Week 5 Day 3: The Work of Human Hands

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 3: The Work of Human Hands
What spiritual practices help to strengthen your connection with the natural world?
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Transcript of Video:

There are a few fairly simple practices or rituals that help keep me in touch with nature, with creation. One of them is I have been living in Emery House for a few months and if I am asked to prepare a meal or if I am asked to help beautify the chapel, you know, things like going out to the garden and gathering basil or mint or eggs from the chicken coop for the meal, doing that as a prayer. So when I harvest those things or take those things, I thank God and I thank the earth for having given those gifts to me, to us. I think of the verse from the Eucharistic liturgy that refers to the wine as “…fruit of the vine and work of human hands; May it become for us our spiritual drink.” So I think of something raw that has come from the earth, from nature, and that’s somehow been worked through with the work of my own hands and then becomes something more, becomes sort of an “interspecies collaboration” in a sense, whether it is the meal that ends up on the table or as a painter, I practice egg temper painting, which is paint that is raw mineral pigment and egg yolk and white wine so there is a very Eucharistic symbolism to that. So now when I gather eggs from the chicken coop to make paint, it does really feel like this interspecies collaboration, and I thank the chickens for the gift that they are giving me, the way they are participating in my own creative process.

– Br. Keith Nelson


  1. David B Damon on October 6, 2021 at 09:17

    Almost every day my wife and I take a walk together, frequently through trails in a state park but often along the ocean. We take these walks through all weather, throughout the year. This is the main way I keep in touch with nature – seeing, hearing, and feeling nature with my body and senses. Since I’ve started this Rule course, I’ve added another practice to commune with nature. Each morning, during my reading and prayer time, I spend some quiet time simply looking out the window at the sky and trees and nature around me. Looking and listening are new ways for me to appreciate nature.

  2. Lisa Bartoli-DeAngelis on April 2, 2019 at 17:38

    There are many things in the natural world we incorporate into our lives. I like to stop and think of where all these wonderful gifts came from. As someone who loves to cook …I love using the herbs we grow in our garden. We plant and harvest and create dishes with them …and all came from God. It is miraculous really.

  3. David Watkins on December 8, 2017 at 09:26

    In saying grace before a meal, I thank God for the bounty of the earth, of which I am partaking. This particular Grow Rule question has helped me to realize for fully and consciously that literally everything I touch and use all day everyday molded by human hands is made from elements of Creation. I will try to consciously be grateful for each and everything. In his answer to the question posed, the brother speaks of using eggs in his painting. As a pianist, I can be aware of the wood and other elements used to create the instrument, and be grateful. I have long thought of music performance as meditation and prayer. It is helpful spiritually to incorporate this additional dimension of gratitude to the experience.

  4. Sue on April 13, 2017 at 03:35

    I think collecting fruit and vegetables from my back garden, also preparing a meal mindfully/prayerfully- though I rarely do this, and walking outside in the bushland near my home

  5. Stan Lewis on March 10, 2017 at 16:42

    Photography has become a spiritual practice for me. The entire process of looking for the subject, determining the angle and approach, and then editing–this is a prayer. When I go out to “shoot,” I try to see nature and creation through the eyes of God. Doing so helps me realize the very miracle of life and this world, how I am connected to it, and I am more appreciative.

  6. Margaret on March 13, 2016 at 21:39

    The spiritual practice of Tending my garden and seeing Gods creation all around me allows me to feel closer to nature. I clear the weeds, prune, pick flowers or herbs, turn the soil while listening to the beautiful symphony of birds and insects .

    • Chioma A. Nwaogu on February 4, 2021 at 22:12

      Spiritual rumination and enquiry, when I wonder how creation, especially the birds and plants obey nature, in how they come to being and develop. I n reflecting on these am amazed and praise God

  7. chuck griffis on March 13, 2016 at 14:32

    I felt a strong connection to the spiritual world last July, gazing out the window of our hotel, built into the ancient stone walls of Assisi, Italy. Right next to us was the small parish church with its bells pealing on Sunday morning, and the air was full of swooping swallows and birds, with clear white morning light. I was filled with some feeling of the majesty of God and God’s world, with ancient history all around me. i felt a lightness and joy that haunts me to this day.

  8. Debbie on March 10, 2016 at 08:09

    Silence allowing thoughts to come in while I gaze out my kitchen window and watch the birds eat at the bird feeder. Praying as it comes to me for the people who need it.

  9. Stan on March 9, 2016 at 20:44

    I’ll echo many others. Just being in the outdoors and taking the time to notice it. Walking in the neighborhood, hiking in the woods, exploring a field or a mountain, listening to the birds sing and the water rushing, burbling, or whispering … In a word … communion.

  10. Mrs T on March 9, 2016 at 11:12

    Looking at the view. Appreciating the trees through the different seasons a dtbe way they are differently beautiful in each. Walking by the sea or sitting in my garden

  11. a city monk on March 8, 2016 at 23:25

    If you were to google Carthusian monk images… you would see a drawing of a monks cell that includes a garden space for each monk… well my living space is pretty close to that lay out. Once it was vegetables but the amount of water needed to overcome drought was an injustice…even the birds broke into a tomato like a personal water canteen. Slowly it devolved into a habitat.. helping the wild find shelter…lizards, bees, birds, native plants desert hearty… wild flowers… and, a picnic table for communion.

    Put all my basic needs within walking distance. The “deluxe” needs are a driving distance. In over a decade…I have yet to ‘connect’ with nature here. I miss…. dark green. I miss… a huge body of fresh water. I miss the way snow makes a sound that tells you just how cold it is outside. This is a desert place… and its harshness is louder than its beauty. So these question, compel me to be here, looking for signs of God’s love. I too quickly think of how disconnected I am from nature that I knew, that I understood, that I felt in harmony, and balance with…

    Sunshine…. on my should makes me happy, Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry…. this though is desert sunshine… like the fire of a kiln causes quartz conversion. Heated to a certain temperature and the mud of me can never go back to being mud. Fired!

    And the wind… there is nothing between the ocean and here. The might of the wind, unobstructed, intensely present … Come Holy Spirit Come…

    The Firey Wind of the Holy Spirit then is a constant presence, whose intensity I retreat from to rest in softer expressions… encountering the Holy Spirit…
    dynamic! and Beloved…

  12. Neil Ellis Orts on March 8, 2016 at 21:18

    I live in Houston, a model of urban sprawl, without a car. I walk a lot. The main benefit to urban sprawl (and there are few) is that there are more patches of green than what I recall in my neighborhood in Chicago (where I lived for 2 years). Or better put, patches of untamed green. In these places that aren’t kept mowed or manicured, I find wonderful little—literally tiny!—treasures. There are a number of wildflowers, nameless to me, that have blooms that range in size from pinhead to maybe a small collar button. There is a white one that, while having the classic 5 petal arrangement (which most of us drew in grad school), it is so tiny you have to really be looking at it to notice this. I’ve often wondered if any tiny insect depends upon it’s nectar or pollen and how much could that flower possibly produce? There are blue/purple ones that are rarer and maybe have a shorter blooming season—saw them this morning by a bus stop, but I don’t think they are always there. Then there’s a larger, orange flower on which the color is sort of flat and so looks like it’s made of paper, maybe cut out from a fading children’s book. These flowers are my greatest compensation for not having a car. I imagine most Houstonians, even the other walkers like me (rare breed that we are) ever notice them. They are a sort of spiritual practice—I consider them a sign of abundance—-and they are a connection to the earth that is untamed.

  13. susan zimmerman on March 8, 2016 at 21:02

    …after learning the Absolutes that exist in nature i could recognize them more quickly, in surprise encounters…later i also experienced that static phenomena that some use to describe the Absolutes and asked God so what i can identify them so what?

    …it was later that i encountered something more than this static description, while studying with the Jews…i learned in depth about the complimentary polar opposites that exist within each Absolute and this static description no longer exists for me e.g. daytime/nighttime fresh water/salt water/holy water +1-1 male/female…all polar opposites are in tension and we are to help God keep the same in balance

  14. Kristi on March 8, 2016 at 19:43

    Every year I enjoy planting and tending to the various Gardens on the property where I live. When I’m in The midst of this activity I hope extend my thanks to the Lord for providing the beauty which nature gives to us through the bounty of plants flowers, vegetables and fruits. I feel extremely connected to the earth while planting and so happy & grateful when those plants spring to life. The creation of so many things comes full circle during this time for me.

  15. Eugene Wright on March 8, 2016 at 18:57

    When we lived at our house before downsizing, I used to do a lot of gardening, vegetables and flowers. From cleaning the ground to planting and weeding and of course harvesting, I always prayed. Even cutting the grass was a time for me to be with myself and God. I love watching the rain fall and snow falls too. When people complain about the weather, I am grateful for rain and snow. I appreciate God watering the earth to let things grow and provide food for all living things. I appreciate snow for it helps to clean up the air…. such a fresh smell after a snow fall! In all things I give thanks and praise to God for His goodness.

  16. Bettie on March 8, 2016 at 17:05

    Getting up and looking to ‘my’ mountains every morning. ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…’
    Weeding, which is when I can most appreciate the world around me. The birds, whatever is blooming, about to bloom, or finished, the feel of my hands in the soil.

  17. Gg on March 8, 2016 at 16:56

    Living on the ocean, years ago I started a monthly “Full moonrise” event with my granddaughter. Monthly attempts lead to maybe 6 or 7 times a year in New England when there is absence of thick clouds, rain or sub- zero temperatures. One can find the exact time of the moonrise but can’t predict Where on the horizon it will rise -so it’s a fun family event-
    This past month my granddaughter had another commitment so I invited my second daughter and 3 year old grandson for the first time and was thrilled when accepted. My daughter saw the moonrise first and it was glorious!
    I had to do an errand so left, but was so touched to see an hour later when I looped back from the errand- I saw from afar my daughter and grandson still on the bench gazing, her arm extended, pointing. They were close and in conversation-
    How could anything but God’s wonder be the source of this memorable evening!…
    Thanks be to God!

  18. Dorothy P. on March 8, 2016 at 15:39

    Early Spring in Central Texas is bluebonnet season, and they spring up in some unlikely places, like highway medians, as well as yards where they have been actively seeded. I think taking note of the passing of the seasons by the wildflowers blooming, leaves falling, the brilliant green of new growth, even the phases of the moon: these are all things I do, and have taught my son to do, that never fail to instill a sense of awe and wonder at God’s creation.

  19. Muriel Akam on March 8, 2016 at 15:13

    I live in a small farming village where there is sowing, growing , harvesting, and bare winter when everything is quiet , I take a daily walk in the fields observing nature and give thanks to God’ for this cycle of nature. I use natural produce for food as much as possible and love the sight and smell of fruits and vegetables and always say a prayer of gratitude .

  20. Susan Baxter on March 8, 2016 at 13:58

    Their eye, the feel, the smell, the rhythm, the sensitivity, the partnership, the sense of freedom and connection at the same time…brushing, cleaning, riding one of God’s most magnificent creatures… the horse. They are a spiritual healing vacuum on four legs.

  21. Ana on March 8, 2016 at 12:49

    Such a timely lesson. I live in Central Texas. Just this morning, in a letter to my mother, I described the joy I experience in pulling weeds after a soaking rain that loosens the clay soil sufficiently so that I can get the entire root. At the same time, I also experience joy in watching weeds grow back again in the very same places every year. I allow them to grow to maturity because they are plants that are beloved by bees, caterpillars, and lady bugs. A collaboration of species, indeed!

  22. Christina on March 8, 2016 at 12:48

    Kitty-corner across the street from where I live, a sad tree would still come into leaf in the springtime. But yesterday I woke up to a noise. There were the city parks workers up in their elevated buckets cutting down the branches. They do a lot of clean-ups at this time of year. However, they continued down the trunk of the tree until they reached the ground. I was sad, mourned, to see the last large log fed into the chipper.
    This morning, at the back of this apartment building, there are three other plants. I don’t know what they are. In spite of our cold winds, freezing rain, and snow, they are beginning to come into bud for the green leaves that will appear in a few weeks’ time.

  23. gwedhen nicholas on March 8, 2016 at 11:33

    All of life is a spiritual practice. The line between sacred and secular is non-existent. So even such activities as taking out the garbage can be seen as being done for God and in connection with the natural world. When I do it, I am aware of what I am walking on, be it snow in the winter of dry earth in the summer, and I”m aware of the sky and what is happening there, I admire the trees both in winters’ nakedness or summers’ lushness. And of course, in the Summer as Br Keith said going out to the garden and picking herbs and vegetables, or working in the garden, bring me into close connection with the natural world.

  24. Mryka on March 8, 2016 at 10:52

    I sometimes assist at our early morning Eucharist, and I am only a 20-minute walk across the park from my church. Especially at times of the year when sunrise is not too far from 8:00, the world is astonishingly quiet despite being in an inner city, and the wild things are likely to be about. I can take some of that into the Eucharist. Our church has added meeting rooms with huge glass windows overlooking the park, and they provide an openness to the world in all its glory and pain that is so appropriate to crossing the boundary into God’s space.

  25. Russell on March 8, 2016 at 09:47

    When my wife and I pray in the morning, we start by thanking the Lord for the day, by which we recognize that the time and space we move in is all a divine creation and worthy of our gratitude. We are careful in our use of the world’s resources, reclaiming what we can from the things others discard, and limiting our use of man-made materials. In our yard, the garden shed where we keep our tools and resources has my wife’s handmade sign above the door: “The Lord’s Heavenly Garden”, so that every time we work as stewards in the landscape, we are reminded that we are participating in a living gift that requires our intentional gratitude and our own generosity of spirit. We feed the wildlife, especially birds, and try to be generous when the deer graze on our hostas.

  26. Rod Brawn on March 8, 2016 at 09:39

    In our backyard within the view from our dining room window one can see three bird feeders. The bird feeders are designed to frustrate the squirrels that also inhabit our neighbourhood. That is not a problem because many seeds seem unacceptable to some of the birds who visit the feeders. These seeds fall to the earth below to be shared with squirrels, birds that prefer to feed off the ground, and rabbits that come and go. Of course, there are raccoons and skunks that are around. All of this reminds me that we live in nature, and were we not here in our house these animals would still be here. I like particularly the Northern Cardinals both male and female and the chickadees. Those birds seem to have a grace. The starlings which can be here seem to leave in the winter. God feeds all of us.

  27. JoAnne Sharp on March 8, 2016 at 09:02

    For me I think it is saying a prayer of thanksgiving as I experience the wonders of God’s creation…be it the moon setting in the early morn over a hill as I drive up a country road…or see new life emerging from a tree stump…some times it is just hearing the birds making their music, and the animals of the forest going about their tasks…
    Sitting in silence so that I can experience nature within a city that is always bustling is a practice I am growing in!

  28. Mary on March 8, 2016 at 08:33

    I am an early riser and the daily paper is at my doorstep usually before six o’clock. It is my practice to go out and get the paper, draw in a few deep breaths – observe the weather and give thanks for a New Day!

  29. Bobbi on March 8, 2016 at 08:15

    This presentation gave me a refreshing perspective on connecting with the natural world. In the winter we enjoy time around our wood stove. Although we have to order wood, my husband gathers much of what we burn from around our yard and he cuts into logs any trees we have had cut down. It is quite warm today, but I look forward to watching with gratitude our next wood stove fire.

    • Dorothy P. on March 8, 2016 at 15:42

      There is a meditative aspect to a good fire… whether it be in a fire pit on our back patio, or a clearing in the woods. Thanks for the reminder!

  30. Christine Havens on March 8, 2016 at 08:10

    One practice for me spring to mind that especially keeps me connected to creation.
    In the evening, sometime before I go to bed, I go out on my back porch to pray and to look at the sky and stars. It’s been a practice of mine for a long time. I feel a connection to the night sky, which shows in some of the poetry I’ve written. My one and only tattoo is a bracelet of stars and a moon around my wrist, gotten shortly prior to my 50th birthday. A friend called it an unbinding because I’ve become more open to myself. There, under the night sky, is where I feel most connected to creation and a peace and space where I can listen for and talk to God.

  31. Suzanne on March 8, 2016 at 07:49

    I play the cello and realize that one of the reasons it is such a spiritual practice for me is that the cello and bow are made from different types of wood. The wood comes from Maple, Spruce, Ebony and Pernambuco. Being able to touch these woods and create music with them gives me so much pleasure. Nowadays there are cellos and bows made from carbon fiber and other man materials. These instruments are good for the outdoors because they are much less sensitive to temperature and humidity but the range of sounds they produce is not nearly as great and my sensitivity is dulled when making music with them. I am grateful for the human ingenuity that created my cello and bow using God’s gift to us of trees.

    • JoAnne Sharp on March 8, 2016 at 09:05

      I miss playing my cello…there is something about it that is spiritual…

  32. Bill Spies on March 8, 2016 at 07:23

    Just getting up each morning and seeing the Sun rising, the trees and bushes. Light from creation warming my face.

  33. Suzanne on March 8, 2016 at 06:50

    There are a number of very large trees visible from my family room. Through them I focus, not on the trees perse, but on God through them. As the sun begins to rise and the light intensifies their silhouette, I am drawn to the light – God’s light. I recognize the trees as God’s creation and give thanks.

  34. Jim V on March 8, 2016 at 06:35

    Walking outside
    Gazing out the window in the morning during my personal time

  35. Jane on March 8, 2016 at 06:03

    Most every day I prepare the evening meal for my husband and me, and for the years our children were growing up and with us, meals for the 4 of us. Many days the meal prep is pretty streamlined – putting together take-away from the grocery and tossing something in the microwave. And now and then, my cooking becomes more involved, using fresh vegetables, long simmering of some special cut of meat and so forth. The preparation of these meals seem somewhat spiritual in nature as I admire the beauty of, say, an eggplant or beets of different colors, and say thanks to the animal that gave its life for my nourishment.

  36. Betty on March 8, 2016 at 05:18

    The practices that help strengthen my connection are thanking God for the opportunity to live and partake in his natural world.

  37. Ruth West on March 8, 2016 at 02:53

    This is a thought-provoking question. I believe, at this time, my eyesight has connected me to the natural world. I have a beautiful ornamental plum tree in full bloom in my front yard. I have so enjoyed it! I see it out of my kitchen window; I see it when I drive up in my car. What a splendid piece of God’s creation! Not only is the one in my yard so beautiful, but also dozens of others up and down streets here in my town. I praise my Lord God for each plant, those that are blooming and those which lie dormant. What a gift is every blade of grass, each flower, each bush! How good it is to live where there’s year-round growth!
    May my spiritual life grow as does His creation!
    Thanks for this message.

  38. Ferial on March 8, 2016 at 02:00

    This attitude is so different – in a very good way – from the usual human ‘superiority’ arrogance that just ‘uses’ the things of nature ‘because we have a right’ to them. This collaborative/thankful attitude reminds me very much of some First Peoples spirituality.

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