Spaces — natural and humanly fabricated

What inspires you?  What are some good spaces for worship?  A chapel or church building?  Your living room or car?  A mighty stone artifice . . . or a meandering path through the woods?

I’m inclined toward the natural.

    • Around a fire
    • While mowing the lawn
    • While peering out the window into the trees and sunny rays, in a retreat center, after a walk in the woods with a friend
    • While gazing at 14,000-foot mountains

Give me the simple, the natural.  Inspire me with the primitive, New-Covenant church dynamic, and serious Bible study, toward those goals.  Aim for less churchyness and more relation to the common human experience.  Give me more opportunity for pure adoration of God, while subtracting the distractions of heavily institutionalized forms and structures.  Yes, of course, one can worship indoors, in the midst of a congregation — and I do, regularly.  But worship often surfaces without impediment or affect when one is smack-dab in the middle of the “works of His hands.”  I was reminded of the difference between “natural” and “man-made” last week, when trying to delineate for my son 1) the things God has made directly, and 2) the things He has given humans the ability to make with our hands and His materials.

A scoutmaster/photographer/believer/friend recently called attention to the wonder of the mushroom in the forest.  Another friend now raises alpacas in an RV park/campground run together with her husband, having left suburban life and “real jobs” behind.  I sometimes wish I could see those sights and do those things.  (Thank you, Mike and Janet, for these two calls to God’s nature.)

A college friend and I have gone in somewhat different directions.  We both still honor God, but we seem to adhere to, and/or appreciate, different emphases in Christianity.  He is into reading the so-called “church fathers,” and I, while respecting historical perspective and instruction, am not inspired by them.  Many of their heresies are legendary, and it is good to realize that Christianity has needed correction since its second decade, if not its first.  (Witness the letters known as Galatians and 1 Corinthians, written in the late 40s and mid-50s, respectively.  And witness the general human tendency to mess things up.)   This seems a likely truism:  the more time elapsed since Jesus and His apostles, the more likely that ideas and practices will have run amok or at least gone afield.  “Church fathers” in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, then, are more likely to be more off-base than those in the 1st century.

This latter friend, who is into the likes of Tertullian and Eusebius, also referred to a recent visit to the “sacred space” of a Catholic cathedral, and when I read that, there was a muffled thud in my heart — no resonance.  At best, I am disinterested in such spaces; for me, they smack of excesses and wrong-headed direction in heretical forms of Christianity.  Old cathedrals may be studied by art history and architecture buffs with interest, but they are unnatural and forbidding to me, when considered in the context of God’s kingdom.

A new friend recently spoke of nature’s “cathedral.”  She, perhaps even more than the three of us, loves the outdoors.  I inferred that she is moved most to worship God within scenes of tall trees, creeks, woods, mountains . . . and she made me aware of a Chris Rice song called “My Cathedral.”  Here is an excerpt from that song:

So let me often wander
In robin songs and thunder — 
Surrounding me with stained-glass leaves that change with every breeze — 
And out here in the stillness,
I’ll find my house of worship
With column trees and canopy of stars.

(Complete lyrics may be found here:  http://www.chrisricelyrics.com/lyrics/run-the-earth-watch-the-sky/my-cathedral-lyrics.html.)

I’m also reminded of another Rice song that folks seem, unfortunately, not to have been singing for the 16 years it’s been in existence:  Hallelujahs.  

A purple sky to close the day;
I wade the surf where dolphins play.
The taste of salt, the dance of waves
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs.

A lightning flash, my pounding heart,
A breaching whale, a shooting star
Give testimony that You are, 
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs.

O cratered moon and sparrows wings!
O thunder’s boom and Saturn’s rings!
Unveil our Father as you sing, 
And my soul wells up with hallelujahs.

The pulse of life within my wrist;
A fallen snow, a rising mist. 
There is no higher praise than this,
And my soul wells up — O my soul wells up — 
Yes my soul wells up with hallelujahs

Chorus

Oh praise Him, all His mighty works!
There is no language where you can’t be heard!
Your song goes out to all the earth:
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!
O hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

Within these songs lives a truth:  that we may readily be inspired to worship God based purely on His pure creation.  In highlighting nature’s clear call to our spirits, I do not devalue indoor assemblies of Christians.  Far from it — I spend a lot of time in chairs/pews and expect to do so for the rest of my life, although I wish we’d move outdoors more often.  🙂  In fact, our family recently had occasion to gather with a lakeside group.  I like it that Jedd can experience this kind of church carpet:

churchcarpet

Nature is not the only source of inspiration, to be sure, but it is a strong one.  I’m grateful for the heart and work of Chris Rice (and the Woolstons and Brackeens, and the Sardinas, and Mike Asbell, and others) in pointing me once again to the “sacred space” of nature.  Surely, this is space in which worship may naturally occur in overflow.

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3 thoughts on “Spaces — natural and humanly fabricated

    • Brian Casey 06/22/2013 / 5:24 pm

      And thank you for the inspiration, Mike. I shared your blog with my family today, and Mom already wrote back, appreciating.

      Like

    • Michael Asbell 06/22/2013 / 5:42 pm

      Thanks for sharing my blog, Brian. I really do hope to inspire others to love and reconnect with God’s creation. I’ve always thought it ironic when we claim to love God and are indifferent or hostile to his creation.

      Like

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