We can worship God in church, and we can worship God while walking through the spectacular natural world he made, which is full of clues to his character. The heavens declare God’s glory, without words.
Trees, the ocean, the day and the seasons tell of a God who loves beauty, who made all things well, who offers us rhythms as a gift, alternating periods of blazing bright and quiescence, when we gather strength for the next period of full flourishing.
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I think Christ uses examples from the natural world most tenderly when he assures us that the Father feeds the birds of the air, who do not sow or reap or store away in barns, (Matt 6: 25-34).
Or that he clothes in glory the lilies of the field who do not labour and spin. He watches the sparrow, his eyes full of delight.
And we are more valuable.
So do not worry about your life, about the future, Jesus says. Your father is watching you, as you, with delight, watch the finches at your feeder, for whom you’ve laid out food and fat and water. You are under his protection.
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Do not worry.
Not worrying is a mental discipline we learn with practice, just as writing well, or running fast are creative and physical disciplines we learn with practice.
So I am training myself to be calm, relaxed and super-chilled, to go through my day peacefully.
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Norman Vincent Peale describes, in one of his Positive Thinking books, being hustled from event to event at a conference he was speaking at. He was finally gets to his room, and is told, “Dinner in 10 minutes.” “Yes, yes,” he says nervously, and looks around stressed. Then he realises he doesn’t care if he missed dinner. He could get room service.
He lies down, falls asleep, wakes up twenty minutes later, refreshed, calmly snaps on his bow-tie, and goes to dinner. He had only missed the pre-dinner speaker and the soup, and by all accounts neither was good.
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Kathleen Chesto writes, “A story is told of a safari in the Serengeti. A researcher was rushing to the mating grounds of the African elephant. He had started late and pushed his porters relentlessly to arrive by mating season. On the fourth day, the porters sat down and refused to move. The translator explained they would go no farther until they had given their spirits time to catch up with them.”
Peale waited for his spirit to catch up with him, only missed the soup, and did his evening peacefully
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One thing I have learned from the Peale story, which I think of every time I am running late is that rushing and stress are simply not worth it. If I am running late, I don’t look at the clock at home, or in the car. I get there when I get there, and enjoy it, and if I’ve missed the soup, so be it.
(Must add though, that having been the girl who always ran late all my life, in mid-life I have realised that being late is a choice, which I don’t need to make. It’s stressful, and a bit rude. Am getting my act together and re-configuring things so that I am late less often.)
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Another area in which I have decided not to worry is my blog. Interestingly, we cannot control the most important factor in the success of our blogs: i.e. how many people read it. Normally, the number of my readers or “Unique Monthly Visitors” in blog and Google parlance rises, month on month. When it drops, in summer or December, I wonder if I should write more.
However, I cannot, at present, see how I could write more, or devote more time to my blog without neglecting the other things God has given me to do—I want to work on a book. I am a wife, and mother, own a house and a garden and a body which I need to exercise. I am a spiritual being, and I need to nurture my relationship with God from which, truly, everything flows.
And so, having spent 30 minutes drafting a blog, I need to lay it aside for the day, and when I am worried that it is static, I need to pray about it as I go about my day.
For it is a Christian blog, and the meat of good Christian writing comes from surrender, from burrowing more deeply into the holy things of God and reporting your findings, and that can be done while gardening or walking.
And so if I find myself worrying if my blog will ever grow, I pray instead that I may know Christ more, and that he may bless my blog, and give me whatever ideas he may have for its growth. For he is kind, and his ideas will lead to energy, not exhaustion.
And so I lean in, and listen instead of worrying–and ideas come.
So that is my rule for myself vis-à-vis my blog: I am not allowed to worry. I am allowed to pray, for blessing, for ideas, for strategy. And, oddly, that simple rule will work for every area of my life.