Stop. Just stop.

Because I live in the Sandhills of South Carolina, I get excited about topography—anything that’s not a flat, sandy stretch of land. Columbia is hedged in by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and whenever I have the opportunity to be in either of these beautiful places, I am delighted. 


I recently attended the Christian Communicators Advance conference in Marietta, South Carolina. The training and fellowship with other women whom God has called to speak was priceless. Like a jewel in an exquisite setting, this conference was nestled into the foothills of the Appalachian Trail just past peak leaf season. 

On Sunday morning before worship time, my new friend Jill and I headed out for a walk in the woods. Jill’s from a large metropolitan area also and shares my love for the outdoors—anywhere far from pavement, traffic, and noise. As we hiked into the cool morning quiet, we marveled at God’s handiwork around us. 

The first thing we noticed was how good the air smelled. Crisp and cool, it filled our noses and lungs with the scent of fallen leaves, damp earth, and sunshine. Each breath was delicious, and we couldn’t get enough of it. Like drowning men gulping great draughts of life-giving air, we filled our lungs over and over again. 

When our climb became more strenuous and our chatter slowed, the forest’s profound silence enveloped us like a blanket. Far from roads and people, nothing but our footsteps crunching through the crisp leaves disturbed the quiet. Off in the distance we heard other footfalls, more delicate than ours, and we wondered what creature shared our corner of the woods. The whisper of a stream made the quiet concert complete. 

We focused our eyes on the trail at first, but as the terrain leveled and the path became clearer, we began to look around. Stately elms, like belles at a ball, showed off their golden garb. Dainty maples curtseyed in scarlet, while diminutive dogwoods blushed pink at our attention. 

Lichen edged their trunks like lace. Ground cover studded with red berries invited us to cross a rough-hewn bridge. 

Sunlight, like strategically placed lighting in an art gallery highlighted our leaf-littered way.

To the side of the path we saw a memorial akin those erected by the Children of Israel. Six stones of red clay perched atop a flat rock, and I wondered what gratitude inspired its creation. “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know . . . that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Josh. 4:21-24). 

A fallen oak, once mighty, stretched like a bridge across a waterless landscape. Although there was no stream to ford, Jill crossed it anyway, just for fun. 

John Piper, in his devotional book Taste and See challenges us to make this promise: “I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are, but simply to be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what (C.S.) Lewis calls their ‘divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic’ existence.” 

Quoting his professor Clyde Kilby, he writes, “Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.” May we add our “Amen” to his words. 

What about you? Have you taken time to marvel at the beauty of the world around you this season? If you haven’t, why not do so today—not to celebrate creation, but to celebrate the God of creation.  

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