Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Call of the Great Outdoors by Veronica Bright

Trees, flowers, insects, birds – they have a lot to tell us about God.
I read recently a report in the i newspaper that ‘children today spend less than half as much time playing outside than their grandparents did.’ Also, that ‘the National Trust has found that this decline of outdoor play is resulting in a disconnect with nature.’

This is, of course, a widely general observation, and doesn’t apply to all children. It’s nevertheless worrying. In Called by God, a booklet of readings and reflections for each day of the month based on the Lee Abbey Rule of Life, I read, ‘We are called by God to look around us continually with eyes wide open; God is constantly revealing himself to all people through his creation.’

The back-up is provided in the first two verses of Psalm 19.
‘The heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
Night after night they display knowledge.’

Several years ago, my husband, son and I were eating our evening meal in a hotel on the seafront in Treburden, on the north Brittany coast. The restaurant was full and the windows overlooked the seafront. The sun began to go down, producing one of the most spectacular sunsets we have ever witnessed. Visualise the sky. You don’t need words, do you? They aren’t enough, or else they’re too much of a cliché. All the diners in the restaurant stopped eating. They stood up, watching the colours change. They left meals cooling on the table, eyes fixed on the sky. And as night finally won the battle with day, everybody in the restaurant burst into spontaneous applause. They were thanking God whether they knew it or not.

‘God is constantly revealing himself to all people through his creation.’

All people – from every country, every faith, every culture.
It’s easier for some people to spot him, of course. The woman who cooks a meal for her children, on a noisy traffic island in Calcutta hasn’t got much of a chance. Neither has a boy in a high rise flat in a crowded city nearer home. Perhaps he gets to a park once in a while.

When I worked in a village school years ago, we used to sing the following hymn in assembly (as it was called then)

‘Daisies are our silver. Buttercups our gold
This is all the treasure we can have or hold.’

These are still some of the most precious things in our lives. Along with bees in the lavender, swifts high in the sky on summer evenings, bats searching for insects at dusk.

For people like me, a beautiful moment in nature was, is, or may be, the beginning of a relationship with God.


  1. What a beautiful way to start the day, reading this. Thank you Veronica

  2. Thank you Veronica. I've just spent ten days babysitting my grandchildren, with one day off to visit Anglesey Abbey (National Trust). My observation is that children their age (nearly 4 and eight months) do play outside, on swings and other play equipment.

    There were also a lot of families with young children at Angelesey Abbey, having picnics and playing ball games and the older ones were doing the various 'activities' set up by NT. However, Anglesey Abbey is near Cambridge and most of the children seemed to be from middle-class families.

  3. Love that restaurant story!

  4. All heaven declares the glory. I am always struck by stunningly beautiful places that are also remote and mostly unpeopled. God does not need our admiration or appreciation. He does what he does because he can. And he does it superbly. We can only stand in awe.