An Urban Forest Takes Shape

A few weeks ago I published Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong about what is happening at the Cheasty Greenspace – an urban forest here in Seattle. Yesterday I had the chance to visit.

With Mary De Jong at the Cheasty Greenspace

With Mary De Jong at the Cheasty Greenspace

 

I was so impressed with what Mary and her collaborators have accomplished – not just reclaiming a beautiful piece of God’s creation that had been invaded by destructive species, both environmental and human, but also providing a place for the neighbourhood to interact with creation. Mary and I were brainstorming about the possibility of doing an urban equivalent of the Wild Camano here in the Fall – such fun not just to interact with creation but also with the God whose presence is so obvious in its midst.

Listen to what Mary has to say about this wonderful urban project.

 

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

I posted this last year from Earth Ministry and thought that it was definitely worth reminding ourselves again of why we as Christians should be concerned for God’s good creation. I had hoped to write another Earth Day reflection for today but the Inhabit conference consumed too much of my time this weekend.

You might also like to check out some of the Christian organizations that are concerned for creation and some of the prayers I have posted in the past for this day:

Good Seed Sunday – Celebrate with A Rocha

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Prayers for Creation

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Earth Day To Do List from The Soulsby Farm

Garden Blessing for Earth Day

Earth Day Liturgy

And the two postcard style prayers I wrote earlier for this year:

Earth Day Meditation.

A Garden Blessing for Earth Day 2013

Godspace

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and…

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Creating Sacred Spaces – Do We Really Need Churches?

I am starting a series on Creating Sacred Space and decided to begin by reposting this very popular post from last year which is adapted from my book Return to Our Senses. What is sacred space for you? Where do you you feel closest to God? How can nurture such spaces? If you would like to contribute a post for this series please let me know.

Godspace

Our annual Celtic retreat is coming. We hold it in August on a beautiful parcel of undeveloped land on Camano Island north of Seattle. There are no buildings. Our sanctuary is a cathedral of trees – cedar and maple and alder that rise above is in a breathtaking green canopy. I particularly love to sit in the early mornings before anyone else is awake, drinking in the beauty of God’s awe inspiring creation. This is a sacred space for me, what is often called a thin space where the veil between heaven and earth seems to be translucent and the glory of God shines through in a special way.

Special places where we feel almost physically embraced by the love of God are important places of prayer for all of us. Be they a comfortable old armchair we return to day by day, a special place to walk or a…

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Shalom and the Community of Creation – Randy Woodley

cover-shalom-and-the-comm5

Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying reading Randy Woodley’s wonderful book Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. As many of you know, the study of shalom has woven through my life in the last thirty years. Working in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border in the mid 80s’ transformed my life and started me on a quest for a deeper understanding of God’s worldview. Shalom is the best word that describes this for me. I put some of my own thoughts together in the booklet Shalom and the Wholeness of Godand you would think that after 30 years there could be nothing new for me to learn. Randy’s book teaches me that this is not so and will probably never be true.

Understanding the shalom of God and the desire of God to see all things restored and made whole again should, I think, be a never ending journey for all of us. Ancient Semitic constructs of biblical shalom have parallel constructs among other indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as the Harmony Way. Jesus, Randy explains is the shalom restorer of justice and dignity. So often he came to those who had dignity, no rights in society. Like the shepherds whose testimony was unacceptable in a court of law.

Randy is a Keetoowah Cherokee  and brings the richness of his First Nations’ perspective to the discussion. I learned so much from his invitation to view scripture, humanity and all creation through the indigenous lens. One comment that particularly challenged me is:

As people of faith, we should view every drop of oil, every diamond, every lump of coal and every source of water with a theological eye. We should try to see our world through the eyes of the One who created it. All the earth is sacred. It seems quite foolish that only after we have gone too far will we realize that no amount of capital gains, no particular economic system, no modern convenience will be worth the price that we will be forced to pay. Attributed as a Cree Indian proverb, around Indian country they say “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” I sometimes wonder if modern humanity will drive itself to extinction over greed. (52)

Randy beautifully weaves the story of indigenous peoples in North America and their understanding of the Harmony Way into his narrative. God is not just revealed in the Hebrew scriptures. God’s ways are powerfully portrayed in the beliefs and stories of all cultural groups. Often their traditional beliefs are closer to the ways of God than the capitalistic, creation destroying ways of Western cultures. The atrocities done to natives peoples in many lands has broken God’s shalom not just destroying them and their cultures, but the very land that was taken from them.

God speaks through all cultures and if we only listen to the theologians from our own culture, our understanding of God will be stifled. This is a compelling and challenging book that expresses a different cultural worldview. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the truths of God’s shalom world.

You may also like to check out this article I wrote some years ago on theological diversity in a globalized world 

Making Peace with the Land

Making Peace with the Land

Making Peace with the Land

I have just started reading Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to reconcile with creation by agriculturalist Fred Bahnson and theologian Norman Wirzba. This is the seventh book in the resources for Reconciliation series.

All I can say at this point is that this is a very profound book, one that I think is essential for all who are interested in a holistic view of faith. Even reading the prologue has turned some of my thinking on its head. And what time to do this than after Pentecost as we enter the season of Ordinary time or as some prefer to call it Kingdom time. Listen to this provokative beginning talking about the first couple of chapters of Genesis.

We are right to believe that God loves you and me. But in these earliest pages of Scripture, we discover that God’s first love is the soil. This is how it has to be, because without healthy soil and the fertility and food it makes possible, there would be not terrestrial life of any kind. God’s love for us- described definitively in John 3:16 as God’s giving of his Son to us- only makes sense in terms of God’s love for the earth that sustains us. God daily cares for us by providing the nurture of food, as well as the the gifts of fiber and timber and energy, all of which find their origin in soil…. Genesis 2:15 is an invitation to know and share in God’s love for the whole creation. (pp16,18).

Over the next week or so I plan to post several articles about how we can steward God’s good earth in creative ways. If you know of examples of creative approaches to stewardship that you think need to be shared I would love to hear from you.

Garden Seminar is Over

today I conducted my annual spirituality of gardening seminar at the Mustard Seed House. Had several people cancel because of sickness so a small but enthusiastic group.. I always learn so much from others who attend.

Earth Day To Do List from The Soulsby Farm

This may be a day late but it is so good that I could not resist reposting it -Thanks to the people at  Soulsby Farm – A Very Small Farm for posting it yesterday.

Earth Day to Do List

I had a big rant written but decided to make my Earth Day wish simple…. Let’s all put an end to GMO seeds and food. Here’s what you can do:

1) Urge the FDA to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. You have a right to know about the food you eat and what you feed your family. Go to http://justlabelit.org/ and sign the petition.

2) Do not buy seeds from Companies that sell GMO seeds. Which is basically the majority of them. Here are a couple of links to companies not to buy from:http://myfolia.com/groups/250-life-wants-to-be-free/topics/2867-companies-that-sell-monsanto-products/posts and http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/how-to-avoid-monsanto/

3) Buy locally from Organic Farms – Even if they don’t have the ‘Organic’ label but believe in sustainable farming and do not use GMO’s. I buy from the Amish in my area. They aren’t certified by the government but they also don’t use pesticides.

4) Spread the word. Tell your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Write to your local congressman or state rep.

5) Don’t invest your money in biotech stock. Move it into something else.

  • Genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in the 15 European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries around the world.
  • A recent poll released by ABC News found that 93 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) results from a discipline called Genetic Engineering which involves taking genes from one species and inserting them into another. For example, genes from an arctic flounder which has “antifreeze” properties may be spliced into a tomato to prevent frost damage. It is impossible to guide the insertion of the new gene. This can lead to unpredictable effects. Also, genes do not work in isolation but in highly complex relationships which are still not fully understood. Any change to the DNA at any point will affect it throughout its length in ways scientists cannot predict. The claim by some that they can is both arrogant and untrue. – Baker Creek Seed Website

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Today’s post in the series on Christian environmental organizations comes from Renewal – students caring for creation. Tom and I had the privilege of speaking at their Renewal Summit last year. It was a great occasion

God’s creation is groaning.
We are answering God’s call for renewal.

Our Creator took chaos and transformed it into indescribable beauty, form and creative order. What’s more, God breathed life into humankind and commanded us to “tend and keep” His blessed creation.

In the past humans have neglected this charge, instead participating in environmental harm that degrades ecosystems, as well as human lives. We have made a mess of God’s creation. But with His strength and grace, Christian students across North America are uniting to work for its renewal.

For the students of Renewal, caring for God’s creation isn’t just a burden and a responsibility- it’s a blessing and an invitation to live in right relationship with our Creator. This means taking care of everything that God so lovingly creates and sustains – the earth and each other.

We aim to expand this vision across North American campuses by inspiring, connecting, and equipping Christian students.

  • Inspiring. We are communicating awareness around the biblical call to care for creation, current environmental concerns, success stories and testimonies of renewal, and other stirring dispatches to keep the movement vibrant and growing.
  • Connecting. We organize regional retreats, campus visits, student conferences and other accessible opportunities for you and others to build community and network around creation care concerns.
  • Equipping. We provide hands-on training, personal mentoring, leadership opportunities, project toolkits, and other vital resources to empower emerging Christian leaders.

With a heart for the poor and a commitment to following Jesus’ call to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ we seek practical ways to care for the earth so that all God’s creatures, as well as future generations, can have a healthy environment in which to live.

We seek to live this calling out through joining together in prayer, service, and action.

  • Prayer. Renewal believes that prayer is central for all of us who seek to reclaim our Biblical calling to care for God’s creation. We invite all Christians to join with us in expressing gratitude to God for the beauty, wonder, and provisions of His creation- and to pray for wisdom and guidance as we work to be better stewards of our imperiled planet.
  • Service. God’s first commandment to Adam is to care for all that God has created. In Genesis 2:15 God instructs Adam to abad and shamar – literally translated ‘to serve and to care.’ We are called to be careful servants in God’s garden- His creation.
  • Advocacy. The origin of the word “advocate” is quite meaningful for those of us engaged in caring for God’s creation. At its root is “voc” which comes from the Latin word for voice (vox). The Latin “advocare’ means “to call to one’s aid.” As Christians, we are called to the aid of those most in need and to add our voices in the call for justice. Renewal seeks to fulfill our Christian calling- of being doers and seekers of justice- by advocating on behalf of God’s people and God’s creation.

Prayers for Creation

Lion at Seattle Zoo

Lion at Seattle Zoo

Over the years I have written and posted a number of prayers for creation. Here are some of my favourites that I thought you would enjoy

Prayers for Creation 

For the beauty of the earth we thank you O God,

For the abundance of the garden we thank you O Christ,

For the flourishing of friendship we thank you O Spirit,

For the abundance of life we give you thanks today,

Thanks to the three in One, the One in three.

—————————————

God may our eyes be opened and our ears unstopped,

That we may see in every sight a cathedral giving glory,

And hear in every sound angels singing alleluia.

May we be awed by the treasure of beauty in a rising moon,

And inspired by the clouded majesty of rainbow colours after rain,

May we look and see the wonder of daffodils lifting bright and shining faces to the sun,

May we look and see each plant, each creature, each handful of dirt,

God breathed, God inspired, God created.

May we behold the beauty and hear you saying it is very good

And walk together into the sanctuary of your creation.

——————————————————-

God may we see today that all creation is precious to you,

From the smallest microbe to the largest whale,

You created all to live and flourish together,

An awe inspiring interdependent ecological community of your love.

God may we listen as all creation sings of your glory,

And the whole earth gives you praise.

May our minds turn to you in morning,

And our hearts be filled with your love at night,

May we sit in your presence and find life.

——————————————

And links to past liturgies:

A liturgy for celebration of Creation

Earth Day liturgy

A Garden blessing for Earth Day

Evangelicals Do Care About Creation

Reflections - Mark Wilson-Thomas

Reflections - (c) Mark Wilson-Thomas. used with permission

This morning I am continuing my series on Christian organizations concerned about creation with a post of the Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation which is available through the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). The EEN  is a ministry dedicated to the care of God’s creation. EEN seeks to equip, inspire, disciple, and mobilize God’s people in their effort to care for God’s creation.

Founded in 1993, their ministry is grounded in the Bible’s teaching on the responsibility of God’s people to “tend the garden” through a faithful walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. Based in the scriptures, EEN publishes and develops material for churches, ministries, families, and individuals to use as they seek to know the Lord more fully, especially his care for all that he has made.  They are hosting the Global Day of Prayer for Creation Care & The Poor on April 26, 2012 in Washington DC.

Evangelical Declaration On the Care of Creation

The Earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof- Psalm 24:1

As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems.

Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation.

Because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship  of creation. Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator’s work.

Because in Christ God has healed our alienation from God and extended to us the first fruits of the reconciliation of all things, we commit ourselves to working in the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News of Christ in word and deed, to work for the reconciliation of all people in Christ, and to extend Christ’s healing to suffering creation.

Because we await the time when even the groaning creation will be restored to wholeness, we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and  heal that creation for the honor and glory of the Creator—whom we know dimly through creation, but meet fully through Scripture and in Christ. We and our  children face a growing crisis in the health of the creation in which we are embedded, and through which, by God’s grace, we are sustained. Yet we continue to degrade that creation.

These degradations of creation can be summed up as 1) land  degradation; 2) deforestation; 3) species extinction; 4) water degradation; 5)  global toxification; 6) the alteration of atmosphere; 7) human and cultural degradation.

Many of these degradations are signs that we are pressing against the  finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these  degradations will become more severe. Our responsibility is not only to bear and nurture children, but to nurture their home on earth. We respect the institution of marriage as the way God has given to insure thoughtful procreation of children and their nurture to the glory of God.

We recognize that human poverty is both a cause and a consequence of environmental degradation.

Many concerned people, convinced that environmental problems are more spiritual than technological, are exploring the world’s ideologies and religions  in search of non-Christian spiritual resources for the healing of the earth. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that the Bible calls us to respond in four  ways:

First, God calls us to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation, and which twist or ignore biblical revelation to support our misuse of  it. Forgetting that “the earth is the Lord’s,” we have often simply used  creation and forgotten our responsibility to care for it.

Second, our actions and attitudes toward the earth need to proceed  from the center of our faith, and be rooted in the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ and the Scriptures. We resist both ideologies which would presume the  Gospel has nothing to do with the care of non-human creation and also ideologies which would reduce the Gospel to nothing more than the care of that creation.

Third, we seek carefully to learn all that the Bible tells us about  the Creator, creation, and the human task. In our life and words we declare that full good news for all creation which is still waiting “with eager longing for  the revealing of the children of God,” (Rom. 8:19).

Fourth, we seek to understand what creation reveals about God’s divinity, sustaining presence, and everlasting power, and what creation teaches  us of its God-given order and the principles by which it works.

Thus we call on all those who are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to affirm the following principles of biblical faith, and to seek ways of living out these principles in our personal lives, our churches, and  society.

The cosmos, in all its beauty, wildness, and life-giving bounty, is the work of our personal and loving Creator.

Our creating God is prior to and other than creation, yet intimately involved with it, upholding each thing in its freedom, and all things in relationships of intricate complexity. God is transcendent, while lovingly sustaining each creature; and immanent, while wholly other than creation and not  to be confused with it.

God the Creator is relational in very nature, revealed as three persons in One. Likewise, the creation which God intended is a symphony of individual creatures in harmonious relationship.

The Creator’s concern is for all creatures. God declares all creation “good” (Gen. 1:31); promises care in a covenant with all creatures (Gen. 9:9-17); delights in creatures which have no human apparent usefulness (Job 39-41); and wills, in Christ, “to reconcile all things to himself” (Col.1:20).

Men, women, and children, have a unique responsibility to the Creator; at the same time we are creatures, shaped by the same processes and embedded in  the same systems of physical, chemical, and biological interconnections which  sustain other creatures.

Men, women, and children, created in God’s image, also have a unique responsibility for creation. Our actions should both sustain creation’s fruitfulness and preserve creation’s powerful testimony to its Creator.

Our God-given , stewardly talents have often been warped from their intended purpose: that we know, name, keep and delight in God’s creatures; that  we nourish civilization in love, creativity and obedience to God; and that we  offer creation and civilization back in praise to the Creator. We have ignored our creaturely limits and have used the earth with greed, rather than care.

The earthly result of human sin has been a perverted stewardship, a  patchwork of garden and wasteland in which the waste is increasing. “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land…Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away” (Hosea 4:1,3). Thus, one consequence of our misuse of the earth is an unjust denial of God’s created bounty to other human beings, both now and in the future.

God’s purpose in Christ is to heal and bring to wholeness not only  persons but the entire created order. “For God was pleased to have all his  fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things,  whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood  shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20).

In Jesus Christ, believers are forgiven, transformed and brought into  God’s kingdom. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17). The presence of the kingdom of God is marked not only by renewed fellowship with  God, but also by renewed harmony and justice between people, and by renewed harmony and justice between people and the rest of the created world. “You will  go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12).

We believe that in Christ there is hope, not only for men, women and children, but also for the rest of creation which is suffering from the  consequences of human sin.