Thursday, April 01, 2021

Caring for Creation...

What do you think? Is caring for creation anthropocentric (man-centered?) Or is it eco-centric? When I speak at churches, small groups, colleges, or any other gatherings, I always ask this question. Often times, I get blank stares, or confusion...but it's really a trick question! The answer, from Scripture, is that our efforts in caring for creation are to be Theo-centric...or focused on God! It is HIS creation!

To this effect, some friends of mine have written a scholarly article, very well done, about this topic. It's worth a read, and not super long. Here is the link to it:

Please, take the time to read it, and learn more about what our calling as believers is in regards to creation.

"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it!" Psalm 24:1

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Grieving before leaving

Maryville, where we've lived here for about six years, has become home to us. For myself, it's the longest I've lived in one place consecutively. Even growing up in Brazil, as a family we moved back to the US every four years and spent one year here before returning to Brazil. 

Whether it's the Redbud tree I planted in our yard a few years ago and its amazing pinkish/purple blooms,or the variegated willows grown from cuttings from my in-laws in NY state, or the weeping willow, apple trees, mulberry,  plums, or other things I've planted, I love my yard. I love working with my hands to make something useful and beautiful. Similar to a carpenter I'd say, who takes joy in the labor, in the sweat equity put into his work. He gets to enjoy the work when it's complete. I also get to enjoy the work of my hands, be it the literal fruit that grows from it, or the shade it gives, or the scent, and beauty of flowers in spring... This has been home. It's been a salve to our family to have one place to call home with all the transition and challenges we've faced over the years.

But God... God has opened another door for us..
Another door for the gospel, as the Apostle Paul wrote so many years ago. I'll write more about that soon, which involves returning to Brazil, but it's so important to grieve over the losses we will face. We already miss our home here even though we haven't even left. We have already cried over simple things and big things. This isn't to say we are sad to go! In fact, we are all, as a family, quite excited to go back to Brazil as missionaries! It wouldn't happen if all of the kids and we as a couple didn't agree that it was what God was telling us to do. We've prayed for months, and God clearly said yes to us through a variety of things, including His Word, His people, and His way. :-)

In the meantime, as we begin downsizing, selling off things that won't fit in a suitcase, and letting go of the worldly possessions that have bound us to this place in the world, we grieve. We cry. We remember. We smile, laugh and get excited too though! It's a mix, but it's good. Because our God is good, and His plan is always better. And even though change isn't easy, it makes it a bit easier to remember that God has called us, and that He goes before us.

If God opens a door, and tells you to walk through it, what are YOU gonna do? There's a great story in the Bible about this one guy who chose to run the other was Jonah. Look it up. 😆 I'd rather obey God's plan than go the other way. What a blessing that this is something God has prepared for me to do...and something I've prayed about and dreamed about since my college days... God is good indeed. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Beauty of God's Creation

Different places in the world have a uniqueness regarding the ecology God has placed there. For instance, here in central Brazil it's the end of dry season. It's basically a savannah type region. It's brown, dry, and dusty. Even still, there is so much life! You just have to have eyes to look for it! Thankfully it rained last night--a light rain--but it helps with the dust in the air. Here are some of the pictures I took this morning early. The birds were out and about, enjoying the cooler air and some of the moisture that stuck around.

Typical scene in rural central Brazil.

Mangoes are almost ready!

What I call an LBB, or "Little Brown Bird". Didn't identify this one. :-)

A Yellow-Chevroned Parakeet chilling.

This is a White-Eyed Parakeet, or White-Eyed Conure, and below as well.

I spy... How many can you find? Also very loud birds!

Toucans are common here, but I haven't been able to capture a clear shot of one yet. This one was flying overhead and I recognized it by the silhouette as well as the characteristic flight pattern. I'm hoping to see one closer soon, as well as a macaw.

This is a Buff-Necked Ibis in flight, and below.

Buff-necked ibis pair feeding. They are super loud!

The beauty of creation is all around us--unfortunately, the farther we remove ourselves from the outdoors, from being in creation, and instead stay in urban environments, the more disconnected we become from creation, and the less we remember about our role to be good stewards. I hope you take some time to see the beauty in God's creation, even if still in an urban environment.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Sabbath rest for Creation?

COVID-19 has changed so much already, hasn't it? Nothing seemingly is back to normal (ok, well, maybe politics). One thing that I've noticed the world over has been something people wouldn't think of normally. However, over the last few months, I began seeing reports of wildlife walking through towns in Europe, of other animals expanding their ranges in North America and Asia. I saw before and after pictures of massive cities in Asia that used to be choked with pollution in which no single person had ever seen the blue sky. Rivers and waterways in Europe, such as in Venice, were so clear, people could see the algae growing, or fish returned to the rivers once desolate of fish.

One thing COVID has done, for those who "have eyes to see, and ears to hear", is that "creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23).

Though COVID has been incredibly painful and difficult for millions of people, and suffering more than we care to even think about, maybe a single encouragement to us can be that much of Creation has had a break from the effects of humankind's greed and selfishness. Creation has had a Sabbath Rest from our activities--I think it was overdue for a few hundred years... We have not cared for creation the way we have been called to by our God. To me, that is an added sadness to this time of COVID, since it has brought the product of our sins to light: all the pollution and lack of stewardship of what is supposed to shout glories to God!

Maybe, just maybe, we can look at the beauty that has come about from the invisible or unknown parts of God's creation during these last few months, and take some practical steps to be more careful in how we live, stewarding all the things God has given us in His creation, as we live for Him each day. What do you think? I hope you agree.
Spruce Flat Falls, GSMNP, TN

COVID-19 a blizzard?

Let's be honest--this COVID thing has been hard. I mean, it's basically changed how we do life, all over the world! My trips have been cancelled, or post-poned until next year... But when will things get back to normal? Or, should I say, "a new normal"... That's really what we're seeing.

It's been interesting to see people's reactions to the COVID pandemic. There was an article I read early on this year when COVID was just starting to have a significant impact in the US. I thought the authors had quite the insight, comparing COVID to not just a blizzard, or a period of winter, but an Ice Age. They were saying that it would change A LOT. These were business people that wrote it, Christians doing business in the US and the world, but they were stating that it would change how we do church, how we do all kinds of gatherings, and that back THEN was the time for our churches and businesses and community groups to figure out how to adapt. You see, when we have a blizzard in the winter time, what do we do? We just hunker down and wait it out, right? That's what people did during quarantine for a month or more. That's what made it "doable", right? Parodies and Videos galore. But like the authors said, it wasn't going to be a blizzard. But it wasn't going to be just a "winter" period, either, they said. For with winter, we simply know it's going to be a longer period of time, so we prepare for it, and look forward to spring! Problem is...COVID isn't just Winter. It's what the authors called an Ice Age. Something that totally throws us for a loop, something we can't really prepare for, something we've never faced in our lifetimes! The point the authors were trying to make: "this is going to be hard, it's going to be so different, it's going to change everything about the way we've done things. We need to think quickly how to adapt to this situation, in our businesses, in our churches, in our communities. Especially so that we don't let anyone fall through the cracks".

It was hard for me to believe at first, but as the virus spread, and the whole world went into lockdown/quarantine (for the most part), I realized they were right. I shared the article with some leaders I know. I expected a little push-back, or a comment or two disagreeing or questioning, but to my surprise, I didn't hear a single comment from the more than 20 people. Now, does that mean anything? Maybe, maybe not. What I do think it means is that in our society here in America, we are stuck in the status-quo. We like things the way they are, we want to keep things the way they are. We don't take risks.

Now, ask my wife, I'm inherently a risk-taker. I'm an adrenaline junkie. I'm a thrill-seeker. Which is why I'll never own a motorcycle. I wouldn't survive my first ride I'd go so fast and do something stupid. Back in college, when we first started dating during our senior year, she went on a long bike ride with me a few miles from our college, just to go bridge-jumping into the river. And in case you think I've slowed down because I turned 40 this year, you'd be wrong. As I type this, I'm sitting on a hemorrhoid pillow in my office chair because almost two weeks ago I went down a double black diamond mountain biking trail and got some nice air...but when I landed, I bounced off my bike, fell hard on my tail bone (coccyx), and commenced sliding down the side of the hill curled in a ball (yes, I wear helmets ALWAYS), until a tree stopped me quite quickly by blunt force trauma on my left shin. Yep, I stopped quickly. The colors of the bruises and cuts are quite amazing! You'd think I would have learned from my first jump in the day when I fell and shredded up my right lower leg and lower right forearm....but, no (I'll spare you pictures of the bloody wounds--you're welcome). The desire for the "rush"kept me going...until the tail-bone incident. At THAT point, I told my boys: "OK boys, it's time to go home. We're done for today". Thankfully I didn't break anything and was able to drive home.

I mention the risk-taking not only for a laugh (I did laugh, even at my own falls), but because change, to a degree, comes easily to me. Some things I don't like to change, like anyone else, but when something big is about to happen, when a big change is on the way, I get energized, excited, and push full-steam ahead. Maybe it's the fruit of being a missionary kid, who basically lives with change his/her whole life. The only constant for a missionary kid (or military kid, for that matter), is change. So we learn to deal with it, and I'd say most of us deal with it well. So, with COVID, yes, it's hard, but as a risk-taker, and a realist, it's the place where people like me can possibly thrive. Entrepreneurial people often are those risk-takers. They can see things before others do. We should listen to them more. Yes, there's risk involved, and many people are risk-averse...but if we can see the early adapters with open eyes, listen to the visionaries and test them, we might come out stronger, better, healthier on the other side of this "Ice Age".