Mother nature and the face of God…

October 10, 2020

A quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog from some time ago has been hanging around in my “future topics” list for too long – “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  (Kahlil Gibran)

We often hear (and sometimes use) references to Mother Nature, as if the totality of the naturally occurring things around us, including the weather somehow have a personality – personality that can sometime turn very violent. If the earth can delight in feeling our bare feet and the wind play in our hair, then the earth can also shake violently, knocking us off our feet and the winds howl as they knock down the offensive structures that we have built. We say that Mother Nature is angry in those times. Perhaps she is angry because of the damage that we have inflicted upon her through our careless use of the resources that she has provided. If our sin is pollution and the resulting global warming, then perhaps, her response are the hurricanes, tornados, drought and fires, rising seas and other indications of her displeasure.

Man has always fantasized about nature and the things around him, often assigning to those things human characteristics. Native Americans developed what amounted to a religion by ascribing human attributes to the flora and fauna around them to go along with their notion of a Great Spirit (often depicted as a female) and the forces of nature – wind, rain, fire and other things that they could not explain or control. Their beliefs seemed to be based upon finding ways to live in harmony with all of those things, rather than trying futilely to control them. Their beliefs and practices actually align well with what we find in the Bible –

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

Perhaps, if we started using the name God, instead of Mother Nature, we might be closer to understanding the truth of what is all around us. The forces of nature and all of the things that are within nature were, and are, created by God. We cannot control them. We can only harm them. Instead of fighting against nature, and thus against God, perhaps we should adapt the ways of the Native Americans and try to find ways to live in harmony with what God has created. Maybe if we stopped doing harm to what God has created, He will stop doing harm to the things that we have created. Albert Einstein understood when he said – “Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”

Man’s arrogance is what fails him the most. Man is forever holding up something that he has created – a wheel or a machine – and saying to God, “Look what I made.” Henry Beston shared good insight into that flaw when he said – “If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make everything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture.”

God, in the form of nature is the great healer. Anne Frank put it well when she said – “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature. …I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

So, turn to nature in times of trouble, for in looking closely at nature you will see the face of God.

Nature or nurture; which will rule your life?

January 29, 2018

Jack Freed had a post in his Jack’s Winning Words blog recently, which featured the quote – “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  (John Bradford)

Jack went on to write about what separates those who commit heinous crimes, such as we have recently witnessed on many fronts; from those who restrain themselves and don’t do the wrong things. In his post, Jack posed the question of whether it is nature or nurture.

I’ve always been fascinated by the surprise and consternation expressed when someone in what we think of as a “trusted” position, such as a policeman or doctor or leader policeman(business or political) violates that trust to their own advantage. It’s as if we somehow suspend disbelief in human nature for those people until they prove that they don’t deserve our trust. That is probably a cynical view of the world, since it presupposes that those whom we trust don’t, in fact, deserve that trust.

A less cynical view of the world, which places unreserved trust in those in positions of power and authority, which might be called naïve; but, it is a more pleasant place to live in than the world of the cynic. In that world, everyone is assumed to have had the nurturing and teaching of the difference between right and wrong and to have embraced right over wrong in their lives. For Christians, that nurturing and teaching is based upon the lessons of Jesus in the Bible.

Perhaps it is modern society’s lack of embrace of religion that is at the root of many of the heinous acts that we see happening in the world today. Children who spend Sunday mornings playing sports, instead of attending Sunday School, are not exposed to the teachings of the Bible that might ground them properly in an understanding of right and female soccer playerwrong. Instead of the nurture of faith they are exposed to the nature of competition and, in some cases, a winner takes all attitude about sports and life. In too many cases, they are exposed to adults in coaching positions of authority who demonstrate to them some of the worst human traits of anger and selfishness. All too many of those youth coaches teach a win-at-all-costs outlook on life.

Is it any wonder, then, that we hear so many stories of college and professional athletes being caught up in bad behavior. They were on the athletic field on Sunday morning and not in church or Sunday School. They did not get the nurture of a religion-based understanding of right and wrong; they only get the human nature lesson of win or lose from their coaches and in some cases, a sense of entitlement grew out of their athletic successes.

Certainly, not all coaches are too obsessed with winning to try to teach their young charges some values for life. There are valuable life lessons that can come out of competing in sports and most good coaches will tell you that. However, most of thoseWWJD lessons need to be positioned within a moral context that might be lacking because of a lack of any religious nurturing. Few coaches have the time or take the time to worry about that aspect of their athletes lives.

What will rule your life and the lives of your children – nurture or nature? Every sports parent thinks that they are doing the right thing to support their child in youth athletics. But, is it more important for your child (who is statically unlikely to grow up to be a professional athlete) to be out on the athletic field on Sunday morning or in church and Sunday School; where he/she might receive the nurturing exposure to religion and the concepts of right and wrong? They look to you for that leadership. What will you choose for them?

Nature or nurture, which will rule your life and theirs?