Monthly Archives: September 2009

A Choice Place to Experience God



Some settings allow God’s majesty and loving care to engulf us through
every sense, in countless events of the day.  I am in one of those settings as I write
this week. 

I am out on a
balcony overlooking the Gulf of
Mexico at Orange beach,
Alabama.  The night is still and bright, with an
almost-full moon beaming over the Gulf waters.  The wind and the waves are calm,
allowing the ocean to mirror the moonlight magnificently.  A slight breeze stirs the ideal 70°
temperature air.  Earlier today the
sun-drenched afternoon reached just 80°. 
All day and into the evening, the waves have been very slight:  right now their breaking sound is a
hushed rush, rather than a thunderous crash.  The water is cool, but not
bone-chilling, making play in the surf this morning very refreshing.  The bright sun during the day is not
oppressively hot, causing more of a tingle on your face and shoulders rather
than a burn.  Graceful dolphin feed
and play near the beach every day.

Yesterday we walked the Gulf
State Park pier.  A spontaneous community of fishermen and
women were catching flounder, red fish, blue fish, and an occasional small
non-threatening shark.  Whenever
anyone hooked a fish, everyone else along the pier shared the joy and expectancy
of landing a choice “big one.”  Fish
catchers were sharing their catches with people who were as interested in eating
fish as in catching them.  We have
been methodically eating our way through fresh, bountiful Gulf seafood available
in the plethora of restaurants strung along the beach and surrounding area.

This afternoon, though, offered me a particular thrill.  I was able to combine a double handful
of favorite things in one experience. 
I went parasailing over the Gulf! 
A cordial boat captain was nonplused at flying a blind guy from his
boat.  I dearly love boating,
flying, the friendly environment of
Pass (near where we vacationed when I
was a teenager), and special experiences shared with my wife, Sherron – who was
eager to take the boat ride, not to fly, herself!  A pair of newlyweds preceded me with a
tandem flight, then I was snapped into the harness and carried 550 feet above
the Gulf dangling from the colorful parachute pulled by the 30-foot boat.  At least, I was at that altitude for
awhile.  After several minutes of
letting me fly high, the boat slowed almost to a stop allowing the parachute to
lower me gently into the Gulf!  The
boat captain appropriately called the maneuver “the dip.”  With a nudge to the throttle of the
boat, I was again airborne – but much cooler in the quiet stream of air.  The exhilarating experience is duly
archived in video and still photos.

Each day has been a vivid reminder of God’s amazing creation, his marvels
strewn throughout all nature, and his loving gifts of care for our needs and his
overflowing gifts of joy.  The beach
constantly demonstrates ever-changing dimensions of God’s unchanging power and
providence.  From the sun, moon, and
stars shining in their glory, to ocean waves sustaining their caress of the
shore, to the remarkable beauty of seashells deposited on the beach, to
multitudes of fish (many of them absolutely delicious) and birds freely plying
the reaches of God’s marvelous creation, to countless other displays of

God’s co-mingled love and power,
my mind and heart brim full of thanksgiving for all God has done.

When I encounter God’s loving care in experiences in God’s world, several
Bible verses typically come to mind. 
A favorite verse is Paul’s reminder that God has always  revealed himself to people through the
wonders of creation – if we would only pay attention.  Paul wrote: “Since the creation of the
world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been
clearly seen, being understood from what has been made….” (Romans 1:20 NIV) 
Not only do the beach and its revelation of God’s masterworks tell
awesome stories of God’s care, but his story resounds in every corner of the
cosmos.  Mountaintops, flowing
rivers, lush valleys, stark deserts, and all that god has made combine in holy
harmony to lead us to God’s graceful gifts.

Interspersed in a Psalm that lauds God’s care for his people demonstrated
by establishing David’s kingdom are verses that celebrate the breadth of God’s
goodness in all relationships and things. 
Loving care is part of God’s being. 
It can be seen in particular care for his people – as in a king like
David or in his complete revelation through Jesus, the Son of David – and it is
shown in God’s powerful and loving dominion over all creation.  The psalmist identifies personally with
the response ‘god’s goodness should elicit:


I will always
sing about the Lord’s love; I will tell of his loyalty from now on. {2} I
will say, “Your love continues forever; your loyalty goes on and on like the
sky.” … {8} Lord GOD All-Powerful, who is like you? LORD, you are
powerful and completely trustworthy. {9} You rule the mighty sea and calm
the stormy waves…. {11} The skies and the earth belong to you. You made
the world and everything in it. {12} You created the north and the
south…. {14} Your kingdom is built on what is right and fair. Love and
truth are in all you do. {15} Happy are the people who know how to praise
you. LORD, let them live in the light of your presence. {16} In your name
they rejoice and continually praise your goodness. (Psalm 89:1-2, 8-9, 11-12a,
14-16 NCV) 


Wherever you are, God’s handiwork has truly awesome things to say about
how god loves you and about his power to care for you.  I have been immersed in a host of my
favorite opportunities for attending to God’s great story.  I hope that you can catch glimpses of
God’s grace and goodness no matter where you might be – and especially if you
are in a cherished part of God’s creation. 
You don’t have to be 550 feet over the waters of the Gulf to encounter
God’s power and loving care, but that’s certainly a very enjoyable place to
sense God’s presence!

– J. Edward Culpepper