No, it’s not just a Bruce Springsteen song about days gone by. Glory days are every day we put ourselves into the presence of God and experience His goodness.
I am practicing contemplation these days in my prayer time—pondering and considering God’s goodness and glory. Of all the years I have prayed, these days have become the sweetest of all. Coming into the presence of God to bask in His goodness and glory creates abounding peace and joy in my soul. Not needing another thing—not even wanting another thing—this place of contemplation is as close to childhood wonder as I have ever been—and as close to heaven as I’ll ever get, this side of it.
I am seeing God in all things, through all things, around all things He created. Every moment is an opportunity to experience His glory—to worship Him—to be free of self and able to obsess over Him—to obsess on His beauty and wonder.
We live in the country, co-habitating with God’s other creatures. Every day I marvel at His hand as I walk outside and experience His gifts. A flock of 32 sandhill cranes flew over our field. Another flock of 28 snow geese flying north to their nesting place. Turkeys feasting on autumn corn harvest and sometimes our birdseed right off the deck. Deer leaping, white tail flags waving as they cross the road right in front of me. Yellow lab with dirt nose from rooting and sniffing so happy her tail looks like it will wag right off. We stop our car to let an ambling opossum make it across the road. I help a turtle trying to cross the same road without getting crushed, his reptilian arms and legs flailing as I pick him up and move him along. See how God adores His creation?
There’s something about being this close to God’s creation that brings me this close to God. As I marvel at what His hands have made, I behold a glimpse of His glory. And I worship Him. And as I worship Him, I am filled with Him. And as I am filled with Him, I am filled with all He is. I am filled with his goodness. I feel His glory. Who could want for more in this life? Nothing fills like God. But a taste of God will prove that we want more—as much as we can get.
And yet, we settle for far less. We settle for less than His glory and goodness when we don’t take the time to contemplate—to put ourselves into spaces where we can fill full of Him—His goodness and glory.
Where are these spaces? Where do we experience these transcendent moments? They can be anywhere because God is everywhere. What moves us to tears of joy? What makes our hearts swell full? For me, being out in nature is essential. There’s something about spotting God’s creatures, hearing their voices, helping them out—they remind me of my dependence on God. They remind me of God’s goodness—His perfect provision. And God’s goodness causes me to worship—to empty myself of self and fill full with Him. There’s a lightness of soul that occurs when we can be free of self, even for a few moments. I want more!
There is holy beauty all around—not just in landscapes and animals.
I was blessed in my younger years to study classical piano and have been moved to tears as I’ve played and listened to certain pieces. Brahms’ Piano Concerto 1 never fails to excite me. As I listen, I hear the power of God. I can feel adrenaline pumping through my veins as the score prepares for the entrance of majestic piano lines.
And then there’s the tender Brahms’ Waltz in A Flat that brings me to tears every time I play it.
And of course Handel’s Messiah. I have sung every part but bass and my spirit soars each time.
And who is not brought to their knees when they hear the late, great Pavarotti sing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma—literally takes my breath away and brings me to tears EVERY time I hear it.
Or come back to modern times. The genius and passion of John Williams causes me to worship the God who gifted him with the theme from Out of Africa. Listening as I watch the flock of flamingos flying, photographed from an airplane—oh, my soul feels like it will burst right open!
And hearing the God-gift of Itzhak Perlman, the greatest violinist of all time in my opinion, playing Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List! How can a human being make a violin CRY over genocide? And Perlman, the Israeli Jew, the man whose legs were crippled young by polio—this man is the humblest, most grateful man. I know. I had the privilege of working with him when I studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in college. He picked up a violin because he heard a piece that moved him at a young age and he had no legs to carry him into other pursuits. Often God allows limitations to guide us into glory.
How many words have I gushed about music?! And I haven’t begun to exude about other art forms that bring us into the presence of God and help us experience His goodness and glory. What about paintings?
I stood in front of the massive Rembrandt canvas The Sacrifice of Isaac in Russia’s Hermitage, and felt God there—His angel’s hand staying the knife-handed Abraham from slaying his one and only son. And I contemplated how our God did not stay the hands of all of us from slaying HIS one and only son. Because of love. Because of sacrificial love.
And I stood in front of Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy, marveling at how God led this master sculptor to create the greatest sculpture the world has ever known out of a piece of flawed marble. It is said that Michelangelo sculpted by chipping away everything that didn’t belong to his vision of how the finished art form was supposed to be. And that’s what God is doing with us! He’s chipping away at all that doesn’t belong to reveal His masterpiece within—how we were before we were marred and covered unrecognizable.
And Monet! I stood in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, marveling at so many canvases, especially the haystack series which all came together for a special exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute years ago. How Monet studied a simple subject in all seasons, in all weather conditions, and captured their beauty in each—Monet’s gift causes me to worship our God who brings beauty out of every season—no matter how soft, no matter how harsh, no matter how bright, no matter how dim.
I could go on and on, but I will do so this week on my own. A friend and I have challenged each other to spend a half hour each day for a week putting ourselves into the presence of God to behold His glory—to worship Him—to bask in His goodness—however He leads.
Art, music, dance, nature. And best of all—His Word! Want to join us? One doesn’t need trips to Paris or Florence to marvel at the glory of God. Just open your eyes and see! Open your ears and hear! Open your mouth and taste! Open your hands and touch! Breathe in and smell!
The whole earth is full of His glory! Isaiah 6:3
I am thanking God for YouTube today, because I have just listened to several of the compositions I wrote about above and am ready to start my Monday filled to the brim . . . .
with worship of Him!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
Tremble before him, all the earth!
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Photo of white-tailed deer by Harvey Barrison:
Photo of opossum (check out the amazing, heart-warming story behind this photo!):