Can one be a fisherman, a hunter, or an avid hiker without ever having an outdoor spiritual encounter?

We have a saying in our house, “There is no ketchup” and it means, “I can’t find what I’m looking for” more than it means “It isn’t there.” The saying evolved from the many times someone stood in front of the refrigerator and proclaimed, “There is no ketchup.” Another would come over, grab the ketchup bottle, and hand it to them. The phrase in our house is now more of a plea. “Show me so I know.”

That has brought about another question. Can an honest outdoorsman proclaim, “There is no God?” Don’t we all get a glimpse of the one who so grandly fashioned all this when we are outdoors pursuing our passions? After all, I would go outdoors and show them.

See the orange and yellow hues of the sunrise, the golden shimmer of morning. Every day, from the first day of creation, this phenomenon has occurred. Nothing we can do will stop the light, slow it or repeat it. The light happens, always since the first day, in perfect time without anything that we do. See this powerful sunrise.

Look into the blue waves of the ocean and the expanse of the clouds in the bright cerulean sky. Every day, from the second day, it has been here. Cyclical, life-giving reclamation occurs with evaporation and weather patterns. We hear thunder in the sky and smell the fresh air after a rainstorm. See the beautiful water and sky.

Walk in the dark green woods, musky with vegetation. Breathe in the smell of composting earth, grass, and evergreen branches. Algae sits atop shallow ponds as we watch the movement of cattails in the breeze. Roots of trees and plants grow down in the earth as crystal-clear lakes sprout up. Mountains rise to wonderful heights providing glorious vistas. Hyacinth and lavender bring forth fragrant breezes. Ever since the third day, see the beautiful workplace and playground of the earth.

Enjoy the warmth of the setting sun as shadows grow long at the end of the day. Night falls and the moon and stars adorn the skies. The expanse is large, bigger than we can comprehend. From the fourth day on there have been shooting stars and green northern lights and galaxies far away. See the heavens in all their glory.

Feel the leap of the fish as you reel it in. Watch the tracking of the snow geese as they fly overhead. Adrenalin rushes through your veins. Excitement. Anticipation. Maybe even fear, for will I somehow lose this precious gift? The birds and fishes live and move. Some migrate across thousands of miles to accomplish the most basic of life: reproduction. They know exactly where to go. They know exactly what to do and when. Complexity. Simplicity. Every day from the fifth day onward, see the beautiful creatures of the water and sky.

The doe leads her twin fawns to water. White speckles mixed with dark markings adorn the little ones’ backs. They know to stay close to mother, her doe eyes so deep and brown, one could fall in and never climb out. She shows her keen gift of hearing and even more robust sense of smell in the care of her fawns. Instinct for survival is great. Nourishment. Protection. Predator and prey are all part of the animal kingdom. People, too. Food that we hunt and farm are provision. Every day from the sixth day on, animals and humankind have roamed the land. See these beautiful deer.

Here, rest in my hammock tied between two large trees. Listen to the water lapping along the shoreline from the lake nearby. Close your eyes, feel the light breeze and the warmth that the sun provides but the shade of the trees makes pleasant. Your hard work is done for now, my friend. From the seventh day on, when we rest, we see the Creator in all this.

There is no ketchup? Oh, yes, indeed there is. And I don’t mean the plastic squeeze bottle is the ketchup. It simply contains some, not all, of what you are looking for—if that is what you seek.

K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at

Image courtesy Randy Hoepner. You can see Randy’s wonderful outdoor photography here.

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5 thoughts on ““There Is No Ketchup”

  1. Dead on, K.J. Too bad that so many will never take the time to stop, to see, to truly ponder the handiwork of a Creator. Instead, they sit back and take the lazy person’s way out by accepting the word of fools that there is no
    Creator and that everything they see around them in this world is mere chance: How silly.

    I truly feel sorry for those people, for they are in danger of losing so much more than just understanding itself.

  2. Lovely! The joy of noticing, being grateful, giving thanks. It reminded me of enjoying the silence and the beauty of the lake (and the sunnies circling to the surface) while fishing with my father on Norway Lake when I was a girl. Thank you!

  3. KJ, please do not confuse my inability to grasp or care about the ‘spiritual,’ with my ability to enjoy a beautiful sunset. I refuse to be told by zealots that, because I don’t believe in God, or don’t have ‘spiritual’ experiences in the woods, I somehow have a deficiency in my level of appreciation for the outdoors or nature. It’s useful here to remember that God is “supernatural,” and nature is, well, “natural.” That semantic distinction doesn’t prove or disprove the existence of God, but it helps us remember that there’s a very good reason why we measure things we can see/touch/feel, just as there’s a good reason we DON’T attempt to measure the weight/height/location of God. If you recall, during the Enlightenment period, there was an attempt to scientifically calculate the actual number of angels that could stand on the head of a pin, just as they tried to figure out what day of the week the world was created on . . . These things seem silly, now, because they are silly. I don’t care about the supernatural, because it doesn’t matter to me. Jesus doesn’t matter. I care about the NATURAL, because nature MATTERS to me. Animals matter to me. Plants matter to me. The wind and water matter to me. Don’t tell me I’m missing something, or that I’m not “finding the ketchup,” or whatever just because I can love the natural world without believing in God. And, to TrickyWin, who commented before me; How dare you suggest I’m intellectually or spiritually “lazy,” because I made a conscious decision NOT to follow Jesus, after many years of my own Bible study and fervent evangelism. There was nothing lazy about that decision.

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