The lessons I learn from being among nature’s small and large wonders have formed the basis a series of blogs that I just completed. (To visit unread blogs in the series, type “Lessons from the natural world” into the Search feature on the site.) Today I provide a little background for the series—the compelling reasons for its genesis.
I’m a naturalist. Not because of training or occupational choice, but because of the wealth of life experiences in nature that have accumulated over the decades of my life. Perhaps like you, I’m a “lay naturalist”—someone who holds dear the precepts of natural history as a matter of faith—mostly the realization that God’s world is a precious gift not to be mishandled or disregarded.
That’s not what compelled these blogs, though. What lay at the heart of these several entries was the years-long witness of my mother and mother-in-law. During all of their lives they held the natural world in high esteem, cradling in their hearts a love of animals, plants, weather, seasons—and of the spiritual glue that held together all of their nature-related thoughts.
“Spiritual glue?” A set of beliefs that coalesce around the idea of God’s creative power. The love of humankind that God shows in providing the wonders of nature. God’s protective hand. The ways in which the natural world was a healing force for their spirits. The delight they felt in their encounters with nature—awe, wonder, unity with all of creation and with God.
During our mothers’ later years, my wife and I had many occasions to bring them into large and small encounters with nature. Some of those experiences lasted for weeks, others only for precious moments. But in each case, there was something profound and life-enriching for our moms—a deer family grazing close at hand, bird hatchlings fiercely protected by their mothers; backyard flowers; a summer rain’s smells; the sight of fall foliage; the fury of a thunderstorm, miraculous changes in their neighborhood’s environment or the escapades of adolescent rabbits.
Our mothers lived better because of those moments. In their expressions of gratitude about the natural world they transferred to us the knowledge and emotions of stewards of nature—people who sense their responsibility to preserve and protect what God has created. Because the natural world gives glory to God, our mothers wanted that glory-giving to continue into the generations that followed them.
Some weeks ago, when I cast around for additional blog topics that might fit older adults, it occurred to me that our mothers would be glad to know that their love of nature did not stop with them. That others their age could find hope or redemption by re-entering the natural world deeply.
These blogs reflect part of the legacy of Barbara and Vera, and so were written to be a gift—not from me, but from two women whose life witness still shines brightly within their children. I hope that you will have found encouragement and hope in these “lessons from the natural world”. That you will be emboldened to pass along the spark of life, of well-being, of connection to God that comes from your own encounters with the natural world.
And when all is said and done, nothing you or I write or proclaim about the natural world reflects what’s good or godly about us. The words we use, the thoughts they create—all move toward one ultimate goal: That God would be glorified.
The place everything starts and ends!
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