Friday, September 17, 2010

Happy September!

Happy September! Happy new school year and happiest of all we have new children, new meetings and new opportunities to share Christ and the Church. I love September. I love new pencils, empty notebooks needed to be filled and the cool air and leaves falling. I also will admit I love it because it is my birthday month!


In light of our commitment to help you be the best leaders you can be, we’ve decided to tackle the great outdoors for a few newsletters to help you get out and enjoy God’s creation - especially as the weather cools down but doesn’t get too cold.

Exploring the great outdoors is something all of us should do regardless of our love for dirt, trees and animals. This might be a struggle as we might feel more comfortable in our homes. Let’s be honest, we’re unlikely to get bitten by a bug, catch a rash from a simple plant or sweat and get dirty inside our clean and bugfree homes. But let’s also be honest while we don’t like the bites and the rashes; getting sweaty and dirty, especially with our children, is almost always more fun than sitting inside watching another movie.

We were born in a garden after all. Not us specifically but our first parents, Adam and Eve, were born in the garden designed by God himself. The first two chapter of the Bible are all about the great outdoors He was making for us to enjoy: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” (Gen. 1:31).

For us though, we may have discovered is not all good - be it those aforementioned bugs and rashes or allergies and unfamiliarity. In addition to these issues comes the very real struggle we have in today’s culture to balance our enjoyment and celebration of the great outdoors with the increased worship of the environment. I do not dismiss this concern lightly. My own husband, whose expertise and work is in environmental policy, faces this balance every day. Our care for the earth - which God has commanded - is important but we must never value the earth and the environment more than every soul which inhabits it.

But, let’s not get worried about those complicated discussions and just plan on getting our children and ourselves outside a bit more. From nature we can witness and learn so many of the virtues we hope to teach. From the patience and diligence of a gardener striving for a good harvest to the joy and eutrapelia of just being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. With every Little Flower virtue comes a flower and how wonderful if, sometimes, the girls might be able to see some of these flowers growing naturally. For the other groups, be it Blue Knights, Hospitality, or Honor Badge, being outside is always good for them - body and soul.

Getting outside can be as easy as making use of your back deck for snack or your back yard for games. It can be done by the teaching of faith in a garden full of sunflowers or learning industry through the clearing of a yard for an elderly neighbor. It can be the exploration of the outdoors through a more social outing to a local park.

A few simple suggestions:
*Know your local parks - local, state and federally sponsored. Planning on having a meeting at one of these locations or plan a get together outside of meeting times. Letting the girls get a bit dirty and sweaty together will surely build some new memories that just can’t be made in a living room or church meeting room.

*Ask a parent to take charge of your ‘Head Outdoors’ plans. They could make plans for outings, see what programs might be available (hopefully free) at local parks, farmer’s markets, orchards, etc. Consider planning a field trip every other month or so as it might fit into your planned activities.

*Check out the Charlotte Mason approach to education. If one of your families is utilizing this method of home education you will probably discover a wealth of information on exploring the outdoors as it is seen as vital aspect in the Mason approach.

*Check the library for books to help you out. In light of the previous warning about the current rise in worshipping creation rather than the Creator, newer books are more likely to take this tone. Be wary as you read. If you see either overt or subtle suggestions in opposition to the Church’s teaching in regard to life consider finding another title.

Two books I’ve found helpful:
“Sharing Nature with Children” by Joseph Cornell. This is a classic nature awareness book and as such has undergone a resurgence in popularity. I have NOT read the new 20th Anniversary edition and expect it to have more political commentary regarding the environment. However, the 1979 edition which I have and use, does not contain anything I could fault. It is a collection of games and ideas for bringing nature to your children in an easy manner. One of my favorite games is the Micro-Hike. You need just a few lengths of string/yarn and a simple magnifying glass for each child. Stake out a circle with the string on the ground and let them investigate. They may find some insects or just explore the intricacies of how grass grows. A simple activity which gives glory to God for the detail with which He created the earth.
“The Kid’s Nature Book” by Susan Milford. It is a 365 indoor/outdoor nature exploration book with simple ideas for letting kids explore nature. With so many ideas you will surely find a dozen or so ideas that might be able to be included in your program. Some are a bit more complicated (yet tasty) such as making applesauce but others are as easy as watching the clouds overhead. The book is listed by months and days which make it very easy to take advantage of the change of seasons.

Both of these are available from Amazon used - the Milford book can be found for as little as .67, while the Campell book (an 1989 version) is $3.50.

*Finally, explore creation through Scripture and the Saints. From the Book of Job we have God’s reply beginning with chapter 38 wherein God speaks to Job of sea, the snow, the mountain goats and the great leviathan. We also have the Psalms. Walking through a local park while reciting Psalm 23 or a reading of Psalm 104 “Praise of God the Creator” reminds us that earth is God’s creation after all. While from St. Francis of Assisi (adopted by many including non-Catholics as patron saint of the environment) we have his powerful Canticle of Creation.

While it may seem the secular world has commandeered the very earth from our grasp we must let that occur. The earth was created for us by God - for our use and our enjoyment. Do not feel you must hide inside for fear of being seen as a Gaia (earth) worshipper but head outside and see God in all you see. Enjoy your local environment a bit more this year and celebrate what God made for you. Granted this earth is merely our temporary home, but as our home we should our best to both know it and understand it. You - and your children - will be glad you did.

God Bless,

Rachel Watkins

1 comment:

Gardenia said...

thanks for this post Rachel. I've met with my parish pastor to embark on a little flowers girls club in our parish. It seems the wreaths naturally work well with starting in the fall and ending in May or so with the spring Tea. He has asked whether we could start the program in January (take the summer off) and pick it up again in the fall and end the wreath year in December. I'm wondering whether others have their LFGC on this calendar and whether there are any difficulties with doing so. I'll also post this comment on the yahoo group and look for respinses. Thanks,