Before the rains of this past week, the dark early morning skies were clear, with many stars visible. Seeing the stars reminded me of the conversation that we had in Program Division recently, related to our early experiences of Creation and how Creation speaks to us.
In that conversation there were several people who mentioned that the night sky, and in particular the stars in the night sky, is something that they remember from past camp experiences. Constellations were named, some of which I know by sight. Other constellations are ones I have heard of but could not find in the night sky if my life depended upon it--although I can find Polaris (the North Star) if I need to get that sort of bearing, if by chance my pocket compass or phone is not working.
This got me to thinking about how we look at the universe around us. Some of us are sky gazers and some of us are terrestrial gazers. I know that it really is not that simple, because most of us are happy to gaze at either one, though I believe that we likely have a preference. Mine is terrestrial. Although I am happy to see the solar eclipse or the aurora borealis, the stages of the moon, and the beauty of sunrise and sunset, I spend less time attending to watching the stars and the planets. The movement of the sun happens with regularity, and we are aware of how the amount of daylight we have is shrinking daily as autumn gets underway in the Northern Hemisphere--which impacts how I see things around me here on earth.
Which type of gazing is your preference? Maybe you don’t have one at all. What I am certain about is that while we may have a preference, we do need both and we are impacted by both. Like so many things, these two perspectives are not necessarily opposed to one another; they are two elements of an amazingly wonderful universe of God’s creation, of which we are a small part.
The other idea that struck me about the sharing the Program Division folks did in relationship to our experience of Creation speaking is that each of us had a story to tell that gave meaning to our experience, that still shapes us as the people we are today, even though the events we shared were from nearly as far back as our memories would take us.
Which part of creation most interests you to the point of gazing? What story do you share with others about creation and its ability to speak to you? Drop me a note about this. I do enjoy getting to hear others’ stories.
See you on the adventure ahead,
Rev. Todd Bartlett
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
*PHOTO: Full moon at Alton L. Collins Retreat Center (Todd Bartlett)
I invite you to also gaze at these photos taken by my friend Brian Pasko:
Have you ever had the experience at camp of testing your limits on a physical challenge, or achieving a hard-won goal like finally making it to the top on a steep hike? Researchers call this "harmonious passion," and they say that "People who have harmonious passion in their lives—as opposed to obsessive passion, which is driven by external rewards and other people’s perceptions--are happier.
"Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a New York–based psychologist, says, 'We all love the feeling of accomplishment when we meet our goals. In the case of big physical challenges, we feel pride, excitement, and love for the thrill of competition.'
Tough physical challenges can also spark increased feelings of gratitude—for the capabilities of your body, your health, nature, and the people with whom you participate—which is also strongly linked to happiness."
Do you focus on the moon in the sky or on the tiny mushrooms at your feet? In camp and retreat ministry, we love to look up and gaze at the big picture of the cosmos, but we are equally committed to the smaller details of what's close at hand (or foot, in the case of these 'shrooms!). When you donate to this ministry, you are helping to keep our focus on the many needs here on the ground--so that we can point our campers' gaze into the sky to envision the limitless love of our Creator. If you focus on this green button right now, our gratitude will rise to the skies!
*PHOTO:Mushrooms on the forest floor at Alton L. Collins Retreat Center (Todd Bartlett).