A Woodland Sanctuary

As I walked the nature trails, I wandered off the beaten path.  Large toadstools nestled under a grove of blue spruce trees attracted my attention.

Pushing aside branches, I walked fifteen feet, entering a small clearing.  The ground, carpeted with years of accumulated needles, felt soft beneath my feet.  A chorus of crickets broke the silence.  In the distance a woodpecker drilled, searching for insects.  Inside my clearing, all was shadow, quiet and still; it became a sanctuary that soothed my soul. A smattering of bright red sumac leaves provided stained-glass windows.  I sat on this carpet, gazing at the beauty all around me, and I felt the presence of God.  Strains of “This Is Holy Ground” ran through my head. 

Looking out an opening between the horizontal branches, I observed the golden radiance of the late afternoon sun. Outside my sanctuary, the seed heads of the natural prairie grasses glowed transparently in the sun’s light, creating a stunning contrast to the shadowy grove.  I had to capture the breath-taking scene on film.  When I put the camera to my eye, I focused on the branches in the foreground.  They seemed large and dark, like horizontal prison bars, and the golden glow of the grasses in the background was barely noticeable. I refocused the camera. Then the tall, dried grass, shot through with light, became the focus of my picture; the branches in the foreground almost disappeared.

As I took my picture, I thought:  how often do I focus on the branches in front of me that impede my spiritual way, and thus fail to see God’s light just beyond?  How often do I become discouraged over minor problems instead of focusing my thoughts on the brilliance of God’s majesty or the comforting glow of his love? It’s all a matter of focus.

Remembering the lesson of the camera’s focus enables me to thank God in all situations, even during a pandemic, and focus on His spiritual light shining beyond my earthly troubles.

Father let my eyes see beyond the earthly; let me steadfastly watch your spiritual light.  May I always focus on the wonders you have created, on the wonder of you.

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