Connecting with Creation: Nature contemplation as we worship in the woods

As the psalmist writes, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps 19:1).  From the very beginning, nature has been telling of its origins, its Source, its God.  Billions of years before the Bible was written, creation has been revealing its Creator, with the natural world being, in essence, the first "Bible," the original revelation of God.
 
We don't hear too much about it today, but our Christian tradition affirms two complementary sources of God's revelation: (1) the book of nature and (2) the book of scripture.  The Bible itself bears witness to these “books” through the Psalmist in Psalm 19:1, with Jesus using nature in his parables, and the Apostle Paul also affirming in Romans 1:19 that “what can be known about God” has been seen “ever since the creation of the world” with God's eternal power and deity “clearly perceived in the things that have been made.”
 
From the Early Church Mothers and Fathers into the Middle Ages, the metaphor of nature as a book was well established. During the Enlightenment, however, the Age of Reason undermined the authority of nature as revelation, giving primacy to biblical text.  With growing contemporary awareness of humanity's connection with nature, there is a need to re-educate God's people in how to “read” nature and experience divine communion with the Creator through nature.
 
I developed the Franciscan Lectio of Creation as a way to help people "read" nature today.  Based in Franciscan spirituality, the teaching of St. Clare, and the example of St. Francis of Assisi, the Franciscan Lectio of Creation is Lectio Divina with a Franciscan twist that creates a  new approach for the “divine reading” of nature as a way to more fully know God and connect with the Creator.  The 4C's of the Lectio (see below) engage the whole self, head, heart, and hand for creation care. 
 
If you'd like to give this Lectio of Creation a try and to practice it in community, I invite you to join us at Worship in the Woods on the fourth Sundays of the month at Rolling Ridge, beginning September 22, 2019.  Each month we'll engage in 20 minutes of nature contemplation, using the Franciscan Lectio of Creation.  We'll have opportunity for people to share their experiences, if so inclined, and then close with a creation communion to celebrate our connection with God and nature.  (Please be sure to check our Worship in the Woods event page the day before for any weather preparation updates.)
 
THE FRANCISCAN LECTIO OF CREATION:  (created by Lawrence Jay)
 
1. CONNECT: Open all your senses to experience the Creator through creation
To become more aware of their surroundings, naturalists learn to be still and to engage their five senses. Find a spot outside and sit quietly for a few moments. Be present in the moment by calming your mind and stilling your spirit. Slowly open your “owl eyes” and expand your peripheral vision to see all that is around you. Next, begin to tune in to the sounds around you with your “deer ears”. As you take deep breaths, allow your “bear nose” to smell the air and sniff the multitude of scents surrounding you. Engage your “raccoon hands” as you tactilely explore your environment; and if you are daring (and know something about the local plants), extend your “reptile tongue” and taste creation's bounty. Open your whole self to the Creator through creation's loving gaze and embrace. After a few moments focus your attention and connect with one creature. Be with it; connect with God through it; do not rush.

 
2. CONSIDER: Think about your connections through scripture and science
Given your “creation connection”, what thoughts are triggered as you consider what you know from scripture and science? Think about what this teaches about your relationship with God and all the Creator has made. How do the environmental realities we face today challenge this relationship? Also consider: What do you like best about being in nature? What is “good” and
“beautiful” to your senses? How is God revealed through nature?

 
3. CONTEMPLATE: Prayerfully bring to the Creator your considerations in love
Given your “considerations”, what feelings are stirring in your heart? Bring this to prayer as you look on creation with love through the Spirit and allow your contemplations on nature to draw you closer to God. Also contemplate: How do you feel about creation? What are you experiencing as “true”? What passions are unfolding in your heart regarding your relationship to the planet because of your relationship to God and commitment to Christ?

 
4. CARE: Live and love like the Creator in kinship with creation
Given your time seeking the Creator in creation, what can you do to live out your growing convictions? How can you imitate the Creator's love and care for creation as a “brother”, a “sister”, a “neighbor”, given the current environmental realities we face as a global community? To CARE, choose: (1) a Change to make in your lifestyle, (2) a form of Art to express your growing passions and commitments, (3) a Relationship to address or to learn more about through study, (4) an Example to follow from nature or from someone whose creation care you admire. Your commitment to creation care is your “eco-vocation”, your ecological spirituality.

Registration is FREE but encouraged.  Click here to register.
 

Author

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Lawrence Jay

As the Executive Director of Rolling Ridge, Lawrence works in partnership with the staff to ensure that the guest experience at the Ridge is top quality.  He also partners with retreat leaders to provide excellent programming at the Ridge, and is ...