In-Sight: What a Wonderful World

Jeannie and I have just returned  from a great visit with our family in Kentucky.  The trip included several opportunities to experience the wonder and beauty of nature as fall settles in.  It really is a spectacular season.

Seeing the colors and  feeling the cool breezes reminded me of how blessed Jeannie and I have been to travel in all of the forty-eight continental United  States and five Canadian provinces.  Journeying in her “Little Red Truck” and staying in our pop-up camper, we have frequently been at the right place at the right time to experience the wonder of nature. And thanks to Jeannie’s photographic eye, we have literally thousands of pictures to help us relive many of those moments.

 It is easy to understand why creation has been called “the first Bible” by many Christians, especially those in the Franciscan tradition. Indeed, “heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1)  But Christianity does not have exclusive claim on that.  Other world religions likewise extol the magnificence of creation.  The verse above comes from Judaism.  Hindus recite Sanskrit mantras daily that revere their rivers, mountains, trees and animals.  Buddhists reverence creation and daily engage in a spiritual practice called “Touching the Earth” that reminds them of their oneness with creation. Taoists believe that when human nature is aligned with the rest of nature, order and harmony are the result.  Muslims define a good life (Hayat Tayebah ) as living lightly on Earth (Zohd) and caring for both people and nature. 

As the seasons change in both of the earth’s hemispheres, now is a good time to spend time outdoors, experiencing the world God has made, of which we are an essential part.  We don’t have to  travel somewhere spectacular; we only have to place ourselves in creation right where we are, and soon we will recognize that “all nature sings.”   

Creation spirituality is not the totality of the spiritual life, but it is the largest context for it, from the smallest particle to the farthest star.  It is the 13.8 billion year revelation which frames our brief but spectacular life on the earth.  It is in creation that we most easily sense our oneness with everyone and everything, and in creation where we come to understand our calling to care for all God has made.

Ilia Delio has helped me see and appreciate the wonders of creation through her combining of her Franciscan spiritual tradition with the scientific insights of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. [1]  It is a cosmic linking of the inner and outer worlds in ways that are transformational.  She describes it this way, “Our main work must now shift to the inner universe, to discover the vast layers of consciousness and the creation of new space. We do not know what a new consciousness might look like or how it will be enacted in the lived experience. But we must begin to take one step at a time, beginning from the inside, and discover the new creature.” [2] This happens as we increasingly interact with nature.

Not long ago, Jeannie and I were having  lunch in our backyard by the pond, a place teeming with life.  As we ate our meal, a Red-Tailed Hawk flew onto a branch only several feet away from us.  Our eyes met, and for a couple of minutes we were in each other’s presence unafraid and grateful.  The silent space between us was holy.  A timelessness in the midst of time.  And we thought to ourselves what a wonderful world.

[1] You can follow her ministry by going online to The Omega Center.

[2] Ilia Delio, “A Hunger for Wholeness,” article on The Omega Center website, March 23, 2018.  Her latest book carries the same title and expands on this idea.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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