Nov 25 2012

Making Time For Nature

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”  Psalm 111:2

“A challenge I constantly face is making time for myself to get outside and reconnect with nature. I think this is true for a lot of people in today’s very busy world. We all have so many things going on, so many things we have to do, so much to keep up with.”  Although I did not write these words, I could have.  They make up the opening paragraph of Rob Sheppards’s most recent entry at his website, www.natureandphotography.com.  In his blog he goes on to talk about how important it is that we all make an effort to find “nature time.”

I, like Rob, struggle with finding the time outdoors I’d like to have.  My job keeps me plenty busy.  Even though I read a lot about nature and even write a blog about it twice a week, there are periods when I go quite some time without any significant “nature time.”  Reading Rob’s blog actually convicted me and made me more determined to do better.  I even acted upon it.  Thursday and Friday I was in Paducah, Kentucky, visiting my mother.  I noticed that she had a large growth of mums in front of her place and that her rosebush was also still blooming.  I went inside and grabbed my camera and a macro lens.  Over two days I spent quite a bit of time up close and personal with my mother’s flowers.  (You can view some of the images I took here.) I also noticed a pond across from her place that had quite a few cattails.  I also photographed these, along with some sycamore leaves that were lying on the ground.  Taking the time to enjoy God’s Creation truly proved therapeutic and heightened my sense of gratitude.

Practicing nature time isn’t usually listed as a spiritual discipline but I’m beginning to think it should be.  Reading the Bible is considered a spiritual discipline so why shouldn’t reading God’s “Other Book” also be?  I read the Bible every day.  I’ve been doing that since I was quite young.  I enjoy reading the Scriptures and benefit from it greatly.  I feel, however, that I must also become just as disciplined in finding time to read the Book of Creation.  If God speaks to us through His Creation, and I believe that He does, then it is both sinful and foolish of me not to make a concerted effort to read and study from this volume on a regular basis.

When I was a kid the church my family attended provided envelopes for us to put our offerings in.  These envelopes, however, also served another purpose.  Each one contained several boxes to check.  We could check if we had read the Bible daily, if we were staying for worship, if we had invited someone else to church, if we were making a contribution that day, etc.  I learned through this practice that these things were an important part of our faith.  I don’t know if churches still use this type of envelope but if they do, I’d like to suggest that they add a new category.  I would argue that “nature time” should also be included.  I’ve never seen anything of the sort on a church envelope but at this point in my life, I can only wonder, Why?

–Chuck


Jun 22 2011

The Secret to Thriving

While I was in northern California last week I was reminded that many species of plants (and animals) can only thrive where the conditions are just right.  The majestic redwoods do well on the coast of California for a reason.  Further east on the White Mountains, the ancient bristlecone pine forests exists because the conditions are just right for them to grow there.  The redwoods could not grow where the bristlecone pine trees are found and those trees would not last long in the environment where the redwoods thrive.  Rob and I also visited a bog area that is the home of the cobra pitcher plant.  You will not find this unique plant in many places because like the redwood and pine trees, it requires a certain type soil and environment to survive and prosper.  It is just a fact of nature that various species require certain conditions in order to do well.

What is true in the natural world is also true in the spiritual realm.  There are conditions that are necessary in order to thrive spiritually.  Without these conditions we will not do well at all.  Our chances of growing without the right environment are about as good as a bristlecone pine tree making it on the coast of California.  What are the ideal conditions for spiritual prosperity?  Obviously, there are many.  Here are a couple of things that come to my mind.  First, we thrive spiritually when we focus on the kingdom of God.  Jesus placed great emphasis on the kingdom of God and taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  He also said “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)   Many of us fail to grow spiritually because our lives tend to focus first and foremost on ourselves.  We want our kingdom to come and our will to be done.  We won’t get far spiritually that way. 

Second, we will also have a better chance of thriving spiritually if we will seek to incorporate spiritual disciplines into our lives.  These are time-tested practices that put us in a position to grow.  Some of the classic disciplines are prayer, the study of scripture, fasting, solitude, silence, meditation, service, worship and confession.  Where these practices are found in the soil of one’s life there is far more likelihood of flourishing than if these disciplines are absent or neglected.

As humans created in the image of God we have the freedom to choose our spiritual environment.  If we find ourselves in a place where we are not growing we can change that.  This is good news!  It offers hope for everyone.  We can all thrive if we just make the effort to place ourselves in the environment God has deemed best for us.

–Chuck 

(The redwood trees and pitcher plant shown above were photographed last week.  The ancient bristlecone pine tree image was taken a couple of years ago.)