Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Get Outside! The Restorative Power of Nature

One of my friends posted this picture on Facebook this morning and I was immediately struck by it. As you know, I do spend most of my time outside and I have seen the importance of spending time outside. Whether you are a Donald Miller fan or not (I happen to be a huge Donald Miller enthusiast), it's a wonderful quote. When you look at the Bible, you see that God made nature, then made man, and put man in complete control of the natural world. God did not intend for us to sit in front of our computers all day (if it's your job then okay, but get outside when you are done!), watch movies non-stop, or never get out and enjoy the wonderful benefits of spending time in His creation.

I've traveled to 38 states and 4 countries so far, which I know may not be a lot by others standards, but I enjoy traveling and in all of those trips I have spent time exploring the beauty that God created. I spent two summers watching the geysers of Yellowstone erupt as herds of bison grazed on the prairie, I've watched the sunset over the Caribbean and the mountains of northern Haiti, I've rented a convertible and driven up the California coast, and I've skied the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Big Sky area of Montana, Wasatch Mountains in Utah, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and all throughout Colorado's Rocky Mountains. It's traveling and enjoying God's creation that should be put far above watching re-runs of television shows (although I'll admit I've been working through "Lost" on Netflix, but only when it's dark or stormy out).

There is an immense restorative power to spending time in the natural world. When I was deciding whether I wanted to accept the job at the church a couple of years ago, I went camping by myself;  when I was deciding to leave that job, I went camping by myself; when I went through bad breakups and was saddened, I moved to Wyoming to enjoy the mountains for a summer. In nature is where I find my peace and restoration...it's where I find the Lord. Walking along the banks of a stream, stopping to watch a hawk swoop down to get prey in a field (which I did this morning on my way into work), sitting and listening to the wind...there is power in God's creation if you will only allow Him to quiet your mind and soul to listen.

You don't have to be a die-hard eco-liberal or a devout Christian to enjoy the environment and enjoy God's creation. I am a Christian, mostly conservative, but with very liberal views on the environment. Working for big oil company, you can't tell me you don't enjoy the beautiful plains of Texas, the mountains of West Virginia, the sunset on the ocean off of your deep-water rig, or the prairies of the Dakotas. If you're not stopping for even one minute to enjoy these gifts, you're missing out on an essential part of life.

I will not even get into the physical and mental benefits of spending time in nature, but I highly suggest you check out the Children & Nature Network with work done by journalist and author Richard Louv. His books, "Last Child in the Woods" and "The Nature Principle" (which I'm currently reading), discuss the benefits of getting children and adults in nature to reduce diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and more. This coined the term "Nature Deficit Disorder". The great thing is, this doesn't have to be long hikes and camping trips! Plant a garden, enjoy a local park, walk through the city, or a whole number of outdoor things! I have recently come across this idea of cities as the new wilderness, which describes urban areas as a wilderness area to be explored. It's true! With parks, animals, streams and rivers, beautiful views (mountaintop vs. top of a building doesn't matter to me...just enjoy that sunset for what it's worth!), cities are an awesome place to explore the natural world around us and how humans interact with that environment. Every city has parks....and I mean Every Single City. Think New York's Central Park, the Pittsburgh City Parks, Washington D.C.'s National Mall and Memorial Parks, Cleveland Metroparks (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted's [designer of Central Park] sons), and Akron's Metro Parks Serving Summit County. Those are just a few of the ones off the top of my head but I can think of a ton more. Want to know what is in your city? Then Email Me with the name of your city and I will find all the great parks near you.

Get out. Enjoy nature. Enjoy creation. Use it as an act of worship.

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