A quick walk around my garden revealed all the bulbs that are pushing their green stems up. Buds are everywhere thriving on bushes, even in the frosty cold weather. Nature’s cycles in this fallen world remind us that we too, living in this fallen world, need times of rest, times of pushing up toward the sun, awaiting the sap that will run as spring approaches.
One of my favorite hymns was written by Joachim Neander in the 1600s. He kept the habit of daily walks, time for his body to enjoy light exercise, to let his mind rest from other employment, to let his soul delight in our Creator and LORD. If you are seeking renewal yourself, wanting more of the abundant life our Savior holds out to us in the gospel, this is but one means of grace you may want to incorporate.
A daily walk, why not! Put the phone down, walk away from common distractions. Hear the sounds of creation, take in the sights and smells of creation, and enjoy a few moments of feeling your blood pressure lowering, and your anxious thoughts fading. No time for a walk? How about a moment standing about in your yard? How about sitting on a park bench? Or perhaps stepping out to enjoy the night sky?
During Joachim Neander’s walks, he prayed, mused upon the Scriptures, and incidentally composed beautiful hymns. One such hymn, the favorite I mentioned earlier:
1. Praise to the Lord,
The Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.
2. Praise to the Lord,
Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings,
Yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen
How all your longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
3. Praise to the Lord,
Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness
And mercy here daily attend thee.
What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.
4. Praise to the Lord,
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath,
Come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.Public Domain
Away from your own daily employment and distractions, you too will experience the Spirit’s renewal–more able to think spiritual thoughts, to pray, and to find time to meditate on the Word. Personally I love these times of prayer, and of praising the LORD for what I see and hear; but also of reviewing passages I’ve memorized, and pouring out my heart before Him.
Teaching our children to take up this habit can be fun as well–we shout out some of our favorite family memory verses on hikes, and sing hymns. We take only a few minutes (sometimes this doesn’t work, to be honest) to listen to a creek, listen to a bird, point out flowers or fungi or creatures (we have found some pretty cool frogs and turtles and skinks and snakes and insects…), and praise God for what we see. Or I send them out to the yard, and ask them to find signs of the season, and to spend a moment in prayer.
From Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ, page 75
[as we grow] we put off the old and put on the new, renewed in our inner person, we will also find ourselves pitted in battle against the world. Not creation per se, but all that once honored God in the garden, but now loves darkness, destruction, decay, deceitfulness, and blasphemy. The world comes at us mostly as ideas, shouted in our direction, emblazoned on billboards, and smoothly slipping into our minds as we delight in a little entertainment, be it book, movie, video game, social media, or careless conversion…
We cannot enjoy the renewal we long for unless we participate, obeying His call to put off the old self, and put on the new. One small part of this is carving out time, and allowing ourselves the flexibility so that we don’t see this time as a new law we must keep.
We need to get outside, even in winter, and intentionally set our minds in this way, if we are going to overcome that battle–and live renewed, abundant, flourishing lives.
For some this will mean admitting that you have trained your mind and body to hate being in God’s creation. No more excuses, let that mindset go, and find a time and a place to get outside.
For others this means you will need to find practical ways to make this happen: buy long underwear for winter, buy rain boots and slicker, buy wool socks that won’t chafe, buy some good sandals for summer hikes (I love my Keens!).
In our later years, when our days are coming to an end, to recall all the beautiful moments spent with our LORD in this way will sustain, even as you ponder your heavenly home that awaits when all things will be made new–that time when you will find yourself face to face with your God, walking in the new heavens and new earth, delighting in unbroken fellowship.
“This renewal grants us…new affections. Our affections are set free from lies, from idols, from insecurities. The tribulations we [now] walk through can cloud our thinking…abiding in His Word and looking to Him for renewal undoes the damage of these tribulations…” page 72