“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
Can I be honest? I L-O-V-E the outdoors, LOVE.
I grew up splashing in the Pacific Ocean’s frigid water off the Oregon Coast, hiking through old-growth forests and camping in the mountains.
When we moved to rural Kenya, it wasn’t hard for me to embrace the ‘outdoor life’. Cooking, washing, visiting, teaching took place outside; the only thing that happened inside was sleeping and bathing! The equatorial sunrises and sunsets were breathtaking, the weaver birds’ songs brightened my day, and the Tana River winding through the market town teemed with life, keeping me in awe of both beautiful and dangerous creatures (yes, hippos and crocodiles). Sometimes at night, my husband and I would sit on the roof of our truck and stargaze— finding constellations and watching shooting stars. In Kenya, I thrived in the display of God’s glory and creativity.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge…” (Psalm 19:1-2).
Four years later, I moved to a bustling college town in Asia, where the outdoors teemed with crowds, high rise buildings, and pollution. I missed the mountain-scapes of my childhood home, and the mango groves in Africa. I felt confined and anxious, almost suffocated by the city. We had to make a point of ‘getting out and about’ to get our ‘outdoors’ fix (even if it was to the local park). After moving to a small countryside town that was surrounded by rice paddies, rivers and bamboo forests, my soul settled down. We went on hikes, explored caves, and relaxed on creek banks with local friends while our children caught grasshoppers. We still had to be intentional about making time to enjoy the creation around us. Ministry, school, and the busyness of life began to eat away at the opportunity to ‘stop and smell the roses’.
During a home leave several years ago, our family visited Yosemite National Park. After driving through the Valley- also known as Nature’s Cathedral- we stopped by the visitor center, where a quote from a display caught my eye:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”- John Muir
This expressed my exact sentiments on the gift of the Great Outdoors. Through nature, God speaks to us, listens to us, teaches us, heals us, provides for us, and restores us. It is in nature that we might even wrestle with God and come to a moment of understanding and revelation. We all know Scriptural accounts where God ministers to and ‘meets’ a downcast soul in nature. I believe God invites us to ‘get away’ with Him in nature- however that may look- tending a garden, going for a trail walk, or escaping the city for a beach retreat.
It’s okay to get away and receive the gift of rest, quiet, wonder, and beauty in nature.
Guess who took advantage of this gift? Jesus… the Creator of it all. He spent time by the sea, on the mountains to pray, by the river, in the fields, and in the wilderness. Not only did Jesus get away, but He spoke about Nature as a way of teaching his disciples and the crowds about life, salvation, and God’s care. What a blessing that we can follow His example! (see Matt. 4:18; Matt 14: 22-23; Mark 1: 35-37; John 21:1; Luke 4:1-14)
I don’t know where you live, and what ‘floats your boat’ as far as nature is concerned. For some people, a 15-minute walk in the City Park is just as life-giving as relaxing on a remote beach or snowshoeing through a pine forest. The point is, nature is a gift from God to all of us— a gift that reveals His glory, so that we might learn His ways, and revel in His goodness. Below are some ideas and resources that might help you as you discover the Great Outdoors wherever you are in this amazing world!
Have you found places to play in and pray in where you live?
Ponder these Scriptures, while in the Great Outdoors:
What the animals teach us about God (Job 12:7-10)
The Majesty of God and His Creation (Psalm 8)
Restoration through nature (Psalm 23)
The greatness of God; His provision for mankind and all of creation (Psalm 104)
There are a lot of great nature-related devotionals out there, but here are some I love:
Indescribable by Louie Giglio (especially for KIDS!)
Bonus, my favorite Nature Poem: “The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry