A Place of Presence

This morning Charlie Ridenour, our speaker, delivered a thought-provoking message in church on the presence and the intimacy of God. He pointed to the life of Moses and how the time Moses spent with God’s presence affected his reaction to several incidents, namely the Red Sea Crisis and the Golden Calf Crisis. Charlie did a wonderful job in pointing out that those who spend time in God’s presence become more like Him. When Moses and God were on Sinai, for example, and apostasy was happening in the Israelite camp below, God’s anger burned against the people. Moses, however, pleaded for mercy. When Moses, however, approached the camp and saw the sin, he became like God and his anger burned against the people. At the Red Sea, Moses, who had spent a lot of time with God’s manifest presence at the burning bush, in the cloud and during the exodus process, was calm while the people, with virtually no experience in God’s presence, panicked.

Charlie didn’t talk today about how the presence of God can be felt today, which might have been important seeing how we don’t have a pillar of fire or moving cloud or tent of meeting. He did allude to the fact that some people experience God’s presence in corporate worship, though it is easily possible to mistake our emotion for God. Or maybe his not mentioning how or where is a good thing. After all, maybe each person experiences God differently. One way that I experience God is in His creation.

 

23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

I’m sure many folks wonder why I go camping alone. I try and try to tell them the reason but somehow it fails to bring satisfaction. Aloneness is a hard concept for some people. Perhaps it’s because they’re married and can’t imagine doing anything alone anymore. But I’m not married. I don’t have a tent partner. So for me, it’s not uncommon or awkward to camp alone. Even if I had a group with me when I’m camping, I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much. I’d probably be worn out from entertaining them or talking to them. No, I enjoy silence when I’m out camping. Silence in the presence of God.

I have a hard time experiencing God’s presence in the city. Always have. Maybe it’s the electricity, the noise, the distractions… the busyness of life. Maybe it’s my surrounding environment… this house, this computer, this mess on my floor. Whatever it is, I struggle to focus on God and dwell in His presence under the city lights. And so I leave the city. Like the monastics of old, I escape to the country to be with the Almighty, to refresh my spiritual batteries, to seek answers.

I go camping alone to be still and know that He is God. To stare at the stars that He made and breathe the air that He made and sleep soundly under His protection. It was a camping trip this spring that led me to Scotland. I needed to seek the Lord’s guidance, so I left the city and went to the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma to camp for a few days. By the end of the trip, I knew what direction I was going to pursue. There was no angel, no vision, no mystical experience… simply the felt presence of God.

There are other things I do to help me focus on God and His presence, which I’ll keep private, but camping is a major one. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m trying to escape people in my life, for this is not the case. Even when I camp I’m surrounded by people. I choose campgrounds with people, a community surrounding me to say hello to in the morning. I eat in local restaurants. I shop in local stores. But the solitude I seek is the individual worship of the soul, worship not to be shared with other people but a love song between the Creator and His Creature, the Father and His Child.

This is why I camp alone. And this is why I enjoy it. It’s more than setting up a tent site three hours a day and driving 100 miles between campgrounds. It’s practicing the presence of God in a place I experience Him — the unspoiled beauty of His creation.

Where do you experience God’s presence? What do you do to shut out the distractions of life around you?

— John

AM view down the road from Jemez Falls campground.

Midnight at Eleven Mile State Park.

View from my Monarch Pass campsite.

Evening view from Ridgway State Park campsite.