Two days in Montana

Last week, my travels took me to Montana. I spent the first three days meeting with leaders from across the Conference there, speaking, preaching, and getting to know many people whose stories moved me.

And then for two days I traveled the wilderness that is Montana. What happened in those two days was a spiritual awakening that can only happen when you commune with nature, absorb the immersive presence of God’s creative handiwork up close, and discover the beauty and bounty of an extravagant fashioner of all that is good.

The Yellowstone and the Boulder rivers were brimming with snow melt from the warming mountain tops and running fast and strong with foamy, pulsating, and powerful currents.

The rolling hillsides teemed with wildlife. I strode comfortably, albeit at safe distances, with herds of bison and their new offspring. I watched a mother black bear as her two cubs frolicked among the trees. Deer and antelope grazed with but little curiosity for we humans, casting us only a passing glance as we gloried in their graceful, bounding beauty. Eagles soared above us, one of them dipping unsuccessfully into roiling waters in search of a next meal. Two elk with velvety antlers lazed in the late afternoon sun, oblivious to the cameras and binoculars that fixed upon them, gratified for fields of plenty and an hour of luxurious ease.

Mountains rose amid rolling hillsides replete with the bounty of the land: winter wheat showing its deep greens and grain heads popping on thin stalks bent with the weight of it all. Snow-capped peaks in the higher elevations belied what the calendar suggested about summer coming. Clouds penetrated the crevices of the higher elevations, hiding many of the taller peaks behind wisps of water-filled pillows. Fields of wild flowers popped with color, showing off the grandeur of God and adorning hillsides with the divine painter’s floral brush strokes.

Hikes up six miles of steep terrain and watery trails found me walking alongside running mountain rivers, leaping across creeks and risking uncertain steps on mossy rocks that peeped their heads above the fast running water, navigating my way through fields of green at high elevations, climbing over or ducking under fallen trees that had not been cleared from the trails, standing on boulders that held me above deep ravines while taking in the vistas that included mountain tops both near and far. It was a strenuous trip up the mountain, and a knee creaking hike back down. The aches, pains, and exertion was well worth what the experience afforded me.

Which was, in short, a walk with God. My heart opened. My vision expanded. My soul soared.

I needed this. In moments like this I become aware of what the psalmist meant when she wrote “O God, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”

God’s majesty was in full display. Would that I would take notice with deeper intent more often. But, grateful for the last week’s sojourn in the wilderness and all that it revealed about the extravagance of our Creator, I write to suggest only this: cast your eye at times upon what the hand and heart of God have fashioned for our pleasure on this, our journey Into the Mystic.