Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Art in the Family

Hi everyone. I'm breaking my blog silence (ever so briefly) to invite you to check out Doug's new craft. It seems that he just couldn't put the hammer and nail down after our house was finished. He found himself creating art with function in our little corner of the world. Check it out!

And if I could add another shameless family plug, look here for the boys' newly displayed art around our home. Fun! Fun!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Earlier this week I felt like a collage. A collage of pasta, milk jug tops, cut up construction paper, and pipe cleaners. (Can you tell I have toddler art on the brain?)

A collage of to-do lists, of reflecting, of a feeling of something unsettling. I couldn't put my finger on how I was feeling, much less figure out what was causing it. So, I just felt like a messy collage walking around in this Mommy body.

Rather suddenly, a light has turned on in my mind and heart. As I've been able to see through the fog, I now want to purge a few areas of my life. This Mommy collage is too cluttered... so like an early spring cleaning (what's that?), I'm throwing out some extras that are clouding my view of and connections in this world.

One flipping of the switch was this post... one blogger's exit from the blogosphere and why. Thanks to Sara for the recommendation. By the way, I didn't love everything she said, her last sentence was particularly annoying, just to get my 2 cents in. However, I recommend that you read it... not that I'm trying to get everyone to quit... but just to listen to her challenging words. I most appreciated what she said about looking your kids in the eye when they "interrupt" you while you're online, her tendency to get bogged down by the good stuff, how less is better, and how she found herself googling instead of praying. I would add to that notion that a huge added bonus to less internet for me is to start using my thoughts and questions as excuses to move closer in relationship with a person whom I know happens to be an expert on the subject.

While talking to Doug about this last night, we discussed how we've forgotten how to really wait. We're in a culture where everything arrives on a silver platter (or whatever kind of platter that you so desire) in 2 hours or less. For me, I think living part of my life in the internet world has fed this impatient tendency in me. It used to be that a letter was written, the recipient received it months later, and so on. I'm not one to think all was better in the "good ole days," but I do think I can learn something here. I have gotten so used to quick responses and quick information-finding, to my detriment.

And I even find myself sharing about my blogging conversations with my flesh-and-blood friends... like they really care, you know?

Now that the light is on, I'm more aware of how often I tend to check for comments- both on my blogs and others I read, how often I find myself making an observation/having an insightful thought and then first crafting the next post in my mind instead of praying/sharing with a friend/further personal reflection, or actually putting the idea into practice. I've just gotten all out of wack. (I guess I simply need some more wack in my life!)

Like the above blogger shared, there is a wealth of wonderful information online, but I'm at the point where it feels more paralyzing then helpful. I don't need more information, I need more time to chew on and live out the information already in my head.

I'm ready to spend less time staring at a computer screen and more time cuddling up next to my husband with my knitting needles, a good book (what's that?) or magazine, or a good conversation. Sitting on my couch last night, I stared awhile at the pleasant view that is our den. I enjoyed the family pictures, the kids' books, Doug's newly made coat racks, and especially Justin's and Nathan's newly hung art work. (I was going to do a post on that one too, but you'll just have to ask me more about that in person if that interests you!) I look forward to enjoying the view under this roof even more.

A dear friend recently made this decision. It's funny, at the time, I thought I was nowhere near leaving. I had all kinds of ideas of new posts, of even adding labels to past posts, etc. She shared of feeling "lighter," and honestly, inwardly I thought, "that's nice." But now that I'm at this place, I could use that same word to describe the glimpse of what I'm seeing in my future as well. That sentence probably sounded hokey- allow me to clarify. I'm catching a vision for how my life could look different than it does currently and I really really like it. It includes a less racey mind, a more patient heart, diving into some hobbies that have gotten pushed away, and generally living in a more restful, more present way.

Is this it, forever?? I'm not ready to make that kind of decision. For now, I'm simply going to make myself stay away for a month or so and then reevaluate. I trust that the Lord will give me wisdom at that point whether to return with more boundaries or to stay away longer, or forever. What I'll miss the most is connecting with my friends who live far away, especially those overseas. I just might have to keep checking in with you all from time to time. But I find some immediate comfort knowing most of you are coming home "soon" anyway!

Thanks for enjoying this part of my life with me... and thanks for sharing your's with me as well! Blessings to all of you!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Chocolate Giveaway

Need I say more?

Toddler Art

Hi friends, I don't have it in me for a regular post today, but wanted to at least mention something for your interest. Have you checked out Jean's blog Artful Parent yet? Now would be a great time! She's hosting a book giveaway about toddlers and art, written by her favorite author on the subject.

I really enjoy Jean's blog. Recent topics I've particularly enjoyed are When Will My Child Begin to Draw Realistic Images?, Jean's Top 10 Art Materials for Toddlers, Fine Art for Kids' Rooms?, and of course all the posts that feature pictures or art of my boys.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Gospel and the Environment, Part II

Having offered a brief critique of aspects of the green movement, I want to be clear that I am not chastising the entire movement. Rather, I have been chastised by it! These 2 posts are an attempt for me to communicate, and as a verbal processer, even better understand my own thinking on this journey from apathetic exploiter to steward.

I have not been moved by a simple desire to conform to the current culture, nor by the discovery of an 11th commandment, but by a deep conviction that the good-news that Jesus proclaimed offers real hope, even a better hope (than a simply pragmatic "let's do it because it's better for us in the long term" approach) to our relationship with the physical world.

This conviction starts with the reality that the ecological crisis we face today (even apart from global climate change) results almost exclusively from human ignorance and greedy exploitation. It is clear that our minds and ultimately our hearts have been the problem. In Pollution and the Death of Man, Francis Schaeffer succinctly states that in treating the land properly we have to make choices in 2 areas: time and money. I know that my heart is inclined to always try to do more in less time and with less money. Earth friendly practices usually require more than I am willing to give.

From a Biblical perspective, this directly results from The Fall and our broken relationship with our Creator. He created us and tasked us with the stewardship of the physical world. When Adam and Eve disobeyed the one command God had given them, they not only experienced brokenness in their relationship with their Maker, but also in every relationship, including their relationship to the physical world. Whether you take Genesis 1- 3 to be historical narrative or not, the themes conveyed are clear: We were made to walk in perfect communion with God, one another and the created world. Our self-centered disobedience broke that communion.

The good-news of Jesus is that he is restoring the relationships that have been broken by the fall. By dealing directly with the effects of our self-centered disobedience, he restores us to a right relationship with our Creator. In doing that, he unites all his followers into one body and brings them into right relationships...loving and truthful relationships with one other. And what has the most bearing in this discussion is that once we've been brought into a right relationship with our Creator, we can be in right relationship to the physical world that he made.

Again, Schaeffer is helpful here when he describes that people in proper relationship to their Creator have ceased trying to exalt themselves over the creation. From a Biblical perspective, we are unlike the rest of creation in that we alone, of all the creatures, have been made in God's image and are thus able to relate to Him in a personal way. But from that same Biblical perspective, we are also like the rest of creation in that we too are created and are not God. This has helped me think about my connection to the trees and the birds in our yard. They are in one sense my brothers and sisters, for like them, I have been created.

But I am not simply a part of the creation. I am also created in God's image. That is why dominion and stewardship are given to us. We can have a relationship with our Creator, and as we know Him, we can properly exercise stewardship and dominion over His creation. Lynn White, in the article i referenced in the last post, justifiably points out that the Church historically has not exercised proper stewardship, but has tended to exploit (a self-centered dominion) the physical world. Unfortunately, we as followers of Christ do not always properly know our God or His call on our lives.

This was my story for the first 13 years of my life as a Christian. I was ignorant of the negative influence my decissions had upon the environment around me. I viewed calls to eco-conscious living with suspicion and even contempt, erroneously thinking that it was just an agenda to get Democrats elected or a "misplaced" desire to save the world. (I have since stopped listening to the Republican pundits and paying more attention to the value in both parties.) Those were my surface reasons. But underneath, I just didn't want to take the time or spend the money. Part of me still doesn't. Life seems easier if we just do what is convenient. Only in the last couple years, as i've interacted more with the green movement, have I begun to realize that the environment is something that I should care about because I care about the Creator.

It's crystal clear now. I mentioned at the top of this post that my desire to live a more environmentally friendly life doesn't come from a new 11th commandment. It actually comes from the one about loving God. John Stott, in The Care of Creation, says "God intends...our care of the creation to reflect our love for the Creator." This is what i mean by having a transcendent ethic for green living. Pragmatism eventually breaks down because we need a reason bigger than ourselves to live for something besides ourselves. Being rightly related to the Creator, and caring for the physical world as His creation provides the "meaningful underpinning" Missy referred to in a recent comment. All created things have intrinsic value because God made them. So now, myself and my family are taking small steps.

We are beginning to made decisions that we think would honor the Creator. We recycle more consistently, not primarily to preserve the earth for ourselves or our grandchildren, but because we live before the Creator who calls us to honor him by caring for His creation. We are planting a vegetable garden this summer. I want to grow and care for these vegetables in eco-friendly ways in part because I think that is better for my family, but largely because that garden belongs to God, not me.

Think of it like this. If a good friend of yours asks you to house-sit their mansion on the hill, would you finger paint the walls, dump your trash in their dining room, shit in the bathtub, and burn their couches in the fireplace because they produce a nice green flame? If you didn't like the person, you probably would. If you didn't really know the person, you might. But because you love the person and know they love you, you wouldn't dream of it. God has called us to "house-sit" his creation. And since Christ has restored us to a right relationship with him, one where we love Him because He first loved us, we want to care well for his creation.

That is the hope that I believe the gospel uniquely provides. It doesn't just give good reasons to take care of the creation. It doesn't tell me that it's better for me, or my children or my country. It doesn't tell me to do it so that God will love me. It tells me how to be forgiven and to experience the love God already has for me. It restores me to a relationship with my Creator and it's that relationship that changes my heart and motivates me to care for His creation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Brief Aside

Okay, so prompted by several comments, i wanted to mention an idea I've been chewing on. Like Amy and Missy, I've been more aware of the amount of waste we produce. We recycle, as do most folks on our street and that's wonderful. But everyone of us fills up the large city issue trash cans each week.

I think that if there were no landfill, and each person had to keep their garbage on their own property (much like it would've been in the not too distant past) we would all be a lot more sensitive about the waste we produce. But as it is now, I'm basically throwing my trash into someone else's backyard. Out of sight, out of mind.

Practically speaking, i think landfills are a necessity. I just don't see any practical way around them. But I think the city could do a better job of making us aware of the impact of our waste. They can't make me keep it in my back yard, but they can hit me in my wallet. We already pay a flat fee for trash removal. Why not charge us per pound of trash? The city already uses a mechanical arm to lift the trash into the truck. I don't think it would be too hard to add a mechanism to weigh the refuse and a computer to track the address.

Now, I'm generally not for motivating people in this manner. In fact it's a little self-centered and pragmatic. I would prefer that my heart be persuaded more by faith and conviction than by a little greed. But when we talk about instituting policies that govern a society, I'm all for a little prudent manipulation.

Think about it. If you new you could reduce your trash bill $10 a month by composting, recycling more and by buying products that used less packaging, wouldn't you?
I find it hard to believe that such a simple idea hasn't been proposed and even implemented in other communities. Please tell me if it has and how it has fared.

Still working on Part II

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Gospel and the Environment, Part I

My dear wife introduced me to you a few weeks ago. I've been hiding ever since and have finished this blog post after an appropriate bribe, and in a desire to prepare for a panel discussion I'll be participating in this coming Thursday.

Over the last 5 years, we've grown to appreciate the passions of our city and university. Some we do not want to share, but many are passions we are growing to appreciate and even embrace. One in particular is eco-conscious living. In the midst of a country that has gone green, it has been hard to not breathe in the purified air.

While we have been motivated largely by a growing conviction that we are stewards of the physical world, I have begun to ask 2 questions in particular about this green brigade we seem to be joining.

Are there assumptions and motivations that the popular eco-conscious movement is based upon that I as a follower of Christ cannot stand upon?

And secondly: Does the Gospel offer a better paradigm from which to address the brokenness of the physical world? This question has stemmed from a larger journey in which I've developed the conviction that the gospel offers real hope for all people, communities and systems that are marred by sin.

In this post, I want to address the first question and examine the assumptions and motivations under girding the popular green movement. I do so from a humble beginning though, acknowledging that I as a follower of Christ stand with sap on my hands. I, who believe that my Father in Heaven created the world and called us to steward it for His glory, have turned a deaf ear for too long to the cries of those who could see our physical world being exploited and neglected. I am thankful that the Lord has seen fit to rebuke me through a movement that doesn't necessarily believe in Him. I also need to state that i recognize that there is justifiable blame to lay at the feet of the Church over the last Milena for the current ecological crisis.
For more on this, read the article The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis by Lynn White.

I'm going to stay away from examining the reality of the crisis. There is still much debate about the degree to which humans are creating global climate change. It's a healthy debate that I am keenly interested in. But it has no bearing on this discussion for there are many ecological "crises" that exist independently of global climate change and therefore deserve our attention.

First, i am wary of the way in which eco-consciousness has become a form of Self-Righteousness. I've heard of too many conversations about green-living devolve into comparisons aimed at proving one's merit. "How often did you ride your bike to work this month?" "I even rinsed off the aluminum foil and recycled it." And then there is the Ford Escape commercial where the girl is ashamed to go to a party with her dad and his gas guzzling SUV. But's's a hybrid. Now this peer-conscious-teen feels okay about being seen in her dad's car. Commercials are certainly not the definitive word on our motivations, but ad agencies aren't paid to be idiots...they know what people want. We want to be seen as eco-conscious. It's become the way to sell groceries, clothes, cars and homes. I'm not faulting the green practices of the product makers, but rather this appeal to a desire that "My ass be always greener than the other guy's."

Lord knows that we, His followers don't need to add another form of self-righteousness to our significant collection.

Now, I want to take a moment to mention carbon offset companies such as TerraPass. The general idea is that this company helps you calculate your carbon footprint and balance it out through the purchase of verified carbon offsets (which is basically money that funds carbon reduction research). Intriguing idea, and I'm glad the money goes to research. But think with me about this for a minute. When I decide that I can't (or don't want to) reduce my carbon footprint any further, I buy a terra pass carbon offset so that I can fund efforts to reduce carbon emissions. I allow myself to indulge in my current lifestyle by giving money to this program. Does that sound like modern day Indulgences to anyone else? Am I being a tad harsh? Some people will not use the carbon offset programs in that manner. But many will b/c it's easier to throw money at this than change one's lifestyle. Unless you're poor. What if you don't have the money to buy a carbon offset? In many ways this sounds like a means to easing the conscience of wealthier Americans who are greener in theory than in practice.

I am not doggin' the idea of funding research. But I'm struck by the more subtle reality that this is a conscience-easing-tonic for many who are choosing to not reduce their carbon footprint further. This observation has caused me to turn the same eye to my heart and examine where I've substituted trade-offs for true obedience and creation care.

Finally, I want to speak briefly to the fundamental ethic behind much of the environmental movement today. "Why should we take care of the planet?" What response would you give? What response do you most frequently hear? The most common answer I hear is that one enjoys the world and wants to preserve it for that enjoyment, or that one wants to preserve it for another's enjoyment (usually their children's children).

I'm not a philosopher, but it seems to me that this ethic is a self-centered utilitarianism. Do I hear a "so what?" out there. Well, I hear one from myself. However, I am becoming convinced though that the problem is with the lack of real transcendence. I believe that for an ethic to remain, it must transcend human rooted to something outside of ourselves. What happens if what I enjoy becomes a real problem for someone else? What if I can preserve what I and later generations would enjoy while still exploiting other parts of the created order? What would make that wrong?

Many recognize the weakness of this foundation and so argue for a combined effort between science and religion to combat global climate change. While I do not agree with the content of his argument, E.O. Wilson illustrates this approach in his book, The Creation - An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. One long-standing synthesis of these 2 is a pantheistic approach to environmental care...a belief that all things are sacred because god, or the universal spirit is in all things. While this view does provide a transcendent ethic, it is not compatible with Jesus' teaching about the nature of God and the physical world.

So, as a follower of Christ, i am learning from those of various ideologies who have blazed the trail before me, but i do so with a self-examining eye. I want to take real responsibility as a steward and walk humbly before my Creator, not in self-righteousness and not simply for how it benefits me. My next post will look more at the hope that the gospel offers for a physical world marred by sin.