By Susan Smith
The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match
your nature with Nature.
In Bible study, my young friend asked me an insightful question. “How do you know when God is near you?”
After a moment of contemplation, I said, “I feel him in the breeze. I hear him in rushing waters. I sense his presence when I smell fresh cut grass.”
GOD IN NATURE
Nature fills my heart with wonder and awe.
When I grew up in Kansas, we were right smack-dab in the middle of the country. To clear up a myth, Kansas isn’t always flat. Beautiful rolling hills adorn the western side, and two rivers converge in my hometown of Wichita.
That river confluence is marked by a beautiful park with trails, special lighting, and speakers playing a recorded history of the area.
Standing proudly on a boulder is a majestic bronze statue of an Indian—arms raised, head tilted to the sky, headdress fanning and fringed pants blowing in the wind. He’s known as the “Keeper of the Plains.” The stately piece of art silently watches over the crashing water as the Little Arkansas River joins the Big Arkansas River.
Decades later, I watched the mighty Columbia River flow into the Pacific Ocean at the South Jetty in Warrenton, Oregon. Looking out over the huge jetty rocks, I saw water roiling in a line where the river and the ocean meet. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The force of the currents meeting was so powerful, I felt it in my spirit.
Water, especially moving water, pricks my senses. I see it moving. I hear it flowing, rushing, and crashing. I smell the lush, green odor of algae and moss.
I also harbor an affection for the air. I treasure a soft, sweet breeze and love watching high-wind storms. The air when stirred up as wind is a powerful force. That power reaches into my spirit.
As teenagers, my friends and I attended weekly meetings of Young Life, a Christian-based organization reaching out to young people. Held in private homes, the meetings were fun, filled with singing songs and playing games.
I volunteered our house for meetings. Kids came from all over town, sitting cross-legged on our living room floor and listening to Pastor John uplift us. They passed pocket-sized songbooks with lyrics to popular Christian songs and Chris played his guitar.
But the best part was the Young Life camp in Colorado. Spread out over 20 acres, the camp featured a huge lodge, dining hall, log cabins and horse stables. We were surrounded by pine forests and beautiful mountains.
Winter or summer, I went to as many camps as I could. I went so often, the summer of my junior year I qualified for a spot on the work crew. During my month on the work crew, we were assigned to work the jobs of waiter, cook, laundry detail, or cleaning guest cabins. There were around twenty-five of us, and we made friends from all over the country.
Each week, a new group of campers arrived on a bus filled with noisy teenagers. The new campers stayed for five days, giving us workers a two-day break in between sessions. As a treat during our breaks, the counselors took over our work duties.
Those lazy weekends were filled with horseback riding, swimming and hiking. On one of our Saturdays off, we hiked up a curving trail to meet our counselors, Jim and Chris, at a clearing about a mile up. As we climbed the trail, the smell of pine was intoxicating.
In the clearing we discovered a huge fire pit, with a grill the size of a fence gate. And there was Jim, cooking thick T-bone steaks, potatoes and corn on the cob. The air was crisp, the campfire glowed, and Chris played his guitar. We raised our voices in song. By then we knew all the words to every song in the songbook.
THE HAND OF GOD
After darkness fell, more stars were visible in the sky than I’d ever seen, and the evening breeze began to stir. They were singing one of my favorite songs. I joined in.
Oh Lord, my God,
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder;
Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
As we sang I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder; Thy power throughout the universe displayed, my voice caught in my throat. It was then I felt it. The evening breeze had turned to a light wind, brushing my cheek and lifting the hair off my neck.
I heard counselor Jim talking softly, inviting us to let Jesus into our hearts. I looked up at the awe-inspiring night sky. My heart was as wide open as the expansive sky of stars. When I felt the gentle wind touch my face, I knew it as the hand of God.
I felt His Spirit in the air, the sky, the trees, and the stars. It was easy to imagine Him moving right into my heart, as gently as the breeze.
In your busy life, how can you get more time in nature?
Did you know that even seeing pictures of nature, or a tree through a window, can give you some of the same benefits? Try looking for nature videos on YouTube. Perhaps you could also rearrange some furniture—to give you a better view of your favorite tree from your favorite comfy chair.
Susan Smith is an author and speaker. As a lifelong writer, she published many magazine articles featuring interviews of interesting people. She taught writing and hosted writer’s groups and online classes. Susan is a wife, mother, grandma, sister, and friend. Now retired, she’s been a banker, jewelry designer, and a Mayo Clinic trained WomenHeart Champion.
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