Sometimes I wonder where God is. Had He given up on this corrupt world centuries ago? Is that why it is so evil? I reason, each generation has borne deep scars of sin. God promised, where there’s sin there’s forgiveness. He also promised, “I am with you always.” What’s to question?
Remember debauchery and gluttony? The damnation and hellfire preached from austere pulpits, to righteous and hardworking believers, in our country’s pioneer years? Colorful and demonstrative evangelists are getting rave reviews today! They have huge followings and massive financial support. People are desperately searching for something to believe in.
Thomas Merton once advised, “Perhaps there is nothing to figure out: perhaps we only need to wake up.”
Nature imparts awareness of God’s presence in our lives. His Creation is lifeblood and awe to the humble human. God’s power and dominance, through harsh acts of nature’s inherent destruction, shake human arrogance and superiority...soon forgotten until the next storm.
God’s fingerprints remain – in the veins of each leaf, on beaches of sand swept smooth by rolling tides, in fields of wheat that tremble in summer’s breeze, on muddy skins of new, red potatoes, across wings of an eagle dropping from flight.
The bud of a flower opening to fullness beyond human sight is as much a miracle as the perfection of a newborn babe...so mysterious in their evolution. Unexpected kindness from people with sincere hearts reinforces faith that God continues to perform acts of compassion through mankind.
I hold dear in memory Whitewater Valley, adjacent to my late Uncle Hilbert Wollin’s farmland, near Bethany. There was no other place on earth where I felt closer to God, even considering worship time spent on well-worn pews, where colored glass made hallowed designs on polished wood, where the love of Jesus was sanctioned in my heart.
The Bethany Moravian Church of my upbringing no longer stands on its plot in rural Winona County, where my ancestors had migrated by horses and covered wagons from Ebenezer, Wisconsin in 1873. The steadfast German and Scandinavian immigrants grew weary as they traveled over rough terrain, through the Winona settlement and over Stockton Hill, and onward through a deep, lush valley.
With God’s guidance, they arrived at more inviting, level land one mile west of Bethany. This was the destination they had prayed for! The Bethany Moravian Church, enticing in its simplicity, was dedicated on July 28, 1873. Perhaps those early settlers had recognized the fingerprints of God throughout their destined home, and a sedate grove of trees where future church activities would be held.
The country church was razed in 1997 due to a decline in parishioners. The dignified cemetery remains, where the dearly departed, including my parents and many of my ancestors, have been laid to rest throughout a century of time.
Only about three miles from there, the south branch of Whitewater Valley still rambles on. It was a place where our whole family had adventured together. Often I’ve dreamed of venturing down that steep, rocky, forest road again, to pick bouquets of intricate wildflowers that carpet verdant cliffs towering above the hiker. I would be carried away by music of the shadows, where the Whitewater rushes over and between moss-covered rocks.
Our son Mike, a kindred free spirit of the vast wilderness, knows my heart. He and Christie have guided our whole family, the young and the not so young, on Ranger excursions from their rural home, through acres of raw forestland. Over the rugged trail, beyond their well-groomed yard, and onto hilly, rough terrain, we paused to enter the magnificent hush of a secluded valley, where eagles dignify ancient skies, undisturbed.
Onward through the south branch of the Whitewater valley, and the river of my youth, I noted that the landscape had remained much the same – It is I who had changed.
How could I have ever doubted? His fingerprints are everywhere! William Blake once wrote, “Life delights in life!” Rejoice and be glad!
Janet Burns dwells in the great out-of-doors at heart. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org