Sunshine and holy sparkles

Seeing with the help of partly cloudy

by Ken Rummer

Pools of light dapple the landscape, and the shaded places, dark by contrast, add drama to the view. I’m looking out at the ordinary magnificence of a partly cloudy day. Sunbeam and cloud shadow slow dance across the scene, turning a heavenly spotlight first here and then there.

Sights that on other days escape my notice now glow in a circle of sunshine. They appear newly minted, tugging at my sleeve for attention like insistent toddlers. On the horizon, a blue silo in a clump of trees catches my eye. Beyond the trail, wild geese float in a pool of recent rain. And two doors down, I’m seeing yellow iris marking a lot corner with an outdoor bouquet.

I once heard an interviewer ask the director of our state fair photography contest what the judges were looking for in a winning photo. He said, “Show us the world as we have never seen it before.” Partly cloudy is showing me the world that way today.

I wonder how many times Moses passed the bush, or ones just like it, before he saw it as he’d never seen it before. (The full story can be found in the Bible in the third chapter of Exodus.) Moses had been shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep past scrubby bushes for years when he noticed one that seemed to be on fire but wasn’t burning up. And he turned aside for a closer look. And that’s when he heard God speak.

The way I see it, God hasn’t run out of bushes yet.

In her poem Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning sees “every common bush afire with God.” I can’t vouch for every bush, but I’ve seen a few shining with extra light. I’ve noticed their tiny twigs made vivid by hoar frost, their yellow leaves lit as if from within, their branches glowing red at sunset.

A sight like that, familiar but strangely new, hits me like the first cool breeze on a warm summer night, with a little shiver up the back of my neck. It feels like fear. It feels like wonder. It feels like stumbling onto holy ground.

Sometimes I try to write about it. I take myself back to where I noticed the sunny spotlight or the holy highlighter. I point my words in that direction, and I say, “Wow. Did you see that?” And maybe someone has, or something like it. And maybe God has something for us to hear.

So I am glad for the partly cloudy of this day, for the ever-changing patterns of shadow and sunshine. The light draws my attention to a distant barn. Then it invites me to notice two carpenters at work across the way. And now, just outside my door, I see a house finch standing in a circle of light.

Partly cloudy is a moving picture show unreeling in slow motion. What next will catch a splash of sunshine, or a dusting of holy sparkles? And who will turn aside to see?




Ken Rummer, a retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. His previous posts are available at