Our Creator has blessed us with a remarkable landscape: Breathtaking mountains and plush prairies and charming forests and calming coastlines seem to bring me closer to God. City life reminds me of the diversity of humanity – one of the most profound and humbling reminders of our Creator’s imagination and transcendence. Traveling to these various places shows me the great variety of God’s works.
It’s no secret that I love to travel. But with our boys still being so young, Julie and I decided not to go away on a family vacation this summer. Local outings and short trips have peppered our calendars, astonishing me with the variety of creation I’ve experienced this year.
Early in July I rode my motorcycle from Saint Louis to Saint Paul and back, using a series of back-road highways and routes designated as the “River Road.” Many of us enjoy the scenic drive from Alton to Grafton on our most familiar stretch of this National Scenic Byway. Upper portions of the River Road did not disappoint. Northeastern Iowa, with its rolling hills of farmland and quaint towns, was delightful. Western Wisconsin’s bluffs are every bit as majestic as those around our Marquette Park, only more plentiful. And southeastern Minnesota’s portion of the Mighty Mississippi shows the river’s incredible versatility (from a stream the size of Wood River Creek to a lake more than 3-miles wide), highlighting some of the most picturesque river valley terrain I’ve ever seen.
On the heels of this motorcycle ride, Julie and I took our kids camping at Rend Lake. The July heat relented briefly, providing warm but breezy summer days – the perfect kind of weather for morning games, afternoon naps in the shade, and evenings catching lightening bugs and making s’mores. A day at one of Rend Lake’s beaches reminded us of the simple beauty of our local parks and lakes.
The group I accompanied to Conception Abbey experienced the vastly spacious gentle rolling hills of northwestern Missouri. Stars and the moon seem so much more vibrant when surrounded by hundreds of miles of nothing but pastures and prairie. The constant light wind has a calming effect, cooling the warm afternoons and speaking to our souls as God spoke to the Prophets in the gentle wind.
And finally, my summer concluded with my recent trip to northwestern Washington. Forests of tall cedar trees blanket the snow-peaked Mount Hood while other smaller peaks form the horizon. Between the mountains and the Pacific coast, Julie and I witnessed my cousin exchange wedding vows and visited with my family in a flower-covered meadow.
A friend said to me once, “I’d rather be out in nature thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about nature.” Church participation, mind you, is absolutely an essential part of our faith! But so is connecting with our Creator in the midst of creation.
We so often overlook the simple beauty and intricacy of the Earth, neglecting to hear God’s still speaking voice in the gentle breeze.
Our Sunday mornings during September will focus on God’s creation: Lessons we can learn from different parts of creation as well as weekly challenges to experience God in creation. We’ll celebrate the beauty of the planet and reflect on our relationship with God as it is revealed to us in creation. We’ll seek and discover divine wisdom that can only be found by digging deeper into the ecosystems of our world, celebrating the life-giving, powerful, yet fragile elements of God’s masterpiece.
For the beauty of the earth, let us praise the Lord.