What Role Does Faith Play? God Draws Straight with Crooked Lines…

Kermit Hovey pausing during a bike ride through a forested path in 2013.
Kermit Hovey pausing during a bike ride through a forested path in 2013.

“What role does faith play in you discovering and living your purpose?”  Last year I met Sterling Lynk, strategist and coach, at the Madison Non-Profit Day conference. He chose to interview me about that question and the particulars of my story of faith, purpose and work at Care of Creation.

In his article at www.mightypurpose.me, Sterling introduces the topic before sharing both an invitation to Care of Creation’s April 18th Tenth Anniversary Celebration and his interview with me.  A partial excerpt follows:

“Sterling Lynk: Tell us a little about Continue reading

A Better Earth Day?

Originally posted April 23rd, 2010.  We’re coming up on another Earth Day…how will you celebrate it?


courtesy Thomas Schneider
courtesy Thomas Schneider

Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing MI has posted some comments on how Christians can celebrate Earth Day “better”  over at his blog. This is a response to that post.

While I appreciate Pastor DeYoung’s sincere desire to “build a Christian foundation” (his very good image) under the concept of Earth Day, the ‘bricks’ he is using to build that foundation, most of which were purchased somewhat uncritically from Jay Richard’s Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, could have been baked a little longer.

Here are his ‘bricks’ and my thoughts in response: Continue reading

The Examen and the Earth

Guest post by Lowell Bliss.

This bench looks like the perfect spot for an examen, a prayerful review of one’s conscience and day. CC Licensed photo.

The Lenten season has come and gone, but the ancient spiritual practice of Examen is certainly not limited to a specific forty days of the liturgical year.  There is great health, we are taught, in regularly lifting our consciences up to the Holy Spirit with the prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps 139:23).

Recently I’ve encountered two proposals for The Examen which involve an ecological twist.  The first is in a book, The Light is On For You, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington.  The book is a heartfelt appeal for Catholics to re-embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the sweet freedom of absolution received in “going to confession.” Appendix D is a longer, quite systematic, examination of conscience and has been formulated anew by U.S. bishops.  Cardinal Wuerl also includes a section for “Examination of Conscience based on Catholic Social Teaching.”  Among questions derived from “Life and Dignity of the Human Person” or “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable” are these four suggested questions for “Care of God’s Creation:”

  • Do I live out my responsibility to care for God’s creation?
  • Do I see my care for creation as connected to my concern for poor persons, who are most at risk from environmental problems?
  • Do I litter?  Live wastefully? Use energy too freely?  Are there ways I could reduce consumption in my life?
  • Are there ways I could change my daily practices and those of my family, school, workplace, or community to better conserve the earth’s resources for future generation?

St. Ignatius Loyola is perhaps most associated with the Examen as a discipline, and in the Ignatian Exercises, examen is more than just documentary prep work for a visit to the confessional.  Jesuit writers speak of it as “a method of reviewing your day in the presence of God. It’s actually an attitude more than a method, a time set aside for thankful reflection on where God is in your everyday life.”  Jim Manney in A Simple Life-Changing Prayer has formulated these modern five-steps:

  1. Ask God for light: I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.
  2. Give thanks: The day I have just lived is a gift from God.  Be grateful for it.
  3. Review the day: I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Face your shortcomings: I face up to what is wrong—in my life and in me.
  5. Look toward the day to come: I ask where I need God in the day to come.

And then here is how Joseph Carver S.J. has brought this exercise to bear on creation care:

  • All creation reflects the beauty and blessing of God’s image. Where was I most aware of this today?
  • Can I identify and pinpoint how I made a conscious effort to care for God’s creation during this day?
  • What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation?
  • How can I repair breaks in my relationship with creation, in my unspoken sense of superiority?
  • As I imagine tomorrow, I ask for the grace to see the Incarnate Christ in the dynamic interconnections of all Creation.
What have I planted and watered today?  CC Licensed photo.
What have I planted and watered today? CC Licensed photo.

While this blog post is reproducing list, here’s one final one of my own: “What I, as an evangelical Protestant, like about this discovery of not one, but two, ecologically oriented examens:

  1. I like that creation care can be more than just a part of my ministry (and certainly more than just of my hobbies).  I like that creation care can touch upon my spirituality, my walk with God.
  2. I like that creation care can be more than just a part of my ministry (and certainly more than just of my hobbies). I like that creation care can touch upon my spirituality, my walk with God.
  3. I like that violations of creation care are taken seriously enough to rise to the level of sin requiring confession and transformed lifestyle.
  4. I like that a Christian of Cardinal Wuerl’s stature has adopted the language of creation care. We are singing the same tune in the same key, even using the same words.
  5. It makes me excited for Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical on the care of creation, due to be issued in June or July.

Lowell Bliss is the director of Eden Vigil and the author of Environmental Missions: Planting Churches and Trees. He lives with his wife Robynn and three kids.

Insects: A Climate Change solution?

Too cute to eat?

One UW-Madison grad student was not just driven buggy by the climate change crisis, she was driven to bugs for a solution. My interview with Valerie Stull about her and Rachel Bergmann’s mighty MIGHTi project (Mission to Improve Global Health Through Insects)aired on WORT-FM March 17, 2015. Their unconventional idea brings a small solution – insects – to help with two big problems: hunger and climate change. As Stull explains, meal worms provide a highly efficient source of edible protein requiring 1/5th the feed per pound than beef. Additionally, meal worms produce none of the potent green house gas methane that beef cattle does.  Listen here (about 4 minutes).

By Mnolf (Photo taken in Rum, Tirol, Austria) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Larvae of the meal worm beetle (Tenebrio molitor), before (dark) and after skinning (light)
How does raising meal worms and other insects equal a “win-win-win?” In their own words,

“Insects can feed people, serve as an inexpensive feed source for poultry as well as fish, and are relatively easy to raise. Farming insects is also climate smart, as they require less energy to produce and emit fewer greenhouse gases than other livestock. They can even recycle agricultural waste products, not edible for people. In areas where food is not always available and protein sources are scarce, insect farming offers an inexpensive, environmentally friendly option. (1)

What creative problem-solving!  UW Madison’s Climate Quest competition awarded Stull and Bergmann top prize for their project’s creative potential to impact climate change in 2015. It may even have more potential than those of us acculturated  in the industrialized west may give it credit for.

In case you’re still skeptical about eating bugs, remember that John the Baptist did just fine on a diet of locusts and honey (Mark 1:6 ; Matthew 3:4 ).  For more examples of insect eating (called “entomophagy”) throughout history, check out National Geographic’s “Bugs As Food: Humans Bite Back” and“For Most People, Eating Bugs is only Natural”.

(a version of this post by Kermit Hovey originally appeared at www.climatechangehope.wordpress.com )

After winter, spring… After despair, hope: An Easter Devotional

Tulip tip in springtime
An early sign of spring.

I’ve just come in from a walk around our office’s neighborhood.  Even though winter is technically over, the landscape is brown and dead.  There are no leaves on the trees.  There are no leaves on the bushes.  Flower beds are empty, some still covered with winter mulch.  If you dropped in from, say, Florida, your reaction might well be, “Why do you guys live in a place like this?  It feels so… dead!”

But it isn’t winter any more.  The air is warm.  Those bare branches are teeming with birds whose songs seem even louder in the stark, brown landscape.  And if you know where to look, you can see buds on trees and bushes getting ready to explode with new green leaves, and pointed green sprouts in otherwise dead flower beds.  It isn’t quite spring, but it isn’t winter any more – and we, having lived through another long, cold Wisconsin winter, breathe deep and rejoice.
Continue reading

Energy Slavery and What it Means to be Human

Two of the cutest energy slaves in cinematic history.

Following last week’s post by Brittany Ederer, Standing Face to Face with Injustice, today we explore what seems to be a quite different topic – our dependence on what some call “energy slaves” – and we discover that the similarities to and connections with human slavery and injustice are deep and real.

Make no mistake:  “Real” human slavery remains a serious issue in our modern world.  By some estimates, there are more slaves today than there were at the height of the slave trade,  perhaps as many as 35 million human beings trapped in some form of slavery.  This is tragic and shameful – and those organizations dedicated to confronting this problem and correcting it are worth noting and supporting. Continue reading

A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation