You know those smugly healthy, outdoor types? Well, he was one of those – a seasoned hiker with all the outdoor gear, that I’d got chatting with.
I was staying for a night in a travellers’ hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona, before hitch-hiking over to the Grand Canyon – one of the last things I did before leaving the USA in 1987 (see My Life’s Soundtrack for the whole story).
“Fresh air’s the only high I need,” retorted the hiker in the hostel, smugly, after I revealed that I liked getting stoned in picturesque, away-from-it-all places.
I’d become a Christian (just), but it would be another two years of on-off cannabis use and at least one seriously bad mushroom trip before I finally discovered that I no longer needed any illegal substances. That there was a higher high. A purer high.
I sent this postcard to my Dad on Halloween 1987, after a night in the Canyon – probably my first ever written acknowledgement of God
An experience of the Holy Spirit in 1989 replaced my need for THC with a fulfilment and joy in the love and forgiveness of my Father. For a time I was elated. The elation didn’t last forever, but the contentment and completeness in God did.
Now, stresses and disappointments creep in, and I struggle with the same day-to-day trials as everyone else. Prayer, reflection and expressions of creativity are some of the things that help to bring me back in touch with the Father’s love – which doesn’t change, but sometimes slips into the periphery of my vision.
‘Expressions of creativity’ include the art and poetry and music of others, the appreciation of which seems to link me back into the aesthetic heart of the Creator God, who makes all things beautiful in their time. They renew in me a sense of timeless wonder at the world, myself and God. And I’m centred back into Love’s envelopment.
Likewise, my own attempts at creativity, whether photography or writing, help to unlock those hidden expressions of my unique identity – who I essentially am – embraced within the tender acceptance of the one who is – Yahweh (‘I Am’) – and who made me in his image. They bring me back to me, to the joy of being my Father’s beloved child.
“God speaks to us in many different kinds of ways,” writes Shaun Lambert, the “Benedictine Baptist”, in A Book of Sparks: A Study in Christian MindFullness (in a chapter titled A real relationship with our creativity). “He is the creative Creator and utilises our creativity in His dialogue with us.”
That’s certainly been my experience.
And nature, nature….that supreme expression of creativity…
This time of year….the aesthetic hand of the ageless Ancient of Days, still sloshing annual explosions of colour across our streets and woodlands; wondrous shades of autumn warming the cooler days, virtually ignited by the deep, low sun of our evenings and mornings.
No Spring, nor Summer Beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumnall face
And I…sometimes, when I stop…and stop….and stop, and absorb the golden sights and sounds (and silence) and smells of autumn…
…or of some other amazing time and place of nature, bathing in the Creator’s brushstrokes, my soul gets re-awakened to his presence, and a smirk sometimes spreads across my face… a smile even, and occasionally a laugh springs up from those wells of the Spirit deep within, and I feel a little high in the Love that created these wonders around me, and my spirit is refreshed once again.
And now perhaps I understand a bit of what Van Morrison meant when he wrote:
And it stoned me
And it stoned me to my soul
Oh, the water
Let it run all over me
Please have a listen…
I know, I’m always banging on about Van Morrison – in fact, this is my second blog post using one of his song titles. I’m sure you don’t mind.
The song And it stoned me describes a time in Van’s childhood when an everyday experience of drinking fresh water from a mountain stream near Ballystockart in Ireland took on an extraordinary, even mystical, quality, a bit like….being stoned.
How wonderful to experience that as a 12-year-old child! No wonder Van Morrison expresses in his songs a nostalgic yearning for the enchanting simplicity of the rural Irish life he remembers so fondly.
For many of us adults, that kind of experience develops when we willingly allow ourselves to be embraced by the Father’s love. Not striving to be religious or even spiritual, but being still, trusting, resting in Yahweh (I Am), who is Love.
Perhaps in childhood innocence, we experienced that without even realising it. Jesus certainly suggested (in fact, definitively asserted!) that we must become like little children to perceive the spiritual dimension of God.
Jesus also claimed to be the only way to this kind of relationship with God. Not religion or Christianity, but him – Jesus. That leaves all kinds of questions and quandaries because it means it’s no longer about following the right religion but about following all that Jesus embodies.
I digress a little, because I know (or hope) that not everyone reading this would call themselves a Christian, and yet may have enjoyed similar revelations of God through their encounters with nature or stillness – of course, it’s not up to me to either dismiss or explain these; I would simply affirm that God (Yahweh) is bigger than any religion or faith, infusing nature and our own souls with his life and breath.
For me, though, my faith in Jesus opened the way to elating encounters with nature. And then again, it was partly encounters with awe-inspiring nature that opened my heart to God in the first place.
In my present journey through faith and life, I’m beginning to find that a more contemplative, reflective approach opens my spirit to be more receptive to His Spirit in the context of creativity and creation.
So it’s now been 26 years since I last tried cannabis or any other illicit substance, and I’m enjoying getting a little high on the incredible gifts of nature and the outdoors that we’ve been given – or, rather, on the Holy Spirit, via nature.
Hope that may be true for you, too, and that I haven’t become one of those smugly healthy, outdoors types…
(Wondering what this blog is all about, and who A Child of Grace is? Please read my About page.
Thanks! Roger N)