Down the Hill to Heaven

Some people are waiting to die and go to Heaven while others are discovering it just down the hill. We are full of creativity because we are the offspring of the Creator. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit we can be active in bringing Heaven to earth and protecting the little bit of it that’s still already here.

My wife had to take care of some business in the area and dropped me off at Surprise Canyon. As I waved goodbye, two young men swooped into the entrance on their mountain bikes. I had met one of them previously, but didn’t recognize him with his new hairstyle. “I wanted to introduce you to my friend,” Tyler said.

Tyler’s friend asked, “Are you the new owner of the falls?” I nodded in the affirmative and added, “The Falls at Surprise Canyon.”

“Did you know that several years ago a log stretched across the waterfall and it was filled with honeybees and honey?” My heart speeded up a bit envisioning the recent history of this environmental treasure.

Tyler followed his friend with more great news. “There is a bobcat or cougar that hangs out there, too. It has long tufts on its ears and a really short tail.” I explained that cougars have very long tails and bobcats…very short ones. Tyler looked delighted with seeing the animal and I was equally happy to learn about its presence.

The two cyclists sped off for an afternoon of discovery as I entered Surprise Canyon to do some trail building. Within minutes, three species of frogs leaped across my path where the trail is surrounded by seven-foot tall jopeye weed with pink and wine blossoms.

Although the clouds still obscured the sun, vertical columns of light penetrated the broken pattern overhead and duplicated it on the forest floor. Mossy rocks of lime and forest green punctuated the trailhead where ferns and hemlock seedlings drank in the mist from the falls. There are two places where people are brought to prayer. One is in dire straits and the other is in places where they are surrounded by the majesty of the Divine’s creation. I suppose, because such places are becoming a rarity, prayer is also less of a spontaneous impulse. But here…Hallelujah!

John Muir had not seen the hillsides along Oil Creek in 1869. Ten years after Drake’s discovery of oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania and being the first to drill for it, Muir penned these words, “All the wilderness seems to be full of tricks and plans to drive and draw us up into God's light.”

Places like The Falls at Surprise Canyon still have that power. My three work hours quickly turned into eight without my notice. Every moment had been filled with sweat and struggle – yet all of it bathed in rest and tranquility.

Leaving for home I recalled my daughter Beyth Erin quoting Robert Frost at seven. “Whose woods these are…I think I know.” I am certain I know.

In 1963 Sigurd F. Olson wrote, in Runes of the North, “It may well be…that vast expanses of primeval country, can restore to modern man a semblance of balance and completeness. In the long run these last wild regions of the continent might be worth far more …from a spiritual standpoint to North Americans than through industrial exploitation.” Many are re-discovering the spiritual value of wilderness.

When God created humankind, they were placed in a soft-soiled paradise where four rivers flowed in the four directions. Beside this literal paradise grew “every species of nurturing, beautiful tree…” Like the log across the falls, Hebrew scriptures recall that God’s habitation was uniquely in the honey-trees. The spreading ancient forest stood like flourishing hollow giants, and God inhabited it in a unique way. It is not like we are limited to forests for our building materials. Why has humanity chosen to destroy a place of God’s pleasure and delight?

In the past week, I have listened to two national pastors preaching from Romans chapter eight on two different channels. They pleaded, “Creation is suffering too much and what are you doing to stop that suffering?” Adding… “All creation is waiting for the suffering to end.”

As recently as last year, some Christian leaders were still blaming environmentalists for America’s problems. I can’t begin to express my pleasure hearing liberal and conservative Christian leaders emphasizing that Romans chapter eight is calling all believers to take the steps that will bring an end to earth’s suffering.

Excluding redemption and transformation, there is nothing in my studied opinion from a biblical perspective presently as important as the restoration of the earth. I will be publishing an article on that point under theology in the near future. But right now let me just say that the restoration of the planet will take place in the midst of great turmoil, potential disruption, wars and rumors of wars and the shaking of everything that can be shaken including most of the things that we presently consider a normal part of daily life. Although it will be a mass movement like Martin Luther King and Gandhi led from different perspectives, it will be carried out usually by temporarily uncelebrated individuals working faithfully. They will be led by God’s spirit and word and vision, bringing Heaven to earth, not on some enormous scale but initially bringing Heaven or in some cases merely protecting Heaven that already exists in some secluded sacred site: some canyon at the bottom of the hill.


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