Make sure to take time to stop, look and listenPublished 9:57am Friday, October 11, 2013
By the Rev. Tim Reker
St. Theodore and St. James Catholic churches
Stop, look and listen. If I remember correctly, when I was in grade school this was the theme for a poster contest for school safety. As a member of the school patrol (trained at Legionville no less!), I took the challenge seriously and submitted my best effort … alas, I am not much of an artist and did not win or place. I did, however, remember these three words and they came to mind this week as I reflected upon the beautiful fall scenery that surrounds us. As we move further into the month of October, are you taking time to stop, look and listen?
Our fall schedules usually get quite busy. School is well underway, and there are many activities for children or grandchildren. Farmers are harvesting the crops and gardeners gleaning the last fresh fruits and vegetables. Yards beckon homeowners to take care of final preparations for that long season that begins with a “w.”
Golfers strive to get in a few more rounds and hunters are preparing for their favorite season of outdoor adventure. The arts and music calendar ramps up for another year of enrichment, too. Those who are more sedentary or homebound may be drawn to watch their favorite TV program or follow their team. (Is there still hope for the Vikings?) In the midst of all these options, the first and perhaps most challenging step is to stop … at least for a few minutes. Why? Nature and the creator of nature is inviting you to enjoy beauty.
I am blessed with an incredible view of Fountain Lake both from my office and from my living quarters. Visitors to my office often wonder how I get any work done. Like many, I am usually so focused on what I have to do that I don’t always notice and certainly don’t give much time to gazing out the window. So, occasionally I have to tell myself to stop for a few minutes. It may be stopping during a lunch break or in the evening and taking a short walk around the neighborhood, by the lake on the Blazing Star Trail. Or, you may be able to stop on your day off or the weekend and take a drive through the countryside … even to the bluff country or an apple orchard.
As you sit, walk or drive, allow your eyes to feast on the changing beauty of creation. Even though I am partially colorblind, I relish the various coloring of the trees and bushes. Is there anything quite like sumac in the fall? Photographers may choose to “look” through their lenses and artists with their pencils or brushes, but the rest of us can simply gaze, notice and observe.
There are many noises in our lives including radio, television, and devices that use ear buds. Do we ever turn them all off and simply listen to the breeze blowing through the trees and any animals, especially birds, that may be singing their song? A parishioner, who is a walker, told me that someone suggested that she listen to music, a podcast or even an audio-book as she strolled. Her response — “no way, I love to be quiet for a while and listen to nature.” The observations or comments by a spouse or good friend might enhance the experience.
Stop, look and listen can certainly help us to appreciate nature’s gift, but they can also be an avenue to a deeper relationship with God who created them. God calls in various ways, especially through sacred scripture, prayer, worship and the Christian community, but also in created beauty. There are deeper lessons to be discovered in the changing of seasons: life, death and rebirth. Autumn is a fitting reminder of “golden years” that are not always easy to embrace and the reality of death that each human person must face. Halloween began as the eve before All Saints Day, which was followed by a day to remember all the faithful departed. As we move into the last weeks of the church year and begin again in Advent, the scriptural readings will remind us of the coming “Day of the Lord” and the need to be ready and prepared. It is important to notice and respond to the loving God who speaks to us in nature, and to ponder the deeper questions of life. Stop, look and listen!