|Opening the Book of Nature
People often ask, "What is Opening the Book of Nature?"
To address this question, we invited a dozen OBN facilitators to address this question of its meaning.
What is OBN?
What does it mean to you?
Don Wallace, Denver, Colorado:
OBN is a way to know God through His presence in creation. He is in all creation, so it is a vital part of Gods revelation. "His sheep hear His voice." Theres a purity in creation that often doesnt come through in pulpit preaching. In creation there is no hidden agenda. Gods presence in creation becomes an authentic means for knowing and loving God. It is a means for valuing creation this is not utilitarian and not rationalistic. There is a very definite healing dimension to experiencing God in creation. We live in a very fractured and confused society; we need to reorient into this non-fabricated environment. Nature is honest. As I connect to nature, I have experienced an increased sense of who I am and who I am in relation to creation.
Jim Davidson, St. Paul, Minnesota
OBN is an spiritual exercise which moves the participant from the mundane experiences of everyday life - to the experiencing of sacred moments. In a way, OBN might best be described as experiencing the Sabbath as it was meant to be experienced. A time to disconnect from the pressing jobs that consume us. A time to listen to God. A time for praise. A time for thanksgiving.
All of existence can be described in the modern terms, Space and Time. Western man is a master at filling space - with stuff. Our economy and life styles are dedicated to this task. And what do we sacrifice to succeed in this endeavor? Time.
OBN is an exercise in slowing down. In quieting down. In listening to God. In short, in experiencing sacred time in a way most participants have never experienced it. For many, it is powerful. For some, life changing.
Allen Johnson, Dunmore, West Virginia
I have facilitated and participated in several Opening the Book of Nature events, and what has most impressed and pleased me is this: Quite a few folk have been surprised by having intimate encounters with God. I believe there is a longing in the hearts of people for intimacy. Intimacy with one another, intimacy with nature, intimacy with the pulse of life. But this all begins and flows out of intimacy with God. Communing with God in nature seems to be a pathway for a number of people to experience an intimate moment with God, and this is indeed a treasure! Out of this intimacy flows community with others (which is typically formed even with the folk at an event), increased clarity of reality as opposed to illusion, and commitment to God and God's cause rather than vacillation.
John Oliver, Nashville, Tennessee
OBN is a condensation of historic Christian teaching on creation and therefore satisfied me on an intellectual level. But the experience of OBN was significantly distinct from other conferences Ive attended on ecology because it had a strong experiential dimension. It includes the spoken word, and it has an incarnational dimension. The teaching then became something I owned. Its that aspect that makes this program able to bring about change in behavior. That is important because this is what can change the world. Since my October 1999 retreat, Ive noticed how the program fulfills the command to love God with all heart soul and strength and to love your neighbor. The weekend program showed how loving neighbor implies caring for creation.
Al Hunter, Snohomish, Washington:
Behavior is an important facet of the OBN program because its easy to sit and talk, but we need to do something. OBN is an opportunity for us to gain a better understanding of stewardship and its importance. People look at things differently when they begin to see Christ in all. It offers a threshold through which people begin to practice stewardship in their own lives. It brings new realizations in terms of helping people to see how stewardship fits into their Christian beliefs.
Angela Kantola, Indian Hills, Colorado:
"OBN has been a coming home for me. I sensed God's presence and lessons in creation as a child, and I believe that's what led me into creation care work in the first place. However, as an academic understanding of nature overtook my spiritual sense of creation, I lost some of my sense of wonder and approach to creation as holy ground. OBN has helped to restore that. It provides a solid foundation for stewardship and it invigorates my work in endangered species recovery. The OBN process is powerful: through it, God changes hearts. To be able to share this experience with others as a facilitator is a great privilege. We have much wisdom to learn from creation, and I believe there is significant untapped potential for God's guidance in ecological restoration."
Bob Harrison, Port Townsend, Washington
"God saw that his creation was good." Time spent in the created world has helped me appreciate my Creator. We need the understanding of the Church fathers and mothers to frame and ground our experience of nature. Ultimately I want a relationship with my Creator and with Jesus Christ. Being in creation offers opportunity to be refreshed and to experience the transformation necessary to go back into the world. Nature helps us integrate with God. There is also opportunity to fellowship with others. In a natural setting this is extremely powerful; somehow it unleashes a tremendous amount of love.
Jerry Lang, Dayton, Ohio:
For me with a scientific background and a long-term interest in environmental issues, OBN is a breath of fresh air (maybe fresh Spirit)that has helped me to see beyond biology, geology, etc and begin to appreciate and get in touch with that which transcends the "things" of nature. Whenever my wife, Alison, would walk through the woods, it was always interesting in how we viewed our surroundings. I was always trying to identify flora and fauna and trying to see how geology and climate shaped the place while she just enjoyed the colors, patterns, and sounds. OBN has made me better appreciate the hand of God in His individual creations but also better appreciate His reflection as the Artist of creation - an Artist who has created such beauty in form and function and in the feelings and responses He can evoke by just immersing oneself in His creativity.
Sandy Hunter, Snohomish, Washington:
Two words are important in my life: "mission" and "connection." OBN has helped me clarify in my life and my familys life where were led to go by opening doors. It brings together my Christianity and my love for the outdoors. It brings me and my family closer to God. It is wonderful to connect with other Christians who love his creation, want to take care of it, take care of people, and care for creation for people.
Robert Marshall, Kenna, West Virginia
OBN is a doorway into a place where God can speak to us, and we can listen to Him, without the interference of our insulated and mostly artificial existence in the present world, as it now exists. It is an opportunity to experience all the attributes and blessings of Christ Himself, in a setting that allows oneself to return to what is truly a simple, yet deep, relationship not only to God, but also the whole of creation, which is part of our promised inheritance from God.
Victoria Massotta, Boston, Massachusetts
The OBN process means "hope" to me. Meditating upon creation and using the OBN exercises keeps me hopeful. I am reminded that Christ has already won, that the forces of darkeness will be defeated once again, and that Christ will liberate all Creation. I use the OBN exercises out in the mountains, or more often, in the heart of the city. In fact, I deliberately do a Christian Nature Walk on my way to work in the mornings.
I have hope that my faith in God and my relationship with Him can only be strengthened. I have tremendous hope for other Christians, that they can deepen their relationship with Christ using His creation, because I know the impact that His Creation continues to have on my spiritual life. The OBN program opens our spiritual eyes to see Christ within and surrounding creation.
Fred Krueger, Santa Rosa, California
Nature, through what we call the OBN program, teaches us about God and spiritual lessons in proportion to how hungry we are, and therefore how much we are willing to lay all aside in the quest to know the deeper side of Christianity. OBN also brings people together because the process is designed so that each person needs the others in the group. In this way it addresses the problem of individual lives lived in isolation from one another. (If we merely taught about nature without personal interactions, this group dynamic would not emerge in the same way.) At the same time, people need experiences to deepen their faith. Otherwise religious can devolve into a sterile philosophy of ultimate ends and ultimate meaning that doesnt integrate with the rest of ones life. When we learn about nature this way, people come together in the woods, mini-community forms; and genuine heartfelt relationships emerge that will last forever. These are the fruits of "plugged-in Christianity." This dynamic emerges in wilderness because we are connecting to real spiritual experiences and sharing them with one another. That sharing of what is of Christ is the force that binds us together in a way that is deep and indelible. This is what should happen in a family, but sometimes doesnt because the experiences of Christ are not cultivated as they might.