A Smallish Life-- Beside the Sea and Under the Stars

Jeff and I took Annie and the girls to the beach in September. Hurricane Irma was barreling through the Atlantic headed to Florida. We drove south through lower Alabama toward the panhandle as traffic streamed northward.

A few days later, the bulk of the storm moved east. The gulf waters were stirred by the storm, but we only got a few bands of rain and one very windy day. From our place on the shore, we watched the clouds gather and leave.

We've heard it over and over, people who say they feel small when they stand beside the sea. The thing is those same people say it is beside the sea that they are in their happy place. Isn't that odd? With a few exceptions, we welcome that sense of smallness we feel on this planet we call earth. Many of us feel most alive when creation stretches out before us---when we are lost in its wonder.

One night after dinner, we stepped out on the deck. The sun had set and families were on the beach with flashlights. Santa Rosa Beach limits light pollution.The crab hunters didn't stay long. Soon the darkness revealed the stars in all their splendor.

Annie  opened an astronomy app on her phone. She pointed the camera at the stars and the app identified the astronomical names for the points of light above us. It connected the dots of the constellations as she moved the camera across the sky. The hunter raised his bow in the south. We called out names of stars that were faintly familiar, Betelgeuse and Rigel. I loved it!

We were only the seeing a small part of this great universe. 

A few weeks ago, I ran upon images NASA has compiled of the galaxies and stars gathered by the Hubble Telescope. As beautiful as the images are, I have trouble trying to wrap my brain around the fact that there are more stars than we can conceive--200 with 23 zeros behind the number---sextillion. A scientist interviewed on the news program 60 Minutes said there are more stars than sand on the seashores of earth. What??

The Bible explains why we feel so small when we consider God's creation. Though we cannot see or understand all that God has made, we can perceive God's greatness in the things He has made. We are astounded that such a God gave us this world to enjoy.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)

NASA is working to launch the next generation telescope with capabilities that reach way beyond the scope of the Hubble. A recent article in Forbes extolled the possibilities of discovering the origins of life and other "great unknowns" that could shake established theories. "It's possible that we'll learn we were quite arrogant..."  

Technologically, the scientists aren't quite ready for the launch of the new telescope. Still, they are hopeful. The article ended with a quote from one of these scientists, John O’Meara:

“I believe very strongly that LUVOIR* is a critical part of our next great era in science when we definitively advance not just the search for life, but the telling of its story over cosmological time. LUVOIR can give us the tools to answer many of our most fundamental questions as human beings trying to understand their place in the universe. If that isn’t worth it, what is?” (*Large UV/Optical/Infrared Surveyor)

There is another place to find the answers to life and our place in the universe. It's ancient and proven. As I study God's Word, I train my focus on passages in the Scriptures in order to gain more insight than what I might get with only a glance. Like a telescope gathering light from on one spot in the sky, I’m learning to stay with a passage of Scripture long enough to allow God to bring some measure of understanding. Sometimes this focusing takes place over days; sometimes I have hung around in one spot in the Bible for years.

This week I spent time in Psalm 8. The song is short and familiar to many students of the Bible. I decided to paraphrase it in a similar way to what I did with my paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer. I stayed with the psalm's truth for several days. Later in the week, Jeff and I took an evening walk under the moon and the stars. With each step through the neighborhood, the great song was beating right next to my heart.

Paraphrase of Psalm 8---

Oh Lord, we are your people. 
You are our God.
How radiant is your name in all the earth!

You shine brighter than a billion galaxies.
Even babies gulping earth’s oxygen into their virgin lungs---
these with no knowledge of the greatness of their becoming,
praise you with their cries and in their laughter. 

Who is the image bearer that steps out on a clear night,
gazes at the stars in their courses 
and at the moon reflecting his cool smile, 
who has not considered our smallness within the vast creation?

Who of us can keep from asking how it could be 
that you, God our Maker, consider mankind 
to be worthy of your attention and care?

You made us, a reflection your image, 
little glories graced by your favor, 
given honor by virtue of unconditional Love 
and inexplicable Sovereignty.

You made all things by your hand,
and then gave it to us to rule over---
animals and birds and fish--- 
and atoms coursing through rivers and seas.

We, whom you have given voices, declare your majesty!
When we consider this wondrous universe, undeniably, 
we attest that all creation is alive with your glory!

Oh Lord, we are your people. 
You are our God.
How radiant is your name in all the earth!

It's a ten hour plus drive to the beach, but I don't have to go far to feel small in this great universe. All I need to do is step out into the night and gaze up. When I am in God's Word, I can hold it against what I know to be true and connect the dots. The Bible is better than an app!

Where are you training your focus so that you might see with the eyes of your heart? When was the last time you felt your smallishness against the wonder of God's creation?


  1. This post makes me feel small and happy! I think that astronomy app is wonderful, too, and am very struck by how you show the Bible to be like it, how we "can hold it against what [we] know to be true and connect the dots." Beautiful imagery I don't think I'll ever forget. Thank you.

    1. You made my day! What a amazing God and Creator we have!

  2. Dea, your post is awe-inspiring, and your paraphrase of Ps 8 really spoke to my heart, and caused worship to rise up within me.
    Thank you, and God bless you, in all and through all.

    1. You bless me, Mary! Thank you so much!

  3. Lovely, lovely, LOVELY.. Thank you, Dea.

    1. I know you love to stand beside the sea, or sit, or walk... such a beautiful coast out there in Cali! Thanks for sharing your lovely photos on Insta and visiting over here today.

  4. The sea does that for me, too, Dea...I sit, stand, or walk by the edge and feel smaller than I ever do in the landlocked Midwest. Thank you for sharing your insights and reflections on it all.


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