“We get it almost every night
And when that moon gets big and bright
It’s supernatural delight
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight
Everybody here is out of sight
They don’t bark and they don’t bite
They keep things loose, they keep things light
Everybody was dancing in the moonlight”
Artist: King Harvest. Dancing in the Moonlight
Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest was one of my favorite tunes back in the ’70s. Did any of us get the significance of the lyrics back then? For that matter, did King Harvest?
All human creatures experience supernatural delight every day and night — and for a lifetime — even if we fail to recognize it. Just look up, look down and then look all around you; nature is a wonder to behold and examine and coexist with. Ancient cultures realized that the world they lived in was not their own; neither was it under their control! They could only attribute the beginning of creation to forces that superseded the observable laws of nature — and so they generated the notion of demigods and gods of nature. Their gods were always competing with each other and mankind! This doesn’t make sense to us today because their gods have been proven to be inventions of the imagination.
Today, we also wonder how the universe was created. Like the early ancestors, we still cannot explain the beginning of time without attributing it to a force that is beyond scientific understanding or the very laws of nature. This is the very definition of “supernatural”: it is a force that cannot be in competition with man or nature or science since that would be counterproductive to the creator. Yet not one of us will ever find this force while exploring the oceans or the skies or depths of earth; rather, God revealed Himself in and through his created things — including our first parents. “God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) And God said: “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Genesis 1:14) God provides both the purpose and wonderment of His creation in his Creation. Now, imagine God’s delight as he overlooked his handiwork — not for His sake or enjoyment. — even though “Everything that he had made and beheld was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) He delighted in these things for our sake, enjoyment, and delight! Creation was gifted to us and He was excited to give and reveal it to us!
Do you ever question whether it is God who gave us this complex, intricate and beautiful gift? If so, name that source! Randomness? Now, that’s silly considering that once random, always random; something that is random by nature can’t change itself into something else except by an inexplicable, infallible force. Consider how perfectly the planets have orbited for the last 10,000 years without falling out of place! Look at how perfectly the sun and the moon rises and sets opposite times of every day! God could have kept making one man and woman at a time but chose to allow man and woman to participate in his creative works after creating the first parents. Luck? Luck is just that; it is unpredictable and uncontrollable! None of us would want luck to have created the universe! Superstition? Remember the ancient Greeks and Romans? All of their superstitions have been debunked and falsified. Spontaneous generation? If so, when was the last time you witnessed spontaneous generation from nothing or regeneration of something that went kilter, for that matter? Everything points to a benevolent Creator whom we know of from the witness of others passed down through the ages. And then God sent His son to teach us more about the Supernatural Trinity.
Let’s revisit God’s delight and compare it to our own. Think back to the joy you experienced when gifting your children or spouse with the best-ever gift. Recall their delight at the opening of that gift! Even long after the giving and the receiving of that same gift, both parties joyfully recall it. Isn’t it hard to keep the gift secret? It seems exceptionally hard in our family — for some reason or another. The giving of hints seems to part of the delight! Conversely, we are disappointed when the gift seems unappreciated or returned. Gift giving is symbolic of our love for another; the giving of a gift is a token of how we gift ourselves to another. And so we shop for something that will delight our beloved!
God delights in our delight and so He created the world with our needs and desires in mind — materially and immaterially. It’s true, God’s creation of life is the best ever gift followed closely by the creation of nature — the majestic mountains, the glorious sunsets, the bright blue skies and oceans; and the wonderful plant and animal life all around us. All of these incidental gifts provide us with both bounty and pleasure — for our sakes. And so we are able to dance in the moonlight! So, if God can get all excited about creating the moon for his creatures, imagine the ecstasy experienced by God as He watches us enjoy, delight in and wonder about his gift of creation! Consider God standing on the other side of creation — the supernatural side — beaming with delight as we enjoy nature with Supernatural delight.
It needs to be stated that God’s gifts are “not to be rejected; it is to be received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5) This means that we are to give rightful thanks and praise to God for his benevolent gift of creation; and then our gift will be consecrated. When we love God freely in return, we give Him the best gift ever! We know what it feels like to be freely loved by someone; it gives us great joy. God also deserves to ‘feel’ great joy because we freely love Him. We give rightful praise and thanks to God by giving Him credit for everything He has made. We give rightful praise and thanks to God when we acknowledge that our whole livelihood and recreational opportunities are made possible in and through God and His creation. We give rightful praise and thanks to God when we acknowledge His natural order. We give rightful praise and thanks to God when we use his natural resources purposefully and responsibly and with future generations in mind. Ancient cultures discovered an exceedingly rare, hard, purplish-red rock in Egypt named porphyry. Caesar quickly claimed the mountain for his own purposes, including the carving of royal thrones, chairs, bed frames, statues, tombs, caskets, jewelry, and even bathtubs. Several artifacts made from porphyry can still be found in the Vatican Museums. Eventually, the mountain was mined out and its location was thus lost for thousands of years. When we claim things made by God for ourselves, we fail to give rightful thanks. When we try to co-opt God’s creativity and genius as our own, we fail to give rightful praise.
How are we to speak of God’s creation? We are to speak of God (and his gifts) with great awe and reverence — after all He is God and we are not! King Harvest, not known for giving praise to God, nevertheless, gives praise to the wonders of His creation. Hopefully they realized that the awesome creation has a Creator! Better testimony and witness about God and the wonders of His creation comes to us from Astronaut Tom Jones who delivered the baccalaureate address (Our Lady of the Skies Chapel) to the ’09 Class of the graduating USAFA cadets and their guests. Dr. Jones’ talk was so memorable that prior to writing this article, I googled his contact information hoping to receive permission to quote him in this article. Little did I expect both a prompt reply and permission to include portions of his original address which was sent to me via email along with the image that shows his sky walk!
Dr. Jones talked about his personal experiences while attending the Academy, shared his philosophy about balancing risks vs rewards while pursuing his dreams, described good role models, and talked about how he overcame the obstacles that blocked his dreams of becoming an astronaut for NASA. Dr. Jones also sprinkled his talk with spiritual insights about God, the cosmos and faith. Below are portions of his talk given to attendees of the 2009 USAFA graduation; I hope you find his remarks as remarkable as I did 8 years ago. You may all be very interested in reading Tom’s newest book entitled Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir available from Smithsonian Books. Dr. Jones’ new book captures many more spiritual insights he experienced while traveling in space.
The following remarks were made during the 2009 baccalaureate address to the USAFA cadets and their guests.
“It took me seventeen years after leaving the Academy, but I finally broke the surly bonds of Earth, aboard Endeavor on STS-59. Among my five crew mates were two Academy grads — and fellow Catholics. On our second Sunday in space, our science mission well in hand, the three of us gathered on the quiet shuttle flight deck for communion. Kevin Chilton, now a 4-star general heading StratComm, shared the body of Christ with Sid Gutierrez and me. Just as we received that sacred host, a beam of pure white light shone through the windows of Endeavour’s cabin. The brilliance of an orbital sunrise warmed our bodies and souls. Moved, I floated face towards the windows, embarrassed my friends would see my tears. 120 miles below, the deep indigo of the ocean slid by. ‘Look at that!’ I called to Sid and Kevin.
Next to me in the window, Kevin answered: ‘Tom, it’s the blue of the Virgin’s veil.‘”
On Tom’s third mission, a mechanical problem forced the cancellation of both of his scheduled spacewalks. Toms’ spirits naturally sagged after realizing that he had lost the opportunity to walk in space — possibly forever. This loss felt hugely ‘undeserved’ as he had prepared well, fought for, and was just so close to realizing the dream to sky walk.
“But over the next couple of days, I changed. How could I complain? I was aboard the US spaceship Columbia with four wonderful friends … an unparalleled, stunning view of Creation.— I realized I should be thinking about not what I’d lost — but what I’d been given. A few days late, the Holy Spirit showed me the true meaning of Thanksgiving.”
“When I joined NASA, I harbored the glimmer of a hope that I might walk the Moon, get a ticket to an asteroid [I’d insist on a round trip], or even journey to Mars. Well, I only made it 220 miles out, but no complaints from me — having traveled nearly 22 million miles, spent hours drifting above the night side of Earth, spellbound by lightning and meteors below, watching the stars rise through the faint orange airglow of our atmosphere, it’s hard to argue I’ve been anything but blessed.”
Tom’s fourth mission on the Atlantis took him and other crew members to the International Space Station! While there, he had another opportunity to walk in space and he did just that. In fact, Tom led three spacewalks with the purpose of building an ‘outpost.’ Imagine referring to any space station that is hurling through space as an outpost! Or for that matter, calling one’s time outside a space shuttle a sky walk? Of his final spacewalk, Dr. Jones recalls:
“Pivoting around my grip on the Space Station’s forward handrail, I drank in an astounding view. Directly in front, 20 feet away, the tail of Atlantis split the Earth’s delicate blue atmosphere. Straight up, the glittering solar panels of the Station spread like golden wings across the black nothingness of space. Beneath my boots, the royal blue of the Pacific, brushed with swirling white clouds, rolled steadily past. Behind me, the nearly half a million pounds of shuttle and Station plowed forward like a silent star cruiser, falling through the heavens at 5 miles per second toward a horizon a thousand miles distant. Never have I felt so insignificant, part of a scene so obviously set by God. Emotions welled up inside: gratitude for our success, humility at my tiny importance in this limitless cosmos, and a profound astonishment at the Creator’s handiwork. I remembered the voice of Buzz Aldrin, returning from the first Moon landing on Apollo 11, radioing back the words of King David: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him.‘” [Psalms 8:3-4]
Of his all-too-rare glimpses of the cosmos, Tom recalled the following:
“I used to gaze at the night sky from the flight deck of the shuttle: Later I found this passage from Sirach: “The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven, a gleaming array in the heights of the Lord. At the command of the Holy One they stand as ordered, they never relax in their watches.””[(Sirach 43:9-10) ‘For the Lord has made all things and to the godly He has granted wisdom.’ (Sirach 43:33) The writer must have been in the shuttle cockpit with me!”
Tom’s address to the cadets concluded with this blessing:
“Fellow explorers of the Wild Blue, as you leave the Academy to serve our nation, I pray you will be cloaked in God’s wisdom. As you lift off to bright futures, I offer my congratulations and heartfelt wishes for success. Good luck. And Godspeed!”
Dr. Jones says it so well. May all of us use our varied experiences to give right witness, praise and thanks to God for His Creation.
Copyright 2017 Linda Kracht