Friday, February 18, 2011

Spiritual Nourishment

by Suzie Johnson

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
~~Psalm 105:4

Everyone knows exercise is good for us. It gives us strength; it keeps us physically and mentally fit. Aerobic exercise pumps oxygenated blood to our heart, and cause endorphins to send out good signals from our brain. Okay, that’s the short and sweet version without mention of mitochondria and all those other little organelles that are working in our cells to keep us healthy. The point is exercise is good for our physical and emotional health.

We all know what we’re supposed to do to get that way. Eat nutritious foods, exercise, and stop indulging in too much chocolate. Oh, wait. Sometimes that doesn’t seem very fair. Let’s just forget I even mentioned that part.

So we know we need to do everything we can to keep our bodies as healthy and strong as possible, but what about our spiritual health? How do we give that healthy boost to our soul? How do we stretch our spiritual muscles?

To me, the obvious answers would be to first and foremost pray, followed by studying and having fellowship with other Christians. These are all good and wonderful things that inspire and edify us.

There are no wrong answers if we’re seeking to know God and make Him known – if we’re trying to strengthen our relationship with Him.

When we stretch our spiritual muscles, we’re energized with something almost supernatural, something that makes us want to keep growing, keep striving for that deeper connection with our Lord.

Personally, I know I need to exercise all of my muscles; spiritual and physical. So I tend to combine my exercise with my praise and worship time. And if you know me at all, you know the very best place for me to do that is at the beach. There’s something about the water – the waves, the rocks, and even the seagulls – that fills me, inspires me, and draws me close to God.

Prayer. Praise. Worship.

For years, I had the best place to experience it all.

There is a trail behind the hospital where I used to work, that winds its way along a bluff overlooking several of the San Juan Islands. It is the most awe inspiring trail, path, bluff, beach I’ve ever walked on. It’s a three-mile round-trip.

For me, the starting point was always in the middle. I have a memory card full of Christian Praise and Worship music. So with my ear-buds in, and my favorite songs queued up, I’d go one direction, double back, and then go the other. One way leads into the woods, and the other way leads further up the bluff before coming down near the beach. I always turned left as I began, and I’d walk along the bluff until I was in the woods. At one point, there is an opening in the trees where you’re right over the water, with eagles flying overhead. As the trail journeys into the woods, it winds around until you’re back at that same spot over the water. But as you’re facing in the new direction, instead of facing windswept bluffs, you see the islands, with mountains far off in the distance.

Here’s where it always got magical for me. I don’t care what song was playing first when I started, or even how fast or slow I walked. It was as if God always orchestrated His perfect timing.

Do you know the song, Majesty? My favorite version is by Delirious? I would be walking along listening to these words:

Here I am, humbled by your majesty.
Here I am, humbled by your majesty,
Covered by your grace so free.
Here I am, knowing I'm a sinful man,
Covered by the blood of the lamb.
Now I've found the greatest love of all is mine,
Since You laid down Your life,
The greatest sacrifice.

Now here is where the magic would happen. I’d step out of the woods, often times with the sun beginning to slip behind the mountains, casting gorgeous shadows over the islands, and the music would swell and this same verse would play every time:

Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed but alive in Your hands
We sing
Forever I am changed by Your love
In the beauty of Your Majesty.

It never failed. There were a lot of amazing experiences out there, as I communed with God, but the timing of this, the beauty of this…it was just so soul-cleansing, so healing and humbling.

I wasn’t raised in a church where we raised our hands, and I don’t attend a church now that raises hands. But there was something so fulfilling when walking on the trail with the perfect timing of that song and the view and … I just had to raise up my hands every time. I guess you could say I’m a self-taught hand-raiser. I couldn’t not raise my arms up to Him. I know some of the people walking on the trail probably gave me funny looks, but I didn’t care. I did what was in my heart.

I’m not able to walk on that trail any longer, but I am blessed for the years I was able to spend there. I’ve found a new place to walk, also on a bluff overlooking the water, but it’s on the opposite side of the island. Clear or hazy, it’s still breathtaking and my heart delights in every minute I’m able to spend there.

It hasn’t happened yet that Majesty starts to play in a certain special place. Perhaps it won’t again. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I’m still exercising my physical and spiritual muscles, still walking along with God, and I know He’ll bring other wonderful experiences into my life.

We’re all unique individuals, each inspired and motivated by different things, so it makes sense that we would stretch our spiritual muscles in different ways.

So I’m curious. Is there something special you do that blesses you and fills your soul with joy as you praise God and stretch your spiritual muscle?

Majesty: Words and music copyright by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard, 2003
Photos copyright Susan D. Johnson


  1. Oh I'm SO GLAD you did this, this morning Suzie! What a blessing to have this video.

    I'm sorry you don't have that walk anymore either but what a wonderful season it must have been. You do live in a beautiful area.
    Maybe it won't sound silly to you, but I do better "outside" myself.
    The beauty of nature is like a blanket of God's majesty wrapped around me.

    Thank you!

  2. This was sooooo beautiful, Suzie. I felt like I was right there with you and the words of the song swept me away as well. Thank you for this lovely encouragment this morning. Think I must head to the beach for a walk very soon.

    Probably some of my most spiritual times are just in my backyard on the hammock. Sometimes I read or write poetry. Also, worship dancing of course, which I'm sure everyone already knows about me. I'm sure I've danced to this song many times.

  3. Good morning, Deb. At least, it's morning on my side of the country. I know it's probably your lunch time. I was so sad about not being able to walk there anymore, but now when I think about it, I think about all the amazing things I saw there and I feel blessed. I saw whales! I was dive-bombed by a falcon! There is so much more, I could go on and one. I just know I'll be blessed in my new walking spot as well. The weather has been so nasty lately, there hasn't been a chance to actually spend much time walking there. I don't want to be blown off the bluff!

    No, it doesn't sound silly to me that you're a fellow "nature-girl". When we finally get together, we'll have to go on a hike or beachcombing.

  4. Thank you, Dina. I'm so glad you liked it. You know, I was lucky enough to be able to walk your beach twice. Both times were amazing. I love your beach. It's so much different than the beaches here. Dina, just thinking about it makes me anxious to visit there again.

    You know, I can just as easily picture you in a hammock reading, writing and communing with God, as I can picture you worshiping Him with your dancing. I'm picturing little red cardinals singing in the trees while you dance. When I visited my sister there, I awoke to the most lovely sound. I was sleeping in the attic room (which was amazing), and I looked out the window to see a cardinal singing in the trees. It was the first one I'd ever seen. I tried to record his song, but it didn't work very well. A couple of days later, when we visited Williamsburg, I heard the same sound and have a picture of a cardinal sitting on top of the old church where George, Martha and Thomas worshiped.

    Okay, that was probably more than you wanted to know.

  5. One thing I didn't put in this post, but you all who know me know that for just about a year and a half, I had this severe asthma and couldn't walk more than from the parking lot at work to my office without getting out of breath. I so severely missed my walks on the bluff. It truly made me sad. So for my spiritual time, I would go to the beach and sit and listen to my music. I still felt close to God, but my physical muscles were turning to flab. Now, praise God!, I'm so much better and walking again.

  6. Oh, we have tons of birds, butterflies, dragon flies, etc... out back. Cardinals, blue birds, woodpeckers, yellow finches, and others.

    I did make it to the beach this morning at your inspiration.

  7. Oh, Dina, you don't know how happy that made me that I inspired you to go to the beach. Even though it might snow today, I'm going to eat my lunch at the beach.

  8. This Canadian looking out my window at lots of snow and the -28C (-18F) temperature is rather envious today of those walking the beaches for both spiritual and physical exercise!

    There really is something about being by the water!! It is a great place to connect with God. I try to plan at least some part of my vacations by a body of water somewhere!

    Thanks for the reminder to work on the spiritual fitness too!

  9. Oh, Elaine, I can't even imagine it being that cold. I mean, when I said it might snow today, it's hovering around 32F. We had a cold snap earlier in the year that was around 19F. Not -19. I simply can't imagine.

    I'm so glad you're able to go on vacations near the water. I do imagine you have beautiful mountains where you are? Do you ski or snowshoe? I love the mountains, too, and I always feel close to God when I'm there. But, I never go there when it's cold. Never. So I've never skiied or snowboarded or been showshoeing.

    Have a great day, Elaine, and try to stay warm. I'm thinking hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows, an electric blanket to snuggle in, and a good book.

  10. Cold is certainly relative!

    No, I'm not near the mountains. I live on the prairies with their own beauty and endless sky!

    Hot chocolate, a blanket and a good book sound great! now which book to read? :)

  11. Elaine, I have the same problem. Too many good books to read, not enough time.

  12. Suzie, what a sweet post. Like Dina, I felt like I was walking beside you. Like Elaine I ain't close enough to a beach to manage it for real. But you still inspired me today.

  13. Awww, Lisa. Thank you so much. You know, the things you all have said to me today have inspired me, too. More than I can say. Truly. Thank you for being such a blessing to me.

    You know, while I was at the beach today, I was thinking...always a dangerous thing for of these days we'll just have to plan a big old inky writers' retreat at a beach somewhere. Either coast would do, and Victoria would even be an awesome spot. Wouldn't that be so awesome?

    By the way, remember how I said we were expecting some snow today? When I went out for lunch and to the beach, the sun was shining and it was 50 degrees. Amazing turn-around from yesterday. It's a lovely, lovely day. Made even more so by the things you all have said to me. Thank you. :-)

  14. We had lots of new 'beaches' here today. With this heat most of our snow pack is gone and there's flooding everywhere.

    I have to admit, I love driving through standing water and giving my truck a shower. It's just like when you're a kid and you ride your bike through a puddle WHEEEEEE!

    Hi Elaine! We are so glad to hear from you and know you're here with us!

    Suzie, your post stuck with me all day. Thank you! I'm so happy to think about how your breathing problems have improved. I need to get back to walking on my lunch hour and you've given me the encouragement to do so!

  15. So now I have the image of Dina dancing in her hammock stuck in my head, while Deb whizzes through muddy puddles like a kid. Sheesh.

    I loved your post, Suzie. I was in the San Juan area back in the 80's for a trip with the family and then in the 90's by myself while on course with the military. That last trip, I stood in front on the Empress Hotel and looked in the window at 4pm. I would've gone in except I was alone, dressed in shorts, and was very intimidated.

    Then I began the long walk back to the base at Esquimalt, keeping to the Seawalk. Up and down and around, following the shore as the sun set. By 9pm it was dark, I'd walked about 3 miles and I imagined someone jumping out behind every shrub. So I went up to the main road and caught the next bus. I was back in the barracks in 15 mins flat. Ha!

    But what a beautiful walk!

    I pray that God will heal you and you'll be able to walk like you did before.

    And I'm looking forward to meeting you there next summer and taking that train ride. :) Hey... wanna go to High Tea at the Empress with me?

    Anita Mae.

  16. Hey Anita! First, I hope you read the post the way it appeared originally, and not the way it looks now. I don't know what in the world happened, but it's all a crazy mish-mash now.

    Your walk sounds lovely. But I don't blame you for taking the bus back.

    I do love Victoria, and I'd love to have tea at The Empress someday.

    But, you do know when we take that train trip it'll be going the opposite way, right? We'll have to plan for a few days before the train trip to go to Victoria. And I'd love to do both.

    Now I'd better go see if I can fix the post back the way it was. Hmmm... The many mysteries of Blogger.

  17. This was lovely, Suzie. Thanks so much for the post. What a blessing!

  18. Thanks, Susie. I see, though that the words to the song moved again and are in the wrong order. Sigh... Oh, well.
    I did to say the bluff in these photos is the setting for my historical WIP.

  19. I'm reading this after the fact, on Monday morning! What an awesome way to start the week. Imagining His wonderful works... What an amazing God we serve!!

  20. Amen, Cheryl! I'm glad you liked it. Have a blessed day!


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