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A Practice for Living Well


The moist and cool soil 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 something was 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.


That’s what everyone seems to be talking about — the wonder of spring. The world is 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)


It is Interesting that Jesus 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?


Jesus tells us that the birds you see have not stored away food, but they will have what they need. God will take care of them. Living in the midwest, in the heart of winter it can be so cold that children stay home from school, yet even on those days, if you look, you will notice birds, often the smallest of birds, flocking together on the beaches of trees. They know that there is one who will take care of them.   God knows every feather on those little birds and He knows us too.



What can we learn from the birds of the air? Trust. The birds are not concerned about what they will eat or where they will live. They trust it will be provided. They start the day with a song of praise and fly free throughout the air, without the weight of worry.



And there is something else. Focusing our attention on something as small as a sparrow encourages us to notice the beauty all around it - a twisting branch, a flowering bush, the green grass, the splendor of lilies growing in a field, and more. When you stop and get a glimpse of the beauty all around you, it changes you. Beauty can expand your vision. It can help you see more and feel more alive. When you realize you are part of something beyond ourself, you can “let yourself be unselfed” by beauty. ** This can lead to hope and peace.



God's beauty is not like a hidden treasure, it's all around us. The very earth running through our fingers is alive. We can trust and not be afraid. We have so many things competing for our time. We can focus on our watch, our phone, our to-do list, and the weight of the world. Or, we can see the sparrow sitting in the tree, or a neighbor ready to lend a helping hand.



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.”



Jesus says, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." ***

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* www.amnh.org

** this phrase is from Barbara Brown Taylor

***Matthew 6: 34, MSG




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