by Gary Bergel
Consider the unusual preparation and devotion of Patrick, Apostle to Ireland:
Accounts vary concerning the exact place of Patricius Magonus Sucatus's birth to his Roman parents, Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were living in some region of Britain in the year 387. At age 16 Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and taken as a slave to Ireland and put to work as a shepherd. In captivity he turned to God in intense and desperate prayer and drew comfort and instruction from the Christian faith that he and so many others had abandoned under Roman rule. During this unusual time of "preparation," he learned the language and customs of the Irish people who held him - thus becoming familiar with the pagan and druidic practices. He escaped after six years (some say by angelic direction in a dream) was recaptured, returned, and escaped again after two years.
photo by Patrick Dockens used through flickr creative commons license.
Discipled by Germanus of Auxerre for over 10 years, Patrick was ordained about 417, consecrated as a Bishop in 432 and was sent to replace Bishop Palladius in Ireland, who had been largely ineffective in bringing the Irish to Christ. Patrick landed in 433, boldly presented the claims of Christ, penetrated the clan and entered into strategic spiritual warfare with regional chieftains. Patrick's strategy was to convert chief's first, who would then convert their clans. His former slave master, chief Milchu, was one of his earliest converts.
In direct defiance to an edit by the King and local druidic priests, Patrick lighted an Easter Vigil fire honoring the resurrected Christ, "the light of the world." The druidic priests sensed spiritual authority and anointing on Patrick and prophesied: "this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze forever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." They tried, but it continued to burn despite many physical and spiritual efforts to extinguish it.
Christianity spread throughout Ireland and Patrick discipled hundreds in his Celtic order of Christianity who went out, penetrated, and effectively evangelized many regions of Europe. There is a resurgence of Celtic Christianity today among multitude of young adults and young-at-heart believers who are hungering for an incarnational faith. Patrick's "fire" continues to burn.
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
"You are the light of the world.... Let your light shine before men." Matthew 5:14-16
We bind ourselves to you, and your Name to us, this day Lord Jesus, as Patrick and his band did in their day.
by Alexei Laushkin
I was walking along the Bull Run-Occoquan Trail in Northern Virginia a few years back and all around me I was surrounded by miles and miles of bluebells and two themes stuck with me. In the height of spring there is a real and genuine renewal of creation.
Yes, it is still under the curse but there is a beauty and consistency that comes with spring. It is a poor foreshadow of new life, but it is glorious and delightful all the same. It makes you realize how we have underestimated the glory and beauty of Christ when we hardly can even appreciate the creation that was made for him and by him.
I came back from this joyous weekend and was struck by something else. We often think of the Garden of Eden story as man centered, which in many contexts is very appropriate. Here's what I mean by that though. When we think of being in the garden with God we think about us and maybe we think about God but mostly we think about us. We try and grasp and grapple with what a state of perfection, a state free of sin must have been like. As well we should, but we are missing something truly awe inspiring about our Lord.
God planted the garden:
"When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up"for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground" then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:5-8).
The Lord prepared a place for us to live and thrive. He prepared a garden and was its perfect care taker. He made us in his image and said here steward in my place. Take dominion. Rule as I would rule and let's see what happens. The tragedy is that we've made a mess of it not by our industriousness or creativity but by our selfishness our inward bent. God banished us from the garden and cursed the land.
And in our sin, we have tried to fill our hearts with the bounty of this earth and have left the creation burdened, groaning with us in our bondage to sin.
Thank God, Christ came. The Lord Jesus Christ who is sufficient to save. God has given us every blessing and spiritual gift in Christ Jesus. He is our sufficiency our righteousness.
If you want to be a good steward, look to Christ. If you want to tend creation, look to Christ for by the Spirit, the lusts and sins of our inner heart will be exposed. Sit at his feet let him teach you and show you a new His intention for all that he has made.
by Gary Bergel
HOLY WEEK - From its own posture of "Hosanna," creation responded to Christ's entry into Jerusalem. Flowers sang their multi-hued praises. Palm fronds and willow branches "clapped their hands." (Isaiah 55:12) Jesus declared that if the disciples and masses had been silent, then the rocks would have cried out. All of creation waits for its release from corruption and death too. It groans and "stands on tiptoe," as J. B. Phillips phrased it in his translation of Romans 8:22.
"He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'" Luke 19:40 ESV
Holy Week should prompt similar inner dynamics in us: a deep yearning for greater freedom in every area of our lives; to live free from even the "power of cancelled sin," as Charles Wesley put it. A heightened desire, a "standing on tiptoe" to live a crucified life in Christ, to willingly embrace our own crosses---where the will of God crosses our own carnal demands and desires---to know more of Christ's death and resurrection working in us!
"By the punishments, by the whippings, by the bleeding wounds, by the piercings, by the crushing, we are healed!" (Isaiah 53:4-6) This is a week to reflect upon the Passion of our Savior - to try to grasp the suffering and full price that Christ paid for the rebellion, transgression and iniquity of the human race - the price he paid in full for our sin.
"See, my servant.... his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness---so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him." Isaiah 52:13-15
Isaiah 53, the prophetic chapter pointing to Messiah as "Suffering Servant" rather than "King," is still not commonly read in Jewish synagogues.
Prayerfully read, reflect and meditate upon the whole of ISAIAH, Chapter 53.
by John Humphreys
As a Catholic with a real passion for wildlife conservation, I work hard to do the right thing for the Earth. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, though, can't it? Don't all of us engaged in Creation Care feel inadequate from time to time? The short-sighted "do-it-the-dirty-way-because-it's-cheaper" attitude of today's society can be, frankly, awfully depressing. As is the eternal refrain of "looking after the environment will cost jobs". How do we stay positive?
I think an important first point is that protecting the environment is Kingdom Work. So anything we do is worthwhile just like the smallest things we do for the least of our brethren. Secondly, even if everything appears lost " I refuse to give up the fight if I know that it is the right thing to do. However Sisyphean it appears, sometimes.
Thirdly - and here's a good trick - as well as recycling, using less electricity, walking more and driving less - start doing positive things. Things that will help restore, that will be a witness to others and a joy to you. So this is why I am such an unconditional fan of 'wildlife gardening'. Whether you have a small patch of ground - or many rolling acres! - you can quickly and easily make a difference. Natural habitats for animals, birds and plants are being degraded or destroyed everywhere you look".but our back yard can act as a compensation " a giant, linked nature reserve.
So, where to start? I think the most fun and least expensive thing is to plant a few native plants that attract butterflies and bees. We're talking color and beautiful garden visitors"and if you use native plants that are found in your state, you are helping the wild flower count too! They will tend to be easy to grow, less fussy than most in terms of watering, and if they are perennial they will come back year after year and save money too.
Obvious candidates include milkweeds, coneflowers (Echinacea) and Joe Pye-Weed (at least on the East Coast).
Of course, planting a couple of flowering perennials and ignoring all other aspects of wildlife-friendly gardening (use of insecticides, weed killers on lawns, places for birds to feed and nest, et cetera) is not a lot of help. More on that next time. But God smiles at any sincere effort.
You can follow more of John's writings at http://wildlifegardening.org.
By Kate Perkins
I have to admit, recently I've been somewhat hesitant to completely call myself an advocate for creation care. Sure, like any holistic gospel Christian, I do believe that God is about redeeming the entire universe, including our physical creation"and therefore, we should be joining Him in this reconciling work.
As a middle-class white young woman who's chosen to relocate into Anacostia, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Washington DC, I've had a difficult time gathering personal enthusiasm for environmentalism at times. I moved to this area five years ago to become a part of the Anacostia community, listen and learn from my neighbors. I wanted to get to know people here and let their concerns become mine. So what happens when my neighbors often don't have an explicit interest in "the environment" per se (or at least it hasn't been something I've heard neighbors talk about recently)? Sure, many people here do care about the practicalities of air quality (kids with asthma) and would love to see more park space that's safe and a good place for neighbors to gather and kids to play, but often the "issues," when pressed, that people mention around here are education, inequality and child poverty"not global warming, or water pollution.
I don't see the same kind of support for the "green" or environmental movement in this area as I once did back when I was in college at my liberal arts university. Back in college I was an avid support of the environmental clubs"I held talks and displays about what the scripture had to say about the earth. But somehow I've lost my steam on all this since moving here and being inundated with so many other "issues" that feel very pressing. How do I reconcile this? My cynicism comes from the stereotype that environmentalists must be people of privilege who aren't engaged or concerned with the "real" issues, the "harder issues" sometimes in my opinions of racism, poverty, and dealing with real people"not just ideas or plants or water.
But truly, this comes from a place of ignorance. The environmental justice movement bore the term "environmental racism," recognizing how many communities of color in the US are unfairly targeted for hazardous waste, power plants or superfund sites. In my own life, it was watching a video about environmental justice in an environmental science class my freshman year in college that I heard the voice of God speaking in my spirit""this just isn't right""something that drove me to begin to give my life towards serving God and the marginalized.
Environmentalists seek to get to the root of poverty and inequality, recognizing that something as simple as the food we eat or the air we breathe may dramatically affect our quality of life.
Please forgive my bad attitude-- I hope to enter into a new season of openness to re-understanding of environmentalism and how it could benefit all people as I commit to be a blogger for the next season.
by Chuck Summers
"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." "Jesus
I'm embarrassed to admit it but one of the areas of spirituality and Creation Care that I fail at miserably is the consistent practice of th
e Sabbath. You might think that this would not be a problem for someone who is a pastor but for me it truly is. I know that the Bible calls for Sabbath rest for both man and beast, and I am aware that Jesus practiced this himself. Still, other than a short nap here or there I seldom take time to rest as the Scriptures command.
Dr. Matthew Sleeth believes that the renewal of Sabbath rest is crucial to the health of both humans and Creation. I've heard him say that this must become a priority for us if we want to experience the good life and to heal the earth. Thankfully, Dr. Sleeth is currently writing a book on the subject, called "24/6", that is due out this fall. I know that it is a book I'll definitely have to read.
A couple of days ago I was reading Stephen Shortridge's latest book, Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies. In one of the chapters Stephen offered some interesting comparisons between Sabbath rest and rest marks in a musical score. He writes: "In a piece of music, the notation for 'rest' is a pause in the music. The rest is as important as the note. The space that is not filled with music is a space that helps frame the music. It keeps its meter and holds the melody in place. The musical rest is a positive filling of that space, not a void." Shortridge goes on to say, "The composer of the music carefully placed those rests as parts of the whole. To remove them changes everything about the music: its meter, its interpretation, even the melody."
You can probably see where all of this is heading. "God wrote a piece of music"a symphony, so to speak. Its notes and directives are contained in His Word. One of those directives is to rest." It would seem that a lot of modern individuals, like myself, have been ignoring or editing out God's "rest marks."
Usually each November I join our church choir so I can sing the Christmas cantata with them. Ask any choir member, and especially the choir director, and they will tell you I am notorious for missing the rest marks. I typically sing right through them. This practice messes up the sound the composer had in mind when he or she wrote the music and diminishes the choir's presentation. That's why everyone in the choir insists I mark and remember where the rests are found.
Dr. Chuck Summers is a pastor and photographer. His work has appeared in numerous national magazines and calendars. He has published three books: Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit and Beauty; A Year in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park; and A Year in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. You can view more of Chuck's work at www.agpix.com/csummers. You can see more of his writings at SeeingCreation.com
by Shawn Eubank
I'm convinced organic agriculture, local foods, locavorism, or whatever you want to call it, is nothing close to a trend, but here to stay for good, assuming your local farmers are here to stay as well. I, along with 400 other farmers, buyers, or people who were simply curious to learn, had the pleasure of attending the 13th annual conference on sustainable agriculture put on by Future Harvest CASA at the National Conference Center. Having farmed the past two years of my life, I could not resist two days of seeing fellow farmer friends, talking seed selection, learning about innovative farming techniques, and most importantly: figuring out how we're going to make money at this, fitting neatly with the event's theme: "Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality."
As consumer demand for a local product increases as do those that decide they want to begin farming for a living, almost three-quarters of them under the age of 25. And with this young farmer's movement comes a mountain of passion and expectation, yet often a lack of experience, start-up money, and land. Unfortunately, for many of these young growers it's the same story. They labor as a farm-hand in exchange for little pay and vegetables for a few years then call it quits, concluding that it's really tough to make any money when you're not growing on family land or working with a non-profit organization. This is currently something I'm working through myself, having taken a break from farming to try to make sense of all of this. Being that the average age of the American farmer is something like 55, losing these young guns at such a fast rate is a huge problem, especially to keep up with the demand for all things local.
Therefore, at this year's conference, many classes were geared towards addressing and offering solutions to this problem, highlighted by a series of five classes over two days for beginning farmers. As a result, the classes focused not as much on the science of growing food, but preparing one for a farming lifestyle through discussions with experienced and successful farmers, providing tools for land to buy or lease, creating a network of other novices, and offering sound business plan development. Other classes included learning about local food communities, innovative conservation techniques, value-adding farm products, and managing grass-based systems. They provided hope to both myself and other farmer's who are trying to make it work.
Anthony Flaccavento, a southwest Virginia farmer, gave the keynote address. He challenged struggling young farmers to define what success and prosperity looks like to them. He contested that maybe cooking a pizza of homegrown ingredients with your family is more valuable than owning a mansion or driving a nice car.
Definitely food for thought!
by Anthony Waldrop
"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
In my relatively short existence on this earth, I haven't accrued many enemies. Of course, I have had conflicts with people in my life, and I would like to think that out of anyone, hateful, malicious people would be considered my enemies, however I have never been in relationship with a real enemy.
With such a dramatic opening as that, you would think that this story would be about how I have finally come across a being that I truly loathe. Fortunately, that is not the case, nevertheless, this story does illuminate a current antagonistic relationship. All ambiguity aside, I am referring to my battle with birds in the Westmont Garden. Since the beginning of the garden birds have happily munched on the vegetables that we have planted. It started with the precious mesclun lettuce... At first, I thought slugs were the main culprit, as entire seedlings ended up missing, but one day I spied a bird that was biting greedily at the lettuce leaves. I knew then that I needed to invest in some bird deterrent, which basically meant using copious amounts of plastic netting. After that decision, my battle with the birds has been one of stark attrition. I would set up new bird netting, only to realize that they were getting under it and eating the carrot seedlings, or pecking through the netting because the netting was too slack.
I underestimated the birds at every turn. It was actually quite fascinating to sit in the garden and watch the flocks of birds and how they dealt with the each new obstacle that I constructed. First off, the birds would settle in a nearby tree, then swoop down to the garden. Some would perch on the hoops, others would arch their necks to peer at the protected plants, and still others would fly at the nets and then change their flight abruptly. The birds that piqued my interest the most however were those that swooped past my defenses. They would peruse the borders of the net, find a section that wasn't secured well, and sneak into the protected area giving them unlimited access to the delectable seedlings. After a couple minutes of observing the birds, I would scare them off and begin to amend the areas that appeared to be allowing the birds to eat the vegetables. Once I fixed a couple places, I would sit back and observe again. It was interesting to see that it would take much more than hastily constructing some bird netting to be able to deter these avian predators. I would need to construct them in a way that took into account how they viewed the obstacles. A net that appeared secure to me, could look non-consequential to a 3 1/2 inch tall wren that could easily slip underneath it. As I saw more and more how ineffective my nets were becoming, my frustration began to build. I became more and more disheartened every time I saw the birds flippantly dismiss the defenses that I had diligently constructed.
When I went home for Christmas, I put in some extra staples around the borders of the nets in order to deter the birds while I was gone for 3-days. Upon my return however, I came across a bird that had snuck under the net, but hadn't been able to escape from the plastic netting over the weekend. I found it hopelessly wrapped up in a ball of netting, with the amount of net that it was entangled within reflecting the desperate attempts that it had made as it struggled with the plastic. It took a couple minutes to cut the bird out of the netting.
The aforementioned incident filled me with frustration at seeing that my netting had not been sufficient once again, but also with confusion as to how to react to the death of the bird. On one hand, it was the death of an enemy, which filled me with the hope that the other birds would learn from this bird's demise, however on the other hand, the innocence of the creature cannot be understated. It would be easy to hate the birds and picture them as conniving creatures finding every way possible to make my life miserable. However, if I were to go down that road, I would be turning them into something that they are not. I would be changing the birds into scapegoats for the injuries that they have inflicted upon my pride.
At this point, Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew help to heal my thought processes. Generally, whenever I pray for someone I begin to see the world more as they do, but more importantly, I start to see them through the eyes of God. Seeing through God's eyes changes my perspective to one of love instead of loathing. Hence, by entering a prayerful state in my interaction with these birds, I enter a place where I see how God views these birds. Instead of envisioning them as devilish creatures, they begin to appear as they are: simple animals that are responding to their desire for food. Nothing more, nothing less.
I know that this example of an enemy in my life is not profound or very applicable to many situations in an everyday person's life, nevertheless, I am completely convinced of how Christ's love must pervade every situation. If I am unable to pray for and respect the birds that are unknowingly terrorizing me, how will I love those people that knowingly betray me in life. Every little moment in life can turn one towards God, or away from God. This story is one of those moments.
by John David Punch
I have a problem. I don't like to be interrupted. I doubt I'm alone, but I have the sneaking suspicion that I have a bigger problem than most people. I like to get things done, I don't multi-task very well (unless it comes to watching multiple sporting events at once), and I don't like to procrastinate. But I'm a pastor and a husband and a dad and a neighbor and many other things. There are times when I would like to finish the book I'm reading, to finish the sermon I'm working on, or to just close my eyes for 5 minutes or so. Invariably, I get interrupted. I even got interrupted while working on this blog. Whether it's a phone call or a knock at the door, it bothers me. In fact, I hate it.
You would think I'd know better, wouldn't you? I am a pastor after all. I fully believe in the sovereignty of God. And I suppose as a result, there are no accidents. There are no interruptions. Those phone calls and knocks on the door are planned by God. I may want to finish what I'm working on or take a nap, but God has more in store for me. This is something I am well aware of...in theory. It's the practice that I'm struggling with. When will I learn? Maybe I'll make it my New Year's Resolution...unless I get interrupted.
"We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."
Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
George MacDonald, the 19th century writer who C. S. Lewis called his mentor, wrote a great deal about possessions. One of his thoughts that has stuck with me is this one from his wonderful novel What's Mine's Mine (edited and purged of some of the heavy Scottish brogue by Michael Phillips and retitled The Highlander's Last Song): "The true possession of anything is to see and feel in it what God made it for, and the uplifting of the soul by that knowledge is the joy of true having."
Folks in Western cultures probably consider land they have purchased, settled on, and worked as among their most important possessions. Capitalism, of course, considers private property ownership as its cornerstone. But do we really own land, or are we truly just landholders? Consider this Old Testament Scripture:
The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land (Lev. 25:23-24).
As legally encumbered as land is now in the West (for instance, my German ancestors' farm land "bought" from a priory in 1269) it would be next to impossible for us to return to the biblical ideal implied by Levitical law and God's prior claim. However, I do think we would be far better stewards of "our land" if we followed these considerations:
1. Being created in God's image, I have a wonderful capacity to utilize the land for great benefit"for God's glory, for my needs and those of my family, and for my neighbor in need. Yet I do not truly own the land; it belongs to God, and I am merely the land holder or steward of His property.
2. If I deliberately diminish or destroy the land's capacity to fulfill God's purposes as I have come to know them, there is a good possibility I am acting sinfully. One of those purposes is for the land and all that is on it to offer up praise to God. This is done by allowing the land to carry out its own work in maintaining the natural order"the God-created order that guarantees life and health to all the earth's living creatures.
3. I must recognize that the land is a vital part of a vast and complex ecosystem that keeps all land healthy and productive. If I alter its function and nature without carefully considering its impact on the surrounding ecosystem, I am acting sinfully
4. God expects me to use the land to meet not only the needs of my own family, but also the needs of its other inhabitants and of those who will be its stewards after me when I am gone.
5. I have a responsibility to care for and respect the living things that occupy the land. If I act without considering their needs and purposes, I am acting sinfully. Remaining ignorant of the ecological characteristics and importance of my land to excuse irresponsible behavior is not Christian.
6. I must not knowingly use the land in a manner that deliberately diminishes my neighbor's landholdings and/or his livelihood.
7. As much as I can control the factors, I have no right to deliberately pollute or degrade the air that passes over the land or the water that passes through or under it.
8. If the previous tenants abused the land, I should consider doing all I can to restore it to its highest purpose for the glory of God.
9. I recognize that no use of the land is 100 percent sustainable, but understanding my responsibility to consider future generations and to avoid wastefulness, I must seek to keep the level of matter and energy loss on the land at a minimum and seek to keep the soil as free of degrading chemicals and other elements as possible.
10. While the idea of the rigidly ritualistic Sabbath seems to apply specifically to Israel in Old Testament times, there is a "Sabbath Principle" that goes back to the Genesis mandates regarding the need to cease work every seventh day"for our personal benefit and the benefit of the land. Land must not be pressed beyond its capacity to remain fruitful.
11. I must never let the land become a god to me. It is not the land I worship, but its Creator. My relationship with the land is brief; my relationship with the Creator is eternal.
by Anthony Waldrop
Gardening tears apart my heart. Every seed is full of hope. Every setback brings despair. All I want is to see plants growing as planned, bountiful harvests, and pleased adults. Any sign of pest damage or failed growth ushers in a wave of self-doubt. Will I ever escape from this roller coaster? Is this how I am supposed to feel as someone in charge of a garden? I take such deep-seated pride in my work at the garden, that my heart is tied to every action. It dreams about hundreds of carrots, and has nightmares about armies of slugs. Yet, I am thankful for the emotion that my work brings. So often in my past I have craved deep emotion, and now it has been given to me. Lord Jesus grant me peace, for You are the true creator. I am but a simple servant who has been given the privilege of planting the seeds....
...let me sow hope.
by Tyler Amy
When discussing the theological basis for creation care, I often find myself on the receiving end of the question, "Have you read (insert book title here) yet?" With so many available resources, I find my list of books, magazines and blogs to read growing by the week.
I recently stumbled across something that made this list even longer. Much longer, in fact.
I found a vast collection of creation care resources compiled by Dr. Arnold Neufeldt-Fast of Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.
With introductory texts, monographs, articles, essays, websites and much more, this resource offers something different than the often seen book recommendations (which I use all the time).
With the seasons changing, I'm looking forward to those long winter weekends with a blanket and book.
I have my blanket picked out, now I need to decide what book to choose.
Tyler Amy is the National Coordinator of Renewal - a Christ-centered, creation care network that focuses on inspiring, connecting, and equipping college students in their work on campus. He lives in Buffalo, NY and is eagerly anticipating the first big snowfall of the season.
by Jim Ball
Since my family is from McComb, I'm searching for something more in my review of McComb's civil rights struggle. Did any white Christians from McComb stand up and do the right thing? More specifically, did my grandparents, Jumo and GranHelen, do the right thing?
We are all products of our time and place, and there can be a collective moral denial that groups and communities participate in. But in 1964 in McComb there was no place to run and hide morally when it came to the struggle for civil rights. There was no way to claim ignorance when upwards of 20 bombings occur in your community; when your small town is regularly featured on the national newscasts; when the nation's best-known columnist, whose column is published in your local paper, visits your town and features the civil rights struggles occurring your town at least 14 times during the fall of 1964; when even your own local newspaper's editorials during September and October are highlighting the issue and calling for change. If you own a store in downtown McComb like my grandfather did, there is no way to ignore the economic impacts of people being afraid to shop downtown.
In was clear to those who drafted the statement that they were dealing with issues of right and wrong. Equally apparent was the fact that the actions of those violently opposing change were evil "acts of terrorism." And finally, the statement made clear that there must be "equal treatment under the law" for everyone, regardless of one's personal views or feelings.
It was all too clear to the drafters and signatories, surely it was clear to my grandfather, no? Surely as a prominent merchant, a deacon at First Baptist, a respected member of the community, he would have been asked to sign, right?
As I began to scan the list of signatories I started seeing names that looked familiar.
Is that the father of my mother's best childhood fried? Is so-and-so the father-in-law of my aunt, in whose home I often played with my cousin? Is that the son of the lawyer we consulted as we looked into guardianship for GranHelen? Are any of these folks with the last names of Brewer (GranHelen's maiden name), Wilkinson, or Ball related to me?
But mainly I was searching... hoping... to find my grandfather's name. If Jumo's name was there then maybe the moral questions raised when I first learned nearly 20 years ago that Moses had come to McComb could be assuaged.
And there, at the top of the middle column of the next to last page was a strange entry. No other name looked this way. The last name was right, "Wilkinson." But the first name was tauntingly strange: "J..i..i..y." My grandfather went by "Jimmy." Could this be him?
Did my grandfather sign the Statement of Principles on behalf of himself and my grandmother? After a long investigation the answer is ... I don't know.
Such ambiguity, such lack of clarity, such seeing through a glass darkly, is a plaintive, restive, metaphor for the moral standing of southern white Christians like my grandfather and grandmother and their spiritual offspring. But not knowing if I had found my namesake's name made me face a simple truth: absolution would not have come from finding a name on a list.
What I do know is that I never remember my grandparents or my parents making anything close to racist statements. We were taught to treat all people with respect, to treat others equally regardless of race or religion-- indeed, as Christians, to love everyone.
But righteousness is not the absence of bad acts, of sinful, hurtful acts. It is the presence of good acts, the presence of right relations with everyone and God.
The Heffner's put one foot on this road in terms of race relations and they were runt out of town. The Statement of Principles was a good statement for its day. But while it may have signified a change of heart by some of those who signed it, it was external political and economic pressure that brought it about. True righteousness, doesn't require external pressure. It flows out of a righteous heart
Adapted from Chapter 10 of Global Warming & The Risen Lord, a new book by Rev. Jim Ball Executive Vice President of Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.
by Lowell Bliss
The president addresses the nation. The Speaker of the House rebuts. The Super Committee convenes. The primary candidates debate. But in all this important discourse (I don't intend to belittle it), the message seems consistent: "Jobs, jobs, jobs." Job creation is the trump card. It certainly is so for creation care. If you want to emasculate the EPA, if you want to scale back the Clean Air Act, if you want to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. . . jobs, jobs, jobs.
Often the argument of job creation is misleading and self-serving. Take for instance, the issue of mountain removal coal mining (MTR). Mary Anne Hitt, executive director of Appalachian Voices, explains:
It's much more profitable to just blow up the mountain than to hire a bunch of people to go underground and pull the coal the up. They have these huge machines that are called draglines, and they are 22 stories tall and the bucket is big enough to pick up a small house. It just takes a couple people to run it whereas it's doing the work that literally hundreds of people would have done otherwise.
Around 1950 there were 150,000 coal miners in West Virginia and now there are less than 15000. They're producing relatively the same amount of coal. So you can imagine, if your labor costs go from 150,000 people to 15,000 people, you're making quite a bit more money. (from documentary Blind Spot, 2008).
When a coal company wants the deregulated proliferation of MTR, they offer the handful of jobs which will spring up around a new dragline. Those few jobs are admittedly important to the beleaguered men and women who might be fortunate enough to land an opening, but the job creation is vastly disproportional to the private profit which is pocketed. If our investment is in labor-saving mechanizations, aren't we, by definition, NOT investing in job creation? But then society turns around and says that record earnings and CEO benefit-packages are the just reward for what?. . . the function of job creation in society.
I listened to the president's jobs speech and thought, "We've got to de-mechanize." This was a revelation for me. I mean, I've thought about de-mechanization in relation to Peak Oil. I've thought about it terms of climate change. I've thought about it in terms of healthy living and of Wendell Berry's concept of "doing good work." But it's the first time I've thought about it in terms of job creation. Of course, de-mechanization of our job-creating industries must begin with the de-mechanization of our minds. We complain about the Chinese manufacturer who "steals our jobs", but not about the piece of job-displacing factory equipment that we willingly buy off of him. We complain about illegal immigrants stealing our jobs, but refuse to re-invest dignity into those jobs they do, nor pay a liveable wage for those jobs. At what point did the word skill in the term skilled labor (as compared to un-skilled) become mechanized? It seems the more "skill" in skilled labor, the less "labor" for which someone might be hired.
I'm no anarchistic Luddite, but I refuse to credit a corporation or a Congress for job creation which doesn't give labor-intensity a nod.
Lowell Bliss is the director of Eden Vigil, an environmental missions agency. One of his happiest memories from this fall was the 2012 Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Salina, KS.
by Ruth Valerio
I wanted to write about something that I've been thinking about and get some thoughts from those of you who are with me on this journey of living lightly. Because, I've recently found myself involved in a bit of an interesting dialogue.
It was started by an article in the March 09 edition of the Ecologist magazine entitled, Abandon Hope. Written by an associate professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University and an assistant professor of animal ecology at Michigan Technological University, the article set out to challenge the standard means by which the environmental movement seeks to motivate individuals to change. That means is the concept of hope: if you do this, then disaster will be averted and all will be okay.
The authors state that there is a fundamental problem with this motivational tactic: 'every other message I receive suggests that disaster is guaranteed, and the reasons to think that if I live sustainably enough others will do the same are unconvincing.'
In contrast to this utilitarian way of thinking, the authors want us to go back 2,300 years to Aristotle and his concept of the virtues (something, of course, that Aquinas was to develop later on). And so they say, 'we need to equate sustainable living, not so much with hope for a better future, but with basic virtues, such as sharing and caring, which we already recognise as good in and of themselves, and not because of their measured consequences. Living by such virtues is a fundamentally right way to live " even if nobody else does and even if it might not avert environmental disaster'.
In the midst of their article, however, they talk about the 'Christian view of hope that dominates the Western mindset' and make the astonishing statement that, 'Christian hope has nothing to do with the welfare of life on Earth; it refers to "hope in eternal life in heaven"'! Coming from a US perspective, I guess that statement isn't really so astonishing and, of course, it is the stereotype of what a Christian believes. I couldn't let such a statement pass by unchallenged, however, and so wrote into the Ecologist to say that actually this was a mistaken understanding of the Christian view of hope. On getting the most recent edition I was delighted to find that I wasn't alone in writing in and the Wakefield Diocesan Adviser in Environmental Issues also wrote to say that, 'if there is no hope, no future, no God, no continuing humanity, no Earth as we know it, it is hard to imagine many finding motivation in acting virtuously. Only in the context of hope does virtuous action make complete and logical sense'. An excellent letter, Bill Halling!
I find in the speaking and writing that I do on caring for this world, I often have to balance out the desire to express a Christ-centred hope for the future with a sober and chilling assessment of where this world appears to be heading. Although the authors of the Ecologist article aren't writing from a Christian perspective, I find what they say resonates with the approach I often take. The reality is that I want to do things like use my car less, produce my own food, not buy so many things and so on, not finally because I think it will make a difference (although I long for that to be the case), but because, as an apprentice of Jesus, it is the right thing to do.
And how about you? In the face of increasing messages of doom, why do you still want to live lightly in this world?
Ruth Valerio is the Manager of Living Lightly. Living Lightly is an A Rocha UK initiative that is here to encourage and motivate you to make practical changes in all these areas through giving you ideas of things you can do, further information on key issues, links to useful websites and resources, and an on-line community that you can share your thoughts and questions with.
by Mitch Hescox
(please note the numbers in the text are linked to citations at the end of the piece)
Our old "friend," Cal Beisner sure likes to keep hammering away against another brother in Christ. Last week the Family Research Council issued an Action Alert slamming our work to protect the unborn from the threats to mercury poisoning, which was apparently written by Cal. We disagreed with their release and as Christians are called to respond in love, I wrote Tony Perkins and two other FRC staff members of my concern. The letter appears below.
Dear Mr. Perkins,
What a sad review of Jesus' Church when fellow Christians attack other Christians without first reaching out to the other. In accord with Scripture, I am writing to you and asking for your organization to retract your Mercury Action Alert and the innuendo suggested in your alert. Certainly, the mistakes in your alert could have been avoided had you contacted us.
First, our efforts to protect the unborn have nothing whatsoever to do with the recently passed health care law. Yet you attempt to make such a connection " quite misleading. Our concern, as well as the wide evangelical support by the signers to the "An Evangelical Call to Stop the Mercury Exposure to the Unborn," understands the threats to our unborn children as a Biblical issue.
Second, the science is quite sound that mercury pollution harms the unborn, which is why doctors tell women to watch their fish intake.You cite Cal Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, the Wall Street Journal, and the National Mining Association, but none are experts in the adverse health effects of mercury on the unborn.The Evangelical Environmental Network attempts to seek the best medical and scientific research available; therefore, we choose to depend on the National Academy of Sciences1 and such respected organizations as the American Lung Association and The National Academy of Pediatrics.2 All fifty (50) of our United States have issued some type of fish consumption advisory due to mercury, and the FDA has published extensive guidelines for fish consumption during pregnancy.
Third, you mention that some progress has been made in reducing mercury. That is true. However, you fail to mention that those reductions are in fact the result of state regulations and investments by electric utilities who recognized that federal regulation of mercury as required by the Clean Air Act would eventually occur. Absent federal regulation, many utilities without state regulations continue to spew mercury into God's creation. For example, in my home state, the Portland Power Station in Mt. Bethel, PA (near the New Jersey border) emits more mercury than the entire state of New Jersey " and the citizens of New Jersey cannot protect their unborn children from this harmful pollution.
The proposed regulation to reduce mercury pollution rewards those coal-burning utilities that have already invested in public health. All utilities have known that regulation was in the works for over twenty years and many electric utilities have spoken publically in support of the proposed regulation.3,4Yet because of the special benefits given utilities by Congress,5 our unborn children have not been protected from mercury pollution from power plants. Your article would reward poor concern for our unborn and in fact penalize the utilities that already have acted to protect public health.
Lastly, the Evangelical Environment Network has not received funds from the Rockefeller Foundation, George Soros, or Ted Turner, to the best of my knowledge since my tenure as President and C.E.O.
My prayer is that you will retract your statement and speak the truth in love for protecting our unborn from mercury emitted from coal fired utilities. And if you wish, I would be happy to walk with you at the next "Right to Life March." EEN staff are regular marchers and prayers during the event.
Instead of a personal reply from Mr. Perkins, my email this morning contained a public blast from Cal, refuting our claims that mercury threatened the unborn and questions our moral belief that mercury is a pro-life issue. His reply would just be a sad commentary on his belief in a totally non-regulated free market system, if he didn't make errors in understanding the science and especially his commentary on the reference dose for mercury poisoning.
While, I freely admit to not being a scientist, I do admit to trusting the National Academy of Sciences and health experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics. All of who say that mercury is a threat at the level the proposed regulation states. Additionally I read enough of the research to know that the actual reference dose (the lowest level for no appreciable risk) does not mean any risk as the article implies. It is simply not true that the reference dose implies no risk but is the reasonable standard determined by scientific research.6 Please feel read to read the information yourself at the referenced link and draw your own conclusions.
Another unfortunate mistake made in Cal's data, EPA calculated the benefits of this rule but using slightly more than 85% and not the 90% quoted. The benefits were also calculated only on examination of mercury reduction in fresh-water fishing and based solely on the reduction of IQ points because they were easily quantifiable. Because of budget constraints, EPA did not include in the benefit analysis the most serious impacts of impaired cognitive development, language skills, genetic abnormalities, and a host of other potential health effects. However, Cal is correct on one item. The majority, of calculated benefits, result from the reduction in acid gases (acid rain) and particulates saving up to 17,000 lives per year, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, 11,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 220,000 cases of respiratory symptoms, 850,000 days when people miss work, 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 5.1 million days when people must restrict their activities." 7 When one adds up the threats to children and the other human health benefits, how can any say reducing mercury is not pro-life?
It is just wrong to say that our organization doesn't understand the costs associated with implementing this proposed rule, again as quoted in his email. Far from "skyrocketing", EPA suggests $3 " 5 per month electric bill increase per household and in my written testimony to EPA as well as other postings on our website, we believe based on an independent analysis that in the highest area of mercury reduction the cost might raise to as high as $7.00 per month or $84.00 dollars per year. Most reasonable people, even in the current economy, would pay the $84 per year for a return of $5.00 " 13.00 in health cost savings, let alone the moral call to protect our unborn children and others benefiting from this rule.
Our efforts to support protecting our children stem from our love of God and not to hinder our children in any way, and we are not alone. Broad coalitions of pro-life evangelical leaders across the nation have also stood to protect our unborn children as well as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops8 and the Catholic Health Association.9
The bottom line is whom do you believe. Do you trust the reports issued by some utility industry groups, the mining trade associations, and those who promote an unregulated free market? Alternatively, do you place your faith in a wide coalition of faith leaders, medical experts, and such scientific bodies as the National Academy of Sciences?
For me, mercury is a pro-life issue and the recent thoughts of fellow evangelical, Russell Moore, summarize my position: "Because we believe in free markets, we've acted as though this means we should trust corporations to protect the natural resources and habitats." He goes on to say that this "is akin to the youth minister who lets the teenage girl and boy sleep in the same sleeping bag at church camp because he 'believes in young people.'" Moore adds, "A commitment to the free market doesn't mean unfettered license any more than a commitment to free speech means hardcore pornography ought to be broadcast in prime-time by your local network television affiliate."
The proposed mercury regulation protects the unborn, creates jobs, doesn't reduce electricity reliability, and produces real dollar savings in health benefits. I say that is definitely pro-life.
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/utility/ria_toxics_rule.pdf,page 5-3, 5-4.
EPA Fact Sheet, Proposed Mercury and AirToxics Standards, p. 3; http://www.epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/pdfs/proposalfactsheet.pdf.
by Kara Ball
A few weekends ago, my husband Jim and I visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This excellent facility has amazing exhibits highlighting freshwater, tidal freshwater, and marine ecosystems and their species. We enjoyed exhibits of Maryland freshwater streams, sharks, jellyfish, kelp forests, moray eels, sting rays,sea turtles, poison dart frogs, dolphins, and many other wonders. The aquarium also had mini biomes of the Australian desert and Amazon rainforest. It's a terrific facility and we recommend it. Here's a video that Jim took at the jellyfish exhibit.
As a conservationist by vocation and avocation, I was heartened that on a Saturday afternoon, the aquarium was filled with children and their families enjoying the awesomeness of creation. Kids all around us were looking, pointing, gasping in delight at the variety of fish, marine mammals, and other plants andanimals. I can only imagine that somewhere in the facility there might have been a future conservationist who that day was having the kind of wonderful experience that will help foster a lifelong passion for caring for God's creation.
God made His creation in such a way that we may delight in it. "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." (Ps. 33:5, NKJV)
In The Color Purple, the author writes "I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it." I don't know if it makes God angry or not but I do think it pleases God when we appreciate the colors of his flowers, the sway of trees in the breeze, and graceful movements of a jellyfish.
When was the last time you took time to simply delight in God's creation? If it's been too long, go outside this evening and enjoy the sunset. Go for a walk outside today. If possible bring someone along to enjoy it with you. God gives us the wonders of His creation to delight in each day and to share with each other, if we will only take the time to appreciate it.
Check out the EEN Facebook page to watch a video of a jellyfish at the Baltimore Aquarium.
by Chuck Summers
"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it""Psalm 24:1
After posting my blog, "Spirituality and Beauty," this past Sunday I got an e-mail from my good friend, Kenny Faught, who in response to what I had written shared a wonderful story. He wrote:
"The post today reminded me of when I was a pastor in Cumberland, KY. An older pastor was with us for the week holding a revival meeting. One day we were walking a trail at Kingdom Come State Park when I realized he had 'fallen behind'. I did an about-face and walked back to him. He was cradling a tiny flower in his hands, and asked, 'Do you know why this tiny flower blooms way out here where it will likely never be seen? To the glory of God!'"
This "older pastor" realized something that many of us tend to forget. It's not all about us. We tend to judge the worth or value - and even beauty - of things by how they affect us. If we benefit from the object or find it pleasing we give it value. If we do not find or see a personal benefit, or do not find it pleasing, we do not consider the object to be of much value or worth.
When Rob and I were photographing in Redwood National Park a couple of months ago we walked a trail in the Lost Creek area. Along the trail there were lots of wildflowers. I suspect most people would have considered the columbine we saw to be quite beautiful. On the same trail we also saw several banana slugs. Here my suspicion is that most people would not have considered this creature beautiful and might even call it "disgusting." Why? Both are creations of God. Both have their place in the natural world.
Perhaps it is just part of being human that we judge everything from our own particular position. As Christians, however, we must recognize that the world should be viewed from God's perspective. A lot of folks today need to experience a new "Copernican Revolution." Copernicus turned the world upside down when he discovered that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. I think it would turn our world upside down today as well if more of us could come to realize that the world does not revolve around us. The "older pastor" was right; the world exists for "the glory of God!"
I encourage you to give some thought to how you might view things differently if you sought to look at the world through God's eyes rather than your own. I also encourage you to consider how this might affect how you treat the earth and its resources. If the earth truly is the Lord's, as the Psalmist indicated, and it exists for His glory, I cannot help but believe that it will, indeed, make a difference in how we see and treat Creation.
(I photographed the columbine and banana slug in June on the trail described above.)
re-posted with permission
Dr. Chuck Summers is a photographer and pastor. You can read more of his blogs here and view some of his photos here.
by Cody Watters
Being a biologist and a Christian has gotten me into many interesting discussions and debates. Most other nature enthusiasts that I have talked to find it amazing that I am so enthralled with the flora and fauna of this world and can believe that it was created by a supreme being. Over the years I have found it increasingly amazing that anyone putting as much interest into our natural world as I have could possibly deny the existence of God.
I recently returned from a three month stay on the island of Maui working for the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC). MBCC is a facility where native endangered Hawaiian birds are bred for release into the wild. The facility currently breeds the nene, the puaiohi, the maui parrot-bill, and the alala (or Hawaiian crow). The alala is currently extinct in the wild with only about 85 birds in existence in captivity. It was an amazing experience to get to be that involved with the efforts to save a species. I mean you really can't do much more than care for and oversee the breeding of an endangered species. It was a very rewarding trip.
While on the island I was able to visit some pretty remote regions that have remained untouched for a very long time. These remote locations are where I experience God's creation to the fullest. Seeing all the flowers and trees everywhere and all the birds flying around I am always reminded of Matthew 6:25-28. It brings a great peace over you to know that God takes care of all of his creation.
Yesterday, July 27, 2011, the influential evangelical pastor, theologian, and writer John Stott passed away. Today many hearts mourn the passing of a great beacon of evangelicalism, a man who above all else loved Jesus and devoted his life to proclaiming the Good News to the world. As we grieve this loss, we also rejoice to know that John Stott has gone home to be with his Savior and has been welcomed with open arms as the angels celebrate his life, a living testimony of Christ's love and compassion on a world in need. As Christianity Today notes,
"Billy Graham's spokesperson released the following statement from the evangelist: 'The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven.'" Although the world has lost a great spokesman for Christ, his legacy will live on in the books he has written, the ministries he has passed on, and the hearts that have been impacted by his words. In his own words, John Stott was a "plain, ordinary Christian", a man who loved Christ and followed Him with passion and humility.
To read more about John Stott's life and ministry, read these two great articles from Christianity Today and John Stott Ministries. To hear about Stott's expository preaching, read John Piper's post at Desiring God.
By Audrie Peveler
It's beginning to get "hot" in San Diego. The other night I had to laugh at myself as I went searching for a fan at 1am just so I could sleep. In my hometown of Henderson, NV (right outside of Las Vegas), what we're experiencing in San Diego would be considered a cold spell. This is my first July not in 100+ degree weather with humidity, and there's not a whole lot I miss about that. One thing I do love and miss about the desert, though, is desert sunsets.
Call me crazy, but I prefer my desert sunsets to the sun setting over the Pacific. However, a couple weeks ago there was an ocean sunset that took my breath away, along with the breath of the hundreds of other people who stood along Sunset Cliffs near Ocean Beach. All kinds of people flock to OB, but no matter where you were that evening, you paused. It was avery surreal experience, realizing that I had at least one thing in common with every person on those cliffs.
That brings us to segue #1:
This summer my family and I embarked on our first camping adventure in a long time. I met them south of Yosemite National Park, where we stayed for a few days before venturing into the valley. Our trip included hikes to gorgeous waterfalls, bike rides on trailslined with enormous trees, and finally, a day in world-famous Yosemite. I think the last time we were there for more than a few hours I was two or three years old, which means the three young boys in the picture didn't exist yet. Despite the years, Yosemite hasn't changed much. That's a beautiful thing.
Our day in the park included stepping on toes, running to catch the first available picnic table, and burning the brakes on our bikes; there were many, many people in the park, especially for a Monday in June. All nationalities, cultures, and languages were represented. At first, the situation was just plain annoying. Here we were, trying to enjoy a peaceful family vacation, and all these people had to come and ruin it.
But then I realized something: We all had one thing in common, and that was awe and love for creation. Welcome to segue #2:
If you haven't made the connection between the beautiful sunset, my awesome family vacation, and Plant With Purpose, let me help you out. Plant With Purpose works with people of all different creeds and color,but one thing we have in common with them is a love for creation. I find myself stopping to admire beauty in all sorts of places. There is beauty in the mighty Pacific crashing against the cliffs with all its might. There is beauty in untouched, open meadows. There is beauty indesert flowers that only bloom for a few hours. There is beauty in the diverse people Plant With Purpose has the privilege of working with. We serve a beautiful and creative God. His creation cries out for healing; healing of the land and its people. As you enjoy your summer vacations and various trips, may the beauty of creation point you to the Creator who clothes the lilies of the field, and watches over you, me, and every rural farmer PWP works with.
re-posted with permission
by Dean Ohlman
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King (Matthew 5:33-35).In today's passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reiterates the prophet Isaiah's words (chapter 66). I'm not a theologian, so I can't tell you all the nuances of Jesus using these same words, and most of the commentaries I have read simply explain the main point of the message: just be honest and keep your word. You do not need to make an oath on anything if you tell the truth and honor your promises.
That's obviously a critical admonition for us all. Something else really jumped out at me: As Isaiah states, the heavens and the earth"the entire cosmos"is the work of God's "hands." And Jerusalem is as well. Jerusalem was chosen by David (obviously through God's direction), and it became the city of his throne built by human hands. Psalm 48, written by "the sons of Korah," used the same expression that Jesus used: it is "the city the Great King""foretelling the time in the future when the New Jerusalem, made by God's hands, descends to the earth and serves as "the throne of God and the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1).
A major point, then"and one the church seems to have often missed"is that the material heavens and earth and coming New Jerusalem are all of sacred significance. Consider some meanings of "sacred" from Dictionary.com: Sacred: 1. devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated. 2. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy. 3. pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to secular or profane); 4. regarded with reverence; 5. secured against violation and infringement; 6. properly immune from violence, interference, etc.
John Muir [who went on to found the Sierra Club] left the formal church primarily because of his super-pious father, who knew the Scriptures backward and forward but was abusive and spiritually shallow. But Muir kept his faith in God the Creator and perhaps sensed the sacred in the cosmos more than almost anyone else. And it was primarily because of Muir that American political leaders had the foresight to preserve some of the nation's most awe-inspiring wonders. The great national parks indeed offer us the opportunity to discover the sacred in God's good creation, but even a nearby meadow, woodlot, pond, seashore beach, or marsh left to pretty much function naturally gives evidence of His eternal power and divine nature.
I close with a reverie of John Muir's as a motivation for us to wonder even today in the glory of God's "footstool":
The forests seem kindly familiar, and the lands and meadows and glad singing streams. I should like to dwell with them forever. Here with bread and water I should be content. Even if not allowed to roam and climb, tethered to a stake or tree in some meadow or grove, even then I should be content forever. Bathed in such beauty, watching the expressions ever varying on the faces of the mountains, watching the stars, which here have a glory that the lowlander never dreams of, watching the circling seasons, listening to the songs of the waters and winds and birds would be endless pleasure.
And what glorious cloudlands I should see, storms and calms"a new heaven and a new earth every day, aye and new inhabitants. And how many visitors I should have. I feel sure I should not have one dull moment. And why should this appear so extravagant? It is common sense, a sign of health"genuine, natural, all-awake health. One would be at an endless Godful play, and what speeches and music and acting and scenery and lights!"sun, moon, stars, auroras. Creation just beginning, the morning stars "still singing together and all the children of God shouting for joy." [From My First Summer In the Sierra]
And it is with great joy that I look forward to visiting, after twenty years, Muir's "backyard": Yosemite National Park. I may even shout!
re-posted with permission
Dean Ohlman is a statesman of the creation care movement. You can follow his excellent work at the Wonder of Creation site.
by Steven Garber
(re-posted with permission)
In my dropped-out years, I learned a lot from Hans Rookmaaker of the Netherlands. A professor of art history at the Free University of Amsterdam, he had a passion about ideas and what they meant for life. Looking back on that time, even for me who was so eag...er to understand the world, sometimes it seemed too much. One night I listened to him give a two-hour lecture, with a slide-presentation, on "Nature and Grace in Late-Medieval Art." Before it was over, I was having a hard time staying awake.
But it wasn't all like that, and over time I came to a deep respect for him. Given my dispositions and longings, his lecturing on the nature of revolution was a critical piece in my rethinking the world, Another lecture, "What Is Reality?" shaped my thinking about the modern world and its understanding of knowledge, viz. what is real, anyway? and how do we know? For three different theses over many years, his insights formed my vision.
At the very end of the lecture he concluded with these words: "What is reality? We could ask the question, 'What is water?' The poets of the world have offered many different descriptions, and we listen to them tell us that it is 'the refreshing spring rain'". or 'the stench of a ditch'". or 'the roar of the waterfall.'" His poets went on with more possibilities, but then he simply said, "Or we could ask: 'Water? Oh, that's H2O.'"
Rookmaaker was piercingly critical of the modern temptation to reduce reality to its chemical composition, as if somehow that says what matters most, as if somehow that is most real, and therefore the final authority. For a lot of reasons, including that I am the son of a scientist, these questions have been mine for much of my life. (Years later I was a contributor to the Mars Hill Audio series, "Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing: The Life and Thought of Michael Polanyi." As with Rookmaaker, I became a student of Polanyi's as well, and I see the world in light of his hard-won wisdom. Intriguingly, both men had profound, life-shaping experiences during the years of World War II, which formed them for the rest of life.)
As we hiked today in Rocky Mountain National Park, I thought of many things, the mountains, the streams, the flowers, my family"but I thought of Rookmaaker too. After a few hours climbing up Glacier Gorge, we came to Alberta Falls and ate our lunch. And the waterfall roared.
by Jon Gibson
(re-posted with permission from his blog, "Confessions of a Recovering P.K.")
Christians are pretty good about following the Ten Commandments".well, at least 9 out of the 10. Why is it that we get all jumpy about breaking 9 of them, but when it comes to us keeping the Sabbath, we take that as optional? Of course, we could get into a discussion and debate about the Law and whether we are still under the Law with the New Covenant that we have in Christ, but that's sort of missing the point.On Christmas day, my family started a new tradition of sorts: we sat around the house and didn't do anything. Well, we did stuff, just nothing that would take us away from the house and if anything, things that would help us to grow together as a family and appreciate the reason that we were celebrating that day: Jesus Christ. It was one of the best days that we had as a family. There were no deadlines. There was no rush. There was peace (as much as you can have in a house with a 3 year old and a 1 year old).
I had the opportunity the other day to take a "Spiritual Renewal" day. Some friends of ours have a lake house which they graciously allowed me to use for the day. It's about an hour away, not too far to go for a day. Considering the December schedule that I had, it was a much needed break from all of the busyness that had occupied my life for the last month or so. I spent the day resting in God. I read, I prayed, I spent time in devotion, and I appreciated the stillness of a lake in Virginia in the winter, when the activity is minimal. It even got up to about 60 degrees. It was a time for nourishing and recharging my soul.
That's really what Sabbath is all about. The Hebrew word that we get Sabbath from is "Shabbat" which means "to cease or rest." Do we really know what that word means? Do we know what it means to slow down? Do we know what it means to find rest, and if we do, where do we find that rest? Do we really know what it means to stop or cease everything and take a break? I know that I struggle with the idea mightily. I have a hard time shutting my brain off and just being.
The first part of Psalm 37:7 says, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;" Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." King David wrote in Psalm 62:1, "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." Where are we seeking solace and rest? Have we really come to grips with the fact that we serve a God who desires to give us rest?
God is willing to give us rest; he desires to give us rest, problem is that we can't stop long enough to accept and enjoy it. That's one of the reasons why it was commanded to the ancient Israelites. They needed to stop, reflect, and remember. Most of the times that the Israelites got into trouble it was because they had forgotten what God had done for them. There's a troubling passage in Judges 2 where we read, "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths." In just one generation, they had forgotten what the Lord had done for them. And what was the result? They turned away from the Lord. I would venture to guess that the forgetting didn't just happen. Over that generation, they probably started slacking more and more with the taking Sabbath and remembering all that the Lord had done for them. And then, the generation rose up that had completely forgotten.
We need to stop and rest and in our resting, we need to remember. That's really what we do when we meditate on God's word and all that he has done for us: we remember. God has shown us a history of faithfulness to his people, yet we can't stop long enough to recount that history because we're too busy, there's too much going on, and we can't quiet things down enough to hear what he's trying to tell us. I'm reminded of the story in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is waiting for the Lord to pass by. An earthquake, a might wind, and a fire all pass and the Lord is not present there. It is only when there is a soft and gentle whisper that Elijah knows that the Lord is speaking. The thing is, I don't think that we let our lives get that quiet to really hear that soft and gentle of a whisper.
There's a great scene in the movie "Ray" when Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx) is having lunch with a woman and he hears a hummingbird's wings fluttering outside the window. He tells the woman that the bird is there, but she can't hear it. He says, "You have to listen" and so she focuses her attention on just that, and she can hear it when she blocks everything else out. That's usually the time when God speaks to us, when we block everything else out. He's not going to yell, so we'd better start listening.
We need to come back to the lost art and practice of Sabbath. We need to find rest in the Lord and we need to get away from all of our busyness and chaos. It will be good for our souls when we do. We'll notice a difference, and hopefully, the people around us will as well.
May God give you opportunities to rest in him, and him alone. May you find peace and comfort in the stillness and silence that happen only when you stop and take part in Sabbath.
by Tri Robinson
A few days ago a low flying government airplane slowly circled around Timber Butte and through our surrounding foothills. I thought it was conducting the annual winter elk count but later discovered that it was hunting for a small pack of wolves that had killed two young cows on a neighboring ranch. Everyone in the area was on the alert keeping a watch out for their own stock. A little more fuel was added to the ongoing debate concerning the introduction of Canadian Gray Wolves into our state. The increasing wolf population throughout Idaho has created intense controversy over the past ten or so years drawing environmentalists, hunters (especially elk hunters), cattle and sheep ranchers, and politicians to a heated table of intense debate. It has become a polarizing issue; one in which there is difficulty finding middle ground. You either passionately love the wolf or you intensely hate him, and with the exception of a few that is just the way it is. Everyone seems to have an opinion, some being convinced they are essential to the balance of nature while others credit them with devastating entire herds of deer and elk. Living on the side of Timber Butte has given us a perspective that is not nearly so black and white, and in the final analysis I really don't know the answer. I do know I love the idea that I live in a place where wolves can roam freely, but on the other hand would be pretty upset if they killed our livestock. I believe however the controversy over the wolf is rooted out of an ideology much deeper than most of the surface arguments commonly heard.
We have only observed wolves a couple of times up here in the eight or so years we've lived in the area. But, we are constantly aware of the hazards and presence of predators of every type. We have suffered the loss of our barnyard friends to raccoons, badgers, bobcats, foxes and coyotes, and even birds of prey. Besides the carnivores, the deer and elk regularly help themselves to the hay field as well as the orchard. The battle over preserving our food sources from the many diverse populations of hungry wild animals is a way of life here. It is a problem that we've accepted, always believing that it is simply one of the many challenges that comes with country living. Now, I'll be the first to admit self-defense is sometimes a necessity, but mostly for us experiencing the constant presence of wildlife has been a privilege far more than a curse. When we decided to develop a self sustaining homestead it was our intention to live more with the land than off it. There is a difference; a difference which is rooted in a deep inner conviction of stewardship.
When we first started to develop the ranch I knew the only possible way we would be able to successfully have a vegetable garden was to build a fence around its perimeter high and strong enough to hold the deer and elk at bay and tight enough to discourage rabbits, ground squirrels and gophers. I also knew from past experience that we would need a bombproof poultry house to combat the constant nocturnal break-in attempts of hungry varmints; especially during those winter months when field mice are scare and tunneling moles are safely hibernating in their small pockets beneath the ice and snow. I accepted the fact that we would either have to fence in the orchard at a greater expense, or plant enough fruit trees with the attitude that it would be okay to share a little produce with the deer. It didn't help matters that when we chose a south facing hillside to plant our orchard we overlooked the fact that it had been a habitat that served a thriving population of ground squirrels and gophers. They had moved in long before we decided to take dominion over the place. In addition to that we had no way of knowing we would be fighting a seasonal war with clouds of invading grasshoppers that were programmed to eat everything on Timber Butte to the ground nearly every summer. Over the past few years insects and predators of every type have invaded us by air, by land and from under the ground. In some ways our life here has been more equivalent to a war zone than to the tranquil homesteading lifestyle we had idealistically envisioned. Yet, it was our choice to build a homestead on land which served as a wildlife habitat long before we decided to come along. So where is the balance? What is right when it comes to this belief that we are not at war with nature but called to be a functional part of its balance? How can we be in step with it rather than on it?
Only a godly perspective and attitude will discover the middle ground of stewardship. The idea of living off the land rather than with it is rooted in an attitude of entitlement. This attitude says, "Living in nature is my right and I will take from it all that I can no matter the consequence." It is a self serving perspective that motivates the use of toxic chemicals to combat unwanted pests and noxious weeds and other chemicals to stimulate the growth of the things that are wanted. It is generally short sighted and does not consider long range impact on such crucial matters as wildlife welfare, top soil restoration, and ground water quality. The other attitude, the one that demonstrates a desire to live with the land, is one that endeavors to be in harmony with God's intent for his creation. This perspective looks for organic and sustainable solutions for crop production as well as predator and insect control. It is far more challenging and generally more expensive, but it is a demonstration of far sightedness and integrity. It is an attitude of stewardship which is rooted from a heart of gratitude and an appreciation for God's amazing provision. Stewardship removes us from the idea that we are the center of our world and reminds us that we are merely temporary visitors who have been given the great privilege of experiencing life, and maybe even owning a little land - which in reality we are just borrowing while we are here.
When it comes to stewardship I'm not an idealistic environmentalist; I keep a loaded shotgun hanging on the wall ready to take out any over aggressive coyote with a chicken in his mouth. But, I still see myself more as a grateful visitor to the land rather than an entitled lord over it. I am not a believer in the idea of "manifest destiny", the entitlement attitude that nearly brought extinction to the buffalo and beaver, not to mention the American Indian. This is the only earth we will ever have and it is a gift from God; a gift that he told us to use but not abuse. That has been our heart as we endeavor to develop a small non-invasive homestead at Timber Butte. It's our intention to develop it in such a way that it might serve the needs of our family without overly interrupting the natural life that inhabited it before we arrived. It is an attitude that motivates the choices we make and the actions we take. It is our sincere desire to live with the land rather than to live off it.
Tri Robinson is the senior pastor of Boise Vineyard, in Boise, ID. You can check out his adventures at Timber Butte here. Among many endeavours he is the author of Saving God' s Green Earth, which you can find at our Creation Care Store.
by Alexei Laushkin
Today marks the 60th National Day of Prayer for America. The theme of today comes from Psalm 91:2. "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, my God in whom I trust."
It's a bit of an odd day for me to celebrate a national day of prayer. Part of me wants to join in, the other part wants to stand aside and view the day as more of a cultural phenomenon. One of my favorite theologians, said that the church should have a regular day of prayer and fasting and that much heavenly fruit could come from this. I believe that's true. There is something very powerful about uniting in prayer across cities, cultures, race, and churches.
One thing is for sure, America needs prayer. Maybe not the sort of stand in front of you and pray at you prayer, but the sort of quiet closet intercession. I know for sure that if I do not trust God or see him as a refuge and shelter, I will not turn to him in prayer.I might be convinced to try and pray as a sort of insurance policy, but unless I trust and love God I won't be able to pray for more than a minute or two. For you see out of the overflow of the heart, prayer cometh or in some cases cometh not at all.
by Alexei Laushkin
"He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out' --- Luke 19:40 (ESV).
It's holy week for the entire body of Christ. One of the less explored aspects of holy week is Jesus' saying on his way to Jerusalem that if his disciples did not cry "hosanna!" the very rocks themselves would cry out.
Jesus was responding to the Pharisees who were asking Jesus to rebuke the disciples into silence.
Why does Jesus say this? Makes sense as a response to the Pharisees, but why mention the stones. Seems a rather odd interjection, something far afield to what we normally think about in terms of the sufferings of Jesus.
I would like to say that perhaps this is pointing to something more, something we will reflect on more fully throughout the week. Easter is the most significant event in the course of all history. Creation itself waited for this moment, for you see it had been frustrated to bondage and decay not by its own will but because of original sin, in the hopes that one day it too would attain freedom that was about to be given to the human race.
You see the creation would have spoken out in a verbal voice if his disciples and the people of Jerusalem had not cried out hosanna, hosanna, blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Creation itself was already in that posture of hosanna.
Jesus stated what was already the case, heaven and earth met in this one man Jesus; and the created order itself was preparing for the events of the week.
Hosanna!! Emmanuel! See he comes on a colt.
HOSANNA! At the start of the annual Jewish Spring Feast of Passover, Pesach, a huge procession of people would move from the villages of Bethphage and Bethany, behind the Mount of Olives, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Check out today's special Lenten Devotional.
Losing my religion---and regaining it through Creation Care
Hi, my name is Anna, and I'm an environmentalist. There, I said it. (You can't get better until you admit you have a problem). As a green-minded Christian, I am frequently misunderstood. Although more people of faith are acknowledging our biblical mandate to be stewards of the earth's resources, this thinking is far from mainstream and action lags even further. With today's polarized political rhetoric, few realize that faith and the environment are not competing interests, but complementary.
Environmentalism is not the enemy. In fact, green is the glue that can pull us back together.
I don't remember when I stopped believing, but I remember when I started. It was the last day of Vacation Bible School at First Baptist Church when I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. This event, like I imagine my Methodist christening was nine years earlier (at least for my parents), was full of promise. I think most folks who experience such rites of passage hope they will bring them closer to God, and much of the time they do. The problem for me was not the ceremony. It was what to do after that.
As I matured, I tried to be a team player but was disillusioned by some kids' overzealous, even hollow certainties and judgmental attitudes. It seemed backwards, and I felt my faith waning. Still, there were times I wanted to believe. The counselors at Sky Ranch Christian camp, for example, were so pure and faithful. And yet, I couldn't see how the enlightened few in this idyllic setting tied back to the people in the pews back in Dallas. Inconsistencies, denominational divisions, hypocrisy, and ignorance - who needed it? By the time I turned twenty, I was done.
Is this how it goes losing one's religion? In my own private world I kept Jesus. I just didn't want the rest. As Gandhi explained it, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians."
Then something happened - not a flash of divine inspiration but a slow and steady awakening. At age 31, expecting my first child, I felt a tugging to resurrect my faith and return to the church. It was so clear that I couldn't not respond. This time I was determined to give it a fair chance and took it upon myself to read the Bible in full. Reading it with intentional open-mindedness, I began to understand certain truths. Contemplating in the park, I drew spiritual strength from nature. Reading thinkers from Matthew Sleeth to Brian Mclaren challenged my views about humankind's role here on earth.
Six years after that initial burst of enthusiasm propelled me down this path, I can see how the daily, often mundane acts of sustainable living provided the bedrock foundation for my burgeoning faith. Creation care is faith in action. More than a bridge back to my own faith, it has been a bridge to other people. The crisis that looms came about from the lie that we are separate individuals. The beauty in this is that God, in his infinite wisdom, is showing us that we do in fact need each other.
Eco-consciousness is a gift and to expect everyone to have it is to be disappointed. Today I've learned to be little more creative, to grow a thicker skin. I've come to realize that greening the church must be an inside job. As a change agent, I am a legitimate part of the body, not an aberration. I've even experienced firsthand how rejection can actually prepare the way for new opportunities to worship, to teach, and to learn.
Maybe we were never supposed to get fat and happy in our church buildings, and maybe it's okay that I still don't know where I belong. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples. He said love thy neighbor as yourself. Life as a Christian environmentalist is consistent with this. Reaching out to other people " even those from other faiths " is a good thing if it helps us do the job of restoring the earth. In fact, I'm beginning to believe this was the point all along.
Be sure to check out this post from Rev. James Martin.
by Dean Ohlman (see the original post here)
First-century Christian convert Paul, the apostle, claims that we can "clearly" see God's eternal power and divine nature (that which compels us to worship) in what He has created. So what is it we can actually witness in the wild? This question compelled me over the years to attend more carefully to the natural world and also to learn from others about what they have discovered while reading pages from the "book" of God's works in the wilderness. Here's a sampling of what I believe we can witness most dramatically when we enter the unspoiled areas of what John Calvin called "the theater of God's glory":
Seemingly endless time and space. Arguments in the church about whether the earth is young or old often blind us to the fact that, according to Paul, the material world will provide evidence of God's power being "eternal." Time has no beginning or ending apparent to our human senses or understanding"a fact I realized as a teenager that would sometimes cause my mind to whirl in the dark hours of the night. Because the earth-bound human mind cannot conceive of eternality, we want to either deny it or somehow bring it into our human scope. But we can't. Space too has no span measurable by our human instruments. Using our most powerful microscopes and subatomic detectors, we find no limit to smallness. In the largest telescopes and astronomy tools, bigness gets forever bigger. Yes, timelessness and infinity are frightening realities for time-bound finite creatures to ponder. Nonetheless, they are actualities we can "clearly see" in order to keep us on bent knees before our Creator.
Mystifying light, energy, and matter. Even in this day when scientific studies tell us so much about the cosmos, the true nature of light, energy, and matter still defies human definition and understanding. Because we know so much about what these natural features do and how they do it, we usually forget that we operate with them much like a person who skillfully drives a car, but knows next to nothing about what's under the hood. We need to recover the sense of awe that primitive civilizations had regarding these core elements of nature"not that we might worship them but that we might better worship their Creator and Sustainer.
Wonderful life. Life is a human mystery like light, energy, and matter. Scientists don't know what it is or how it came into a cosmos that is almost totally hostile to life. And there is no evidence that it exists anywhere else in the universe. In the wilderness there is one constant celebration of life, the varieties of which are without number. That's one reason that abuse of our wilderness areas seems to be so profane. Realizing that human beings are carelessly causing the extinction of thousands of life forms that are the miraculous handiwork of God ought to fill us with shame"and apprehension. The Bible affirms that God loves all that He has made. Certainly our destruction of these living creatures will not continue without negative consequences for humanity.
by David and Angie De Groot
Revelation 20 says that the earth will be destroyed in a great battle prior to the new heavens and the new earth arriving on earth. The first question is: should that be read in a literal way, or is it allegorical? The second question is: when will these things happen?
Let's suppose that the first question is interpreted literally and that the earth will in fact be destroyed at some point. The second question is still left unanswered. Some people don't want to leave that question unanswered. Instead, they predict that the end times are coming soon, or not soon, or on May 8 in 2023, etc.
The problem with trying to predict the end times is that no one really knows when this will occur and the Bible specifically calls out against trying to make such a prediction (Matthew 24:36). The second problem with trying to predict the end times is that it can lead some to a short-term view on the future of the earth, which is problematic from a creation care perspective. When someone says that the end is nigh so curbing pollution of the earth's rivers, skies, lakes, oceans, land, etc. is irrelevant. This is a short term view of the future. I've even heard of some people claiming that advocating for less pollution demonstrates a "lack of faith" in Christian truths.
Does Jesus have a short-term view of the future?
At first glance, then, we might conclude that a short-term view of our future on earth is not biblical. I think Jesus would agree with this.
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you"you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus says that we should not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself, which strikes me as a short term view of the future. But is it a different sort of short term view? In other words, does it regard our attitude toward the earth, or perhaps our attitude toward and faith in God to provide for our material and spiritual needs? I think it is the latter. I hear Jesus say, "Focus on today, seek God's kingdom in your life, and don't worry too much about material things." Jesus' call to seek first the Kingdom of God and not worry about tomorrow encourages us to trust God with the little things and for our future; it does not give us permission to "not worry" about the earth and thus disregard its well-being.
Matthew 6:28-34 only indirectly speaks to how we are to consider the earth. Significantly, however, it seems to call for us to be good stewards of the earth: Jesus uses flowers and grass as the examples of how we are to live, from which we can infer that Jesus takes some joy in seeing his creation dance and flourish. This further condemns the person who takes little issue with polluting the earth unnecessarily.
In summary, God calls us to be good stewards of the earth, which means caring about its future. In contrast to what some Christians may claim, this is not in conflict with Jesus' call to not worry about tomorrow, since Jesus said this to encourage us to trust the Lord to provide for our daily needs and to seek His kingdom on earth, not to give us permission to neglect the earth because it is passing away.
by Howard Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary
Holy, holy, holy, in this sanctuary"
Birds are flying everywhere;
Songs and stork calls fill the air"
God is holy in this place;
God is wholly in this space.
In Isaiah's vision"Lofty Lord of heaven"
High and lifted on his throne,
Holy wisdom all his own"
God is holy in this place;
God is wholly in this space.
Every sanctuary means a place that's holy"
God is Lord of heaven and earth;
He creates and brings new birth"
God is holy in his world;
His full grace will be unfurled.
Holy, holy, holy, in his sanctuary"
Not in temples made by hand,
Not in shrines to gods or man"
All creation is his home;
Limitless his holy throne.
God himself makes holy his own sanctuary"
Not a special place or time,
But God's presence, Love Divine"
God is holy in his place;
God is wholly in his space.
God claims all creation, all that he that he has fashioned"
In the gracefulness of birds,
In the wonderment of words"
God is shining in this place;
God is holy in this space.
Christ, the Lord of glory, writes the Gospel story"
God is Lord of earth and sky;
Christ arose the world to buy"
God is holy in this place;
God is wholly in this space.
Where but few are gathered, two or three together"
Here where Jesus shows his face,
Spirit here in time and space"
God is wholly in his Son;
God is holy Three in One.
In his sanctuary time and space may tarry"
In the world his purpose honing;
In the whole creation groaning"
God is holy in this place;
God is wholly in this space.
In his sanctuary, earth and heaven shall marry"
Marriage supper of the Lamb,
Glory to the great "I Am""
God is wholly in this place,
Reconciled, both time and space.
by Josh Rogers (re-posted from the blog Spiritual Klutz)
Not too long ago, I was at the gym early one morning, and I felt unusually aware of God's love and presence in my life (and that's saying something, because the only thing I'm usually aware of at that hour is my need for more sleep).
Anyway, although I felt groggy, I began internally singing the words of a simple worship song to Jesus. However, I had trouble focusing on the song due to the speakers at the gym, which were blaring OutKast's song, "I Like the Way You Move."
I tried to keep the worship song going in my head, but the speakers in the gym were so loud. Within minutes, I got distracted, and I could hardly remember the worship chorus I had been singing in my head.
After chatting with a couple of friends in between lifting weights, I eventually forgot my song and the One to whom I had been singing. Normal life took over.
For the past few weeks, my whole spiritual life has felt like that morning in the gym. I'm juggling so many things that - even when I momentarily experience God's presence, it's a fight to stay fixed on Him. The racket and day-to-day duties of normal life replace His voice with the sound of earthly static.
A lot of Christians say that when we can't feel God in times of preoccupation, it's basically because God's presence has departed from us, that He's taken a leave of absence until we read our Bibles again or pray a really moving prayer. I don't believe that's biblical at all.
Scripture tells us we can't ever get away from His presence, that His Spirit permanently lives in and through us (Psalm 139:7-12, Ephesians 1:13, Romans 8:9). So, no, I don't believe He goes away because OutKast songs scare Him off, or because we're having an argument, or because the baby is crying too loudly.
I believe He's the God who sticks around, even when the world is blaring its song at us from every direction. As my friend Beth Cunningham says, it's not a matter of Him being present, it's a matter of us being aware that He's present.
That's encouraging, knowing I don't have to concoct the right potion to invoke His presence. It's a relief to recognize that no matter how I distracted get, He still "rejoices over me with singing" and whispers to me in His "still small voice" - and yes, He's still faithful, "even when I'm faithless" (Zephaniah 3:17, 1 Kings 19:11-13, 2 Timothy 2:13).
Yeah, His presence is still there - it's just so hard for me to get still enough to experience it.
Spiritual Klutz is published the first and third Tuesdays of every month. If you would like to receive an email when I post a new article, click here.
Part of our Monday Reflections Series
There are things that fly above
Like hummingbirds and mourning doves.
And with those things salvation rings
And calls us with the choicest voices.
If you look up to the sky
And see the wonders that that fly by
Your eyes will mirror splendor's
Face and call upon a saving grace.
If you could soar like winged creatures
And rustle through the heaven's features
A countenance would look at you
And breathe on you a life anew.
If you listen with your ears
You'll hear what no one else can hear;
Your song is played to you by many notes
That warm you like a winter's coat.
And twixt the heavens and the birds
You will see a blessed third
That beckons you to heaven's door
And calls you to become a four.
And with that subtle tune that calls
You to a place where sublime enthralls
You'll see the room where waits for you
A seat where grace and glory meet.
There are things that fly above,
Like hummingbirds and mourning doves.
And with those things salvation rings
And calls us with the choicest voices.
Christina Brown, copyright 2011
by Howard A. Snyder Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary
God works in cycles and seasons,
God works in rhythms and years.
God moves through long generations"
God guides through joys and through tears.
"For everything there's a season,"
Time for all things in God's plan.
God works in exquisite freedom,
God has the cosmos in hand.
God works through lines and through circles,
God works in things small and great.
God renews life and guides history;
He is no prisoner of fate.
God works through ways straight and crooked;
God works in both time and space.
God owns both order and chaos;
God works in judgment and grace.
God works in ways of his choosing,
Fashioning goals quite his own.
His ways to us seem mysterious;
They are like seeds that are sown.
God worked through cycles of Mary,
Hannah, Melchizedek, Paul;
God works through rhythms and seasons,
Sagas of kings' rise and fall.
God works supremely in Jesus"
Broken the bread; spilled the wine"
God works through his gracious Spirit;
God works in Pentecost time.
He guides the days and the seasons;
He guides the birds through the air.
God works his gracious redemption"
We are but dimly aware.
God has his own eco-logic;
God has his own Kingdom plan.
God works in Trinity wisdom;
God holds the world in his hand.
Cycles of cloud and of water,
Cycles of wind and of rain,
Deep-moving flows of the ocean,
Circling, returning again"
Cycles of love and of spirit,
Cycles of seasons of grace,
Times of refreshing revival,
Gaining fresh light from his face.
God is the world's great Composer,
Dramatist, Architect, King"
Rhythms of art; sounds melodic"
God gives us music to sing.
God simplifies deepest mysteries;
God complicates best-laid plans.
We walk in wonder before him,
Trusting our ways in his hands.
God in our own lives recycles"
Physically, through blood and cell;
Spiritually, through prayerful rhythms;
Stewardly, as we serve well.
We are a part of the story;
We have our key roles to play"
If we but follow the Master"
Spirit led, day after day.
We are God's keepers of nature;
We are his stewards of grace.
We live the Spirit's commission,
Stewarding both time and space.
God makes us all his recyclers"
This is no secular whim.
This is no plot of the devil"
God makes us stewards for him.
God is the Lord who recycles,
Bringing forth things old and new.
God even makes evil to serve him,
Turning the false to the true.
God is the perfect Recycler"
No wastage; nothing is lost"
Whether in storm, wind, or fire,
God wins the world through the cross.
"Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise him for his mighty deeds!
Praise him with loud clanging cymbals!
Praise him, all that lives and breathes!"
(Psalm 150 & other Scriptures)
by Dr. Howard Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary
I met the meddling Jesus
along a busy road.
He spoke about his kingdom;
I thought I grasped the code"The parables of justice,
the talk of salt and light,
of faith in the Messiah,
and trusting in his might.
I heard his call to follow;
I said I would obey.
I gave myself to Jesus,
and trusted in his way.
I said, "I'll sing your praises!
I'll bless you holy name!"
He said, "But you must follow,
with songs and life the same."
"I'm standing on the promises,
and leaning on your Word!"
He said, "And are you walking
in what you've seen and heard?"
I said, "I'm just a sinner,
a sinner saved by grace."
He said, "And are you running
the Spirit-powered race?"
"I'll go to church on Sundays,
and sometimes weekdays, too."
He said, "All days are my days,
to seek my will to do.
"You may have grief and sorrow;
you may have wind and rain.
But I will walk beside you;
my grace will ease your pain."
"I want to go to heaven,
to worship at your throne!"
"My throne is with the weary,
forgotten, and alone."
"I want to go to heaven,
and leave this world behind."
He said, "But I'm returning,
for this whole world is mine"
"And if you die unheeded,
forgotten, though at peace,
then we will have communion"
our joy will never cease"
"For we shall dwell together
upon the healed earth,
the Father, Son, and Spirit,
and all things in rebirth.
"So walk each day in my way,
serve in community,
for when you serve the needy,
you're really serving me."
We meet the meddling Jesus
Through all our busy days.
So let us walk together"
serve Jesus in his ways.
by Dr. Howard Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary
Lord, send a great awakening,
Your Spirit from above,
Your Spirit in our thirsting hearts,
Your work of wrath and love.
Convict, I pray, this wayward world
Of sin and righteousness,
Of judgment sure to shake our lives
Unless the world repents.
You know, O God, our wrongful ways,
Our heedlessness of sin;
You know, O God, and you alone,
The malady within.
You know the ways we harm the world,
The ways we spoil your earth.
You know how our self-centeredness
Prevents the world's rebirth.
O Holy God of righteousness,
Of justice, right, and truth,
Please move within our inward selves,
Convict with your reproof.
We long to see your Spirit move""
A Great Awakening
that transforms hearts and families,
a worldwide quickening
that births a song of truthful love,
great movements of reform,
a true revival by your power,
with lives and lands reborn.
O Holy Lord, come now we pray,
Send your convincing grace"
Transform your people and your world,
Come in this time and place.
O Holy Spirit, loving Lord,
Revive us in this hour.
O Living Lord, awaken hearts,
Renew with gracious power.
O Jesus, make your mercy known,
Your love and holiness,
O Spirit of the Triune God,
Come soon to save and bless.
Lord, let me play my special part,
The burden let me bear""
To intercede for this great need,
To lift the world in prayer.
O Holy Spirit, Lord of hope,
Renew, reclaim your church.
O may your people know the Lord
And show your ways on earth.