Category Archives: Nature

2018 Snow’Easter

Yesterday was Easter Sunday.  One’s focus was on the story of the resurrection, but the reality of the day was the weather.  After the East Coast had experienced three Nor’easters during March, the weather that included plunging temperatures and snow/ice captured our attention here in Central Missouri.

After getting home from Easter services and the family late lunch, we closed the garage door to precipitation.  In no time, the wet rain drops turned to sleet–no grauple.  It poured grauple and the yard turned white with green.  I could not resist coining the term that had been whispered from the weather people as the “Snow’Easter” hit.  And I grabbed my phone to record. . .

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Spring must be close; look what I found

Living in the Midwest, and truly the Midwest as we are central Missouri, one starts looking for signs of Spring.  Now the sun is out today, but there is still a bite to the air.   Most of us would say that it is very typically a March day.  That does not change the fact that we are yearning to feel the warm sunshine and the summer breezes that mark the end of the winter.

Therefore, when I walked into our local grocery store and spotted these:

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new red potatoes and fresh green beans.  I knew what supper was going to be.  The freshness of these veggies just jumped out at me.  Often finding truly fresh veggies, here in the Midwest, prior to growing season is extraordinarily difficult.

Many compliments to our local grocers at BiLo, the Country Mart, because the Tuesday morning produce typically are delightful.  I hold off whenever I can to get there on Tuesday morning because they explained that is the day they have completed the restocking with fresh produce.  I appreciate that they let me know this piece of information because it is worth it to see such a display.

Therefore, this mini-post is a thank you to BiLo, but also to share my excitement that winter is coming to a close and there is evidence that summer is close at hands.  Just seven more days until Spring is formally here, and what a joy that is.

And just in case you are curious, the red potatoes and green beans are on the burner with a slice of onion, a tablespoon of bacon grease, pepper and salt.  This house is already smelling yummy, esp. since I put in an arm roast, too, that was a manager special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Icy morning thoughts on the Tree of Life

IMG_2086Since we had to cancel church due to the thin, but dangerous ice coating, I am thinking about my message concerning the Tree of Life.  The more I read and study scripture, the more I realize the significance of the symbolism.

Today, we are confined due to the ice, but that does not confine our hearts and minds.  The Tree of Life symbolizes two concepts:  The Church that continues to carry Jesus’ teachings on through time and eternal life.

The Church is not the denomination, The Church is the work of the faithful who see all the ways to love one another.  We were watching the news and caught an add from Massachuettes Mutual Insurance.  The entire ad clearly documented all the good that is done all around this country when one loves one another.  It was so impressive.

Sadly, the message had to be funded by a corporation, but the message is worth every penny spent in making and airing it.  Thank you to Mass Mutual for doing so.  We need a reminder of all the good that does exist in our world.

In the stained glass window now installed at Leawood, KS’s Church of the Resurrection, the Tree of Life is surrounded by all the saints that continued carrying Jesus’ message of loving one another throughout history.  The Church is alive and it is something that we are quick to forget or to overlook.

The Tree of Life also has a second symbolic message–eternal life.  This is a sticky subject for many, but as I step outside into the natural world of the ice covered yard, the birds singing, the sun trying to peak out, and the breeze (even when it is only 16 degrees), I am renewed with the knowledge that even in the depth of winter, new life does exist.

Eternal life is no mystery for me.  Eternal life is a life cycle.  There is birth, earthly existence, death and then eternity.  I cannot look up to the night sky and see all the possibility of life beyond my human understanding.  I cannot accept that when this human form dies, the spirit dies.  I believe.

The Tree of Life stands firm in my life.  I look at the Celtic images and see the unending knot woven into their designs and I feel a sense of peace.  I study the Celtic Tree of Life and understand how complex and promising the life cycle that it represents.  And I thank God for getting to live this life and for the promise that remains.

Lent begins this week and I find it difficult to see these next few weeks filled with depressive thoughts and sorrow.  I anticipate the renewal of life as winter ends and spring begins.  Still, I suppose, we all need time to reevaluate our lives and consciously reflect on how we have lived and how we can improve.  Therefore, I will work to prepare sermons based the Old Testament families who struggled to remain faithful and whose life experiences provide us today with lessons on remaining faithful to God and following Jesus’ teaching to love one another.

Winter has its grip on us today with the coating of ice, but the mind never has to be frozen.  Use today to add to your own understanding of God’s messages.  Look closely at the Tree of Life in all its visual representations shared on the web, and find hope.

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And He saw that it was very good: We are the caretakers

Scriptural base: Genesis 1:26-31

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings[b] in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,[c] and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings[d] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

Reflection

 

            Spring simply delights me. I love watching the trees begin to turn colors as the sap moves up the branches and the flowers pop up above the dried leaves that have blanketed them all winter long. The birds are singing even before the sun is visible above the horizon. How can anyone not praise God for such glories!

Then I see something that literally tears at my heart. Over the winter, the preventive work along the roads became evident. The methods of trimming back the branches and young trees shred and mutilate the trees. They look like arms ripped off, twisted, peeled, and scarred. The pain I feel is as horrible as seeing a child crying in pain as the cuts are cleaned and bandaged up. But, the trees have no one cleaning and bandaging them.   

Reading through the first story of creation in Genesis, the images leave plenty for one’s imagination to picture the earth God created.   And as he looked over all that he had done, he knew that this earth needed caretakers. The question for us today is, “Are we caretakers of this earth?”

United Methodists have long supported the role of caretaker. The social principles are carefully outlined and reviewed every four years. The principles for the natural world begin with this statement:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. [Accessed on April 18, 2015 at www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-natural-world]

The full natural world principle includes eight categories:

  1. Water, air, soil, minerals, plants
  2. Energy resources utilization
  3. Animal life
  4. Global Climate Stewardship
  5. Space
  6. Science and technology
  7. Food safety
  8. Food justice

The list covers much more than what comes to mind when thinking about this week’s focus of Earth Day and Arbor Day. In fact, the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth,” does not include all of those categories, but it does tell us that we have a gorgeous world that we praise and therefore are responsible for its care.

Of course being raised on a farm, some may think that my reaction to the pruned trees is understandable, but the business of keeping the roads safe is another way to be a proper caretaker of God’s earth. I cannot agree, especially as I see other trimmed trees that are not shredded but are neatly trimmed and cleaned up.

Yes, this is personal. God placed us in the position of caretaker for this world and we must take charge. We need to do all that we can for our little corner of the world.   What do we do to care for this earth that we are so dependent upon for our own existence?

Today the hymns we sing are part of the praise we lift to God for providing us this world. The words outline so many delights in our natural world:

  • Hymn 145: “Morning Has Broken” — . . .like the first morning, . . . blackbird has spoken, . . . Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall on the first grass. . .
  • Hymn 92: “For the Beauty of the Earth” — . . . glory of the skies, . . . for the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light, . . joy of ear and eye. . .mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight . . .
  • Hymn 189: “Fairest Lord Jesus” — . . . Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, robed in the blooming . . Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host . . .

There are so many more hymns that add similar images to our vision of this glorious earth we were gifted and were assigned to be caretakers.

This week there are two days added to the calendar which focus on this responsibility. First there is Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22. Even though this is a recent addition to the calendar in our generations’ experience, the fact that it is now a widely proclaimed day to focus on the very same list of principles that have long been part of the United Methodists’ social principles.

Again, the question: Are we caretakers of this earth? Continuing through the introduction to the natural world listed in the UM Book of Discipline, there is more to the rationale of including the natural world in the social principles:

. . . Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. . . .

Daily decisions on how we farm, how we make consumer decisions, and how we even dispose of our trash all are wrapped up in the economic, political, social and technological decisions we make. Are we making decisions based on the role of caretaker or are our decisions made without any concern to how it affects this world in which we live.

As I read through the introduction, I find myself squirming. Right now I have a drawer full of outdated technology that I have no idea what I should do with in terms of recycling or repurposing or simply adding to the landfills. The daily decisions we make in our homes do not necessarily seem to reflect our caretaker role. Sometimes we just look at convenience.

What, then, are we to do? Being well-informed is one step, but then when you find a method that supports the caretaker role, try to use it; and maybe even step out of one’s comfort zone and become a public advocate for that method. The social principle introduction for the natural world adds to this:

Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.

This Sunday morning, we begin with praise. We acknowledge all the glory God provided us in the creation of this world. Then we pay attention to all that we do to fulfill the position of caretaker. Maybe we take Friday, April 24, and plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day. Maybe we go out and find a recycling facility that will work to take our plastics, glass and paper. These are the personal steps we can take to be caretakers in our own little corner of the world.

What can the church do? That may be a tougher question, but the first thought that pops into my thoughts is to become a recycling center. Maybe it means considering our heating and cooling practices, or do we share information around the neighborhood. It is not an easy question to ask and even a harder problem to find an appropriate way to become active caretakers. The challenge begins with making a commitment to support the social principles of our church, then make a plan to move into action, and finally, do it. We can be caretakers. We can be leaders in our community. We can demonstrate simple steps that can make a huge difference right here in our own community.

Closing prayer

Dear Gracious Father,

We sing our praises for the glories you created.

We open our eyes and see beauty around us.

We listen to the music of nature as birds sing.

We breathe in the aroma of rain, sun, and blooms.

We feel warmth in the sun and the brush of a breeze.

Thank you for sharing all these wonders.

As spring continues to refresh our world,

Guide us in our responsibility as caretakers.

Guide us in finding ways to do all we can.

Guide us to care for our space and for all spaces we can.

May we be the caretakers your designed us to be.

May we lead others, too, in taking care of the earth.

May we demonstrate how to love you by loving the earth. –Amen

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Snow Days continue

The snow started here in Warrensburg at 6:15 am.  The radar keeps showing the snow creeping more and more north.

I have to admit that I feel like a kid.  I came home yesterday thinking it was worse to risk driving on ice than going out and restocking the shelves when I could easily manage until Wednesday or Thursday.  Then the forecast said we could be days in our homes.

Therefore, this morning I got up and watched the early morning news, looked outside and decided there was nothing else to do but get outside and run to the store.  As I left, just a thorough dusting, as I returned an hour later almost an inch.  And the snow continues.

I guess it was a bit silly, but I had so much fun being out in it.  The snow is pretty.  The wind is ominous.  The snow it coating everything–including those mounds of greying snow from about 10 days ago.

So here is snow day #7 in my teaching world, but my home world is delightful.  I doubt that any groundhogs will even try to get out tomorrow.  We are still deep in winter, and we may long for spring sunshine–but don’t forget to see the beauty of the day, the snow day.

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Enough is enough!

Recently the news surfaced in our community that someone had killed three deer:  a buck, a doe, and a fawn.  This is at least two months after deer season and was just simply unnecessary.

As if that was not enough, someone took one of them and left it on top of a college student’s truck hood.

Enough is enough!

The shooter needs to be found and held accountable for this horrible crime.  Those of us who live in this community around Pertle Springs, university property with spring-fed lakes and woodland, revel in the surroundings.

The loss of the deer is enough of a problem, but that is just part of the crime–out of season hunting, firing a gun inside city limits, vandalism, misuse of game, firearm on university property, maybe even night-time hunting.

Enough is enough!

Since the news broke of this senseless killing, the deer have been frightened.  I thrill seeing the deer as I drive to and from work.  Now, I have not seen any even though their hoof prints are scattered over the recent snow.

Enough is enough!

Justice is needed, but also anyone who knows of this horrible behavior needs to tell the officials.  Our community needs to know that we are safe, including the animals inside the city’s limits.

Enough…

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New Beginnings: God’s Natural World

given on October 19, 2008

How many of you noticed the moon this week? Since I was thinking about the possibility of having a new grandbaby during a full moon, I was watching the moon this week.  Well, still no grandbaby, but I have really enjoyed looking at the moon.  In fact, the last couple of days I began the morning drive to work with the setting moon on one side of the car and the rising sun on the other side.  I was encased between the images of night and day, darkness and light.
Sometimes this world we live in is just so absolutely gorgeous that is literally can take one’s breath away.  One morning, I suddenly realized that a young deer was running and jumping right beside the car as I drove down High Drive.  A little later, I felt something to my right, and there was another deer standing by the side of the road waiting for me to pass—not me waiting for it to pass.
Another glorious site is the sun as it shines through the leaves of the hard maples right now.  The sugar in those leaves turns almost neon, glowing orange with tones of yellow and red.  The colors contrast vividly against the almost black of the branches still holding onto the leaves leaves.  Then add to that picture the rays of sunshine, especially when the sun just begins to set in the west, backlighting those leave and branches.  Breath taking!
Can you stop and think what God sees on days like this?  As I have challenged you over the past few weeks, look at this world through God’s eyes.  Is God pleased with his creation today just as much as he was pleased when he created this earth?  I know when I see the glories of nature around me, I am pleased and I can understand God’s extreme pride.  But then I see a scar in nature.  I see asphalt poured out on a patch of land that is not part of the roadway.  I see trash thrown out on the side of the road or an old dump in a ditch out in the country.  I see a new development built only after all the trees have been bulldozed down and burned.
These are all reasons for me to stop and review just what my Christian responsibility is.  What better time than the gorgeous autumn days to stop and review the social principles that our denomination has outlined for us.  Listen to the words of the preface concerning social principles:
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice.  Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles.  Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.  . . .   The social principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions.  They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirits; however, they are not church law.
Again, this is not church law, rather the social principles are guidelines, philosophies, or, as they refer to them, positions on controversial issues.   We may not always agree with them, but I remind you:  look at these principles through God’s eyes.
As we learned in Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth.  The words are familiar, probably so familiar that we do not really think about what God saw when he finished his creation.  Out of nothing, he shaped the earth, the flora and the fauna that fills the earth.  What a task this creation was!  Just like we take the story of creation for granted, so do we take the creation, the natural world, itself for granted.
The first social principle tells us “[that] all creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it.”  A statement like that really lays out the church’s expectations for each one of us.  All creation includes “water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space.”  We are expected to use these resources carefully.  We are not to abuse any of these resources.  We are to be conservative in our use of the resources.
Looking at each of these elements of our natural world through God’s eyes really shows us how we continue to fail in this responsibility.  The General Conference, which reviews these social principles, literally outlines each category along with the guidelines United Methodists are encouraged to follow.  When I read through them, I find myself evaluating how I am managing.  I fear I am falling way short of God’s expectations.
For instance, consider the category of “water, air, soil, minerals, plants.”  I am trying to recycle now, but not 100%.  I do my best to recycle plastic bottles, but I still miss some when I accidentally throw an empty pill bottle into the kitchen trash or I hesitate to put in a chemical’s plastic bottle into the recycling bin.  I sometimes I feel like I really do not understand what plastic products really are safe to recycle. I guess I need to educate myself more adequately.
I am sure you are getting the idea of how difficult it is to be socially responsible.  I may see the problems, I may make an effort to tackle them, but I find that I cannot recycle all those plastics alone.  I need to make it a team effort at home, at school, and even here at church.  I believe working as a team is almost as important as recycling itself, because God knows no one individual can tackle such a huge task.  We must work in community.
But our social responsibility goes much farther in the natural world.  There is “energy resources utilization.”  The principles state United Methodists need to work for “rational and restrained transformation of parts of the nonhuman world into energy [and[ support the conservation of energy and responsible development of all energy resources” especially renewable energy sources.
Whew!  This certainly is more than I can do all by myself.  What can I do?  What can any of us do?  The energy issue certainly has been one of the hot topics in our lives this year.  The demand for hybrid cars, the trading down from SUVs, the changing of light bulbs, and even turning down the heat’s thermostat or raising the air conditioner’s temperature a couple of degrees are evidence that we are tackling this issue.  Thank goodness God did create sunshine.  The use of the natural elements of sunshine and wind, even water in hydro-power surely demonstrates how we are working to preserve the natural resources while meeting the energy demands.
But, I am getting away from the social principles.  The natural world is fragile.  The social principles include statements on animal life, space, science and technology, as well as food safety.  In these statements, there are some rather interesting lines which really stand out:

  • Under animal life:  humane treatment of pets and other domestic animals, animals used in research, and the painless slaughtering of meat animals, fish, and foul.
  • Concerning space there is only one line:  “The universe, known and unknown, is the creation of God and is due the respect we are called to give the earth.”  (I guess this means no trash dumps in space.)
  • On science and technology:  “Science and technology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible.”  This seems to put to rest the debate between those who believe in creationism and those who believe in evolution.
  • Finally, food safety is outlined, not only concerning the handling in the stores, but in the biological development of the foods we eat, the processing and the packaging.  The social principle even adds:  “We call for clear labeling of all processed or altered foods, with premarket safety testing required.  We oppose weakening the standards for organic food.”

I may be a cradle Methodist, but after delving into the social principles as last published in 2004 (the 2008 edition has yet to be published), I realize how little I really know what my denomination represents.  My focus has been centered on God and his love.  Now it time for new beginnings, new understanding; maybe even new practices as we consider how well we demonstrate God’s love following  the social principles.
As we begin anew to look at who we are as United Methodists, we can take this opportunity to broaden our vision.  We need to ask if new beginnings can begin right now.  We need to know that new beginnings can be launched any time, not just during Advent or not just on New Year’s Day, and not just because the fiscal year ends or begins.  We are so fortunate that we can turn to God and say we are sorry and we want to do better.
Let’s end with the United Methodist social creed first published in 1908.  This document concludes the social principles in the Book of Discipline and on the UMC website.  These words remind us what we believe and how that meets God’s expectations when he said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28, NIV)
Join me in the current social creed;
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for creating this earth filled with glorious sites, spectacular views, breathtaking beauty, sweet aromas, and musical sounds.  We ask your guidance as we take responsibility in caring for this earth.  We want to do more, but we know our best efforts join the best of others as we learn to look at this earth through your eyes.                –Amen

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