Tag Archives: Lowell Bliss

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.

A Tale of Two Speeches , Two Video Clips, and Two Missions

Lowell Bliss’ monthly post.

© Reuters / Adrees Latif.
Tuesday, September 23 was an important day that featured a significant speech by President Obama. Ban Ki-moon had scheduled a one day U.N. Climate Summit as a way to invigorate stalled international negotiations on the reduction of carbon emissions and the expansion of adaptation efforts. President Obama was one of 120 government leaders to attend. Like the other heads of state, he was given a few minutes to address the gathering and by extension, the peoples of the world. Upwards to 400,000 of those people—including many evangelical Christians—had participated in the People’s Climate March two days earlier on the streets of New York City. What answer would Obama and the other world leaders give them?  Continue reading

Ebola and Global Warming: When Fear of a Hoax becomes a Hex

Lowell Bliss’ monthly post.

Piltdown "gang"
Orangutan jaw and human cranial bone was combined and posited as an early human, the Piltdown Man .  It took 40 years for scientists to discover he was a hoax.

I suspect it was the word “hoax” which first caught my attention. Assuming that the Piltdown Man scandal died as a headline in 1953, we are still left with Senator James Inhofe’s now famous declaration that global climate change is “”the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” this said from the Senate floor.

Continue reading

Plain Speech from the Heart(ache)land

The John Brown Mural hangs in the Kansas Statehouse.
The John Brown Mural hangs in the Kansas Capitol Building. That is a Bible that the crazed abolitionist is holding in his hand.

by guest writer, Lowell Bliss

The next time you hope for some plain-speaking legislation to come out of your state legislature, you may want to take a moment and be careful what you wish for.   This is the story of three environmental bills recently introduced in the Kansas statehouse. I live in Kansas.  We’re generally known for being plain-spoken.

Our governor Sam Brownback says he has an “All of the Above” energy policy.  I do not consider that plain-speaking any more than when President Obama uses the same phrase.  “All of the above” means that an executive can throw a sop to renewable energies without threatening the continued exploitation of fossil fuels. And thus we have our first bill, House Bill 2241, which wants to give our state utility companies a break on the Renewable Portfolio Standard.  They will no longer have to get a certain percentage of their energy requirements from renewables by the original deadlines – 10% by 2010, 15% by 2016 and 20% by 2020.  Surely these deadlines aren’t onerous for America’s second windiest state.  Even our name is a Native American term for “People of the South Wind.”  The bill also grants vague exemptions for “firm transmission” (i.e. standards don’t go in effect if there aren’t transmission lines available) and “excessive costs.”  There were a couple of occasions last summer when the nation of Germany reached the 50% mark in obtaining its electricity from renewables. Germans are the largest ethnicity designation of Kansas citizens.  Perhaps we could take some inspiration from the Old Country. Continue reading

Launching the Agabus Project Podcast

by Lowell Bliss, guest contributor

Eden Vigil is very pleased to announce the launch of the Agabus Project podcast.  In our pilot episode, we interview A Rocha founder Peter Harris about the creation care legacy of his dear friend, John Stott.   John Stott, who passed away this past summer, was a charter board member of A Rocha and accompanied Peter on many birdwatching expeditions.  His commitment to creation care, as an indispensable component of discipleship, was unequivocal.

You can find the Agabus Project on iTunes and also here:

“Peter Harris on the Creation Care Legacy of John Stott”

Since I’m posting this at Our Father’s World, may I break professionalism and say, “I’m having a blast!”  I love the excuse to chat on the phone with those who feel so passionately about creation care, and who think so biblically about it.  For example, our second episode this month features Joel Salatin, farmer at Polyface Farms and author of a new book Folks, This Ain’t Normal!  Many people are familiar with Joel Salatin, but did you know he is an evangelical believer?

Link to the website: www.agabusproject.org

The Creation Care Movement is Alive and Well!

Photo courtesy Flickr CC License

The evangelical creation care movement, though almost invisible to many, has been around for quite a few years.  One of its most visible historical markers is probably the founding of Au Sable Institute in 1979, thirty-three years ago now – but well before that date there were many individuals and a few small organizations seeking to promote what was then called ‘Christian environmental stewardship.’  There are many more of us now, and there is a lot of good work going on, but we still fly below the radar in most cases.

So it was enlightening and important that many of the current key players in this movement were on the phone together last week to share what we’re all doing, and perhaps more to the point, what God is doing to continue to foster and strengthen this movement.

Here’s a brief summary with bullet points of the highlights.  [If you’d like to hear a recording of the phone call yourself, just call  (507) 726-4220 and choose to listen to recording #1.]  Continue reading