Posts Tagged ‘creation’

Blue

One of the most striking differences between living in the countryside of the Tehachapi Mountains and living back down in LA’s urban sprawl is the sky.  Here, the sky truly is blue.

As a kid, I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in the 80’s. Back then, days known as “third-stage smog alerts” were frequent. These were the days when you would come home from a day at school and your lungs would hurt as you fell asleep. I remember frequently, especially during the summer, I would feel the dull ache when I inhaled–but I didn’t really think about the impact of the dirty air. As a kid, few things seem to have lasting consequences, and since the ache would be gone by morning, it didn’t bother me much.

I’m lucky to have grown up without many breathing problems, but I knew plenty of friends who had asthma. Measures have been taken since those days to clean up the air, but we just didn’t do as much about it back then. Often the sky was a hazy mix of bluish-gray and light brown, or sometimes it just seemed like a colorless white sheet. But when I would go up to the San Gabriel Mountains for summer camp, I remember marvelling at the sky. It really was blue–a blue that I never saw in my daily life. I remember sitting in the ampitheater of the camp as they would do introductions each year, and the blue sky would distract me. It would be the first thing I noticed every single year. It was entrancing.

Now, as an adult, I find myself returning my gaze to the sapphire sky. The air up here at 4,000 feet is clean and crisp. There are never any dirty, hazy days.  The sky retains its magical blue, and the air just smells different.

It’s sad that children and adults alike can’t all appreciate the sky on a daily basis. I know there are things being done, policies taking effect, and awareness being raised…but I think it will be a long time before children in a city like Los Angeles can gaze up into a clear blue sky.  Creation care goes beyond just environmental policy or the politically-laden “green” movement. Creation care embeds appreciation in the hearts of those who participate, and requires a true understanding of the intrinsic value–not utilitarian value–of the various elements of our beautiful world.

Our children deserve a blue sky. Not only because it is healthier for them, or because there are domino effects of the pollution. These are good and important reasons, yes. But even simpler than that–our children deserve a blue sky because God made it beautiful.

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Spring has Sprung

So much is happening around the homestead, and I feel privileged to watch Spring unfold. My favorite time is early Saturday morning, when Rob and I wake up early, make coffee, and go out to greet the land as the sun rises.  Spring has not been gentle so far; the weather can swing from a warm sunny day in the 70s to the threat of snow within just twelve hours. But we are approaching the time when the threat of frost has past, when all of our seedlings can go into the ground, and when we can embrace each moment of these longer days with the giddiness of children.

The flowers here are extraordinary. I’ve never seen wildflowers like this. There are also an abundance of different types of grasses and ground cover. The diversity gives hints to a picture larger than any human could have ever designed–but, of course, we knew that already! The dandelions are the most extraordinary to me. They lift their faces to the sun and follow it like a puppy might. Rob once said to me, “A weed is just something you don’t want growing there.” And, for the most part, we’ve made an unspoken pact that the only things that might be considered “weeds” on our homestead are things that grow in the food beds. Sure, our grass isn’t perfectly mowed. Sure, it doesn’t look perfect. But it’s beautiful to us, nonetheless.

Here are just a few glimpses of the various happenings around Tehachapi and our land:

The dandelions at a local ranch always tilt their faces to the sun

These purple wildflowers are so striking in person

 

Our new laundry line saves us money and makes our clothes smell great!

Our new potato patch--we'll have both white and purple potatoes!

There’s also some exciting farm updates and bee updates…I’ll post more on that soon. 🙂

The Hillside

 

The other day I was taking Sugar out to the backyard for a break from housework and a little fun throwing ball. As soon as we stepped out the back door, her ears perked up and her back arched. She stood at full attention, eyes fixed on the hillside. The air was still and cold, the clouds hung low, and the light was dimming in the early evening. I squinted, following her gaze, and then the hillside began to move.

There is a herd of cattle that comes down every so often into the area just beyond our back yard. This was the closest I had ever seen them–not twenty feet from where I was standing. And yet they blended so well into the hillside. They were hues of beige and light brown, but it was the calves that drew the most attention. They were snowy white and hopping around happily, completely unaware that potential predators had just walked out a back door just a few feet away.

Of course, the threat to them was, in reality, very low. I was in awe and my dog was a bit frightened by the large, slow moving beasts. But there was a beauty of that shared moment. Together we stood, Sugar and I, breathing in this piece of unhindered nature, of wildness, of countryside. I felt happier and more fulfilled watching a herd of wild cattle on a hillside than I ever did in the fast-paced life of the city.

After an eternal moment, the adult cattle noticed my presence and began to usher the younger ones back up the hillside. The blended back in to the landscape, perceptible only by flashes of moving color. Andthen,  just like that…they were gone. I breathed a word of thanks to them for our brief encounter, and then led Sugar out to the front of the property for a game of fetch.

It’s good to be home.

Empowerment

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

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One of the most wonderful things about my time as a high school teacher was seeing the students actively live out the values that we discussed in our daily 50 minutes together. It was seeing the “a-ha!” in their eyes when they realized they were capable of truly transforming the world around them. It was seeing them use the tools I had provided for them in a context that actually changed lives, environments, circumstances. But none of it was my doing. They were the ones doing all the work; they were the instruments of change.

I was blessed to be a guest speaker on creation care at my high school today (hi, SL’ers!). It was an important day–not because I was speaking, but because it was another opportunity to empower the future of our church (and our world).  I think so many problems continue to remain and even grow because we don’t give enough credibility to the ingenuity and gumption of today’s youth. We (and by we I mean post-college, workforce, voting adults) assume we can figure out the answers ourselves. Meanwhile, we aren’t giving the younger generations enough credit in their ability to not only comprehend but help solve the problems. This is a mistake.

Young people–especially high school and college students–are one of the most important groups to focus on when we are looking toward changes in ecological justice, food ethics, urban homesteading, and the Christian faith in general. We need to move beyond simply lecturing them and invite them into active dialogue about solutions. We need to be mentors, because a mentored youth will grow to be an experienced adult leader. We need to re-imagine our roles; while we don’t know everything (neither do they), we have expertise to share. And while they don’t have the resources to do everything the older generations might, they do have the creativity that we often lack.

After speaking with this group of high school students today, I feel extremely hopeful. But it will only be through collaboration and open minds that the generation gap is bridged in ministry. Perhaps some of what I said empowered them to act further; certainly their interest and questions empowered me to continue on in confidence that God has led me to speak out on this topic for a reason.

A New Quarter

My first quarter of my second year in seminary is officially in full swing. I admit it–I love being back in school. I love my classes, my professors are amazing, and I feel all the wheels in my head turning ferociously. It feels good.

One of the things I like best about being in school is that it stretches me. The classes I’m required to take wouldn’t necessarily be classes that I would take on my own, or consider part of my overall focus. And yet I’m finding more and more that, like many other things, everything is interconnected. What I learn from a pastoral counseling class or an evangelism class or a hermeneutics class affects me, as a minister. It affects how I see things, how I interact with people with whom I minister. Nothing is in vain.

My classes have me thinking about really important aspects of my ministry, particularly regarding creation care. How a congregation reacts to the call to care for creation will depend heavily on the foundation that has been laid before any program is put into place. So I think it will be my job to assess from place to place what groundwork needs to be done.

There’s more to say, but I’m still figuring out how I want to say it. Besides, class once again beckons me to Pasadena.

Autumn

IMG_5903One of my favorite parts of our Utah trip was being able to be present to the onset of autumn. The southern part of the state had just begun to see its early nights of frost, especially in the higher elevations (this was taken at around 9,000 feet).  It seemed a sacred thing to be present to this shift, the Paschal Mystery of the earth, when inherent in the dying is the promise of new life to come.

I often wish that Southern California surrendered to this cycle more deeply, but there are few trees here that become brilliant in the autumn. It just never really gets cold enough. Perhaps this is why I cherish the opportunity to witness it in person. I had a deep reverence for the process of it all.

Sometimes I wonder if I am not patient enough with the natural seasons that cycle through my own life. Certainly it can’t always be summer–the fun, lazy days. And likewise, no winter is forever, even when I can’t seem to get warm enough in front of our fireplace. Perhaps autumn is so bittersweet because its beauty inevitably means a dying back, and yet it is impossible to see autumn without knowing that its counterpart, spring, will burst forth like a phoenix in less than half a year’s time. My own personal cycles of autumn–of the dying back, even when I can attest to the beautiful colors of my inner transformations–sometimes feel overwhelming, and I forget the promise of spring. All I can think about is hunkering down for the winter.

Yet the colors, I think, are in part a reminder to be present–and to acknowledge that all things bow to the passage of time. Even the hard parts.

With every autumn, then, there is inherent hope…even when the bittersweetness dominates the landscape. Hope transcends, because it is part of the cycle. It’s part of the promise.

Stillness

IMG_5362I think that one of my favorite parts about being in Southern Utah was the stillness that descended upon us both. We were removed, inaccessible by phone, email, facebook, twitter, and anything else that could threaten to preoccupy us, to tear us away from the awesome glory that lay before us with each new journey.

Stillness, it seems, is one of the best ways to approach prayer. With stillness comes openness. Stillness forces us to listen to the small, still voice of God.

Stillness enveloped us as we traversed the rim of Bryce Canyon, as we descended into the forested paths surrounding the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and as we listened to the chorus of crickets as we watched the heavens one night in Zion National Park.  The stillness called to us, served as an invitation to something deeper. There was more there than just pretty scenery.

God’s presence was palpable in those moments, because we were accutely aware of the inner longing that resides in us all–the longing for a deepening, the ache for the beauty of a sunset, the beautiful surrender of self into the larger whole of creation.  For, indeed, stillness doesn’t mean absence–far from it. The stillness here was accompanied by a fullness of senses that is often whitewashed by city noise; here in Los Angeles, there is no house that is far from the hum of a freeway or, in our case, the low rumble of jet engines taking off and landing at a rhythmic pace. In the stillness, though, the whisper of the wind could not be ignored, nor could the small scurring of a ground squirrel. Each aspect of creation seemed to get its due air time. Nothing competed to dominate in the natural inhale and exhale of the earth’s daily activities.

It is this stillness that I continually long for, and I have since riding the ski lifts next to my mom and dad as a young girl. I remember hearing that blessed silence, broken only by the wind through the pines. I think part of me has sought to reconnect with that stillness since my youth. Perhaps that is why my reconnection with the church happened on a silent retreat. The stillness is necessary, because it is natural. It is balanced and reverent. A mutual respect amongst all created things of each expression of life and energy.

Now that I am back in Los Angeles, I am trying to tap into the inner stillness that I know still exists despite the whir and hum and honk and crash that I hear outside. But the little girl in me still longs to find that space in the woods where the only sound is the wind whispering…where I can hear the small, still voice without straining against the competitive voice of the city.