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Posts Tagged ‘God’

It is hard to not be effected by what has been happening in Japan over these last several days. Coupled with other recent events such as the cyclone and subsequent flooding in Queensland, Australia, and the ongoing political tension in Libya and the Middle East, it brings me down to earth about the hard reality of this world. In particular it makes me wonder about the future, the Kingdom of God, and what God has planned for the earth.

Searching for ideas about what to make of all this, I stumbled across a blog post by Daniel James Levy on the American Evangelical Environmental Network website.

Growing up he had a “view of the world which in turn will one day end in some kind of cataclysmic explosion, which of course included some kind of nuclear missiles, huge machine guns, and the death of trillions of people and animals. After this, God will one day blow up the entire cosmos, just as He spoke it into existence.”

Yet as a youth Levy explains that struggled to reconcile this picture of the future with the call for Christians to spread the Good News and make the world a better place.

Levy writes,

“I remember vividly leaving my youth group one Wednesday night when I was 15 years old, the youth pastor talked about trying to lead people to Christ, to make the world a better place, and so on, but it never made sense in my head. “Why if this world is getting dramatically worst day by day (as his theology taught) would I labor to bring a difference here and now, if it will ultimately do nothing”, I said to myself. So when Jesus said He feeds the birds of the air, I could never make sense to why He does. The only reason it could be, was of course, for me.”

Levy explains the journey he has been on to reconcile this tension.

Drawing on what Stassen and Gunshee in Kingdom Ethics call a covenantal perspective – where covenants such as God’s covenant with creation after the Flood, and the laws of the Israelites which included duties involving non-human creation – Levy explains that we are invited to participate with God in the care of creation.

He writes, we “…are supposed to be a reflection of His nature in the world, which includes His care for the creation.”

While I was hoping that Levy would fill out more what this means and involves (I suppose we have to read Kingdom Ethics for more) he finishes with a beautiful illustration from New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.

Wright describes that for a person moving into a foreign land it is best that they know the language of the locals before they arrive, rather than learning when they get there. That way, when they arrive, they feel at home and a sense of place. He then compares this to us in the here and now and the future Kingdom of God in its fullness.

I don’t know exactly what this means for Queensland and Japan, but it does give me a sense of purpose, something to set my mind to, in an orientation of hope and expectation. In the face of floods and cyclones, I can still all be learning a language of love.

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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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Check out this poem:

 

God Works in Cycles and Seasons:

“…He guides the days and the seasons;
He guides the birds through the air.
God works his gracious redemption”
We are but dimly aware.

God has his own eco-logic;
God has his own Kingdom plan.
God works in Trinity wisdom;
God holds the world in his hand.

Cycles of cloud and of water,
Cycles of wind and of rain,
Deep-moving flows of the ocean,
Circling, returning again”

Cycles of love and of spirit,
Cycles of seasons of grace,
Times of refreshing revival,
Gaining fresh light from his face.

God is the world’s great Composer,
Dramatist, Architect, King”
Rhythms of art; sounds melodic”
God gives us music to sing.

God simplifies deepest mysteries;
God complicates best-laid plans.
We walk in wonder before him,
Trusting our ways in his hands.

God in our own lives recycles”
Physically, through blood and cell;
Spiritually, through prayerful rhythms;
Stewardly, as we serve well.

We are a part of the story;
We have our key roles to play”
If we but follow the Master”
Spirit led, day after day.

We are God’s keepers of nature;
We are his stewards of grace.
We live the Spirit’s commission,
Stewarding both time and space.

God makes us all his recyclers”
This is no secular whim.
This is no plot of the devil”
God makes us stewards for him.

God is the Lord who recycles,
Bringing forth things old and new.
God even makes evil to serve him,
Turning the false to the true.

God is the perfect Recycler”
No wastage; nothing is lost”
Whether in storm, wind, or fire,
God wins the world through the cross.

“Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise him for his mighty deeds!
Praise him with loud clanging cymbals!
Praise him, all that lives and breathes!”

 

This poem is based on Psalm 150 and other Scriptures.  By H0ward A. Snyder, Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale University College and Seminary. See here for the full poem.

What do you think…? Do you agree that God works in Cycles and Seasons?

Poem posted on the Evangelical Environmental Network website.

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What does a green bag, a wheelie bin and mound of compost have to do with God?

What does my care of water have to do with my faith?

According to Margaret Feinberg and Wendell Berry (see here), quite a lot.

In More Than a Trend: Why Creation Care is Good for the Christian Soul Feinberg reflects on how caring for creation requires a change of heart in how we see ourselves and the surrounding world (and, I’d add, better understanding God’s love for all of creation).

Feinberg celebrates the learning we’ve all been doing about caring for the world, and for the changes that we’re making in our daily lives.

Yet she probes deeper into what drives our care (or lack of care).

She draws on Berry to highlight the way that we’ve put ourselves first, and that creation has suffered for it. This isn’t to say that we have to worship trees. Rather, Berry – and Feinberg – argue that caring for ourselves and the world can and should go hand in hand. They should compliment each other.

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What drives our environmentally friendliness?

Why do we care?

Why act?

Check out this mini-film, based on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.

Director Emily Manthei is a young Christian artist based in California. She’s passionate about

creating words, images, music and films to challenge and inspire the audience.”

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Yancey talks about the importance of living out faith in the real world in this interview with Roxanne Wieman from Relevant Magazine. The context is Yancey’s new book “What Good is God: In Search of a Faith that Matters.”

Yancey speaks on a personal level, saying that he came back to his faith because he saw people serving others humbly and sacrificially in the example of Jesus.

…the biggest encouragement to my faith is seeing it lived out in real life.”

While the article sheds light on what motivated and inspired Yancey in writing this new book, giving us a glimpse of the wisdom in the pages, I was drawn to the last of Wieman’s questions:

“In the book you say that the story of Christianity is Creation. Fall. Redemption. In light of the tragedies everyone faces – the fallen, broken parts of this world – it begs the question: If the fall is inevitable, what’s the point of Creation at all?”

What’s the point of Creation at all?”

I wonder whether the answer to this question is a central issue that can make the difference between Christians caring for creation or alternatively being apathetic or uncaring (and everything in between and around these two extremes)?

While Wieman’s question seemed to be broader than creation care, I wonder whether it includes it nevertheless.

Yancey’s response is one filled with hope and trust – in God – and in people. He explains:”…God judged all of history, including the tragedies, including the rebellions, including the crucifixion of His own son, and judged it as worth it.”

Sounds pretty inspiring to me. In fact, how do we get our heads around that idea? God really reckons that it’s worth it?

And where do we humans come in? Yancey reckons:

…God seems to take pleasure not in doing it Himself, but in turning it over to the rest of us to see what we can do.”

Wow. That’s pretty big stuff. Who would have thought that God would have so much faith in us? While at the same time that God know’s we’re going to make mistakes and contribute to the wretched brokenness of the world,  God also invites us to participate in His grand plan of redemption.

Yancey explains that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to “..take the results of fallenness – the brokenness, the poverty, the pain [and I’d add: environmental degradation] – and demonstrate what God plans to do about those on a cosmic scale someday.”

Can we believe this is true? Can we transform our belief into action? And if so – what does or could that look like? How can we live out such hope in the face of the overwhelming or daunting science of climate change?

Source: Roxanne Wieman, “Philip Yancey Talks Doubt” Relevant Magazine, 11 October 2010.

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What is sin? Is it doing something naughty? Or, is it greater than that – is it anything that separates us from God?

If sin is an act of hurt, an attitude of selfishness, or a community of thoughtlessness, then sin is great indeed.

If that then, is the enormity of sin, how much greater must be the grace of God, to cover it all…

And all the wickedness in the world that man might work or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea”

– William Langland

Kim Cornford, in a recent talk, considers the nature of sin, the amazing grace of God, the gift of salvation, and what we can do in response to God. It is a thought-provoking story about her own journey in understanding climate change, as well as an insightful discussion on these Christian themes.

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