Shepherdness: Nature One of God's Keys

Nature is so important a key that I would call it a master key.

Nature is so important a key that I would call it a master key. Master keys will open any number of locks, and are therefore important and valuable. Anyone possessing a master key holds much responsibility, because its use, misuse, or neglect can affect the welfare and economy of households or great corporations.

Seventh-day Adventists have the privilege and responsibility of using the great key of nature. We of all people should be foremost in our knowledge of and our ability to teach nature lore. Sister White speaks of nature as a lesson book as well as a key. And on second thought we recognize the fact that all lesson books actually are keys keys to understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. The Spirit of prophecy points out the treasure house and its key:

"As we observe the things of the natural world, we shall be enabled, under the guiding of the Holy Spirit, more fully to understand the lessons of God's word. It is thus that nature becomes a key to the treasure-house of the word."—Education, p. 120. (Italics supplied.)

We are told to take our children to nature to teach them the important basic lessons of God's love and the knowledge of Jesus.

"Fathers and mothers, let your children learn from the flowers. . . . Teach them to read in nature the message of God's love. Let the thought of Him be linked with bird and flower and tree. Lead the children to see in every pleasant and beautiful thing an expression of God's love for them." Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 145, 146.

The example of Jesus' early training and development should be a guide for the mothers in God's church of today. We read: "His [Christ's] intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how diligently

His early years were given to the study of God's word. And spread out before Him was the great library of God's created works. . . . Apart from the unholy ways of the world, He gathered stores of scientific knowledge from nature. He studied the life of plants and animals, and the life of man." The Desire of Ages, p. 70.

Many mothers think they have no time to study nature and teach it to their children. In view of our instructions, can we afford not to take time? Others think it is too big and difficult a subject, but it really is not. Start with simple things at hand: the children's pets, your house plants, and the common insects, birds, flowers, and trees in the yard. Learn some interesting facts about these. Get a few of the simpler nature books and read them. Make notes. Learn with your children. You will be delighted with the added pleasure, interest, and companionship you will enjoy. As your interest grows (and it cannot fail to do so) your field will grow.

Children's minds are highly receptive to nature, needing only gentle help and encouragement to open wondrous avenues for development and delight. But intelligent preparation needs to be made, for "true education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind. The mental powers must be awakened, the interest aroused." Education, p. 41.

Personal Experiences

Perhaps some personal experiences will help to encourage you to venture into the nature field. My husband and I found that walks through woods and meadows and along a creek provided much to awaken the interest of our small son. Usually I kept notes of all we saw and heard as we walked along. The questions would come: "What's that?" "Where's it live?" "How does it make that noise?" The questions will come naturally, and many of them. We found it wise to admit any inability to give an answer, but always assured him we would look it up later. (That's why notes are so important.) After we returned home we tried to identify the insects, flowers, and birds that we had not recognized. We built up a small but wide-range shelf of nature books to which to turn for help.

Collect things. We are always collecting rocks, fungi, bird nests, leaves, and a surprising number of other interesting objects. Children will want to "collect" live things too. I drew the line on snakes, but we had lizards, skinks (not skunks!), toads, turtles, tadpoles, and so on.

My husband and I tried consistently to avoid conditioning our boy to fear. We did teach respect for things that are harmful and poisonous, but even if I cringed at insects and worms and bugs, I did not express my feelings. Children learn fear; it is not inherent in them. Our boy learned what to avoid and where to expect harmful things. We were able even to avoid his acquiring a fear of snakes, but we were careful to teach respect for rattlers, copperheads, and water moccasins.

When we traveled in the car we played games of various kinds, usually games we made up, such as, how many trees we could identify as we rode along, or how many birds we could recognize, or who could first discover something unusual. Sometimes we would see who could be first in finding something of a certain color, or guessing from his description what one of us had seen. You can think up many other games that are just as much fun to help to while away the time. Aside from nature games while traveling, we sang much and did memorizing.

It is a thrill to be aware of what is around you as you travel. How fortunate we felt if we caught a glimpse of a deer or a small group of them! On one trip a small herd of antelope skimmed along parallel with our car and within a couple of hundred feet of us as we traveled across the flat desert country. One afternoon we had to give right of way to a lazy, fat badger. When their attention is directed to these things, children soon develop their own powers of observation, and sometimes to a surprising extent, even while rather young.

How about star study? Too hard? Not at all.The whole family will enjoy a walk under the clear starry sky, and the children are certain to ask, "What is that star?" Learn the North Star, the Big Dipper, the easy constellations first, then the principal stars in each; learn the planets and study their course through the sky. There are some very good introductory books that help with star study too.

Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets with your children. What if the dishes do stand awhile? What are the routine duties compared with the hand writing of God that is all about us? Do you ever take walks in snowstorms or in the rain? They are refreshing and pleasant when you are properly dressed for them. Help the children to be come aware of all the beauties God has so lovingly created for us. These things are all free they belong to all, rich and poor, high and low. But how many go blindly through life! Expose your children to as much nature as possible, and it will enrich their lives in all the years to come.

"With feet to take me where I'd go, With eyes to see the sunset's glow, With ears to hear what I would know I'm blessed, indeed! The world is mine!" ANON.

I hope many readers will try the master key presented here. Your time and efforts will be repaid many-fold. The great storehouse of nature has many rooms, each packed full of wonderful and amazing things God has created for our pleasure. I delight to apply the following prophetic words to nature study, for I have found them astonishingly true: "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isa. 55:12.

One of the grandest thoughts that can come to our minds as we train and help to educate our children is, What we start here we will be able to continue in the earth made new.

"He who co-operates with the divine purpose in imparting to the youth a knowledge of God, and moulding the character into harmony with His, does a high and noble work. As he awakens a desire to reach God's ideal, he presents an education that is as high as heaven and as broad as the universe; an education that cannot be completed in this life, but that will be continued in the life to come; an education that secures to the successful student his pass port from the preparatory school of earth to the higher grade, the school above." Ibid., p. 19. "All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God's redeemed. . . . With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation, suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator's name is written, and in all are the riches of His power dis played." The Great Controversy, pp. 677, 678.

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June 1953

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