God, Nature and Worship

Job 12: 7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
This post is likely to wander a bit, as my mind tends to do. We just returned from a trip to Maine, where we spent a lot of time in God’s creation, but most of this was written earlier. Being immersed in nature should inspire worship. Sometimes I have spent too much time trying to figure God out instead of just enjoying his artistry and majesty that is on display for all to see. So, I start with this advice to myself and you:
Study the stars and the earth and the universe for clues, but never assume you understand it all. To study there is no end, as Solomon said, and with the years gone by, it begins to weary the mind to keep following the same rabbit trails, which invariably only lead to more trails. So, you begin to return more and more to the conclusion of it all, to the Creator behind the creation. Because the deep questions of the soul can’t be finally answered by knowledge only, and man’s theories will be forever changing, for man is an arrogant, fickle creature that can never be fully satisfied in his quest for more knowledge.

 

You can’t put you confidence in him, and hope to have a rock to stand on. Look beyond the shifting sand to the Rock that is higher and enduring through life’s trials. And be still and satisfied with the conclusion of all matters. The I AM that I AM. To reverence the Maker of stars and suns and seas and galaxies and puppies and the human soul. To follow his ways will lead your mind to perfect rest and true worship and bring your feet back to childlike faith, where wisdom waits.

There is a reason why I use the name Wildswanderer. I’m never more content then when I’m in the wilds. For some reason, the soul craves the natural world over the concrete jungle, although there seem to be plenty of people who act as if this isn’t true. I wonder if it’s unfair of me to think nature frightens them. If artificial worlds are all you’ve known, I can understand that fear. It’s one thing to experience it on a computer or T.V. screen and quite another to go camping alone, with no showers, no wi-fi, no restrooms or restaurants. And it seems that being out there forces you to confront your true self. To know yourself. And maybe you won’t like what you find when you lay aside all the business you think you must do, all the busyness and distractions and devices and come face to face with reality. Everyone should spend a week in the wilds now and then to re adjust to the nature cycles of light and dark, to re adjust your eyes to natural light and your soul to knowing yourself and talking to God like a long lost friend.

I’ve been into primitive skills to some extent for a long time and there is a lot of value to the lessons found in those skills. We have used bow drill fire starting as an object lesson, for a group of kids at a Christian camp. The fire board is your world, the spindle that spins against it, is you, and the bearing block that holds it together is God. Friction makes the fire. Rubbing up against the difficult things in your world and pushing through that pain ignites the soul, but only because God holds it all together. Without him, we fly apart, without his presence over top and over all, guiding us into a union with our world that can’t happen otherwise.

Nature constantly reminds us how big God is. To stand beside the ocean is to catch a glimpse, to ponder the waves crashing, never ending and relentless and powerful, the water stretching beyond our sight… it gives us just a taste of how small we are. If God can hold the universe and seemingly endless galaxies together, if he can maintain that, how can we doubt that he can guide our lives if we only ask? We find ourselves asking with David:

Psalms: 8:4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?.

Nature praises God…naturally. Such praise should flow from us also, as naturally as a star shining or a bird singing or the roar of the seas. What is staggering to me is that David goes on talking about our role of care takers of this planet:

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,[a]
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

We are small, but we are an essential part of creation, and the only creatures who have been given the authority to manage his stuff.

I said earlier that humans are fickle creatures, and this is true when it comes to worship, too. We can be in a beautiful forest by a stream with birds singing and the sun shining and we can be thinking about anything but our surroundings or giving praise to our Creator. We can even be in a worship service with praise songs and beautiful music and dancing lights and be thinking about all the work we have to do this week, or our car payment or what we want for dinner. How do we re calibrate out hearts to line up with the Holy Spirit’s presence?

I could use a Jesus parable to illustrate, but in this case, how about a movie parable? In the movie “What about Bob?” there is a scene where Bob, the paranoid schizophrenic, goes sailing for the first time, in spite of his crippling fear of water, and most everything else. He is so elated he can’t stop yelling at anyone within earshot:

“I’m a sailor! I sail!” Then he adds: “I just let the boat do the work, that’s my secret.”

Did I mention that Bob is tied tightly to the mast? As Jesus said:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” (John 15:4)

In order to sail freely, we need to be tied to him. In order to be aware of our need to worship, in order to give back anything, we must be receiving daily. Maybe we can’t be in the front row of a Christian concert every week or visit our favorite place in the wilds. But we can let simple thankfulness flow when he reminds us that every good thing comes down from the Father. He holds it all together and without acknowledging this, we fall apart and life becomes pointless. Because, let’s be honest, just the daily chore of being a human being can be overwhelming and tiring as we try to muscle through it all ourselves.

As Tim Mcraw’s song says, we all follow the roads that lead us to drugs or Jesus. Why? Because we all lean on something, and our drug of choice might or might not be a chemical, but it doesn’t really matter what the drug is. Maybe it’s your own self image, or maybe it’s anger or hate or money. Whatever it is, it’s not going to take His place. It’s never going to fill the void. The only drug that leads us from glory to glory instead of leading to self destruction is His redemption. He doesn’t always lead us around the tough stuff like we might prefer, but he always leads us through to the other side, to a more beautiful shore.

Goodbyes are hard. I know I’m wandering off topic again, but stay will me, we will get back. Maybe we get re-connect with people for a bit. We get to see our kids again for a week or so, but they go back to their lives and we go back to ours. We stand by a parent during some of her final moments here in this reality and know that it will be a long, hard road ahead until we see her again on the other side. I’ve found that the only comfort in those moments is the resurrection. Not that I’m necessarily thinking about Easter morning at the time, but the promise of resurrection is the promise of re-connection with those we love. The promise that nothing in this life or in death can permanently separate us, that even death only comes between us for a few moments. We have that promise illustrated for us every spring in nature. It’s what our worship is really all about. Without the resurrection, Paul says, our faith is in vain. It’s lived out in living color in the natural world and it’s spoken to us by the Spirit’s witness to our souls and it’s source is always in Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. Shalom, that is all.

 

 

 

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Rachel Svendsen

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