Jul 15 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

“Be still, and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again; I don’t like this time of year.  I don’t think I’ve been a fan of summer since I was a teenager.   I cannot stand the heat and humidity.  That’s not good since the earth is undeniably experiencing a warming trend.  Things are hot and it’s getting hotter.

What I said above I could say again here concerning another subject—politics.  I don’t like this time of year and am already dreading the next four months.  I know we must have elections and that it is good that we live in a country where we have the freedom to vote for the candidate we choose, but I hate all the negativity that seems to come with political races, especially presidential ones.

The negativity is everywhere.  It’s in the candidates’ ads that run on television and the radio.  It’s on the annoying unsolicited automated phone calls that come on a regular basis.  It’s all over the social media.  When I go on Facebook these days it looks like a political war zone.  I just don’t understand why people feel they have to be so hateful and demeaning.   Almost everything I see and hear tells me why I shouldn’t vote for some particular candidate, not why I should vote for his or her alternative.  The focus is not on what it should be–what’s right about a particular candidate.  Things are hot and it’s getting hotter.

Last night I came across a Wendell Berry poem that seemed most appropriate to what I’m talking about.  Berry writes: “When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.  I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.  I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.  For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

I am certainly grateful for “the peace of wild things.”  I am thankful that God created beautiful and wild places where we can still escape from all the madness, if only for a moment.  I think in some ways I need them more now than ever before.  If I’m going to survive the next few months I have a feeling I’m going to have to spend less time in front of the television and computer and more time outdoors.  I just wish it wasn’t so hot…


(I took the top image at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  I think I photographed the blue heron in Florida.  I photographed the ferns at Pine Mountain State Park in Kentucky.)

Jun 20 2012

What’s Your Plan?

Later today summer will officially arrive.  I say “officially” because the heat and humidity associated with summer arrived prematurely in southeastern Kentucky.  This time of year I don’t get outdoors any more than I have to.  I find the heat and humidity too oppressive.  For me summer is a great time for reading and reflection.  I plan to do plenty of both.

A number of years ago Mary Oliver wrote a poem called “The Summer Day” where she did some reflecting of her own.  I share this incredible poem with you here:  “Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper?  This grasshopper, I mean—the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.  Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.  Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.  I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.  I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.  Tell me, what else should I have done?  Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I’ve written in the past of my love for Oliver’s poetry.  I admire her attentiveness to nature and things spiritual.  I especially admire the way she often joins the two together.  In this poem Mary’s thoughts of nature lead her to think of both the brevity and meaning of life.  Paying attention to God’s Creation can have that effect on you.  Even a cursory look at nature may cause a person to ponder some of life’s most important questions.  Without a doubt, the question Mary Oliver asks at the end of her poem is one of these questions.

How would you answer Mary?  What do “you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  So much hinges on a person’s response to this question.  If you haven’t stopped lately to consider this question I urge you to do so now.   As Oliver’s observations of nature revealed, we won’t be here forever so we need to make sure that we make what time we do have count.  The apostle Paul said much the same thing when we spoke of “redeeming the time” or “making the most of every opportunity” in Ephesians 5:16.  Both books of Scripture—the Bible and Creation—call for us to examine our lives and to make sure that we have a plan to make the most of the one life we have to live.  What is your plan?


(I photographed the black bear in the Smokies and the katydid in my yard.)

Jun 23 2010

A Summer Prayer

Barren-RiverSummer is officially here, having arrived just two days ago.  It has felt like summer around here, however, for quite some time.  Where I live summer is characterized by the “3 Hs”: Hot, Humid and Hazy.  The first two are dominating the scene right now.  

Summer is my least favorite season.  I find the heat terribly oppressive and draining.   It is not a time of year I find conducive to prayer (other than prayers that God will help me survive) but I came across a summer prayer earlier today that I like a lot and want to share with you.  It was written by James Vanden Bosch.

God of creation, God of the seasons, bless your creatures with seasons of delight.  Lord of the Sabbath, you have established the rhythms of life, establish in us also the rhythms for human prospering; grant us the good sense to enjoy Sabbath rest in this season.  Grant us, moreover, wisdom to know that there is a time to play, a time to cease from our labors, a time to sense majesty in a blue sky, richness in green grass, love in faithful friends, and joy in our being.  Grant us, then, blue skies this summer, and green grass; grant us faithful friends and the time, strength, and spirit for play.  Grant us the wit to know the goodness of this creation, which, blind, defiant, or ungrateful, we despoil.  Send our roots rain; our hearts ease, so that we may show in our lives that we can live rightly in this season of our lives and see it as if for the first time, in wonder, in awe, and in a spirit of thanksgiving. Amen.

I have a feeling Bosch must live somewhere like Rob where it doesn’t get that hot but I’m going to try to maintain the attitude of gratitude that this prayer calls forth despite the heat, humidity and haze.  If nothing else, I’ll give thanks for air conditioning!


(The image above was taken near Barren River State Park in central Kentucky.)