’s a beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica called “Playa Bonita.” There I found it very easy to pay attention that what the heavens are always declaring. In Costa Rica this time of year the sun goes down between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. Sunsets at Playa Bonita are astonishing. Large outcroppings of rock in the ocean collide with breaking waves and send curtains of sea spray into the air against the canvass of a distant sky that mingles hues of orange and blue.

The skies proclaim the work of his hands. No doubt about it. And at Playa Bonita I can actually hear what they are saying. The skies make proclamation, and we speak back in prayer. The conversation comes naturally at places like that.

But this week I’m back in Marietta, Georgia. The heavens are still declaring and the skies are on broadcast as well, but my selective hearing issues are showing up again. Why is that?


Psalm 19 says that the heavens are like a tent for the sun, a massive canopy in which the sun makes a daily course from one end of the earth to the other. I think we all recognize that the Psalmist didn’t write these words as an essay in astronomy. What we’re reading is more poetry than lecture. But it seems plain enough that the skies that cover the Pacific Ocean at Playa Bonita and the skies that hover over Marietta are part of something singular and whole.

Every day the heavens make their declaration, and far too often I move through my days deaf to their words. I heard them loud and clear a couple of weeks ago on a beach far away – but most of my days are lived here, bordered by Roswell Road and the 120 loop. Why is it harder to listen to God in this place?

The heavens declare and the skies proclaim. But the skies around us here are cluttered, interrupted by massive towers that speak to the glory of corporate America. Added to that, the skies around this place are so familiar. What they proclaim starts sound like blah blah blah. And maybe we need to admit that we rarely look at these skies anyway. Our gaze is held by computer screens, the traffic bearing down on us in the rear view mirror, the pile of post-camp laundry or the grass that needs mowing.

For the rest of this week we’ll spend some time with Psalm 19 and let it tutor us in effective listening skills. God is never at a loss for words; every day “pours forth speech.” Don’t miss a word.

Where are you best able to hear what the heavens declare and the skies proclaim?

Gracious God, we want to be attentive to your voice in all places. We want to see your glory in the skies over beaches and mountains and distant places, as well as in the heavens that cover our own backyards. Teach us to listen. Help us to pay attention to the message being proclaimed all around us every day, we pray. Amen.

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