This post is part of a 11 week blog series that highlights the many ways we worship the triune God.
All throughout the Psalms, God is praised by and through His creation. In worship we often sing of the splendour and glory of God as we see it in the created world around us. Here in Vancouver, surrounded by so much natural beauty, with the ocean and mountains close at hand, many of us are familiar with meeting God in the great outdoors. But how many of us approach outdoor adventuring as an act of worship?
Longtime Westsider Dave Olson has been meeting with God in nature since he was very young. “I grew up going on nature walks with my family” he says. “One of my earliest memories is a trip up to Mount Cheam with my dad. I remember being so afraid of heights that I had to crawl on my hands and knees the last few metres up the mountain and I wouldn’t go anywhere near the edge.”
Dave eventually outgrew his fear of heights and nowadays he’s a regular mountain man. He spends his working days as a Sport Director with Athletes in Action, but his weekends are reserved for adventuring. He has done most of the hikes in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and travelled through New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. He’s also an avid bird watcher. When asked about his favourite adventure he answers almost immediately, “Climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Being that far up—20,000 feet—was just incredible. And you see stars that are brighter than anything you’ve experienced before. But you know what really made that trip? The people I got to share the experience with!”
“I firmly believe that church isn’t a building or a place, it’s the body of Christ, God’s people. Whether it’s a Saturday morning hike or a Sunday night soccer game, we’re always the body of Christ when we’re with other Christians. I have a lot of friendships that began over a common love of nature and getting outside. A lot of times friendships will go deeper when you hike or get outdoors with someone, because the conversations tend to naturally drift toward God and more spiritual things when you’re staring at natural beauty. It’s easier to think about your faith in the mountains.”
As Christians, we get to approach nature with an eternal perspective. Anyone can climb a mountain, look down on an amazing vista and feel a sense of wonder—but when God has given you an identity in Christ you can look at it and see his power and glory. Dave explains: “Nature for me reveals who God is. I see his creativity, I see his love for us. I see that he’s given us this earth to give us a glimpse of who He is— a loving, generous, kind God. What I see in nature gives me a deep confidence that the scriptures are true. It’s another way that He confirms who He is to me, and who I am in him.
“Ultimately outdoor moments are catalysts for my faith. I get out and God refreshes and rejuvenates, re-energizes me. It takes away distractions, gives me more focus on God. Things are more simple and I can hear God more clearly when I’m in nature.”
As we’ve seen in this blog series, there are so many ways to worship God. Worship can flow out of our hearts by simply doing things that bring you joy, and recognizing them as a gift from God. As Dave points out: “Enjoyment often leads to worship. I enjoy hiking and camping, so when I get to do those things I’m thankful. I’m also filled with awe at the beautiful stars, glaciers and lakes. Coming to God with wonder and reverence is an important aspect of worship, and I find that easy to do when I look up at the stars and know how infinite He is.”
For Dave, it always comes back to Colossians 3:23–Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. “When I’m hiking or singing at church on Sunday those are two ways that I might sense God’s presence and worship most easily, but over the course of my life I’ve realized that I can draw closer to Christ in anything that I do.”
Sarah Miller is a writer, musician, introvert and sports fan. She plays piano and sings on the worship team, and has been attending Westside since the (almost) beginning. She loves music, the Oilers, popcorn, Jeopardy and the BBC. Follow her on twitter/instagram @heysarahmiller if you like vacation photos and occasionally witty observations about life, sports and pop culture.