“The Lord’s voice resounding on the waters; the Lord on the immensity of waters; the voice of the Lord, full of power; the voice of the Lord, full of splendor.” (Psalm 29)
“The waters have lifted up, O Lord, the waters have lifted up their voice; the waters have lifted up their thunder. Greater than the roar of mighty waters, more glorious than the surgings of the sea, the Lord is glorious on high.” (Psalm 93)
In April 2004, I spent a weekend on retreat at a monastery in western Virginia. The countryside was beautiful – so near the Appalachian Mountains. Driving toward the monastery, I turned onto a dirt road running alongside a river that lay partially hidden behind trees. I heard roaring water but could only catch occasional glimpses of it.
I settled into my cabin in the woods about a mile from the monastery. Standing on the porch, I admired the view of a large pond and enjoyed the silence of my surroundings. After a few minutes, I heard the sound of an airplane and then a chainsaw. These sounds annoyed me because I wanted to be far from such irritating modern noises; I wanted to pretend I was hiding away in the 15th century. I paused and took some deep breaths, reminding myself that these sounds are part of our world now, so I’d be better off accepting them rather than resenting them. I felt myself relax immediately.
Late afternoon approached. I decided to walk down the road to where I’d heard the roaring river water. I walked quietly (I thought) but still managed to startle three deer. I gasped as they scampered back into the trees. The air smelled clean and crisp. A bright red cardinal sang from a high branch over the road.
I followed the sound of the water until I found a place alongside the road where I had a clear view of the river. This spot was magnificent! I stood on a flat, rocky ledge jutting out over the white-water flowing around a bend forty feet below.
The sight and sound catapulted me into a state of heightened awareness. Suddenly, I experienced everything at once without missing any details: loud rushing water; clean air; firm earth beneath my feet; birds singing; pink sunset behind budding trees on rolling hills.
The Lord was with me – speaking to me in this scene. I opened my mouth and my arms. I felt suspended. I prayed: “My God, I praise You, I love You. Thank You for this perfect creation, the beautiful earth with all its wonders. I am in awe of Your power, Your glory, Your splendor.” The birds, water, earth, air and sunset praised the Lord with me. I was united to all of creation for a brief moment. I sang praise with the psalmists of old.