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St. Patrick and Theodore Roosevelt on Emotional Health

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire.
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock. 

Saint Patrick

It seems that even Saint Patrick experienced the inner strength that comes from observing and appreciating nature.  What is it about looking at the sky on a starry night or standing by a gentle stream that brings us peace and comfort?  Could it be that it helps us to put our lives into perspective?

Theodore Roosevelt was a nature lover.  He loved the Badlands of North Dakota and the great sequoias of Yosemite.  His passion for nature and conservation are well known. Teddy and his wife, Alice, spent many hours on their 150 acre plot of land on Long Island, Sagamore Hill.  The President retreated to Sagamore Hill during his term as president.

One story tells of the President inviting a well-known and intellectual guest to spend the evening with him at his home.  After dinner and lively and heated debate, the President guided his friend out to the lawn where they stood in silence and gazed at the night sky.  After a few minutes, Teddy quietly told his guest, “Now that we are sufficiently small, we can go to bed.”

Yes, the magnitude of nature comforts us. We know there is Someone greater than us who is in loving control.

Reading the Psalms we find frequent references to the beauty of nature.  David found solace in quiet streams and green pastures.

I believe God has given us a “natural” stress reliever in the beauty of our world.  Unfortunately, we have cut ourselves off from this source of nurture and care in favor of screens of all sorts.  Could this be endangering our mental and emotional health? In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louw hypothesizes that parental fear and over-scheduling is creating “nature deficit disorder” in our children. Higher levels of stress and unhappiness in children may be directly linked to their lack of exposure to nature.

In an article by John Piper on his website, Desiring God, Dr. Piper shares the teaching of his beloved professor, Clyde Kilby, on the subject of emotional health. This teaching included a list of 10 rules for good mental and emotional health.  The very first principle in remaining emotionally healthy was linked to nature.

Professor Kilby told his audience, “At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I am a  consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.”–2

It works!

The more time I spend looking up into God’s creation, the more easily I process the difficulties of my life.  I have a perspective I do not have when I am totally self-absorbed in things of my own creation.  The Psalmist was right when he said, “I lift my eyes to the hills.  Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” 

Ten minutes a day looking up could change the other twenty-three hours and fifty minutes.