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Discovering closeness to the Creator when in nature

When we are outside and see a vista that is beautiful beyond belief we call it ‘breathtaking. Maybe we should re-examine these experiences and speak about them being breath giving.
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For the last number of months we have been living on Lake Cowichan. We have endured a heat bomb, an atmospheric river and unusually heavy snow. In that time, we have seen creation at her most challenging. Because we are living in such a remote location our opportunities at in-person worship have been limited. We certainly miss some community gatherings and when we do get to in-person worship it is good to see folk face-to-face. Zoom or its variants has advantages as it saves on travel, time and gas.

My spirituality has always been connected to creation, the environment or being outdoors. A few years ago I went to a clergy retreat. Six clergy were present for this retreat. We were asked by the retreat leader where we felt closest to God. All of us said “outdoors, beside a lake, the ocean, or in the mountains”.

Jesus in scripture spent time in the synagogue reading lessons and participating, but the majority of his ministry was on the hillside, lakeside, or roaming the countryside.

In Hebrew the word used for Spirit is ruach which means breath. In Greek the work used for Spirit is pneuma which means breath. These words also mean wind or breeze.

Therefore, spirituality means the way we breathe. It is interesting that we use the term ‘breathtaking’ for an overwhelming spiritual experience, either musical, or an experience in church, synagogue or temple.  When we are outside and see a vista that is beautiful beyond belief we call it ‘breathtaking.’

Maybe we should re-examine these experiences and speak about them being breath giving. For we know that we are able to breathe on this planet because oxygen is given as a gift from the environment, from creation. We are closer to the Creator when we are in creation, that which gives us breath.

We have learned a lot as faith communities during the pandemic. We have realized what is unimportant to our faith and what is important. I have re-discovered that I deepen my spirituality by the lake, in the woods and on the hills and glens. I have discovered that spirituality uses all my senses: the colours of the trees, flowers, and bushes; the changing colors of the skies each hour of the day. I have re-discovered the breath giving experience of the Creator in creation:  the breath of the breeze, the call of the elk, and the sounds of the eagle and the raven overhead; the beauty of the dragonfly and humming bird soaring around; the movement and sounds the lake brings on the beach and rocks; the sassiness of the blue jay engaging in conversation’ the arbutus swaying in the breeze, creaking and singing; the soft breeze on my face; the rain pounding down; the soft silence of snowfall; the soundtrack of the bubbling stream dancing towards the lake; the smell of the morning dampness or the aroma in the air telling of a bear or the elk that was near. All feel like, and are, the touch of the Creator.

In what ways do you re-discover the Creator in creation? Where do you spend the majority of your time during the week? Are you in an office, factory, school or a store.? What part of your day is outside in a park, in a yard, on a lakeside or seashore? How do you shape your conversations with the Creator - by listening, reflecting and engaging, all of creation?

In all of these re-discovered, is a prayer life, rooted in the silence, sights and sounds of creation.

Now retired, Bishop Logan McMenamie is currently living in Youbou and is the Interim Clergy at St. Peter Quamichan.

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE: https://www.timescolonist.com/blogs/spiritually-speaking

* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, August 13th 2020