I sit beside a pond in Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park, where I’m surrounded by life and color. I feel blessed to be in this quiet place—to reflect, pray, write my thoughts, and give thanks.
The pond milieu went silent when I arrived. The residents disappeared until they became used to this new creature arrived suddenly in their midst. So, I sat still, listened and looked—and the sounds and sights of pond life started tentatively and then grew.
Now a bird chirrups and another trills; bugs buzz and an eagle screeches. Beavers are near, for their dam is there, and their chewed-through tree limbs lay scattered on the water like pick-up sticks. Slugs, those slimy sausages on the trail, can easily be found underfoot unless I watch my step. Mosses cover fallen trees. Mushrooms, with their extensive underground web of mycelia, poke through the soil. All are co-dependent air-water-ground citizens of this forest ecosystem. Life surrounds.
Such color! Blue dragonflies skim over algae- and lily-pad covered waters, white cirrus clouds streak a pale blue summer sky, yellow flowers poke through bushes, and the Pacific Northwest’s sword ferns, thimbleberries, Oregon grapes, alder and fir trees wrap the pond in a luscious green blanket.
This expression of life—this beauty of the interconnecting variety of God’s animals and plants—repeats daily at this pond. Similar pronouncements of his being occur almost infinitely in billions of other niches, as they have for eons.
God obviously loves life and variety of life, for he made lots of it. I imagine he smiles each morning as myriad biological wonders of his creation greet him from seashores, meadows, deserts, and lakes. The cornucopia of life must give him—the one who is life—great joy.
I love sunsets, seashores, mountaintops, forests, flowers, and birds, and I suspect that you also have special places and moments in God’s nature. God gifted a spark of the divine to us, providing us with the consciousness and spirit to hear and see his miracles and glory and to appreciate his nature—as long as we tread lightly and make the effort to listen carefully with ears, heart, and soul.
Nature taught me that I hear God better when I first listen. Before having been schooled on forest-covered mountaintops, I would pray at God—throwing my wants and thoughts at him. God tells us it’s OK to bring our cares to him (Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6), and the psalmists often plead with him, so instruction and example tells us we should not be shy about actively petitioning God . . . but listening and watching are good too.
In God’s nature I witness his plenitude of life and realize how he reforms it over and over, filling the oceans with plankton and fish, recycling cedars into ferns, migrating flocks of birds to nesting grounds, and conditioning ants to take forest debris into ant hills. God—the potter who molds all—is the ultimate conservationist, breathing life into matter, breaking it down into dust, and then infusing new life into matter again and again.
In God’s outdoors I conceptualize his infiniteness—seeing how he, over millennia, sculpts valleys from glaciers and remodels coastlines with a never-ending procession of waves, and how he, over billions of years, expands the distribution of planets and stars across the universe. When camping away from town lights, I see Polaris, Altair, Vega, Deneb, and I see the Milky Way galaxy wondrously appear in the dark night sky, splayed across heaven. That our sun is but one star among three hundred billion in the Milky Way, and that there are billions of galaxies, blows my mind. The infiniteness of God.
How to understand? My understanding of God’s reality is akin to that of a sand flea’s perspective of the ocean as it sits on one grain of sand among the many on a Pacific beach. My myopia stretches only as far as my limited experience (during my possible eighty-or-so years of life) on my sand-grain-equivalent of God’s real estate allows. Yes, the learning of other men and women in other cultures and times supplements my understanding, but still—from a God perspective—the sum of knowledge acquired by humans is minute. Just as importantly, neither science knowledge nor religious knowledge has brought wisdom to lots of humanity—for we still war, execute cruelty, and extinguish other species. Acting in God’s wisdom and love has been difficult for us.
God instructs us via his Word and via the example of saints who live in relationship with him and who do good. We also learn from God’s nature, for it is packed with his small and big miracles. God’s wisdom designed the trees that drop the leaves that feed the mayflies and stoneflies that then feed juvenile salmon which, as adults, feed orcas and others (Salmon Field Guide: Kitsap Edition, 62–65). God’s wisdom also constructed the light years’ immensity of a hundred billion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, 62–74). God works in the small and the large. As the Bible tells us, “Though every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the field are his” (Psalm 50:11), so too does he manage “the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south.” (Job 9:9).
How to understand this? Being at places of reflection—like this pond in the Port Gamble Forest Heritage Park—helps. Here, surrounded by the miracles of God’s nature, I can listen, think, pray, and write. As birds twitter, bugs buzz, and slugs crawl, my mind relaxes and opens to consider the love and wisdom of the maker who wove together these many varieties of life. Here, in God’s nature, I learn a bit of who he is