Sunday, January 22, 2006

God Speaks in the Country

I live in the country, and I like it that way. I grew up a country boy, and God willing, I'll live in the sticks all my life. There's just something about being out of town.

I've never really lived in a large city. The biggest city I've ever resided in had a population of around 100,000 people. Mostly that's just circumstance, but at the same time I've never really had a yearning to live in a big city. When I worked in radio, the career goal was to make it to a big-city station -- that's where fame and fortune could be found. Yet I never found it that appealing.

I grew up outside of a small town in Indiana. When I say small, I mean small. The population is 1000 during a good year. It's closer to 800 these days. Only a fraction of the businesses which used to be there are still around. Conveniences like a grocery store are down the road eight miles. There's just enough to get by, and a short drive down the highway will get you more, if you need it. Our house wasn't on a farm, but it was right near a dairy farm. We went there for FRESH milk to make homemade ice cream and the like. Bordering our house was a pasture where my grandparents raised sheep -- just a few head. The fields behind the house were either planted with corn or soybeans most years. And on a clear night, if you turned away from the security light, you could see more stars than you could ever hope to count.

I lived in a few large towns after I left home. Little apartments, part of a house, even a trailer once. After my wife and I moved back home to the Midwest, we bought a small home, again in town. But when I took the pastorate of my church, we bought a house out in the country after eighteen years of living on a city lot. One night we were preparing everything so we could move in that weekend. We had spent the evening cleaning and painting. We even had a small picnic dinner, sitting cross-legged under the hanging light in what was soon to become our dining room. Finally we got everything packed up to go. The family loaded themselves into the van while I locked everything up. After the last key had been turned, I swung around to walk to the vehicle. That's when it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Or more accurately, a ton of stars. The night was cloudless and it seemed that every star had been plugged in just for me.

I stopped, unable to move. The words formed in my mind instinctively... "Hello, God!" It was like being smacked in the face by the first verse of How Great Thou Art. "I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed." I could feel the tears welling up in the corners of my eyes. God was here. And for some reason, He especially wanted me to know it at that point. And I knew it.

I don't get those feelings often enough. But I recognize them when I see them. And last night I saw them again in the words of David's Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming froth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.
Here's an invitation to all you city slickers to come out and take a look at the heavens which declare the glory of God. He speaks out here.

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