But Ask the Animals and They Will Teach You
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;8 ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. Job 12:7-10(NRSV)
In March of 2014, I embarked upon my first trip to the Grand Canyon in Phoenix Arizona with a dear friend. As I approached the mouth of the canyon, I was struck with awe at the beautiful sight that lay before me and I gasped for breath. The pictures of the canyon that I had seen previously could not adequately capture the spectacle of it and I imagined that God had chiseled this amazing work of art in earth and stone for all to see. The wonder of the experience was best captured by a little boy who had simultaneously arrived at the canyon with his family. “Oh Wow,” he exclaimed! “I know, right,” I responded with equal excitement.
In the hours that followed, as my friend and I trekked through nature's wonder, we encountered a tree that had not yet received its spring foliage. Lighted upon the tree was a beautiful black bird whose fanned tuff of feathers around its head, and beautiful singing voice caught our attention. We stopped to listen to it sing and I couldn’t resist the urge to sing along so I launched into the song Simple Gifts.The black bird immediately stopped singing and cocked its head as if listening to me. Fearing that I had disturbed its song, I fell silent. The black bird began to warble again. Intrigued, I began to sing again too. The bird stopped its song, cocked its head curiously; so this time, I just kept right on singingfor a while. As soon as I stopped, the bird resumed its musical discourse. Pretty soon a crowd formed around that tree as the bird and I sang our little duet. Eventually, I had to move on but that moment felt divine. For just a moment, I felt one with nature and with God. I said goodbye to the bird as I moved along, and thanked it for sharing such a wonderful gift with me. As an afterthought, I wondered what would happen to that bird, and then, I thought about all of the birds, and animals, and plants, and nature’s wonders that we humans carelessly attend and realized that nature was not just put here for us to use and enjoy; but that, we…that I was put here to care for nature.
Prayer: God of the trees and forests, rivers and seas, hills and vales, and the creatures that walk the earth, during this season of Advent help us to remember the earth in all of its fullness is yours, and that we are stewards of the abundant life you have given. And just as the star that shown over Bethlehem lit the way to the place where the Christ child lay, giving hope to a world in need, help us to be the lights that guide others to see that all you have created is truly precious.
Donna R. Phillips is a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has served in the Music Department of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky for over 20 years, formerly as Children’s Choir Director and currently as Adult Handbell Choir Director. Donna was also the Music Programs Coordinator at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky from 2000 to 2015. In addition, Donna is a Singer, Composer, and Playwright.