A Parable from Observing a Comet.
Comet Leonard is now (early December 2021) becoming more prominent in the pre-dawn sky. It reminded me of the principles of observing. An observing period is not like a quick review of a picture. Let me explain.
We scheduled observations of the comet two consecutive mornings because sky conditions are not always good. Each observing opportunity involves the same process of setting an alarm, preparing the astronomical equipment ahead of time, making the sketching materials ready for transport outside, and checking the latest comet position and apparent magnitude. The first morning was a 3:45 a.m. wake-up, a half-hour of getting ready, 20 minutes to get set up outside, and ten minutes of observing as a layer of clouds covered the target area. We went back to bed. The second night we adjusted our alarm to 4:30, checked conditions to make sure the sky was clear, and followed the same procedure as the night before to get set up outside. The observing period took ten minutes of searching for the target, 20 minutes of observing by both of us (each took several looks), 10 minutes of sketching to record the comet and star positions, and 20 minutes to get everything back inside. The next morning it took 40 minutes to finish the observing sheet, 15 minutes to prepare it to be posted, and a couple hours to make the first draft of this post. The final observing sheet is at the bottom, and you are reading the post after a couple more hours of editing.
Images and pictures are typically reviewed in seconds. Maybe something will be remembered. Maybe not. Rarely is anything learned. Observing to learn is wholly different. Even a picture, if studied, yields much more information than a glance. Direct an careful observing in person is even more valuable. Consider the vast contrast between a true observation process compared to a casual glance of a picture.
This is where my parable begins. Observation verses a casual glance is like the difference between experiencing a relationship with the Living God compared to habitual religious practice that require no relationship with God. The book of James puts real religion in terms of experience this way: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” In that day and time, religious practices were common, but James points to the fact that relationship with the Living God has “feet”. It becomes a lifestyle born out of a relationship to God. Otherwise, it ends up being an empty practice, or a talk without a walk. John 14:15 and 15:17 put it another way: to know and love Jesus Christ is to follow his commands and to have love among believers.
Religious practices without a real relationship with God, then, are like a passing glance at a photo. A serious observation, however, is like our observation experience of Comet Leonard. Our observation required an intent, a preparation, a series of observing steps, and finally a recording of what was observed. True religion is similar. It requires a full intent of the heart, a turning to God, a walking out, and a record is formed of where the person goes and what he does.
One of the reasons we teach observations skills for observing the heavens is to introduce an observation process that is designed to enhance learning. While a glance at a picture is common, careful observation of a picture and disciplined observing are much different. When a student understands these things, learning improves.
Likewise, a faithful walk in Christ is not a casual one. It is a step-by-step consideration of Who we serve, which means it extends to what we do, why we do it, and what God has to say about it (in the Bible or to us directly by the Holy Spirit).
One might ask, “Can it be possible to know God so personally?” That is what the Bible says and what Faylene and I have experienced. God goes so far that He gives all people an opportunity to reach to Him at one time or another. If we do not respond or respond like the glance at a picture, it is unlikely that much will occur in us. On the other hand, if we respond with our whole heart, take action by turning from our own way to His ways, He responds and brings us alive. As we draw close and walk with Him, life changes. In essence, we learn of Him. A believer’s walk, then, like a serious observation process, yields good things. It is not just an empty practice of religion.
Want to learn to observe the heavens from a Biblical world view? Look under downloadable courses and get the free course by nearly the same name. It is made for parents, teachers, or students with an aptitude to learn about the created heavens. If you have questions, please contact us.
Want to have another point of view for the same observation of Comet Leonard? Look under Faylene’s Perspective. She made the observation of the comet with me and has learned the same observation skills.
Above all things, turn to God with a full heart.