Step 2 - Noticing God in Creation
TOOL 2: NOTICING
I will never forget the day I got my first set of glasses. I was fifteen and had previously been given the nick name ‘squinty’ by a Social Studies teacher who always thought his jokes were funnier than they really were.
As we drove home from the eye doctor that afternoon, I remember being glued to the window like a dog who had just been sprung from the shelter.
What was this new world I was seeing? With actual leaves on trees where green blobs once stood? Ones with clearly defined edges, grooves and more detail than I had ever seen?
I was miffed. My mind blown from all the clarity.
But the strange part was that prior to that, I had accepted my muddled vision as normal. I had no idea that I couldn’t see. How could I? I had nothing to compare it to.
As a parent, I want Ruth to always be equipped with the right lens to see God. Because I know if such a lens is in her toolbox and she knows how to use it, then she will have good protection from anyone rolling up and trying to feed her lies about things she can’t see.
Jesus made it clear throughout his ministry that creation was a perfect lens for such seeing. Showing time and time again through parables and teaching that God’s handiwork, the flowers, the trees, the creatures, even the dirt, all offered vivid illustrations of God’s nature. Ones we could hold on to and trust.
What I want to roll out this week is a bit like Pre-K Contemplation. Except for the fact that I tend to think kids are born into this world as natural contemplatives, and this place robs them of their sight. Making them unable to see the details and eventually spitting them out as adults with squints. People who can’t see and don’t even know it. A gradual loss of clarity. If they aren’t intentional about maintaining their vision, they may even become grown people who stare out in search of God and find only a fuzzy outline. And when that happens, its easy to fall for lies about the inside of that outline or to be convinced there is nothing there at all.
Adults have the task of learning how to wake back up. Kids need to be taught how not to fall asleep. No easy task in this world that is so full of distractions tempting them daily to stop paying attention and forget that they have eyes to see God in this world.
Which brings us to our next tool for this summer. Noticing God in Creation.
In our verse of the summer Jesus says,
“Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
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.”
I really love the Greek word being translated as ‘look’ in that first sentence. Its katamathete. To understand, take in a fact about, consider carefully. From kata and manthano; to learn thoroughly. (Strongs Greek)
This sounds so much more intentional than words like ‘look’ and ‘consider’ as we often see translated for this verse. What it really feels like to me here is a call to drop everything and pay attention to the story creation is teaching you about God. Learn it. Consume it. Understand it so thoroughly that you can’t shake this picture of God when things get difficult in life. Learn to see it in a way that cannot be unseen.
In the first chapter of The Good and Beautiful God, Falling in Love with The God Jesus Knew, author James Bryan Smith says,
“We are shaped by our stories. In fact, our stories, once in place, determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness. Once these stories are stored in our minds, they stay there largely unchallenged until we die. And here is the main point: these narratives are running (and often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get them right.”
Throughout this book, Smith tackles some of the many false narratives that people often believe about God, replacing them with the picture painted through the narratives told by Jesus. Those are the details that we need to cling to in a way that can’t be skewed.
Knowing to turn to creation for answers is one way to do this. Creation paints a very clear image of the God Jesus knew.
“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?”
AN ACTIVITY WITH FLOWERS & SEEDS
One fun activity is to grab an assortment of seed packets from your local garden supply store. What can we notice about God through a stack of seeds?
The Zinnias are rich, full-bodied flowers though their seeds feel flimsy. Strange considering the sturdy Sun Flower is their cousin. They are friends to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees who feast on their nectar all summer long. The Zinnia also defends our citrus trees from black flies. There is much more to a Zinnia than meets the eye.
The Calendula is a tiny but mighty little flower. Its related to the common marigold but its seeds look like dried up worms. Which is so silly we have decided. But besides providing beautiful yellow flowers all summer long the leaves can actually be used for a variety of topical and medicinal purposes. We are amazed.
Butterfly Weed has seeds that are bigger than their flower. We find this perplexing. Where do they even come from? This flower is a favorite at our house because it comes back year after year unlike so many of its associates. Our is also always full of butterflies. But more curious than that is the fact that Native Americans once boiled its pods to treat illness. Thank you, Wikipedia for this dose of knowledge. Also, it can be used to make candle wicks. And we thought it was just a pretty flower.
Nasturtium is one of my favorite seeds. I think because its recommended that you hit it with sandpaper before planting, softening its shell a little bit so it can germinate. Sometimes I feel the same about myself. Not only are these amazing little vines of flowers, but they are also essential in companion planting, protecting many against insects and disease. Also, you can eat it. Yum.
Finally, Bachelor’s Button is an amazing flower, but its seeds are bizarre. They look like tiny squid. Or fireworks. Who comes up with these designs? God. God came up with this stuff. Bachelor’s Button is actually commonly known as cornflower because it loves to grow in corn fields, and sadly its endangered in its native form because of herbicides used against it.
Lots to consider about this strange assortment of seeds and The One who created them.
Find a minute and a friend, head outside and see what you can notice about the God of Creation. Go on a scavenger hunt. Consider a lily. Stand and study a really big tree. Go to the zoo or an aquarium. Or, just take a trip to your nearest grocery store and check out the produce section. Look at all of the colors, textures, purposes and variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds and then consider the God who made them all.