Not-so-old Literature: Wendell Berry and the Pleasure of God

Originally published June 9, 2009.

Wendell Berry [courtesy Wikipedia Images]
Wendell Berry (courtesy David Aaron Marshall)
“Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934, Henry County, Kentucky) is an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer. He is a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays. He is also an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.” – thus Wikipedia introduces one of my favorite authors.  Among his many achievements, however, he is not listed as a theologian.

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Leaving a Legacy

Many of us want to leave a mark in our world: for some, it’s creating a successful business or getting inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame; for others it’s raising the kids to respect and love others, or to help people regain their life after addiction, trafficking, or poverty.

Oftentimes a legacy comes to light after death; I know artists who joke about dying early so their music, paintings, or poetry gain fame.  For many of us, we simply can’t know what ripples our lives will create unless someone tells us.  “Your friendship has blessed my life so much,” or “your story has really impacted my life, thank you for sharing,” are rare glimpses of the work God does through His work in our lives.

Unless someone tells us, we often don’t know our impact.  It would be kind of nice to know, don’t you think? Continue reading

Creation and Incarnation

Originally posted December 20, 2010.

We who advocate for creation care tend to overlook some important connections between the central beliefs of the Christian faith and our obligation to care for the world God has placed in our hands.  Christmas – when we celebrate the Incarnation, literally the ‘enfleshment’ of God in human form – is one of those overlooked connections.  The following is an excerpt from my book, Our Father’s World, chapter 3:

In middle-school and early high school, one of my children went through a serious “I have a crush” phase.  Her idol was a singer with a popular contemporary Christian music group.  An enormous poster hung over her bed, and every song he released was purchased, listened to, memorized and sung – over and over and over.  One year the group was scheduled to sing in Chicago, just three or four hours from Madison.  And it happened that the concert was close enough to my daughter’s birthday that we could make her birthday party be a trip to see her idol on stage.  So we bought the tickets.  We even paid a bit extra so that she and her friends could stand in line before the concert to meet him in person.  The great day came and everything, for once, went off without a hitch.  We arrived at the concert venue in good time, stood in line, got our autographs, put in the earplugs, and enjoyed the concert.  It was a highlight of her young life.  My ears are still ringing. Continue reading

New Literature that’s worth reading: Tending to Eden by Scott Sabin

Originally published March 3, 2010.  Have you read Tending to Eden?

“Old Literature” is an occasional feature that highlights long-forgotten books, articles, speeches or poems that still speak to us today.  As it happens, there’s some new material that also deserves our attention.  Today, Tending to Eden by Scott Sabin, Director of Plant with Purpose (formerly Floresta).

Scott Sabin and I met about 7 years ago at a conference in Kenya.  He tells about that conference in his new book,Tending to Eden that was just released two weeks ago:

Edith and I took several pastors to a conference on creation care in Kenya.  I was one of the presenters, and in the course of my presentation I showed a slide of the devasted forests around Mt Kilimanjaro National Park.  Pastor Lyamuya approached me later and, with an embarassed smile, explained how convicting it was to see the photo from his own community.  “God entrusted it to us to take care of, and we aren’t doing our job.” Continue reading

Deep calls to Deep

People view sturgeon fish at the Beijing Aquarium on 30 May 2012. BBC © 2014

“The Chinese sturgeon, thought to have existed for more than 140 million years, is now on the brink of extinction, according to local media.”

This is from a recent article I found on the BBC, and I couldn’t help but think of how the Yangtze River has already suffered the extinction of the Baiji dolphin, when in 2006 a concerted search failed to find any evidence of a remnant population.  Two well-known species likely gone in less than ten years.

I will admit that the Chinese sturgeon has no impact on my life here in Madison, Wisconsin.  I highly doubt I’ll ever see one in person (I’ve never seen a live sturgeon native to this area, either).  Yet I find myself indignant that yet another of God’s creations will likely disappear for good.  Why do I feel this way?  So what if it goes extinct? Continue reading

Whales, spray cans and chickens: Sometimes we do things right!

The environmental movement has been criticized at times for being too negative and ‘alarmist’.   Now, you have to be fair to those of us who study these things closely. There is usually little to be positive about and plenty of things to be frightened of. I could tell you things that I seldom mention in a public lecture, things that never make the news but that would keep you up most nights and make your skin crawl (especially if you are raising a family right now). If there really is a fire in the theater, being an “alarmist” is an obligation, not a crime.

On the other hand, I will confess that it is tempting at times to spend so much time looking at the crisis that we can ignore legitimate good news. So, at least for today, let’s set the bad news aside, and review three legitimate “good news” stories: Continue reading