Appreciating nature in your backyard

Covid 19, Creativity, Perspectives, Podcast, Respond to latest issue

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I wanted to take a few moments to share with you how nature and creation has been really significant to us and to our family in these last few days. Like you, our lives have been turned upside down in just a matter of a few weeks. And that comes with a lot of anxiety and a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear. One of the things that has been important for our family in the middle of all of this is just turning our eyes back to creation and back to the natural world.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, where Christ tells us not to worry about our lives, not to worry about what we’re going to eat or what we’re going to wear, because our Heavenly Father knows what we need. But in telling the people not to worry, he also told them to do something. So they’re not supposed to worry but they’re supposed to actually do something else. He tells them that they are to consider the birds and to observe the flowers of the field. And what he’s calling us to is an awareness and an attention to his creation and the ability of God to sustain us just like he sustains his creation.

Perhaps in times of anxiety or stress, being out in nature or even in stepping out into your backyard may feel like a luxury. It seems like something that you would do on vacation or when you’re relaxed, that you would wander out into nature. But one of the things that I think is kind of counterintuitive is that we are called back to the natural world, especially in times of anxiety, especially in moments of uncertainty.

I know sometimes when you would read a passage like that it might be tempting just to read that metaphorically. To say, “Oh yeah, I know about the birds” or “I’ve seen flowers before and that’s just an image” or “That’s just something I’m supposed to think about.” But I’d like to challenge you that I think it’s actually a command. It’s actually an action or a way of turning your attention, actively seeking the God of creation.

So today I want to give you five tips that can guide you in your own experience of nature, whether it’s in your backyard.

In observing nature, one of the easiest frameworks for you to structure your observations when being outside in nature is very simple. It’s your five senses. We learn that as kids in science class. And the first sense that I want to share with you today as we’re outside in our backyard is the sense of smell. And in the springtime the air is full, sometimes to our chagrin, of smells, particularly from pollen, from flowers. And they can be sometimes overwhelming. They cause allergies and create all kinds of pollen on our cars. But if you can sort through all of that and just stop long enough to actually smell the flowers individually, I think you’ll be surprised at the array of smells that God has created for us to enjoy and remind us of him as a pleasing aroma.

Tip #2: What do 

you taste?

The next sense that you can use to guide your observation is your sense of taste. I’m sitting here in the midst of my herb garden. There’s a concentration in herbs, in these small plants, that if you take them and you taste them you’ll get this powerful bite. And what you’re getting is a bite of nature, something that God has created for us to enjoy. Go out and use your sense of taste to discover what God has given us in his world.

Tip #3: What do you hear?

The third sense I want to encourage you engage in this exploration of your backyard during this time is the sense of hearing. Now, as you’re out in nature there are all kinds of things that you can hear: rustling leaves, the wind blowing, the rush

ing waters, waterfalls, all kinds of animals make all kinds of different noises, the buzzing of bees as they pollinate the flowers.

But as you go outside, wherever you’re at, you will hear birds. And you can stop and listen to their distinct sounds – each bird species has their own song. They can communicate with each other. They can communicate warning, love, and joy throughout their singing. I just want to encourage you to open your ears and observe through your ears the sounds that not only the birds make but all of nature makes.

Tip #4: What do you feel?

The fourth sense that you’re going to need to employ to observe nature in your backyard is your sense of touch. Now, I’m sitting here on our property line, right on the edge of the woods. And I want to point out these blackberry brambles and some wild rose bushes. One thing about nature that I think we sometimes forget is that it is beautiful and a source of comfort, but it also reminds us of the brokenness that we exist in. I always have that consciou

sness when I’m out in the thorns and the thickets. But in that brokenness, God is also providing.

In a couple months time, this bramble that now has very sharp thorns that will prick and poke my skin will also produce blossoms and then ripe, succulent blackberries. The same thing for this wild rose bush – in just a few months time, even though it has thorns and thistles on it, it’s going to produce beautiful white roses that will also populate the air with this beautiful fragrance.

So your sense of touch is also very important as you observe nature. Even if those touches sometimes are hard, even that can help us remember that God is redeeming and bringing goodness out of our pain and suffering.

Tip #5: what do you see?

The last of the five sense that I want to share with you today is perhaps the easiest. It’s the sense of sight. Through our eyes, we take in co

pious amounts of information and sometimes get information overload, or we’re overwhelmed.

Zoom in on a small little square – maybe a foot by a foot or maybe a foot and a half by a foot and a half. And just observe through your eyes everything that’s in that square.

I just want to encourage you as you’re using these five senses as an introduction to your being out in nature is to use your eyes to focus in on what nature shows us of its beauty, its magnitude, its glory, and just let your eyes be the gateway to nature.

I hope that I have encouraged you to use your five senses to discover nature. And wherever you are, as you are cooped up in this coronavirus pandemic, you can get out in your backyard or your balcony or park or someplace safe and enjoy nature and all that it has to offer.

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HANNAH R. ANDERSON lives in the haunting Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She spends her days working beside her husband in rural ministry, caring for their three children, and scratching out odd moments to write. In those in-between moments, she contributes to a variety of Christian publications and is the author of Made for More (Moody, 2014), Humble Roots (Moody, 2016), and All That’s Good (Moody, 2018). You can connect with her at her blog and on Twitter @sometimesalight.

This content originally appeared at for the Moody Publishers Rethink Rhythms. Find Joy. campaign. Used by permission.

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