Thursday, July 21, 2011

Practicing Wonder

I've made the argument that the Scriptures draw on a "poetic" voice quite often, especially when trying to address matters that are either too wonderful or too tragic for ordinary discourse. I have further claimed that it not only falls to persons of faith today to read the Scripture in that vein, but also to find our own poetic voice to express our own experiences.

Let's begin by reflecting a moment on the 8th Psalm. If you are a fan of Darkwood Brew (and who isn't?), the you'll know that Psalm 8 is the centering text for this week's worship and conversation. Here's my favorite part of Psalm 8:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established; 

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,   
mortals that you care for them? 

Before we go forward, please read the following disclaimer: 
This is poetic speech. Anyone - fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Atheist alike - who reads this text and tries to establish or discredit a cosmology out of it ought to be thrown into utter darkness with people who discuss the germ content of saliva before a first kiss, people who tell small children that Santa isn't real, and anyone else who ruins a great moment with misfounded attempts at 'realism.' Now, back to our psalm.

The psalmist invites us to look at the startling beauty of creation and to get lost in the wonder of it all. But, rather than simply having this experience vicariously through the psalmist's eyes and words, the psalm invites us to practice wonder and to give it a voice. 

So, in the same manner, I invite you to take some time and consider this picture, called "Mystic Mountain" from the Hubble telescope. First, just look at it for a while. Second, feel free to read the description from the Hubble Telescope web site. Third, find the beauty and wonder in the picture, that lies even beyond the scientific description itself. And, finally, write something in the comment section - anything - to express the moment. Don't feel the need to be "religious" about it - Wonder is religious enough.  Don't let your literalism take over - aim to express that which lies beyond the literal. Be authentic, be poetic, be bold. Be a psalmist.
Here's the picture:

Here's the detail from
Hubble's 20th anniversary image shows a mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.



  1. If you've never experienced Darkwood Brew, it's not too late! Google it and join the conversation. Their motto is, 'You might not like it,' but I bet you will.

  2. Mystical, magical, real and bold;
    Expanding, contracting, shaping, feeling;
    Beyond the human eye, yet visible to me;
    Aglow with vibrant life and death in torrential conversation.

    It is the stuff of creation – matter that matters.
    Ridged and rugged, a moving stillness.
    I share its world. We call it eternity.

  3. As the angels cry, "Holy! Holy! Holy!" at the speed of light, it takes three years for their praise to ascend the celestial throne and an unknown amount of time (at least unknown to me) to reach Earth. When I see this scene in the temple of creation, I get weak in the knees and I am undone in the presence of such divine grandeur. I whisper with the angels that because of God's presence it is all holy, holy, holy. I remember that we are in paradise here and now, and I am given the strength to stand again in wonder and in praise.


    I realize that is not this week's Scripture, but it's the one that sprang to mind when I saw the image.

  4. Excellent thoughts, David. Thanks.

  5. I'm spending some time at a little cabin on the Oregon Coast. Last night I pulled out my iPhone, held it up to the night sky, and used the Star Walk app to identify stars, planets, and distant galaxies. As I clicked on star after star, noting distances of 23 to several thousand light years, I was amazed that the light from each was touching the earth. Through their light we are connected to each of these distant stars, galaxies, nebulae, white dwarfs, global clusters, etc, etc, even though they are impossibly far away. I thought, "How amazing that we are connected to the Universe even at some of its farthest points - in ways we can see with our own eyes! I wonder how we are connected in ways we can't see ..."

  6. One of my college professors told us a story once of how he was walking along a river with his oldest son, then 6 years old, and the father pointed out a snapping turtle and explained all the particularities of the turtle to the son. The son shook his head in reply and said "Isn't it amazing all the things that are?!" That too is my response :)

  7. Other writings from Countryside Community Church who presented this to their congregation on July 24 2011:

    1. It looks like Space

    2. Rising upward to encompass all

    3. The colors of creation, vivid hues, tumbling shapes, foaming and changing, from an abyss of unknown power and energy, bubble forth in splendor and glory, How great is our God.


If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive