Starry Night

So it’s 3:00 AM.  A noisy truck went by outside the window and I thought it was the trash truck doing its rounds.  It wasn’t, but we are overloaded with trash from Christmas and I realized I hadn’t put it out to the curb, so I had to get up and do that.  It’s a beautiful night, crispy cold and a bit hazy but with bright stars twinkling in the sky.  It reminded me that I had not posted the “next” part of my reminiscing.

* * *

In 1960, my family moved to Hutchinson, Minnesota, because 3M had transferred my Dad there to a new magnetic tape factory.  We moved before I started third grade that fall.  My parents had lived in the city of St. Paul their entire lives, but now we lived out in the country, albeit in town, not on a farm.  However, at the end of our street there was a big cornfield and there were a lot of woods to explore.  I specifically remember that in the spring there were enough frogs around that we could fill jars with them.  Little boys, what are you gonna do!

Anyway, at about this time of the year, probably in the early part of 1961 after Christmas break, my teacher finally figured out that I couldn’t see the blackboard and she told my parents.  So I got my first pair of glasses.  I was amazed at what the word looked like and how much there was to see!  I remember one cold night I was walking back home from my friend’s house across the street, and I looked up into the moonless sky.  I mentioned earlier that tonight there are some bright stars in the sky which are very pretty, but this is, after all, New Jersey, and there are only a few and with the air being what it is and the ambient light in these parts, you really can’t see too many.  But in Hutchinson, Minnesota, in the winter of 1961 you can see them all!  Here there are trees all around, but not so in the Midwestern plains.  There were stars right down to the ground!

I had never seen anything like it.  I had only recently turned eight years old, but I was profoundly affected.  Ever since I could remember I had been told about God and how He had made everything, and now I understood what that meant.  I knew then that He was real, and that He had made each one of those stars, and that He was amazing!  Later I learned the words from Psalm 8:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

That was my reaction.  This might seem like a lot for an eight-year-old to take in, but I believe that this was God’s intention all along.  In Romans 1:20 we read:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Part of the reason for the work of creation is to reveal the nature of God to us.  And from that day on I don’t think I ever doubted that there was a God in Heaven and that He had created everything we see.  I didn’t know much about Him, but that would come later.

In a previous post I quoted the first verse of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” in reference to thunderstorms.  But it also mentions the stars:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

I love this hymn because it represents the simplicity of my youth, and it shows to me that God has made things so that even little children can begin to understand the majesty of God and all that He has done.  The last two verses are:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
To take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And there proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Sound Bites

As I noted in my first post, right after my twentieth birthday I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and I have been reading and studying the Bible ever since. Certain verses in the Bible have more significance to me than others and bring to my mind a wide range of thoughts and memories. It occurred to me that these verses are similar to “sound bites” that are used in our fast-paced news world to convey important events and to make the information “stick” in everyone’s mind. Over a period of time I went through the Bible and selected those passages that have the most meaning or are the most memorable to me personally. Here is the first post about these sound bites which I hope to present along with my observations and, of course, stories.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Let’s start at the very beginning (did I just hear Julie Andrews singing?). Everything I believe starts with God. I make no apologies for my belief in him and I write with the perspective that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who loves each one of us individually with an everlasting love. That being said, let’s look at this verse.

It’s pretty straight-forward and simple. It says that God made everything. I remember from my earliest days in Catholic school that the very first question/answer in the Baltimore Catechism was: “Who made the world? God made the world.” And another one: “Why did God make me? God made me…” There was probably more to that last one, but that’s what stuck in my mind. Someone made me, and that seemed to imply that I had some responsibility to whoever that was. I suppose that impression never left me, and it shaped much of what I did throughout my life, both good and bad.

I am also a mathematical, science-oriented kind of guy, with particular interest in astronomy and cosmology on one end, and quantum mechanics on the other end. My faith in God and my agreement with Genesis 1 does not in any way conflict with my scientific view of the world. The universe exists because God made it. Not just the physical components of it, but all the laws that govern it. God is an orderly God, as indicated by a couple verses in 1 Corinthians:

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor 14:33)
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor 14:40)

So how do I reconcile the story of creation as told in Genesis with what I know to be true about the age and condition of the universe? To put it bluntly, I don’t. There are any number of theological, metaphysical, philosophical, and scientific books and websites that deal with this conundrum. My thought is this: science can only provide answers to things that are physical and observable. Many definitions of scientific reasoning require that a scientific hypothesis be falsifiable, i.e., it must be able to state conditions that would prove the hypothesis wrong. For example, many scientists maintain that string theory is not scientific but only philosophical, because its adherents are unable to state any feasible experiments that could show it to be false. So science is not capable of answering all questions.

But some fundamental questions are of the utmost importance. The first question is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Another is, “Why am I here, and what is my purpose (I guess that’s two questions)?” In Acts 16:30 a jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” In other words, what can I do about my shortcomings (sin) and how do I answer to my Maker? So there are “big” questions about the universe, and there are very personal questions about individuals. The Bible has answers to many of these questions and I intend to stick mostly to the ones about individuals. So the first thing to know, the first answer, is presented in the very first verse: God made everything, including you.

There are some other interesting things about this verse and about all of Genesis. Genesis means “origin” and many of the ideas presented in the Bible’s first book are expanded upon in later chapters. The verses can also be contrasted with later verses. One of the origins described in this book is the existence of sin, “original” sin if you will. Although it begins with “In the beginning God,” Genesis ends “in a coffin in Egypt” (Gen 50:26). The Old Testament ends ominously with this:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Mal 4:5-6

Pretty bleak.

But the New Testament begins with “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt 1:1)
And it ends with

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21)

The Bible starts with God in the beginning; it ends with a personal request for the Lord Himself to return, and a request that His grace be with you all. I always preferred the New Testament ending to the Old Testament ending – not a curse, but God’s grace, grace that is available to everyone, including you.