“He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
    he suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds,
    yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
He covers the face of the full moon,
    spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters
    for a boundary between light and darkness…

…And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
    how faint the whisper we hear of him!
    Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”—Job 26:7-14

Some weeks, when I sit down to write my Thursday Thoughts, I already have in mind exactly what I want to write, so I just open up my laptop and start typing, and the whole thing comes together pretty easily.  Other weeks, I have no idea what I’m doing to say, and it takes some time to figure it out.  At those times, when I’m searching for inspiration, there are two places I look: I either open up my Bible, or I go outside.

Usually I’m writing in the afternoon, and by that point on most days, I’ve already spent time in the Bible.  So I go for a walk.  I walk up to the cemetery near the office, and spend a little time looking at the dates on the tombstones, thinking about the lives those people lived.  It’s always good to get a little perspective.  But I also look up.  There are views of Diamond Mountain, and there are trees and clouds and the sky.  Sometimes there are gray squirrels scampering around, and sometimes deer enjoying the peace and quiet.  By the time I get back to the office, I almost always have an idea of what I think God wants me to say.

What is it about the outdoors?  If we want to know the truth about God, the best place to look is the Bible, without a doubt.  But it’s been my experience that if someone only gets their understanding of God from reading, there is the danger that He becomes just an idea to them.  Sometimes we need a reminder that He is real.  We need to put our hands on the bark of a massive tree he made through a process that took hundreds of years, or to stand in front of the ocean and feel small.  Those are also moments where we gain perspective, and without them we run the risk of forgetting our place in His great creation.

In 2017, our family had the privilege of experiencing a total solar eclipse.  This is different from the annular eclipse that took place not far from here this past fall.  In an annular eclipse, the edges of the sun are still visible, like a ring around the moon.  In a total eclipse, the moon completely blocks the sun out for a period of time.  Both are fascinating and beautiful, and very much worth seeing.  But the total eclipse was amazing in a way that’s hard to describe.  The temperature changed, the light changed, a few stars came out, and for a moment I could imagine what it would be like to visit another planet.  People chuckle at me when I describe it as a spiritual experience, but it truly was.  It was breathtaking.  I looked at my children’s faces in that otherworldly light, and it was easy to believe that one day we will be together in some other place that is not like this place.  There was something about the whole experience that made me acutely aware that life is an incredible gift from God, not to be taken for granted.

In Job chapter 26, Job talks about some of the amazing aspects of God’s creation: the mystery of the earth suspended in space, the sky with its vastness, full of the moisture we need gathered in the clouds.  The moon that orbits us.  The sea with its endless horizon.  All of these are reminders that we serve a huge, amazing, mysterious God.  He so much more than an idea in a book.  He is the designer of a universe so complex and beautiful we could never have dreamed it up, much less spoken it into being.  He is the creator of the earth, this perfect home where He has placed us and given us life so we can know Him and serve Him and discover the wisdom of His good plans.

And then Job says, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!  Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”  The grandest and most humbling aspects of creation are just the outer fringes, just faint echoes.  They only hint at the glory and majesty of the One who made them.  For now, He whispers to us through things like solar eclipses, snow-covered mountain ranges, and the mighty ocean, because if He shouted He would overwhelm us with his power, wisdom, and greatness.

Whatever your picture of God is, He is bigger than your picture.  But if you are only getting your picture from words on a page, rest assured that He is WAY bigger.  Take some time this week to go outside, to look around and look up.  Get away from man-made stuff, and be reminded of the great and mighty Creator who loves you, and who made this world to be a place where you could discover His goodness.

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