Two Christians went for a walk in the mountains on a beautiful Sabbath day. One of the Christians was born and raised in the country, the other was from the city.
"Listen to the beautiful sound of the birds!" the country dweller said to his companion.
"It's a nice sound, but I don't understand what they are saying," replied the city dweller. "It would be much better if they sang with words, in English of course, so we could understand their songs of praise to God. As it is, I don't understand, so where's the spiritual meaning for me?"
"Just because they don't speak English doesn't mean their song is not a joyful hymn of praise to God!" the country man said. "But look here, see these beautiful rocks? Look at the way they sparkle as the water cascades over them, and listen to the delicate melody of the stream! See all the layers of design on each rock?"
"The sound of the water doesn't speak Bible texts, and the rocks say nothing either. See, wouldn't it be an improvement if we took a sandblaster and etched Bible verses on each of the rocks? Then we would get a real spiritual blessing from them! As it is, they're just lumps of hard stuff."
The country dweller scratched his head and looked around. He drew his companion's attention to the majestic trees all around. "Yes," the city man agreed. "Just think of how many Bibles and religious tracts could be made from all of these trees, if we made a plan to cut them all down!"
The country man grew more frustrated as he sat on a rock, listening to the sound of the water. "Let's sing some hymns!" yelled the city man as he whipped out a guitar and started strumming loudly away.
"Can't we just listen to the sound of God's nature for two minutes?" the country man tried to interject.
"Sounds mean nothing without words! Where's the spiritual meaning? I don't understand it. In the city, where I come from, we never lsiten to any music without spiritual meaning!"
"That's because you have so many sounds there masking the natural sounds God has given us that you've eventually forgotten how to listen," his friend replied. "Car horns, TV, rock music in stores, everywhere. Just sit with me for a minute and really listen to the music God has given us, the beauty He has created. The spiritual meaning is intrinsic, and you are free to assign any spiritual meaning to it that is in your heart, whether it's illustrative of a certain battle with sin in your life, the glory of Creation, thankfulness for the gift of life and friendship, or simply expressing something no poet could ever express in words--something we catch glimpses of in earthly beauty at times, something that we can chase all our lives but we will never truly experience fulfillment of until the Earth is made a new Creation."
But his city-dwelling companion, not interested in such sentiments, was already on his fourth verse of "Nearer, My God To Thee," still strumming loudly. Sighing, the country lover led his friend near a cozy little cabin at the edge of the woods. There was a beautiful rose garden filled with every variety of beautiful, sweet-smelling roses surrounding the cabin, well kept by an expert gardener.
"It's nice, but do we know that the gardener is a Christian?"
"Why does it matter? We are not talking about the gardener but the roses themselves! You might as well ask if the birds themselves are Christians!"
"Are they? If not, I don't want to listen to them!" he said as he put on his iPod and started listening to the Heritage Singers.
The country man threw up his hands with resignation and they walked back to his friend's Lexus SUV.