Hearing God in Nature

A hiking trip to Utah left me unexpectedly with a wealth of spiritual insights, as if God were speaking to me in the rocks.

You enter Arches National Park and then take a drive to the area where you want to get out of the car.  The drive is spectacular, worth the trip in itself.  Along the way there are three tall rock towers adjacent to each other.  To us the structure became The Three Wise Men from the biblical story of the birth of Jesus.  Their three heads seemed to us to be topped with crowns or headdresses and they seemed poised to worship.   After learning the official name, The Three Gossips, I felt glad to be so grounded in the biblical story that how I see and what I see is shaped by that story.

Having arrived late one afternoon when the park was closing early, we took a trail to an overlook to see the famous Delicate Arch.  What we saw was splendid.  But the next day we hiked to the arch itself.  I even stood under it.  Our appreciation of the arch and why it is such a favorite dramatically changed.  One could say we went from learning about it to being in it.  In the spiritual life the beginning of the life of faith has a luminous and wonderful quality, and yet it is only a shadow of what comes in the journey over time as the truth of the faith becomes a part of you.

Another area of the park was called Petrified Sand Dunes.  It looked just like wind-swept dunes of white sand.  But geologically they had hardened and rigidified into rock.  I felt warned by them to stay loose, open to the winds of the Spirit, never feeling certain that I had learned all there is to learn, never being so sure that I am right that I can’t learn from someone else, and never working so hard to be in control that nothing can be changed.

I found myself the whole time being awed by the majesty of God.

Queries:

On what is your faith life grounded?  What impact does that have on your everyday life?

What spiritual insights have you gained from non-church sources?

Prayer:

“Eternal and Immortal One, You have been our refuge in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, before You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are the Alpha and the Omega” (Psalm 90: 1-2, Nan Merrill, Psalms for Praying).

For further reference:

“O Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (See Psalm 8.)

“You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken….You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.  At your rebuke they flee.…They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them.”  (See Psalm 104.)

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The Path

I grew up with a hunger for God, a love of Jesus, whether I really understood that or not.  Early on it was manifested in being drawn to Bible stories and other stories of people of faith.  Those stories were somewhat enfleshed by the weekly experience of having people invited to “give their lives to Christ” and join the church.  I myself made that decision by age ten.

What I didn’t hear much about then was that I was stepping on a path that would give me a chance to grow, change, and become closer to God, enriching my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  But when the ups and downs of my faith and life set me in Quakerism as a young woman, I was inspired by older Friends, especially women, who seemed to glow.  They had something that inwardly I yearned for.   Their witness invited me to take hold of a path, a way of life—familiar, I now know, in Quakerism and in Christianity—that I then scarcely knew consciously.

This path is not like a trail that one can knowingly follow, nor is it about achieving a destination or status.  It does involve making a life-choice, and then is more about surrendering or letting go in faith. Each one’s journey is different. Trusting and doubting and wondering, seeking and finding and losing, suffering and knowing joy, making wrong turns and finding a way provided when there is no way—all are included.  It’s an ascent that involves deepening.

Friends’ directions for following this path have been to live up to the Light that you have and more will be granted you.  It calls for holding onto a tradition—what others have come to know in the past and have left a witness to—while at the same time living in the present with what you know and experience.

Queries:

What kind of life-choice have you made?

How do you, or can you, reject harmful or unbelievable notions you learned in your past religious experience while also staying open to learning some fresh way to understand the rejected concepts?

Prayer:

Pray the Lord’s prayer (the Our Father), paying attention to what words are meaningful to you and what ones give you trouble.  Then choose one word or phrase to hold in the Light, praying to be touched or taught in a fresh or deeper way through that word or phrase.

For further reflection:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me. . . . (See Psalm 25: 4-5).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”  (Hebrews 12: 1).