The early Celtic people believed that there were sacred places on Earth where one could experience God in a special and intimate way. Be closer to Him, if you will. Places where there was a very thin divide between our realm and the spiritual one.
Often these ‘thin places’ were found in the beauty of nature – mountain vistas, forest trails, pristine waterfalls, and along the gorgeous coastline. A place where “the veil between this world and the next is so sheer you can almost step through” (day1.org)
Have you ever experienced such a place? Somewhere you felt particularly close to God?
I love how Rev. Norfleet describes the possibilities…
Perhaps you have a particular place that is holy to you in a similar way: the beach you’ve walked countless times where water rolls onto the sand in a familiar way, a mountain vista that has taken you close to the stars and seemingly closer to God, a home church or family cemetery, or even your own yard or garden. Do you have a place where you can go and feel especially close to God? Or perhaps you can recall a place in time which you can remember and re-visit as a source of spiritual awakening…”
All of the Earth is God’s creation, and yet His presence can be more tangible at certain times, or in particular places. I was blessed to find myself in one such place last weekend – the gorgeous Muskoka region in the Ontario ‘near-north’.
I arrived Friday evening at a retreat centre known as 3 Crosses, for what can best be described as a prayer and ‘listening’ experience.
The weekend began with a powerful testimony by the founder of the ministry, a humble and godly man named Jeff Roy. Jeff shared how, as a teenager, he walked away from the faith he was raised in. He spent the next ten years trying to fill the void within himself with everything under the sun – work, financial success, alcohol, drugs, women and fast cars. By the world’s standards, he ‘had it all’ yet he struggled with an intense dissatisfaction with life.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. ~ King Solomon Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (NIV)
God pursued Jeff relentlessly throughout those years of wandering. Jeff has story upon story of how God worked through people and circumstances to reveal Himself, and His heart of love for his precious son. One story, in particular, spoke to me about God’s endless patience and love…
Jeff was driving along the rolling hills of an interstate in West Virginia. He noticed a sign on the side of the road that said, “Jesus is Here”. The sign was not noteworthy in any way. It was small and hand-painted. There was really no reason why Jeff should have noticed it.
But God drew his attention.
“Well, if he’s here, I’d sure like to meet him,” he said aloud, chuckling to himself at the ludicrous thought.
As he crested the top of the very next hill, he saw a bearded man walking along the side of the road, dragging a cross.
The shock of it left him in disbelief. He rubbed his eyes, sure that he was dreaming or maybe even hallucinating. But no, the man was there.
Long story short, Jeff stopped to talk with the man who shared how God had prompted him to carry this cross to the East Coast, and had provided numerous opportunities for him to share Christ along the way.
Jeff’s life was never the same.
There is so much more to this man’s amazing testimony – a drive toward the west, a hitchhiker headed to work as a sex slave, a small country church, and a sermon that spoke directly to Jeff’s heart.
What did he learn?
That God speaks. That He relentlessly pursues his wandering children. That it takes a tremendous amount of energy to deny Him, and live a life apart from Him.
We were created for relationship with a holy God. A relationship in every aspect of the word – where we share our hearts with Him, and He delights in answering us, in speaking words of love into our lives, in guiding and fulfilling us.
Back to the retreat….
It was such a blessing to be in Muskoka. To smell the fresh, northern air. To feel the gentle breeze wash across my skin, and the rays of the sun warm my face. A place of quiet and deep rest, where only the chipmunks seemed to be in a hurry. The outcroppings of rock there are breathtaking, and the light dances across the surface of pristine waters.
I know He is always with me, but I felt Him more closely there. In that ‘thin place’.
It was a weekend dedicated to Him, as every day should be. Three days cleared of distractions, and a heart intent on seeking Him fully.
I was encouraged, that first night, to ask the Lord why He had brought me to 3 Crosses. Here is an excerpt from my journal…
Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to have this focused time to meet with You, listen to You, rest in You. I know my reasons for coming here Lord, but why is it that you have brought me to this place?
I sensed Him answer…
My precious child. I love your tender heart, your desire to meet with me and listen to my words. Your love for me. I want to bless you for your obedience in these things, and show myself to you in a new and deeper way.
I look forward to sharing some of the things I sensed Him speaking to my heart. He, of course, was true to His word – and blessed me beyond measure with His words of love.
May God richly bless you, dear one, with His peace that flows like a gentle river and may His righteousness roll over you like waves in the sea,
For more information on the 3 Crosses Retreat Centre in Muskoka please visit 3crosses.ca ~ I would highly recommend the experience!