God's Cathedral

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“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”--John Muir

Snowshoeing is one of my favorite winter pastimes.  The crisp air hitting my lungs, the soft swish and crunch of the snow, the paths that lead to solitary spaces under the blue mountain sky all make me feel as if I have entered a great cathedral.  It is an activity that clears the mind and opens the heart. I recommend it.

I began snowshoeing about fifteen years ago when a friend invited me to join him for a day.  While I love the outdoors, snowshoeing didn’t initially hold much appeal for me. It seemed too easy, maybe even a little boring. Little did I know at the time that there was much more to it than meets the eye.  Over time, I have come to appreciate the hidden treasures to be found in carving a trail across a soft, white expanse of wilderness.

“There is a sacred stillness that beckons those who are willing to enter.”

The simplicity of walking on the snow in quiet spaces makes this endeavor contemplative and challenging at the same time.. It can be hard work, especially cutting trail (walking on new snow in the front), but the rewards are also great.  You’re not competing against anyone or anything. You can take your time. You’re able to travel into areas that others can’t reach. There is a sacred stillness that beckons those who are willing to enter.

Away from the noise of daily life, the mind begins to wander to open spaces as well. The din and demands of schedule fade, and life comes into sharper focus.   

What I once thought was unappealing has become a life-giving endeavor.

Psalm 19:1-6 says:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;

no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice  goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

When we make it a point to get away from our man-made surroundings and enter into God-made spaces something miraculous happens.  We shed the illusion of control that occupies the spaces we have made for ourselves. We begin to recognize our own frailty and finiteness and see the world as God created it--a place of worship and stewardship rather than belonging to us.

Nature can show us something about our own character but even more importantly reveal God’s character.  The wonder and wildness of His creation--immense and uncontrollable. We even use phrases like “a force of nature” to describe the sensation of being overwhelmed by someone or something beyond our control.

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We are reminded of our place in the cosmos and God’s.  In nature, we stand in awe of His splendor and goodness and learn who and what we were made for.   Proverbs says this kind of awe and wonder is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It’s a wisdom that is apprehended as I  shift my center of gravity from self-reliance to God-dependence. We learn the strength of humility.

It is a sacred  gift to be able to spend time in spaces that remind us that God is infinite and that we are finite. Creature and Creator together--the harmony of nature acknowledging its maker, pointing to Him.  It’s the same harmony God desires for each of us-- Knowing His glory and reflecting it to others. Life as He intended it; Unconsciously pronouncing His love and faithfulness to those who come in contact with it.

Do you need a fresh perspective on things?  Take a hike! Not just once, but regularly. You might find that more awaits you there than you expected.