This month, on the weekend of September16-18, we will be participating in our annual family retreat at Slumber Falls Camp at New Braunfels, Texas. If you have never been to Slumber Falls Camp, I would strongly encourage you to go to the retreat. It is a special and beautiful place in which to experience God’s presence. If you have been there before, I am sure that you know that Slumber Falls is indeed a special and beautiful part of God’s creation.
One thing that makes Slumber Falls so special is that we are able to experience the Divine in nature. If God created everything in nature, we should expect to feel closer to God when we are in nature. As the Psalmist declared, the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork (19:1). Theologian Basil Pennington puts it another way: “The whole of creation bespeaks its Maker. As the Greeks would say, the whole of creation is full of logoi, little words, that give expression to the Logos, the Word.” As Martin Luther noted: “God writes the Gospel, not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” Since the church’s earliest days, Christian theologians have referred to this source of inspiration as the Book of Nature—God’s complement to the Book of Scripture.
One of the highlights of the family retreat is the opportunity to worship God outdoors, in God’s creation, on top of a bluff overlooking a scenic river valley. The sounds of the falls can be heard as you sit in silence, listening for God to speak to you in the sound of the water, in the singing of the birds, in the wind moving through the trees.
Another highlight of the retreat is the opportunity to get to know each other in times of fellowship and conversation. Whether it’s playing games in the lodge, walking down to the river, going shopping, going out to eat, or floating down the river, there are numerous opportunities to share in Christian fellowship. This koinonia is another good way toexperience God’s presence.
If you are able to go, please fill out one of the forms in worship or call the church office. Please note that there are options for sharing rides if you are not able to drive. Because the retreat is booked a year in advance, we are required to pay for a minimum of 20 persons, regardless of how many attend the retreat. Also, if you are unable to attend on Friday evening, you can still come on Saturday and Sunday.
If you are not able to attend this year, consider going next year. Or, I would encourage you to make a point of experiencing God in nature in a place near you. The organization, The Center for Spirituality in Nature, has a website at (www.centerforspiritualityinnature.org) which offers several suggested spiritual practices for exploring spirituality in nature. One which I like is called “Awake to the World.”
Take 5 minutes just as you are waking to set your intention for the day. You might say to yourself: "Today, I will be awake to the world." Repeat as a mantra, breathing into each word.
Take this intention into your day. What aspects of nature do you notice? What is attracting you? Is Spirit present? During the course of the day, as you find yourself becoming distracted by the busyness of life, repeat as necessary: "Today, I will be awake to the world." You might set a reminder to do this hourly OR set up a trigger, such as, every time you look at your phone, you repeat the mantra.
At night, as you fall asleep, you might reflect on what you noticed during the day in your awakened state.
There are glimpses of God in all aspects of creation, and there is much to be learned about the Creator from the creation. We hope to see you at the falls!
Blessings and Peace,