by Joy Steiner
This article was originally published in PCJH’s Winter 2023 Pinnacle, “Seeing God in the Arts”
The large format book on the table in front of me is heavy, filled with photographs and information about birds around the world. I read about a large bird native to Asia. Though its markings are not flashy, the athletic prowess of the bar-headed goose is unrivaled. Bar-headed geese have exceptionally large lungs and hearts to process oxygen efficiently into their bloodstream. These geese need it when they make their annual 23,000 foot migration over the Himalaya. Around me, the library walls seem to fade away. In my imagination, I can see the struggle and determination it takes to persevere despite high mountain cold and storms. 23,000 feet! I am gobsmacked by the wonder of it all. Tears prick my eyes and I know: this is God’s handiwork. It is a story that needs to be told. I have found another of God’s miracles. I am filled with gratitude for our Creator. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
I love to find miracles. All around me, I see evidence of God’s workmanship and it gives my heart a little frisson of joy. I also love words, for I had a mother who read to me and took me for weekly library visits to get another armload of books. It is no surprise then, that I feel close to God when I use words to declare the miracles of creation. When I create a story, I feel a sense of purpose and my body hums with energy, as if my actions were pleasing to God. Perhaps we are called to create so we can be close to our creator.
I imagine God wiggling playful eyebrows at me. “Check this out!” I feel a nudge. “What if you told people about THIS little item from my creation?” I investigate further and discover the earth’s largest, most dense organism is a 100 acre wood of aspen trees weighing in at 13 million pounds, a community of individual trees connected by their roots. Another day, I learn that God has flooded the body of the humble wooly bear caterpillar with an ingenious chemical formula that enables it to survive unharmed in even the harshest arctic winter. Next time you see a wooly bear patiently crossing your path, stop and consider. This little critter can eat all summer, and in case it needs to grow a bit more, it can sleep under the snow, awaken in spring, and eat again until it is ready to make a cocoon. What’s the secret? Wooly bear is filled with natural antifreeze! Our God is full of surprises!
Sometimes, when I am in a beautiful natural setting, my skin shivers with wonder. Several years ago, while living in Idaho, my husband and I were asked to write an alphabet book about the state. As it happened, the timing was perfect, because I was a freelance storyteller, visiting children in schools and libraries all over the state. I explored points of interest during my travels to gather information for topics in the book. One afternoon, I made my way to a cedar grove in the panhandle of Idaho. Standing among the lacy leaved giants, hearing the wind sigh in the branches, I felt I was in a cathedral. Yet, how could this forest even be growing here? I thought Idaho was too dry for cedars to flourish. I called the University of Idaho forestry department and chanced upon the cedar grove expert. As best we know, he said, the ancient volcano that formed Crater Lake blew up; the ash storm drifted northeast and settled into the plains and canyons of northern Idaho. Fog and mist settled into the box canyons and offered a moist microclimate for the deep rich soil. Perhaps a bird dropped a single cedar seed over the canyons. We can only surmise, but no matter. All of the events aligned, and the Devoto and Hobo Cedar Groves are here to astound us. You may call this simply natural history, but I see God’s signature plan of creation.
What inspires you? It is likely that inspiration is a nudge from our Creator to draw close. Feel the wonder. Tell of His glorious work in your creations. Your efforts will please him.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord.” ~Psalm 19:14