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Spiritual Disciplines

August 2017: Care for the Earth

Posted by Eric Livingston on

My grandparents had 40 acres they farmed when I was a kid. Some of my most favorite childhood memories are being out in the field trying to feed the cows by hand, or running full speed through the garden between the towering walls of corn rows, or climbing on the hay bales stacked in the barn. I loved being on the farm partly because I was well loved there, but also because of the freedom of being turned loose to roam the land. Every day was an adventure.

Beyond the fun and the peace of being on the farm, that place made a deep impression on me because of the intimate connection to the earth. I saw cows being birthed before I knew about the miracle of the reproductive process. And, on the other end of life, I saw Grandpap take the life of cows and butcher the meat on site. I saw the sweat and blood that went into bringing a garden out of the earth and learned how kitchen compost went back into the earth to enrich next year’s garden. And it was there that I learned water doesn’t come from the local city water treatment facility. When water was flowing out of the well it was important to move quickly and efficiently.

That’s how 99% of all humans who have ever lived have lived. Only in the last couple of generations have most of us lost that connection to creation. When was the last time you thought about where your food came from or when the rain fell that enabled your shower?

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
John 1:9

God loved his creation so much that he became incarnate - that is, he took on flesh to be in the world. One of the disciplines in which we can engage to more fully be God’s love to the world is to share in His care for the earth. In so doing, we incarnate God’s love to the world.

If your immediate reaction to the idea of taking care of the earth is to bristle at the political implications therein, fear not. Caring for creation has long since been a theological issue before it ever showed up in the political arena. As followers of Jesus, it is important for us to wrestle this issue back to its proper context. We shouldn’t let the last 40 years of political conversation around this issue trump the centuries of theological thought given to caring for the earth. Stewarding the creation honors the Creator.

Being efficient with the resources of the earth doesn’t make you red or blue politically, it means you are loving people across the globe who, like you, are also reliant on the earth’s limited resources. It also means you are loving future generations of people who will need access to the earth’s limited resources. The earth is a closed system.

It’s likely that your lifestyle won’t let you move onto 40 acres and try to hack your living out of the ground. So what can you do to take small, simple steps to being a better steward of the earth? Here are some ideas:

  • Recycle - This is pretty easy. Find a local recycling company to pick up your sorted recyclable waste.
  • Grow some food - You don’t have to have a full garden. Even having a single tomato plant or fruit tree helps you remember that food comes from the earth.
  • Compost - Keep a small compost canister in your kitchen to gather your food scraps so you can mix them into your garden or yard.
  • Love animals - Treat animals with respect and ensure your animal food products are treated well.
  • Walk - If you can walk or ride a bike instead of drive, do it!
  • Adjust your Thermostat - Use less energy by setting your thermostat so that your HVAC system doesn’t have to work so hard.

You don’t have to plant a rainforest or clean the oceans. Small steps will lead to larger steps and soon you’ll be doing your part.

In the last few years I’ve read many books and articles about habits I can employ to help take care of the earth. There are a lot of strategies based on all the new research. As I adopt all these new, trendy strategies, I discover I’m not doing anything new at all. I’m just living a little bit more like my grandparents. And, like creation, that is good.


“This land that gives us our food, our water; these trees that clean the air for us to breathe; all these green and growing things that bless our bodies with their beauty - these are not resources. They are fellow creatures, with their own rights and responsibilities before God. They have their own sacred duties to perform, if only we will let them.”

-Barbara Brown Taylor


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