Friday, August 16, 2013

Signs, Seasons, Days, Years, Light . . .

Genesis 1:14-15   And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. (ESV)
One of the purposes of God creating the Sun and Moon and stars was for signs and season, days and years, and light upon the earth. In the last few centuries we've lost a lot of the "working" understanding of the heavens as a way to mark the passing of time (days, months, years) as it has been replaced with wall calendars, electronic calendars, clocks and watches. It strikes me that the less we pay attention to the heavens, the less we often connect with God as well, because another purpose of the heavens, according to God's Word, is to display His glory. I know that for me, spending time gazing upward and reflecting, puts things on earth back into perspective and returns me to a place of worship and awe.

We started homeschool with our girls this week and one of the things I am doing is teaching them Classical Astronomy from a wonderful book called Signs & Seasons by Jay Ryan which we got at a homeschool conference. (You can find the book and sign up for free Classical Astronomy newsletters at Classical Astronomy is the study of the heavens (which includes the Sun, our most visible star!) without telescopes, but with the naked eye as they have been done since Creation. It is like learning to read a book written across the sky by God, and it is fascinating how easily you can determine directions, times, and seasons through what He has placed there. I have found in the study that what I used to look at and not even notice (does that make sense?) I am now noticing in far different ways (the length of shadows, etc.).
Pounding nails to mark the shadow every 10 minutes.

Our first "field" project has been building a compass in our backyard using the Sun. The principle is that when the sun is highest (high noon, not necessarily your watch's noon) shadows point North and the Sun is South. You can tell when it is at its highest when the shadows are shortest in the day. (Incidentally, that North/South line is called the meridian, or "middle of the day" and when the sun is before it it is "ante meridian," or "am," and when it is past it then it is "post meridian," or "pm." Cool, isn't it!)

Around 2:40 pm. We are ready to find the shortest!
So, we put a stake in the ground and the girls went out about every 10 minutes from around 11:30 am onward and drove a nail at the center, end of the shadow of the stake. Later we found which was the shortest shadow and drew a line through the stake to that nail and past it and we had our line North. We drove a spike in the ground about 80" out from the stake on that line and then carried the line back 80" to the other side of the stake and drove a spike, marking South. Then, using intersecting arcs drawn from each North/South stake we could find a point 90-degrees off the center in the East and West directions and we marked a line from the center spike 80" in each of those directions and put a spike. Now we have a compass 160" in diameter in our back yard! It points straight at the North Star!

Each of us standing at the cardinal points of our compass—
Bethany, North; Abigail, South; Mary Ann, East; myself,
West. We also have a spike in the center for future reference.
We are looking forward to moving further in the book and being drawn closer to our Creator as we marvel at the order and design He has woven into His Creation, and we worship Him as a family. Thanks, Jay and your family, for sharing your knowledge with us!


  1. Thank you daddy for teaching us so well and with enthusiasm. I enjoy classical astronomy a lot especially the field work and how helpful it will be. Love you!

    1. You are so welcome! I love you both so much and it is our joy and privilege to raise you up to know your Creator in all things! He loves you even more than we do!


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