Try Reading the Bible Outdoors –You’ll Like It

When I consider your heavens… what are human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8)

I think it was Francis Bacon who popularized the need to read fully from God’s two books–the written Word and the created world.  There are many ways we can think of how we might do that (particularly how working science and working faith interplay) but one simple suggestion we all can enjoy is reading the Bible outdoors.

During boy’s camp-outs or hikes with university students, we tried to read aloud from the great Story–its songs, parables, visions, poems, and narratives. There is just something awe-inspiring about hearing the words of God’s Story echoing through God’s majestic creation; it brings a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for the great story we are all a part of–humans, animals, trees and grass. One of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, captures this eloquently:

“I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a “hypaethral book,” such as Thoreau talked about–a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. That is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air, and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances, will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine–which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”(Wendell Berry from “Christianity and the Survival of Creation” in Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 103)

 

You will benefit from reading any Scripture outdoors, but these texts are a terrific place to start:

  • The Psalms (particularly 104, 121, 1, 8, 19, 23, 24)
  • Job 38-41
  • Isaiah 55, 65:17-25
  • Genesis 1-2
  • Matthew 6:25-34
  • Colossians 1:15-20

And this just in . . . there’s even a waterproof Bible for those who want to really get into this!

~ Tom Greentree

 

4 thoughts on “Try Reading the Bible Outdoors –You’ll Like It

  1. Jody says:

    Interesting thoughts…almost EVERYthing seems better outdoors :)…and reading the Word with such beauty around us (that we have nothing to do with) proves powerful. (Now is that waterproof Bible on your Christmas wish list Tom?)

    1. Tom says:

      Ha, ha, hmmm, that would be an interesting Christmas gift! I also have friends that have a Bible that fits into a metal case, too (stops bullets, I guess).

      The question of context is interesting. So, the above post encourages reading the Bible outdoors, which is so amazing. Here’s another angle. I had a class a number of years ago where we studied the book of Amos on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. There again, studying God’s word to his people Israel about how they have oppressed the poor and miscarried justice while walking and talking among the poorest postal code in Canada had its own affect on our reading, and its application. Context does matter, and God’s Word gets more expansive and more penetrating as we engage him in the whole of his creation, whether it be in its groaning or its glory.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks, Becky. Great story! I wonder how much our sense of who God is would grow and change if we were to immerse ourselves in the Scripture while in the glory of his creation. I think our context really does affect our perceptions.

  3. Becky says:

    I really like this. I remember my own unique conversion experience, when I was a little girl, maybe 10 years old, overlooking this very valley when God met me in such a powerful way that it changed me forever. My best times with God are almost always outside, lying under some tree or out in some field. I definitely feel his presence more when I am in his creation!

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