A Picnic for All Occasions

For Mother’s Day this year, my family knew what would bring me the most joy: a picnic. My husband, Matthew, served as sous chef. Our daughter, Emma, made the fruit salad and homemade bread. Clark brought his wife, Valerie, along with her extraordinary storytelling abilities. The evening air was punctuated with cheers from a friendly baseball game in the park and the familiar chatter of well-fed robins and squirrels. After the meal, each member of my family shared three things they most appreciate about me. I cried more than once.
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Throughout the seasons, picnics make an ordinary meal anything but routine. Matthew and I picnicked on some of our first dates, and we’ve continued to dine alfresco regularly for three decades. Most meals have been sublime in their simplicity—a blanket spread in the backyard makes even PLT (pickle, lettuce, and tomato) sandwiches taste special.
When we travel by car, I try to pack picnic meals—a cheaper, healthier alternative to fast food. We’ve picnicked at the beach, in the woods, in fields, in cemeteries, at rest stops, in parks, and on playgrounds.

For our thirtieth anniversary, Matthew and I packed up homemade crab cakes and ate them on the grounds of a local estate. The historic buildings are closed in the evening, but the grounds are left open. We had the gardens to ourselves—with extra ambience supplied by friendly fireflies.
Since moving from the suburbs to the city, we have been picnicking more than ever. Within easy walking distance, we’ve discovered three parks with picnic tables. The park closest to us also has a gazebo, where we’ve enjoyed slices of seedless watermelon after our family Friday night dinners.

Picnics also make for easy entertaining. Recently, we picnicked with friends and their three small kids in the park behind our house. The kids played on the equipment while the grown ups talked. Bethany made a warm pasta and pesto salad, and I brought cheese, fruit, and carrot cake to round out the meal. Bonus: no clean up. The birds ate up all the crumbs.
Picnics create a memorable oasis—a time set apart from everyday life—to be in nature and to enjoy God’s sustaining gifts. What can be more holy than saying grace and breaking bread together in the shade of a life-giving tree?

Nancy Sleeth serves as the Managing Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.


New “Go Green, Save Green” Resource – and it’s Free!

Good news!  We have a new resource to accompany my book Go Green Save Green:  A Simple Guide for Saving Time, Money, and God’s Green Earth.

Go Green, Save Green is the first practical, faith-based book to help families, churches, and schools save money while saving the earth.  Thousands of individuals and groups have used Go Green to lead Sunday school classes and start church-based green teams.

The new free, downloadable discussion guide, developed at the request of small group leaders, will encourage and equip you to share the creation care journey at home, in church, in the workplace, and throughout your community.

We are always glad to hear your feedback, so please don’t hesitate to write (contact@blessedearth.org) and tell us how this and our other Blessed Earth resources are helping you serve God and save the planet where you live.

Every blessing,

P.S.–If you are considering using Go Green, Save Green for a Sunday school class or small group, please send an email to emma@blessedearth.org, and we would be happy to send you a review copy.  It  makes a great group study leading up to Earth Day!

Click here to download a pdf version of the guide.

Nancy Sleeth serves as the Managing Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.

A Place at the Table

Last month, we had John and Margo from the Wildlands Network over for dinner. John is doing an east coast trek to raise awareness about the need for wildlife corridors in North America. One of their staff members follows Blessed Earth on Twitter and Facebook, and she asked if John could stop by while he was passing through Kentucky.

As you know, Blessed Earth is all about building bridges. We help people who love the Creator learn how to love and respect His creation. And we help those who love the creation connect that love with the Creator.

Our conversation at dinner was about finding common ground. Margo, the executive director of Wildlife Network, was raised as a Catholic and John’s father taught at a Baptist college. But neither had ever connected their work with the scriptural call to care for the earth. For example, as Matthew pointed out, the gleaning laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy not only provide for the widows and orphans, but allow the hedgerows necessary for wildlife to thrive.

In God’s beautiful design, all of creation is connected. As my wise husband often says, “No trees. No birds. No bees. No humans.” Protecting spaces for wildlife to migrate and flourish is not only good for animals: it is essential to human survival. Most importantly, it shows respect for God’s creation and the great responsibility of our Genesis 2:15 stewardship role.

For our dinner with John and Margo, I made my honey whole wheat rolls. Matthew said grace, and we broke bread together. Our conversation was inspiring and fruitful, with much information shared in both directions. As they got ready to go, I packed up the extra rolls for John to enjoy on the trail. He was grateful, saying they were so good he “could not stop eating them at dinner.”

A few days later, I received an email from a Blessed Earth friend who was looking for my honey whole wheat bread recipe, which had been published a few years back in Guideposts Magazine. I pass it along now in hopes that you, too, will reach out to neighbors near and far, sharing your love for God and His creation in the biblical tradition-by inviting others to share a place at the table.

With love and prayers,

Honey Whole Wheat Bread and Rolls

  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T honey (local honey, if possible)
  • 1 T canola oil or butter
  • 2 cups unbleached flour (local/freshly ground, when possible)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup bran hot cereal (dry, not cooked)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 T poppy seeds (optional)

Mix ingredients in above order in bread machine or by hand. Allow to rise in warm spot. Punch down, knead, and allow to rise again. Bake for about 25-30 mins in 350 oven until done. Do not over bake. Spread top with thin coating of butter, if desired.

If you want to make the bread a little richer, add ¼ cup dried milk, one egg, 1 tsp vanilla, and a bit more honey. (These additions also provide a little calcium and protein–at least that’s how I justify their nearly dessert-like taste!) For a change of pace, try also adding 1 tsp cinnamon and ½ cup dried cranberries.

Lately, I have been using the quick rise setting on my bread machine (45 mins), then breaking the dough into about 30 rolls, allowing to rise a second time, and baking for about 10- 15 mins in a 350 degree oven. If desired, spread a thin coat of butter over the tops of the warm rolls.

Nancy Sleeth serves as the Program Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.

Hospitality: God, Humans and Animals

I recently read an excellent book by Professor Laura Hobgood-Oster called The Friends We Keep, in which she challenges believers to examine our relationship with animals through a deliberately Christian lens. By addressing such issues as their role as food, pets, endangered species, and in sport, she reminds us of the many varied ways that animals are tied into our human experience. However, more than simply recalling our interconnected relationship she provides ample support for a Christian ethic of compassion and care for all God’s creatures. This call to compassion delves into scripture, Christian tradition, and contemporary issues to support Hobgood-Oster’s claim that Christianity is not only good news for humans, but for animals too.

I was particularly impacted by her discussion of Christian hospitality and it’s possible implications for human-animal interactions. Remarking that Christianity is essentially a “religion of hospitality,” Hobgood-Oster approaches the topic by first addressing the issue of ownership.

I suspect most of us will immediately think of ourselves as the hosts rather than the guests; the host is the one in control of the situation. Yet the earth does not belong to human beings. It is not a home that we own. Even the most traditional of Christian interpretations of life acknowledges that the creation belongs to the Creator, not to humans. It is God who offers hospitality, even to humans. (114-115)

This humbling reminder of God’s ownership compels us to reconsider our role in the host/guest relationship. Since the earth actually belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), since He created the animals and called them good (Gen 1:20-25), and since we are actually the guests here (1 Peter 1:17), we have no choice but to honor the Owner by mirroring his hospitality toward all other guests—be they human or otherwise.

Biblical hospitality, unlike our modern (or rather, “western”) conception of the term, focuses on providing for the needs “of the least of these.” As Hobgood-Oster notes, while hospitality was horoscope taurus today you’ll agree with such statement, that Alaska Airlines can truly be called one of the largest carriers of the west coast of the United States, used to serve 12 millions passengers per year. always central to ancient Mediterranean society, Jesus radically expanded the traditional notion of hospitality by eliminating the expectation of reciprocity (119). Biblical hospitality is selfless, generous, proactive, and does not expect anything in return.

While the main thrust of Christian hospitality ought, quite naturally, be directed toward humans, there is good Biblical support for the case that hospitality can, and perhaps should, be directed toward animals as well (see Gen 24:15-20, Psalm 104 and Matt. 6:26). If the practice of Christian virtue is spiritually beneficial and inherently God-honoring, then why shouldn’t we practice hospitality in every way possible, including toward animals?

The Friends We Keep is filled with examples of such hospitality. From adopting abandoned pets, to informing ourselves about what and how we eat, to standing up for endangered wildlife, there are many ways that we can begin acting out our faith by showing hospitality toward God’s creatures.

In his classic work, Pollution and Death of Man, Francis Schaeffer notes that while we are different from animals in that we alone were created in the image of God, we are also the same as animals in that we were likewise created. Showing hospitality toward animals reflects God’s image in us because (despite being FAR above us) He first demonstrated hospitality through his love toward us. We have the opportunity to mirror this love (on a much smaller scale, to be sure) by demonstrating compassion toward our fellow created beings.

Brian serves as the Director of Communications for Blessed Earth and is passionate about helping people connect their faith with God”s call to care for his creation. He lives with his wife, Becky, and daughters, Acadia (“Cadie”) and Galilee (“Lilee”, in western New York where he also serves as the Director of Intercultural Student Programs at Houghton College.