Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sunday Morning Meds at the Fossil Beds

“He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 
 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; 
the waters stood above the mountains.” Psalm 104:5-6

It was 104 degrees, and nobody. . .let me restate that, nothing should have been where I was standing. Maybe some weeds. And rocks, of course—millions of them, sandy and bleached. A tree perhaps, mesquite. Little else.

We’ve named that kind of place as “Badlands,” and I was in the middle of Nebraska’s version, eons from anywhere, it seemed—at least 15 miles of white, dusty gravel from any paved highway. I’m often awed by that much open landscape, but out there that time, very much alone, the world I was in felt eerie, even though it was noon, maybe one in the afternoon.

People had been there—there could be no doubt about that. When my car thrumped over a cattle grate, a sign attached to a fence post “Now entering private property.” Here and there, pounded into the dust, were more signs declaring that there would be no fossil hunting at that spot of lonely, private property.

Standing there at what must have been a fossil bed, I reverted to childhood, to my Christian school education because the spiritual restraints jerry-rigged into me in those formative years created in some sense of offense in me a half century later. Beneath my feet was something, a fossil bed, couldn’t be read as being there for a million years. Like dinosaurs and mastodons, pre-historic creatures and their fossil trail were either evolutionist fabrication—lies, or God’s signatures delicately written into the landscape at creation just a couple thousand years ago.

If they really were lies, why were landowners protecting them? “No fossil hunting. Private Property.” Why would God almighty plant evidence for creatures that lived more than 6000 years ago?—and why was that evidence right here, way the heck out there in the middle of what seemed a moonscape few ever entertained a wish of visiting?

And if he all the fossils at my feet seemed much older than the Bible said, I couldn’t help wondering, even as I stood there, whether God was snickering as he created this stuff, giggled as if he were playing this great practical joke?

Forgive me. I’m exorcising ghosts from old closets, an exercise brought on by the fact that certain verses—if not the entire song—of Psalm 104 seem to many—my friend Charles Spurgeon for one—a poetic retelling of Genesis 1. That perception is never quite as clear as it is here, in verses five and six. This is a creation song.

Some time ago now, in Kansas, the State School Board was reconstructed when conservatives, creationists, lost an election. A more moderate board rescinded statewide testing standards that encouraged science teachers to emphasize alternatives to the theory of evolution.

Is that battle over? Hardly. “It will continue forever,” said one creationist. “It will never end.”

He may be right. But the beauty of these lines from this worshipful psalm, an ode to creation itself, emerges from description, not prescription.

I need to go back there again, sometime, out to the wilderness. The beauty was eerie, haunting, and spiritual. God is out there too, even though I was likely the only humanoid within miles.

And so are the fossils, thousands of them. Blessed be his name.

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