I was wrapping up a very busy week of work a while back, checking water levels in several large freshwater impoundments that support hundreds of wintering ducks, geese and Tundra swans.  It seems that there is never enough time to get everything done that needs doing.  This day was no different.  As I stopped for a water gauge reading, I noticed a small Pied-billed grebe sitting on the water nearby, apparently watching me.  I grabbed my binoculars and took a closer look.  As I zoomed in I could see every small detail of this little water-bird; each feather, the markings on its bill and the sparkle in its eye.  It dove below the surface of the water for a short time, before emerging a short distance away.  I couldn’t help but admire its uniqueness and markings despite the many times I had seen them before.  As I watched, a calm and peace enveloped me, that pushed away the stress and anxieties of the day.   An appreciation of this small living creature permeated me, which quickly translated into a “wow!” appreciation of its Creator.  The result was a thankful, prayerful moment as I was once again reminded of God’s creativity.

The experience was unusual, but once again (afraid I’m a slow learner) opened my eyes to the value of taking the time to “stop and smell the roses” by observing and reflecting on those natural things around me.  In the hustle and bustle of trying to get as much done as possible, I (and probably many of you) often forget to touch base with the fruits of our labors.  Such an experience can be a personal encounter with God, His love for us and for His other creations.

This time it brought back memories of the Bible’s Book of Genesis and how God created the world and everything in it in six days, but God chose to take the 7th day off, to rest. That seventh day is called the Sabbath.  I wondered if, on that first Sabbath, God wanted to observe, ponder, appreciate and love His new creations.  The thought made me aware of my need to do just that.  The Sabbath can be the perfect time to worship our God and share in the restorative and healing powers of His creation. 

So, for those of us who are able, make the time to find a natural place with other living creatures around you and the beauty of the places they live in. Spend time in quiet reflection, observing and appreciating them; how marvelously beautiful and efficient they are!  Experience your own “wow!” moment and the gratitude to God for them and the beauty of that place that follows.

For those who cannot make the time or find that natural place to retreat to, keep the following in mind.  Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition defines Sabbath as, “the seventh day of the week observed…..as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians.”  We all need rest and an appreciation of a creator/caretaker God that is greater than us (worship).  Connecting with God provides relief and rest.  Why is that?  God’s love for us lightens our loads….if we tap into it.  “Let go and let God!”  How many times have I heard that before!  Yet, still I forget and lapse into old habits – and the anxiety and stress return.  In Matt.11:28-30, Jesus spells it out clearly for us: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”   When we do this “burden-sharing” with Jesus, by trusting Him and His will, our own load lightens.  Sabbath worship services encourage us in that direction.  So, make use of this Sabbath tool that God provides for us to “de-stress.”

Seems to me that these are two good ways to celebrate the Sabbath and bless the Lord – the Great Creator.  Such “de-stressing” of one’s mind, body and soul is sorely needed in our high-energy society today; together with the restorative and healing love for God and His creations that follows.  As with most things done with God in mind, when we connect with Him, we find ourselves also cared for.  Appreciating God’s creations and taking the time to reflect on them – whether in worship services or in that natural place – can chase away our stress and anxiety.  So, look around you; find that special place to retreat to.  Reflect there…and be restored.