…unto the hills, whence cometh my strength.
Some version of this Psalm hangs in the non-denominational chapel at Cheley Colorado Camps, snuggled secretly away in the foothills on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was here way back in the early 1980’s that I felt the touch of a stronger presence which opened my eyes, my ears, my heart to the possibilities and choices of life. It is to these same hills that I constantly turn when the GPS of my soul needs to recalculate before I can continue the journey I am on.
Over the years the path of that journey has curved left…or right…or in some instances, stopped and rolled backwards. Bruce Springsteen tells me that it isn’t unusual to take, “One Step Up, Two Steps Back.” But at those moments, I am able to fix my spiritual compass on the mountains I have visited so many times and find my path again. The mountains are the source nearly all of my true spirituality. Of course, there are family and very close friends to help steady me, but for that feeling that we all need to feel, deep down inside, we need a source.
Many people would probably visit their church dejoure for a serving of spirituality. I can’t do that. Oh sure, I still go to church with my wife and kids. I have for over twenty years. I’m Methodist and they’re Catholic. When my friends ask why I do this, I paraphrase W.C. Fields, a well-known agnostic, who when found thumbing through a Bible shortly before his death was asked, “What are you doing,” Fields replied, “Looking for Loopholes.” The real reason I go is because of Father Vince…a radical priest with the hidden agenda of lifting the veil on the conservatism of the Catholic canon. He’s a tremendous story-teller who knows how to work a crowd.
So to me, there is a vast difference between faith and religion. I have faith. I’ve been on mountain tops and seen what’s below me. That vision surely reflects eons of scientific rendering, but it all had to start somewhere by something. Even if the Big Bang is the result of a hot, dense point of matter that expanded quite rapidly, that hot, dense matter must have come from somewhere. I’m not a scientific thinker, but I think there is room for the argument of a greater power here. So as I sit on a mountain peak and soak in the scene before me, I am inclined to believe. I am less cynical. I am at peace.
Can’t say the same for sitting in a church. Some of the most glorious structures on this earth are churches. As far as I can understand, the basic purpose of a church is to throw up walls that make you focus on one person’s (too often a man’s) interpretation of the written scriptures of any of a number of different religions. What churches really excel at is hiding nature when we most need it. That one hour or so we dedicate to looking inside ourselves and try to understand our journey to this point and where to move next, should be sacred. It should be personal. It should be unique to each of us. It should NOT be interrupted by the clanging of a “sacred” gong to which we are all meant to be called. If God wants me, he or she knows how to find me.
And if it’s any help to you God…just lift your eyes unto the hills. In one manner or another that’s where you’ll find my spirit.