Aug 21 2011

Reflections on a Mower

Last week I purchased a new lawn mower.  I decided that it would help if I “practiced what I preach” so I purchased an electric model.  I liked the idea that an electric mower emitted no carbon, something gas-powered mowers are notorious for.  On Monday the new mower arrived and I assembled it.  I plugged the Energy Star charger in and looked forward to mowing on Tuesday.  When the mower started right up with the push of a button I was elated.  I was thrilled with the way the mower handled.  Although it is not self-propelled it is light and easy to use.  All was going well until forty-five minutes later the mower stopped.  I had used up all of its energy and still had a third of the yard still to mow.  I wasn’t a happy camper.

I found it very disappointing that the battery on my new electric mower would not allow me to mow the entire yard at one time.  Nor did it help when I learned that it takes a very long time for the same battery to recharge.  It became quickly apparent that mowing my yard would now always be a two day affair.  I must confess that I had thoughts about packing the mower up and shipping it back.  But then I remembered the reason I had purchased the mower in the first place.  With this new mower I would no longer be adding pollution to the atmosphere. So I had to make a choice.  Would I continue to use a mower that generated pollution but enabled me to mow my yard at one time, or would I endure the inconvenience of having to mow two days in a row (weather permitting) and not pollute the air?  I chose the latter option.  In the end I had to conclude that though the electric mower did create an inconvenience for me it was worth it in the end if it helped God’s Creation.

As I have reflected on this further it has made me realize that one of the reasons we find the world in the mess it is relates to the fact that we don’t like being inconvenienced.  God’s Creation often suffers because we are not willing to make sacrifices that will be beneficial to the earth.  This can be true when we are choosing what vehicle to drive (or if we will drive at all), whether we recycle, or what foods we will purchase.  In many of the decisions we make we really don’t stop to ask, how will this affect the earth?

I would argue that the earth is worth making sacrifices for and Scripture certainly backs this claim.  One of the most familiar passages in the Bible says “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Yes, God loved the world (not just humans) so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice—He gave His only Son.  If God loved the world enough to make that kind of sacrifice, surely we ought to love it enough to make some sacrifices as well. 

We tend to be willing to make sacrifices for those we love most.  Parents make incredible sacrifices for their children.  Soldiers make great sacrifices for their country.  Friends often make noble sacrifices for one another.  Our failure to make more sacrifices for the environment leads me to believe that most of us do not love the earth as we should.  For Christians who know of God’s indescribable love for the world, this is inexcusable.  It is time we sought to love the world as God loves it—which means being willing to make some sacrifices for its welfare.  I will try to remember that every time I mow…


(I took the top two images last August in lavendar fields on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.  The bottom image is my new mower.)

May 15 2011

“Living On the Doorstep of Hell”

In the final chapter of his book, The Gospel According to the Earth, Matthew Sleeth discusses an unpopular subject, sacrifice.  In this chapter he makes a couple of allusions to boats.  At one point Dr. Sleeth says “Think of the earth as a ship.  It is the only earth we have.  If we destroy it, we have nowhere else to go.  If the ship is sinking, as ours most assuredly is, we must make difficult choices to save it.  Choices that involve sacrifice.”

There can be no denying that our planet is in trouble.  There are toxins in the air and in the water almost everywhere you look.  Our invaluable rain forests are shrinking at an alarming rate, as are many of the wonderful species God intentionally created.  There are lots of problems with few easy answers.  Some would argue that there are easy answers but what they ignore is that all of these answers require sacrifice.  Because they do, they are not easy.  As a general rule people today do not like to make sacrifices.

Earlier in the chapter noted above Sleeth says “Everyone believes that ark building is a great idea once it has begun to rain.  The trick is beginning an ark six months before the flood.  We can begin building our metaphorical ark by accepting God’s truth and living sacrificially.”   From some of the things I have read and seen I’m not  convinced “everyone” thinks it’s a great idea to build an ark just because it happens to be raining.  Countless people these days live in a state of denial.  They refuse to believe that our planet, and we along with it, is suffering due to our poor stewardship of God’s Creation.  They see no need to do anything even though it has already begun to flood.

How could anyone be so blind?  I’m not sure the issue is blindness as much as it is an unwillingness to sacrifice.   And behind this unwillingness to sacrifice stands pride or selfishness.  A couple of nights ago I came across this sentence in Thomas Merton’s book, No Man Is An Island“To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.”  Too many people today are living on the doorstep of hell.  They are living only for themselves.  As long as people continue to live this way they will not make the sacrifices necessary to help the earth or to help others.

In his call to discipleship Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew16:24)  Sacrifice, denying oneself, lies at the heart of following Jesus.  There are many ways we can and should live sacrificial lifestyles.  One way involves how we live on and care for the earth.  We do not follow in the steps of Christ if we fail to take into consideration how our actions affect the earth and those around us.  We do not follow in his steps if we fail to make the sacrifices necessary that will benefit not just us but all those around us and the generations that will follow as well. 

May God grant each of us wisdom to know what sacrifices we should be making and the courage to make them.


(The top image was taken at Devil’s Canyon Overlook in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana.  The bottom image was taken at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming.)