He restoreth my soul. The soul needs restoring, refreshing, renewing. The constant pressure of labor in one’s calling must at some regular intervals be interrupted by a pause that refreshes. Our Lord Himself, in His infinite wisdom, so counseled: Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile. This He deemed necessary because of the incessant stress of coming and going with no leisure so much as to eat. Hence, there are times when in our busy round of toil and care we must take care to come apart and rest awhile or we may come apart. The needed rest, one, a grey-beard, finds in twenty minutes of running three times a week. But since life today is so characterized by hurry, why, it may be asked, take up running to gain that needed refreshing? Why not, rather, take the time to notice the flora and fauna, to smell the flowers? Even though creation’s glorious characters are large enough so that he that runneth may read, much is missed in the flurry and scurry of life. The world is a beautiful place; as Moses wrote in Genesis One, very beautiful. But in the mad pace of our Western life-style we are all too often heedless of the beauty fashioned by the divine artisan. Then we feel guilty when we give it some regard. But since the human mind is more intricately wonderful than the most complex computer and the most expensive and fastest high speed lens camera, not much time is needed to mentally photograph refreshing images, the restoring influences of which remain for long times to come. This is especially so when there is a regular renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2).
Then what blissful relief there is in the unforgettable glimpse and momentary visit of wild Yellow-billed parrots in the back yard trees, while out front the trees are full of Streamer-tailed Hummingbirds and tiny Vervain Hummers, smaller than a huge black native wasp! A little farther along the road, some Smooth-billed Anis brings delightful surprise. Come ye apart and see how He sendeth the stirrings into the valleys, how they run among the hills, how that beside them the birds of the heaven have their habitation, and from them these ethereal sprites wet their throats and whet their tongues to sing among the branches. How beautiful and refreshing; and all in less than an hour!
He causes the springs of waters to flow
In streams ‘mid the hills and valleys below;
Beside them with singing the birds greet the day,
And there the beasts gather, their thirst to allay
Another, a hoary head, gets away from it all to rest awhile in the regular relaxing activity of swimming. How refreshing to body, mind, and soul this is, only the swimmer himself can appreciate. But an indoor pool can be so boring. Not so a swim in the sea with an indispensable face mask. Then lovely vistas of the undersea world amaze the adoring eye. There, close, schools of tiny tropical fish of iridescent purple or delicate saffron speed by. Without a snorkel, there’s a tendency to hold the breath too long with so much to see; so, not getting sufficient oxygen and the hot sun beating down, a sickish feeling develops. The opposite of refreshment, it might be thought, but the memorable recall of it all refreshes over and over. So the sight of a triple brace of sea-lions in another ocean, or a lone cavorting sea-otter entertaining with comical antics, are all rewarding spectacles.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hands
And eternity in an hour!
— William Blake
There is this great and wide sea wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. These wait all upon Thee, that Thou mayest give them their food in due season. So nature, providence, and the holy and divine Scripture teach us to wait on the Lord in prayer for our daily bread, for our spiritual food in the preaching of the Word and the sacraments within the confines of the true church, where we may expect our spiritual nurture.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide. A quiet evening, a lovely field is an ideal place for getting off alone, for walking alone and sitting alone to meditate, pray, and acquaint ourselves with God. How pleasant to drink in the wide expanse of the darkening heavens, to listen to twilight prairie song! The Lord provides His own unique doses of refreshment and entertainment to relieve the fatigue and burden of the day. There in the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul. For then the presence of God is so much enjoyed. The field itself is full of wildlife, the sky above full of glory. In (the view of) His temple, the whole of it (i.e., the entire universe) is declaring, ‘Glory!’ (Ps. 29:9Heb.).
One wonders whether Isaac’s field could be described as follows. “Texas is so varied that a birder simply cannot know all the good birding places in it. It is bigger than life. Too varied, too complicated, it is necessary to pick and choose from the enormous wealth of places where birding is excellent or unique or secret.” There the prairie sings with myriads of Canada and Snow Geese, Cattle and Common Egrets, Turkey and Black Vultures, Marsh, and Sparrow Hawks, Sandpipers, Snipes, Long-billed Curlews, Crows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Killdeer, Avocets, Louisiana Heron, Loggerhead Shrikes, the Meadowlark, Mockingbirds and the Yellow-legs. With all this, a bird-lover all but goes out of his mind, so much it is to take in in one day; and this is but a small dot on the gigantic Texan segment of God’s glorious creation! Of all this, what do motor bike riders know? what do they see? what do they hear? What do they esteem of the book of nature who never sense the feel of it?
Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. That is to have a very high aim — the highest. Some birds are intriguing and well-known imitators, as the Mockingbirds, the Catbirds, and the Brown Thrashers. Catbirds with voice pitched low can sound like the distant piping of the Flicker. However, the Song Sparrow’s “Quick-quick-quickee! Emergen-cee-ee!” is inimitable. But, would you believe it, Starlings are also apt imitators! Just outside the dining room window a pair of Starlings perch, one with beak almost vertical and spread wide open to pour forth its repertoire of imitations of Robin, Cardinal, Catbird, in fact a song so catbirdish you would surely have taken it for a Catbird, and then closing with sounds something like the Mina bird’s whistle. Occasionally one is privileged to witness a unique display of bird behavior. But imagine a shabby, speckly, black robber imitating a Cardinal! So some pretty low sinners hypocritically cloak themselves in the pompous piety of a prelate. Christ alone is a model without blemish. Imitate Him and all who closely follow Him.
Not nature itself, not anything of the world, but the spiritual gift and ability to read parables divine revealed in the creation do comfort the soul. So field or Kleinstuckwald in snow-laden winter becomes a haven from the strife of tongues and the crashing din of sin in the world. The woods ring with the crow of the cock pheasant; Black-capped Chickadees twitter high aloft; the noisy Titmouse proclaims its presence; the Redpolls and Purple Finches make it a red letter day; a Tohee scratches on the leafy forest floor; Pine Siskins appear, then vanish; a small flock of Cedarbirds eats its way through the winter berries lading the bushes; while ubiquitous Juncos lead the way on our path! The death of winter teems with life! Ask the birds of the air and they shall tell thee. But He maketh us wiser than the birds of heaven. The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed time, and the turtle-dove and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their doming; but My people know not the judgment of the Lord. The birds observe the approach of winter: do we the winter of judgment? O how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all. The earth is full of Thy riches!
Of all the many references made in the Bible to nature, the singing of birds is mentioned only three times. Yet in the loud and lovely song emitted from their tiny throats, we think miracles have not ceased. It must be most glorious music that is reserved for the saints in heaven, since the Lord allows wicked men such music on earth! For although the birds sang before man was created, man will sing glory to God when those birds are no more. I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord. Psalm 104 is the great oratorio of creation and ends with a prayer for the new creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth: Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and lets the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul, Hallelujah!
Rejoicing in God, my thought shall be sweet,
While sinners depart in ruin complete;
My soul, bless Jehovah, His Name be adored,
Come, praise Him, ye people, and worship the Lord.