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Linwood Sparrows

It’s winter. I returned to Linwood, this “thin” place, where God has met me many times before. Snow covers the ground and the cold temperatures help insulate the snow from melting. It’s beautiful.

This morning I sat in the dining hall, looking out onto the frozen, wintry lawn, above the mighty Hudson River. About twenty yards or so underneath a tree, I saw teeny sparrows skittering across the top of the snow finding little morsels of food deposited on the crusty surface. They weren’t bothered by the cold—or so they didn’t say. They just hurried about, stopping momentarily to peck at a speck, and then just as quickly, hustled to another fine place to eat some more.

Dave and Beth Booram, in When Faith Becomes Sight, write about encountering God in nature through what they call God’s Big Book. “Each living thing vibrates reality, unwittingly drawing us toward wholeness and true being.”

I watched these tiny messengers for a few minutes, contemplating the goodness of God in providing for these little creatures of which there are so many. Even in the barrenness, nourishment can be found. The Spirit called to mind a long known ancient text: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

And then the tears came, welling up with the pain in my throat.

I have struggled while here on retreat. Struggled with my own insufficiency, my own flat sides in leadership. Why do I think, though, that I have to be all things? That I can’t ask for help? Why must I think that all is barrenness when there are great tasting morsels grace-scattered for me! Of course, light came. And it was like the trees dropping little morsels down to the birds skittering around looking for food. I found what I was looking for! And my head lifted up.

What is your experience of God speaking to you through nature?


Carolyn Carney serves as the National Director of Spiritual Formation for InterVarsity, USA. She is also a spiritual director and retreat speaker. Carolyn lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, David, where they enjoy forays into the culture of nearby NYC and the hiking trails of the less nearby Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. She’s also greatly distracted by the smell of coffee and an invitation to tell a story.

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