• Stop Playing Games with Gina McCarthy

    May 09,2013, 12:53 PM

    by the Rev. Mitch Hescox

    One of the latest examples of gridlock in Washington occurred this morning when my fellow Republicans on the Senate's Environment and PublicWorks (EPW) Committee boycotted a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy to become the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Without the Republicans, the committee didn't have a quorum, and so no vote could be taken.

    Across the nation, Christians are sick and tired of Washington's gridlock. We want decisions and not political games. To that end, in March I organized a group of Christian leaders to pray on the lawn of the US Capitol for an end to gridlock; around the country Christians joined us in prayer -- including the states from where these Republican senators on the EPW Committee come from. We prayed that our elected officials would seek common ground for the good of our nation.

    I'm on record supporting Gina's nomination. She has excellent qualifications, has the record of listening to all sides, and even has the support of many in industry. I consider her a "good cop" in protecting the health of our children. Even a few weeks ago, not a single Republican during her EPW nomination hearing questioned Ms McCarthy's qualifications. Senator Sessions (AL) even stated she would be confirmed.

    If a Senator, Democrat, or Republican, wishes to vote no on Ms McCarthy's nomination, that's their right. But cast a vote, and live by our American democracy and way of life. Too many of our service men and women put their lives on the line everyday (including my own son) to protect our way of life to have Senators play such games.

    If Congress doesn't like the Clean Air or the Clean Water Act that protects our children's lives and health, then change the law -- that's part of their job. Just don't play games with the "top cop" for environmental health whose job is to enforce what Congress already passed.

    Give Gina McCarthy the confirmation votes she deserves, and let's put in place the "top cop" to protect our children from pollution.

    The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

  • Leaning into the One Who Loves You

    September 24,2012, 13:42 PM

    by Pattrick Watters

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand"
    when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:13-18 NIV)

    For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)

    Whatever the circumstances, lean into the One Who loves you infinitely and abundantly

  • Presidential Candidates: How They Would Protect The Poor

    September 19,2012, 08:35 AM

    Last year Christian leaders came together to create a "Circle of Protection" around programs in the federal budget designed to help the poor both here and abroad:

    In the face of historic deficits, the nation faces unavoidable choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. These choices are economic, political"and moral.

    As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up"how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45).

    They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected. We know from our experience serving hungry and homeless people that these programs meet basic human needs and protect the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable. We believe that God is calling us to pray, fast, give alms and to speak out for justice.

    As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.

    Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

    Recently, the Circle of Protection initiative asked President Obama and Gov. Romney how they would help protect the poor. Both candidates provided a video response, which you can see below:

    As one of the Christian leaders involved with the Circle of Protection, I strongly urge you to watch these important videos from the two candidates and make up your own mind as to which approach will help our country fulfill the biblical call to care for the poor.

    In Christ,
    The Rev. Mitch Hescox
    President/C.E.O.

  • In Memory: Larry Gibson

    September 11,2012, 05:44 AM

    by Alexei Laushkin

    I had a chance to meet Larry Gibson a few times during my life. Larry was a leading voice opposed to Mountain Top Removal, the process by which a mountain is blown up to more easily get out the coal seams in the those very mountains. I had an opportunity to visit the Kayford Mountain during the Creation Care Prayer Walk.

    Mountain Top Removal near Kayford Mountain, Larry Gibson's home.
    Mountain Top Removal near Kayford Mountain, Larry Gibson's home.

    For those of you who have a heart for space and location and home you won't want to miss this short clip that gives you a sense of the man and his passion.

    "There is not enough money printed or made that can buy this place" " Larry Gibson

    R.I.P. Larry Gibson. Thanks for opening my eyes to what happens when we permanently destroy mountains and displace lives. Learn more about Larry via the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation.

  • A Passion for His Kingdom, A Passion for His Name

    August 14,2012, 12:00 PM

    by Alexei Laushkin

    When we sow sparingly we reap sparingly. If you have a garden or have ever grown food you know this to be true. If you sow and prepare a meager portion, your field or your garden will produce meagerly. Many of us live 24/7 lives. Matthew Sleeth of Blessed Earth encourages us to live 24/6 lives.

    We won't have room for the Kingdom and His purposes if we don't give him some room to work in our lives. If we sow sparingly, we'll reap sparingly. The Kingdom isn't just about how close we feel to God on a day to day basis, it's about how much we embody/live out our faith by the hour.

    photo by Dominik Bartsch
    photo by Dominik Bartsch

    We begin to have a passion for the Kingdom of Christ when we see that Kingdom break into our everyday work, home, and friendships. The Kingdom is lived out in being extraordinarily patient with a spouse or friend; lived out when you choice to bless those who hurt you; lived out in the ordinary kindnesses of acknowledgement and courtesy.

    You see in church we often talk about doing THE BIG things for God. Going on that mission trip to Africa, helping to fight human slavery through IJM, bringing a friend to Christ, but the TRUTH is that the BIG things of God in our lives are lived out every single day. Character counts. Kindness counts. Self-control counts. Abstaining from temptation counts. Forgiveness counts. Being alive at work counts. And Love counts above all.

    The problem is that these little things don't come naturally. They are a gift of God enabled by the Holy Spirit. We have to give God room to work in our lives. If we sow sparingly we will reap sparingly. While more bible study and morning devotions are great tools for spiritual growth, they are not a substitute for actually being generous, for actually being kind, for actually engaging with your neighbor. We all have to start somewhere, whether it's our attitudes at work, at home, or in how we manage our time. We don't live to the drum beat of every day needs, we live by the grace God has given to us through Christ Jesus.

    God delights in us reflecting his Son. When we do the things that Jesus did, when we understand the depth of love and grace He has in sustaining us, we begin to embody and live into His Kingdom.

    "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).

    In the passage we learn that God loves a cheerful giver, someone who invests time and finances to bless those in need. It's not simply the wealthy who are blessed by being generous; it is anyone with a heart to give.

    We often hear about the righteous woman of Proverbs 31; 2 Corinthians 9 is the righteous Christian in any stage of life. The Christian gives and sows in accord with their love of the Kingdom. The Christian gives without regard to the worthiness and/or politics of the recipient. The Christian gives because they have already given their hours and talents to God. A generous giver knows what it means to have a passion for His Kingdom, and a passion for His Name.

  • Doxology and Desire: Making Small Things New

    June 29,2012, 10:11 AM

    This article was originally published on the Art House America Blog.

    by Sandra McCracken

     

    Photo: Betty McCracken
    Photo: Betty McCracken

    My father is a brilliant biology teacher, now retired. My mother is a thoughtful student of the Bible. They will have been married for 50 years this August. They have made records of their years of bird-watching in a worn Peterson Field Guide, plotting their dates and sightings together in the margins. They took me on nature walks as a child and we talked about the names of Missouri birds and trees and flowers.

    Maybe that's one of the reasons that I love Maltbie Babcock's "This is My Father's World." I love the line "He shines in all that's fair" because this poetry has given me license to make art about all aspects of life. I have been shaped by the same kind of experience that Babcock describes in being able to taste and hear and see the glory of God in the skies, the flowers, and the birds singing their melodies like hymns.

    In recent months, I've been reading John Muir's memoir and writing poetry and melodies about what it means to posture myself in such a way that is more mindful of my place in the world. Water. Electricity. Oil. Pesticides. Organic foods. As Muir wrote, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." We are all pulled and affected by our place and by each other. Our little choices do have consequences. And there is so much to consider " just reading labels at the grocery store can be a precarious business.

    The more I learn, the more I find that unfortunately America has not had a stellar reputation for stewardship throughout history " logging, strip mining, and crop dusting, just to name a few problems. Nor has this been a pressing concern for most of the American church, whom you might think would be at the front lines ready to care for God's creation. All too often, the topic of conservation quickly becomes political and we run to the safety of our pat answers. There have been some confusing lines drawn by both parties that do not add up to a consistent theology. The only way to get past these political blockades is to go up and over, elevating the conversation, speaking in nuances instead of sound bites, truly listening to each other, and looking for points of unity in spite of our differences. In fact, our diversity may be our best asset when it comes to seeking solutions for our environmental challenges.

    One of the biggest hurdles for me personally in caring for the earth is that the problems feel so overwhelming. I cannot easily read National Geographic without feeling heavy-hearted about the realities of our condition, both within our own insatiably selfish hearts and in my sadness over the many species and habitats that we are losing along the way. And deeper still, if we are attentive to the words of Jesus and His care for the poor, the choices we make in the way of stewardship deeply cut into the survival of the people most desperate for these natural, sustaining resources. The poor are the first and hardest hit by these ecological losses and irregularities.

    Photo: Sandra McCracken
    Photo: Sandra McCracken

    So with each passing day, I am becoming more attuned to the particular DNA I have from each of my parents " biology and theology " pushing me forward on the journey of conservation. I might be unqualified, but everybody has to start somewhere. Rather than burying my head in the sand like I am inclined to do, I have to lean into my discomfort. I'd rather deepen my longing, not assuage it. And I look to the great hope that all things will one day be restored and renewed. I want to honor and care for God's creation not because of a marketing team pulling on my checkbook, but because of a doxological pull that tugs on my conscience.

    As a songwriter by vocation, all of this comes out of me more as poetry than as politics. The wonder of the great outdoors creeps into the songs I write. My favorite time with my children is when we walk in the woods or explore the creek. We visited the Redwoods together in January and stood at the base of those 2,000-year-old trees in wonder. I can't help myself from whistling back at the Towhee birds in Shelby Park. I am giddy when I hear or glimpse the Barred Owl that shares the beautiful old trees in our urban neighborhood. I wake the kids up some nights to see a particularly bright moon in the sky. And I will never get over the thrill of an airplane window seat view " seeing the horizon, the landscapes, the contours of the countryside, and the rivers carving spaces in between.

    Recently, I had the great pleasure of hearing Peter and Miranda Harris, the founding members of A Rocha, a global conservation organization. They shared the story of their journey from a humble small group in Liverpool, to the Alvor estuary in Portugal, and now it has become an international network of conservationists in 16 countries. I had never before heard anybody speak with their particular blend of hope, ethics, and spirituality. It was a rare and powerful combination. As I sat in the room that evening, it confirmed in my own spirit that I'm on some sort of old-yet-new journey through these themes.

    L to R: Jill Phillips, Sandra McCracken, Miranda and Peter Harris, and Jenna Henderson
    L to R: Jill Phillips, Sandra McCracken, Miranda and Peter Harris, and Jenna Henderson

    Miranda wisely confessed, "We cannot save the world " that's God's business. If we stop being in-process, we've lost the battle." Knowing that we cannot control the outcome is really the beginning of the path, not the end. It is a small but real thing that each of us can enter into this practice of conservation believing that we can be part of tangible renewal. For some, it might take the shape of educating or gardening. For others it might look like banking or engineering, a public office or scientific research. It takes all kinds to accomplish the greater good. And it matters for us to practice renewal. It matters because God loves what He made, and when you love someone, you are drawn to love what they love.

    At this invitation, we see that the earth is full of remarkable displays of God's glory (Psalm 104). As we join together in earth-enjoyment, we come not just as individuals, but as a diverse family of people. This co-laboring to bring healing and wholeness is a simple call and yet a difficult one to abide.

    This kind of unity is a challenge every day right under my own roof. In our family of four, from morning until night, we shift our weight back and forth to try our best to respond to the will and desires of each person. And therein is the conflict. My youngest child is three years old and she shows her will in full color. I, too, have a strong will, but a more grown-up version. The same goes for the other two. We each want things our own way. Sometimes we want to be left alone to have it our own way, but we need each other. We get frustrated. We want things to work but they don't always work. And if Mick Jagger is right, that "you can't always get what you want," then could there be a higher objective for our desire?

    The result of how we go about getting what we want extends out from individual families to neighborhoods, then cities, countries, and even out into the atmosphere surrounding our planet. Together we multiply our potential for sustainability, and together we multiply our potential for destruction. We react to each other with changing shades of conflict and complacency because we desire to have things our own way. Meanwhile, the honeybees in the clover fields, the fish in the ocean, and the polar bears on the ice caps go about their day-to-day lives. Their health and wholeness is directly and profoundly affected by how we work out our desires.

    Jonathan Edwards, the great intellectual and theologian, made the case that we have free will, but that at any given moment we are slaves to our greatest desire. And our desires will function to guide our behavior whether we acknowledge them or not. James K.A. Smith, philosophy professor and author, puts it this way in his book Desiring the Kingdom: "Our love is aimed from the fulcrum of our desire " the habits that constitute our character, or core identity. And the way our love or desire gets aimed in specific directions is through practices that shape, mold, and direct our love."

    I confess that I am more than a little weary of my same old practices. I want to wake up and name my desires, to bring them out into the light. I want to see things as they are so that I can change and be changed. This is the beginning of care and conversation, whether it's about protecting dolphins, or about the community garden, or about policy making on Capitol Hill.

    No matter your life station, there is still some small good to be done. Maybe we can't change the world, but we can do something. This summer, as we celebrate my parents' 50 years of marriage, I realize that they have built 50 years of good things, pouring themselves into their family. They taught me to love the things that they love, shaping my desire for beauty and biology, and now I am able to spend some of that inheritance on my own little ones. No one may notice whether or not you recycle that cup when nobody is looking, or if you ride your bike to work, or if you teach your young nephew the difference between maple and oak trees. But a few small habits aligned for the greater good can add up to a whole garden of hope. And hope, like an eager seed, points us to a day coming when God's green earth will be made new.

    Sandra McCracken is an independent singer-songwriter whose smart, soulful blend of folk and gospel is as progressive as it is timeless. In the past 13 years, McCracken has released seven studio albums and two duo EPs with her husband Derek Webb; most recently, she has teamed up with a side band, Rain for Roots, to record and produce an album of children's songs. She is a founding contributor of the Indelible Grace hymn project, and her re-tuned hymns are sung in congregations across the country. McCracken currently lives, writes, and records at her home in East Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Derek Webb, and their two children.

  • The Winter of our Discontent

    February 02,2012, 12:26 PM

    You may have noticed something about this winter, mainly that there isn't much of a winter to speak of. It's early February and the Cherry Blossoms of Washington DC are starting to bud. According to the National Climatic Data Center heat records versus cold records for January will have been exceeded by a ratio of over 20 to 1. For the season it stands at just over 6 to 1.

  • Renewal Student Summit

    September 29,2011, 13:59 PM

    Come to Houghton College from October 20th* to 23rd, 2011 for Renewal's second national summit! Highlights include:

    •  connecting with other Christian students working on campus environmental sustainability
    •  learning from experienced creation care leaders
    •  becoming equipped to make lasting changes on your campus

    Scholarships are available. Check out renewingcreation.org/summit/about for more information.

    Register by September 30th

    *If you can't make the Thursday evening session, we would love to have you join us on Friday.

  • Dental Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

    August 19,2011, 17:58 PM

    by Aly Lewis

    Circle. Circle. Swirl. Spit.

    Confession time: I love flossing. If I don't floss before bed I have nightmares of plaque and gingivitis taking over my mouth"if I can even fall asleep. Seriously.

    My love of dental hygiene grew from a hatred of anything less than perfection. When I was 11, I received a report card from my pediatric dentist with red ink scrawled over the areas I'd missed in a big gaping mouth diagram. Next to the plaque inkblots was my tooth brushing score: a 60%.

    60%?

    That's a D in real life!!! And these weren't even my baby teeth! How could I accept any less than 100% for my smile?

    But many children around the world don't have a choice. They don't have access to tooth brushes or toothpaste. Much less floss or dentists or the colorful goody bags I got from my dentist as a kid.

    All of my pearly white vanity aside, dental hygiene is a big issue. Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease, chronic inflammation, and even increased risk of heart attack and other medical complications.

    Now what does dental hygiene have to do with Plant With Purpose? Trees don't have teeth. We say "Trees Please," not "say Cheese Please," right?

    Today I'd like to tell you more about one of my favorite Plant With Purpose programs. Dental Brigades. That's right, brigades.

    No, no these dental brigades aren't little armies of marching teeth. Or even regiments of soldiers wielding tooth brushes in the fight against bad breath.

    In our program in Oaxaca, Mexico we organize dental hygiene campaigns called dental brigades as a part of our mission to promote holistic community health and development.

    For these projects, Plant With Purpose teams up with local health clinics to provide the families we serve access to dental health care. Through these traveling dental clinics, thousands of families have received dental care.

    One father, Rodolfo, (on the right in the picture above), speaks of his experience with Plant With Purpose, "The first project with Plant With Purpose was the cistern, then stoves, then ten families built latrines, and then chicken projects. We also get dental care from Plant With Purpose. The church is growing and that is its purpose - to spread the word of God."

    Saying dental cleanliness is next to godliness may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do believe we can show God's love through dental care. And that's something to smile about.

    re-posted with permission

    Aly Lewis is a grant writer for Plant with Purpose, to read more of her work and that of her colleagues visit their blog.

  • Reaching Out in the Namibian Desert

    August 19,2011, 08:19 AM

    by Marcia Stanton

    First of all, let me please thank Blessed Earth for the incredible work that you are allowing our precious Creator to do through you!!

    Ever since I was a child, God has called me to see Him in his Creation and to make a difference in the world. I have been living permanently outside the USA since 2005, with the last 4 years being in Namibia.

    In Namibia, much of God's Creation is still wild and natural as He designed it. His invisible hand is at work in nature every day. It is deeply touching and inspiring to walk in the oldest desert in the world, to see flowers survive the harshest conditions, and to observe wildlife living in peace with each other and humans. It is what He intended for us in the spectacular gift of Creation.

    Yet, people fail to honor Him. Unfortunately, destructive mass industrialization is finally hitting Namibia, and we have a massive problem with uranium mining. A wasteful, materialistic agenda is being pushed, and some even use misinterpretations of the Bible to feed lies. This is especially dangerous as approximately 85% of Namibians are Christian and many people do not read the Bible for themselves. Most do not understand how the Bible relates to environmental concerns.

    I have often struggled to 'fit-in' with the Christian community as environmental issues are frequently ignored. I finally reached the breaking point in Namibia where I decided to re-evaluate myself. Perhaps it was my understanding of God that was wrong. I prayed about it and God asked me to read the Bible again with a fresh perspective. In turning back to the great book, I saw just how many important truths in the Bible are being disregarded in today's society.

    In my own life, God has used my struggles as a means to reach out to people on the topic of creation care. He has called on me to defend those that don't have a voice. He continuously uses Biblical passages to remind me that I am fighting for His cause. There is nothing that will stop me from standing up for my best friend- my Father- my Creator and for all of His Creation that He loves.

    While I often feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, God has made it clear to me that I am not alone and that I share this mission with many other good people. THANK YOU for being some of those people and for allowing Him to do incredible work through you! The fact is that our Father is the Great Conservationist. Together and united we are His hands and feet and His voice is being heard! I thank you once again for all of Blessed Earth's work on behalf of our amazing Creator!

    re-posted with permission

    Marcia Stanton serves as the Legal Assistant to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and several NGOs in Namibia and is in the process of founding the Earth Organization: Namibia where she will start a project on Creation Care education.

  • Liberty Recycles

    August 15,2011, 14:58 PM

    by Gretchen Peck

    During my recent visit to Liberty University I had the pleasure of meeting with several students who are trying to bring more environmental awareness to campus. For a sculpture class assignment Randy Carroll created a headless man filled with garbage to inspire people to think about how much is thrown out and how they can reduce the huge amount of trash that we all produce. Sculptures such as Randy's were placed around campus in visible areas. The sign on the sculpture reads:

    "'Use your head'
    Americans rank among the most educated people in thew orld yet we are the HIGHEST PRODUCER of waste on the ENTIRE planet.

    Reduce
    Reuse
    THEN
    Recycle

    for more information visit:
    http://renewingcreation.org
    Loving God means loving his creation, too."

    Even small things like a thoughtful sculpture are important for raising awareness and getting people to ask questions. Keep up the good work Liberty students!

  • The Faith of an American Forester

    August 08,2011, 08:56 AM

    by Jim Furnish

    "The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord " Psalm 33:5

    by Visit Colorado from flickr creative commons
    by Visit Colorado from flickr creative commons

    It was July 4, 1976, our nation's bicentennial, and I was backpacking in the Never Summer Mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park. But despite the park's name summer was here and the last vestiges of alpine lake ice heralded its arrival. As I approached the shore, I could swear I heard the faint tinkling of chimes. Closer inspection revealed that the gently lapping waves were causing the edge of the ice sheet to break into long crystals, perhaps 1518" long, causing the crystals to"rub elbows", creating a beautiful, haunting symphony that to this day chills me. It was as if God was taking pleasure in His creation and allowing me to secretly listen, too. I have never again witnessed this. The beauty of the moment was a poignant testimony to God's blessing us richly with this world.

    A Gathering Storm

    This was an impressionable time in my life. At 31, I had been employed by the U. S. Forest Service for nearly ten years. I was entertaining doubts about an agency that seemed to show too little appreciation and respect for the splendid natural resources entrusted to it. I believed in God, but I was not yet a Christian, and had many questions and concerns about who Christ really was. As one who had a deepening affection for nature, it bothered me that I seldom heard Christians speak passionately about caring for God's creation. God was, inevitably, to gently meet my deepest longings.

    God saved me about 25 years ago, and I feel so blessed by His unmerited grace. The road of progressive sanctification has been a long and sobering one, although filled with joy. I departed the Forest Service in 2002, resigning after 34 years, as a "critical lover," no longer able to abide policies that I believed to be both professionally and spiritually bankrupt and objectionable. It seemed the Forest Service an agency assigned the enviable and weighty stewardship responsibility for a spectacular 8 percent of America " was stuck on a logging treadmill, when the public we served seemed to be screaming for greater sensitivity and focus on clean water, abundant wildlife, naturalness, and "re-creation."

    I remain a fervent advocate of using natural resources, but doing so with a tender, humble, and careful approach " and with an abiding appreciation for God's inscrutable creation. I've witnessed far too much excess, greed, and arrogance resulting in exploitation and environmental degradation.

    It seems only natural to me that as my heart wakens to the depth of God's gift to me in Christ, that I also see the natural world through new eyes and seek to care for the Earth wisely. I think of it this way - love the Creator, love His creation. The cross of Christ rightly belongs at the center of my faith experience, but I yearn to hear preaching and earnest discussion on our fundamental obligation to know, appreciate, and steward the Earth in God-glorifying ways. I seldom do.

    My Christian faith and environmental advocacy came about over time, but I did not begin there. I'd like to describe elements of the odyssey. This is my story of how faith and environmentalism developed and intertwined.

    How I Evolved Within the Forest Service

    I became a Christian while living in Wyoming in the late 1970's. I'd been in a comfortable seat on the "Good People Go To Heaven" train, until I had a pivotal encounter that led me to understand my profoundly sinful nature and my desperate need for a savior. This awakened an awareness of my own sin and caused me to reassess what I was doing with my life and chosen profession.

    The Forest Service has a wonderful mission caring for some of our country's most beautiful and valued lands. Following World War II, the agency had begun an aggressive logging and roadbuilding campaign to help meet demand for the housing boom. The campaign was predicated on a concept of "regulation" - wild, natural forests could betamed through management to provide wood products on a predictable and reliable basis. The favored logging technique was "clearcutting," the removal of all trees from a site. It is an efficient technique, but research has shown that the resulting tree plantations bear little resemblance to a forest. It is also esthetically shocking and offensive to sensibility.

    by Peter Blanchard from flickr creative commons
    by Peter Blanchard from flickr creative commons

    The Forest Service is involved in many other activities that make use of the land, such as grazing, mining, and recreation (like ski areas, many of which - for example Vail, CO " are on public land). In almost every case, sharp battle lines have been drawn as to how much is enough. There are inevitable concerns about the role of commerce and suggestions of improper alliances with industries involved in profiting from access to public resources. Thus, working for the Forest Service involves balancing resource stewardship with consumption.

    It is apparent to the most casual observer that this world we live in is based on consumption. Consumption is essential for survival. God has made it so. Yet, the amount we consume and the manner in which we consume distinguish between greed and conservation, gluttony and sufficiency.

    by r c photographic from flickr creative commons
    by r c photographic from flickr creative commons

    Clearcutting trees smacked of greed and gluttony. Dare I say it, it seemed sinful to me. And I was questioning my role and participation in further clearcutting. Increasingly, I became convicted of the notion that there must be better ways to meet our needs for wood products, ways to carefully select a few trees for harvest while retaining a wellfunctioning "forest." And I was provoked by loud public voices expressing disgust and distrust of the Forest Service. I was provoked and challenged by the passion of the environmental movement. It seemed they cared more about national forests than I did. I was confronting an ideological struggle that was gripping the entire agency.

    This conflict reached its zenith in the Pacific Northwest because of legal challenges that the Forest Service was causing the demise of the spotted owl. Speaking broadly, the Forest Service was accurately portrayed as clearcutting old-growth forests that were home to spotted owls. Unless interrupted, this course of action seemed to have a certain outcome: no more owls, as well as the loss of countless other species uniquely associated with oldgrowth forests. In 1991, a courageous federal judge, William Dwyer of Seattle, intervened and timber harvesting of national forests plummeted.

    Christianity and the Environmental Ethic

    Largely lost amid all the legal battles was an emerging voice from the religious community that asserted the spiritual values of forests and their associated life forms - most notably the salmon that returned to the rivers to spawn. The rivers could be thought of as the lifeblood of the land. As both owl and salmon populations dropped precipitously, surely this was telling us something about a lack of wisdom in traditional forestry practice. Might God be seeking to arouse the faithful to fight for His creation?

    by ndh from flickr creative commons
    by ndh from flickr creative commons

    Although it was seldom discussed openly, the spiritual component of the controversy seemed the deepest and most compelling to me. Were traditional forestry practices "wise"? Were they respectful of basic soil and water resources that support all life? Was collateral damage to owls and salmon acceptable as long as the timber economy didn't have to count those "costs"? There seemed to be mounting evidence that old dogma about how to manage forests was, for all practicable purposes, bankrupt. Traditional thinking had created a morass and was unlikely to solve anything.

    The parallel here with Christ challenging the religious traditions of his day was striking to me. Christ sought to have the church adapt to a new truth, thus saving itself in the process. But the religious leaders of his society responded to the threat by rejecting the messenger, the Messiah.

    Organizations commonly struggle with change, and I felt I was witnessing the age-old truth that people tend to get attached to comfortable methods and will ride them all the way to the bottom. Even when necessary, people don't let go of the past easily. Regrettably, the dialogue among agency leaders focused on how to reduce negative environmental consequences while retaining as much of the timber industry as possible, thus minimizing job losses. How ironic that even foresters can't see the forest for the trees at times.

    Largely neglected was probing the deeper question as to whether policies based on activities redolent of greed needed to be replaced wholesale, rather than just "tweaked" a little here and there. I believed the only way to clean up the train wreck was to lay a new track. This new track would require radically different approaches to managing forests. I actually set out to build such a "new track" and am pleased to report that, 10 years later, the train is traveling at a nice clip to its new destination. I am even more grateful that environmental groups in Oregon (and beyond) now point to the Siuslaw National Forest, where I was Forest Super visor, as a place where true reform worked. They ask why more national forests aren't willing to undertake similar reforms.

    Bedrock Principles

    I believe that God has seen fit in his love to provide a natural abundance so long as we care for his Earth properly. Simply put " you can have golden eggs, but you can't kill the goose! Whereas many environmentalists I know seem to worship the creation itself, we Christians are called to worship the Creator, and, as is fitting, lovingly care for and respect his creation.

    The term "sustainability" has taken on a new cache, but the principle it speaks to in stewarding God's creation is an ancient one. Whether it's in forestry, agriculture, water supply, or power generation, there is a constant tension between the forces of greed and gluttony on the one hand, and humility and conservation on the other. When God gave man dominion over His creation, the responsibility was not to be abused.

    I believe the Christian community has a responsibility to advocate for sustainability and sound stewardship. At present, the "Christian Right" is most often characterized as being probusiness and anti-environment, as if the biblical admonition to exercise dominion over the Earth was equated with taking whatever we want no matter the consequences.

    Seen more biblically, however, basic principles of humble stewardship include:

    • remembering always that we are the beneficiaries of God's grace and appreciating His provision for us;
    • behaving as if one is not an owner but rather a respectful tenant;
    • caring more about the welfare of future generations than wanton consumption;
    • conservation of what we already have as a priority over new development;
    • and caution in the face of uncertainty.

    Far from being extreme, I believe wedding Christianity with environmentalism is biblical and just plain right. I spent a career learning that this is possible. I am pleased to join my voice with other Christians to proclaim this.

    Editor's Note: Jim Furnish is the former Deputy Chief of the U. S. Forest Service and currently serves as aconsultant.

  • The Lausanne Movement and Creation Care

    August 05,2011, 07:11 AM

    The Lausanne Movement founded by Billy Graham and John Stott held its third conference in October 2010 at Cape Town, South Africa. They issued The Cape Town Commitment as a call to the evangelical church worldwide. Below are the sections on creation care in general and climate change's impacts on humanity. You can read the entire document at http://www.lausanne.org/cape-town-2010 or visit http://creationcare.org/lausanne

    7. We love God's world

    by CubaGallery from flickr creative commons
    by CubaGallery from flickr creative commons

    We share God's passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God's providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

    a) We love the world of God's creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commends), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.' The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.

    by Emmanuela.ie from flickr creative commons
    by Emmanuela.ie from flickr creative commons

    The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of redemption and inheritance " creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

    Such love for God's creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste, and pollution of the earth's resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility". The Bible declares God's redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God's good news through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God's people.

    IIB. Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world

    5.Christ's peace for the suffering creation

    Our biblical mandate in relation to God'screation is provided in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (a). All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God's good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in" farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also called to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer, and heir of all creation. We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth's resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together with equal urgency.

  • Remembering a Radical Disciple

    August 03,2011, 06:55 AM

    by John Elwood

    Yesterday morning, the mail brought Rev. John Stott's final book, "The Radical Disciple." Within hours, Barbara brought me the news that Stott was dead.

    Copyright: Langham Partnership International
    Copyright: Langham Partnership International

    Not everyone knows Stott. The more secular readers of the CR, and others of you who follow other religions, might not have heard of him. But many years ago, when I was a high school boy, two Christian writers stood as pillars of guidance for young people exploring the gospel. Of course, there was C.S. Lewis with "Mere Christianity" and dozens of other works. But next in line was John Stott, rector of All Souls Church in London, whose "Basic Christianity" became the authority for living in relationship with God.

    Forty years later "The Radical Disciple" arrived at my door (see it here). Writing by hand at age 88 in 2009, and keenly aware of the shortness of time to give us his final, parting guidance, Stott said this:

    "Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective; choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority."

    Copyright: Langham Partnership International
    Copyright: Langham Partnership International

    And what are those costly areas of life that Stott insists that we bring under the authority of Christ? He mentions eight. But principal among them is "the care of our created environment." Care for creation.

    Among the core issues of creation care, Stott puts human-caused climate change as the most important. "Of all the global threats that face our planet," he writes, "this is the most serious."

    How can Christians ignore the perils of environmental degradation, and even resist those who labor to protect the earth? Stott confesses that he doesn't know. Citing a younger writer, he says:

    "It seems quite inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God, to be disciples of Jesus, and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership. They do not care about the abuse of the earth and indeed, by their wasteful and over-consumptive lifestyles, they contribute to it."

    Well, Dr. Stott, we share your bewilderment. But today, we honor the memory of your life, and the ways you have enriched and guided us. We thank God for lending you to us all these years. And we rededicate ourselves to the call to discipleship so close to your heart.

    Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

    re-posted with permission

    John Elwood is the author and publisher of The Clothesline Report that deals with the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.

  • Why Creation Care Needs Creature Care

    June 17,2011, 07:25 AM

    by Ben DeVries

    It was just under four years ago that a number of influences brought me to the cause of God's creatures. Just as I had been as a child, I found myself once again spellbound by the multifaceted wonder and dignity of animals, from the cats in my home to the wildlife I saw on river trail walks and in my backyard, the good, good pig I read about in a memoir or any number of enchanting creatures on tv. But it was their unmistakable individuality which gripped me most of all. Whether I could immediately make out a difference in their appearance or personality or not, I couldn't escape the fact that these were individual creatures, beings which must each hold a unique value and relationship to their Creator.

    This awareness, along with the distressing reports of animal cruelty and suffering which continued to filter in, motivated me to respond to the growing calling on my heart and do what I could to be a voice for animals in my home community of faith, where I knew firsthand how little consideration they received. I needed some sort of constructive outlet for the images which flashed before my mind's eye of pets no less lovable than my own languishing without hope in shelter cages, of livestock with the light gone out of their eyes because they hardly have the space to move their limbs let alone be an animal, or the beautiful doe who bounced off my windshield one winter's night and lay crippled and terrified by the side of the road. In these and so many other instances, from unspeakable brutalities committed behind closed doors to the everyday frailty and mortality of creaturely existence, I keenly felt the discrepancy between the enduring innocence God intended for animals and our relationship with them, and the reality they currently face.

    And so I changed track in my final months at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with the gracious, if somewhat puzzled, help of my advising professor, and took up a capstone project on a biblical-theological foundation for animal welfare which also laid the groundwork for not one sparrow. I understood that the vast majority of my brothers and sisters in Christ, including my fellow students preparing for ministry, would have very different callings and passions. I also understood that most of them would, at a minimum, probably not know quite what to make of my own. But just as I had been largely oblivious only months previous to the suffering of God's creatures and the seriousness with which He regards it, I trusted that He patiently longed for His people as a whole to grow in our awareness and responsibility for it.

    As I read and took notes toward my paper, I was struck by how much quality material was available specifically on the subject of animal welfare and advocacy from a range of Christian perspectives. But I also remember being struck by an unexpected lack of input from a set of voices I had expected to be the next line of support, or at least genuinely interested. Environmental stewardship was gradually making inroads into the collective consciousness of the church, my own included, through the mainstream publicity garnered by folks like Al Gore and the 'green' movement, but also closer to home through the efforts of a small group of dedicated trailblazers and champions for what was coming to be known as 'creation care.' Surely these true visionaries who had such a remarkable grasp of stewardship and who cared so personally about God's natural world would have a vested interest in the vulnerability and well-being of all His creatures.

    And while their literature which I was able to consult naturally referred to animals collectively as falling under our mandate to care for creation, this usually seemed to be worked out in reference to wildlife and species or ecosystem preservation. I was disappointed by the general lack of attention to individual animals and their welfare, especially those most immediately and thoroughly under human control, for instance the tens of millions animals farmed in the U.S. alone each year. There were one or two notable exceptions to this paradigm that I happily found at the time, and more and more have surfaced in the few years since, which have been very meaningful to see. But I still fight the impression that conservationism is still the prevailing rule of thumb by and large when it comes to animals, or at least the leading priority among creation care advocates, similar to their colleagues in the broader environmental movement. Though it should be noted that creation care proponents are invested in conservation for the sake of human appreciation and use and for creation's wholeness in and of itself, both on behalf of the One who sustains and takes pleasure in it.

    But as a pragmatic guideline, conservationism seems to be an essential foundation for considering animals, but at the same time an insufficient framework for responding to both the scope and particularity of their suffering and needs, including that which we're most directly responsible for through our lifestyle and consumption habits.

    However, before looking at the largest domain of that responsibility run amuck in just a moment, and the profound implications which it bears for so many other human and environmental concerns, it would be acutely remiss not to acknowledge that the preservation and flourishing of species and the ecosystems to which they belong is no inconsequential starting point or minor commission in and of itself. Those who diligently labor and speak out on behalf of this undertaking, on both the most global and local scale, deserve the greatest respect and commendation, not to mention support from all of us in the animal advocacy community who may be focused on different causes. I'll be the first to admit that wildlife care isn't my field of expertise, even on an individual scale of rescue. It's debatable whether any others are, as I struggle to stay even rudimentarily on top of a near-infinite range of concerns facing God's creatures and our stewardship of them. But even more so than the worlds of farmed or companion animal welfare, I acutely feel the need to draw on the knowledge and caretaking of others when it comes to animals in the wild.

    From never-ending urban sprawl throughout the globe and deforestation especially in the tropics, to canned and other inhumane hunting tactics in the affluent West and the poaching and trafficking of exotic and endangered species in developing countries; from worldwide over-fishing on an epic scale and the many repercussions of global warming and pollution for both domestic and international animals, to the countless, relatively smaller tragedies which befall wildlife on our roads and in our neighborhoods every day - an ever-mounting array of ominous hazards are working against them in our increasingly modern, industrialized and all too often careless global society. Mass endangerment and extinction are present realities to a terrible degree, not simply alarmist threats. To pass along just a few of the more disheartening lines in Anna Clark's recent and otherwise hope-filled Green, American Style (Baker '10, pg 43-44):

    What scientists are seeing is not your typical cyclical occurrence in nature. There are now 405 identified dead ocean zones worldwide, up from 49 in the 1960s. (The Gulf of Mexico has a dead zone the size of New Jersey.) " Over half of Europe's amphibians could be gone by 2050. At the current rate of extinction, half of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 or 300 years [ScienceDaily].

    ... Nearly one-third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to a report released by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the World Wildlife Fund, and the Global Footprint Network. "You'd have to go back to the extinction of the dinosaurs to see a decline as rapid as this," says Jonathan Loh, ZSL scientist and editor of the report. "In terms of human times-scales we may be seeing things change relatively slowly, but a decline of 30 percent in the space of a single generation is unprecedented in human history." Indeed, the scientific data in study after study demonstrate that we are losing species at a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.

    These creatures who praise God in some way by their very existence and relationship to their Creator (cf. Psalm 148) must also be crying out to Him for relief and protection. And this is a cry which our same Lord long-sufferingly but resolutely in turn directs at those He called to be their representatives and stewards, if Hosea and the apostle Paul are to be taken seriously:

    "Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying." (Hosea 4:1-3, all passages NIV)

    "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22)

    This is part 1 in a 2 part series

    Ben DeVries writes for http://notonesparrow.com a Christian voice for animals. Ben lives with his wife Cheryl, 20-month-old son Jadon and three cats in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He welcomes communication at ben@notonesparrow.com or via Facebook. 

  • Church as Permaculture

    May 25,2011, 10:44 AM

    by Steve Fortenberry

    used through flickr creative commons photo by Alysha Jordon
    used through flickr creative commons photo by Alysha Jordon

    Yesterday a friend forwarded me this reflection by Richard Rohr entitled Church as Permaculture.

    There was a movement that began about thirty years ago in Australia called "Permaculture" (from perma[nent agri]culture) which was concerned about making good and natural use of our earth. I would like to suggest here the idea of church itself as a kind of permaculture.

    Permaculture is a design system to create sustainable living habitats. Permaculturists seek to find regenerative solutions that are local, on-site, and natural. We have to look right in front of us and say: "How can we regenerate what is right here? How can we live with what we have and make it beautiful and good?" I ask, why should that not be true for church too? Wouldn't it make sense that all we need for salvation is available for all peoples, all the time, and everywhere? God and grace cannot be that scarce. Why should any church "technology" be so centralized at higher levels, or dependent on major and specialized education? Maybe that was Jesus' point in starting with fishermen?

    This reflection became the focal point for a discussion in our MSA team meeting. I love the concept of permaculture. You disturb the soil as little as possible so that the native microorganisms thrive, you add a lot of compost & mulch to keep in the moisture and you plant native crops where possible because they are the ones most likely to thrive. Great principles for ministry too. You don't need to bring in lots of sophisticated stuff (or people) to be effective. Nor do you need any highly sophisticated training to do a good job.

    It is easy for those of us who work in full time Christian ministry to live in an artificial and need I say imported bubble that has little relationship to the real world or to the community in which we live. And as a result we often do a lot of things that really mess up the local soil in ways that are not very good for it. Being hard pressed financially in the last couple of years has forced all of us to be creative in how we provide for ourselves in ways that I think are very healthy.

    Many pastors and ministry workers have had to take part time jobs to provide for themselves and their families and they have had to rely a lot more on local resources too. And this has often drawn us to get more involved in our local communities" without disturbing the local soil as it were. Maybe these hard economic times are God's greatest blessing to us.

    We have been very aware of that here in MSA. Cindy Todd started a soap making business which has not only helped provide for her and her family but has also pushed her out into the community as she sells her products through farmers' markets and other local networks. Andy works part time at a local church in Hood River Oregon as well as running a small computer business. He too has developed broad local networks as result.

    It has changed the way many of us think about ministry too. International development so often really messes up the local soil. It brings in foreign substances (overseas personnel & resources) and often does not depend on innovation and utilizing the resources that people already have. Even when it does that utilization is often based on outside expertise and technology rather than on the ingenuity of local people.

    I think hard times foster creativity and innovation. Everyone has within them the divine spark of creativity that so often shines in the midst of adversity.

    I would love to hear how these times have stimulated your creativity and what you have learned about what it means to be a follower of Christ as a result .

    Steve Fortenberry is the Pastor at Common Ground Community Church in North Lima, OH

  • Chris Wright on Creation Care

    May 23,2011, 05:10 AM

    Just posted online by A Rocha Canada (arocha.ca), a member of the worldwide community projects of A Rocha International (www.arocha.org)

     

    Caring for Creation: Is It Christian Mission? by Christopher J.H. Wright from A Rocha Canada on Vimeo.

  • In Defense of (the Future) Greg Mortenson

    April 20,2011, 10:19 AM

    In Defense of (theFuture) Greg Mortenson

    by Lowell Bliss

    Editor's Note: On Sunday (4/17/11), 60Minutes ran a story pointing out manydiscrepancies in the story and work of Greg Mortenson, well-known author of ThreeCups of Tea. His NGO Central AsiaInstitute (CAI) has built numerousschools in Pakistan and Afghanistan particularly for a neglected population ofyoung girls. Many of thestories"including Mortenson's initial promise to the village of Korphe, and hisabduction by the Taliban"appear to be fabrications. Once a supporter of CAI, author Jon Krakaueris interviewed extensively in the 60 Minutes episode and has subsequentlyreleased his own investigation under the title Three Cups of Deceit. (Krakauer's booklet is available as a free .pdf download for the next few days.) Mortenson and the CAI Board have posted an initial response to theseaccusations on their website.

    Why should a CreationCare blog bother to comment on Mortenson's troubles? We're convinced that every NGO"whether theybuild schools or care for creation"should weigh in, albeit with grace andcare. We share CAI's mission to makethis world a better place. If anything,Lowell Bliss, director of the environmental mission EdenVigil, helps us process what formany of us is a huge sadness.

    I've only been asked a couple times about GregMortenson. The last time was as recentlyas last month at an EEN-sponsored event at Trevecca Nazarene University. An earnest young lady at our paneldiscussion knew of my background in India and Pakistan and asked, "Have youever worked with Greg Mortenson of ThreeCups of Tea?" "No," I had to tellher"I really am small potatoes""but I've been in those same mountains." If I couldn't drop the name of a famousperson, I could drop the name of a famous region. But I think what I was really trying to saywas that "I've breathed the same air as him," or "I've loved the same people ashe." On this side of the 60 Minutes episode, I can claim to haveshared more than just Himalayan air with Mortenson. I too am the director of an NGO that cantrace its origins to some strongly-felt personal stories from the IndianSubcontinent. I too promote my ministryprimarily through stories. They arecompelling to me; I so desperately want them to be compelling to others. I too must raise funds to support myministry.

    I've never read ThreeCups of Tea, nor its sequel Stonesinto School (both now under review by their publisher, Viking). I tend to be prejudicially iconoclastic; Idon't know the last time I've read a book with "bestseller" on its jacketcover. Mostly I listened in to my wifeas she read Three Cups. "What?!" Robynn said from the pillow besideme, "He paid that much for concrete in Rawalpindi?!" Robynn grew up in Pakistan; it's funny, butshe knows such things. At times I swearI could hear her eyebrows rise. I thinkreading the book would have been an excruciating rehearsal of my own naïveté,from the day I first arrived in India in 1993 until the day we left in2007. I suppose I was also jealous ofthe success of Mortenson and CAI, the very accusation leveled against theircurrent detractors. There are so fewsuccess stories that come out of those troubled hills; I wish I could have beenpart of them. Mostly though I think Iwas jealous of the high privilege that Mortenson had living and working in thatregion, and living among those people. Someof the happiest most meaningful moments of my life were spent in the foothillsand mountains of Pakistan. It's painfulto be reminded of my loss.

    I wasn't about to dump all that on the young lady atTrevecca. She was looking to breathe thesame air as I, to be affirmed in her admiration of someone selflessly doing difficultwork well. You could identify a gleam inher eye that was anything but naive. "Youknow what I like about Mortenson's work?" I told her. "It grew out of suffering." While having not read the books, I havelistened to a podcast of a Mortenson speech, and have "read around" thephenomenon (something I tend to do with bestsellers). I was referring to Mortenson's debilitateddescent from K2 and his recovery in Korphe, a village that Krakauer and 60 Minutes now claim he didn't visituntil a second trip to Pakistan. I wasalso referring to Mortenson's patient persistence. His fund raising was slow to take off, buthe didn't give up. Herein lies mydefense of (the future) Greg Mortenson. If his chronicled sufferings are fictional, his current ones arenot. Who knows what further revelations,public opprobrium, financial setback, and even legal proceedings are in hisfuture?

    Few sufferings are as great than for someone to witness thedemise of the best vision of him- or herself. To have that vision crumble on a public stage must be doublyexcruciating. In his endnotes, Krakauer questionsMortenson's story of a visit in September 2000 to Mother Teresa's deathbed. (Mother Teresa died in 1997.) Mortenson claims to have been allowed to sitalone with Mother Teresa's body as it lay at the ashram in Calcutta. "She looked so small, draped in her cloth,"Mortenson writes in Three Cups, "AndI remember thinking how amazing it was that such a tiny person had such a hugeeffect on humanity." Mortenson imaged he could be MotherTeresa. I can't help but think thatMother Teresa would have invited Mortenson not to her legacy, but to herfuneral pallet. Zusya, the Hasidicmaster of Anatoli once said, "When I get to the Heavenly Court they will notfault me for not being Moses. They will not ask me 'Why weren't you Moses?' butthey will ask me, 'Why weren't you Zusya?'" We need to let the best visions of our selves die, or else Jesus willkill it for us. What greater significance could there be forGreg Mortenson, a Lutheran missionary kid from Kenya, than for his publicdisgrace to be revealed during Holy Week? At the present, Mortenson's suffering seems like judgment on hisapparent deceit. But what if God haslooked on that genuine kernel of love in Mortenson's heart (something whichboth Krakauer and 60 Minutes affirm)and says, this is too precious a thing to let grow out of anything other thangenuine suffering? If by confession Mortensoncan lay hold of the grace offered this Holy Week, this moment is the true storyof his suffering, the true story of Greg Mortenson (not of Mother Teresa or anidealized self). This is the moment whenthe young girls of the Pamir mountains are truly promised an education. May it be so; I look forward to being askedtwenty, thirty years from now and responding, "You know what I truly like aboutMortenson's work? It grew out of the sufferingof 2011."

    Mortenson and CAI's story is too obviously a cautionary talefor NGOs like Eden Vigil or the Environmental Evangelical Network, so I think inmy comments I'll include Jon Krakauer as well, someone a little less beatendown at the moment. Krakauer's fame is tied to his publication of Into Thin Air, his firsthand account ofthe tragedy on Mt. Everest (May 11, 1996) when eight people died near thesummit. Krakauer brutally accused Kazakhstaniguide Anatoli Bourkeev of a selfishness and unprofessionalism that could havesaved some of the climbers. The debatewas publicly vicious until Bourkeev died in a climbing accident in 1997. There were many years in between my readingof Into Thin Air and my reading ofBourkeev's defense in The Summit. When I finished reading Bourkeev's book, Iwasn't convinced that Krakauer was wrong. Nor was I convinced that "oh, there's always two sides to everystory." Instead, I looked at Krakauerand Bourkeev's squabble, now carried on posthumously, and thought, "You knowwhat? A pox on both their houses!" Maybe it's the narcissism of mountain climbers. Maybe it's the temptation of storytellerstoward mendacity. Maybe it's thetemptation of pride or power for directors of NGOs. Maybe it's the temptation of greed forfundraisers. Sometimes the easiest wayto build up publically the "best image of ourselves" is to tear down the imageof another. We think we are doggedlyjournalistic about demanding truth in others when in actuality we are just projectinga false image of ourselves. I bless thecurrent sufferings of Greg Mortenson, as I bless my own. As writer Barbara Johnson says, "We areEaster people living in a Good Friday world."

  • How Well Do You Know Your Surroundings?

    February 03,2011, 16:57 PM

    by Doug Satre

    How well do you know the place where you live? Really know it- what plants are native to your area? What birds? Which species are thriving and which are endangered? For me, trying to grow in my commitment to environmental stewardship is to take the time to appreciate the uniqueness of the place that I live, and to gain a greater appreciation for it.

    Yesterday I got some help in this process, when I visited one of our local San Diego nurseries, Moosa Creek Nursery,owned by Hank and Su Kraus. They started their nursery five years ago, focusing strictly on California native and drought-resistant plants. Since that time, they have grown to include over 300 varieties of native plants, most of which are gathered themselves from seed. Hank explains, "There are really no more than 30 or so native plants that you can go out and buy, the rest we have to hike around and find. This has become my favorite part of the job!" Hank went on to explain how they take GPS coordinates of every site they collect seeds, so that they can catalogue it and better understand each plants unique needs and adaptation.

    Hank and Sue Kraus with some of their 300 varieties of native California plants
    Hank and Sue Kraus with some of their 300 varieties of native California plants

    One special experience for the Kraus's has been to propagate a number of species which are on the verge of extinction, or which grow in very few and threatened locations. One of these plants is the Catalina Cherry pictured here, endemic to California's Channel Islands.

    As we walked around Moosa Creek, our discussion ranged from the benefits of planting native plants- (they use less water, require fewer chemicals and provide habitat for native birds and butterflies), to local water policy, to the challenges of living out the teachings of Jesus as a small business owner, to the connection between environmental degradation and poverty in developing nations. (Hank and Sue have chosen to support the work of Plant With Purpose in the Haiti- Dominican Republic border area, where deforestation and poverty are especially acute.)

    Hank with a Catalina Cherry tree
    Hank with a Catalina Cherry tree

    What struck me was that, as the Kraus's have built an intimate connection with a particular place, their concern for global issues has also grown. And as they pursued the business of growing native plants, they had come to understand the interconnectedness of the plants, birds, insects and other animals that make up their locally ecology. It was a very inspiring time and I left wanting to know my own "backyard" environment better, even as I seek to be engaged with issues of creation stewardship around the world.

    Doug Satre is Director of Outreach Development of Plant With Purpose. Doug is responsible for overseeing Plant With Purpose's fundraising and marketing efforts, working with the Plant With Purpose staff, donors and foundations to build awareness and financial support of Plant With Purpose's work to transform the lives of the rural poor.

  • EEN has some exciting news!

    January 28,2011, 10:20 AM

    EEN has some exciting news! Beginning February 14, 2011, Ben Lowe will be joining our staff as the Director of Young Adult Ministries. Our prayers, hopes, and objectives for Ben and this position center on nurturing fruitful collaboration to build the creation care community and God's Kingdom through our work together.

    Ben's role includes the following:

    - Networking with all current creation care organizations to support and promote their programs;

    - Fostering the integration of creation care in a diverse range of student programs that do not typically include creation care;

    - Serving as a resource on creation care as Christian discipleship for college faculty and staff;

    - Creating opportunities for spiritual conversation and an ongoing life as creation care champions;

    - Supporting and networking with Evangelical Climate Initiative Leaders, many who are CCCU college presidents;

    - Working together with other creation care groups, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and college faculty to develop and promote an interdisciplinary creation care curriculum;

    - Support and network with CCCU colleges and other creation care groups to develop sustainability coordinator staff positions on Christian campuses;

    - Promote creation care as an evangelism and discipleship opportunity for the 21st Century.

    Please join us in welcoming Ben to EEN. You may email Ben@creationcare.org and join us in celebrating his new ministry. His gifts and talents are a wonderful blessing for God's Kingdom and the creation care ministry.

    In Christ,

    Mitch Hescox

    President/C.E.O

  • One Day Seminar with Dr. Susan Emmerich [Event]

    January 04,2011, 14:30 PM

    Creation Care Concentration at the
    Law, Justice and Culture Institute 2011

    Sponsored by The Center for Law and Culture at Trinity Christian College

    This one-day practicum will explore biblical principles of stewardship and conflict management based on Emmerich's faith-based stewardship work on Tangier Island shown in her newest film When Heaven Meets Earth: Faith, Environment and the Chesapeake. Participants will gain the knowledge and tools necessary to apply these methods and principles both at the community level and in the arenas of law and policy.

    Details

    Instructor Dr. Susan Emmerich, Director of the Creation Care Program, The Center for Law and Culture Location Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois (Chicagoland area)
    When May 14, 2011, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
    Enrollment Open to students and the general public.
    Required seminar for all Richard Acker Creation Care Scholarship recipients enrolled in the
    2011 Law, Justice and Culture Institute.
    Cost $95.00
    Registration Friday, April 15, 2011
    .
    Questions? Visit the Center online at www.lawandculture.org or contact Zach Vis, LJC Institute

    Morning:

    9 - 10 a.m. : Biblical principles of environmental stewardship and conflict management.

    10:10 - 11 a.m. : Principles in practice: When Heaven Meets Earth: Faith, Environment and the Chesapeake Bay.
    Newly released DVD (www.whenheavenmeetsearth.org).

    11 a.m. - 12 p.m. : Methods, approaches, and principles for instituting social change and conflict management among Tangier Islanders in Virginia and farmers in Pennsylvania. Topics will include: participatory action research, inter-cultural communication, interpersonal ethnography, use of media in communication, funding of projects, role of a "paracletic" researcher or change agent, seven principles for facilitating "ownership" of the project by the community, and approaches to assessing change in a community.

    12:15 - 2 p.m. : Lunch break (bag lunch provided by the Center for Law and Culture). During lunch we will have informal discussions about participants' experiences with stewardship efforts on campuses and in their churches or a speaker.

    Afternoon:

    2 - 3 p.m. : Methods, approaches, and principles for instituting social change and conflict management (continued).

    3:15 - 5 p.m. : Biblical principles of stewardship applied to international environmental policy and law. Class participants will apply principles to an international and/or domestic environmental policy case or law.

    Those interested in enrolling in the Creation Care Concentration at the Law, Justice and Culture Institute should complete this form and mail it, along with a $95 check made payable to the Center for Law and Culture, to:

    The Center for Law and Culture
    6601 West College Drive
     Palos Heights, IL, 60463
  • The History of the Watermen

    January 04,2011, 13:21 PM

    This posts gives some background to the ground breaking documentary "When Heaven Meets Earth." You can check out a preview of the movie here and a podcast with Dr. Susan Emmerich here.

    The Tangier Watermen's Stewardship Initiative grew out of escalating conflicts between environmentalists from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and watermen communities. They argued over blue crab and oyster regulations set by the state board of fisheries and influenced by CBF. The clash climaxed in 1995 with the burning of one of CBF's buildings on Smith Island and anti-CBF signs placed in waterways leading to Tangier Island and Smith Island. Susan Emmerich, a graduate student in Environment and Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was looking for a dissertation topic dealing with the nexus of environmental stewardship, faith and conflict resolution. After Larry Schweiger of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation told her about the conflict between watermen and environmentalists in the faith-based communities of Smith and Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, she knew she had her topic.

    Ethnography

    Emmerich's hypothesis was that faith-based problems require faith-based solutions. She wanted to test whether a faith-based community could transform their own actions toward the environment, the economy and their neighbors and bring them into better accord with their professed belief system. The mayor and pastors of both churches on Tangier understood the gravity of Tangier's fishery and overall economic situation and wanted to do something to resolve the building animosity toward CBF. They granted Emmerich's request to conduct research on the causes of the conflict and the social forces that could inspire change.

    The results of her ethnographic research showed that women and the church were the major forces for change in the community. Mayor Dewey Crockett invited Emmerich to return to the island to carry out a community-led and biblically based stewardship initiative. The initiative would holistically address regulations on the blue crab and oyster fishery; littering on the island and in the Bay; illegal-harvesting; lack of employment on the island; and the conflict with environmentalists, scientists and state government officials over the fishery.

    Action Research

    As stated in the Tangier Watermen's Stewardship Initiative, stewardship implies consideration of the needs of the whole of creation"human and natural"in accord with Biblical Principles of Stewardship and supplemented with relevant scientific, economic, political and cultural information. Emmerich developed a unique interpersonal approach to engagement based on relationship-building and collaborative and participatory action in which the researcher and community work together to meet the felt-needs of the community. The overarching felt-need of the Tangier people was to maintain their way of life on the island, and to develop democratic means to have a voice in the government's setting of fishery regulations.

    Results

    The results of the four-month initiative were amazing. Out of a love for God and the need to be accountable for their actions on the water, more than 50 Tangier watermen and men committed to biblical stewardship by making a covenant with God called The Watermen's Stewardship Covenant. Moreover, a handful of women took the Women's Stewardship Pledge that addressed consumption patterns. The covenants were a public commitment to God's principles of stewardship, adherence to civil laws and contentment as set forth in the Bible. While the taking of the Covenants signaled a deep change in Tangier Islander's thinking about stewardship, the Covenants were not accepted by everyone and, in fact, created quite a lot of conflict within the community. In addition to the Covenants, two non-profit organizations were created. The women formed FAIITH"Families Actively Involved in Improving Tangier's Heritage. Through FAIITH, women were, for the first time, involved in political organizing to address fishery regulations, a task normally conducted by the Watermen's Association.

    The Tangier Watermen's Stewardship for the Chesapeake (TaSC) was formed to implement the newly created 2020 Stewardship Vision for the Tangier community addressing employment generation via eco-tourism; women's data processing co-op, etc.; environmental and fishery stewardship; watermen's insurance; housing; craftmaking; and a host of other issues. Newly politically active Tangier citizens presented the plan at a conference of federal, state and local government officials and environmentalists on Tangier Island. For the first time, Tangier citizens felt they were telling government and environmentalists what they were going to do rather than the other way around. The relationship with CBF also changed. The TaSC members met with CBF officials and each asked forgiveness from the other enabling the beginnings of working together with the hope of full reconciliation. CBF now understands that a faith worldview is a valid way of knowing and learning about the world and that the most effective way to address environmental issues with a community is within the worldview and felt-needs of that community.

    Today

    Emmerich was amazed at the Tangiermen's level of courage and commitment to stewardship and never dreamed that their simple act of obedience to God's principles of stewardship would bear many years of fruit by inspiring youth and college-age students, environmentalists, government officials and many different people in nations around the world to be actively involved in caring for God's creation.

    Emmerich and Pohorski have received emails and phone calls from 1999-2010 revealing that varying forms of the faith-based stewardship model and its methods are being applied either by graduate students or other individuals in Wales, Papua New Guinea, Tibet and Kenya. It has been used in a Japanese University to explain to students that Christian communities exist. Sir John Houghton, world-renown British climatologist, shared with Emmerich that the Sandy Cove Covenant, uniting mainly U.S. and some European evangelical leaders on creation care, was a direct result of the testimonies of Tangier watermen at their creation care conference in 2004.

    The documentaries about the Tangier Watermen's Stewardship initiative are being shown in many U.S. colleges within the Coalition of Christian College and Universities (CCCU), state and private universities, churches and non-profit groups around the world. Between Heaven and Earth was well received by many on Tangier and encouraged those who took the covenants to maintain them. When Heaven Meets Earth will even soon make its way to the DVD players of Tangiermen.

    TaSC and FAIITH no longer exist but, according to many Tangiermen, they no longer need to since many on Tangier have integrated the idea of stewardship of their island and fishery into their everyday life. Tangier Island residents still struggle to maintain their culture and water-dependent lifestyle. While the oyster fishery is making a comeback, the blue crab fishery continues to decline and the State of Virginia no longer gives out new permits to young, aspiring watermen. Their community is turning more and more to tourism for their economic income. This was addressed back in 1998 when the Stewardship Initiative leaders created their 2020 Vision.

    Check out the full documentary here.

  • When Heaven Meets Earth Trailer

    January 04,2011, 13:12 PM

    This version of When Heaven Meets Earth tells the story of the Chesapeake Bay watermen and Pennsylvania farmers in a condensed form. The trailer highlights the main story points and can be used for promotional purposes or for showings with limited time for discussion. While it can be viewed here in its entirety, it is also available for purchase as part of the three-in-one DVD. Check out our podcast with Dr. Susan Emmerich (featured in the film) here.

      

    When Heaven Meets Earth - Trailer from Jeffrey Pohorski on Vimeo.

  • Great reminder on the beauty of creation

    January 03,2011, 11:18 AM

    IZ does it again

  • What Triggers Mass Extinctions?

    December 31,2010, 08:55 AM
  • A Reflection on Advent

    December 15,2010, 16:08 PM

    By Alexei Laushkin

    EEN's 12 Day of Advent Devotional is up at http://creationcare.org. The devotional features the work of two of our relief and development partners Plant with Purpose and Food for the Hungry. As I walk through the devotional a few things have stood out to me.

    Many of the passages for reflection are from Isaiah. Isaiah came to a people who did not know the Lord. Isaiah starts out by describing what will happen on "The Day of the Lord."

    Isaiah 2:17-18 (NIV)

    17 The arrogance of man will be brought low
    and human pride humbled;
    the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
    18 and the idols will totally disappear.

    When I think about the role pride plays in my life, mostly blinding my way from the ways I stray from the Lord, I wonder what it will look like for the pride of all of humanity to be humbled. What are we proud about? Certainly our achievements, our technical accomplishments, our great cities, commerce, but I think in this nation we are most proud of our ability to achieve, specifically achieve apart from any reliance or acknowledgement of God. What will happen when one day we are no longer to achieve apart from the Lord.

    I think in some ways that sums up our environmental challenges pretty well. We have challenges that may not be able to overcome without the direct intervention of God. Not in the prevention of a cataclysmic event, but the sort of intervention inspired and envisioned by God for his people; to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world in need, to proclaim the God of the gospel to those in desperate need.

    This takes me to the scripture from Day 2 Isaiah's commission fromthe Lord, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" Likewise are when a posture of saying Lord send me, let your will not my will be done. I desire to serve you even to the ends of creation.

  • How to Win the War on Christmas

    December 14,2010, 11:42 AM

    Thought the headline would catch your attention. Check out this great piece from Jonathan Merritt.

  • Google Earth Engine

    December 13,2010, 09:15 AM

    A very cool new resource from Google. You can download a program similar to google earth which will have cross data on everything from tree cover to CO2 emissions. Be sure to download them.

  • What if you didn't have clean Water?

    December 08,2010, 11:27 AM

    From our friends at World Vision US be forewarned it's a bit hard to watch.

    World Vision's Clean Water Fund http://bit.ly/CleanWaterFund This video depicts what life might be like if Americans faced the same reality every day as 1.1 billion people elsewhere in the world -- no source of clean water, leaving countless children and families vulnerable to deadly diseases.

  • God's Rhythmn

    November 30,2010, 12:06 PM

    by Dr. Matthew Sleeth

    (Catch our November 30 discussion with Dr. Matthew & Nancy Sleeth at the Creation Care Podcast. Also, visit their ministry homepage at http://blessed-earth.org)

    Who Could Ask For Anything More?

    As an emergency room physician, I often worked twenty-four hour shifts. ER docs are not alone"today nearly one-fifth of the world population works in shifts.

    Our regular pattern of waking and sleeping"called circadian rhythms"are fundamental to mental and physical well being. The resulting lack of regular sleep and rest is not conducive to a healthy home life, or a healthy body. Hypertension, peptic ulcer disease, cardiovascular mortality, higher incidences of work-related accidents and car accidents, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and higher divorce rates are more common in shift workers. Life expectancy for shift workers is reduced by as much as four years.

    Artificial light also harms wildlife. When we disrupt God's natural rhythm of light and dark, the migration, reproduction, and feeding of life on earth is affected. Along the coasts, sea turtles have a harder time finding darkened beaches for nesting. Frogs and toads living near highways artificially made as much as a million times brighter than normal have their nighttime breeding songs thrown out of kilter. Whole flocks of winged creatures exhaust themselves trying to escape the maze of city lights.

    Is our 24-hour productivity quota really worth the toll?

    By short-circuiting our sensitivity to God's patterns of light and dark, we are blindly experimenting with human health as well as the health of every living creature on earth. But here's the good news:

    Of all the forms of pollution facing the world today, light pollution is probably the most easily fixed.

    Simple changes in lighting design and installation translates to immediate reductions in the amount of light we pour out into the atmosphere. As a bonus, these changes also save us energy. Hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. now use covered street fixtures that light only the ground below rather than wastefully shining it in all directions. At home, porch lights that are tucked into ceilings and outdoor motion detectors can ensure safety while reducing waste.

    Light pollution (and air pollution in general) interferes with stargazing. But something else often gets in the way: we are often so worn out from our busy schedules that we don't take time to connect with the natural world. Slow down. Shut off the TV, close the laptop, and linger outdoors in the evenings for a change. Switch off the porch lights, spread a blanket on the lawn, and try to count the stars, just as Abraham did. As you gaze upward, you cannot help but be filled with the humility and wonder at God's creation.

    Learn more about Matthew's Story below:

    Matthew Sleeth's Creation Care Journey from Matthew Sleeth on Vimeo.

  • Open Season on Invasive Lionfish

    November 23,2010, 11:31 AM

    Great piece in the New York Times today on Lionfish. Here's a great quote by Bob Holston on the Lionfish's ability to devestate local coral ecosystems, "Imagine going into Yellowstone and not being able to see any birds, any bears, any deer or whatever " you would just be looking at trees."

  • The Spirit of Thanksgiving

    November 22,2010, 10:14 AM

    by Alexei Laushkin

    The inspiration for this post comesfrom Rev. Richard J. Fairchild. You can find his original sermon here.

    The text for his sermon was [17]Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' [18] You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 ESV).

    The context was God's promise to the children of Israel that he would bring them to a land of wheat and barley a land that would provide for their needs in abundance, a land not too much unlike our own. Rev. Fairchild went on to tell this story taken from a book.

    One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break. She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag. She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables,and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read. Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.

    After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie. As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too. This put her off, but she did not say anything.

    A few moments later she took another cookie. Once again the man did so too. Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.

    After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie. So did the man. She was really upset by this - especially since now only one cookie was left. Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left. Before she could say anything he took it,broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself. Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

    Was she steamed. Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded hermagazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

    We are all a little like this woman indignant and steamed, especially around the holidays. We forget what we are even celebrating. For many of us Thanksgiving will be a pretty dead holiday. We'll enjoy the time we get with our family and friends, we'll enjoy the time off of work (short though it maybe). It will be a fleeting moment of humanity in what otherwise feels like a pretty lifeless spiritual existence.

    Just yesterday, I found myself hard pressed to really focus on the need to be thankful. You see I've been bothered by the pace that I keep my life. I've been exploring contemplative prayer, seeing the rhythms and patterns of my spiritual walk. Thanks to my friends Rev. Mitch Hescox and Gary Bergel I've been learning a lot more about the importance of pace in my day to day walk.

    I am not sure I've reached a new plane of spiritual existence but I can say that my inner heart has been transformed by walking with Jesus. So as I started thinking about what it meant to be thankful I fixed my eyes on the cross.

    Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
    Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

    We all need a little bit of that this Thanksgiving to be pointed to skyward. To step back from our context and know that this Thanksgiving the one who joins our table is none other than Jesus himself. He lays out a feast of spiritual riches beforeus the question is will we take the time to eat?

    If we do take the time will we reflect his care for people, will we reflect his care for creation. In the midst of the busy hustle in bustle will we prioritize love of God and love of neighbor? If we do here are some ideas to get started:

    •  slow down! :0)
    • make the dinner prayer and time together meaningful in terms of prayer and time with the Lord
    • use clothe napkins over paper towels
    • use a clothe cover over a reuseable one
    • buy an organic/local side dish
    • buy a free range turkey, chicken, or ham
    • bring your reusable bags when you shop
    • use public transportation where you're able
    • let your kids play outside
    • combine trips out of the house
    • think about purchasing fair trade shade grown coffee

    Alexei Laushkin is the Senior Director of Communications for the Evangelical Environmental Network and Editor of Creation Care Magazine. He and his wife live in Alexandria, VA. You can follow Alexei and his work at http://creationcare.org.

  • Tri Robinson on Creation Care

    November 18,2010, 15:48 PM

    Excellent video. Reposted with Permission.

  • Whose Earth is it Anyway?

    November 18,2010, 15:26 PM
  • Spiritual Burnout

    November 18,2010, 13:51 PM

    by Alexei Laushkin (the original post can be found here)

    photo by CfDS
    photo by CfDS

    Balance" Balance" That's the key word, if only I could achieve somesense of balance than" than" I'd finally have time for myself. Catch yourself thinking that lately? It's theholidays you know the most wonderful time for " spiritual burnout.

    Sustainability should start with the inner life. If you're finding yourself at your wits end this holiday season than " read on.

    Sustainability might sound like an odd topic for spirituality but if you think about it makes sense to want to live in such a way as to replenish our spiritual lives on a pretty regular basis. I am not here to give you a new tip for breathing exercise (though I hear those can sometimes be helpful) or a new way to jam your spirituality in between dry cleaning and jogging after work.

    What I purpose is something a bit more radical. If you want to getserious about living a sustainable spiritual life you are going to need to getserious about your priorities and that might mean coming to terms with your bugaboos and hang-ups when it comes to your spiritual life.

    In short you're going to need to come to terms with God. Fear not, "God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham (Matthew 3:8-9 ESV)."I can't do much more in terms of telling you what that will look like, but if you want to talk please be in touch.

    Here's what I can tell you about my own walk and the importance of sustainability to it. For me my spiritual walk centers around the concept of rest. Specifically resting in Jesus, taking a day a week to center my life off of the technologies and iphones that so easily distract.

    Beyond that it looks like drawing near to the people I love. True religion draws you closer to the ones you love and heals the brokenness in the midst of those relationships. True religion isn't found in creeds (though those are important) it's found in one's standing before God and others. It's found in a care for the vulnerable, a care for creation. If you find your peace and time in nature, take more time in nature this holiday season. Know though there is a God, the God of nature who came down to dwell with us as a child.

    For the holidays I am planning to take some time before the holida yseason to go on vacation with my wife. The day of I will be focusing more of my attention on finding a place where I can sing songs of praise to God. For my gift giving this holiday season I am going to be careful to refrain from giving gifts that aren't all that meaningful (for me that's gift cards, ties, pens,etc.). I am going to give less but give more carefully.

    Before I start back to work I'll also be spending some time resting and reflecting on my spiritual focuses for the next year. Specifically I will take time to reconcile with at least one relationship that has been offkelter from the last year.

    I will do less this Christmas but what I will do I will do with meaning and purpose.

    My hope is that you discover the child this Christmas and that you discover the simplicity that can lead to true spiritual sustainability.

  • Local is Beautiful

    November 17,2010, 06:11 AM
  • Hurricane Tomas Follow Up: Plant with Purpose Staff and Farmers Unharmed

    November 10,2010, 13:07 PM

    An update from our friends at Plant with Purpose

    We have heard from our Haiti Program Director, Guy Paraison, that our Haitian staff and farmers are all ok despite enduring extreme weather conditions from hurricane Tomas, which hit Haiti late last week.

    Guy reported that the areas of Grande Colline, Fonds Verrettes, and Bainet experienced violent winds and rain last Thursday night. Although no one was hurt, many communities have lost livestock, and half of the recently planted pigeon pea crop has been lost as a result of strong winds and landslides. Some of the houses had their roofs ripped off by the wind, as well. In Fonds Verrettes, Guy said that farmers have lost 40 goats, one mule, and pigeon pea and banana crops.

    Please continue to pray for our post-earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti. We are still employing farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant trees and construct soil conservation barriers. Since January 12th, 2010, we have employed over 6,000 farmers through our "Cash for Work" program to plant nearly 240,000 trees and construct over 360 miles of soil conservation barriers. This progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to be done. Please consider joining us in supporting Haiti by making a donation to our recovery efforts, or by sponsoring a village for $30 a month. Your contribution will empower families to reforest their land, feed their families, and grow in their knowledge of God's love and grace. Click here to see our open village sponsorships: www.plantwithpurpose.org/caribbean and click here to learn more about our Haiti recovery efforts: www.plantwithpurpose.org/haiti-relief.

    "We want to plant trees everywhere around our community; we are dreaming of a forest! We know that if we can do this, the young men of our community will find hope and opportunity here, rather than having to look for work in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic, or food in Port au Prince." " Ronald, a community leader in Fonds Verettes, Haiti. Get more updates by following the Plant with Purpose blog here.

  • A Normative Ethic for Taking Care of the Environment

    November 10,2010, 12:45 PM

    by Daniel James Levy

     "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

    I have always found this passage intriguing, yet almost contradictory in its nature, until around two years ago. Growing up in Christian fundamentalism (there is not a negative connotation attached with this), I had an inadequate view of biblical eschatology; due to this view of eschatology, I never found a reason to take care of the environment. Everything that I was taught on biblical eschatology was interpreted through the framework of Tim LaHaye's Left Behind dispensationalist views. This ingrained within me a view of the world which in turn will one day end in some kind of cataclysmic explosion, which of course included some kind of nuclear missiles, huge machine guns, and the death of trillions of people and animals. After this, God will one day blow up the entire cosmos, just as He spoke it into existence. I remember vividly leaving my youth group one Wednesday night when I was 15 years old, the youth pastor talked about trying to lead people to Christ, to make the world a better place, and so on, but it never made sense in my head. "Why if this world is getting dramatically worst day by day (as his theology taught) would I labor to bring a difference here and now, if it will ultimately do nothing", I said to myself. So when Jesus said He feeds the birds of the air, I could never make sense to why He does. The only reason it could be, was of course, for me.

    Things have changed; through much study and tedious laboring in the area of biblical theology as a narrative, I have developed an eschatological view that makes sense with the whole of Scripture as a story. My theological indicative, now, is that God is not laying this world to waste; God loves this world, and one day, in the words of the prophet Habakkuk "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." From this verse and the context, an adequate description of what one day, the Lord will do to the earth, is where I have derived a lot of my eschatological views (also, of course, because of themes presented in Isaiah, Daniel, Matthew, Colossians, and Revelation); this, is a theology of restoration, hope, and renewal. How do the waters cover the sea? The waters are the sea. God, speaking through His oracle Habakkuk is saying that one day, He will be all in all, yet other than the all. God is saying that He is restoring the world not through a third party means, but by the radiance of His glory. Because of this ethic of the renewal of the heavens and the earth, I strive now by God's Holy Spirit in preparation of the full manifestation of God's kingdom. Due to this theological indicative, I think that we are God's image bearer's have a duty to take care of the environment, furthermore, I find this is consistent and harmonious with a biblical view of narrative-covenantal eschatology.

    Stassen and Gushee in their book, Kingdom Ethics, present statistics regarding the degradation of the environment, different ethical approaches to taking care of the environment, and lastly, their theological position.

    To begin, Stassen and Gushee present the reality of the problem. We, though we are called to be God's stewards in the world, are not doing a grand job at it. The degradation of the environment is so terrible that "every day the worldwide economy burns an amount of energy the planet required 10,000 days to create." Furthermore, because of the backlash of the mechanical industry "several forms of childhood cancers have risen sharply in the last fifteen years in the United States: brain tumors are up more than 30 percent, leukemia is up 10 percent, and testicular cancer is up 60 percent. Cancer is now the second leading cause of childhood death." Our lack of stewardship, greed, and selfishness (which Jesus clearly condemns in Matthew 6) has caused a cancer in the planet, that we, as God's image bearers, are responsible for.

    The creation ethics presented by Stassen and Gushee were intriguing in, Kingdom Ethics. The authors present different normative ethical approaches to this matter. I will list these and briefly explain them.

    The first creation ethic presented in their book is the anthropocentric approach. The anthropocentric approach places humans at the center of concern; this view is explicit and thoroughgoing in its logic in stating that God created the universe for us, and we have dominion over it. The only passion and drive for maintaining creation is for us presently and furthermore, future generations. This view states that only humans have intrinsic value and utilities such as land, air, and water, only have worth according to their utilitarian value in relation to serving human good.

    The second view presented is the biocentric approach. The biocentric approach affirms that not only do creatures have intrinsic value, but also affirms they have equal value to humans. People who hold to this creation ethic normally hold to a Buddhistic, Daoistic, or Hindu worldview. This philosophy undermines biblical theism because it explicitly states that God is creation (which seems to be quite the vocabulary contradiction). This view proposes a philosophy that states God is not other-than us, rather, he is us. People with this ethic normally worship the creation, rather than the creator.

    The third approach mentioned, is the theocentric approach. This view rejects both the anthropocentric and biocentric approaches. The theocentric approach puts an explicit emphasis on all of creation finding its worth and value by being within God's community. Furthermore, it teaches that God is not just creator, but He is also sustainer, which shows that He thoroughly cares for creation. Interestingly, certain proponents of this view hold to a theological indicative which is contra revelation in Holy Writ, by stating that the earth will one day be destroyed; this conviction is derived by the second law of thermodynamics.

    The fourth view presented is the process and feminist approach. This view, briefly, puts an emphasis on the transcendence of God (in the sense that He's greater than and sovereign over the creation), but that God, is also dynamically involved in creation by developing and caring for it by moving it towards its future. It puts a thorough emphasis humans being mandated by God to care for creation.

    The fifth and last view presented, is the view that Stassen and Gushee hold to, and I, furthermore, would agree with them in it. This view is entitled the covenantal perspective. This perspective, which is endorsed by scholars such as N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and Jurgen Moltmann puts an emphasis on the covenant God made with all creation after the flood (the sign being the rainbow) and that Israel's covenant with God includes duties (as the true humanity) to maintaining the non-human creation. It states that we are participants with God in the taking care of the environment and that we, being apart of God's stewards within the world, are supposed to be a reflection of His nature in the world, which includes His care for the creation.

    In conclusion, a video that I watched, New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, proposes a thought. He gives the example of a person moving into a far away country, this person does not learn the language when we he/she is already there, the person is supposed to learn it now, so that upon arrival this person is already at home. It is so with the kingdom of God. We are now living and preparing for the full manifestation of God's kingdom. Therefore, let us, as the people who are living by the ethic of the living Triune God, radiate with His love for His creation, by the Spirit, through the Son, and to the glory of the Father. So that in this action, people will see who He is through us, and lastly, so that we will be at home when the time comes that God's oracle foresaw; the time when "the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea."

    What do you think? Is it important to take care of the environment? Join the discussion.

    Grace and peace,

    Daniel

    You can find the original post here.

    Bibliography
    Stassen, Glen, and David Gushee. Kingdom ethics: following Jesus in contemporary context. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003. Print.

  • Re: Journey...

    November 01,2010, 22:01 PM

    Your write up for the week inviting folks to share how theyare ministering to God's creation is an interesting one.

    I manage a landfill in Northern New England. The facility handles waste from 23 communities. At this facility, I employ a stewardship philosophy towards the waste received.

    It is a strange blessing to be able to say that I get to do the Lord's work every day at a landfill. This is one area that all walks of life can be experienced.

    An example of His work is seen in a Bible redistribution project I have here. In the past three years, we have received and distributed nearly 200 Bibles to pastors in Africa and into the state's Bible society.

    Just thought I would share.

    In Him (at the dump)

    Marc

  • A Treehugger's Theology?

    October 27,2010, 13:28 PM

    A number of years ago, I was told I had the "theology of a treehugger." This was not said in a kind tone. So, I read through the Bible, to see what God had to say about trees. It turns out that, except for humans, trees are the most frequently mentioned living thing in the Bible.

    In the first chapters of Genesis, we see a relationship that will continue throughout the pages of history: God, humans, and trees. In Genesis, we learn that trees have a purpose beyond prosaic utilitarianism. They are "pleasant to the sight." Trees are beautiful"it is a biblical truth.

    Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last. If something is an Alpha and Omega in the Bible, it is worth paying attention to. This is the case with trees. We have encountered the Alpha of trees"the Tree of Life"in Genesis and the Omega tree in Revelation 22: 1-2.

    Noah is handed an olive branch. Abraham meets angels and the Lord while sitting in the shade of oaks. Isaac is spurred by a sheep caught in branches. Joseph is a fruitful tree. Moses hears God in a bush, parts the sea with a stick (Genesis 49:22), and makes the waters of Marah drinkable with bark (Ex 15:24).

    What of you and I? What if we find favor in the eyes of the Lord? Then we will be "like trees planted by streams of water." (Psalm 1) Wisdom too is "a tree of life to those who lay hold of her. (Proverbs 3:18)

    Considering the importance of trees to us, and to God, it is not by chance that the most important events in the Bible are framed by trees. Jesus is one of only two named carpenters in the Bible. He describes the kingdom of heaven as a mustard tree that grows into a tree where birds can nest. He is the true vine and describes his followers as fruit bearing orchards. Palm leaves are spread before him. In the end, he will stretch out his strong calloused carpenter's hand and die on a tree.

    When Jesus of Nazareth arose from his grave, the first person to see him was Mary of Magdala. It is no accident that at first she mistook him for the gardener. Jesus is the gardener, arisen to redeem all of creation.

    Christ the gardener has returned. This is the good news: God's plan for redemption of the earth is no less bold or powerful than his original, creative one. The difference is that although we were not part of his original creative team, we are invited onto the redemptive one.

    A "treehugger theology?" You bet. I hug trees for Jesus, because He died on a tree for me.

    Reused with permission from our partners and friends at Blessed Earth.

  • A Rocha USA Celebrates 10 Years

    October 25,2010, 19:22 PM

    What is A Rocha?

    A Rocha {uh RAW sha} is a Christian ministry working to care for God's creation through scientific research,educational programs and hands-on projects. Part of the world wide A Rocha family founded in 1983 in Portugal, where our name means "the rock", A Rocha USA focuses on mobilizing the church in America through a growing network of projects--in 10 communities and counting. Our efforts stretch from North Carolina to California; from the Pacific Northwest to the Florida coast; from the Hill Country in Texas to the Rocky Mountains in Idaho. Driven by local context, local needs and local leadership, each project varies. Regardless the focus, each A Rocha project:

    • Proclaims Jesus' Lordship over all creation, shows His love and concern for it, and brings a message of hope based on His redeeming sacrifice and help.
    • Equips the church with biblical and scientific understanding to care for creation.
    • Integrates and balances the needs of humans with those of the rest of creation.
    • Incorporates the best available scientific knowledge and practice.
    • Welcomes participation by all, regardless of faith.

    What does A Rocha do?

    A Rocha USA is building a nation wide network of projects mobilizing Christians and others to care for God's creation. We do that by running educational programs and hands-on projects. A few examples:

    • In communities such as Philadelphia, Lexington, Ft.Lauderdale, and Santa Barbara, A Rocha community gardens and farms provide those in need with fresh organic produce as well as opportunities to learn about and connect with nature, neighbors and the God who created both. The gardens bridge racial, economic, and religious divides, rekindle community and instill a creation-care ethos among participants.

    • In Idaho, Washington, and North Carolina, A Rochaprojects educate people and help them clean and protect the streams and lakes that provide water for drinking and recreation as well as habitat for countless fish, birds, animals and plants.
    • In June 2010, A Rocha held its initial Creation Care Institute, a week of classroom and outdoor learning, fieldwork, worship, and more in Santa Barbara. The Institute equipped participants with the knowledge and skills to design, launch and manage conservation projects in their own communities by providing them with the biblical basis for environmental stewardship; citizen-level conservation science; and project planning and management. In 2011, we hope to take the Institute on the road to communities around the country.

    For more information, please contact:

    usa@arocha.org / (830) 522-5319

    A Rocha USA / PO Box 1338 / Fredericksburg, TX 78624

    www.arocha-usa.org

  • Responding to the Groan of Creation [excerpt from Tending to Eden]

    October 21,2010, 07:23 AM

    By Scott C. Sabin of Plant with Purpose, from an excerpt of his book Tending to Eden. Click here to listen to a special edition Creation Care Podcast on Scott's work with Plant with Purpose.


    "Daddy, when I grow up, I want to help you save the rainforest." My daughter, Amanda, then five, looked at me with an expression that made me melt. For a fraction of a second I thought we were completely in tune. Then she added, "I could be a butterfly or a fairy and fly around pollinating the trees." It wasn't quite the kind of help I was looking for, but it does serve to underline an important problem. Once we understand the state of the world and our call to be stewards, what can we do? Where do we start? The problems are vast and often seem so far away.

    As each of us considers how to respond to the groaning of creation, there is much that can be learned from Plant With Purpose's story.The entire world faces vicious cycles similar to the one we recognized involving deforestation and poverty. And there are undoubtedly other virtuous cycles that can address two problems with one solution. Each vicious cycle we confront presents an opportunity for a corresponding virtuous cycle.

    Two of the biggest problems in the world are environmental degradation and widespread poverty. There are 3.14 billion people living on less than $2.50 a day. If the poor are recognized as aresource rather than an obstacle, can a virtuous cycle be discovered in the midst of this? Is it possible that the poor could become leadersin solving the enormous environmental problems the planet faces?

    Van Jones, in his book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, makes the case that thisis possible in the United States. He advocates putting the unemployedand underemployed to work to create a healthier, more sustainable country. Jobs can be created weatherizing homes, installing solar panels, and improving energy efficiency. As Jones says, we need to do everything we can to aid and encourage business and eco-entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions to solve environmental problems. This is similar to what Plant With Purpose is doing internationally.

    We must also look for opportunities to create smaller virtuous cycles in our environmental and economic solutions. Nature is designed to function as a series of virtuous cycles. But most often, ourattempts to address the problems are linear and finite. Recycling isone step toward closing the loop to sustainability"but it is only the beginning.

    Solutions must be empowering. Everyone, from the church member in Michigan to the farmer in Haiti, has a role to play. The ruralpoor must have a role in the stewardship and restoration of the land, and the urban poor must have a role in greening and redeeming their neighborhoods and cities.

    Any real solution must take into account both environmental and economic considerations. I once walked miles into a protected national park in Indonesia that was filled with illegal cinnamon plantations and criss crossed by paths used by illegal loggers to get deeper into the park. The national park was set aside with the best of intentions. But without corresponding changes in the incentives for the people who rely on the land, nothing will change.

    The same applies to solutions in the United States. Economic incentives must be aligned with environmental outcomes. At a national level this means changing the way farm subsidies are applied. It means incentives and standards for improved fuel efficiency forcars. It means investment in alternative energies. It also means finding creative ways for local communities to participate in and benefit economically from the health of their surrounding environment.

    Finally,any viable solution must have a spiritual dimension, because ultimately the problem is a spiritual one. The church must lead the way, offering the hope we have and setting an example withour own stewardship. We must forsake the wanton consumerism that has overwhelmed our culture and which is ultimately suicidal. And we must offer a healthy alternative based on biblical values of worship, contentment, community, and Sabbath.

    How then should we respond as individuals? First, we as evangelicals need to getover our suspicion of science and learn what we can from it. Unless we understand our environment and how it works, how can we protect it? And we must learn not only from the scientists but also from our brothers and sisters on the front lines: the farmer in Tanzania who can no longer count on the rain, the Gabra elder who can no longer graze his animals, the Haitian family who has seen first hand the devastation that comes when life-support systems are wiped out.

    Second, we in the church should realize how much we have in common with the wider environmental community. They value creation, in part, because they hunger for the Creator. We should engagein dialogue with them, but we must begin with an attitude of humility. We have been absent from the conversation for too long to be brash.

    Nonetheless, we have something important to offer: hope in a place where there is a dearth of good news. A former colleague at Plant With Purpose told me he became a Christian partly because ofthe despair he felt as an environmental-studies major. The problems were too vast. The solutions proposed by science and government were draconian or came up short. As far as he could see, therewas no hope for the world, except in Christ. Of course, that is what we believe: that Jesus is the hope for the world. " from pages 112 to 115 in Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin, Executive Director of Plant With Purpose

    Click here to purchase Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin.

  • Reflections on Global Poverty

    October 20,2010, 13:32 PM

    by Alexei Laushkin

    I went to a great presentation today entitled "climate and food security" hosted by Oxfam USA and Africare. These organizations brought indigenous farmers from around the world to share their experience with a creation friendly agriculture method called System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI's methods have consistently shown higher yield with equivalent hybrid qualities with less water and pecticide use.

    As I was listening to the presentation I was reminded that there are 925 million people hungry in the world and that we have the capacity to feed them. Did you hear that? We can feed all the hungry people in the world today!! Yet, we don't!

    Jesus said that the poor will always be with you and I think that more than anything else speaks to the quality effort needed to care for the poor. Taking care of someone in poverty is not as simple as just feeding them. As my friend Scott Sabin of Plant with Purpose would say the poor are caught in a cycle of poverty both spiritual and economic. In order to lift them from that poverty you would need resources and talents and most of all the sorts of sustained on the ground presence that helps create virtous cycles of self sufficiency. Whatever you do in helping the poor has to fit within their context and has to empower them to be able to make the sorts of choices that will benefit themselves, theri families, and their communities.

    That's some of what I heard at today's presentation. There was the story of Mrs. Sugunauuva from Karkur Village in India. Mrs. Sugunauuva was your typical subsistence farmer. The cycle of poverty and debt was so intense in her village that her eldest son committed when he was 18. She did not have time to go into all the details of that dark chapter in their families history but the patterns surrounding the ordeal were clear enough.

    Mrs. Sugunauuva is a farmer who does not own her own land and who previously had to leverage her future income in order to afford the sorts of fertiziler needed to support her old hybrid crops. With SRI she has seen a miraculous turn around. She spends about 65% of what she used to spend in initial costs and is getting three times the yield return. She told of us how she has used the money to pay off her debt, buy a buffalo, a cow, and have some left over in savings.

    The hope and excitment was evident in her eyes, no longer was her future filled with despair but there was a sense that she could have a better future for her and her remaining children.

  • Why Christians should be Environmentalists

    October 12,2010, 08:09 AM

    by John Hay Jr

    Christians are called to stewardship and mission--including creation care

    Here's the guts of a reflection I recently prepared for a magazine. I'm indebted to Dr. Howard Snyder for help with some of these perspectives.

    LITANY OF CONCERNS. We read and hear about local, national, and global environmental issues all the time: Global warming. Climate change. Deforestation. Loss of wetlands. Air pollution. Strip mining. Water pollution. Impacts of suburban sprawl. Acid rain. Species depletion. Depletion of nonrenewable natural resources, like oil. Degradation of the Ozone layer. Dying seas. Endangered species. Etc.

    URGENCY FOR ACTION. Like never before, we are constantly made aware of the fragility of planet Earth. We could debate each other on cause and effect, levels of severity, who's to blame, and what's to be done about any and all of these concerns that confront the future sustainability of human habitation. But it all adds up to a clarion call for new levels of care for God's creation.

    WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS CARE? But why should Christians, in particular, care for God's creation? Isn't it enough to leave environmental issues to people with a passion for them? And aren't Christians involved in a greater rescue, salvage, and restoration project--the human heart? Here's why Christians are called to care about the environment:

    1. CREATION IS A GIFT

    Genesis 1 records that after God had caringly created the heavens, earth, sun, moon, stars, cycles of seasons, days and nights, sea creatures, fowl, land creatures and humans in his own image, God declared it all to be "very good." God gave creation to humanity as a stewardship. God called for us to be joyful, responsible guardians of it all--from the greatest to the least. The Old and New Testaments repeatedly compel us to see creation as a gift of God to be used carefully, restored restfully, and renewed prudently. God's people were called to be the first environmentalists.

    2. CREATION IS GROANING

    Genesis 3 tells the story of how the sinful choices of humans led to a downward spiral of sin that even impacted the environment. Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation has been "groaning," Paul says (Romans 8:22). Our selfishness, carelessness, violence, and greed have increasingly harmed the earth, its living creatures, plant life, and natural resources. All creation feels the brunt when we sin, abuse, and misuse the resources God has given us. Still, all creation hopes and waits for its liberation from this time of degradation. As people liberated from sin and sinful ways, we begin to live and act in ways that anticipate and cooperate with what God originally intended and ultimately desires for the people and world God created.

    3. CREATION--THE CONTEXT OF RECONCILIATION

    When John says "God so loved the world," (3:16), it wasn't just humans that were the focus. Paul makes clear that God is interested in reconciling "all things in heaven and on earth" to himself (Colossians 1:20). Instead of just rescuing a handful of the created human species from a dying earth, the New Testament paints a picture of a renewed heaven and earth in which people--once estranged from God, from themselves, from one another, and from creation--are reconciled to each other and to God. So, working for reconciliation between humans and the created order is an essential part of the Gospel we have share with the world.

    4. CREATION CARE"A WITNESS TO THE WORLD

    Paul called for the Christian community to be a company of reconcilers--literally to stand in the gap and pull people and creation together in light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we know full well the power and impacts of sin, and if we know full well the power of Jesus Christ to break the self-destructive sin, attitudes and actions, then we are living witnesses to hope in a world that alternately worships the creation and despises it. Instead of blindly participating in the degradation of creation or foolishly worshiping it, we can be reconcilers of all to one another and to God, working across traditional boundaries and divisive barriers.

    4 FALLACIOUS VIEWS OF NATURE

    · Romantic " views nature as the primary source of beauty and truth, rather than reflecting the glory of God. Romanticism also overlooks the violence of nature.

    · Commodity " views nature as raw material for profit-making. Nature is something merely to be used, consumed, diverted, exploited, and capitalized. This view degrades nature and often "kills the goose that lays the golden egg."

    · Worship " some people in ancient and current times view nature as a god to be worshiped, appeased, offered sacrifices, feared, or loved. This perspective is popularized today through several New Age gurus and animistic religious sects.

    · Spiritualize " this view, often mistakenly espoused by some Christians, states that creation has no value in itself, it only exists to demonstrate spiritual realities. It degrades the real value of the material world that God created and declared good. It also leads to using devalued creation for one's own purposes willy-nilly.

    2 EXTREMES TO AVOID

    · Only saving the earth from ecological collapse.

    · Only saving souls from destruction of the material universe.

    Instead, the Christian perspective is to pray and work for RECONCILIATION between all.

    John Hay Jr. resides in Indianapolis, IN. John is an urban minister and community advocate in Indianapolis. You can find his writings and reflections at http://www.indybikehiker.com/.

  • What is an environmental missionary?

    October 06,2010, 13:38 PM

    by Lowell Bliss (be sure to catch the Weekly Creation Care Podcast to hear Lowell talk about enviornmental missions)

    At first, the question remained thesame, but my answer would change.

    People asked me, "Lowell, why are you a missionary?" Before I left for India in 1993, I'd tell them my convictionthat Jesus is worthy of the worship of India, that the Great Commission is a mandate given to us all, and that those who die without Christ are lost eternally. But then after just a few months on the field, while those central convictions had not changed, I added to my answer, "I love Indians." Over time,however, I had to change that answer, too, and admit, "Well, I don't know if I can say that I love Indians, but I do love Shivraj, Munnu-ji, Prakash,and Prem Kumar." I would rattle off names of individual friends. It's hard to love disembodied aggregates, but it's impossible not to love those God has placed in your heart.

    Now, however, the question has changed. People are curious: "Lowell, why do you call yourself an environmental missionary?" The question has changed, but the answer is remarkably the same: Ilove Shivraj, Munnu-ji, Prakash, and Prem Kumar.

    For the love of neighbor

    Shivraj was a six-year-old boy of our landlord's family, growing up next dooron our ashram on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, India. His familymaintained a temple on the property to the goddess Kali. Once a year, on the festival of Diwali, the family would sacrifice a goat at her altar.

    We all noticed that something was wrong when Shivraj developed little blue spots all over his skin. Then he beganto bleed through his gums. Shivraj was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a disease whereby the bone marrow is deficient in making new blood cells. We ministered as we could"praying, giving encouragement, donating blood, and helping with medical bills. As we watched Shivraj deteriorate, we called the family together and boldly told them of the only true hope in this world and the next: "Kali takes blood; but Jesus gave his blood." Two weeks later, Shivraj died.

    Aplastic anemia can have any number of causes, but the one that seemed most likely for Shivraj was exposure to benzene, an ingredient in the gasoline so wantonly spilt about the property.

    Munnu-ji was my best Indian friend. He was my first landlord, renting me a small room off Assi Ghat before I was married. I'm not sure Munnu ever believed on Jesus. He was a man of peace, however, and assisted numerous Christian workers. He died when a mosquito, borne off the polluted waters of the Ganges River basin, bit him. Munnu-jicontracted cerebral malaria.

    Our most common way to understand the word environment biblically is to use the term God's creation. But we can just as easily, and just as biblically, propose another definition. Environment is nothing more than "that which surrounds the people we love, the people for whom Christ died." Love is a diffused light. It illuminates a wide-angle. Myconcern for Shivraj and Munnu-ji extends to hazardous waste disposal and malaria eradication.

    Similarly, when I began to explore the issue of global climate change, I did so through the only lens I knew, namely, from the perspective of a traditional, church-planting missionary. I loved Prakash. He works in a small telephone exchange in a city in North Bihar.This region is generally acclaimed as India's most backward. It's also been called "the graveyard of Christian missions." Two years ago, North Bihar was hit by the worst flood in 50 years. Millions were displaced. The previous year's monsoon flooding"a flood in fact named after Prakash's home district"had been the worst in 30 years. Scientists and Indian government officials point to climate change. The glaciers of the Himalayas are shrinking. Whereas previously these ice fields would retain the winter snow and slowly release their meltover the course of the summer, now this snow melt rushes to the Bay of Bengal, right through Bihar. Where combined with the monsoon rains, the land is inundated.The only reason Bihar didn't flood this past year was because the monsoons had failed.

    Last November when I was in India, Iinquired after Prakash. He had survived the floods. But then my colleague from Bihar told me some news that made me sad. "There are some who were actually disappointed that the floods didn't come this year," he said. "They lookforward to the flooding."

    "What?" I asked him incredulously."Why?"

    "Because they can get government relief. And they can also get jobs distributing that relief."

    What kind of life must Prakash'sneighbors have when the only blessing they can imagine is the scraps thrown outafter the widespread loss of lives, homes, and fertile farmland?

    Shovel in one hand, Bible in theothe

    What is environmental missions? Ed Brown gets us started on a definition. In Tri Robinson's book Saving God's Green Earth, Brown describes how he and Kenyan missionary Craig Sorley conceived of their organization, Care of Creation.

    The basic idea was to combine theenvironment and missions in a way we don't think anyone else is doing. On an organizational level, no mission organization in North America is openly both environmental and missional. It's very similar to medical missions in its approach to the mission field. When you take out the word 'medical' and put inthe 'environmental,' that's what we are. We want to do practical things wherewe help people by sharing the Gospel, but we want to serve people and serve the church by helping to heal the land through various means.

    Is this a new category of missions? Not in the strictest sense. William Carey, the father of modern missions, who sailed to Calcutta in 1793, was a world-class botanist. There is a variety of eucalyptus named after him. For centuries, faithful missionaries have crossed cultures to serve people through such means as sustainable agriculture, waterpurification, and appropriate technology. If environmental missions is considered a new category, it is because of an awakened awareness of our current global environmental crisis and the opportunities it presents to preach the Gospel and demonstrate the love of Christ.

    In addition, while the Good News of Christ crucified and risen remains simple, and while the mandate to be a good steward of creation remains clear, I believe the issues of world evangelizationand creation care (and the integration of the two) have extra complexity in the 21st Century.

    For example, let me tell you of mylove for Prem Kumar, a Dalit, of the caste formerly called "untouchable." The church is sufficiently mobilized that when we hear of a Dalit village thatdoesn't have pure drinking water, or when we hear of Dalits who are excludedfrom the village well, we put together a short-term team, raise the money, andgo dig them their own well. It is the expression of the love of Christ in our hearts.

    Last winter, I met with a friend, a landscape architecture professor who is involved in a water project outside Hyderabad, India. He first quoted me a statistic"now two years dated"that18,000 new wells are drilled every day in India. But for him, the most startling report from his project is that there are regions where upper caste landowners are building underground concrete walls"some 20 meters deep, somehundreds of miles long"that effectively seal off the aquifer and restrict water movement to the lower caste.

    In such cases, it won't make any difference how many wells we dig for Dalit villages like Nayapura, the one inwhich Prem Kumar lives. On one hand, we have the new problem of aquifers being drained above recharge. More profoundly, we have the age-old problem of love gone dry in the unregenerate heart.

    Shovel in one hand. Bible in theother. That's environmental missions. Love. That's why I'm an environmental missionary.

    Having served 14 years as a church-planting missionary with Christar in India and Pakistan, Lowell Bliss is the director of Eden Vigil, an environmental missions initiative that seeks "to love Christ and His created through mobilizing and serving those who combine church-planting and creation care among least-reached peoples." Stories from the Bliss's life in Indiacan be read in his wife Robynn's new book, Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission (William Carey 2010). They have three kids and currently live in tall grass prairie country, Manhattan, KS.

  • To The Pulp and Beyond

    August 25,2010, 07:21 AM

    by Kate Gorter

    In May 2010 I am going to wear a cap and gown and I'm going to graduate from college with an English degree. Whenever I reveal my major to people, their first question is always, "Are you going to teach?" It is a valid question to ask: Dordt College, in Sioux Center Iowa, was established as a teacher's college and Education is still one of the largest student-enrolled programs on campus. But, I confess, I am not going to be a teacher. At the top of my dreams sits a bullet point titled writer, but I also know that starving-artist is only appealing from afar. Therefore, I intend to circle my ambition. I would love to be a critic, but as a 22-year old with only a BA to my name, I will start with anything in the publishing industry.

    It is a bit challenging to consider my role within the cultural mandate as a writer. Science is never far from the debate--ethics on cloning and exactly how much sway technology should have over humanity are but two examples of wars that wage day in and day out among enthusiasts in the field. Meanwhile, I am in the corner on my laptop, trying to keep up. How does Genesis 1:28 apply to ink and paper? In truth, plenty.

    Writers, and anyone in the publishing industry for that matter, use a lot of paper. This does not bode well for the trees. On average, 30 million trees pay the price each year for our reading material1. But the real environmental impact of writers does not necessarily come from the trees. For starters, transport emissions are surprisingly high from the paper mill to the printer to hauling books back and forth between the warehouse and the bookstore. On average, each book releases 8.9 pounds of emission1. In 2004, the gross sales of consumer books averaged a total of 188 million pounds of diesel emission simply through transport2.

    Solutions to this problem are two-tiered. The first tier, albeit noticeably smaller than the second, relies on me as an individual. Growing up I was characterized by the number of journals and lined notebooks that I tended to accumulate. These days, I can do my part to promote a cleaner environment by typing on my computer whenever possible. It is such a simple concept, yet I save reams. This way, I print what I want and save the rest for a later date.

    As ambitious as I am, however, I am only one woman. My typing on my personal computer isn't going to make a huge difference in the global scale of publishing. This is the second-tier: The publishing community. As previously stated, many trees are needed annually to supplement our paper consumption. Most of this paper ends up in the landfill.

    There are three ways that we, the publishing industry can combat the increasing amount of paper waste that ends up in the landfills. The first, obvious way is e-publishing. It is relatively easy to do, many e-books require a simple Adobe Reader or Microsoft Media Player download (That is, if a reader did not want to buy a reader such as the Amazon Kindle or the Sony Reader, not to confuse anyone). The whole e-publishing industry works like anyone would assume a text-based equivalent of the mp3 impact on music or the Netflix impact on film. But this change is not as easy as it sounds. The academic world is concerned that e-publishing would make peer-reviewing much more difficult because it would help anyone publish that wants to be publish, whether or not they necessarily should6. Of course, for my increasingly tech-based generation, the idea of carrying lots of information on small devices is exciting. Plus, it is another way that we can do things "eco-friendly." But, sadly, at this point Kindles and Readers are still quite expensive for a recently post-graduate budget, and it is much easier to carry a paperback around than a computer--by the time my laptop comes out of hibernation I could have a whole paragraph read already. In addition, there's also the satisfaction of turning pages that just cannot be matched by a simple scroll-down.

    Second, companies such as Amazon.com have instituted a system otherwise foreign to booksellers. They buy the books as nonreturnable from the warehouse, then mark down excess inventory until it sells. Other major booksellers ship the excess books back to the publisher, often at least half of the original order. If other booksellers were to buy nonreturnable and simply mark down the price after a period of time, not only would they still make a profit off of the discounted books but they would also save an average of 8.4 million gallons of diesel fuel, up to 30 percent of their time and the postage that sending the books back and forth would cost. Plus, since at least half of these returned books are shipped to a landfill, the waste would drastically diminish2.

    The third way that publishing companies can reduce the paper waste that ends up in the landfill is by finding alternative methods to paper-making aside from the traditional wood-pulp. The conservation of trees is not necessarily an issue--but rather the other elements that are involved in paper-making. Currently, there is research pending on more "green" paper, using fibers ranging from bagasse (sugar cane), to kenaf (a long-fiber plant that originated in the East Indies and is grown in the U.S.). Kenaf, for example, can be produced at about half the cost per unit than wood pulp. Hemp is even a viable option; it can be recycled seven times compared to the four for wood. What is even better is that hemp is stronger than wood, lasts longer, and the paper made from its pulp is both acid- and chlorine-free after treatments3.

    Fortunately, the publishing industry is already beginning to understand the need for alternative methods of paper-making. Scholastic purchased 22 million pounds of FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council)-certified paper for the printing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the much anticipated seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series. This is considered the largest paper purchase for a single book printing. According to Adam Dewitz from PrintCEOBlog, "the English-language editions of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will save 197,685 trees and 7.9 million kilograms of greenhouse gases"4.

    The eco-consciousness goes beyond the pulp, however. Mohawk Fine Papers announced itself as one of the top 25 largest purchasers of wind-generated electricity among manufacturing companies in the U.S. This increase, from 60 million to 100 million kWh RECs (renewable energy credits) now makes the company able to completely run both their New York and Ohio operations on completely wind-generated electricity4.

    I am fairly certain at this point that I want to go into literary criticism with the intention of reviewing books. However, creating a profile for myself within the environmental field will help to increase awareness of the steps that need to be taken, as well as the steps that are starting to be taken, to creating a more environmentally-friendly publishing industry.

    ___________

    References

    1Hardy Green. Pulpless Fiction. The Business Week. 4089. June 23, 2008.

    2Margo Baldwin. Zero-Waste Publishing. Publishers Weekly. Vol. 253,2. August 14, 2006.

    3Jim Motavalli. The Paper Chase. E-The Environmental Magazine. Vol. 15, 3. May/June 2004.

    4Thad McIlroy. Harry Potter and the Sustainable Forest. Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies. Vol. 7, 15. August 9, 2007.

    5John Parsons. It's Not Easy Being Breen. Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies. Vol. 6, 6. October 5, 2006.

    6Jeff Hurst. e-Publishing. Scientific Computing & Instrumentation. Vol. 17, 12. November 2000

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  • The Myths of Christian Environmentalism

    July 12,2010, 20:07 PM

    by Scott Sabin, Executive Director, Plant with Purpose

    When I first got involved at the interface of Christian development work and the Christian environmental movement fifteen years ago, voices were few and the audience skeptical. Thankfully, that is rapidly changing. There is a ground-swell of Christians who see care for creation as a vital part of their walk with Christ. However, as I talk to people, I still hear three common myths, which I will address in turn.

    MYTH 1: ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN WILL CAUSE YOU TO WORSHIP THE CREATION INSTEAD OF THE CREATOR

    I have always found this puzzling. Wilderness and nature have the opposite effect on me. My involvement has taught me about the incredible intricacy and complexity of God's creation, reminding me of His attributes and my own humble place. "What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Ps. 8:4). It is probably no accident that so many of us became Christians while at camp, where, as we learned of God's love for us, we could look up and see that "the Heavens declare the glory of God." (Ps. 19:1). Or where, as we sat in humility, like Job, somewhere inside us a voice asked "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" (Job 38:4). For centuries, creation has been understood to be part of God's general revelation, something that He called good, and which according to Paul, provides enough evidence of Him to leave us without excuse.

    Indeed, I have never met a Christian who was tempted to worship creation. Instead I have met many Christian biologists and ecologists who have helped me to rediscover awe, wonder and mystery in creation, and to see the signature of the Creator in unexpected places. Far from straying from the Bible, one of the things that surprised me was how much these scientists used scripture and relied on it in their understanding of our role in taking care of the earth.

    MYTH 2: YOU CAN'T CARE ABOUT BOTH PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

    At Floresta, it was our concern for the poor and hungry that led us inevitably towards caring for their environment. In our affluence, Americans have often been shielded from the consequences of our environmental decisions. If water is scarce or contaminated we can pay to pipe it across the country and purify it. If soil is degraded we can pay for fertilizers and amendments. The cost of seafood goes up, but you can still find your favorite delicacy. Because we are buffered from direct feedback, we tend to forget that the environment is our life-support system.

    But the poor immediately feel the effects of environmental degradation, whether through drought induced by climate change, chronic diarrhea due to contaminated water, malaria epidemics exacerbated by deforestation, or myriad other examples. Any response to the needs of poor people that hopes to be sustainable must consider the environment. Conversely, in the developing world, any sustainable conservation effort must consider the needs of the poor. I hope to be exploring this relationship between poverty and the environment more deeply in future issues of this magazine. People and creation are part of the same system, and intimately connected.

    MYTH 3: DEEP DOWN THIS IS ALL ABOUT A POLITICAL AGENDA.

    There are policy issues with immense bearing on the health of creation, which I believe that we should take very seriously. However, much of what is going on around the globe transcends politics, or defies easy political classification.

    For example, environmentalism is often depicted as being against private property. Yet at Plant with Purpose we have found ourselves advocating for property rights. Poor farmers who have the right to use wood and products from trees they plant will be much more likely to plant and care for them in the first place. Similarly poor farmers are more effective stewards of land that they are assured of being able to use in the future. But in other situations, government protection might make most sense.

    The idea that stewardship and conservation are part of a liberal agenda seems ludicrous in much of the developing world. I remember the shock on our Dominican director's face when I first tried to explain the suspicion with which many of our American donors regarded the environmental aspects of our work. The issues just don't line up the same in Latin America or Africa. Being free of the political baggage that we carry here in the US, many of our brothers and sisters of in the developing world are way ahead of us in their understanding of stewardship.

    Americans who are not ready to change votes or party affiliations can still be good stewards and creation care advocates. There are dozens of lifestyle choices that have nothing to do with politics. All of us can live more simply, drive less, recycle, buy food locally, etc. In our churches we can bring attention to the scriptural basis for stewardship"many Bible studies exist. We can encourage our churches and workplaces to reduce their own consumption and waste. And we can support organizations like the Evangelical Environmental Network, A Rocha, Care of Creation, or Plant with Purpose, which balance the focus on politics by working directly in endangered or vulnerable corners of creation.

    God has called all of us to be stewards of the earth and in so doing to love our neighbors. There is a place for all of us to respond to Him.

    Scott C. Sabin is the executive director of Floresta, a Christian nonprofit organization that reverses deforestation and poverty in the world by the transforming the lives of the rural poor (www.plantwithpurpose.org)

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