Oct 13 2016

What’s So Bad About the Badlands?

_ces3871What’s so bad about the badlands? That’s the question I kept asking myself last week while visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  Why call such a beautiful land “bad”?  My guess is that early settlers found the terrain difficult to traverse or perhaps not conducive to grazing cattle.  But do these things warrant calling the land bad?  I don’t think the bison I saw there would call it bad.  Neither would the thousands of prairie dogs found in the region.  Nor would the pronghorn antelope or bighorn sheep say this was a bad place to live.  Even the countless meadowlarks I saw there sang as if they had no complaint about the land about them.

_dsc0673Humans seem to have a tendency to give value to things primarily as they relate to themselves. A fancy word for this is anthropocentrism.  If something benefits us it is considered good; if it does not we deem it bad.  We may have a tendency to look at things this way but I don’t think God does.  For some reason we often forget that God declared in Genesis 1 that all that He made is “good.”  Perhaps we have trouble finding the good at times from a human perspective but that does not mean such things do not have an inherent goodness about them.  All of the earth is valuable and good because it was created by and belongs to God. In one of her poems Mary Oliver says “You cannot cross one hummock or furrow but it is His holy ground.”  The badlands are no exception.

_dsc0467As I enjoyed the beauty and diversity of Badlands National Park and pondered why they got the designation “bad-lands” I thought of the story in the Book of Acts where Peter has a vision where “he saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.” (10:11) In that sheet were all kinds of animals and Peter heard a voice that instructed him to kill and eat what he saw.  Since many of the species were ceremonially unclean animals and forbidden by Jews for eating Peter protested and said he had never eaten anything impure or unclean.  At this point Peter heard a heavenly voice tell him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (10:15)   Perhaps we stand in need today of a new vision where we are reminded that there are no bad lands.  If we are going to be good stewards of the earth it would certainly help if we recognized the goodness of the land.  Wouldn’t you agree?

–Chuck


Sep 29 2013

Loving All of Creation

April-inset-screech-owl-h-0014Everyone knows that repetition is a key tool for teaching or learning.  The more we read or hear things the more likely we are to remember them.  Repetition is often used by speakers and writers to give added emphasis to something they are trying to convey.  If a sentence or word is repeated twice within a short period of time most people are likely to notice.  If it is repeated three times then you are pretty much assured that everyone will notice.  I thought about that this morning as I read Psalm 145:8-19 to the congregation I serve.  Within these twelve verses the Psalmist declares three times that God has compassion or love on all that He has made.

Breaks-Interstate-Park-fall-191The fact that this thought is repeated three separate times leads me to believe that the biblical writer felt this was a truth that desperately needed to be heard. For whatever reason, David believed people needed to understand that God’s love extends to not just humans but to everything in Creation, to all that He has made.  This would mean that God loves the fish in the sea, the birds of the air and all the other animals in the world.  It would mean that God cares for all living plants and even inanimate objects.  There is not a thing God made that He does not have compassion on.

bisonThis message may be three thousand years old but it is still very much a message that people need reminding of.  I can only speculate but my suspicion is that humans are far more anthropocentric today than they were in David’s time.  Humans, by necessity, were more connected to nature then.  Today that connection is not as strong so we tend to think it’s all about us.  Certainly God does love us, the Bible makes that abundantly clear, but as seen in Psalm 145 God also loves and cares for the rest of His Creation as well.  Verses 15-16 of this Psalm say “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”   God’s compassion is seen here to be not just a warm fuzzy feeling but an action.  He has provided food for all living creatures; it is His longing to satisfy the desires of every living thing.

_CES8682If God loves and cares for all of Creation, shouldn’t we?  The answer to me seems obvious.  Yes, we should share God’s concern for the rest of Creation and our compassion for what God has made must be much more than a feeling.  It should show itself by our actions toward the rest of the world.  If there is no action then the true love is absent.

There are a variety of ways we can share God’s love and compassion for Creation.  Most likely you already have a few ways in mind yourself.  The important thing is that we not just talk a good talk but actively show compassion for the rest of Creation.  God shows His love for that which He has made every day in countless ways.  Reading Psalm 145 I get the feeling He could use some help from the rest of us doing the same thing.  Will you give it a try?  I hope you will and that you will encourage others to do so too.

–Chuck

(I took the screech owl in Middlesboro, KY; the river scene at Breaks Interstate Park, the bison at Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky, and the dragonfly at Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area near Henderson, KY.)