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A Practice for Living Well

The soil was moist and cool and felt alive as I ran my fingers through it. I dug up a mum that had provided an interesting dome under the snow throughout the winter and replaced it with a pansy. I enjoy planting a couple of pansies as spring begins. They are hearty enough to survive the fickle climate of April and enliven our landscape with a pop of color.

This year as I sat down to play in the dirt there was something striking about the soil. Maybe it was just a reflection of my own soul’s desire to grow. The soil felt alive, fertile: ready to give life. I am craving conditions that lead to life right now myself.

In fact, that’s what everyone seems to be talking about — the wonder of spring. The world is literally coming to life all around us. Branches grey and bare one day are teaming with green sprouts the next. It reminds me of Jesus telling us to look at the birds of the air and to consider the lilies of the field and how they grow. (Matt 6:25-29)

Have you ever thought about that? Jesus doesn’t point to a giraffe or a peacock or a lion. All of these animals appear in the Bible and are much more grand. He asks us to notice the birds of the air. Amazingly, this is something we all can do. There are approximately 400 billion birds in the world. Given the world’s population, that’s about 40-60 birds for every person.* If we look, there is a very good chance we will see a bird. And when we do, what can it tell us?

We have so many things competing for our time. We can focus on our watch, our phone, our to-do list or the sparrow sitting in the tree or our neighbor who could use a helping hand. We know that God knows every hair on that sparrow and He knows us too. We are enough and have enough. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. (Ps 24)

This is of course one of the great secrets to living well. When you are worried or stuck or unsure, you can shift your focus from yourself and the weight of your circumstances to the bigger picture — the heavens that declare the glory of God. (Ps 19) We are part of something beyond ourselves. Something happens when you change your perspective. You find a new way of being when you take the focus off yourself and see the glory of God. You can “let yourself be unselfed” by beauty. ** God's beauty is not like a hidden treasure, it's all around us. Beauty can heal us and reveal the essence of life to us. God will provide the conditions necessary for growth and life. We belong to him, just as the birds and the lilies of the field. The very earth running through our fingers is alive.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish Rabbi, theologian, and philosopher survived WWII. He was born in Warsaw, Poland and escaped to the US before the Nazi invasion. His mother and sisters died in the Holocaust. Years later he shared: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”


** this phrase is from Barbara Brown Taylor



1. How can I see God providing what I need?

2. What treasures do I have in my life?

3. When I look out at the world today, what do I see that is amazing?

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