Psalm 23

10 Ways to Find Joy in the Outdoors

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Woman enjoying the outdoors at sunset
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Taking care of the environment is all the rage these days.  We are all called to pick up and recycle our trash, buy the battery powered cars, and to minimize our footprint.  The pressure is on to prove to the world that we can be a better steward of our natural resources than our neighbor.  But did you know that this isn’t a new concept?  God created Adam to live in community with Him, but after doing so He gave him the responsibility of looking after all that He had created.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food… The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it… Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So, the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.   

Genesis 2:8-9,15,19-20

The Outdoors is God’s Gift

God’s purpose in creating the earth, was as a gift to mankind, who He created for the purpose of glorifying Him.  He loved us, so that we would, in turn, love Him. 

Caring for the environment is not a new concept
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made…The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.   

Isaiah 43:6b-7,20-21

And just like any gift that we receive from a loved one, we should cherish it, care for it, and enjoy it.

So, what are some of the many ways that we can show our appreciation for God’s beautiful gift?

Hikers in the great outdoors

1. Explore the Outdoors

There are so many ways you can make this happen:  Take a Sunday drive, vacation to a new land, frequent the National and State Parks.  My brother and his wife are the greatest example of this.  They have flown all over the world, visiting many different countries (sleeping in the back of their car), but they have also spent a significant amount of time exploring the various parks, mountains and forests closer to home.  They do their best to stay away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and to instead really get to know the environment as it was intended.

I experienced another version of this in teaching my kids earth science this year.  We did a brief study on the anatomy of caves and were able to visit a gorgeous cavern that is close by our home.  The kids were blown away by the formations inside and were wowed by the bats flying around far above our heads.

You don’t need to travel far to explore.  Chances are, there are some really cool things to see within walking distance!  Last year, we did a little bit of nature journaling in our own backyard.  My daughter took her time drawing lovely color pictures of all of the plants and creepy crawlers that crossed her path.  My son took his one #2 pencil and wrote short, factual lists of all that he saw.  Both of them experienced our backyard in a way that they hadn’t before.  They saw things they’ve never noticed.  This is exploring in its best sense.

2. Camping & Hiking in the Great Outdoors

Growing up my parents couldn’t afford to take us on extensive vacations.  But they could afford a few camping trips each year.  Those experiences gave me a deep appreciation for the smell of pine needle dirt, the sound of the wind moving in the trees and of chipmunks chattering, and the taste of huckleberries freshly picked.

Now that I’m grown with kiddos of my own, we don’t necessarily camp in the same way (I now approach the activity from the comfortable bed of my very own travel trailer), but the sights and sounds are the same.

Again, you don’t have to go far to experience a great camping trip or a day hike.  We usually don’t travel more than an hour and a half in any direction.  Even within the city, you can probably go on a long walk and see some glimpse of God’s creation.

Even the created will praise Him
Day hike outdoors

3. Oceans and Lakes

I know that not all are lucky enough to live near some sort of body of water, but few can deny the draw that it has on us.  There is a reason that over 70% of travelers prefer to spend their vacations on the coast, and that in 2019 the pre-COVID cruise industry contributed over $150 billion to the world economy.

Some are drawn to the northern coasts, with their rocky shorelines and ice-cold water, while other are drawn to the warmer climates and sandy beaches.  In our area, there are a few lakes that draw the locals.  Water has so many incredible uses – for our own health, for the survival of plants and animals, for the utility of our homes, but we are blessed to be able to use it for our recreation as well!  (Which leads us to our next adventure.)

4. Boating

This is a gift that my husband, Bruce, brought into our home.  Growing up, the only boats that I had experienced were ski boats on the local lakes in the summer (which, if you haven’t had the privilege, these are a lot of fun), or a large raft that my youth group used to float in down the river in.  I had no idea then, that boats would later become a big part of my life.

Shortly before we were married, a friend of ours bought a couple of sit-on-top recreational kayaks (affiliate link), and oh my they were fun!  These are shorter, more stable kayaks, that you sit on top of rather than deep inside.  Without hesitation, we agreed that our wedding gift money would be spent on a pair of these kayaks. 

We took them down the river many times, and on one of our larger lakes once.  But our favorite use of them was to drive the hour and a half up into the California mountains early in the morning.  There, we would launch them onto a small lake fed by crystal clear snowmelt.  Bruce would paddle his over to the right side of the lake to fish in the shadows of the solid rock wall that framed the backside of the water.  But for me, my favorite thing was to take my book.  I would paddle, then read, then glance up to a scene that always took my breath away.  This lake, in these moments, was where the peace of God met me.

The earth is not the one who loves us.  It is just a gift.

River Babies!!

Fast forward many years, after our kids were born, and Bruce decided to upgrade.  After months of research, he had the perfect Lowe boat built for our little family.  From that moment on, our summers have been filled with weekends on the river.  My kids are familiar with the sound of a bald eagle’s wings as it engages us in a race, with the size of branch that a beaver can carry into his hole, and with the many colors of a rainbow trout.

But you don’t need a big, fancy boat to enjoy the activity.  My sister recently bought an inflatable paddle board (affiliate link) that she takes to the lake (I’ve also seen others paddle these down the river and it looks like they’re having a lot of fun). My brother has an inflatable kayak (affiliate link) that packs up small and has been taken as far as Glacier National Park and through the ice-filled waters of a little lake in the Sierras. The boat is over ten years old and has still yet to receive a patch! 

Playing in the outdoor grass

There are many other sail boats, canoes, and innertubes that can be used to enjoy the water as well.  But what you use in the water isn’t the point, the important thing is to just get out and enjoy it!

5. Hunting and Fishing the Outdoors

This one is controversial, I know.  To be fully transparent, I don’t hunt….or fish.  But Bruce does.  There are a lot of people who would argue that this is not a means to enjoy the outdoors, but to destroy it.  Even though this is not the way I would choose to spend my own time, through my marriage I have been thrown into this world, and have come to know it well.  Let me share with you how my husband sees these activities.

God gave the animals to man to care for, but also to eat.  Yes, we can get our food from the grocery store these days, but there is something about being able to provide for your family the way that God first intended that connects a man to his Creator.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”   

Genesis 1:28
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Acts 10:13-15

When Bruce hunts for deer or coyote, he goes out before down, finds a quiet spot in a grove of trees or a patch of tall grass, he watches the sunrise, and he waits.  It has been in these moments where the peace of God has met him.  He gets as much joy out of the quiet as he does out of the adrenaline of man vs. beast.

More times than not, he comes home empty handed.  But he does not come home dejected.  Because he has been filled with the presence of God himself.

Earth is a gift from God
10 ways to find joy in the outdoors

6. Pets

Ha, now this is the one Bruce would argue with!  Five years ago, our dog, Ruger, was born.  He is a purebred chocolate lab, and we all had high hopes for his skills.  Unfortunately, he failed us on every one of them!  We had even paid extra for the additional training before we brought him home….ugh!!  He is the only lab I know that doesn’t chase a ball, let alone fetch, and doesn’t know how to jump!  So much for my husband’s hunting dog!!!

But he has brought our family so much joy.  He is soft, warm and cuddly.  He is extremely mild tempered (so much so that the vet begged us to not have him fixed for fear of ruining his personality!)  He sleeps with my daughter at night, and never leaves my side during the day.

God intended for us to have pets (whether they are working animals or not).  He intended for animals to bring us joy and comfort.  But we were also intended to care for them well.

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.   

Proverbs 12:10

7. Gardening and Homesteading

Homesteading is super popular right now.  I have many friends who grow their own produce, tend their own chickens, collect honey from their backyard hives, and make sourdough from a starter passed down through generations.  These things are not my things.  But I see the beauty in them.

God created us to live symbiotically with the land.  If we tend it with care, it will in turn provide care to us. 

8. Bring the Outdoors In!!

Who doesn’t love a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting in their entryway or on their kitchen counter??  Every girl has their favorites, for me its irises and daffodils, and when you bundle them together……perfection.

I recently discovered that Bouqs (affiliate link) offers a monthly subscription package.  How tempting!!  A unique and gorgeous bouquet of your favorite flowers sent to your door on a regular basis!?  Sign me up!!

God created us to live symbiotically with the land
Calm pond with rocks outdoors

If flowers aren’t your thing, maybe house plants are!  Personally, I kill even the hardiest of succulents.  (My record, was this past Mother’s Day when I killed a potted plant that I had purchased for my mom’s new house in less than 24 hours!!  Who does that!?  I had to take it over dried and wilted the next morning….oh the shame.)

My sister-in-law, on the other hand, has a house full of the most robust plants you’ve ever seen.  She has real talent, and I envy her ability to provide a thriving environment for her beauties. 

9. Recreate it Artistically

“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery” right!?  Of course, it is!  So, whether your imitation of God’s creation is in a painting, a photograph, or a poem, please don’t hold back!  He loves when His people delight in His glory.

The Psalmists did this on a regular basis:

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
    God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
    having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.

Psalm 65:5-8

10. Care for the Environment

To pick up where we started, caring for the environment is not a new concept.  God put man in charge of the earth and all that is in it.  This means that we should care for it well, and not disrespect the Gift-giver by disrespecting the gift.  We should care for it because He created it.

This can be done in so many ways. Ways that we hear about all of the time, from all of the sources.  When you carry items in that become trash, carry the trash back out.  Recycle what you can, use biodegradable when you can, choose to leave a smaller carbon footprint when you can.

Again, my brother and sister-in-law do this well.  They care so much for this world around them, I have seen them put all of this and more into action.  I could personally do better in this area and would do well to learn from their example.

There is only one who is constant

By doing these things and more, you are honoring God by taking care of what He has provided for us.  By doing these things, you are leaving an environment in which others can in turn find joy.

Beautiful pink flower

Worship the Creator, Not the Creation

In all these things, it is easy to get swept away with the beauty and majesty of it all.  It’s easy to forget that the earth is not the one who loves us.  It is just a gift. 

The One who loves us, the Gift-giver, created all of this for His glory.  Our gift is to enjoy it and to live by it while on earth.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.   

Colossians 1:15-16

There is not a thing on this planet that has been created without God’s intervention.  We cannot give credit to another, whether to worship in religion or to praise in science.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.   

John 1:3

Nobody recognizes this more than the creation itself.  The Bible says that even the created will praise Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.   

Psalm 19:1
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.   

Isaiah 55:12

It is important to enjoy the world around you.  But if that enjoyment, or the focus on preservation, gets in the way of your focus of God, you have a problem.  There is no other that deserves your attention.  There is no other that demands majesty.

Recycle what you can, use biodegradable when you can, choose to leave a smaller carbon footprint when you can. #respectgodsgift
He who forms the mountains,
    who creates the wind,
    and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord God Almighty is his name.   

Amos 4:13
Desert hills

A New Focus

So many place their focus on taking care of the earth as the most important thing in life.  While I agree that it is important, and we should do our best to preserve what we have for generations to come, God has given us a new focus.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful…Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.   

1 Corinthians 4:1-2,5

The “mysteries God has revealed” refers to the unveiling of Jesus as God in human form, come to earth to sacrifice Himself for our wrongs.  This is the new focus.  Yes, we are still called to be good stewards of what He has given, but the more important thing is the people He came to save.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.   

Luke 12:6-7

God’s focus has always been on His people.  And He wants our focus to be on His people as well. 

Our earth is temporary.  There is nothing you can do to extend its life because it was always meant to be temporary.  To try is a waste of time.  Before any of us were a mere glimmer in our mother’s eye, God ordained it to be so.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.   

Revelation 21:1,5-7
10 Ways to Find Joy in the Outdoors

It is a blessing to be able to enjoy the world around us, to be able to experience the recreation of it.  But it is important to place our focus on who really matters.  There is only One who will remain to the end.  There is only One who is constant.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  

Isaiah 40:8

For more information on who God is, and what He could mean for your life, please see the blog post, Why is Jesus Important?  Please know that I’ll be praying for you as you embark on this crucial journey!

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