Spiritual Practice


Kaylea Hutson

I love being outside. I grew up on a farm and watched the sun come up as I did my chores. Now, I spend much of my life behind a computer. But the times I spend hiking in the woods or sitting beside a waterfall or a slow-moving stream are some of the best moments in my life.


Outside, I experience the natural world. I also feel especially close to God, as if I were living Psalm 42:1 (NRSV):
     As the deer longs for flowing streams,
          so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul longs to be in God’s presence, and being in nature helps provide the solution. Stepping into nature gives me a chance to unplug—to disconnect from my smartphone, to push away from computer and TV screens, to turn off the music—and allows me to experience God’s creation with all of my senses.


Practicing “Five Things”

One thing I like to do when spending time outside is what I call “five things.” A friend introduced me to this practice during a difficult period of my life. It helps me to relax, to tune out the noise, and to listen to God who often speaks to me through nature.

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The process is simple:

  • I start by identifying five things I can see around me.
  • Then I listen for five things I hear.
  • Finally, I focus on five things I feel.

Stepping outside, I might immediately see rocks, grass, a path, trees, and birds. I might hear birds chirping, water rippling over rocks, or grass blowing in the wind. The last is the hardest, but I may feel anything from a gentle breeze on my face to cool water running over my fingertips.

After completing the cycle of five things, then I repeat the process by counting backward, identifying four additional things in each step, then three, then two, and finally one. The entire process takes time and energy, and I don’t always find all the things; but often I’ve seen, felt, or listened to small things in nature that I might otherwise have overlooked.

Being in nature and engaging my senses helps me to recharge my spiritual batteries and gives me energy and strength to face my everyday life. After spending time outside, I often wonder why I don’t make it a regular part of my life. I realize that the more time I spend inside, the harder it is to unplug and go outside; yet doing so is what my soul needs to connect with God.



Being outside doesn’t necessarily mean going on a long hike. Taking a walk around the building or block is a good way to blow the cobwebs out of your brain. Somehow the problems we face seem more manageable after we step away from them and engage in nature even in a small way.

Summer in the Vineyard
How do you feed your soul through spending time in nature? What can you do to connect with God in a new way?

Why not unplug from everything and go for a walk or sit outside in the backyard and try practicing “five things.” Take a few minutes to see, hear, and feel what God is saying to you in nature. Who knows, it might even inspire you to write a psalm of praise to God.


Kaylea Hutson a journalist and children’s pastor, is currently working as the managing editor of The Grove Sun, a bi-weekly publication in Grove, Oklahoma. In her spare time, she loves being outdoors.

—from devozine (July/August 2011). Copyright © 2011 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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