by Mike Herrnstein
“Let’s hear it from Sky, with Earth joining in, and a huge round of applause from Sea. Let Wilderness turn cartwheels; Animals, come dance, put every tree of the forest in the choir—An extravaganza before God as He comes, as He comes to set everything right on earth, set everything right, treat everyone fair.“
–Psalm 96:11-13 (MSG)
I chose today’s Bible verse in the Psalms from Eugene Peterson’s Message translation of the Bible. I remember a short video from years ago when U2’s Bono went to meet Pastor Peterson at his home. Why did this great artist interrupt his busy, glamorous life to venture deep into the Montana woods to speak to an old pastor and scholar about the Psalms? What was he looking for? What did he find?
This is the most popular season to take vacation. We go for different reasons. Maybe to get away from the distractions of our daily lives and the stress that comes with that. We look for adventure, excitement, beauty, and most likely, rest. Do we expect to find anything beyond that? Wherever it is, God is there. Perhaps we’re going to an exotic location to bring back memories of things we never see. God is there. Perhaps we’re going to see family or friends to build upon relationships with our loved ones. God is there. Perhaps it’s to the great outdoors to witness the best of God’s creation. God is certainly there. Maybe it’s in or around our own home. God is there, too.
Pilgrimage can be a narrowly-defined word. Does it have to be? I think about our pastors and suspect it may not be for them. During Pastor Sean’s sabbatical he walked the footsteps of Paul, finding a sense of place to add content for sermons and more. Pastor Rob takes a group of us each year to share and witness God’s glory in the desert. I’m not sure where Pastor Greg is going on his sabbatical this fall but I suspect that contemplative prayer and deep reflection will be a big part of it.
I remember in the last years of my able-bodied life (my early to mid-20s) my friends and I would leave work to escape the Phoenix heat for a three-day, two-night trip during the summer holidays to the pine forests above the upper edge of Arizona’s high desert. On the last day of our last trip I found God as I lay paralyzed under the water’s surface of Bear Canyon Lake, preparing to die. After an anxious prayer a childhood friend pulled me out of the water to face the morning sky on a beautiful summer day. At that point my life would change forever. I would lose a lot but life became more meaningful. God was there.
After writing this devotion I will return to bed to wait for three holes in my body to heal. On July 5th I will enter my 39th year as a quadriplegic, remembering that fateful day in 1985. And while laying in bed I will pray in gratitude knowing that God has always been there and will forever be.
Heavenly Father, bring rest to all those in need during this summer season. Keep us mindful to seek You out in all things good and bad. Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening. Amen.