Cedar Rapids, Iowa
While certain religious sites or fasting and prayer can help me reflect on spiritual matters, I usually feel a connection to the divine in breathtaking nature. Have you ever walked outside on a clear frigid day and heard your boots squeak on the hard snow? Or listened to the wind blowing through the trees, and waves breaking on the shore? A transcendent state of unity gripped me when I was near snow-capped Mount Fujiyama on a clear spring day. A sacred moment occurred one summer as I was mesmerized by the dancing Aurora Borealis (northern lights) at a mining camp in northern Canada.
I also sensed the Creator when I listened to howling wolves on starlit nights on the frozen tundra. Sometimes I've experienced sublime clarity and peace from the sensory delights of the rotating seasons, or as I drove through the Rocky Mountains. One can breathe deep and feel a harmony expressed when a full moon, or a glowing sun rest on California hills. In nature, you can find sacred places almost anywhere, or they can find you, and those experiences last forever in your memories. Nature can also help build your faith and encourage selflessness.
Christian P. Milord
For the 13 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), the Sacred Grove in upstate New York is a very sacred place because of what happened there. The grove is a multi-acre wooded area where, in the spring of 1820, in response to a prayer by Joseph Smith as to which church he should join, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the boy prophet and hence began the restoration of the original church of Christ, which had been lost through the centuries due to the infiltration of false teachings, false doctrines, and wickedness into Christ's church.
Idaho Falls, Idaho Nov. 26:
I came across my most recent sacred place in the medieval church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. A group of we Anglican Catholic Episcopalians were touring holy places to explore our Latin roots when I heard someone ask, "Where is the Holy Spirit?" They were looking at the fresco "Trinita" painted by the famous Humanist artist, Masaccio. The first thing I saw when I turned toward it were the eyes--deep-set, all-seeing, numinous eyes--looking straight ahead from their vaulted height. They really grabbed me. I've always thought of God as a loving father, even as I believe He is a spirit, but here He was, a bearded man, with his hands under the crossbar, supporting His crucified son, as any loving father would do.
So where was the Holy Spirit? In a white dove, its wingtips encircling God's neck and its beak softly touching the crown of thorns. The image remains with me and I go there often.
Ruth M. Gill
I have traveled through many parts of the world and seen places and things that have touched me tremendously: the Sistine Chapel, the Grand Canyon, a breathtaking sunrise or sunset, countless museums filled with some of the most amazing pieces of art in the world, diving upon pristine coral reefs. However, nothing has touched my soul like being in my lover's arms. When we hold each other, it truly does feel like the universe has shifted into place. I feel secure, calmed, and exhilirated all at the same time. I may sound like a lovesick teenager but am 41 years old, have been married previously, and can assure you have been no wallflower in my life. What I feel when she touches me I have never felt before in my life. I have felt it from the first moment we touched and that "thing" that seems to flow between us has not diminished with time but grown. She is my place of refuge and I honestly believe when in her loving arms, she brings me closer to God.
New York, N.Y.
There is a tiny church perched on a huge rock in the village of Petra on the island of Lesvos, Greece. To reach the church of Panagia Glykofilousa, meaning Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss, you have to climb 114 steps, which are steeply carved into the side of the rock. Once you reach the top, if the climb does not leave you breathless, the view will. There is a 360-degree view of the village, landscape, and Aegean Sea. But most breathtaking of all is the church. It was built around 1600 on top of the rock to ward off ambush by Moors and pirates, and for protection of the sacred icons within. Once inside, you see frescoes and icons hundreds of years old covering the walls, candles lit up, and the smell of incense filling the church, all of which leave you in awe. It is here that I feel safe and at peace. I think of this place often and cannot wait to go back.