A few mornings ago, I was about to check out of a motel in Alexandria and drive across town for an early breakfast meeting. Carrying my bag to the car in the parking lot, I was struck by one of the most glorious sunrises I’ve seen in years. Against a backdrop of indigo, the purples streaked across the morning sky, leaving bumps of orange and peach in their wake.
I turned around and went inside the lobby and called out to a dozen sleepy guests hovering over morning coffee with faces buried in the USA Todays, “Hey, everyone–come outside and see the most wonderful sunrise!” To their credit, most did. Two minutes later, it was forever gone.
I think it was Tony Campolo who says he tried for a long time to get his teenage daughter to get up and come out and watch the sunrise with him. She said, “Dad, if God had intended us to watch the sunrise, he’d have scheduled it at a decent hour.”
From a little book of devotionals given by a friend, I learned that Peter the Great, Russia’s czar in the early 1700s, loved sunrises. The writer said, “Peter the Great ruled from a palace filled with some of the most exquisite works of art produced in the world up to that time. Yet, when he pondered a sunrise, he wondered how men could be so foolish not to rise every morning to behold one of the most glorious sights in the universe. ‘They delight,’ he said, ‘in gazing on a picture, the trifling work of a mortal, and at the same time neglect one painted by the hand of the Deity Himself. For my part, I am for making my life as long as I can, and therefore sleep as little as possible.” I looked him up and discovered that Peter the Great lived only 52 years, dying after catching a cold from attempting to save some soldiers from drowning. He sounds well-named.
Years ago, I picked up a little story about a family who rented a cabin on a Colorado mountaintop for the summer. Each night, the family gathered on the porch to watch the sunsets. Before long, some of their neighbors saw what they were doing and joined in. At the end of the season, as the vacationers headed home, the neighbors said in tribute, “Until you came, we had never seen a sunset.”
Teaching someone to appreciate the handiwork of God is a good thing.
Chicago produce dealer John Cooper Smith felt that watching sunrises was such an important part of his life, he actually mentioned it in his will. After bequeathing $50,000 to his widow, he said: “To my remaining relatives, I give the sunshine, the birds and the bees, wherever the above mentioned sunshine, birds, and bees may be found. The greatest art exhibit you will ever see opens daily at dawn. And equally wonderful, this exhibit is always free to those who view it.”
The writer who told that story did not tell us how the relatives welcomed such a bequest. But, knowing human nature as we do, and knowing how materialistic relatives can be at will-readings, we are not optimistic.
Perhaps the Psalmist had sunrises in mind when he wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)
Almost every morning of my life, I walk 3 miles on the levee beside the Mississippi River. These days, I’m usually back at home having breakfast with the morning paper before the sun comes up, but at times I have been known to stop joggers and bicyclists and order them to turn around and behold the amazing picture God is painting on our sky. A few think I’m nuts. The others think God is wonderful.