Goodbye to a Friend

 

IMG_0603This past Thursday, Dr. Ellsworth Kalas went to be with the Lord he loved and served for over ninety-two years. He was a faithful supporter of our ministry, and served on the Blessed Earth board for the past five years.

Many people knew Ellsworth as a homiletics teacher and the President of Asbury Seminary. Many more had the privilege of having him as their pastor during his four decades as a minister. Others knew him through his published works; he was the author of three dozen books and recorded the Bible on tape. David and Taddy knew him as a proud father. Janet knew him as a loving and supportive spouse. To me, he was a close and cherished friend.

I visited with Ellsworth on Sunday before his passing, and I felt as if we didn’t get enough time together. I cancelled work on Monday to go and see him again, as Nancy and I were leaving for the Asbury Seminary Board meeting the next day and would be working and traveling in Florida for a week. I’m glad that I made the change. We spent a beautiful time together. We held hands and prayed.  I read the Bible aloud, and Ellsworth sang a hymn.  We both thanked God for the special friendship that we have shared for years. Oddly, neither of us could ever remember how our friendship really began, but seven years ago we started meeting for a two-hour lunch every month. He presided at my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding.  Over the last two years, we saw a great deal of each other. He told me that he thought the gift of such friendship as ours was a taste of the fellowship between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We were not ashamed to say “I love you” when we parted.

Ellsworth was an example of the first Psalm:  a tree planted by God, who put down his roots in the Word of the God. He avoided silliness and scorners and sought the company of others who loved the Lord. He taught us what it was to live as a Christian and to die as one. I will miss him until I see him again.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Thank you, God, for giving us John Ellsworth Kalas.

J. Matthew Sleeth

 

Earn $1,000 for Doing the Right Thing!

Clark and Val with their rebate check. Just kidding: we obviously photoshopped this. But wouldn't it be cool of they gave giant checks for energy savings?

Clark and Val with their rebate check. Just kidding: we obviously photoshopped this. But wouldn’t it be cool of they gave giant checks for energy savings?

When was the last time you got paid $1,000 for doing the right thing?

This week, our son, Clark, and daughter-in-law, Valerie, learned that they will receive  a $1,000 check from their local utility company. You heard me right: their electricity provider is paying them one grand for participating in an energy audit program and completing ten simple projects that will continue to save them money and energy for years to come.

Last August, I wrote about the baseline energy audit of Clark and Val’s 1920’s bungalow. For a token investment of $25 ($600-$700 value), they received an attic-to-basement energy inspection of their home, including a blower test with an infrared camera to identify places where the house was leaking air.

A few weeks after the audit, Clark and Val received a report with the auditor’s recommendations for energy savings. If they completed the recommended savings within three years, Clark and Val would qualify for up to $1,000 in incentives from the utility company. The auditor suggested that they start at the top (the attic) and work their way down. He estimated that all of the recommended fixes could be completed for two thousand dollars–or half of that if they did the work themselves.

Even though Clark is a medical resident (who can “only” work 80 hours per week!) and Val was starting her first year as a physician assistant, they did the work themselves and still finished in a year. Some of the projects took just a minute or two–like screwing in a low flow showerhead or plugging in the smart strip outlet that the auditor provided. Other projects were spread out over several months–like sealing the identified air leaks. The least pleasant job was installing plastic in the dirt crawl space under the front part of their house; the most expensive improvement was adding insulation to the attic ($700). All together, the projects cost $1,000 and took about 40 hours to complete.

Here’s the list of recommendations:
Install 1 low flow showerhead (provided by utility)
Install 4 energy-saving light bulbs (provided by utility)
Set thermostat to 78 (cool) and 68/65 (heat)
Seal crawl space and other air leaks
Tune up cooling system
Tune up heating system
Seal ducts
Plug in one smart strip outlet (provided by utility)
Increase attic insulation by 3-4 inches

Insulate water pipes

This week, Clark and Val scheduled a follow-up infrared air blower test, which revealed a whopping 30 percent reduction in air leaks. The auditor verified completion of the ten recommended improvements and awarded the highest rebate: $1,000.

Overall, Clark and Val reduced their electricity usage by one third–which is especially impressive, since their energy bills were significantly below average to start. Their electricity costs are now lower than ninety percent of similar homes in our area. Bonus:  Statistics show that for every $1 reduction in their utility bill, the resale value of their home will increase $20. More importantly, these projects have given our children tangible opportunities to love Jesus and their neighbors by becoming better stewards of God’s creation.

Although the specifics will vary from state to state, nearly every utility offers energy saving incentives for their customers. So don’t delay; schedule an audit today. It may be the best investment you make this autumn!

Announcement from Matthew About New Book

IMG_4140My son-in-law, Zach, gave me my Father’s Day present a little early this year. Before we moved into our townhouse, a large tree had died along the fence line dividing us from the neighboring apartment building. We got permission from our homeowner’s association to replant a tree. There was only one problem: a humongous stump–about three feet in diameter–was in the way.

That’s when it comes in handy to have a son-in-law. Zach went to a tree farm and picked out a beautiful sugar maple. Before heading out of town on a work trip, I suggested that Zach plant the maple beside the old stump, even though it was a less desirable position. But Zach wanted to do it right. He dug and dug and dug. Several neighbors came by to watch and encourage. It took all morning and half the afternoon to fully remove the remains of the old tree.

When planting time finally arrived, Zach backed up the pickup truck as close to the hole as possible. The root ball must have weighed a couple hundred pounds. Zach recruited Nancy to position the trunk while he backfilled. One of our neighbors gave us a water gaiter so we could keep the roots moist throughout summer. Zach returned later with a load of mulch to reduce evaporation and competition from weeds.

Every time I walk by that tree, I marvel. And every evening when I admire the tree from our bedroom window, I thank God for sharing His love of trees with me (and giving me a son-in-law with a strong back).

Last year, I read through the Bible underlining everything that scripture says about trees. From the Tree of Life in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation, I discovered a forest with deep roots in faith. The first psalm says that a righteous person is like a tree. Abraham welcomes the angels under the oaks of Mamre; Deborah holds court under the palms; Zacchaeus shinnies up a sycamore-fig to see the Savior.

Most importantly, Jesus, the new Adam, plants a tree–the cross–on Calvary and waters it with his blood, sweat, and tears. The Apostle Paul tells us that in heaven the leaves of the Tree of Life will heal the nations and bear fruit in every season.

This summer, I have begun writing a book about trees and faith. Writing does not come easily for me. I rely on the Holy Spirit and the prayers of friends like you to help me.

It’s been a wet summer so far, and Zach’s tree is flourishing. I hope that in days to come, my writing will help the faith of others flourish as well.

–Matthew Sleeth

Sleeths Commission One Hundred Stewardship Advocates

3bfc63e9-f2d2-4180-a60a-207f2aad8d8aToday we hear so much in the news about what’s wrong with today’s young people: they’re selfish, apathetic, and easily distracted. They spend all their time on their phones, and little of it in nature.

Recently, Matthew and I had the privilege of spending a few days in Colorado with several hundred college and seminary students who give the coming generation a good name. These students are part of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP). This summer, they will be leading worship services on Sundays in national parks, serving as chaplains to visitors and staff while also working for the park concessioners.

Blessed Earth’s partnership with ACMNP began seven years ago when our friend, Spencer Lundgaard, became their executive director. A Christian Ministry in the National Parks is a grassroots, student-led ministry that started in Yellowstone National Park in 1951 with the dream of providing Christian community for the people working in, living in, and visiting the first national park in the world.

Today, ACMNP lives its mission by sending 200 ministry team members into 75 locations in 25 national parks from Alaska to the Virgin Islands. Over 30,000 people worship together in ACMNP services every year, experiencing the glory of God by seeing it firsthand.

Several years ago, Spencer invited us to meet with his trustees and advisors. Specifically, Spencer wanted us to help cast a vision for intentionally integrating creation care with their ministry. Our hope was to help ACMNP share a Christian interpretation of the awe and grandeur of God’s creation.

In April, Matthew and I had the honor of formally commissioning nearly 100 first-ever stewardship advocates. These young people are tasked with connecting the Creator with his creation as a foundation of all they do. It was a moving ceremony, full of the Holy Spirit’s presence, as well as a clear affirmation of Blessed Earth’s capacity to multiply through synergistic partnerships.

If you visit a National Park this summer, I hope you will make it a point to attend the Sunday worship service and encourage these young ACMNP volunteers. They are the future of our church. And from everything we experienced in Colorado, that future looks bright!

–Nancy Sleeth

Blessed Earth Launches First State Chapter

Ryan and Heather of Blessed Earth TN speaking at Belmont University
Ryan and Heather of Blessed Earth TN speaking at Belmont University

Many years ago, when we were just beginning our ministry, Nancy and I were invited to speak at a clergy luncheon at Asbury Seminary. When I asked one of the attendees to tell me why he was there, the pastor was very honest. His wife had read my first book, Serve God, Save the Planet, and had been nagging him for months to read it, too.

Rev. Ryan Bennett thought that attending the luncheon would make his wife happy and get him off the hook for reading the book. He confessed that he didn’t really see the connection between his faith and creation care, so I sent this skeptical pastor home with a case of books to share with his congregation.

From Genesis to Revelation, what Ryan discovered was a biblical call to care for God’s creation. He asked me to come speak to his church and meet his wife, Heather. That was nearly ten years ago.

Since then, Ryan has been a member of our Blessed Earth board and advisory team, and Heather has written articles for our website. They have started creation care teams in two churches and worked to share a Christian voice in earth stewardship throughout their state. Along the way, the Bennetts and their son, Tyler, have become dear family friends and loyal ministry partners. We have stayed many times in each other’s homes, broken bread at each other’s tables, and shared both the hardships and celebrations of ministry together.

In 2014, Ryan and Heather approached us about starting Blessed Earth Tennessee as a pilot program. Heather had recently completed a master’s degree in sustainability at Lipscomb University, and they wanted to help Blessed Earth discern if a state chapter program was viable.

With their official launch just last month, Blessed Earth Tennessee is already exceeding our wildest dreams. In March, Heather and Ryan spoke at Martin Methodist College and in April led chapel for Earth Week at Belmont University. Blessed Earth Tennessee has already developed a partnership with a Middle Tennessee organization to do a year-long creation care focus in 2016 that will be announced soon. In addition, the UMC’s conference camping program has offered to host quarterly creation care retreats. Heather and Ryan also have been asked to meet with a Christian university’s leadership team to share the biblical foundation for creation care as well as to help develop a minor in sustainability at another Christian college in Tennessee.

Nancy and I are excited about this opportunity for Blessed Earth Tennessee to inspire and equip people of faith to be better stewards of the earth. If you are interested in learning more, please check out their website.

A decade ago, we never would have guessed that a creation care skeptic and his wife would be launching our first state affiliate. But God’s plans are often bigger than our dreams. Those of you who have expressed an interest in starting a Blessed Earth affiliate in your state, stay tuned: Blessed Earth Tennessee is off to a great start, and we will learn much together in the coming months!

–Nancy Sleeth

Dr. Sleeth Gives Keynote at Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

Dr. Sleeth giving the keynote at the 2015 Kentucky Governor's Prayer Breakfast

Frankfort, KY, March 17, 2015

Dr. Sleeth recently gave the keynote address to a packed Frankfort Convention Center at the 2015 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. The theme of his talk was “Be Still,” and Dr. Sleeth shared his personal story while connecting it with a call to keep the Sabbath to those in attendance. A variety of other prominent speakers also shared, such as Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, former UK basketball player Jarrod Polston, Nancy Sleeth of Blessed Earth, and crowd-raising singing by Grammy award-winner Larnelle Harris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew visits with Students in Chapel Hill, NC

Matthew with Chapel Hill college students Feb 2015One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “How many days a year are you on the road?” I don’t really know the answer. When I ask those responsible for my schedule, I get evasive answers such as, “Quite a lot,” or, “You don’t want to know.”

My guess is that I’m away from home somewhere between one hundred and fifty and two hundred days in any given year. “That must be hard,” people often remark. Well, sometimes it is; being stuck in O’Hare Airport overnight, for example, is not one of my favorite things in the world. Ninety-nine percent of the time, however, my travels are wonderful. My wife, Nancy, often travels with me, and we get to interact with the nicest people in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, I was traveling in North Carolina. After leading a pastors’ retreat at the shore, we swung by Chapel Hill to preach Sunday services. We led a day-long Sabbath workshop on Monday and met with a student group on Tuesday evening. Nothing recharges my batteries like getting to spend time with students who are seeking the Lord’s will in their lives.

Media and reality TV would have us believe that the world is fueled by narcissism, greed, and lust. While these characteristics exist in abundance, many of the young people I encounter are guided by a very different paradigm.

The students were intelligent, polite and engaged. They asked great questions:

How does one spread the Gospel without appearing judgmental?
How does one honor a Sabbath in a family where the parents are nonbelievers?
How do you reconcile the Bible and science?

These are the kind of questions that keep me alert and focused. In a world that sometimes seems to run on relativism and situational truth, Blessed Earth’s message is simple: Christ comes first. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God except through Him.

I’m grateful for these University of North Carolina students who spent a couple of hours talking and fellowshipping with me. We are part of a cloud of witnesses stretching backwards for generations. Thank God it goes forward as well.

–Matthew Sleeth

 

A Visit to Polyface Farm

unnamedThere is nothing as lovely as a road trip with someone you love. Just before Christmas, I went on a road trip with my son-in-law, Zach. We headed east to Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Joel recently asked me to write the foreword to his upcoming book, and I wanted to see his farming methods first-hand.

Also, I was taking a young farmer just starting out to see another farmer who has become the world’s best-known spokesperson for sustainable agriculture. Smart is when you learn from your own mistakes; wise is when you learn from others.  I was hoping to help Zach gain wisdom.

For those unfamiliar with where your food comes from, I highly recommend a fieldtrip to a farm. Many of us have a vision of farms gained from children’s board books and singing Old MacDonald. We envision a farmer tending a few pigs, chicken, cows, and sheep, with an oink, oink here and a cluck, cluck there. But what the typical farm has is soybeans here–period, or Black Angus there–period. Diversity is not the hallmark of the modern agricultural system: monoculture is.

The first thing that strikes the visitor to Joel’s farm is the diversity of the operation. There are cattle, sheep, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and people. Four generation of Salatins work and play along with numerous young people doing internships. Which brings me to the first rule of agriculture: a farm should be a place where people are welcome. It should be a place of community.

The Christmas story we recently celebrated reinforces this lesson. There may not have been room for Jesus upstairs in the crowded tourist town of Bethlehem, but the manger was a place of safety and warmth. In the typical Jewish house of the first century, the barn was the first floor of the home. It was a place of community. Which brings me to the second rule of agriculture: a well-run farm should not stink.

Joel took Zach and me all over Polyface.  He walked with us through the fields and hoop houses. He took us to where hundreds of cattle were munching contentedly under cover, standing on thick beds of fodder. Nowhere did it smell.  Animal stench is a sign of waste mismanagement and, too often, inhumane living conditions for the animals.

In my first creation care book, I wrote about being in a chicken house with 15,000 hens. I couldn’t wait to get out of it mainly because of the stench. More recently, I visited a feeding lot in the Midwest that could be smelled from a mile away. These confined feeding operations bear no resemblance to the barn in which I learned to milk cows as a youth, nor do they resemble Joel’s operation. They are inexcusable. Joel and other farmers like him have demonstrated that farming can be scaled up without becoming an olfactory–and, for the animals, living–hell.

Which brings me to the third rule of agriculture: don’t eat food that has ingredients with names you can’t pronounce. Because of the attention to hygiene at Joel’s farm, neither human nor livestock must be pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals.

The kind of farming my son-in-law and Joel do isn’t as cheap as factory farming. The food costs more than mass-produced agriculture. But I wonder what the real cost of our mass-produced food would be if we included the cost of treating the diseases correlated with chemical-laden diets?

If you need an incentive to spend a little more on food now and a lot less on medical treatments later, go on a road trip to two farms–one industrial and one like Joel’s. Then spend the money to support the one you’d want your Savior to have spent his first night in–the kind of farm where you would be proud to see your own son or daughter work.

–Matthew Sleeth

Green Christmas Boxes

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by Emma Sleeth Davis
 
It’s November, which, at least to me (and I’m sure to a lot of you, too!), means Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I love packing shoeboxes every year with my best friend, Jenny, taking great care over each present that goes into the boxes—Which toy would we have liked more as a child? What hygiene items would be the most useful? And, for Jenny, who is a packing genius, How can I fit one more gift in this box? We even have a special cabinet devoted solely to Christmas boxes, where we store items for the children we pick up on sale throughout the year.

This year, I set myself a new challenge. How could I make my boxes not only fun and useful, but also better for the environment?

Instead of buying wrapping paper, I decoupaged my shoeboxes with bits of old magazines. It did take a long time, but I wasn’t using new resources, and I hope the children who receive them will appreciate a box to store their goodies in that will stay looking nice a lot longer than a wrapped one probably would.

I tried to find as many of the items I usually include in my boxes made out of recycled or renewable materials, and paid attention to where they were made and how much packaging they were in. Here are a few of my favorite finds:

Green Toys Eco Saucers made of 100% recycled plastic

Fuzz that Wuzz stuffed animals made of 100% recycled plastic bottles (the lion is so cute!)

Sustainable Earth notebooks made from 80% sugarcane by-products

-Bic Ecolutions mechanical pencils (65% pre-consumer recycled content) and ballpoint pens (74% recycled plastic)

-Westcott Kleen Earth safety scissors with handles made of 70% recycled, 30% post-consumer content

Decomposition notebooks by Michael Rogers Press (the name makes me smile!)

-Blue Q pencil pouches made from 95% post-consumer material

-Bamboo solar calculators from Onyx + Green

-Tom’s of Maine all-natural toothpaste

-Preserve toothbrushes with 100% recycled plastic handles

Happy packing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSA News: Asbury Community Garden Feeds Both Students and Knowledge

Terry Smith and Garden Workshop

The Community Garden/Eco-Seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary is a fast-growing component of their creation care plan. We talked with Ryan Smith, manager for the Global Community Formation, about this exciting project:

“The Asbury Seminary Community Garden is a space where students and their families, staff, faculty and Wilmore community members can grow fresh, organic food and have opportunities for relationship, recreation, education and formation. There are now 20 community (4’ by 24’) and 35 individual (4’ by 8’) garden plots. All of the individual plots have been rented, and there 4 families on the waiting list. Every individual plot also has to have a back-up buddy gardener. This means that there are at least 70+ people now involved with the Community Garden Individual Plots. There are currently 5 plots being worked by residents of Wilmore not affiliated with the Seminary.”

The food from the garden is not being used to turn a profit; instead, it is donated to worthy causes:

” The food being grown in the Community Garden is 100% organic, and a portion of the harvest is delivered weekly to our Seminary dining services.  Students are being made aware of the fresh organic produce they are eating. It will also be given away to 5 different organizations/churches: Embrace Church, First United Methodist Church of Nicholasville, Wilmore-High Bridge Community Service Center, God’s Pantry in Lexington, and Lexington Rescue Mission.”

Lettuce from Garden in Dining Hall

Although still a work in progress, the garden has already offered learning opportunities for locals:

“The Community Garden Park elements (stone fence entrance, fire-pit, 1-mile nature path, prayer garden, preaching amphitheater, seating areas, etc) will be completed by the end of the summer and a Grand Opening will take place on Thursday, August 28th at 4:30pm with a Low Country Boil dinner to follow.

Asbury Seminary Community Garden Sketch 1

“Eight garden workshops were offered by local gardening experts to the seminary and Wilmore community members this spring in the months of March and April. Topics included: Early Season Gardening Best Practices, Starting Seeds, Soil Preparation, Planting and Transplanting, Everyday Composting Practices, Basics of Beekeeping and Setting Up a Hive, Organic Gardening Methods, and Reflections on Growing Food and a Family on a Farm. Average attendance was 10-12 people at each workshop, with a total of around 120 people involved.”

Saturday Morning Garden Workshops

One especially exciting element of the community garden is the opportunity it affords those who work in it:

“About 40% of the individual garden plots are being worked by International Students. By law most International Students are allowed to work only in on-campus jobs and these jobs are often very limited. Finances are the major concern for most International Students while studying in the U.S. Having an opportunity to grow food in the Community Garden helps provide for the financial needs of our International Students. The community garden has become a place where people from many different cultures gather, show hospitality, and celebrate with each other. By cooperating and working together, cross-cultural friendships are be formed as well as a growing sense of interdependence.  People are realizing how much there is to learn from each other.”

Community Garden Lettuce

Photos courtesy of Asbury Seminary

Dr Matthew Sleeth Spends Earth Day at Campbellsville University

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by Linda Waggener

Campbellsville University celebrated Earth Day April 22 at the Turner Log Cabin Park where CU students, guests, faculty and staff were joined by students from Campbellsville Independent Schools for the traditional planting of trees and flowers.

 

President Michael V. Carter said, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s grace.” He thanked each participant, from the young visiting elementary students to platform guests and CU students, faculty, staff and guests who contribute to the continuation university work of environmental stewardship.

 

Carter introduced LG&E KU energy guest Rhonda Rose who spoke of the corporation’s environmental mission and their support of Clay Hill Memorial Forest.

 

Dr. John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, and his wife, Cathy Pence Chowning, made a donation to Green Minds. He said, “Earth Day has special a meaning with an emphasis on stewardship from a Christian perspective.”

 

Chowning introduced guest Dr. Matthew Sleeth, noted creation care/earth stewardship speaker, writer and head of the Blessed Earth organization. Sleeth made brief comments and was also the speaker at the Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy (KHIPP) event that evening.

 

Tony Young, mayor of Campbellsville, and Eddie Rogers, Taylor County judge/executive, participated with the reading of an Earth Day proclamation from the city and county.

 

International education students (getting names) spoke on CU’s Green Minds organization which has doubled in membership and activity in the past year.

 

Dr. Richard Kessler, associate professor of biology and environmental studies Program Coordinator at Campbellsville University, organized two additional earth stewardship activities announced at the event. On Wednesday evening the first Earth Week movie night was held in Mobley Theater, “Life of Pi,” with free popcorn; and Friday, April 25, an inaugural Earth Week Hike was scheduled at Clay Hill Memorial Forest.

 

The events were co-sponsored by Campbellsville University’s Green Minds, the Environmental Ethics class and Student Government (SGA).

 

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The planting kicked off at CU’s Earth Day 2014 celebration April 22. From left, standing, are Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young, CU president Dr. Michael V. Carter, Taylor County Judge Eddie Rogers, guest speaker Dr. Matthew Sleeth, SGA president Jacqueline Nelson, LG&E KU representatives Rhonda Rose, Gidget Stubbs and Tiffany Cox, and Green Minds student representatives Constanze Sophie Mälzer and Ana Gonzalez. In the front row, from left, are visitors Yoonseo Nam; Yunisha Richerson, Kaylynn Smith, Sarah Adkins, Blake Settle behind Sarah, and Caiden Yocom. (CU Photo by Vicky Wei).

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Paul Osborne, CU trustee and head of grounds and landscape development, rode his Trek to the Earth Day celebration on April 22. He is an avid biker and among the leaders of the Campbellsville-Taylor County Trail Town development. (CU Photo by Linda Waggener).

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John Chowning, at the podium, a leader in development of Earth Day activities on CU’s campus, announced a support donation he and his wife Cathy were making for use by Green Minds. There to accept the gift for the organization were Green Minds student representatives Constanze Sophie Mälzer and Ana Gonzalez, at left, and Gabriel de Freitas at right. (CU Photo by Vicky Wei).

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The view from the Turner Log Cabin front porch as Earth Day 2014 attendees began to gather. (CU Photo by Linda Waggener).

 

Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community

planted-by-leah-kostamo“Leah Kostamo’s elegant memoir shares the story of A Rocha, an organization that lives out the principles of Christian stewardship and community. With humility, grace, and candor, Leah takes her readers along the creation-care journey, sharing how many small acts can and do make a difference.”
Matthew and Nancy Sleeth

Using personal stories of a lifetime’s journey of learning to care for creation, Leah Kostamo shares the tale of A Rocha, an organization dedicated to earth keeping. If you enjoyed reading Dr. Matthew Sleeth’s account of his own journey, Serve God, Save the Planet, you will also find much to love about Planted. Buy your copy from Amazon today!

November’s Monthly Challenge: Be a Hospitable Host!

_DSC4521 The upcoming holiday season provides many chances to show hospitality to others and foster community. Whether you will be spending Thanksgiving with family or hosting a dinner for those in need, there’s something in this month’s challenge you can do. Below you will find some suggestions from the BE team, along with a printable checklist of action items. We would love to hear from you, so please send us your success stories! Did you host a special guest for dinner or open your spare bedroom to someone who needed a place to stay? Let us know! We would be proud to hear your reports or see some photos of what you do this month. You can email emma@blessedearth.org with the subject line “Monthly Challenge” and we share the stories and photos here on the Monthly Challenge page. Check back to see what others are doing! 1. Practice hospitality in small ways: Find out a friend or neighbor’s favorite food, then invite them to dinner and serve it to them. 2. Look objectively at your home: Would guests be comfortable there? Are there enough seats for people who require them, and enough clear space on the floor for others to sit? Try to arrange an area that facilitates conversation, where guests can sit facing each other. 3. Consider the needs of the people who enter your home. For example, when hosting an elderly guest, you may want to turn the lights and temperature up and minimize any background noise or music. 4. Host a monthly potluck dinner in order to get to know your neighbors. 5. A tip: Soup is an excellent option when you don’t know how many guests you will be having, because it can always be thinned to serve more people. Vegetable soup is a particularly good option when you don’t know the dietary restrictions of your guests.

6. When you are a guest in someone else’s home, consider bringing along a useful gift. For example, if you will be staying overnight, bring some local honey or preserves and homemade bread to share for breakfast. 7. Who do you know that needs hospitality the most? Consider hosting a neighborhood immigrant family or a far-from-home student for holidays and weekend dinners. 8. If you have a spare bedroom, be mindful about offering it to someone who needs a place to stay. 9. Read some books about hospitality. We highly recommend Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, by Christine Pohl. Send us your photos and stories, and we’ll share them below. Previous Challenges: October 2013: Go Green at the Office! September 2013: Celebrate the Sabbath! August 2013: Take Control of Your Computer! July 2013: Live Locally!

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North Carolina Creation Care Year Continues to Inspire

2013-09-08 18.22.38 Dr. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth had a diverse and productive visit to Asheville, North Carolina in early September. On Thursday, September 5, Dr. Sleeth gave the keynote address for the Western North Carolina Alliance Annual Conference. The Sleeths spent the next several days hiking and exploring Asheville. On Sunday, Dr. Sleeth preached at First Presbyterian Church of Asheville. That evening, he shared 24/6 and Sabbath keeping with over 100 attendees at an evening discussion at First Baptist Church. After his lecture, he participated in a panel discussion with Anna Jane Joyner, of the Western North Carolina Alliance, and Dr. Guy Sayles, pastor of First Baptist. Dr. Sleeth wrapped up his trip on Monday morning by speaking about Sabbath practices with several dozen clergy at First Baptist Church.

Below are images of audience discussion and participation. 2013-09-08 18.33.01 2013-09-08 18.33.25 2013-09-08 18.33.11

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September’s Monthly Challenge: Celebrate the Sabbath!

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Sabbath is about restraint—intentionally not doing everything all the time just because we can. Setting aside a day of rest helps us reconnect with our Creator and find the peace of God that passes all understanding. In this month’s challenge, we invite you to let go of the controls one day each week, to let God be God. Below you will find some suggestions from the BE team, along with a printable checklist of action items.

We would love to hear from you, so please send us your success stories! Did you bake Challah bread or create a “quiet activities” box? Let us know! We would be proud to hear your reports or see some photos of what you do this month. You can email jessica@blessedearth.org with the subject line “Monthly Challenge” and we will share the stories and photos here on the Monthly Challenge page. Check back to see what others are doing!

1. Talk with your family and decide how you want to celebrate the Sabbath. Develop your own traditions, like a Sabbath walk or lighting Sabbath candles.

2. Say grace before every meal on the Sabbath.

3. Spend at least half an hour in silence.

4. Write a letter of appreciation.

5. Encourage your family to take guiltless naps.

6. Clean the house and do all errands the day before the Sabbath.

7. Avoid eating out, buying things, and driving (except to church).

8. Select a devotional to share with your family. Try Psalm 92 (the Sabbath Day Psalm) or Psalm 23, 24, 29, 93, 126, or 148.

9. Take off your watch and remove all reminders of work during the Sabbath day.

10. Prepare a special Sabbath meal and invite someone to share it with you. Try baking Challah bread. Prepare most Sabbath meals with local or organic foods.

11. Turn off the computer and your cell phone. Use your answering machine to screen calls

12. Fill a special play box for children with quiet activities reserved for the Sabbath.

13. Talk together. Share praises and concerns with family or friends. Ask forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt or offended this week. Bless your spouse and children. Read a book aloud together.

14. Spend at least ten minutes completely surrounded by nature.

15. Pick a cue throughout the week to bring in a moment of Sabbath peace to your weekday routine.

 

Be sure to print this checklist of action items to keep track ofmwhat you’ve done this month!

Then, send us your photos and stories, and we’ll share them below.

 

 

Previous Challenges:

August 2013: Take Control of Your Computer!
July 2013: Live Locally!

 

 

August’s Monthly Challenge: Take Control of Your Computer!

IMG_0185 Computers and other technology can be wonderful, but if we aren’t careful they can take up too much of our time and use too much energy. In this month’s challenge, we invite you to investigate your relationship with your computer. Below you will find some suggestions from the BE team:
1. Go on a weekend Internet fast and use that time to pray for guidance on how to develop more godly habits.
2. Pledge to spend at least 10 percent less time in front of a computer screen. Use the extra time to take a walk, have a conversation with a family member or friend, or read your Bible.
3. Wait one month when you think you need a new computer; if you still believe you need one, consider buying used.
4. Donate your old or underused computer to a good cause.
5. Unclutter your inbox. Unsubscribe from mailing lists and e-catalogs, and you’ll spend less time checking and deleting emails. As a bonus, you’ll eliminate the temptation to shop for things you don’t need!
6. Turn off the computer monitor when you leave the room for more than two minutes. Monitors use up to 60 percent of the energy consumed by your computer system.
7. Avoid screen savers. They are big energy wasters.
8. To completely shut down your desktop computer, plug it into a power strip with an on/off switch and turn off your entire desktop setup in one easy step. Don’t settle for standby mode; your computer will continue to draw power. Giving your computer a complete rest will reduce heat and mechanical stress.
9. Save energy, switch to a laptop. Laptops use up to 90 percent less energy than desktops. Set your laptop to go into sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity, and let it draw power from the battery when possible.
10. Make it a practice to leave printers, scanners, and other infrequently used devices unplugged or switched entirely off until needed.
11. Print Double-Sided. Cut paper use in half by setting the default on your printer to double-sided printing. (You can still print single-sided when needed.)
12. Print Less. Avoid printing unnecessary emails or draft documents. Do as much information storing electronically as possible.
13. Use the draft mode when printing documents that aren’t final. Your printer’s draft mode uses about half the ink it would for a normal print job. Be sure to print this checklist of action items to keep track of what you’ve done this month! Then, send us your photos and stories, and we’ll share them below.
Previous Challenges: July 2013: Live Locally!

July’s Monthly Challenge: Live Locally!

  picnic Whether you live in the city or the country, the warm summer weather provides the perfect opportunity to get outside and explore your surroundings! In this first Blessed Earth Monthly Challenge, we invite you to spend as much time as possible close to home, in your community. Below you will find some suggestions from the BE team, along with a printable checklist of action items. We would love to hear from you, so please send us your success stories! Did you start a garden, or tune up your bicycle so you could ride it more often? Let us know! We would be proud to hear your reports or see some photos of what you do this month. You can email jessica@blessedearth.org with the subject line “Monthly Challenge” and we will share the stories and photos here on the Monthly Challenge page. Check back to see what others are doing! 1. Ride your bike more often! When the weather’s nice, get out and cycle instead of driving. 2. Eat at home. The average American family spends $350/month eating out. Save some money and cook in your own kitchen. Better yet, grill out!Cooking outside during warm summer months helps you avoid heating your house while cooking. 3. When you do eat out, patronize local restaurants, not chains— they will appreciate your business, and you will avoid the unhealthy foods and excessive disposable packaging of fast food places. Try to find restaurants that use locally sourced food providers. 4. Have a yard sale and get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year. Thinning out your stuff is a good spiritual and environmental exercise. Plus, buying and selling at local yard sales avoids contributing to our over-materialized consumer culture. 5. Buy local, seasonal food! When you support local co- ops, farmers’ markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), you reduce the distance your food migrates and the amount of fuel and packaging it takes to feed your family while supporting your local economy. Enjoy fresh sweet corn in the summer, apples in the fall, and citrus in the winter. You can also find local sources for eggs, honey, and meat. Check out www.localharvest.org for suggestions. 6. Start a garden! Go extremely local and grow food in your own backyard. If you can’t plant your own garden, investigate a local community garden. Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) and barter labor for part of your “share.” You can even get into canning your food. Canning is a great way to eat local all year-round. 7. Where does your food come from? Visit a local farm. Experience where your food comes from by looking for “You Pick” farms in your area. See www.pickyourown.org for a list in your area. 8. Give back! Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food redistribution center. 9. Share! Get in the practice of inviting others to your table to share your food. Get to know your neighbors! Host a neighborhood party in your backyard. 10. Take advantage of the hot air to hang clothes on the line to dry. (Even once a week helps reduce the cost of running your dryer!) While you’re outside, take the time to enjoy the beauty of creation or have a chat with a neighbor. 11. Turn off the TV and get outside! Explore your backyard, your street, and the closest park. Encourage your children to do the same. 12. Instead of taking an expensive vacation, consider a “stay-cation”! Stay home, relax, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation by sleeping outside. You don’t have to drive to Yellowstone to go camping! Pitch a tent in the backyard and discover the sights and sounds of the night. If you feel the need to get away, visit the lodge of the closest state park—just as relaxing as a “real” vacation at a fraction of the cost! 13. When looking for gifts, try small, local stores. You can find unique purchases that will help support the local economy. 14. Festivals! Summer is a great time for art and culture festivals. Check your local cultural events calendar to see what’s in your area. Be sure to support the artists by picking up a one-of-a-kind piece of art! 15. Keep your locale looking beautiful by picking up unsightly litter. Be sure to print this checklist of action items to keep track of what you’ve done this month! Then, send us your photos and stories, and we’ll share them below.   Success Stories: Reverend Jonathan Brake of Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem writes, “We joined a community garden this year because our yard just doesn’t have enough sunlight to grow our own.” He shared these photos of his family’s plot: brakegarden2 brakegarden brakegarden3 Reverend Brake also sent this photo of his son, with the caption “Sam Brake found the Queen Bee at the Peachtree Farmer’s Market in Advance, NC. Meanwhile we found tomatoes, green beans, squash, peaches, and corn. Everything is grown within 50 miles!” brakemarketbee   Nancy G. shared:

“Getting to know the birds in your yard is a wonderful way to deepen your relationship with your own sense of home. Folks can put out water and bird seed or a hummingbird feeder and watch all the birds that respond. In June, many parent birds were bringing their babies into my backyard to teach them to eat seed and drink the water. It was such a gift to watch these almost daily, sometimes very funny, lessons. They hide from us as much as other animals do and so are readily available to teach us about what’s happening in the natural world around us. They have specific calls, in addition to their common song that many folks might be familiar with, like alarm calls and companion calls and even male aggression sounds when the guys are fighting or defending their territories, and even baby birds have specific begging calls. Many of the species belonging to the corvid family, which includes jays, magpies, crows and ravens, have over 40 vocalizations! And once folks start inviting birds to their yards, other critters might also follow that they can get to know as well, like squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, deer, raccoons, snakes, lizards and so many more depending on the location of one’s home in an urban or rural area. And because animals and birds can be territorial, depending upon the circumstances and time of year, folks may start to recognize the same birds and critters coming to their yards. Once they get to know you, they don’t fly away when you’re in your yard – or at least not as often and usually return fairly quickly.”   Karen H. shared, “For the month of July, I challenged my friends and family to clean out their gently used items all over the house. This weekend, I held a Swap and Donate Party where the participants could “shop” the items already collected and organized by category. They could take whatever they wanted. At the end, several people helped to box the items up and label them for delivery to the First United Methodist Children’s Home, ESTHER (a single mother’s ministry), New Beginnings Ministry, and the local library. We also had a new friend who started Onepurse.org, an organization that raises money to help end trafficking of women and children. I think about 10% of the items were taken, and the rest of the items will be going where they are greatly needed. Cleaned-out homes and helping people locally—I’d say that’s a win-win!” 001 collage (1)    

Summoned Toward Wholeness: Food and Faith Conference

EventLogoBlessed Earth, in partnership with Duke Divinity School, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and Anathoth Community Garden, is hosting a gathering titled “Summoned Toward Wholeness: A Conference on Food, Farming and the Life of Faith”. The conference will be held September 27-28, 2013, at Duke Divinity School.

Scripture portrays God as a gardener, farmer, and shepherd. It describes Jesus as “the bread of life” who invites people to the Lord’s table so they can learn to feed his sheep. It is hard to read the Bible and not see that God cares deeply about food and agriculture.

Join plenary speakers Ellen F. Davis, Joel Salatin, Scott Cairns, and Blessed Earth’s Will Samson, and 12 workshop leaders, as we explore multiple connections between food, farming, and the life of faith. Discover how a  concern for food and agriculture can deepen faith and heal our lands and communities.

To learn more, visit the conference website.

 

Going Green in Scotland

by Keith Jagger For my little family, we’ve joined the many who’ve had an “out-of-country” living experience. For the last two years we have made a home in Scotland, far away from our Midwest roots. When we leave, we’ll share some fond memories of our adventures here, and we’ve already come to love some of the many aspects of British life and culture, such as the sense of history marked by ancient and medieval architecture, long-standing traditions, greater sensibility about the environment, less consumerism, and national health benefits. But we are finding particular challenges here too, especially the trials that come along with renting a home. We ended up having to choose a lifestyle that wanted for many conveniences: no dryer, no car, no dishwasher, no microwave, and no cell phones. It is not the norm here in the UK to go without these luxuries, but a general atmosphere of more simple living made some of these challenges easier. They have guided us to some real lifestyle changes. Take life without a dryer, for example. While many households here have dryers, neither of the flats that we rented housed one (or even had the capacity to hold one). So in the short summer months, we washed our clothes in the washer and hung them on the lines outside. There’s something romantic about a sunny yard (“garden”, as they call it here) with clothes drying in the coastal wind. But there are also the bugs, which the dryer would have killed right away. We’d often find a buggy stowaway in the hamper. Then there are the long and dismal winter seasons that forced us into the hardships of laundering in the old ways. In the winter, we were strained to dry all of our clothes inside. We quickly learned that drying laundry this way would take twice as long, especially in a house with poor insulation and absence of central heating. You have to forsake totally that nice soft touch that clothes have when they come out of the drying cycle. You end up giving up one of your rooms to make a drying station, and you need spend the extra energy on radiators that serve as the drying mechanism. Loads have to be done almost daily because of the minimal amount that could be hung on small racks indoors. In fact, what used to be a simple task, soon took a huge amount of time out of our already hectic schedules. This should have slowed us down and helped us to reconsider the pace of our lives. But we pressed on. In the short run, it just made life more physically exhausting and more stressful. There’s nothing convenient about hanging your clothes, even when it is changing your habits for the better, bit by bit. But housework without a dryer was a small hiccup compared to life without a car. Central point: while our very generous friends learned to offer us rides to church and the grocery store, not having a car seriously limited our social life, especially our ability to fit in with a peer community who was on the go. Our friendship life suffered without a car. We would see families who were taking a short drive to the beach or the restaurant in the next town over; we couldn’t go. When we were invited over for dinner at a friend’s house who lived across town, the hustle of getting there and back, even with a semi-helpful public transport system had a three-fold effect: it diminished our desire to get there, lowered their interest in inviting us again when they saw how difficult it was to get there, and lowered interest on both sides of sending out future invites. You realize how far it is across town when it takes you 40 minutes to get where a car would take you in 5. Of course there were the exceptions, and these friends who endured through our car-handicap will be long termers. The positive, though, is that we got to know friends better who lived in a few blocks’ radius. On Saturdays we became more familiar and intimate with the trails and parks by our house. And we simply had to say “no” to frequent leisure travel and sightseeing in the region. In general, life without a car in this technological age is tough; it especially limits your social life in a world where people and families are enjoying fellowship over greater distances at a time. And yet all the while we were getting used to life without dependence on petrol. We also lived for two years without a dishwasher, and for the last six months––because of an unfortunate run in with the wash cycle––no cell phones. I don’t know anybody else that lives with this combination of technology anaemia. No dishwasher, not a big deal… that’s more normal. But no cell phone is near unheard of. Overall impression: life really doesn’t change all that much without a cell phone. I wish more people would realize this. Other technology such as Skype, email, and the Internet suffices. True, there are times when I’m running late. I can’t call my wife and tell her where I am. Or we have forgotten something or are lost with no means to call. There are friendships that I’m sure aren’t deeper because we can’t text. I wish I could snap a funny picture here or there, and I simply can’t. But life without a cell phone still goes on. Not to mention the community time we gained in the instances we had to walk actually over to a neighbour’s house to have a conversation in person rather than trying to call or text. Technology is supposed to make life easier; all it really does is make you more in need of more technology. If anything, we were detoxing from being connected literally to the world by our belt straps. While this all makes us honorary hippies, having to go without a dryer, car, cell phone, microwave, and dishwasher has not immediately harmonized our life. It has actually made us more inaccessible to a community on the go. And there’s real pain that comes with that. We’d love to announce that our “out-of-country” experience has inspired us to live life in America without these luxuries. That wouldn’t be the total truth. I can’t wait to have the privilege of a car again. I’m going to have a cell phone activated probably within days of arrival. But here’s the payoff. We know what it is like now to do technology detox, and while change is hard (luckily our living experiences in the last two years forced to change) change can come. While we plan to use the things that we left behind in the States, we will use them much more modestly with much more thought on their negative impact on our lives, rather than simply diving in headfirst. It has changed our view of when and how to use them. I think that this is a significance of what St. Paul realized when he said that all creation is waiting for “the revelation of the sons and daughters of God”. The earth and all its creatures are waiting in hope for us to get the memo; we don’t need to dry our clothes in machines, always seek oracles on Google or constantly speed around distances that should never be sped across. The life we’ve lived here in Scotland has been less of a burden on our planet than our lives in the US would have been and will be (even though it was not less of a “burden” on us). As of yet, we are still doing the grunt work of making good habits and letting go of selfish desires for convenience and luxury. But what we do know is that change is slow but can be made, even if it takes some external factors to get you motivated first.  


Keith Jagger first met the Sleeths when they were neighbors in Wilmore, Kentucky, and were brought together by their shared passion for creation care. After completing his studies at Asbury Seminary, Keith moved to Scotland to study with N.T. Wright. As Blessed Earth’s “Anglo Correspondent.” Keith writes both from the perspective a PhD student studying creation care and a husband/father/follower of Jesus struggling to incorporate creation care principles in his daily life. You can read more of his writing at keithjagger.com or urban-abbey.com.