Getting to Know God in Nature and Everyday Life

An Author Interview with Randall Cirner, White Water, Bears, Dry Flies and Other Ways God Speaks to Guys

I have been struck in recent days by the many images of our beloved Pope John Paul II in his younger,Getting to Know God in Nature and Everyday Life Articles more active years, actively skiing, hiking and pursuing outdoor activities. One relatively recent photo shows him reclining amidst a grove of trees in deep prayer. For me, this photo brings to mind the thought of Jesus Christ, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion. Many of us keenly sense the presence of God when in we find ourselves interacting with nature. Others succeed at treating everyday occasions as an opportunity to serve and to love in the manner taught by Christ – to have “God sightings” in their own homes and communities.

In his book White Water, Bears, Dry Flies and Other Ways God Speaks to Guys (Servant Publications, September 2004, paperback, 104 pages) author Randall Cirner looks at life’s ordinary moments as opportunities for divine encounter. Within the context of 52 frequently humorous vignettes, Cirner encourages readers to look for God in their own day to day lives, and to tune our ears to listen to spiritual truths. Each of the book’s chapters contains a story from Cirner’s own life, an insightful reflection, a specific action item and a relevant scripture passage. While aimed at “guys”, girls like me in search of a deeper, more personal relationship with the Lord will also benefit from their experience of reading this book.

I recently had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Randall Cirner about experiencing God in our world.

Q: Randall Cirner, author of White Water, Bears, Dry Flies and Other Ways God Speaks to Guys, thanks for taking time for this Book Spotlight. I have to say, even though I’m not a “guy”, I loved your book! Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.

A: I have been married to my wonderful wife for 35 years. We have 5 grown children who live in different places and 1 grandson (9 years old and a really, really great kid). Therese and I recently moved to Vero Beach, FL where she has a private practice as a psychotherapist and I am beginning a new career in real estate. Our family has always loved nature. We have spent many wonderful days hiking, camping, fishing and just generally being outdoors.

Q: Could you please summarize this book for our readers?

A: This little book is my attempt to close some of the gap between the spiritual and the natural which we experience. God acts in both spheres to reveal Himself and speak to us. In fact, he gave us bodies with all of our senses to enjoy and to experience His presence and love within this creation. The Bible is replete with examples of how God speaks and reveals through the natural. Jesus’ use of stories and human situations to convey spiritual truths provide us with some of the most memorable and compelling passages in the Gospels.

Q: I love your ability to see God in the everyday facets of life and your comment that you find God, “readily in the beauty of his creation” and through your attempts to enjoy that creation. I know many men who enjoy outdoor activities and spend much time hunting, running or in other similar pursuits. Frequently, they state that they don’t need to go to Church, read the Bible or pray – that they are communing with God in their own way through these activities. What would you say to this type of person?

A: These people are making the opposite and just as erroneous mistake as those who want to confine God’s activities to the purely spiritual realm.

In the early chapters of Romans, St. Paul addresses those who claim that the existence of God is unknowable. Paul’s rejoinder is that the order and beauty of creation is itself proof that God exists. At the same time, scripture reveals that God isn’t content just to let us know He exists. He loves us and passionately wants to have a personal relationship with each of us.

Jesus is the full revelation of the Father. We live our relationship with Jesus on a daily basis and the Church, the Bible, and the Sacraments are an indispensable part of that relationship. If a person is not living all of what Jesus gives us it is impossible to appreciate what nature is actually all about.

Q: Why are we so touched by experiences of God in nature?

A: Creation is a reflection of the loveliness and glory of God. The mysterious melding of matter and spirit that is the human person is God’s perfect creation and, in His love, He wants us to be in touch with Him in all of our existence. We were created to be touched by nature.

Q: Why is it vital for men to take time for spirituality in their busy lives?

A: All of us face the stresses of job, finances, family relationships and so on. Without a daily relationship with the Lord, life loses its focus and we can really get beaten up by it. Spending some time with God each day puts us in touch with the source of strength, wisdom and perseverance we all need. Also, it is a clear statement on our part that God is more important than the quest for material things.

Q: The book contains a series of 52 vignettes, each followed by personal response and reflection questions and relevant scripture passages. How would you suggest that men incorporate the book into their prayer routine? For those who don’t have an active prayer life, how can your book help them to get rolling with one?

A: 52 weeks in a year, 52 vignettes – pretty neat, huh? I did, in fact, do this on purpose. For men who are just getting started in a spiritual life, I would suggest taking one story per week:

1. Read the story and the lesson I learned and try to make some personal connection with it. 2. Read the Scripture passage(s) and reflect on what God may be saying to you in that passage. Use the passage the rest of the week as a daily jump start for keeping a focus for the entire day. 3. Take a few days to put into practice the personal response section.

My hope is that whether men use it on a weekly basis or in some other fashion, it will inspire them to pursue a closer relationship with the Lord.

Q: Please discuss the “spiritual menu” you describe in the book. What portions of the spiritual diet do men typically neglect? Can you give some creative suggestions for incorporating all aspects of prayer and service?

A: Men, women too, generally do those things which are viewed as an important part of life and “forget” things which are not. Every guy who watches football just naturally schedules his weekend around which games he wants to watch, it’s a normal part of life (much to the dismay of most women).

Likewise, for many Catholics, Sunday Mass is an important part of life and it requires a deliberate decision to miss it. On the other hand, personal prayer and scripture reading are generally not seen as important and are easily forgotten in the press of other demands.

We talk a lot these days about planning and scheduling but few people actually make a schedule and fewer still stick to it. But I believe that is the only way to make sure that our spiritual priorities are taken care of. Decide what your spiritual priorities, decide when to do it and then stick to it. Its not rocket science, its discipline.

Q: I laughed with and related to so many of the stories you share in your book. Do you have a favorite experience you’d like to share with us?

A: I would have to say the camping experience with the bear, my wife and the sleeping bag.

Q: Randall Cirner, thank you again for your time and for this great book. Are there any parting thoughts you’d like to express?

A: My stories generally involve nature and outdoor activities but God wants to speak to us in the everyday circumstances of our lives whether we live in the woods, in the middle of a large city, or somewhere in between. The key is being open to God and learning to be sensitive to His voice.

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