My 7 year old daughter asked for a telescope for Christmas so she could see Mars and she got a pretty nice one. Ever since she received the telescope a few weeks ago, I think I've benefitted from her gift as much as she has.
First of all, she and I have spent time together exploring the heavens, and Daddy/daughter time is one of the most rewarding gifts a father can receive. But believe it or not, at 37 years old the only telescope I had ever looked through was a little hand held telescope (like the ones you see pirates use) that I had as a child. I could see things across the room, but certainly not across the cosmos.
So when we went out that first night and pointed that powerful telescope at the moon, I was awestruck. You'd think I was the child who came running down the stairs to see all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning. The beauty of the textures that we could see on the moon's surface were staggering. This was no longer the bland circle in the sky on which (if you looked at it the right way) you could try to convince yourself that you were seeing a face. This was a place with mountains and valleys, with huge craters and enormous shadows. It truly was amazing.
Then the other night we went out again. I went out alone at first because I was having trouble lining up the telescope to see Mars (I later learned that the laser pointer was not properlly aligned; its fixed now). Mars was easy enough to pick out of the sky with your naked eye. I found out where Mars was supposed to be by checking an online sky chart (at Sky & Telescope's website; I highly recommend it to any sky watchers because it can show you what the sky will look like in your particular location for any given hour). After that it was pretty easy. Mars is the bright red dot amongst all the white dots in the sky.
Lining it up in the telescope was a different matter. I quickly learned the trick of starting with lower magnification lenses and progressively swapping out for more powerful ones (without moving the telescope in the slightest). That's not as easy as it sounds, because if the planet is not perfectly centered then you may lose it completely when you put in a more powerful lense. Eventually, though, I got the hang of it and got a pretty darn close look at Mars. I called my daughter and wife outside and we all got to see our closest neighboring planet (also pretty tricky considering it is moving through the sky, and the closer you get the quicker it moves out of frame).
This whole experience has been invaluable to me. I wish I could convey in words just how amazing it has been. Those of us who spend time preaching about God, whether we be pastors, evangelists, apologists or theologians, can all say over and over again that we are surrounded by miracles every day. Do you really understand how miraculous that tree is next to you? But the reality is that when we see something day in and day out we take it for granted. It becomes part of our every day experience. It is familiar and familiarity does not inspire awe.
But when we see something that is unfamiliar and yet incredibly remarkable, that can restore that sense of awe in us. God is awe inspiring. He is so far above us in quality that no comparison can even be made. When faced with Him, we should have no choice but to drop to our knees at the sheer magnitude of His glory. But even though we are surrounded by His glorious creation every day, we tend to ignore it.
So I want to encourage each and every one of you to take some time to explore part of God's creation that you are not familiar with, whether it be the heavenly cosmos, the highest peaks or the deep blue seas. I'm not saying you have to take deep sea diving lessons and a field trip to the Mariana trench. I didn't have to travel to space to be inspired by it. Maybe you can go to an Aquarium at a time when its not so busy or look through photographs taken by someone who has been to the summit of Everest. But taking the time to appreciate the wonder of some of the less familiar parts of God's creation may help you, at least for that moment, recapture the wonder of God Himself. I have been blessed enough to get a taste of that feeling lately, and I pray that you can as well.