Posted by: John Adams | September 14, 2008

Burning Like Starlight

I’m feeling much better. Thanks to everyone who wrote me with words of encouragement.

A few of us went to Lake Geneva on Thursday and swam. The others were laughing at how cold I was – when you grow up in the Caribbean, any water under bath-water temperature is freezing. It was a beautiful day – very clear and warm. It was also the last clear day since then. The last three consecutive have consisted of heavy fog that obscures the valley from vision. It looks like a 19th-century Gothic novel outside. It’s chilly and they haven’t turned the radiators on yet, so I’m all bundled up as though it were mid-winter.

Richard, one of the workers here, spoke this morning on the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. The word translated “meaningless” or “vanity,” he said, is better translated “vapor,” “breath,” or “breeze.” Those translations–particularly in the NIV–reflect the existentialist mood of the time when those translations first came out (the 1960’s). This means that the writer of Ecclesiastes is not highlighting the futility of life so much as commenting on its fragility and impermanence. This makes his conclusion that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments more logical.

I have liked Ecclesiastes for a long time. I love the passage that says it’s a good thing to attend a funeral and be reminded of how short life is. Some people look at life and see futility; a Godly person is reminded of how soon life will be over, and redoubles his efforts to make each day count. “Redeeming the time,” Paul says, “for the days are evil.” I am reminded of a Chris Rice song that says, “teach us to count our days, and teach us to make the days count.”

I wrote a song today as I was reflecting on these themes. I’ll record it when I can and put it up on my Myspace. I’m posting the lyrics below. The verses are from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, and the chorus is drawn from Philippians, which exhorts us to “shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

You were there when I began
My frame was knitted by Your hands
You have numbered all my days
May each one ring out to the praises of Your grace

I want to burn like the starlight

Everything is but a breath
Or so Ecclesiastes says
It’s all chasing after the wind
I’ll end up where I began, began, began…

I want to burn like the starlight

You’re the Author of my life
And you know the day I’ll die
Give me a heart of wisdom
That I might learn to number my days
Let each one like an arrow to its target fly



  1. Thanks for the poetic reminder. You seem to be dealing with issues like hell, sin, and Ecclesiastes. Wow, that’s some pretty depressing stuff, especially when there’s no sun peaking through the clouds. It’s still sunny in Portland, and I’m learning about happy stuff like authorial intent and the dynamics of human/divine authorship, methods of biblical theology, and, my all time favorite, Greek.

    Continue to keep us posted. We love reading from you.

  2. Coincidentally, I’ve been listening to Chris Rice. “Deep Enough to Dream” makes me reminiscent of childhood and the first time I ever heard anyone sing of Heaven in that way.

    “Life is but a breath” is very consistent with Scripture, so I can understand that interpretation.

    I’ve been very compelled to make a difference in this life — through relationships and works. I hope to “redeem the time” in my life.

    Look forward in anticipation to your new song. 🙂


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