When grown-up sons fly the nest, sometimes the parents take wing as well. Circling the breathtaking terrain and then landing in full view of the Colorado Rockies feels a bit like landing on the moon for eyes accustomed to the gently sloping ranges of Mid-Coast Maine. Look out the window, and there’s Pike’s Peak on the western horizon!
My eyes could not absorb enough of the panoramic landscape on that first visit to my son’s new home. Ignoring the mid-February cold, I stopped to examine the pinkish soil my shoes had tracked onto glistening white snow, to marvel at rust-red boulders holding their unlikely balance in massive rock structures. And to the west, the mountains—always the mountains.
When the writer of Psalm 121 “lifted up his eyes to the hills,” we know the view served as a reminder of the Lord, his Helper, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;(Psalm 121:3-7)
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.”
The Psalmist’s Upward Gaze
The Old Testament travel writer was trusting God for sure footing and twenty-four-hour vigilance. His upward gaze did not stop at the mountain’s summit but continued on to the mountain’s Maker. It was easy for me to see the connection, beholding the vast expanse of solid rock on the western horizon that demanded my attention and set me to wondering how the locals ever accomplish anything on the daily with all that beauty so close by.
Still, as the days of our visit with my son and his wife wore on, I began to notice that something was missing: not once in our travels had I glimpsed a sparkling expanse of water; not one view of waves beating on a rocky shore. I hadn’t even caught sight of a soaring seagull—not a single one in days!
Indiscriminate creatures, seagulls circle plowed fields near my country hill with the same enthusiasm as they patrol the beaches east of us. In a single moment, the absence of those scavengers reminded me that when I’m home, I hardly go a day without a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Its familiarity renders it nearly invisible most of the time, just another scene on the way to somewhere else, a taken-for-granted gift like the sound of a loved one’s voice.
Whether looking at mountain peaks or ocean views the scene outside our window becomes a portal to worship if only our hearts are in the right place. Going through life half asleep to beauty, we pay attention to all the wrong things.Tweet
Whether looking at mountain peaks or ocean views, the scene outside our window can become a portal to worship if only our hearts are in the right place. Going through life half asleep to beauty, we pay attention to all the wrong things. C.S. Lewis told of an experience that demonstrated how the simple act of paying attention to the world around us helps us to “lift our eyes” and see the glory of God:
He was standing in a dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door came a sunbeam. In the pitch black of the toolshed, he could see the beam, a solid shaft of light against the darkness with visible dust particles floating in it. Then, he changed his position, and the beam was no longer falling on the floor but on his eyes. Rather than looking at the beam of light, he was looking along it, and suddenly the view changed! Through the crack at the top of the door, aided by the light, he could see blue sky, green leaves moving on branches, and the sun, ninety-three million miles away.
A Faith-Filled Look at God’s Creation
C.S. Lewis found that looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences. Looking along the hills that surrounded Jerusalem, the psalmist saw God’s solid and immovable presence. This would have been a welcome comfort.
Those Old Testament pilgrims on their way to the Temple to observe Israel’s seasonal feasts would have had every reason to be concerned about safety. Long stretches of deserted roads presented the risk of bandits; extended exposure to the hot, dry Palestinian climate sapped their strength. Singing the lyrics of his Psalm 121 Traveling Song would have kept the faithful pilgrim focused on solid truth about the sovereign strength of the creator, God’s never-slumbering eye, and His unchanging, never-wearying attentiveness.
Often communities of worshipers or family groups would have traveled together, and as they sang the closing verse, “The Lord shall keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and for evermore,” I wonder if their voices rose in a crescendo of gratitude. I wonder if they understood these words as more than just part of their pilgrimage playlist, but rather as a promise of presence and protection that extended to the end of their days.
Looking at God’s creation, we find some magnificent scenery, it’s true! But a faith-filled look along God’s creation reveals a Helper, Keeper, Protector, and Preserver who never fails. In my own story, the jolting grandeur of the Rocky Mountains put me on alert to our Creator God throughout the five days of my vacation, but would I have persevered in that awareness if our visit had been longer?
An even better question: What would happen in my heart if I began looking along my ordinary view with an eye for God’s grandeur? As C.S. Lewis remarked about his own observation, “You get one experience of a thing when you look along it and another when you look at it.” 
Let’s Lift Up Our Eyes!
It’s one thing to live life as a tourist, taking in new sights and marveling at the surprises around every corner. Still, on my pilgrim way, the way of “long obedience” and familiar routines, I am beginning to see that all my senses can become partners with the eyes of my heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world, through my everyday surroundings: the Atlantic Ocean, the hayfields on this country hill, the gentle slope of a green meadow. And so, today, I invite you into the blessed beholding:
What do you drive by every single day– your ordinary view–that would stop a visitor in her tracks?
What treasures revealed at a walking pace instruct you in the intricate care God has invested in the created world—and in his protection and provision for you?
Is the scene outside your window really a God shot that you have just stopped seeing?
Let’s lift up our eyes!
 Lewis, C.S., “Meditation in a Toolshed,” Originally published in The Coventry Evening Telegraph (July 17, 1945); reprinted in God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970; 212-215).
Holding You in the Light,
My senses become partners with the eyes of my heart in perceiving the glory of God through my everyday surroundings. The Atlantic Ocean, hayfields on a country hill, gently sloping green meadows invite me into a blessed beholding.Tweet
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10 thoughts on “Can You Perceive the Glory of God in Your Ordinary Surroundings?”
I think it would be hard for me to live so near the ocean, because I’d want to sit on the beach and gaze at it all day. But I probably would get used to it and not notice it as I went about my daily tasks. It’s sad we get too used to beauty and even to what we appreciate in people we love. We need t wake up and look with new eyes at times and reappreciate the wonders around us.
I have said the same thing about living in view of the ocean. But, like you, I also wonder how long it would take me to stop seeing the beauty. We take so many things for granted…
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C. S. Lewis also wrote something to the effect, “To share the joy is to expand the joy.” That’s what worship does for us. As we worship God with gratitude for the gifts around us, our joy is expanded. It’s a lovely benefit that we too often miss because we’re not paying attention. One way I’ve found to fine-tune my attention is with a gratitude journal. I don’t write a lot; just one or two items per day is/are sufficient to foster my alertness.
I look forward to a gratitude count every November, but I’m wondering if I should expand my practice…
I love that Lewis quote. It says so much about the importance of community.
Since that Lewis quote resonated with you, Michele, ‘thought I’d better look it up and quote it accurately. Good thing I did because what I shared is more of a synopsis than a quote! Here’s what Lewis actually wrote: “Enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” (from Reflections on the Psalms).
I remember reading Reflections on the Psalms and thinking about all the things I “can’t wait” to share with my people–and comparing that with my enthusiasm for sharing Christ…
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Wise words from Lewis–as usual!
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Is there beauty in metastasis,
a grace that’s framed in pain?
Tonight I’m forced to ponder this,
sleepless once again.
The situation’s now come dire,
it’s hard to walk across a room,
but sometimes, yes, it does inspire,
a shining beam that cuts the gloom,
for in the irreducible
is where God’s truly found,
and thus cancer’s fell crucible
becomes my holy ground,
and I would not change a thing,
walking here beside my King.
I appreciate the crucible/irreducible rhyme!
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I love how creation can point us to God and his glory, but I agree, it is easy to lose the sense of wonder in the places we see every day. Recently our church did a prayer walk. As well as praying for the community we were encouraged to look out for certain things including “something unusual.” I was with a family with two young children and it was amazing to see it from their perspective. First of all they were walking much more slowly than I am used to, and they also spotted all kinds of unusual things that I have probably walked past many times and never noticed.