(first published in Reality in the 1990's. As I re-read this I noticed with a cringe how I had used masculine pronouns for God. I wouldn't do that now. It sounds odd, strange and definitely not accurate. It just shows how our - or at least my - understanding of God develops over time. Which is a good thing! Mind you, I don't think even in the 1990's I thought of God as male. It just seemed so natural to write that way and obviously not important enough then to find a different way. I've edited this version to lessen the cringe factor. However, it is hard to write or speak abut God without using gendered pronouns so one or two have remained - but I hope in a way that is a bit more even handed! )
On my way home from work one winter afternoon I suddenly felt the urge to drive out of the city to a wild ocean beach. It seemed a rather odd thing to do. There was a strong, cold wind and only an hour before darkness - not the best beach walking conditions! But I followed the inner nudge and drove on.
As I drove I reflected on how powerfully I feel connected to God when I am close to creation. "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge." Psalm 19:1-2. Of course my spirit and God's Spirit have a chance to meet when I am close to the work of her hands.
"When and where do you find you can best communicate with God?" I ask people in lectures or workshops on prayer. The answers always include "Out in creation". "So how often do you seek God in the sanctuary of his world?" Surprised looks, mumbled answers: "I haven't got time." "Shouldn't prayer be more serious?" "I feel guilty doing something I enjoy so much and calling it prayer!"
What limits we put on the ways our creative God plans to meet us. How much God longs to tell, or shout, or thunder God's character, power and glory through what he has made:
"Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendour. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the glory of God thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters...The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forests bare; and in his temple all say,'Glory!' " Psalm 29:2-3;7-9
Yet, in the face of all this we so often sit inside with wrinkled brow and closed eyes and say: "It is so hard to be in touch with God." Does God laugh or groan? "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made." Romans 1:19-20
"Well Lord, " I thought as I pulled up at the beach, "it's a grey, freezing day and most people would think I'm crazy coming out here. But you and I are here together so what do you have to show me?"
Down on the beach I discovered that a winter gale on a west coast beach is like a snowstorm. Great balls of foam race across the sand icing mounds of seaweed and piling up against the steps for all the world like a snowdrift. Bigger foam piles shiver in the freezing wind and then break up and skim like ice skaters across the steely gray sand.
I am like a child in my delight as I watch and kick and run to catch a foam ball. The skaters are far too fast for me. They whisk around my feet playfully caressing my shoes with a touch so light it cannot be felt. I laugh at myself as I grab and miss. I can almost hear the ocean laughing with me. There is a tangible connection of energy, delight and joy between the elements and me. I feel it blowing into me and around me as I stand facing the wind and exulting in the roar of the ocean. In this present moment there is nothing between me and the power of the creator pounding in the ocean, dancing in the skating foamballs and surging in the wind that nearly blows me off my feet.
Bundled in parka, woolly hat, scarf and gloves, I am dressed for worship. Standing alone laughing into the wind I join all creation in praise. Marvelling that the cliff top plants are not blown out by the roots is sermon enough: how deep are my roots? What storms must they withstand?
The Spirit led me out to the wilds of Muriwai beach today I am sure. It wasn't a "sensible" thing to do on such a day but the urge was insistent. Continue to be insistent in me Creative God. Break me out of my sensible, anxious, boring boundaries and fill me again and again with the wind and dancing foam of your Spirit.
(Photos taken by Janet Currie at Piha - close enough to what Muriwai was like!)