I’ve quipped before that if I ever get to the point in my life that I cease to be amazed by the beauty of glorious sunrises and sunsets, then I’ve lived too long. Whether in the morning when heading out to start my car or in the evening on the way home from work, I can’t count how many times I have been stopped in my tracks, met with the indescribable beauty of the colors and the majesty that is the sun hanging low in the sky. And I probably have hundreds of photos of these spectacles in my phone — some taken from my street, some taken with my phone precariously perched against the window of my car — none doing justice to the beauty that can only be truly appreciated by the naked eye.

Whenever I scroll through those pictures on my phone, I am struck by two things:

  1. They all pale in comparison to the real thing.
  2. They all feature clouds. Every one.

He Painted This Just for Me

That the full scope of a glorious sunscape is only appreciated by seeing it live and in person is a little sad, but mostly exciting. God painted this beautiful, yet ephemeral scene so I can enjoy it best — so you can enjoy it best — while in the moment. In a world where everything is “on demand,” and entertainment streams at our pleasure and convenience, a beautiful sunscape can only be delighted in live, as it happens, and for a brief period of time. There have been mornings when in the brief time it takes me to run back into the house to grab my phone for a picture, the show is over. The brilliant pastels have faded to relatively drab blues and grays.

It’s a beautiful reminder to me to be in the moment.

Enjoy the mystery and joy in every moment of life, because they are fleeting. At school Christmas programs, on family vacations, and hiking in the woods, I have been guilty of taking it in through the lens of my camera. It’s natural to want to capture the moment, but the truth is, that is impossible. Sure, capture some family memories for later reminiscence, but also enjoy the moment, fully, and unencumbered by the futile desire to hold on to that which cannot be preserved.

I will still take pictures of the sky, the woods, and my friends and family, but I will also put the phone away, turn the camera off, and enjoy each moment before it slips away. The pictures I capture are never as breathtaking as the actual vision of the sky, anyway. No filter, no setting, no lense except the lens of my eye can truly capture the brilliance. God’s creation declares His glory and it was made for our enjoyment. Savor it. Appreciate it. Be grateful.

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys these light shows. A few weeks ago, as I left the house for work on the morning of October 19, I looked to the east and gasped. It was one of those breathtaking sunrises. By the time I got to work, my social media feed was already filled with pictures snapped by others in my community. Here are some of the pictures others posted that day. Yes, the pictures are amazing, but nothing like being there.

Without the Clouds, Sunscapes All Look Alike

We call them, “sunsets,” and, “sunrises,” but if we think about it — the sun always looks pretty much the same. That is, it would look the same if we could look directly at it. It’s big, bright, and round. What makes sunscapes unique are the clouds. The particles in the clouds reflect, diffuse, and refract the light rays from the sun, producing the spectacular colors, highlights, and shadows. What we’re really enjoying isn’t the sun, but the reflection of its glory.

Though the sun never really changes, there are dozens of different types of clouds, classified by their altitude, shapes, sizes, and molecular makeup. There are cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and more. Each is unique in its structure and appearance. And let’s not forget the clouds that look like sheep, dinosaurs, or faces. Who hasn’t played that game? Every different kind of cloud dances with the light of the sun in a uniquely particular way. Because of the clouds, no sunrise or sunset is exactly the same.

God is like the sun — never changing. James 1:17 reads, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Like my eyes cannot stand to look directly on the sun, I cannot look directly on God in all His glory. In Exodus 33:20, He warns, “you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” I can, however, see the reflection of His glory all around me. His glory is reflected by the clouds in my life. I am guilty of praying for clear skies in my life — meaning by that a carefree life without trials — but the trials are the “clouds,” that reflect His glory so I can see evidence of His mighty presence all around me. The challenges reflect different colors, different characteristics, of God my Father, painting a masterpiece that is a life in Christ.

Thank you, God, for sunrises, sunsets, and all the clouds.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. {Psalms 19:1-2}

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