Nature as a Reminder

I have started keeping a little prayer list on my phone. I try to go through it a few times a day and offer up petitions on behalf of those in need 1. I started doing this because during this time of the pandemic, “those in need” began to outpace my ability to remember. Shamefully, I realized how frequently I was saying (or writing), “I’ll be praying for you,” only to forget or fail to follow-through. Better not to offer prayers, than to offer and not follow through.

Like so many, our family has been personally impacted by COVID this past year. We have lost friends and seen others struggle through the illness. While the pandemic has grabbed the headlines, it obviously doesn’t have a monopoly on pain and suffering. There are many people who are facing significant challenges right now for a multitude of reasons. People who need our prayers and encouragement.

If we are to be people who encourage, we also have to be sure that we take care of ourselves during challenging times. For me, this has required getting outdoors. Sometimes the forest, or the river, a hike in the desert, a walk on the canal, or just time on the back patio.

I have started feeding birds in our backyard and I am amazed by the variety and unique personalities these little creatures possess 2. I enjoy fishing (although my fishing time to fish caught ratio is pretty poor). I love taking pictures — with special attention to the little things that would typically go unnoticed. A few of my favorite photos (like the one featured in this post) were taken in our alley. I have a garden. I am amazed how plants can go from a tiny seed to an enormous, functional organism in such a short period of time 3.

I have always found time outdoors to be rejuvenating.

I am reasonably certain that nature serves as God’s Post-It notes. His opportunity to stick colorful little reminders all around of the beauty and hope in our broken world.

Today, spend some time outdoors.

Notice beauty in the little things.

Be hopeful.

1 I don’t write this as a claim to virtue, but as an admission of failure. I am far too prone to selfishness and distraction. My prayer list is an exercise in developing empathy, improving focus, and putting others before myself. It is (and always will be) a work in progress. If you could use some prayers, feel free to let me know and I will add you to the list. I need the practice.

2 I have seen an amazing variety of birds in our backyard: House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Curved-Billed Thrasher, Mockingbird, Abert’s Towhee, House Sparrow, Gila Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Rock Pigeon, Rosy Faced Lovebird, and my personal favorite — the Ruby Crowned Kinglet.

3 Consider the Sunflower. I have several in my garden that have gone from a seed the size of a fingernail to a plant that is over six feet tall. The molecular and cellular biology involved in making this happen is incredible.

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