Each day I take a walk around the university campus near my office. I enjoy being outside, seeing whatever there is to see — the leaves changing colors, the blue sky, a chipmunk with an acorn in its mouth. Walking helps clear my mind, and it keeps me close to God by keeping me close to God’s creation.
Since I tend to be something of a worrier, a walk eases the spinning of my mind over the concerns of the day. On some days the concerns are small. On others, worries overtake me. With each passing year, I feel less invincible and protected than I did the year before. With age has come the sense that I am not as immune to difficulties, challenges, and loss as I once thought.
It’s easy to dwell on all that could go wrong. It’s easy to worry about bad news we have received or bad news we fear we might receive. It’s easy to worry about the future and how we will deal with it when it gets here. It’s easy to become so paralyzed by fear that we can barely get through the day.
In one sense the wild turkeys who live in the woods surrounding my house have helped reduce my worry. I see them from my kitchen window as they move through my yard, pecking insects from the ground. When I walk on the land I share with these magnificent birds, I often find a discarded feather or two. When I see one, I pick it up, take it back to the house with me, and put it in an old brass spittoon that sits on my fireplace mantle. I do not remember when or why I started collecting the feathers, only that it seems to me a pity to leave something so beautiful lying on the ground.
Over time, my spittoon full of feathers has come to symbolize the elegance and simplicity that surround me each day. Contemplating my feathers helps pull me out of my head and reminds me that the God of creation cares about me and watches over me. The God who created the turkeys, their feathers, the ground they fall upon, and each of us, can handle anything that I’m faced with. I appreciate what Job — a man who certainly had many concerns — says about this: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who . . . does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing” (Job 12:7-10, NRSV). Job’s trust in God is astounding, especially considering all that he had gone through and everything that he must have been thinking.
My turkey feathers are wonders that continue to teach me to stop and look around at all the other wonders of my life day in and day out. They are not flashy but small miracles that God sets in my path each day for me to notice and reflect on. The feathers remind me to stop obsessing about all that could go wrong and focus instead on all that is going right.
A chipmunk with an acorn and a wild turkey feather are just two of the many daily reminders of the wonder around me. When the day gets hard, I try to stop and look around at all of God’s miracles in creation. When I do, I remember that “in his hand is the life of every living thing” (Job 12:10). And this is enough to help me get through almost any day.
Several meditations in this issue address worry and small wonders. You may want to read again the meditations for September 3, 4, 9, 10, 17, 20, 25 and October 2 and 14 before responding to the reflection questions below.
Questions for Reflection:
1. When have you worried about something in your life that never came to pass? What were your prayers like during this time? What did this experience teach you about worrying?
2. Where do you feel closest to God? Why do you feel closest to God there?
3. Name some small ways that you could take time each day to grow closer to God. Which of these appeals to you most?
Joining friends at The Upper Room in morning prayer on Facebook Live has been an anchor in the storm during recent weeks. In the chaos of trying to figure out how to do ministry in strange and uncertain times, it was a compelling call to stop, breathe, listen, and be in community with those who gather "where the world meets to pray." Join us each day for morning prayer.