Sep 1 2010

Blasphemy and Creation Care

spring-cardinal-588“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”  Psalm 150:6

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below.” (from  The Doxology)

In the book I wrote about on Sunday, Tending to Eden, the author allowed several leading voices in Creation Care to write small essays.  One of these was written by Tony Campolo and is called “Creation Care and Worship.”  In this brief essay Campolo argues that “we humans are not the only ones called to worship God.” He believes that the Bible teaches that all of God’s Creation was created to offer its Creator worship and praise.  There are certainly numerous biblical passages that back this claim.  Psalm 148, for example, says “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…”

calling-pika-196If we understand that all things were created to worship God it will help us see Creation in a new light.  Perhaps it will even come to help us appreciate more our fellow worshippers and create within us a desire to learn more about them.  Recognizing that everything on earth was made to worship God will also affect how we treat the earth and its creatures.  We will do all we can to help preserve all species for, as Campolo says, whenever another species is made extinct “we have silenced a special voice of praise to the Almighty.”

In the final paragraph of his essay Campolo says, “To interfere with worship is blasphemy.  Thus, the obliteration of the environment has blasphemous dimensions to it.  Considering what we have done to nature, we need to repent, because we have hindered nature’s glorification of the God who created all things in heaven and on earth to praise his name.”

We can and should avoid blasphemy by being good stewards of God’s Creation and by making sure that we add our own voice in offering praise to God.  When all of Creation offers its praise to God what a beautiful song it must be!

–Chuck

(This cardinal and pika I photographed are just two examples of  those who join us in praising God.)


Aug 22 2010

Music & Creation Care

LAV 842“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High.” Psalms 92:1

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you that many of my favorite hymns are songs that praise God as Creator.  Some of my personal favorites are “This is My Father’s World,”  “Great is Thy Faithfulness,”  “For the Beauty of the Earth,”  “Worthy of Worship,” and “Morning Has Broken.”  Some of my favorite contemporary Christian songs are likewise focused on God as Creator.  These include “Indescribable” and “All Things Well,” both by Chris Tomlin, and “Creation Song” by Fernando Ortega.

This past week I was reminded of the importance of singing songs connecting God and Creation.  Matthew Sleeth, in his newest book, The Gospel According to the Earth, has a chapter on the Book of Psalms he calls “The First Environmental Music.”  In this chapter he claims that singing songs connecting God and Creation can actually make a difference in how we look at and treat the earth.  He says, “Singing songs in praise of creation inspires us to appreciate God’s gifts.  Appreciation leads to a desire to be better stewards.  Better stewardship at home, church, work, and beyond leads to less waste.  Less waste demonstrates respect for God, resulting in a cleaner, more beautiful world in which to sing his praises.”  I like Sleeth’s thinking, as well as his conclusion to the chapter: “With God as the conductor, maybe music can also save a planet.”

LAV 904A couple of days ago I got my latest edition of Orion in the mail.  This is an environmental magazine that Rob Sheppard introduced me to last year.  In it there is an article by Erik Reese about how a group of country musicians are using their talents to combat mountaintop removal in Appalachia.  Toward the end of the article Reese writes: “Can music save mountains?  Certainly not by itself.  But there is a reason Walter Pater said that all art aspires toward the condition of music.  More than any other art form, music can connect the head to the heart, the self to the social whole.  After all, the fiddle tunes that began in the mountains of Appalachia were never meant for an ‘audience.’  That music was intended to draw people together, to involve them in something communal and collective.  Now a new collective conscience must be mobilized in order to preserve the mountains where this music was born.”

It would seem that there truly is a connection between music and Creation Care—a connection worth noting and celebrating.  God told Job that when He created the world “the morning stars sang together.” (38:7)  It seems to me that it’s now our job to continue the song.

–Chuck

(The images above were taken at a lavender field near Port Angeles, Washington.)


Jun 20 2010

Honoring Our Heavenly Father

AZ-Monument-Valley-mittens-(v)-cr“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it…”  Psalm 24:1

I’ve been singing hymns all my life; I love them!  Not surprisingly, some of my favorite hymns speak of God’s role as Creator.  Some of these include “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,”  “Morning Has Broken,” “How Great Thou Art,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Fairest Lord Jesus.”  This morning the chancel choir sang another one of my favorites, “This Is My Father’s World.”

Here are the first two verses of this beautiful hymn written by Maltbie Babcock: “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.  This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees of skies and seas; His hands the wonders wrought.   This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.  This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.”

I love the message of this hymn.  Like the Psalmist the hymnist reminds us that the earth is the Lords.  We’re also reminded that all of Creation joins together in offering God praise.  Furthermore, we are reminded that God does, indeed, speak to us in the world that He has made.

Being Father’s Day I can’t help but wonder how honored God the Father must feel today when it comes to the way we have cared for His Creation.  As a child I was taught to respect the things that belonged to my Dad.   I understood that these things were his, not mine.  I also knew that if I used something that belonged to my father that I had better take very good care of it. 

If we know to respect our earthly father’s belongings you would think that we would also know to respect our heavenly Father’s belongings.  One way we can honor and show respect for God on Father’s Day, and the rest of the year, is by taking good care of that which belongs to Him—the earth.

–Chuck

(The image above was taken at Monument Valley.)

P.S. Rob Sheppard has a new blog that can be found at www.natureandphotography.com.  Make sure to check it out!


Apr 7 2010

Guidelines

violet 872I live in Kentucky, which is known as the Bluegrass State.  Here recently it has looked more like the Purplegrass State.  My entire yard has been covered with lovely violets!  

Violets are quite abundant in this area and come in a variety of colors (purple, white, yellow and blue being the most common).  They all look, however, pretty much the same.  If you have ever examined a violet up close you know that on the lowest petal you can see a series of lines.  Naturalists tell us that these lines help guide insects to the source of nectar contained in the flower.   The center of the flower is the lightest in color and this, too, might further attract insects to this spot.

I find it fascinating that when the Creator designed violets that He placed upon them “guide lines” that would help insects out.  To me this says volumes about God.  It shows us that God is concerned about the “little details” of life and that He is there to assist all of His Creation, not just humans.  (I once heard someone say God must really love insects since He made more of them than any other creature.  The design of violets might be proof of that!)

Seeing the guide lines in violets also reminds me that God has given us guidelines, too, to help us out in life.  The Bible is filled with instructions meant to make our lives richer and sweeter.  As a pastor I’m often surprised at how biblically illiterate many Christians are.  Our failure to pay attention to Scripture is about as foolish as a bee not paying attention to the violet’s guide lines directing her to the nectar within. 

The Psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (119:105)  I think if we gave more attention to the Bible our lives would be enriched and we would find ourselves drawn closer to the One who made us all (violets included).  If you’ve not read the Bible lately, what are you waiting for?

–Chuck

(I photographed the violet above in my yard yesterday.)


Feb 21 2010

Listening With Your Eyes

Jenny-Wiley-SP-last-light-“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…?” Psalm 8:3-4

This past week I read Mitch Albom’s new book, Have a Little Faith.  This book is similar in many ways to his earlier bestseller, Tuesday’s With Morrie.  One of the main characters in the new book is Mitch’s childhood rabbi and scattered throughout are brief passages from his rabbi’s sermons.  The following one caught my attention.

“A little girl came home from school with a drawing she’d made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner. ‘Mom, guess what?’ she squealed, waving the drawing.  Her mother never looked up.  ‘What?’ she said, tending to the pots.  ‘Guess what?’ the child repeated, waving the drawing.  ‘What?’ said the mother, tending to the plates.  ‘Mom, you’re not listening.’  ‘Sweetie, yes I am.’  ‘Mom,’ the child said, ‘you’re not listening with your eyes.’”

I love the idea of listening with your eyes.  There is so much God has to say to us in His Creation but a lot of us are not listening, not with our eyes anyway.  We tend to think we can only hear with our ears but that is not true.  In many instances we will have to use our eyes to hear what God is saying to us.

In viewing the beauty of his handiwork we might hear Him say how much He loves us.  In observing some of the devastation caused by our own hands we might hear Him say that we have work to do to restore His Creation.  In noticing the incredible detail in tiny flowers or lichens on rocks we may hear God say that He cares about every little detail in our lives.  Watching the moon rise we may hear His challenge to let our “lights shine before men.”

Like the little girl’s mother, some of us think we are listening to God when we’re really not.  The problem is we’re not listening with our eyes.

–Chuck

(The image above was taken at nearby Jenny Wiley State Park.)


Feb 17 2010

Solitude and Lent

bison 154In a number of instances we are told that Jesus went off by himself to pray.  The one who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” realized that he could not do what he was supposed to without time alone with God.  This is something we should all recognize.

In observing wildlife over the years I’ve noticed that frequently you will find animals that are typically found in groups or packs all alone.  I’m sure there is some pragmatic reason for them doing so.  We have a pragmatic reason as well; our souls need solitude.  We may have been created social creatures but we still need time away from others and time alone with our Maker.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.  We start today a 40 day (not counting Sundays) journey to Easter.  For centuries Christians have been encouraged to use this time for introspection.  We are called to remember our sins and our need for a Savior.  Most of us would prefer to forget our sins, and  many don’t like to be reminded that they can’t save themselves, but the season of Lent demands that we do so.  

Someone once said, “We must come apart or we will come apart.”  The season of Lent is a good time for us to make time for solitude.  It’s a  lonesome pine 852good time for us to slow down and look within.  The discipline of examining one’s sins is not meant to be a demoralizing experience; it is meant to bring us closer to the One who died for our sins and rose again the first Easter.

I would suggest you consider using the Psalmist’s prayer in the coming weeks: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)  Find some time alone each day to offer this prayer and to enjoy being in the presence of the One who made you (and the rest of Creation) and loves you most.

  –Chuck

  (The images above were made on my recent trip to Yellowstone.)