By Terry Magee
I have been to many beautiful places on earth, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Those were once-in-a-lifetime trips. God has also provided wonderful places to which I can return over and over. I have two local spots, a state park, and a stretch of the Appalachian Trail I hike regularly. I can spend extended time with God enjoying his creation and still get home for supper.
You do not have to travel the world to find a beautiful place in which to experience God’s creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
You will find many opportunities at your doorstep if you try the following:
Find somewhere nearby. The Appalachian Trail is located about 45 minutes from my house, and I have a state park within 20 minutes to hike and explore. The more difficult your location is to get to, the less frequently you will go. When I hike the Appalachian Trail, I often have lunch with my wife before heading off.
Focus on what you enjoy. Do not feel like you have to imitate what other people find fun. As awesome as pictures of rock climbers hanging on cliffs look, I would not be caught dead attempting that. My speed is bicycling on a quiet country road or hiking through a local park. Part of a location being a favorite spot is involving something you naturally enjoy doing, including sitting and watching nature happen.
Stop and smell the roses. OK, that was cliché, and there may not be actual roses in your favorite spot. But do take time to enjoy your surroundings. Each season will present its own unique look. What animals can you observe? Are there wildflowers or other beautiful plant growth? Be sure to dress appropriately and be prepared for changes in the weather so you can enjoy extended time outdoors.
Bring along a Bible and/or journal. When I hike my favorite stretch of the Appalachian Trail by myself, I always include my Bible in my day pack. When I scale the final hill, I take a break just off the trail. I read a selected passage and spend time meditating on it. Sometimes I also journal, but I mainly sit and let God’s Word work into me without any distractions or scheduled demands.
Stay long enough for thorough prayer. When I hike, I try to spend time in prayer, but too often my mind is initially racing from recent events or the busyness of life. It takes time to clear my mind of the clutter so that I can focus more on God and enjoy his presence. It is amazingly easy to find secluded spots, even in local parks. This intimacy with God can become much more intense than when I am confined to a time schedule with morning devotions. The extended time allows me to connect with God more deeply. I then spend my day in relaxed fellowship, both in prayer and in quiet enjoyment of God’s presence.
We can treasure prayer closets in our homes, where we meet with God on a daily basis. But we compound that joy when we get out to experience God in his creation. Finding a favorite place close to home allows us to treasure God’s natural bounty over and over again. The familiar sight becomes a treasured friend with which we join to meet God.
Terry Magee bikes, hikes, and prays in Pennsylvania (www.terrymagee.net).