Welcome to the first devotion for 2024. As I look to the new year, I am excited about embarking on a new adventure. When I say that, people are expecting to see something like taking up scuba diving or visiting a foreign country. But my adventure is to build stepping stones to spiritual encounters. For me this means seeking God in the elements of creation, moments of simple conversations, and intentional acts of love. Please note that I have listed the act of building stepping stones and not engaging in major encounters.
A few months ago I participated in a spiritual practice where the participants were instructed to settle down to observe something in God’s creation for 20 minutes. We were to look at the details and seek God in what we saw. This was a challenge as I pondered and explored a tree growing in an enclosed courtyard. The first thing that caught my attention was the bark. I noticed the color variants and traced the pattern with my eyes, watching for living creatures. Then my attention went to the movement of the leaves as they fluttered and swayed. There was so much time assigned to this activity that I was forced to keep exploring, entrenching myself into minute details. I pulled out a journal to document what I saw, what I felt, and what I discerned. It was a stepping stone to a spiritual encounter that continued to deepen as time progressed.
A few days ago I accompanied my youngest daughter’s family on a 1 mile hike in Mason Neck State Park which is located on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay, Belmont Bay and the Potomac River. This hike provided me beautiful and spiritual invitations to ponder elements of God’s creation. With no opportunity to sit for a 20 minute observation and because there were so many amazing elements of creation, I found myself taking copious pictures to spend many 20-30 minutes spirit-filled sessions in the future.
Today I offer you one of my pictures of God’s creation in Mason Neck State Park. Expand the picture and take some time to see the details of God’s artwork in nature. Offer praise as you observe. Offer thankfulness. Ask the Divine to enter your mind and move to your heart as you encounter God in the details.
Psalm 148:5-10 leads us in praise of God and God’s creation:
“Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!”
I pray that you, too, take time to pursue your own stepping stones to a deeper spiritual encounter with God. Engage with the Divine in thankfulness, praise and worship. Be sure to take along a journal so you can document what you see and feel in the presence of God’s creation. This can become your adventure for 2024.
Author: Bonnie Barber
Various authors throughout the Chesapeake Bay Mission Center and beyond provide these thought-provoking weekly devotions.