Surprised by God in NATURE

Surprised by God in NATURE

Surprised by GOD in Nature – Call to Worship (Responsive) by Macrina Wiederkehr

My bare feet walk the earth reverently

For everything keeps crying,

Take off your shoes

The ground you stand on is holy

The ground of your being is holy.

When the wind sings through the pines

Like a breath of God

awakening you to the sacred present

calling your soul to new insights

Take off your shoes!

When the sun rises above your rooftop

Coloring your world with dawn

Be receptive to this awesome beauty

Put on your garment of adoration

Take off your shoes!

When the Red Maple drops its last leaf of summer

wearing its “burning bush” robes no longer

read between its barren branches, and

Take off your shoes!

When sorrow presses close to your heart

begging you to put your trust in God alone

filling you with a quiet knowing

that God’s hand is not too short to heal you

Take off your shoes!

When a new person comes into your life

like a mystery about to unfold

and you find yourself marveling over

the frailty and splendor of every human being

Take off your shoes!

When, during the wee hours of the night

You drive slowly into the new day

And the morning’s fog, like angel wings

Hovers mysteriously above you

Take off your shoes!

Take off your shoes of distraction

Take off your shoes of ignorance and blindness

Take off your shoes of hurry and worry

Take off anything that prevents you

from being a child of wonder.

Take off your shoes;

The ground you stand on is holy.

The ground you are is holy.

Surprised by GOD in Nature

It is an unforgettable experience to walk into the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  It showcases the awe and wonder of arguably one of humanity’s most outstanding artistic achievements by Michelangelo, painted between c. 1508–1512.  The frescos represent the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Promise of Salvation through the prophets, and the genealogy of Christ.  Of the series of frescos, the Creation of Adam is by far the best known.

It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the panels depicting episodes from Genesis. 

On the one side, we see God as a loving Father with a warm bearded face, stretching out his whole body as far as possible to reach Adam.  The woman protected by God’s left arm is EVE!  The painting depicts the moment that God gives life to Adam by his outstretched out his arm and finger. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him” (Gen. 1:27).

On the other side, we find Adam’s response to God’s outstretched and life-giving gesture. There is a definite yet half-hearted reaction to God’s invitation. Adam also responds with his arm and finger outstretched to God, but note that it is not with the same intensity and surrender! His arm rests so on his knee, and his hand and finger hang half limp.

In this picture, we get an image of the heart of God.  A loving God who reaches out passionately to humankind, with eagerness to meet and give life!

Although God is hidden and veiled to our physical sight, God extends Godself to reveal GOD’s love and character to us. From the beginning and through the ages, God has stretched Godself out to every person to meet us and offer us LIFE!


The ways that God stretches Godself out to us is throughout CREATION and GODS WORD.  Today we focus on how God meets us in Nature! Just listen and see in your imagination Gods outstretched finger throughout all creation:

Psalm 19 **“NRSV-UE®.”  Listen to the words referring to communication:

The heavens are telling the glory of God,

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,

and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth

and their words to the end of the world.

Job 12:7-10

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?

10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all humanity.

Job 37:14-16

14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?

Rom. 1:20

“For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes—His eternal power and divine nature—have been seen, being understood through His workmanship…” (Romans 1:20, Amplified Bible)

Matt 6:25- 32

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

Did you notice what is happening here? God, who is hidden and veiled, extends Godself to reveal Godself to us. Humankind only knows and understands what is present within his world of experience. God enters the world to reveal Godself known to us.

Through all the ages, God stretched Godself out to us through all creation. Notice the “earthliness” of God’s revelation. God revealed Godself in the evening breeze, turpentine trees (Abraham), in a donkey, in silence, in a burning thorn bush, in fish, birds, and ordinary humans. Then God burst through the boundaries by becoming human in our world, in Jesus Christ! Do you realize how far God extends Godself to meet and bless us?

How unfortunate that our reaction to God’s outstretched finger is often with absence, blindness, and without passion and awareness.  We missed so many opportunities where we could have been surprised by God in unexpected places!


Job 37:14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders!”

Over and over and over, we are invited to wake up from our state of unconsciousness.  We are asleep while the wonder of God and life is all around us.

The reason we experience an absence of God because our senses are shut off!  “stop and consider God’s wonders.”  God is not just revealed here in the sanctuary, but also in the cathedral of the forest, the holy ground of every step you make as you touch the earth, …on the snow, the beauty of the birds, the dark bark of the trees, and cold fingers of the breeze.

Just stop and observe.

A student who, after three years of study, full of clever ideas, came to his teacher for his final exam to become a monk. Ready to answer the questions, he sits on the front of his chair in anticipation. The Teacher asked him: When you came in here, there were flowers at the door. What kind of flowers is it and on which side of the door was it, left or right? The pupil did not even notice the flowers! He had to get up and go out, knowing that he still needed another three years.

There are two ways we can live: Conscious –  Not/Unconscious.

When we live unconsciously: we do not see, hear, feel, smell or taste! Our minds usually blind us, so that we do not see the beauty of creation and experience the presence of God.

To live consciously is first to engage nature with your physical senses. If your senses are switched off, it will have a substantially detrimental effect on your relationship with God!

Use beginners mind as a way to live awake every day: Experience everything as if for the first time. Notice the colors, shadows, textures, flavors, sounds as if for the first time.  Even the blue sky. Look at every tree as if it is the first tree you have ever seen!

Live like a connoisseur of nature, fine-tuning your senses so that you can begin to pick up on the vibrations of God. When we live consciously, the senses become channels of encounters with God. It starts by simply harnessing our senses….Stop and look!

But this is only the first step in meeting God in unexpected places.  If your senses are awakened, you are then invited to look with eyes of faith.


When our spiritual eyes open with faith, we see God in Nature!

This “Nature Bible” is available for all people! Rom 1:19 ev. Simply sensory perception is, of course, is not experiencing God.  We can read nature to meet God in creation with faith and discernment. (2x)

We then realize God’s character as seen in Nature: Love for Creativity, Strength, Beauty, Attention to Detail, Tenacity, Order, Playfulness, and Love! 

PS 19 says that God communicates with us through every inch of nature.

After all, that’s what religion should be about, not just the times we come to worship, but all of life! Have you ever met God:

In the coo of a dove?

In the splendor of a flower?

In the laughter of a child?

In the hug of a friend?

The text from someone in your family?

in your work?

In a subject at school?

Have you ever met God in an icicle?

Did you feel God reaching out in a piece of music?

Even on a website on the internet?

Or maybe just in silence?

Did you ever notice how Jesus’ experience of God was also nurtured by his observation of the birds in the sky, the lilies of the field, the fig tree, seeds falling into the ground, light, water, wind, bread, wine, a vine, a shepherd, a door and all the people on his path? There was an openness in Him to meet his Divine Parent in life!

No wonder John Calvin urges us to meditate on creation to spot God’s goodness when he said: ” We must constantly think about it and consider it seriously in our spirit. “

We meet God in all creation:   in thousands of unexpected places:  The world is filled with the footsteps and fingerprints of God’s work! God’s presence can be experienced in spring and winter, winds and snow, rain and deserts, mountains, hills and stones, flowers, trees, and streams, art and stone buildings, in animals and birds… The footsteps of God’s presence and activity fill the world.

Let me remind you that the Belgic Confession says that we can know God through two means ….  First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity … And secondly by the Bible…Creation itself is the first incarnation of Christ, the primary and foundational “Bible” that reveals the path to God. — Richard Rohr

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) binds the two together when she says: (Jesus Christ as the Word)

The Word is life, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity.

This Word manifests in every creature. Now, this is how the spirit is in the flesh – the Word is indivisible from God [1].

Can you just imagine how life could be if you lived with this awareness? The whole day, wherever you are, God reaches out to you to meet you and teach you. 

Maybe just where you are now. What can you notice about nature?  Maybe, wood, flower, sky, sun, light, color, fruit, leaves, trees, or leaves?  Senses, Faith…

Martin Luther: God’s right hand must be present and active everywhere   – even in the tiniest leaf of a tree …  It is God who creates all things, who brings them about and upholds them by his almighty power and his right hand… But suppose He is to create and uphold. In that case, He must be present … in every creature, in its innermost and outermost being, all around, through and through, above and below, behind and in front, so that there can be nothing more present, nothing more intimately connected with every creature than God is his power.

 Athanasius (296–373) puts it this way: 

God was consistent in working through One [human] to reveal [God Himself] everywhere, as well as through the other parts of…  creation so that nothing was left devoid of… Divinity and [ God’s ]self- knowledge…so that the “whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea.” (Isaiah 11: 9).

The ”idea is not necessary to think about God in every moment but deeper awareness that God is there. That would not be practical. You have to focus on the task.

But as I was writing the sermon, my wife was upstairs in the house.  I am not thinking of her every moment, but I know she is present…. I drink from the cup of tea she made.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning formulated this truth  so elegantly:

Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God.

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

What does this tell you?

The message is not about who God is but also who you are.  It is a message to you!

Everything carries a message ABOUT GOD and FROM GOD TO YOU!

  • Flower: reveals something about God and you as detailed creation.
  • Breathtaking views: Tell something about God, but also your endless beauty.
  • Sun sign of light and warmth, God experiences to light through the sun and his warmth and light in you!
  • Looking at the fireplace, it says something about God’s warmth and power, but also the energy and passion in you!

A pigeon’s cooing always has a unique charm for me. I experience the peace of God in it.

If you live with such openness, you will be surprised by the gifts through creation. And the gift is internalized … it touches you deeply in your being with peace, presence, calmness, and love…


The Bible teaches us that in Christ, everything is connected!

There is only one Christ. He is everything, and he is in everything (Col 3:11“but Christ is all and in all!”). God in all, but He also transcends all of creation. 

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Col 1:19-20.

When all things are subjected to him, the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him so that God may be all in all. 1 Cor 15:28

The human mind cannot fully grasp this Eternal Mystery; it can only be received in faith.  (Ps 139:6. Eph 3:19-20) Not easily explained, it can just be experienced.

You are like a wave in the ocean. You are not the ocean, but you are nothing else than the ocean. You are not God, but you are nothing else than divine. Many people do not live according to their divine nature.

Much like a child in the womb of the mother.  The mother sustains the baby, but there is freedom in the womb to love or ignore the mother… God is not the Universe, but the Universe is in God…and deeply connected to God.

As Bill Plotkin says, spirituality becomes a “sinking back into the source of everything.” Suddenly we realize, of course, that God is not “out there,” but God is in all, through all, and with all.

No wonder Francis of Assisi called animals “Sister” and “Brother” and viewed humans as part of a broader family of creation. (even the sun and moon!)

Richard Rohr: “When you look your dog in the face, for example, as I often looked at my black Labrador, Venus, I genuinely believe you are seeing another incarnation of Divine Presence, The Christ. When you look at another person, a flower, a honeybee, a mountain – anything – you are seeing the incarnation of God’s love for you and the universe you call home.

Julian of Norwich: Most famous is her vision of the universe as she gazes into the smallness of a hazelnut. “This is everything that is.” That connection with the tree nut connects with the creation and with God.


>>> Practice: >>>> Radio tuned to station to pick up !!! Times of STOPPING needed to be present. >>> Step outside, look at your flowers, senses! Be quiet to be able to listen. Let them hear it practically.

Plant, Flowers, Leaves! Put flowers or plants in your room or garden; collect autumn leaves in the old room!Fruit basket. See flowers touch, touch, and smell,

Get to know nature: birds, trees


Eating with awareness of nature!

Live with seasons:

Summer: Time of Abundance

Autumn Experience change and temporality

Winter Taking stock

Spring Time of growth and wonders

Go to a nature park

Bird feeder as your sanctuary!Listen to bird sounds…

Cherish and enjoy trees: Just sit under one!

Meditate (God, man, nature)

Moon and stars& Smallest beetles, Ants& Sunrise! Sunset

Feel and experience wind and snow

Live “consciously” – feel: smell, see…

Pets are an unexpected special place to experience GOD!

The exciting thing about our spirituality is that we are going on a treasure hunt daily, seeking, discovering, using, and celebrating Him and His treasures!

If we allow Him to open our eyes, we will discover His treasures hidden in the ordinary. Treasures within us and treasures around us! That is why God reaches out to meet you daily around every corner.

A Life of Prayer is to see and experience God in everything. 

But if we are unaware, and we do not receive the treasures… As Jacob experienced: Gen 28:16, “Surely the Lord is on this place, and I was not aware of it!” 

Even a head on a rock can be a gate to heaven!


Walk, don’t run. That’s it.

Walk, don’t run.

Slow down, breathe deeply,

and open your eyes because there’s

a whole world right here within this one.

The bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire; it’s been burning the entire time.

Moses is simply moving slowly enough to see it.

And when he does, he takes off his sandals.

Not because the ground has suddenly become holy,

but because he’s just now becoming aware that the ground has been holy the whole time.

Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life, neither is busyness,

how many things you can get done in one day, or speed, or even success.

But waking, which leads to seeing,

now that’s something.

That’s the invitation for every one of us today,

and every day, in every conversation, interaction, event, and moment:

to walk, not run.

And in doing so, to see a whole world right here within this one.


Canticle of the Creatures

All praise be yours, My Lord
through all that you have made.

And first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day…
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright and precious and fair.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air…

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten up the night…

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us…and produces various fruits
With colored flowers and herbs…

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.
– Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

O Lord, grant us the grace to grow deeper in our respect of

And care for your Creation.

O Lord, help us to recognize the sacredness of all of your

Creatures as signs of your wondrous love.

Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thorn bush
Is aflame with your glory,

O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

– Hear our prayer as we pray for…

– We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray saying in one voice…


May the blessing of light be upon you, light on the outside and light on the inside.

With God’s sunlight shining on you, may your heart glow with warmth

like a turf fire that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
May the light of the Lord shine from your eyes like a candle in the window,

welcoming the weary traveler.
May the blessing of God’s soft rain be on you, falling gently on your head,

refreshing your soul with the sweetness of little flowers newly blooming.
May the strength of the winds of Heaven bless you,

carrying the rain to wash your spirit clean, sparkling after, in the sunlight.
May the blessing of God’s earth be on you and as you walk the roads,

may you always have a kind word for those you meet.

May you understand the strength and power of God in a thunderstorm in winter,

the quiet beauty of creation and the calm of a summer sunset.
And may you come to realize that insignificant as you may seem in this great universe, you are an important part of God’s plan.

May He watch over you and keep you safe from harm.


[1]Gabriel Uhle (ed.). Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen. ( Bear & Co, Santa Fe, NM, 1982, p49) as quoted in Earth Keeping in the nineties, p142.