It was time to take the dog for a walk. As soon as I stepped outside, I heard the neighborhood owl hooting. Our yard is alive with critters. We have many moles. We often see deer in the yard and they leave their evidence all over the yard. Then there are the birds. So, many birds call our backyard and the surrounding area home.
I like to walk the dog. I often find it is a time to think about the day, pray, or just think. I had a lot churning around in my heart and mind today. I was thinking about the odd and alarming Facebook conversation I generated today.
Today is the first day of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday. Being rather new to liturgical calendars and worship, I still come to these days with a lot of thought, prayer, and seriousness. Perhaps that is the only way to approach a holy season of fasting, penance, reflection, and service.
I chose not to give up something but to add instead. I decided to be more consistent in my spiritual disciplines of prayer and scripture reading. I purposed to use this time to be positive and ask God to cultivate within me the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23:
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (The Message)
Thinking I might encourage others to reflect during this season, I posted something on Facebook. Immediately someone felt it necessary to question Lent. Was this just Catholic? Why was I doing this? It got rather ugly. I was so sad.
As I walked around the yard, I thought about the comments. I thought about my desire to draw close to the Lord. I thought about the birds that seem to offer their morning and evening prayer faithfully every day. I thought about all the passages in the Bible that talk of creation praising God. I thought of the beautiful passage in Revelation – a rare glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 4:13):
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (TNIV)
It made me wonder. What religion is my dog? What religion are the birds? What religion is the deer hiding in the woods? Does the mole praise God too? Do those eagles that fly so high over my house and astound me know God? And, that owl, is he hooting his evening praise as well?
It seems easy as I think about the beauty and the simplicity of creations praise to God. Perhaps they are calling me to worship. Perhaps the deer and the mole join in praise to their Creator without asking what religion are the birds. Could it be that this is the key to a relationship with God, to just come to Him and offer your worship and praise. Okay, I know there are times when doctrine and orthodoxy are needed but today I just want the simplicity of worship.
As the trees of the field clap their hands, the lilies grow without worry, and the sparrow knows that God’s eye is on her, they all offer thanks to the Creator. And my dog, she shows a depth of unconditional love I’ve never experienced. She reminds that God loves me. I think she has a good religion. She knows how to love.
He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. 1 John 4:8 (AMP)