By Michael Gallup
On a trip through New Mexico about four years ago, Michala and I decided to stop to hike the rim of a dormant volcano in the north-east corner of the state. The hike was not too strenuous due to the paved road that led to the rim, but the vistas we encountered deserved an all-day affair. We were greeted with views of four states: Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. We could see the Sangre de Cristos in the west and the Black Hills in the east. Beneath us were the remains of the lava rivers that had shaped the landscape many years prior. We were stunned. And then, with a hushed voice, Michala whispered in my ear, “He created the heavens and the earth.” Such simple words, words we’d heard countless times, words made tremendously fresh as we realized just how big and magnificent the earth really is.
Psalm 19 rightly states that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Creation is singing His praise as it shouts to those who will listen, “Look at Him, He is beyond worthy or all our praise. He is Beauty.”
While God’s glory is found in civilization as well, many find the undisturbed wilderness particularly revelatory. This was true of the romantic artists of the 19th century, especially those of the famed Hudson River School in upstate New York. Thomas Cole wrote of nature as giving our soul “a sweet foretaste of heaven.” And his works certainly displayed this conviction. He made detailed, sprawling landscape paintings that sought to display God’s glory by manipulating light to illuminate certain aspects of his work or to paint a cross shining through the leaves. He created a series of allegorical paintings known as the “Voyage of Life” that visually told the story of life from birth to eternity.
Another famous Hudson River School artist was Fredric Edwin Church, my personal favorite. He painted massive landscapes (his most famous “The Heart of the Andes” was five feet by ten feet). He sought to not only display what was visible in nature but what was not so visible, the great depth of God’s glory just beneath the surface. Here’s a link to his entire collection of works. May you spend a few moments to meditate upon those same words Michala whispered on the volcano top, “God created the heavens and the earth.”
He is glorious!