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Posts Tagged ‘Celebrating creation’

Have you ever sung to a seal?

My first experience of seal-singing was on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, on the north-east coast of England.

After having been recommended the practice by a friend who lived on the island, I embraced the idea with only some trepidation. I’m not a good singer. I was feeling for the seals.

First we had to find some seals.

After making our way over to the north side of the island, and picking our way along the shore, we were delighted to come across several seals who were lounging-around on the rocks.

This was the first time we’d seen seals since our arrival in the UK. And it was pretty exciting. The only thing was that they were quite a distance away.

In addition, they were very content in staying put. They were sun baking – and sun doesn’t appear much in the north of England (so says an Aussie). If I were a seal, I would have been making the most of any opportunity as well. As we waited around to see if they’d had their fill of sunshine, we became slowly entranced by their lying around. They just lay there. Flapped a flipper around here and there. The odd seal-grunt of satisfaction. It was all simply indulgent. So simple. It sank into me – and infused throughout me – they were thoroughly enjoying just being. Questions rang in the back of my mind: when did I last do that? And, why don’t I do it more often?

Still, I had an objective. A task was before me. After having made this great discovery, I was a little disappointed that they were a bit too far away for singing. And, while there were no other people around, an untrained, warbally, loud singing voice would be the very thing to make concerned holiday-makers come running in case I was raising an alarm. So we took photos and enjoyed the spectacle, without the additional human company.

Choosing to meander further along the shore, it wasn’t too much later that we found another, smaller group of seals, who were also making the most of the sun. Except this time, they were closer in.

…Here goes. My music-aficionado partner shook his head in disbelief.

The thing is, they noticed. One, younger, more inquisitive seal was so impressed that he slid of the rock for a closer look at this singing being.

From then on we were dancing in a relationship of curiosity. Me, fascinated by the effect of my voice on the seals, and the seals, especially the young one, entranced by my voice.

I have no idea why some seals are drawn to humans singing. But they are. And from then on, whenever we toured the coasts of Scotland, my eyes were peeled for more opportunities.

There was one other time when we had a singing-seal encounter.

It was on the south-east coast of Harris, part of the distant island of Scotland which is known as the Outer Hebrides.

We were driving the coast road and my eyes scanned the countless grey rocks (of which every second looked like a grey seal), that spanned the coves. There! That’s not a rock. That there is a seal! We jumped out of the warm car and quickly rugged up in several extra layers, and then made our way to the embankment that overlooked the little beach.

This time a little group were lying around on a bed of seaweed. And this time, when I plucked up the early notes, two smaller seals slid into the water to come a little nearer.

As I searched my mind for songs or snippets of songs that I knew the words to, I was again struck by the beauty of the interaction.

Here I was, offering something to a seal (poor as the tune might be). And it was fascinated by me.

It somehow brought me onto a different level.  The worries – about where we would stay that night, what we would eat for lunch, and whether we’d get to see the highlights of the island in our short visit – all vanished and it was just us and the seals, enjoying a moment. Being together. Us, them, the ocean and the sky.

Whenever I reflect on my seal-singing experiences I am filled with wonder and gratitude. And thankfulness to the woman who shared her own joy of it. Now that we’re back in Australia, I wonder whether our southern-hemisphere seals like human tunes as well. And I wonder whether I’ll ever again share such a special moment with these friendly ocean creatures.

Having said all that, I hope that this story has also conveyed the humour and joy of the Creator. Who thinks of such lovely, life-giving details as curious and time-indulgent seals.

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What can a puppet teach us? What story can a puppet tell that leaves us inspired? You’ve got an opportunity to find out…

The Man Who Planted Trees is coming to Australia:

Melbourne Arts Centre: 20th and 21st November.

Sydney Opera House: 23rd November to 5th December.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a performance of beauty, telling a story of a humble old shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, who, accompanied by his dog, wants to bring trees back to the desolate valley which is his home.

The Puppet State Theater Company brings this classic French story by Jean Giono to life.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a story of hope and inspiration…  Of how normal and rather plain people can do extra ordinary things in normal and rather plain ways. It is simply beautiful and something that greenFish personally recommends.

The story is played out using a delightful combination of puppets and actors. The Puppet State Theater Company has a great knack of keeping both children and adults captivated.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a favorite at the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival.

“An unforgettable story that shows us the difference one man (and his dog!) can make to the world.”

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We need creation. So argues Russell D. Moore in an article about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

We need it, because it provides us with everything practical for us to survive. We need warmth and light from the sun, oxygen and sustenance from plants, and mud, clay and trees to shelter us.

We need it because we’re made of it: “….we’re made of Spirit-enlivened mud.” We are not disembodied beings.

More than that, Moore explains that God has hard-wired us to see God’s hand in creation (Romans 1:18-21).

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (verse 20)

This is not Moore saying that God is creation. Rather, creation is God’s masterpiece – here for us to marvel at and to be thankful to the Creator for its mysterious and magnificent design, and for the way it provides for our physical needs.

What does it mean for me? I can’t help but think of Banjo Patterson’s poem “Clancy of the Overflow”, of the wistfulness expressed about wanting to be outdoors. He writes of Clancy:

"And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
  And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars."

This attitude is shared by others. In a 2008 study of church-going Protestants in Scotland, 82.7% said that they found “being outdoors and appreciating the beauty of nature” was influential in shaping their attitudes towards the environment.

Being earthly beings ourselves, and seeing the wonderful creation God has made (and continually sustains) around us, is it any wonder that we love being outdoors?

As image-bearers of God and co-heirs with Christ, creation is also ours – and we need it to flourish ourselves. Yet Moore reminds us that our dominion of creation should be characterised by humble service. He writes, “….this isn’t a pharaoh-like dominion; it’s a Christ-like dominion.”

What does this mean for Christians – conservative and liberal alike? It means dominion over creation both when we use it and when we conserve it for future generations.

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Many Christians in the US are thinking again about their attitude towards the environment. They’re part of a broader shift in the US towards a pro-environmental stance after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

So says a Christianity Today editorial.

The Gulf oil spill has washed into the homes of Christians around America, because of the intensity of media attention given to the disaster.

This editorial argues that “[t]he Bible is replete with the idea that all creation—everything from rocks and trees to badgers and eagles—is to witness to divine grace…”

Yet, how can a sea choked with oil foster life which gives glory to God?

The article argues that this sea is swimming in its own ocean of human greed.

Southern Baptist theologian Russell Moor asks, how can we say we love and worship the Giver of Life if we don’t care about this disaster which has killed and destroyed?

The article concludes,

“The church—created to glorify God—can no longer pretend that creation care is an issue just for ‘sea huggers.’ We are the sea huggers. We must change our talk to embrace creation care, and eagerly walk that talk.”

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hippo_hiding

When we think of “Hippo” and “Christianity”, what comes to mind?

One answer might be that Augustine (354-430) was Bishop of a place called Hippo (from 395-430).

Another might be that God loves hippos.

Hard to believe? They are very bad tempered, not very cuddly or good looking and in the eyes of most humans they are not very useful either.

Yet, God really does love hippos, and greenFish has adapted the work of Calvin DeWitt to show young people why (See: God loves hippos).

About hippos God said things like…

….what power in the muscles of his belly!”

And

“…it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.”

Even though this resource focuses on hippos as an example (and what a great example!) greenFish put together this resource explain God’s love for, and celebration of, all creation.

It includes some fun activities in response to the material as well at 11 fascinating facts about hippos.

For example, did you know that hippos produce their own sunscreen?

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A note:

This resource is based on God’s praise of the behemoth in Job (40:15-24) and is rephrased and adapted from the chapter “Can We Afford to Keep the Lord’s Behemoth? in Calvin DeWitts book “Caring for Creation” 1998, Baker Books.

greenFish used this as the basis for a presentation to students in grade 3 and 4 in a Catholic School in Melbourne – and they thought it was great. Bible references are for background reading, and not intended to be read out to the audience.

Please leave a comment below or email greenFish (see contact section) if you use this resource.

1) God made hippos in the same way, God made the rest of created things [Psalm 24:1]

Q What do you know about hippos?

!! 10 interesting facts about hippos: see below

!! Other interesting things about hippos – what else can you find out about hippos to share with your audience?

2) God loves and cares for hippos, even if they’re ugly or not useful to humans

In Job, God praises the unlovely and un-cuddled, not-very-cared-for creatures. God specifically talks about hippos. In the same way, God loves and upholds all created things [Colossians 1:15-20, Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31]

Q What animals do we find useful? (For example: chickens for their eggs, cows for their milk.)

Q What animals do we find easy to love and care for because they‘re cute or cuddly, or fun to play with? (For example: dogs and cats, koalas)

In Job God says, “Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox.”

God loves all creatures the same because He made them. Each is unique. God is proud of them all.

Each creature God made is like a musical instrument, the hippo could be the drum, and the honey-eater the flute. When each animal is doing being the best of that type it can be, it is praising God. Together, when each animal does its thing, it is like hearing a good piece of music, beautiful because of how all the instruments contribute into a beautiful harmony.

So, God loves all things, regardless of if they are “useful to God” or “useful” for humans [Genesis 9:9-17]

3) God celebrates hippos and delights in how it has been made, its features and characteristics like its strength and power

God says, What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly!

God says of the hippo: “His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit.”

This passage is saying: people may not want to admire the perfect design and wonder of the body parts of the hippo, but God, the Creator, is proud of these things He provides.

“Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron.”…This passage is saying: What a work of art, this beast has been made to be tough! Made with strong, powerful limbs to hold this massive creature up.

4) God reckons that this creature is pretty good

In Job it says that “It is the first of the great acts of God…” – that’s not to say that people aren’t important but God wants people to know and remember how important hippos are to God. God hopes we also think hippos are important.

So, God made and loves and celebrates hippos, even when they may not be “useful” to humans.

5) The text continues to say, “…only its Maker can approach it with the sword.”

Only God has the authority to kill this creature, even though God has no desire to do that! God doesn’t want us to wield or demonstrate our power over this animal by killing or harming it.

God loves all things, even though the world has been broken by sin.

Sin means that humans wield their power over other people and over creation.

Q What are some of the ways that human power can be damaging for the hippo?

6) God also wants people to celebrate and enjoy creation its not all about work [1 Kings 4:29-34, Psalm 104, Job 38-41]!!

The text says, “The hills bring him their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby.”

This creature is in its proper place/habitat, finding food from the local area and relating to all the other animals around.

Together in their habitat, their home, all these creatures bring praise to God by being the best creature they can be.

The text says: “Under the lotus plants it lies, in the covert [under the cover] of the reeds and in the marsh. The lotus trees cover it for shade; the willows of the wadi [stream] surround it. Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.”

It may not be a habitat suited to people but it is perfect for the hippo and the hippo feels right at home living there.

Even though the hippo is so big and majestic, it is so at home in his surroundings that it can be invisible under the leaves of the water. The hippo fits into its home, the place God made for it, very well!

This passage says that God enjoys/celebrates creation. So why shouldn’t we?

And Jesus wants us to enjoy and celebrate creation, just like He does.

Q How can or do we enjoy hippos? (One way we can enjoy hippos is we can learn about them and better appreciate/value them.)

7) The text continues, Can one take it [capture it] with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?”

This creature can’t be controlled or made to obey people, if we called out to it to come to us, it wouldn’t obey us. And even if we tried to capture and control it we would have a hard or impossible task.

8) This hippo is God’s creatures and praises God in its being.

Psalm 150 says: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”

God reckons this creature is good, and thinks the same about the whole of creation.

9) Humans are very special because we are created in the image of God, in Gods likeness [Genesis 1:27]

And, when we image God, when we try to be like God, when we copy God’s love for creation, that means these creatures should be beautiful to us too.

Like God, we should want to care for hippos.

Because we were made to be like God, we have a responsibility to rule over and care for creation.

And, Jesus wants us to partner with Him and care for what he has created in the same way God care for us. When Jesus was in the world, he was a humble servant, not a power-wielding ruler. So we also are to love the world through humble service.

The service and sacrifice of Jesus provides a good standard/example for us to follow [Philippians 2:7].

Through our actions, we can try to be like God – through our actions and relationships with creation and with other humans.

God asks us to take care of creation in the same way God takes care of us [Genesis 2:15, Numbers 6:24, Psalm 121:7].

So, God wants us to partner with God and enjoy, and care for the hippo and all of creation, even when things may not be useful to us.

11 Fascinating Facts about Hippos

1. Their skin secretes a natural sunscreen substance which is red-colored.

2. Hippos can choose to give birth under the water. This makes them one of only a few mammels able to do so.

3. Hippos can’t breath under the water. Adults have to come to the surface every three to five minutes and the young hippos, every two to three. It is very natural for them and even when sleeping will rise to the surface to breath, without waking up!

4. Even though they’re so big, hippos can run faster than people on land. They may be able to run as fast as 30 to 50 kilometres per hour. Hippos are good ‘sprinters’, they can only run really fast for a few hundred meters.

5. The main food of the hippo is grass. At dusk hippos will leave the river and graze on grass, for four to five hours and up to eight kilometers away from the river. They can eat up to 68 kilograms of food a night.

6. Are hippos good looking?  Like other water-loving mammals, they have very little hair – they have some bristles around their mouth and on the tip of their tail. And, hippos have very thick skin, especially around their back and rump.

7. Hippos are one of the most aggressive creatures in the world, and are often seen as the most ferocious animal in Africa.

8. Their special gravity means that hippos can sink to the river floor and run along the bottom.

9. Hippopotamus comes from the Greek, “river horse” because they spend so much time in the river. But, the hippo has pigs as closer relations when compared with horses.

10. Of all the land mammels, only the white rhinoceros (1.5-3.5 tonnes) and the elephant (3-9 tonnes) are heavier than the hippo (1.5-3 tonnes). That is roughly the equivalent of one hippo to 26 people!

11. Hippos are between 2.8 and 4.8 meters long and the tallest are 1.66 meters tall. The height of the average woman in Australia is 1.64 meters: that’s 2 cm shorter than the height of a hippo (the average male is 1.78 meters tall).

There are lots of other things to learn about hippos – including the countries they live in, who their predators are (and why they are hunted), and why they get aggressive…why don’t you do more research yourself?

Interactive Activities:

With a tape measure, measure out the size of a hippo at the front of the class. A big hippo and a small hippo. (See fact # 11)

In holding their breath, have the children put a hand in the air and keep it in the air until they have to take a new breath…Even the person who holds their breath for the longest will struggle to match a hippos breath! …of course take note of health and safety guidlines and common sense. (See fact #3)

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