Can you name the hymn inspired by Psalm 98 and written by Isaac Watts in 1719?
Any time we speak to a group, we always ask for each person to think of three things they can do that day to better take care of God's good creation. The people who attended our breakfast at General Conference were no exception. What three things did you choose to do while at GC and what three things are you doing now that you're back home?
Walter Harper and Ryan Bennett plant a redbud in memory of Kathy Lindquist.
In no particular order, here are 40 things you can do during Lent. Tell us or show us
o Hike one of Tennessee’s beautiful trails.
o Read Genesis 1 and imagine what God saw after each day of creation.
o Take a picture where nature and humans interact or collide. (Ex: trash on a trail or bare feet on grass.)
o Gather some natural materials and make something.
o Write a poem, haiku, limerick or song about what you see in nature.
o Take a walk. If you are in a city look for nature in unexpected places.
o Say a prayer of gratitude for the things you take for granted every day.
o Take a day off from driving.
o Eat a meatless meal.
o Look in the Topics section of your Bible and read scriptures about trees.
o Look up at least one of your most common household purchases and see it’s ranking on http://www.betterworldshopper.org/rankings.html. Could you make a better choice?
o Program your electronics to go to sleep after 2 (or 5) minutes of inactivity.
o Turn off the lights when you exit a room.
o Pack a lunch.
o Plant a tree.
o Go on a 3-day media fast. Use that time to pray, read scripture and be with family. Evaluate your media-free time and decide if or how much needs to be reintroduced to your day.
o Purge things you do not need.
o Go on a scavenger hunt. (Search Pinterest for nature scavenger hunts. If you have a smartphone, take a picture of the list then take pictures of the items you find.)
o Only use refillable water bottles and coffee cups.
o Request a for-here cup when eating out.
o Practice the 5 R’s. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.
o Try a natural alternative to home-cleaning supplies.
o Switch your coffee to organic, fair-trade.
o Pick up trash and put in the proper receptacle.
o Turn thermostat down 3 degrees in winter, up three in summer.
o Wash clothes in cold water.
o Give something away.
o Pray for people who are experiencing environmental injustice. (Ex: the people of Flint, Michigan)
o Turn the radio off and use travel time as prayer time.
o Family night- have a meal together, play games, go for a walk.
o Wait a month to buy something you want to see if it’s something you actually need.
o Start a garden.
o Donate your old electronics to a good cause.
o Compost your food and yard waste.
o Give an experience as a gift.
o Switch from paper products to reusable products.
© Blessed Earth Tennessee, 2016.
Are you familiar with the story of Abram (Abraham) and Lot? Abram was Lot’s uncle. As family members, they moved together. Read their story in Genesis 13:1-12 and then answer these questions:
· Why was Lot travelling with Abram?
· Why could they not live together?
· Why did Lot and Abram’s herders fight?
· Why did Lot choose his new location?
What lessons does this hold for us today?
The season of Lent begins next week. Lent is a 40 day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. If you’re not familiar with Lent, you are probably familiar with Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting, repentance and preparation for Easter.
The 40 days of Lent represents Jesus’s time spent in the wilderness after his baptism by John. In both Matthew 4 and Luke 4, the scriptures describe Jesus being tempted by Satan those 40 days.
I don’t remember being introduced to the concept of Lent until I was in high school or college. And then, it was only in the conversation of “what are you giving up for Lent?” It was never in the context of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness or as a preparation for the Easter event, Jesus’s death and resurrection for me.
As I ponder Jesus’s time in the wilderness and his preparation for ministry, I wonder what happened in the liminal space (the in-between) not mentioned in the scriptures. The liminal space, I imagine, would be taken up in prayer, examination, reflection, wonderment and joy. Can you imagine Jesus conversing with his father while staring at the stars? Can you imagine the joy in watching the animals cavort, the birds sing and in the aromas of nature? Can you also imagine hearing and feeling the grumbling tummy? Can you imagine the rocks under your knees while kneeling in prayer? Can you feel your muscles shake as they become weaker? In all of Jesus’s physical weaknesses, his faith was strong.
Here are some things I’m pondering leading up to Lent:
· Have I spent time in scripture?
· Have I reflected over the scripture in order to get a sense of what it says and what it means for me and others?
· Should I fast? What is the purpose of fasting?
· Am I so booked up with wordly things that I’ve not made time for spiritual things?
· What are the things I need forgiveness from?
· How shall I prepare for Easter? Can I de-clutter my home, calendar, emails, and free up time for studying, learning, praying and being with God?
What will you do during the 40 days of Lent to put the focus on God?
Today, I am thankful for the rain. It nourishes the earth and provides streams for drink. It’s a reminder that God created plants and trees and gave us the earth to tend. #thankfultuesday
There are 613 traditional Jewish commandments. When Jesus was asked which is the greatest he summed the laws up with two commandments.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22: 36-39
If we love God with our heart, soul and mind will we not love what God loves? If we love our neighbor as ourselves will we not care about air and water quality and soil conditions for healthy food?
Prayer of Confession (from The United Methodist Hymnal)
Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
What to do on Labor Day (other than shop)
Labor Day is supposed to be a day off from work. Its origins are from the labor movement to celebrate the people from our country who were making it what it was. In many ways, our country is offering us a bonus Sabbath. On this Friday of Labor Day weekend, Blessed Earth Tennessee wants to offer some suggestions to help us all maximize a Sabbath Weekend.
Find a local state park or hiking trail and spend the day enjoying nature. You’ll be surprised what a few hours in nature can do physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for a person. Pay attention to what you hear, see, smell and touch. Take the time to do these things. Take lunch, snacks and water and forget about the time and listen to your body.
Pack a lunch and find a great natural spot to eat. Invite family and friends to come along with you.
Families seem to be so busy now. There is hardly time to do fun things together between work, school, and shuttling kids to extracurricular activities. Take this time to slow down and just be together. Card games and board games are so much fun and laughing together as a family create special moments.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities within your community. If you want to stay home, think about things you can do for others while there. Perhaps this is a time to write notes or draw pictures for friends, family or elderly church members. You can make freezer meals for those dealing with unexpected emergencies or illnesses.
Naps are great for people of any age or have quiet time to pray, read and meditate.
At the end of the day, take time to reflect. What were your favorite parts of the day? Least favorite? What did you notice? Listen to your children. Perhaps some of the things you really enjoyed about the day can be intentionally implemented into every day life.
Finally, remember Jesus makes the offer to come to him all who are weary and heavily burdened and you will find rest.
Luke 7:1-10 The Message
7 1-5 When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum. A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed. He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and urged him to do it, saying, “He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.”
6-8 Jesus went with them. When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell him, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9-10 Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.
Many are familiar with Jonah and the big fish. Jonah thought he could run away from God when God asked him go to Nineveh. Instead, he was swallowed by a big fish. Jonah prayed to God, God spoke to the fish and the fish spewed Jonah on to the land. That is not the end of Jonah's story.
God again asked Jonah to go to Nineveh. When Jonah proclaimed the message that God would destroy Nineveh the people and king of Nineveh repented. God changed his mind when he saw their change of hearts. Jonah was angry. He claimed that because he knew God was a merciful and gracious God, he had not wanted to go to Nineveh the first time. Jonah left the city and pouted.
Jonah 4:6-8 The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
Wow, Jonah! As God reminded Jonah, Jonah did nothing for the bush. He did not plant it, nurture it, labor over it. It came in the night and died the next. But, God created and cared for the people and animals of Ninevah because they were his children and creation.
Jonah 4:11 "And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"
God used a tree to teach Jonah and work in his life.
I'm preparing to speak to 6th graders in a couple of weeks. What an intimidating group! I did a little research on their school's website and found they are studying the New Testament this year. In my recent talks, I've put a lot of emphasis on "the beginning" in Genesis when God creates and declares creation good, just because creation exists. So, this is making me go back through the NT to see what is said about creation. I found this nugget from Romans 1:20:
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.
What do you think about this verse? Have you spent time in nature reveling in the "things He has made?"
Genesis 2:15 NRSV
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
The Hebrew word for keep is shamar. Shamar means to “take care of.” When Adam was told to take care of the garden, he was expected to care for it in such a way that it would produce, flourish and repeat.
Calvin DeWitt, an author and professor, says, “Shamar indicates a loving, caring, sustaining kind of keeping.”
God gave us responsibility to take care of the earth.
Here are a few ways you can take care of the earth:
- Avoid pesticides and fertilizers.
- Plant a native garden.
- Collect water.