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)
Where I live, we do not have forests. We only have deserts.
So instead of rustling leaves, bird calls, and flowing rivers we have 14 hrs of sunlight, scorching heat during summers and biting cold wind during winters and cacti of every sorts and shapes. I envy those “green” filled moments which you Maureen has experienced. Nonetheless, I wake up with my room filled with sunlight, God telling me to wake up and start the day with Him in glory. Oh, before I forget, every morning at exactly 5 am, not a minute late or early, there’s a bird on the tree beside our window. That’s God telling me that He has not forgotten to ring my bell. As soon as we open the door for a brisk 30 min walk, the warm air touches our face and that’s God giving us a very, very warm embrace.
Yes, God can be found even in the desert.
Just got in from work and lying on the bed with the window open. As I’ve been reading this article I am also looking at the tree in my garden and a bird has been singing non-stop. Pretty apt. Thank you, Maureen. I always look forward to your articles.
Be still!! In silence, God talks to us. Thanks for the lovely reflection, I had this experience last year when I went for a silent retreat. It’s so peaceful to walk in the park and the forest, to pause and listen to the birds singing.
Profoundly essential meditation. St. Theresa of Avila )founder of Carmelita order)told her nuns “All I want you to do is LOOK, (NOTICE, FOCUS). nothing else.” hence this wonderful experience. Of Maureen leading her to really see, hear, smell think. Powerful Maureen, Thanks for the reminder.
Nature whispers wisdom. We need to adjust our antenna.
Amen! Doctor you are in tune to the Almighty Physician. XO
I do appreciate this lovely reflection and how nature and our God seem to call and draw us in.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Enjoy the gift of a walk in the woods, as God’s creation is a marvel. Thank you, Maureen.