The LORD said to Moses... "Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain."- Exodus 34
"GREAT-JOURNEYS" - Day 4: The morning I crawled out of bed for our Sinai adventure it was still night. "Wake-up" was scheduled for 1:00 AM, so I was somewhat bummed when our hosts banged on my door at 12:50. Regardless, I dressed and made my 1:30 coffee pot appointment with time to spare.
By the time we gathered in the parking area and hiked up to St. Catherine's Monastery it was after two o'clock and time to meet the group of Bedouin herders who would be our guides up Mount Sinai.
One at a time, we paired off with the Bedouin. People disappeared into the black night and merged with the vague shapes of camels. My Bedouin led me to a huge specimen and then, the moment I started to straddle the animal, vanished into the night. The camel immediately lurched up and I grabbed hold of the saddle "handle" to steady myself.
Without a moment's hesitation, my camel ran past everyone, hopped a couple of dunes, found a narrow path and started the accent. Evidently he knew the way from the front and was simply doing his job.
Magic and Mystery: The next two and a half hours were magical beyond imagination. The night was cold - around 35-degrees - and crystal clear; the stars shone with a brightness I've never seen before; and then, just ten minutes into the expedition, a three-quarter moon appeared from behind a mountain and provided enough illumination to see every detail of the path, every precipitous drop, every deep valley, and the range of towering peaks that surrounded us.
In the silence, mostly alone, and from an elevation ten-feet above the path, I could literally feel the mountains speak. I knew instinctively why Moses climbed into this place for his private audiences with the Creator. I could feel God's spirit beckon me to the summit because there were truths to be shared, worlds to behold, and mysteries to be absorbed.
On to the peak: Around 4:30, the camels stopped at a Bedouin tent offering hot tea. From there to the summit we climbed on foot. Once the group assembled we continued our accent, a thin line of pilgrims snaking our way toward the heavens. We arrived around 30 minutes before dawn and waited for a new day to break over the rugged terrain.
Eventually, and with the temperatures well below freezing, the first golden droplets of light morphed into a river of life and poured over the horizon in unbounded glory. God swept into my consciousness with the dawn and I felt as though the very hand of Creation was reaching out to me through the new day. And I thought of the hymn - "Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning; born of the one light Eden saw play. Praise with elation, praise every morning; God's recreation of the new day." (Eleanor Farjeon)
Decent into the Day: It was hard to break ourselves away from the amazing views (check out the complete gallery of pictures "Mount Sinai" on my facebook page). However, not only did we have a long walk down, but my theology of light demands reentry into the world.
The journey down the mountain - all on foot - was spectacular. The harsh beauty of the rugged landscape now accentuated by the pure light of the early morning sun. We enjoyed breathtaking views at absolutely every turn. The path is unthinkably steep and the drop-offs perilously close, but the grandeur still invited us to venture toward the edges.
The effect was like being clobbered by a 12-foot wave at the beach... only here it was being hit full-on with a wall of beauty and being washed over by a waterfall of overwhelming natural theology. Wow!
Monastery: By the time we reached St. Catherine's Monastery again we had logged around 18 miles. But I was still all energy. I was still all motivation to keep exploring, keep engaging this amazing world, keep inviting the Creator to be a vital element of every detail, keep jumping to the top of the next rock and capturing the latest view.
And it was energy I would need soon enough. Because the very next day we would be hiking into the lost city of Petra, in Jordan....
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. - Exodus 34
The invitation to live life without reservation is built into the substance of the beginning of each new day. Never forget the imperative to let life loose! Always live like you mean it... because God most certainly does. And, wouldn't it be cool if - every day - people could tell that we've been on the mountain with the Lord, simply because of the way we are...?