Apr 22 2015

Honoring your Father and Mother on Earth Day

_DSC7241Generally, if someone asked me what I was doing forty-five years ago today I wouldn’t have a clue.  If you were to ask me that today  however I could answer your question.  Forty-five years ago today I was participating in the first Earth Day activities.  I distinctly remember getting to go outside with my fellow students at Lone Oak Middle School and pick up trash.  Today I observed Earth Day a bit differently, I spent some time volunteering at a community garden.

WY Yellowstone NP Grand Prismatic SpringIf you are a regular reader of this blog you will not be surprised to learn that I am a big fan of Earth Day.  I got excited about it on the very first one forty-five years ago and my excitement has only increased over the years.  I think it’s awesome that every April 22 people pause to remember what a wonderful planet it is we live on and how we all have a responsibility to take care of it.  Of course, I’m one of those who thinks every day should be Earth Day but I realize that’s not realistic.  Hopefully by observing Earth Day one day each year people will, in fact, begin to think more regularly about how they can better care for the earth.

_DSC3064I love Earth Day because it gives us all a chance to honor our Father and our Mother.  By mother here I mean “Mother Earth.”  I realize that there are some who believe it is pagan to refer to the earth in this way but I hardly believe that to be true.  In so many ways the earth is our mother.  According to the Scriptures we came from the earth.  Genesis 2:7 says “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  The earth not only gave birth to us it has continued to nurse, nurture and sustain us.  Here, too, the Bible speaks of the earth’s bounty and how our needs are met by its resources.  Genesis 2 speaks about God placing trees on the earth that were both “pleasing to the eye and good for food.”  (v. 9)  It also mentions a “river watering the garden.” (v. 10)  In more ways than most of us could begin to imagine the earth serves as our mother.  Next month people will pause to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day.  It seems only appropriate that on Earth Day we stop and give honor to Mother Earth.

ME Baxter SP streamEven more important to me, Earth Day gives us a chance to honor our Father, the Maker of heaven and earth.  The Bible is clear in making the claim that the earth exists because God chose for it to exist.  As Creator of the earth this world and all that it contains belongs to God.  (Psalm 24:1)  I like to think of Creation as God’s handiwork.  When we pause on Earth Day to recognize the beauty and value of this planet we honor God.  We affirm with God that the Creation is “good” and that God’s handiwork is something to be admired, treasured and protected.  If we fail to do these things, whether it be Earth Day or not, we fail to honor God.

A major emphasis for Earth Day is caring for and protecting the earth.  For God, this emphasis goes much further back than forty-five years; it goes back to the very beginning.  God’s instructions for the first humans was to “work” the Garden “and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)  When we stop and remember our call to be good stewards of the earth we, once again, honor our heavenly Father.  We fulfill the purpose God gave us right from the start.

I hope you have had a good Earth Day.  I also hope that if you haven’t already done so, before the day is over, you’ll find some way to honor your Father and Mother.  Doing so will bring joy to the One who gave us this wonderful planet we call Earth.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used here in Utah, Wyoming, Missouri and Maine.)


Apr 22 2012

An Earth Day Challenge

Today is Earth Day.   We also observed Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church this morning.  The hymns, Scripture readings, choral anthem and sermon all focused on God’s gift of Creation and our calling to be good stewards of it.  The service was a meaningful one to me.  One part I especially liked was the opening prayer offered by one of our deacons.  During the prayer she thanked God for birds and acknowledged that God could have made only one type of bird but thanked him for making many.  She went on to name several different species she was thankful for.

Following my sermon we sang a hymn that I doubt many people know.  It’s called “For Beauty of Meadows.”  It was written in 1969 by Walter H. Farquharson.  Here are the words to the first verse:  “For beauty of meadows, for grandeur of trees, for flowers of woodlands, for creatures of seas, for all you created and gave us to share, we praise you, Creator, extolling your care.”  I like these words a lot for the writer, like the prayer noted above, offers God specific things in Creation he is thankful for.

Often around the season of Thanksgiving you will hear the hymn “Count Your Blessings” sung in churches.  It is a reminder of our need to count our many blessings and how it helps to “name them one by one.”  One way we might all observe Earth Day today is to not just offer God thanks for the earth that sustains us and manifests His glory but give Him a specific list of the things we are particularly thankful for.  If you did that, what would be on your list?

Here are just a few of the things that would be one mine: the sun and moon; wildflowers, especially ladyslippers, Virginia bluebells and lupine; trees (the older the better); birds, particularly cardinals and bluebirds; mountains; rivers; grizzly bears;  elk, glaciers and geysers; the northern lights; clean air; pikas; sea otters; whitetail deer; the wind; rain and snow; deserts; wolves; lichen; mushrooms, cacti; oceans; tide pools; butterflies; the stars; and slot canyons.  I could go on and on.  The longer I live the more I realize how much there is to be thankful for.

Needless to say, as important as being thankful for the many aspects of Creation is, it is just as important that we remember today our calling to be good and wise stewards of all that God has made.  The last two verses of the hymn we sang this morning speak to this.  They read: “As stewards of beauty received from your hand, as creatures who hear your most urgent command, we turn from our wasteful destruction of life, confessing our failures, confessing our strife.   Teach us once again to be gardeners in peace; all nature around us is ours but on lease; your name we would hallow in all that we do, fulfilling our calling, creating with you.”

On this Earth Day I challenge you to offer God a prayer of gratitude for the specific things you are thankful for and also that you pledge yourself anew to being a good steward of the earth and its resources.  Happy Earth Day to one and all!

–Chuck

(I took the top picture at Acadia National Park in Maine; the second one in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and the bottom two in Kentucky.)


Apr 15 2012

God’s Special Knack

Every year at Easter the church I am currently serving includes “the flowering of the cross” as part of their morning service.  For those of you who have never seen this done, here’s how it works.  A rough wooden cross covered with chicken wire is brought into the sanctuary.  At a certain point in the service, while our accompanists play, everyone comes forward and places fresh flowers on the cross.  In a short period of time something quite ugly is transformed into an object of great beauty.  This mirrors in a wonderful way what God did with the horrible cross on that first Easter Sunday; he made something beautiful out of it.

This year I used the flowering of the cross to teach the children in the church about God’s amazing ability to take bad situations and turn them around into something good.  I happen to believe that is God’s special knack.  I have seen it happen time and time again in my own life, as well as in the lives of others.  I guess that’s why Romans 8:28 is one of my favorites Bible verses: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  It is God’s knack for bringing good out of bad situations that fills my life with hope and enables me to move forward when things are not going well.

The same transforming power that we see at the empty tomb and in our own lives may also be witnessed in Creation.  It appears obvious to me that even in nature God is at work bringing about good in bad situations.  Sometimes horrible things happen to God’s Creation.  At times nature, not unlike humans, inflicts harm upon itself.  Tornadoes, floods, avalanches, earthquakes, lightning and hurricanes can cause vast damage to the natural world (not to mention the human world).  At other times humans are the ones inflicting the harm.  We have devised all kinds of ways of destroying mountains, forests, rivers and streams, and the air itself.  Still, somehow, someway, the earth has survived and continues to sustain us.

I believe this is true because God, in His role as Creator, continues to bring good out of bad situations.  When it comes to the natural world He has a way of bringing good out of forest fires.  He has a way of bringing good out of floods.  He has a way of bringing good out of everything.   This good may not be obvious to all, nor may it be seen right away, but God’s special knack for bringing about good in bad situations is just as obvious in nature as it is in other parts of our life.

Having said that I hasten to add that God’s ability to do this does not give us a free pass to treat the earth any way we please.  It doesn’t work that way.  One of our primary callings as His children is to be caretakers of the earth.   In fact, we are all called to assist Him in bringing about good from bad situations.  Next Sunday is Earth Day.  Now would be the perfect time to look for opportunities where you can assist God in bringing about good in a bad situation.  There are lots of possibilities; just look around you.   Plan this week to join God in bringing about good in a bad situation.  He’ll be glad you did and so will the rest of us!

–Chuck

(The top two pictures show before and after “the flowering of the cross” last Sunday.  The spring foliage image displays how nature has revived an area in Kentucky once mined.  The bottom image shows how coastal storms have shaped and formed Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park.)

 

 


Apr 22 2011

Earth Day and Good Friday

Today two days that are very important to me happen to fall on the same day—Good Friday and Earth Day.  I’m sure most people will not draw a connection between the two but there most certainly is one.  In fact, for Christians there are many things that connect Good Friday and Earth Day.  For starters, the one whose death on the Cross we remember today is also the one the Bible tells us was responsible for creating the earth.  The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth…” (Colossians 1:15-16)

The Bible also connects Jesus and the earth when we are told “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  The basis for God’s incredible gift of Jesus was His love for the world.  This includes not just humans but all of His Creation.  It is clear from Jesus’ own teachings that he, too, love this planet we call home.

In our pride we tend to think of the salvation made possible on Good Friday as being intended only for humans.  The Bible says something very different.  What Jesus did on the Cross that first Good Friday affects all of Creation.  Paul says in the Book of Romans that Creation shares our same hope.  He writes: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (8:18-21)

People read the Book of Revelation and get all excited about the “streets of gold” in heaven.  They sometimes fail to see that we are promised in these same pages “a new heaven and a new earth.”  (Revelation 21:1)  The earth will also be glorified and renewed.  The One who died on the cross on Good Friday makes “all things new.”

Considering the fact that Jesus’ death on the Cross would benefit all of Creation is it any wonder that on that first Good Friday “darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining?” (Luke 23:44-45)  Even the earth was humbled by what Jesus did for us on the Cross. 

I’m glad that this year Earth Day and Good Friday fall on the same day.  It gives us a chance to pause and remember some very important truths—truths we might not reflect on or connect otherwise.  I give thanks for my wonderful Savior and for the truth that his redemptive act on the Cross was for all the world and that this includes me too.

–Chuck

(I took the top image several years ago at Hensley Settlement in the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  The bottom image was taken last week of the Hana Coast from the Hana Highway in Hawaii.)