It was one of those days. The kind where the sun pricks and stings your skin the minute you walk out the door. It bore down like an unwelcome guest, spreading its heat and slowing me down in the process.
I was determined to get my walk in anyway. I made my way to the base of the trail and dug into each step with stubbornness and grit, ignoring the sun overhead as best I could.
Midway up, my trail joined a smaller trail offering some shade. I took the bait and stepped onto the more shady path. Immediately I was met with relief. I found myself looking ahead to the next spot of shade the trail offered and locked my sights there. I moved up shade by shade by shade.
It reminded me of a passage in the Bible where Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Exodus 13:21-22 reads, "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
The children of Israel wandered through the sun-parched wilderness protected by one thing: a cloud of shade. In a far-off middle-eastern desert (not too different from a hot American summer, I imagine) that shade must have brought respite, relief, comfort and rest.
That day on the trail, shade mattered more to me than anything else. It was the only thing that kept me going.
In Moses' time, I think, by sending a cloud of shade, God was trying to say to the children of Israel, "Trust me. I matter more than anything else. I'll support you. I'll sustain you. I'll keep you going in the right direction."
And, if we listen carefully, God is still doing and saying the same things today.
That passage in Exodus also says God was a pillar of fire by night. Fire is often associated with light, safety and warmth. Have an accident on a deserted road? Light a flare. Making your way home after dark? Take a flashlight. Chilly night? Light a fire in your hearth.
I came away from my walk in the wilderness feeling guided and protected. I felt determined to look more closely for God's protection, guidance and light he places in my daily pathway.
We can see his influence everywhere if we'll only stop and look. It seems like we can only sense Him when we have a quiet heart, open to reflection. We must be still enough to notice a single cloud or single ray of light.
Said the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "God is in the details."
Jana Winters Parkin is an artist, writer, and adjunct faculty at UVU. She co-hosts a popular podcast for women: "The Living Room" (bit.ly/TLRSHowiTunes) and spends every day possible exploring mountain trails. Contact her at