"Let's tell ghost stories," our 10-year-old companion suggested gleefully. "Let's just sit quietly and contemplatively, and enjoy the fire," countered her mother.
The last rays of the sun had dipped behind the hills, leaving the lake dark in the twilight. The breeze whooshed gently through the tall pine trees. But our campfire was burning brightly, and we were settling down to an evening of s'mores and quiet enjoyment after a day of fun on the water.
This is undoubtedly my favorite time of day on a camping trip. Instead of being dark and scary, I see it as a time to get to know God, divine Love, better. The quietness and stillness are ideal for listening to the Divine and appreciating His creation. In the atmosphere of a cheerful campfire, it's easy to feel the presence of Spirit.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, was an avid listener to God. She understood how the beauty of nature could help humanity understand God better. In her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she wrote: "Nature voices natural, spiritual law and divine Love, but human belief misinterprets nature.... Suns and planets teach grand lessons. The stars make night beautiful, and the leaflet turns naturally towards the light" (p. 240).
Of course you don't need to go camping to get insights into God's goodness and love. But I cherish the lessons in trusting God that I've learned through this outdoor activity.
Once my 11-year-old son and I were camping on the shores of a beautiful oxbow lake. While supper was cooking, the wind came up and thunder clouds began to form. We could see the rain and lightning heading our way. My son grew frightened of the prospect of weathering the storm in camp. We were used to turning to God, Spirit, for comfort and guidance in situations that felt frightening or dangerous. So he went into the tent where he didn't have to look at the coming weather and could listen to what divine Spirit had to say to him. Meanwhile, I prayed outside by the fire.
I reached out with all my heart and asked God to tell me what I needed to know and, more important, to tell my son what he needed to know in order to feel calm. I recalled how Elijah learned that God was not in the fire, not in the earthquake, or in the wind. He was in the still small voice that brought peace and calm (see I Kings 19). I was no longer afraid. I knew that we were safe in Spirit's presence.
I took our supper into the tent just as the rain began, and my son showed me a picture he had drawn. It showed a small blue tent by an oxbow lake with thunder and lightning all around, overarched by a rainbow. He explained that the rainbow was God's promise that He would take care of His children forever. We ate our supper while appreciating God's goodness and the care that the rainbow promised. The thunderstorm soon passed, and we went to sleep peacefully.
In the stillness of the night while camping, I find myself in awe of how Spirit envelopes us with Love. Gazing up at the open sky, seeing the sparkling stars in the velvet blackness dusted by the Milky Way, I sense the immensity of Spirit and understand how the Psalmist could write: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?" (Ps. 8:3, 4).
For me, the vault of heaven epitomizes the allness and immensity of Spirit, but also reminds me that I am – and every other individual idea of God, from the most brilliant star to the tiniest microorganism, is – an integral part of God's infinite creation, that He cares for us and will keep us safe.