Smoky Mountains Call

In the instant we were thrust
through the entrance of the tall iron gates
a realization came over me of
just how quiet my present life has become
and how jarring chaos can seem to me.

The further we walked, the more
I pulled back from the various music
blasted from competing storefronts selling
coffees, teas, brews, and bright souvenirs.

Most pleasing is the bluegrass
music enjoyed from rocking chairs and then
the quietude of the slowly spinning
Ferris Wheel and reflective conversation.

Yet for years to come my heart
will return to the Smoky Mountain trail
where autumn leaves adorn the landscape and
chilly morning hikes made warmer with an
alpaca wool scarf tied about my neck.

Huffing and puffing, we greet
hundreds of people of all ages
on the same earthly journey seeking clean air
and stunning views from higher altitudes.

Once again, I’ll settle into
the saddle of the old paint called Lofty
who cautiously plods over rocks with
no worries of keeping up with younger ones.

Oh, the gift of Creator
and my special daughter who follows the
yearning for lovely dwelling places.
The two of us as one meditating
on beauty these peaceful mornings.

Psalm 84:1-7 (CEB)

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord of heavenly forces!
My very being longs, even yearns,
for the Lord’s courtyards.
My heart and my body
will rejoice out loud to the living God!
Yes, the sparrow too has found a home there;
the swallow has found herself a nest
where she can lay her young beside your altars,
Lord of heavenly forces, my king, my God!
Those who live in your house are truly happy;
they praise you constantly.
Those who put their strength in you are truly happy;
pilgrimage is in their hearts.
As they pass through the Baca Valley,
they make it a spring of water.
Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength,
until they see the supreme God in Zion.

Inner Peace

Last week I was continually amazed by the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in their peak autumn season. My daughter and I observed the colors changing from hour to hour each of the four days we spent there. The most difficult thing was leaving the mountains after spending all day immersed in creation. I wanted to go for a hike after riding horses for 90 minutes! However, a lemon custard ice cream cone followed by a nap turned out to be a better idea.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, once wrote,
“The sweep and serenity of a landscape, fields, and hills,
are enough to keep a contemplative riding the quiet interior tide of one’s
peace and desire for hours at a time.” *

Now that I’ve returned to Nebraska, I will go through the glory of the changing of seasons once again with you. Each transformed plant and tree speak to our inner being of God’s love and forgiveness. How is it that you have touched that inner beauty within yourself?
We pray that resting in the wonder of creation will indeed make you feel more grateful, hopeful, and peaceful.
God’s autumn blessings upon you!

Rev. Marta Wheeler

*Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 243.

To view or download a PDF version of this devotional, click here:  Devotional MW 2022-10-19