In Sunday’s sermon, the pastor defined miracles as something that happens outside of our reality. They are defined, he said, by some external action that suspends the natural physical laws of the universe. I would add that there are other laws that we don’t normally include, things we often don’t see from our limit shoreline perspective. These expanded laws of nature extend into other spiritual realm, beyond into our imagination and capacity to see deeper. They are like elements in the last row of the periodic table that keep getting added to as more discoveries are made, suggesting endless expansion if we only look.
The weakness of that analogy is that the process of scientific discovery will not uncover all of the laws at work that impact our lives. Spiritual laws are beyond the scientific method of empirical analysis. But they are there. There is a border area, where the physical and the spiritual intersect and overlap. It is discovered by internal processes, but also has roots in the physical world. This is what I look for when out hiking or kayaking. Others have called these “thin places”, where the separation of heaven from earth is very thin and God’s presence and glory can be experienced. It’s popularly known as a Celtic idea, mistaken for paganism often, but experiencing God defies those kinds of limited human definitions.
So we kayak, looking for the Presence that will restore us and transform us by the renewing of our minds.
This weekend we went to Park Lake, a small lake near East Lansing. It sits right next to I-69 on its northern shore, only separated from the highway by a row of trees and the road that rims the lake. The boat launch is on the northern edge, and once out into the lake, it is mostly shallow near the edges. The lily pads have pushed buds up out of the water, promising more beauty to come. The lake bottom is visible in these areas, covered with weeds. There is the usual collection of cottagy-houses and expensive new houses, crammed on small parcels of land, all extending their hands toward the water. On the south side of the lake, further away, there is an entirely different area. Away from the sounds of humanity’s strife provided by the highway, there is a marshy grassland area full of birds. As we neared this area, the sounds of the birds took over, and extended peace and solitude our way. A pair of sandhill cranes stood on a small tuft of land, and as I got closer to these huge birds, I noticed their fuzzy chick between them. He was already a good foot tall. Thinking that I didn’t want my eyes peck out by upset parents, I quickly turned the boat and paddled away. The birds barely regarded me, noted my presence, but did not especially care that I was there. Hovering silently over the surface of the water in the boat allows for easier integration into the peaceful surroundings.
This was a refuge after a busy, hectic day with family – a beautiful retreat into peace. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 Today, as always, God wills peace for our souls, and tonight we paddled out to meet it.