I'm simply sitting on my back porch. Warm summer evening, cool breeze, beautiful sky now turning that deep navy blue just before dark.

That's when the carnival started.

Some agitated place in me started clamoring for relief. Even though the evening was washing over my soul, or maybe because it was allowing my soul to untangle, the carnival of desire started jockeying for my attention. I think there's still some ice cream in the freezer.

It felt like two kingdoms were vying for my soul. the carnival was offering relief. Nature was offering restoration. They are leagues apart, my friends. Leagues apart.

Relief is momentary; it’s checking out, numbing, sedating yourself. Television is relief. Eating a bag of cookies is relief. Tequila is relief. And let’s be honest—relief is what we reach for because it’s immediate and usually within our grasp. Most of us turn there, when what we really need is restoration.

Nature heals; nature restores. Think of sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in at sunset and compare it to turning on the tube and vegging in front of Narcos or Fear the Walking Dead. The experiences could not be farther apart. Remember how you feel sitting by a small brook, listening to its little musical songs, and contrast that to an hour of HALO. Video games offer relief; nature offers restoration.

This is what David was trying to put words to when he reported finding God in green meadows and beside quiet waters, emerging with a refreshed soul. Or as another translation has it, “He renews my strength” (Psalm 23:3 NLT). The world we live in fries the soul on a daily basis, fries it with a vengeance (it feels vengeful). We need the immersion David spoke of.

So I stayed on the porch, choosing to ignore the chorus of vendors trying to get me to leave in search of some relief (Your favorite show is on; maybe what you want is wine ... ). I knew if I left all I would find was sugar or alcohol, and my soul would be no better for it. So I chose to let the evening continue to have its healing ministry. Remember—God doesn’t like to shout. His invitations are much more gentle.

Sunset was over; night was falling, and still I sat there. The evening itself was cool now, and an owl was hooting somewhere off in the distance. I could feel my soul settling down even more; the feeling was like unwrinkling or disentangling on a soul level, as your body does in a hot tub. Thank you for this gift of beauty, I said. I receive it into my soul.

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