Aug 7 2015

A Prayer for Creation

_DSC6890The two major concerns that are the focus of this blog, Seeing Creation, are nature and spirituality. My strong conviction, as most of you already know, is that the two go together. For most people a major component of spirituality is prayer. I wonder, however, how many people include nature or Creation as part of their prayers. Recently I came across a prayer in the book Earth Prayers that shows us how we might pray for God’s Creation. It is a beautiful prayer that many of us ought to consider praying.

_DSC7616“How much of Earth’s atmosphere must we contaminate? How many species must we abuse and extinguish?  How many people must we degrade and kill with toxic wastes before we learn to love and respect your Creation, before we learn to love and respect our home?  For our wrongs, Lord, we ask for forgiveness.  In sorrow for what we have done we offer our repentance. We pray that our actions toward You and Your Creation are worthy of our repentance, that we will so act here on earth that heaven will not be a shock to us. We promise to reverence Your Creation as a gracious gift entrusted to us by You, our God. We promise anew to be stewards and not pillagers of what You have entrusted to us. Creator God, You have given us every reason to learn and promote this wisdom of lives lived in harmony with Creation. May we, your servants, increasingly serve.  May we, your servants, increasingly come to love Your Creation as we increasingly come to love You, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.”

The questions that are offered at the beginning of this prayer deserve our attention–“How much of Earth’s atmosphere must we contaminate?”  Politicians debate even now whether clean air and water or business profits should be our primary concern. From God’s perspective is this even debatable?  The recent publicity over the killing of the lion known as Cecil has many raising the same question addressed in the prayer: “How many species must we abuse and extinguish?”  In a recent blog I wrote about environmental racism which resonates with the question, “How many people must we degrade and kill with toxic wastes…?”

_DSC7000The book, Earth Prayers was published in 1991 and in it this prayer is attributed to the North American Conference on Christianity and Ecology. If it was being penned today, I suspect other questions might be added to the ones already included. Perhaps one would ask “How many scientific studies must be conducted before we recognize the impending danger of Climate Change and start to make changes to counter it?”

Appropriately, the prayer not only raises questions but includes confession and repentance. Confession is important.  We need to admit to God that we have not been good stewards of Creation. Repentance is perhaps even more important.  We must mend our ways.  Just saying we are sorry won’t cut it; we have got to be willing to change our ways and do what we can to care for the Earth.

_DSC6976My hope is that all those who read this prayer will make the same promise to reverence God’s Creation “as a gracious gift entrusted to us” and to “be stewards and not pillagers” of what God has entrusted to us. I also hope, as stated in the prayer, that we will all come to love God’s Creation as we increasingly come to love God.

If you are not currently including Creation in your prayers now would be a good time to start and the prayer I’ve just shared with you wouldn’t be a bad one to begin with.


(The first, third and fourth images were taken at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  The deer was photographed in my yard in Henderson, KY.)

Jul 17 2013

Beware of Low Spirituality

CNS 6184“O Lord, how many are Thy works!  In wisdom Thou hast made them all; the earth is full of Thy possession.” Psalm 104:24

Yesterday our friends at R120 posted a quote from the British pastor Charles H. Spurgeon.  It comes from a sermon he preached based on Psalm 104.  Spurgeon declared, “This Psalm is all through a song of nature, the adoration of God in the great outward temple of the universe. Some in these modern times have thought it to be a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature; and I remember sorrowfully reading the expressions of a godly person, who, in sailing down one of the most famous rivers in the world, closed his eyes, lest the picturesque beauties of the scene should divert his mind from scriptural topics. This may be regarded by some as profound spirituality; to me it seems to savor of absurdity. There may be persons who think they have grown in grace when they have attained to this; it seems to me that they are growing out of their senses. To despise the creating work of God, what is it but, in a measure, to despise God himself?”

MI7847I find these words fascinating.  It is incomprehensible to me that anyone could consider it “a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature.”  I also find it hard to believe that a person would deliberately close his or her eyes to the beauty of nature in fear that it might harm them spiritually.  I have never met anyone who thought like this.  I certainly hope that if such people exist their numbers are few.  Still, the number of those who fail to realize that Creation is God’s “other Book” is large.   They may not have closed their eyes to God’s revelation through nature deliberately but they might as well have.  Unintentionally they have elected to practice a “low spirituality.”

Spurgeon offers a wonderful affirmation of Creation’s goodness and wisely notes that when we despise the work of God’s hands we “in a measure, despise God himself.”   We proceed on dangerous ground when we attempt to separate God from that which He has made.  Such an approach prohibits us from learning much about the Creator.  It can also keep us from recognizing the sacredness of the earth and our divine obligation to “tend the garden” or care for Creation.  Both of these side effects of a low spirituality are extremely dangerous.  Both of them actually put us in a position where we might very well “despise God himself.”

TTP7825Hopefully our goal is to practice a high spirituality.  There are many things that this would entail but undoubtedly one aspect of it would be to recognize the goodness of Creation and God’s revelation through it.  Failure to include this would seem to indicate that we have grown out of our senses and entered the realm of absurdity.  God forbid that should happen to any of us.


(I took the pictures used above last week during my visit to Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.)

Aug 7 2011

Spirituality and Beauty

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

This morning in the Sunday School class I teach we had an interesting discussion on spirituality.  One of the points I made during class was that perhaps the best indicator we have that we are growing spiritually is love.  If we are not loving God and others more we are not growing—our spirituality is lacking.

Last night while I was looking at Michael Abbate’s book, Gardening Eden, I noticed that he offers another indicator—one I find very fascinating.  Abbate writes: “Here is a barometer for us to monitor in ourselves: the extent to which we can recognize and appreciate beauty in our lives may indicate the condition of our spiritual walk with the Creator.  The closer we are walking with the Creator, the more beauty we will see in life.”  He notes that many people fail to see the beauty around them.  The beauty gets overlooked.  He says “It’s as if we have to be forced to remove the scales of materialism and entertainment from our eyes so that we can see the beauty in God’s universe, the beauty intended to fill us with joy, rest, and inspiration.”

I’m not sure that I’ve thought of the ability to see beauty as an indicator of spirituality before but it does make sense.  If God is the author of beauty, as I believe He is, then it would stand to reason that those who are closest to Him would be most aware of the beauty He has created.  They would have “eyes to see and ears to hear” that others of us might not.

I find myself wondering whether the awareness of beauty draws one closer to God or is it that those who are close to God are drawn to the beauty?  I know from  personal experience that when I behold the beauty of God’s Creation that I do feel or sense His presence in a powerful way.  So maybe it is the beauty of Creation that draws us closer to God and helps us to grow spiritually.  But then again, perhaps it is because my heart is already attuned to God that I am able to recognize in the beauty around me the presence of God.  Here, too, I know from experience that some people are not affected by beauty in the same way I am.  Some see the same sunsets, rainbows or flowers I do and are not moved at all.

In the end I can’t decide which is more accurate but I do think Abbate is on to something here.  There is, indeed, a connection between one’s ability to see and enjoy beauty and his or her nearness to God.  And since I don’t know which one comes first (kind of like I’m still unsure whether it is the chicken or the egg) I think I’ll just pursue both.  I will spend as much time as I can in the presence of beauty, for it draws me closer to God, and I will at the same time do all I can to walk closer to God so that I might be able to see even more beauty.  That sounds like a win-win approach to me.


(The images above were taken on my trip to Hawaii in April.)