Sep 30 2012

Companions For Life

Last night I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for our church choir director.  Thanks to a break in the weather the service was able to be held outdoors high on a mountaintop in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Everything about the service was beautiful, including the surroundings.  As the bride walked toward me and I took in the awe-inspiring surroundings my mind couldn’t help but wander back to the Genesis story where in another garden setting God provided a wife for the first man, Adam.  Genesis 2:18 declares, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.” 

What comes next in the story is kind of funny to me.  The Scriptures say that God “formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.  He brought them to the man to see what he would name them…”  After this we read, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.”  Apparently Adam didn’t think any of the creatures God had created would make an appropriate mate.  I don’t understand.  What could be wrong with a porcupine or a giraffe or an ostrich?

Because Adam found “no suitable helper” among the creatures “the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (vs. 21-22)

When Adam saw God’s new creation he was ecstatic.  In this woman God provided the “suitable helper” Adam needed.  After this is noted we read the words, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  (v. 24) The story recorded in Genesis 2 seems to serve as the beginning or institution of marriage.  Interestingly, I used these same words in Melanie and Ryan’s wedding last night.   There in that beautiful outdoor setting they seemed so very appropriate.

I realize that I do not write much about the human side of Creation in this blog but it certainly is part of the story too.  In the Creation accounts found in Genesis 1 and 2 it is very obvious that God created a world where the needs of all might be met.  He created a world where fish and birds and mammals and insects and trees might all thrive.  Without a doubt God also wanted His human creation to thrive and realized that for men and women to flourish they would need companions.   I won’t go so far as to say everybody should or must get married to be complete but I will say that I believe that we humans are made with an inherent need for others.  Even those, like myself, who are introverts recognize that life would not be worth living were it not for the friendship, love and companionship we find in others.  I guess there is a sense in which all of my family and friends are “companions for life” for my life wouldn’t be the same without them.  They all give me so much life!  So today I would like to give thanks for God’s provision of companions.  I am very thankful for my wife, Bonita.  I am also extremely grateful for my family and friends.  In fact today I give thanks for all those God has allowed to cross my path thus far, and that includes you.  Thanks to all for the “life” you give me!

–Chuck

(I took the top picture several years ago at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The middle picture is the happy couple, Ryan and Melanie Brown, last night.  The bottom image is of my wife and I.  Rob shamed me by posting an image of his wife earlier this week so I felt compelled to do this.)


Aug 26 2012

Ecology and Creation

The story of Creation begins in the opening chapters of the Bible.  Most people are quite familiar with the biblical accounts found in the first two chapters of Genesis.  Once the story is told, however, it is certainly not forgotten.  Israel’s affirmation of God as Creator played a central role in the other writings of the Old Testament.  The doctrine of Creation continued to be a key element of the New Testament and the faith of Christians.  It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of the doctrine of Creation.  In so many ways it determines our understanding of God, ourselves, and the world we live in.  It also affects how we live our lives on this planet.

This past week I read a book entitled Creation by Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University.  In this beautiful little book McGrath talks about the many ways the doctrine of Creation affects our lives.  He wisely notes that understanding the earth to be God’s Creation not only affects how we think about the world but also changes the way we behave toward it.  He says, “It forces us to abandon any idea of the earth as our servant which we can exploit as we please.  Instead, we are forced to think of the world as something wonderful and beautiful, created and loved by God, which we are called to tend, as Adam tended the garden of Eden.”

McGrath goes on to offer four major implications for ecology that evolve from the Christian doctrine of creation:  1. “The natural order, including humanity, is the result of God’s act of creation, and is affirmed to be God’s possession.” 2. “Humanity is distinguished from the remainder of creation by being created in the ‘image of God.’  This distinction is about the delegation of responsibility rather than the conferral of privilege.  It does not encourage or legitimize environmental exploitation or degradation.”    3. “Humanity is charged with the tending of creation, in the knowledge that this creation is the cherished possession of God.”  4. “There is no basis for asserting that humanity has the ‘right’ to do what it pleases with the natural order.  The creation is God’s, and has been entrusted to us.  We are to act as its guardian, not its exploiter.”

Over the years some have tried to blame our modern ecological crisis on Christians.  They point out that many in the church have taught that humans are called to have “dominion” over the earth and that this means it is ours to do with as we please.  Unfortunately, many have, in fact, taught this. What we desperately need to do is make sure people realize that this is a distortion of the biblical narrative and that a proper understanding of the doctrine of Creation demands practices and a lifestyle that brings good to the earth, not harm.  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, if anyone should be leading the way in caring for the earth it ought to be Christians.  This has been our calling from the very beginning and will remain our calling until the very end.  Whether we live up to this calling remains to be seen.

–Chuck

(I took the floral images shown above this past Friday at a private garden in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.)


Jun 12 2011

Thirty Years

The foundational text for discussing Creation is, of course, Genesis 1-2.  This is where we find the biblical accounts of Creation.  We learn here how God made the light, the skies, the land, the sun and moon, the plants and animals.  We also learn in these accounts how God made humans in His image.  Genesis 1:27 says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Furthermore, we read in the biblical accounts of Creation that God said “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  (2:18)  Before Genesis 2 concludes reference is made to  how “a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and they will become one flesh.” (v. 24)

In this blog I don’t talk very often about the human element of Creation but I will make an exception today.  In fact, I have good reason to.  Today is my thirtieth wedding anniversary.  On June 12, 1981 I had the privilege of taking Bonita Bonta as my “lawfully wedded wife.”  I cannot thank God enough for allowing our paths to cross in Louisville, Kentucky, and for the love that we have shared all these years.  I realize that not everyone chooses to marry and that is quite o.k. but for me personally God knew that it was “not good for Chuck to be alone.”

Bonita is an incredible woman.  She is beautiful, gifted, compassionate and, like myself, has a great love for both God and His Creation.   I could never have asked for a more supportive wife.  She has been my “helper” in so many ways.  She is an incredible “pastor’s wife” and has served every bit as much as a minister as I have at all of the churches where I have been pastor.  She is also very supportive of my passion for photography.  Even when it’s our 30th anniversary she doesn’t complain I’m flying out tonight to photograph with Rob in northern California.  I am so richly blessed to have a wife who loves me like she does and who brings me so much joy.

So today I give thanks that when God created the world He came up with the idea of marriage and that later on down the road He made a woman down in Florida that I would eventually meet here in Kentucky and take for my wife.  In this woman it is not hard to see the image of God at all.  She is a constant reminder to me of the goodness of Creation!

–Chuck

(The image of Bonita was taken in Hawaii this past April where we celebrated our 30th anniversary early.  The bottom image is an abstract I took with Rob a couple of years ago of redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco.)


May 4 2011

Echoes and Sign Language

One of my favorite inspirational books is Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul: Experiencing God in New Ways.  I was looking at this book earlier today and came across a passage I had forgotten about that I’d like to share with you.  In a chapter called “Opening the Window” Gire pens the following words:

“Like rain and snow, the word of God permeates the earth.  To say God’s word can be found only in certain places, like the Bible, for example, is to say, in effect, that rain water can be found only in lakes where it is most visible.  But everywhere we look there are traces of His word.  In the circumstances of our lives.  In every nook of humanity and every crannied flower of creation.”

Gire goes on to make an excellent case for looking for God in Creation.  He says, “If God created the world with words that went forth from His mouth, words like ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,’ it follows that the sun and moon and stars are echoes of those words and that something of the divine mind and its purposes can be understood by studying them.  If we look with the right eyes, listen with the right ears, we will understand the natural creation as a form of sign language through which God expresses Himself.”

I like the idea of seeing in the world around me “echoes” of God’s words spoken when He created the universe.  Genesis 1-2 makes it clear that God spoke the world into being.  Those words continue to echo throughout Creation and we have the wonderful privilege of listening to and seeing the result of His spoken word.

I also like Gire’s analogy of God’s revelation through Creation being like “sign language.”  My wife, Bonita, happens to know sign language quite well.  She is a wonderful and gifted interpreter.  Through her hands she can translate what others are saying but in order to receive the message being interpreted one must know sign language.  I confess that I do not know sign language but if I took the time to study it I could learn to listen to what Bonita is saying with her hands and motions.

When it comes to interpreting God’s “sign language” in Creation we must also study the language and become familiar with the signs.  The Bible will help us do this but it will also be necessary to study natural history books and field guides.  We will have to work hard to develop our observational skills and spiritual sensitivities.  That may sound like a lot of trouble but when the end result is the ability to experience God more fully I cannot help but believe that the effort will be well worth it.

–Chuck

(The two images above were taken last spring while visiting Joshua Tree National Park with my blogging partner and friend, Rob Sheppard.)