O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
In wisdom you have made them all…
Psalm 104:24 (NLT)
Growing up I wasn’t much of an outdoor person. I mostly played indoors with dolls. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to love the outdoors. Being outdoors makes me feel closer to God; now I consider it a blessing to enjoy the wonderful nature He has created. I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible these days.
When I lived in my house, I had a huge oak tree in my backyard. I loved that tree! I had a tangelo tree and a banana tree. I had a crape myrtle tree that I had grown from knee-high to over 30 feet in my front yard, along with 3 trees between the sidewalk and the curb. With these trees came the birds, and the sound of the different varieties of birds chirping was music to my ears. My yard was usually a mess, but in my mind this meant that I was providing a great environment for birds and other wildlife. Since then I have moved to a condo. I knew I wanted to be around trees, so I offered to plant some around my condo at my own expense. They said no, so now in some ways I regret moving. But I have planted some future trees on my patio, and someday they will grow and attract birds. I just have to be patient and wait for that to happen.
If you look at many of the photos I have taken, you will notice that a lot of them are of trees: trees that spread their splendor across the blue sky, rays of sunshine slanting through the leaves; trees glowing in the moonlight, trees surrounded by water, or trees just being trees and looking majestic…each one unique. I love trees and I’ve come to realize how important they are to me.
Lately I’ve been praying a lot about all kinds of things. I can feel my life is in transition as far as relationships, family, career, and where I want to live. This is exciting and scary at the same time. I am trying to patiently wait for answers. Because I wanted to be closer to God, I decided to go to the Lakefront to be close to nature as I walked and prayed and enjoyed His beauty. I had my camera with me, and I really wanted to see some birds.
There are times when I do not feel close to God. Being in nature helps. Praying helps. But sometimes I don’t feel his presence for whatever reason. I remember one time when I was particularly broken hearted for quite some time. In my anguish, I kept crying “God, where are you??” Finally, I heard Him say “I’ve been here all along.” At that time, and often since, I have truly felt His presence. So I know that even when I am feeling far away from God, He hasn’t gone anywhere, it is I who have strayed for some reason. He is patient, waiting for me to sense his presence again.
It is times when I am feeling far away from God that I hesitate to pray. I feel as though I’m saying “here is my laundry list for today.” I think to myself “But what have I done for you lately?” I know God isn’t tit-for-tat, but I want Him to know my gratitude, even if I’m not feeling it all of the time. I remember during my life praying so hard for things that I did not receive. And in most cases, I am relieved that I didn’t end up receiving those things, because God had a better plan. Even in the moments when I am not feeling God’s presence as deeply as I want, I know that He is there and I trust Him completely. I have also had prayers answered that I thought were impossible, but He can do the impossible, and has done so a few times in my life. God knows better than I do what I want and need.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:31-33
Yesterday, as I started prayer walking at the Lakefront, I noticed a lot of beauty, but no birds. That was a little disappointing. I began praying about many things, and suddenly, as I was walking, I found myself literally surrounded by beautiful butterflies, all fluttering and darting around me. What a gift!
Thank you, God. I was looking for birds and you sent butterflies. Something just as beautiful. A reminder that blessings will come in ways that are not expected. I’m still waiting on some answers, but I know they will come. In the meantime, thanks for the beautiful reminder of Your presence, which will never leave. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.
Psalm 104 is a praise to God for all of His beauty. Here it is in its entirety (NLT version):
Let all that I am praise the Lord.
O Lord my God, how great you are!
You are robed with honor and majesty.
2 You are dressed in a robe of light.
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
3 you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds.
You make the clouds your chariot;
you ride upon the wings of the wind.
4 The winds are your messengers;
flames of fire are your servants.[a]
5 You placed the world on its foundation
so it would never be moved.
6 You clothed the earth with floods of water,
water that covered even the mountains.
7 At your command, the water fled;
at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away.
8 Mountains rose and valleys sank
to the levels you decreed.
9 Then you set a firm boundary for the seas,
so they would never again cover the earth.
10 You make springs pour water into the ravines,
so streams gush down from the mountains.
11 They provide water for all the animals,
and the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds nest beside the streams
and sing among the branches of the trees.
13 You send rain on the mountains from your heavenly home,
and you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor.
14 You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth—
15 wine to make them glad,
olive oil to soothe their skin,
and bread to give them strength.
16 The trees of the Lord are well cared for—
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests,
and the storks make their homes in the cypresses.
18 High in the mountains live the wild goats,
and the rocks form a refuge for the hyraxes.[b]
19 You made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to set.
20 You send the darkness, and it becomes night,
when all the forest animals prowl about.
21 Then the young lions roar for their prey,
stalking the food provided by God.
22 At dawn they slink back
into their dens to rest.
23 Then people go off to their work,
where they labor until evening.
24 O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
teeming with life of every kind,
both large and small.
26 See the ships sailing along,
and Leviathan,[c] which you made to play in the sea.
27 They all depend on you
to give them food as they need it.
28 When you supply it, they gather it.
You open your hand to feed them,
and they are richly satisfied.
29 But if you turn away from them, they panic.
When you take away their breath,
they die and turn again to dust.
30 When you give them your breath,[d] life is created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
32 The earth trembles at his glance;
the mountains smoke at his touch.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will praise my God to my last breath!
34 May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
35 Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth;
let the wicked disappear forever.
Let all that I am praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!