I once went to Morning Prayer during a retreat. While other mornings had been filled with beautiful words and guided meditations that I no longer remember, on this morning the leader simply opened the windows in the room to a spectacular view of the woods and read one line from Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
It was exactly what I needed: to look out into the trees and simply rest in God, quieting my mind in the beauty before me.
Nature has always been a wonderful way for me to connect with God, and last week, in the middle of some hectic days, I went to where I knew I would find God—in the forest. I left my home, my lists, and my cell phone and went for a walk. I strolled through the empty trails and felt my shoulders gliding back from their hunched position, relaxing. I walked for several minutes before I noticed that the entire woods were filled with bird calls of every kind. It seemed that the happy chirping could have been the birds’ own version of a psalm of joy in mid-morning sunshine. The light filtered in wonderful patterns through the trees, and a fresh and wooded smell that can only be described as “green” filled the air.
That is when the still, small voice of God invited me: “Slow down. Slow down and be with me.” My pace became a saunter that was punctuated by periodic rests on various benches to look at the river below. I could hear God’s voice in sounds around me: the birds, the leaves rustling, my own footsteps. For a time, I could see the gifts being showered on me, and all I had to do was be aware and be grateful.
These woods have been a special place for me for many years. I sometimes took my own children there and now look forward to taking my grandchildren. Being with kids is a different experience than when I am alone. I instead of a stroll, there is running; instead of silence, laughing and shouted questions.
God is no less present to me in the forest with children than when I am alone. I can feel God’s endless love for me and those I am with. Simply being in that space seems to slow my internal timeclock and nurture an awareness of God’s very real presence with me. In nature, God offers me the way to listen more carefully.
How glorious is your name, O Lord, in all the earth. The works of your hands all tell of your love. (Based on Psalm 8)