“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!”—Luke 12:24-28
It was a beautiful day. Early fall, temperatures cool, but pleasant. The boys on the soccer field, feet soaked with the morning dew, breath visible in the morning sun rays. The game was exciting from start to finish—not something you can always say in an under 10 league. A wonderful start to a Saturday morning.
Then we came home. The day barely began, but began so well, turned aimless, slow and dull. Even the usual allure of screen time failed to arouse any excitement. Somehow, a morning of excitement and exercise had wilted into a lackadaisical midday with no ideas on how to salvage it.
“Let’s go to the beach!” One boy was mildly interested, the other, still apathetic.
The endless 40-minute drive parked us at Rosy Mound Nature Area, not much improved.
But the lot for Rosy Mound is about ¾ of a mile from the beach. The pathway through the woods is a beautiful up and down walk that spits you out into sand dunes and the refreshing water of Lake Michigan.
An amazing thing happened as we walked deeper into the forest that hid the waves. Each piece of nature seemed to melt away the apathy and increase the excitement. Simple things like lots of acorns, squirrels, the overlook into a deep valley. All of them seemed to add a bit of pep to the boys’ steps (and there were a lot of them to get to the beach). We didn’t talk about any of it other than to notice it, perhaps talk about why it was important to stay on the path and preserve the fragile ecosystem of the forest (there are reforestation efforts happening in this nature area). It was the simple fact of nature itself that seemed to move the boys into a better state of mind.
By the time we hit the water, they were different boys. Splashing in the waves and playing catch was almost more fun than they could handle. Aimless mope had turned to giggles and joy.
Jesus once asked his listeners to consider nature. He was reassuring his audience of God’s care and provision, and to make the point he points out the ravens and the wild flowers. He asks them to consider the plants and animals.
In engaging nature, we are led to a place, consciously, and perhaps subconsciously, to a place of gratitude and appreciation. We deeply and intuitively connect with the loving care of a creator who provides for his creatures. Considering nature lifts our spirits from the worries and frustrations of this life to admiration of both the natural world and the God who takes care of it.
Points of Reflection:
1. How can you consider nature something of intrinsic value and not simply a means of provision? Does getting out and seeing nature remind you to rest in the love and provision of God?
2. How can you make engaging with the natural world part of your normal routine so that you can appreciate both creation and creator?
For the kids:
1. Spend 20 minutes outdoors, either in a park or your own yard. How many different animals (including bugs) can you find?
2. What is your favorite animal and why? How can you ask God to take care of that animal, maybe with your help?
Looking for Hickories by Thomas Springer is a collection of essays about appreciating nature in our own small worlds. His love of the outdoors and love for the creator is easily experienced in his beautifully expressed appreciation for the nature he helps us all encounter in our own outdoors. He has also written a small piece called Get Outside: Knowing God through His Creation in which he explores different aspects of our embodied existence and how they point us to wonder at our Creator.