The Shalom of Creation

The Shalom of Creation

Yesterday my wife and I drove up the Mt. Baker highway to its very end.  She wearing snow shoes, and I backcountry skis, we made our way higher and higher in the silence of a spring snowfall blanketing the upper reaches of the Cascades.  Light and shadow, wind and stillness, moments of clear visibility suddenly shrouded in cloud, silence:  this is the sensual feast of the mountains in springtime.  These elements do something to me that can only be described as “shalom”, a deep sense that this moment couldn’t possibly be better than it is.

After our ascent and descent, the car journey to lower elevations continues to be a sensual feast, as we move from snowfall to rain, to mist, to dry, encountering everything from deep winter to full on spring in the process.  Trees at every stage of awakening are there for us to see.  Lilies are budding in wetlands.  It is all glorious, and my body responds viscerally.  I feel my blood pressure lower, feel peace washing over me.

My wife and I drive on in silence and ponder, “Why do silent snowfalls and mossy trees dripping with mist have this effect on me?  Why are these simplicities such a thrill, more thrilling than speaking to a thousand people, or seeing my favorite team win a game?  Why is it worth the effort to ‘get out’ like that?”

I don’t have easy answers, but somehow I know that I’m made to read not only the Bible, but the book of God’s testimony in creation, because that book speaks so profoundly to me of God’s continued care for all of us.  Yes, we muck it up with oil spills, torture it’s climate patterns with carbon consumption, and make a mess of God’s water gift to us – but for all of that, there are still signs of God’s abundant care, lavish beauty, and matchless grace and power.  The signs are there for the seeing, in the garden, in the mountains, on the sea.

There’s a great deal I don’t know, as I look to the future.  Our church is presently growing by beginning satellite campuses.  I’m glad for this, and utterly convinced it’s God’s next step for us.  I’m excited about the future for other reasons too.  After I finish the manuscript of the book I’m writing (it’s due in a couple weeks), we have some planning times as staff and leadership to ponder, pray, and plan about the future.   The opportunities to make God’s good reign visible in our city are abundant, and I’m looking forward to seeing how God’s directs to do just that, convinced that we’re called to bring churches together to work collectively on serving our city.  These will be good days, energizing and inspiring.

But I’ll be honest –  seeing a lily bloom in a pond, or fresh snow on the trees in the high country as I descend on my skis in silence are the things that energize me most of all.  I’m ‘sabbathed’ and ‘shalomed’ by reading from the book of creation.  I don’t know why it’s this way, but it is – and so I’ll keep learning to see the little things: new growth in the tree in my backyard, hummingbirds feeding, and rain on the roof.

Shalom – and please, pay attention.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.


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