The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.
– Exodus 7:16
The outdoors is a place where I have always found solace, a deep awareness of God’s nearness, and a stronger sense of my connectedness to the land, the elements, and other life forms that share this planet with humanity. For years, nature has been my temple, despite my upbringing in church being confined within walls. Prophet and wilderness teacher John Muir captures this perfectly when he writes,
A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.
I am grateful for leaders like John Muir who have worked to preserve God’s “first temples,” those most sacred green spaces and parklands. In 2010, I started a ministry called Holy Hikes (holyhikes.org) to celebrate Communion in the beauty of the outdoors and I am deeply grateful for all who have made this ministry possible, especially as it expands and new chapters are forming. My Thanksgiving prayer is that we may find new paths for rebuilding our spiritual connection with untouched nature as our truest home and God’s most perfect temple.