His Good Work is Everywhere!

“There came to St. Anthony in the desert one of the educated men of that time and he said, “Father, how can you endure to live here, deprived as you are of all consolation from books?” Anthony answered, “My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and whenever I wish, I can read in it the works of God.”

It has been such a beautiful Spring! A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph at one of the most beautiful farms in Bourbon County, located in central KY. I was permitted to get out in the pasture with some mares and foals. I just sat down in the middle of the field. There was one particular foal who was only two weeks old. Even though he was a little afraid of me, curiosity got overrode all of that and he could not stay away, allowing me to touch his soft nose.

Shortly after this brief encounter, Steve, the owner of the farm came out to visit them too.  I love the tenderness and care that he exhibited over this little guy.  It kind of reminded me of a scene where Adam named the animals.  Later, we talked about how this farm owner sees and appreciates God, the Creator, at work each day, while at work on the farm. The next time you are having a hard time sensing or connecting with God, just look around you. His good work is everywhere!

Jeff Rogers – With twenty years of nature photography experience as well as a lay pastor background, Jeff brings an appreciation for God’s creation as well as spiritual guidance. His wife, Melissa, an emergency room physician, shares his passion for serving God and preserving the beauty of nature.

Earth Day 2012 – A time to Celebrate

What an incredible few days! Matthew and Nancy and the Blessed Earth team hardly stopped this past weekend and we are so very grateful for our partners and the National Cathedral for long hours of preparation. We will be releasing photos and video as well and reflections on what comes next. As we launch the Blessed Earth Year and follow up on the Seminary Stewardship Alliance we will have tons of news and exciting updates. But for now, we pause and give thanks to our Creator God for a marvelous Earth Day weekend in Washington D.C. Here are some selected images from the major events (you can click on the image for a larger view).

Blessed Earth team prepare for the day at the Cathedral

Matthew preaches at the National Cathedral, Earth Day 2012

Wendell Berry receives award

Matthew speaks at the award luncheon

Award Luncheon hosted by the National Cathedral, Blessed Earth, and the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care

Matthew Sleeth and Wendell Berry during the Earth Day forum

Seminary officials pray after launch of the Blessed Earth Seminary Stewardship Alliance (Will Samson, Blessed Earth Development Director pictured far right)

National Cathedral congregants

Earth Day 2012 at the National Cathedral

Processional (Matthew Sleeth is pictured in the dark suite near the bottom of the image)

Matthew gets ready to join the processional

Cathedral TV on Earth Day


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.

The Spirituality of Saving the Earth

Resolving to save the earth can be like New Years. Lots of grand intentions. Little life change. My wife and I go back and forth about it all the time. She is a conservation heroine, with a few ideas that drive me up the wall. I am a conservation champion with wasteful habits. She saves and washes used aluminum foil. I ride a bike to work. She reuses water. I leave the faucet running. She buys all sorts of eco-friendly cleaners. I use way more of it than I need. She wraps our baby day after day in cloth diapers. If it were up to me, our pampered baby would be crawling around catching Ultra Dawn bubbles – with glass tupperware only. When it comes to conservation, we both have our opinions. And we both need space to grow. A good mentor of mine introduced me to the idea of “Just-Noticeable Improvements.” It goes like this. We often fail to make any ground on good resolutions for two reasons. 1. Our wasteful patterns of life run much deeper than, “bad-habits.” From childhood trauma to addictions, from bad influences to chronic depression, our patterns of living flow from deep places. 2. Therefore take baby steps…everyday. JNI’s are ultimately about a diligent faith. Faith that God is using our everyday circumstances to transform us for the good. Diligence in listening and responding well. It is the reason why the environmental movements of the last 30 years have tended to make good but little widespread impact. We haven’t realized that becoming green necessarily means becoming whole. This is where vibrant faith steps in. The green movement has already changed our minds in North America. What we need now is a change of heart. It is the change of a thousand small decisions on the part of millions of people. It is a change that every person can make. It is building habits that sometimes takes decades – if we don’t resist the ways God is shaping us in our every day lives. It is a change being enacted by God’s Holy Spirit, if we don’t try to take the wheel from his hands and turn ourselves into conservation heroes overnight. It is washing the dang aluminum foil and catching yourself about to put a glob of eco-friendly soap on your dishes when a dab will do. It about Just Noticeable Improvements.

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.

Life is Green in St. Andrews

The bus passed by on its way to the Old Course. I was on my bike, in the cycle lane. I was pulling behind me a trailer with my five-year old girl packed in. We had just been to the grocery. You could see her head. That was it. She was stuffed in there with our weekly produce. I caught a bit of the bus’ placard as it drove out of sight: “Carbon Neutral Travel.” The city seemed abuzz with green ambition. It made room for a biker and his kid. I moved recently to one of the “greenest” (and windiest) cities in all of the UK, St. Andrews. We are slowly figuring out what that means and slowly adapting. Recycling? Of course. Droves of activist groups? Definitely. No dryers in a hundred miles. Really? And life for the first time without a car? Unimaginably difficult! So what’s it like living in a greenest European city? It has its benefits and its challenges. For example, you start riding your bike everywhere. And when you have problems, you realize how little about bikes you really know. You get your hands dirty with grease more often. You get your temper flaring when you puncture your tire tube a second time in two days – because you don’t know how to change a flat. And you deal with the occasional spray of windshield-washer fluid in your face (remember the wind) as you wonder if riding a bike is really healthier after all. But for all of the challenges, you come to some of the real rewards. The pathways are incredible. The ancient ruins never get old. You can get to them either on the cobbled streets or through the pristine walkways filled with oak, and maple, and spruce. Cycling home through a botanical garden is not much of a burden after all. It gives you time to reflect after a hard day’s work. And life in general, without a car, without a dryer, without what seemed like basic needs, takes a softer turn– if you don’t kick against it. When it takes longer to care for your essential wants, life gets simpler. And you are humbled by the University’s 2016 goal of being carbon neutral and the 2020 goal of being “Zero Waste.” It has been six months now of biking to the grocers and back. Every day I think about why I am here and what it is all for. Why join the movement of God’s people for the healing of his earth? Why hope for purer and greener expressions of Christianity around the world? Why move thousands of miles away from to study the Earthen Spirituality of Jesus and his followers with the magnanimous NT Wright? Because you believe with all your heart that God’s is at work inspiring his people to become better stewards of the earth. Whether it’s getting a PhD or biking to the grocery, you want to do something that matters to Him.

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.

Blessed Earth partners with the National Cathedral

…and five other major churches in the next five years

Last spring Matthew was invited to speak from the pulpit of the National Cathedral, the “Nation’s Church,” in Washington, DC. His talk and forum were the centerpiece of their Earth Day celebration. As a school child, Matthew had taken yearly field trips to visit with stonemasons and watch the Cathedral being built, so this was an especially meaningful moment for him.

The Cathedral, which seats 3,000, was packed. As Matthew climbed the stairs to the pulpit, I said a prayer for the Holy Spirit to be with him. My prayers were answered as Matthew’s words echoed throughout the Cathedral’s lofty naves and sacred spaces.

But God had even bigger plans. Matthew’s sermon was well received—so well, that the Cathedral approached Blessed Earth about doing a year-long program on creation care. With 500,000 visitors and the ability to draw anybody from around the globe to its pulpit, the Cathedral is an ideal platform for sharing the scriptural call to care for God’s creation.

The Cathedral asked us to sketch out what a year of creation care learning could look like. First, we came up with monthly themes:

  • God is Green (September)
  • Animals (October)
  • Food (November)
  • Trees (December)
  • Sabbath (January)
  • Conservation (February)
  • Creation Care and the Poor (March)
  • “Make Earth Day a Church Day 2013”/Psalms and Music (April)
  • Soil (May)
  • Hospitality (June)

These themes springboard off existing seasonal activities. For example, September marks the start of new learning (God is Green), October the Feast of St. Francis (patron saint of animals), November Thanksgiving meals (food), December Christmas (trees), January new resolutions (Sabbath keeping), February Lent (conservation), March sacrifice (creation care and the poor), April Earth Day and a “Make Earth Day a Church Day” concert/celebration, May Mother’s Day and the Cathedral’s annual Flower Festival with 10,000 visitors (soil), and June the beginning of travel and vacationing (hospitality).

Once we had the themes, we fleshed out each month. Starting with a sermon, we also hoped to include public forums with international speakers, movie nights with filmmakers, book readings with authors, school and small group curricula—plus ample opportunities for putting all this learning into action.

Matthew is a big thinker. Once we got the National Cathedral rolling, he asked, “Why not use the same model at five other influential churches, in five additional cities around the country?”

Apparently, God likes big plans. Within two months of initiating the idea, start up money for the Blessed Earth Church Stewardship Alliance is in place. And now, the work begins!

None of this would have been possible without you, our friends and faithful supporters. Your faith in our mission has led to the enormous gates that now stand open before us. As we cross these new thresholds, we envision a world where Christians are fluent in the language of creation care, where churches model good stewardship practices, and where there is a place at the creation care table for all who believe.

Nancy Sleeth

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.

Back to the Beginning

Painting: “The Garden of Eden” by Thomas Cole, 1828 (public domain)

Often to truly understand an issue, we need to look backward before we can look forward. That is always the case with biblical theology. To get your brain around the goals and purposes of redemption, you are going to have to cast an eye back to Eden. As regards creation care, looking back to the design of Eden is much the same as reconsidering the blueprints of an historic building. Regardless of what has deteriorated or decayed, what has been added or removed, if a renovation is in the works, the original blueprint will provide the guidance needed to get that building back to what it ought to be. So if we, the redeemed community, want to understand our relationship to God’s creation, we’re going to need to start at the beginning.

In Genesis chapter one God reveals his original, perfect plan for his creation. Here the interdependence of the cosmos is laid out within the literary framework of a perfect “week.” On the seventh day, God is enthroned above his creation, and He rests. This communicates not only His complete satisfaction with what has gone before, but also that the perfect balance of God’s ideal plan is dependent on the sovereignty of the Creator. The penultimate climax of the piece is the sixth day. Here a steward is enthroned—under the Creator but over the creation:

Then God said, ‘Let us make humanity in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule . . . .’ (Gen 1:26)

By this we learn that the outworking of God’s ideal design in creation is dependent on the sovereignty of the Creator and the leadership of the Creator’s stewards. To be more specific, it was the privilege and responsibility of the Creator’s stewards to facilitate God’s ideal plan by living their lives as a reflection of God’s image. This was the blueprint.

The role of the human stewards within the created order is described further in Genesis 2:15: “Then Yahweh Elohim took the human and put him into the Garden of Eden to tend it (‘ābad) and guard it (šāmar).” The larger message of these accounts is clear: the garden belongs to Yahweh, but ’ādām (a collective term meaning “humanity”) was given the privilege to rule and the responsibility to care for this garden under the sovereignty of their divine lord. Note in particular the vocabulary chosen regarding humanity’s role—God’s intent was that humanity would ‘ābad (“serve; honor; till”) and šāmar (“guard; supervise; watch over; protect”) the garden. This was a world in which ’ādām would succeed in constructing the human civilization by directing and harnessing the abundant resources of the garden under the wise direction of the Creator. Here there would always be enough, progress would not necessitate pollution, expansion would not demand extinction. The privilege of the strong would not demand to the deprivation of the weak. And humanity would succeed in these goals because of the guiding wisdom of God.

But we all know the story; humanity rejected this perfect plan and chose autonomy instead. And because of the authority of their God-given position within the created order, humanity’s choice cast the entire cosmos into disarray. The curses of Genesis 3 make it clear that in addition to the breached relationship between humanity and their creator, there is a breach in the relationship between humanity and their world as well. The natural inclination toward fertility within the created order, the appropriate placement of each species within its native context, and even the land itself feels the repercussions of Adam’s sin. And whereas each aspect of the garden’s ecosystem had been placed in productive relationship one to the next, all is cast into disarray as humanity’s rebellion echoes through the cosmos (see Epic of Eden [IVP 2008], chptr 4 for a more detailed treatment). And as Romans 8 details, because of ’ādām, even “the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom 8:20). Moreover, as Romans 8 states, the goal of redemption is to reverse this present truth with “the glory that is to be revealed” (v. 18).

So now for the question to the Christian. We readily recognize the results of ’ādām’s choice in the arena of human relationships: poverty, greed, oppression and violence. And we just as readily recognize and embrace the role of the redeemed community to stand against these societal norms by living our lives as an expression of Christ’s character in the midst of a broken and fallen world. But how often do we reflect on the impact of our rebellion on the garden? Have we ever considered the idea that the poisoned waterways, growing lists of extinct and endangered species, rampant human disease, and denuded landscapes of our current world are the result of sin? And if so, have we ever considered how the reality of redemption in our lives should redirect our attitude toward the same?

Sandy Richter

Sandra Richter is Professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary and Affiliate Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University’s Near Eastern Language and Civilizations department. She is a popular speaker and has published on an array of topics. Her most recent book is The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (InterVarsity Press, 2008).