Tag Archives: creation

Bringing Good Things to Life

This weekend my husband and I went to Agway to pick out our seeds for our vegetable garden. And I have to say, I have never been a tomboy kind of girl, I like my Anthropologie perfume and my dangling earrings, and someone might ask me if I’m lost if I wandered around too long in a place that specializes in mulch and mowers. But I LOVE Agway. Because I love the idea of cultivating something small and good and bringing it to life.

I am a gardening novice. Last year was our first try. We planted the heirloom tomato seeds my sister gave me too late, and the frost came too soon for them to flourish. But our Italian green beans were the best I’ve ever had–with a little lemon juice, butter, and fresh-cracked pepper. And I can remember the grand entrance of green spouts in my kitchen window herbs last spring, and how it was like an adrenaline kick to the wintered-over heart.

So when you place a sunlight-starved girl in front of rows and rows of colorful seed packets all for $2 and under, how can she resist?

But I think, at its root, this is more than spring fever. And I don’t think its a stretch to say that its in human nature to want to cultivate, a legacy that traces back to Eden, the garden God lovingly created for His people in which to dwell, and which He charged them to care for. I love Wendell Berry’s connection between our food and theology that he writes in The Gift of Good Land,

“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.”

 

I believe there is a sacramental grace in the simple, sustainable, and made-from-scratch. There is frustration too. I don’t always look at my sink full of crusty dishes as a sacrament. I am disheartened to invest such care in seeds only to find them stillborn under the soil. And I am pretty sure I am cursed for life when it comes to homemade pizza dough. But in between, there are pockets of incredible grace. When I plant a seed, host a meal, share some bread, I feel that I am engaging in the work of creating and cultivating, and to me, this feels like a blessing. There’s still something in me that is thrilled to bring good things to life.

Where do you encounter sacramental grace in the everyday? How do you bring good things to life in small and daily ways?

P.S. I’m tinkering with my blog look…what do you think? I’m open to suggestions! 

In Which We Host a House Blessing

This weekend was it: after working on repairing and updating our 1940s Gingerbread House for a year, we threw a party.

Zach and I have been thinking about having a house blessing since last October, when it became apparent to us that we were not moving into a neutral neighborhood. The Halloween decor in our neighborhood was particularly dark. We live under the shadow of a historic mental institution just up the hill, and about half the people we know here have jobs working with people who have mental or psychiatric disorders. And historically, the area of Upstate New York where we live is know as “the burned over district,” a name given by an evangelist in the revival days, because the people here were so steeped in pagan spiritualism that they were not receptive to the gospel. Mormonism also has its roots here.

Moving here I have learned that the land carries a legacy. This isn’t about superstition or banishing out “negative energies” or living in fear of what haunts, and I absolutely do not believe that any space is bound to its legacy in an unchangeable way. It’s about consecrating our living space to God to allow Him to use it for His purposes.

So with friends and family in attendance, over a harvest meal with flavors of pumpkin and brown butter sage, with the fire blazing in the fireplace, we had our blessing. Here are a few of the thoughts Zach wrote out to explain our occasion. Zach’s dad, a pastor who also married us, led us in the call and response, which is adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:

The reason Steph and I are hosting this event is because we believe that space is sacred.  We believe that the idea of sacred space is one of the most important themes of the biblical narrative, from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to the Israelite possession of the Promised Land, to the future of a cosmos that is reconciled with its Creator……At the very beginning, when the cosmos came into existence the Hebrew would have understood land symbolized the dramatic transition from disordered chaos to an ordered structure.  The Hebrew understanding would also have contradicted the typical Ancient Near Eastern creation myths in that it viewed all of creation as a sacred act.  Ancient Near Eastern people believed that certain places were sanctified because of the primeval power that filled them during the ‘primordial event’ of creation.  However the biblical narrative is quite clear that all things were created by God and that God chooses the places where he dwells with his people to His own good pleasure.

In the O.T. God demanded that space was purified, consecrated, and dedicated to Him.  Adam and Eve were cast from the garden when they fell.  The Israelites purged the promised land of idolatrous heathens.  The tabernacle was only open to the priestly line.  In all of this there was a liturgy and a ritual to dedicating space to God.  The liturgy was a vitally important part of communal life as it extrinsically actualized the Israelites inward attitudes of commitment to The I AM. 

Following this to the N.T., the monumental sacrifice of Christ drastically changes a person’s social economy with God.  No longer must we go to the Temple to worship, for Christ has become our sacrifice.  In this new economy, God dwells with us and within us.  As such, our bodies become temples, sacred because of God’s presence with us.  Further, Steph and I believe that the physical places we inhabit are extension of this.  Our homes and our land is more than a territorial space that we legally possess, it is a place of memory and meaningful existence.  This means, that when we move into this new house we need to dedicate those old memories to God and ask for his blessing on our inhabitation of this new place.

Please follow in asking God’s blessing on us and our house.

Celebrant: Peace be to this house, and to all who dwell in it. The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Celebrant: Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, Creator of the cosmos, Maker of the mountains, Painter of the heavens, and Planter of Gardens;

Grant to this home the grace of your presence, that you may be known to be the inhabitant of this dwelling and the defender of this household; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

People:   Let the mighty power of the Holy God be present in this place to banish from it every unclean spirit, to cleanse it from every residue of evil, and to make it a secure habitation for those who dwell in it; in the Name of Jesus Christ or Lord. Amen.

Celebrant:  Stir up the gift of hospitality, Lord, in all who gather in this room. May your Name be invoked in all activities here to the building up of your domestic church; and in all watching, listening, reading and conversing may Your Name be glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

People:  Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live here with the gift of your love; and grant that they may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

Celebrant: May all who go forth from this home go in peace, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Beauty Will Save the World

I thrive when surrounded by beauty. It’s why I pick flesh flowers from my garden for the table. It’s why there are bright paintings covering my wall in my office. It’s why I love good literature, good food, art museums, city parks, church sanctuaries. Beauty ushers me into His heart.

But I am wounded every time the church casts suspicion on beauty, beholding it with fear rather than awe.

I experienced this disappointment again this morning while reading a rather uncharitable review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand  Gifts, the bestseller about learning thankfulness in the presence of our Creator God.

As someone who works in the publishing industry, I was impressed and incredibly grateful to read One Thousand Gifts as a mature literary work. In these pages, I see a poet-saint who truly savors words and understands a writer’s craft. Here is a woman who writes from her core–seeing the world with her senses wide open and articulating beauty in a truly memorable way. It is my deep regret that I do not see more of this from Christian bookshelves.

I read many wonderful Christian books every year; books that reflect sound biblical wisdom, moving stories, and sharp insight and research. But I also know if I want good literature, if I want to read words that will resound in my head all afternoon with raw and haunting beauty, I have to turn to secular books. I get burnt out reading stories saturated in Christian cliche. I become cynical when confronted with sloppy prose and functional, overused descriptions. I want more than that. I want to be awed.

Do you know what truth has captured my attention for weeks? Reading Genesis, I learned something that is changing my entire outlook on faith: Eden means “delight.” We serve a Creator God who is infinite in beauty, who created us with electric sensitivity to all things good and beautiful. He gave us eyes to see, ears to hear, tongues to taste–so many ways to feel and to experience His aesthetic truth.

Eden means delight. It means pleasure. Because this is Who God Is. Sometimes we are afraid of feeling, beholding, of any mention of pleasure. We don’t like to talk about sensuality in church, associating it with hedonistic immorality, but it really means beholding with our senses. As God’s people, why should we fear beautiful things? Why can’t we celebrate them?

The thing about art is that it relies on the viewer’s taste and preference, and sometimes an artistic expression is just not our cup of tea. I understand that. But I would hope that even if we cannot personally appreciate a Christian expression of beauty, we will respect it as a human response to Creator’s call to fashion beauty and bring good things to life.

What is your experience with artistic expression? Does it influence your faith? How do you think beauty plays a part in God’s economy?

Earth Day, Good Friday, and Wholeness

This month, we are approaching two national holidays. They happen to fall on the same day. But depending on your political, religious, liberal, conservative, radical, conventional standing, you may lean more towards one than the other, or even feel like you have to choose between the two.

Earth Day was instituted in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, it was a political initiative, intended to enforce national environmental responsibility, and this new holiday birthed the modern environmental movement. Good Friday is annually observed by Christians to remember Christ’s crucifixion and death so many years ago. To the church, Good Friday, together with Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, is the culmination of history, fulfilling Scripture’s promises that a Savior would come into the world and redeem it.

This year April 22nd hosts both Earth Day and Good Friday, and to many people, these holidays may seem to be at odds with each other.  In my experience, Christians are more interested in discipleship than reducing their carbon footprint. Female ministers and abortion can be hot topics, but global warming? Not so much.  Likewise, the people who champion green living march under the banner of sustainability, health, and animal rights. Talk of soul-saving doesn’t really hold appeal, because in their mind, they’re already saving the planet.

It saddens me that anyone would think these two ideals have to be pitted against each other as if in a bull pen. Because in my perspective, both holidays have to do with wholeness. Whole earth, whole redemption, whole life.

Eden was once whole, a perfect earth, perfect creation, and perfect humanity. God called it, “very good.” But sin crept into this good garden and fragmented it, introducing thorns and dry soil, pain and pride—toxic to both our bodies and our souls.

Good Friday marks a turn in our decaying world.   A man who was God sacrificed His life for the world, and this set into action a redemption that would work both backwards and forwards, pulling this broken earth and its broken people into a new heaven and new earth. One day, the effects of sin will be reversed, and the new heaven and earth will reign in renewed wholeness. Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday set all of this into motion.

Scripture says that creation is in bondage just as are 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 first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).

This April 22nd, let’s groan and wait together, the earth and God’s children, the created crying out to our Creator.

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