Having just gotten back from Wild Goose, I am still catching up on my writing for the blog, so I am sharing a few old devotional reflections on themes connected to pilgrimage — a practice we engage in with events like camp-meetings such as Wild Goose, church retreats, denominational conferences, and even some of us in simple hikes up Appalachian trails.
I hope these words help you connect with your journey to the Sacred in your whole life.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
When it answers that our help comes from the hills, I am brought back to memories of camping with my family on the lush green mountains of Appalachia. I think of the coolness of the Appalachian air, the chitter of forest animals, and the stunning sight looking over an overlook at the land beneath, visible for miles around. When I would go up to the mountains I would feel I was as close to heaven as one could be here on this earth.
The image of help coming from the mountains, from the Lord on High is for me a reminder that God can see all, for miles around. Our God whom we look to is able to see not just our situation and our struggles, but all the situations of those whom our lives touch, and every eventuality that may come from the choices we make. This God is a faithful One who stands by, able not just to grant our request but do one better: to guide us onto a path that brings the best healing, hope, and life not just for us but for all.
The image of God as a shade at my right hand reminds me of when my friend Cecil and I went walking one summer with a good friend as a teenager and a sudden summer shower burst forth, so the rain was falling thick in sheets. We had to run under the nearest overhang and sit out the rain for what seemed like hours. In the Middle East, often the sun-shine and heat we long for on a spring or summer day is what is oppressive, and no solace exists like the shady places one finds. This verse imagines God as that shelter from the elements that erode our lives, wearing us down in our heart and soul.
The image of God as the One who does not slumber or sleep reminds me of my mother growing up. While I was little, she watched my grandmother after a stroke. The stroke caused grandma to develop something like dementia and she would often wander, needing to be guided back home, at all hours. Also I had a sibling with a health condition that could cause night seizures. So many a night if I woke and wandered to the bathroom, I would see mom up caring for one or the other. She was always vigilant, ready to care for someone even in the night hours.
God is like that with us. Unlike her, God does not grow tired. But like mom in that memory, God is ever observant to our lives, our needs, our pains, and our struggles. There is never a moment we turn to God where God looks away or cannot be fully attentive to our cries. God’s eye is ever on us, ever in love.
Know this God is intimately close to you, nearer than the air you breathe, closer than the beating heart in your chest, surrounding you with love and holding you up through life’s trials and journeys.