My father-in-law once gave me a wooden plaque with these words:
“It’s better to sit in a boat, and think about God, than to sit in a church and think about fishing.”
When I opened the gift, I offered a polite smile, then pondered where I might display such a plaque. It just didn’t seem … proper.
But that was before I knew what my father-in-law knew.
That was before I knew that God wasn’t some bitter pill to be swallowed in Sunday-morning doses.
That was before I knew that worship happened in the most unexpected places.
That was before I discovered the presence of the Father in my garden,
at cornfield’s edge,
in a hospital birthing unit,
or on a lake with a fishing pole in my hand.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love church. I’ve felt the presence of God to the point of tears while singing old hymns on a Sunday morning. But I’ve also been on the other side — so steeped in religious tradition that I showed up for my Sunday dose out of obligation rather than devotion.
Which brings me to Horseshoe Lake. That’s where I ended up on Saturday morning, on a Minnesota lake thick with God.
The three of us — Dad, my husband and me — backed the Lund boat down the ramp, as nature awoke to a new day. The cry of the loon ricocheted off thick stands of birch and pine. An eagle ascended from a high branch. The water below was so calm and clear that you could see largemouth bass hovering over weed beds.
Our minnow pail was full; so was my soul.
We cut a quick swath through the water, and stopped near a grassy shore to tempt largemouth looking for breakfast. Mirrored water reflected morning sun like flickering flashbulbs, like Hollywood paparazzi who came to snap images of the famous one.
And the Famous One showed up. He most certainly did.
Scripture says that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a noisy crowd began to cheer for God. Right there on the city streets! You can almost hear the gasps of the religious elite. But the religious know-it-alls didn’t just gasp and clap hands over mouths in disgust. They had a word with the donkey-rider. Jesus, they asked, is there any way you can make these cheerleaders shut up?
Jesus responded: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
On Horseshoe Lake, I could almost hear the stones. I did hear this:
The cry of the loon, echoing praise
The towering birch, clapping her hands
The pine-covered hill, bursting in nature’s song
I wonder what God thinks when I miss the sunsets He paints for me, when I miss the spray of lilacs out my front door, or the caterpillar on my driveway. The stones could cry out, yet I often remain silent. It seems an insult to withhold my praise, while nature raises a song to the Creator.
So I will sing along.
You know, I have a mind to find that old wooden plaque and hang it by my front door. For it’s true: It is, indeed, good to sit in a boat and think about God.
… The mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12
Photo: View from the front of the boat at Horseshoe Lake.
This is one of two posts about worship experiences during my Minnesota vacation. Check back in a couple days for a post about worship at the Longville Community Church in Minnesota.