In the book Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas describes nine ways Christians draw near to God in worship. One approach is not better than the rest, but some come more naturally to us than others. My wife pegged me right away when she read the chapter on what Thomas calls Naturalists: “God will speak to us through creation if we will only listen. If you feel like your time in front of books or listening to sermons has become stagnant, grab a coat, pick up a walking stick, and step outside into the school that never closes” (p. 47). He later puts it this way: “For the true Christian Naturalist, creation is nothing less than a sanctuary, a holy place that invites you to prayer” (p. 53).
My approach to Sabbath is that of a Naturalist. On my weekly walks with God, I intentionally put myself in places where nature points me to Him. I have seen groves of trees and shady canyons turned into natural sanctuaries, places of worship that are more beautiful than any cathedral.
I like being a Naturalist, and I know I’m not the only one. Might you be one? If so, I’d like to share with you a shortened version of a prayer that launched my Sabbath hike in the hills north of our town last Saturday (the picture below is from that hike). I hope this will encourage my fellow Naturalists to embrace their identity – and possibly move others to explore it for themselves.
“Lord, I choose to be here with you today, in this place, at this time. I can’t think of any place I would rather be.
I choose the cool breeze over air conditioning.
I choose to walk on dirt instead of driving on asphalt.
I’d rather have a walking stick in my hand than a remote control, and I prefer the singing of the birds over the noise of the television. Those flowers are far more beautiful than my living room carpet.
I’m glad there is no roof between me and the rain. It feels good on my skin.
I choose to be here, because you meet me here. Surrounded by your creation, overwhelmed by your artistry, I stand in awe of you.
I choose to be here, because nature teaches me about you. Your invisible attributes, your eternal power and divine nature, can be clearly seen here – they are understood through what has been made. Nature has been revealing truth about you since the creation of the world.
Today, it’s my turn to be the student. And I can’t wait to learn more about you.
So as I head out into the beauty that you made, strolling through this canvas that is covered by your brushstrokes, I have a simple prayer.
Please walk with me, Lord. Teach me about yourself. Draw near to me, as your handiwork helps me to draw near to you.
I choose to be here, at the intersection of creation and Creator.
I can’t think of anyplace I would rather be.”
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