Category Archives: Environment/Nature

Some sabbath poems

Came across these during some morning “fun” (i.e. non-assignment) reading this morning.

II

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

* * *

IV

What consolation it is, after
the explanations and the predictions
of further explanations still
to come, to return unpersuaded
to the woods, entering again
the presence of the blessed trees.
A tree forms itself in answer
to its place and to the light.
Explain it how you will, the only
thing explainable will be
your explanation. There is
in the woods on a summer’s
morning, birdsong all around
from guess where, nowhere
that rigid measure which predicts
only humankind’s demise.

(Both from “Sabbaths 1999” in Wendell Berry’s Given: Poems)

More blustering

Dixie taped me walking home from the library this afternoon.  By that time the snow had stopped blowing around, but the wind was still high.  This video gives you an idea of the drifts that have grown on the road in front of our trailer.  The drift I pat near the end is sitting on the part of the road that had been cleared with a snowblower this morning.  I hope the snowblower comes through again tomorrow morning or Luke won’t be going to preschool.

I was born in the Netherlands and lived there for the first 7 years of my life. The weather there is mild and snow, as I recall, was an occasional treat. But my first winter in Caronport, a small town on the plains of southern Saskatchewan, had me acclimatized to inland Canadian winters. In fact, it was in drifts much like those outside our trailer (possibly bigger) in which my mother worried she’d find me when I disappeared during that first prairie storm we experienced in 1985.

A day like we had today would have shut down towns on Canadian coasts, but we land-locked prairie folk are a hearty people, so those of us who live on campus or in Otterburne across the river bundled up and went to the library to study or to offices to work. The school was effectively closed (all classes cancelled) because travel was simply not safe for commuters coming from Winnipeg, Steinbach, Niverville and other villages in the surrounding areas. With the blowing snow, visibility was extremely low and snow drifts on the highways can be treacherous.

But here’s the thing about Canadian prairie people: I’m fairly certain that many of the staff and students were a little ashamed and frustrated that they let a winter storm keep them housebound. As much as we often pine for our brief summers, we take pride in our harsh, cold winters and our willingness to put on toque, parka and leather mittens and face the blowing snow and wind-chills. These days will some day be recounted with pride and mutual understanding, like soldiers exchanging stories from the battlefield.

Hickory, dickory, dock…

…I killed two mice with the classic Victor mouse trap-ock.

Well, I’ve lost two valuable working evenings cleaning up this shit.  And I mean that literally.

Caught one mouse in the lazy-susan 4 a.m. Sunday morning.  Caught another in our bedroom closet 1 a.m. Monday morning.  On Sunday I set up five traps throughout the trailer and have had them set since, but have only caught the one other mouse.  It *appears* as if the mouse situation isn’t as bad as the amount of poop liberally sprinkled throughout our kitchen implied.

As it is, it appears as if we had a couple of juvenile mice up to no good.

“Hank, I’m bored. Think of something fun to do.”

“Let’s go shit up the Vandertrailer!”

“Yessssss!”

Honestly, within a 24 hour period these two mice (fingers crossed) managed to drop vast numbers of turds IN EVERY SINGLE DRAWER IN THE KITCHEN! I suspect that they had been under the influence of small doses of Warfarin during their hijinx, because there were turds in the following drawers:

  • the cutlery drawer, including a significant deposit in the tray which holds the apple slicer.
  • the baking drawer (spatulas, cookie cutters, measuring spoons, etc.
  • the children’s cutlery and serving cutlery drawer
  • the drawer with Saran wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil.
  • the drawer with the myriad Tupperware and Rubbermaid trinkets.
  • the towel drawer
  • the drawer with the oven mits
  • the drawer with an expensive tablecloth imported from India among other things.

It was in that last drawer that I found the nest. Thankfully there were no baby mice in there. It was just a mass of hair and bits of Swiffer cloth.  There was also a pile of rice and popcorn kernels in that drawer.  All the contents of that drawer went to the garbage.

Curiously, while there was lots of poop in the lazy-susan (on almost every lid), the mice did not chew through any of the bags of oats, chocolate chips, sugar or flour.  They just pooped everywhere.  (High, I’m telling you!)

There is also poop in the pot-drawer underneath the oven. Nature!

There are a couple of other shelves to look through for further turds, but we’re slowly getting through this.  Last night I emptied our bedroom closet with fear and trembling. There were lots of clothes on the floor–the perfect place for a mouse to settle down and have a family.  But there was nothing in there, nary a turd.  Thank goodness.

I’m just making my way through our pantry.  It’s not as bad as I had expected. We’ll get through this.  I’m just annoyed that this has forced me to compress my homework time so much.  Alas…

Death in Creation

A couple of years ago, I pondered the meaning of physical death in terms of the predicted result of eating the forbidden fruit. Given that in the Genesis story Adam and Eve lived on several centuries after eating the fruit, the prediction seemed wrong unless it was spiritual death of which God was speaking.

Bob Robinson recently posted on this topic, quoted two preeminent evangelical scholars (N.T. Wright and Douglas Moo), both of whom believe that physical death was a part of the original created order–or, at least, that if humans were immortal it was by grace and conditional (i.e. obedience to God prerequisite), rather than something innate or essential to humans.

Robinson refers to the seasons, which are a cycle of death and rebirth, and to the food chain of carnivorous animals. Some might argue that the seasons and carnivores would not have existed prior to the fall, so this may not be the best example.  But the point is that death appears to be essential to creation as we know it, including elements of creation which would not have changed after the fall.  I’m thinking, for instance, of reproduction.  I’m not well-versed in biology, but it seems to me that there is a pattern in nature of death preceding or accompanying new life: for example, a fruit must die and decay in order for its seed to be able to germinate and grow into a new plant, or for every sperm that successfully reaches its destination, millions die.

If I’m wrong on my biology, please correct me.  And I suppose, too, that the question must be asked, What is life?  Theologically, is it only those things which have breath that can properly be said to die or is life broader than that? Interesting topic, at any rate.

This Thursday the Providence College Lectures will be given by Dr. Glen Klassen, with the topic, “A Scientist Reflects on How God Makes the World”: “He will be exploring topics on how traditional ideas of creation are challenged by the scientific approach and will ask the question, “is there any middle ground between Creationism and Darwinism?”  Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to most of the day’s seminars.

Defending Genre in the Bible

Does [the Bible] match up with scientific evidence? Who cares? … I do not believe science, history or archaeology of any kind establishes the truthfulness of the scripture in any way. Scripture is true by virtue of God speaking it. If God spoke poetry, or parable, or fiction or a prescientific description of creation, it is true without any verification by any human measurement whatsoever. The freedom of God in inspiration is not restricted to texts that can be interpreted “literally” by historical or scientific judges of other ages and cultures beyond the time the scriptures were written.

In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless.

…Does the Bible need to be authorized by scientists or current events to be true? What view of inspiration is it that puts the Bible on trial before the current scientific and historical models? Has anyone noticed what this obsession with literality does to the Bible itself? – iMonk

iMonk’s idea might make some of us uncomfortable.  And, to be sure, archeological and historical research at the very least provides some affirmation of the Bible.

However, I think iMonk’s point is very important: we tend to argue for the authority of the Bible based on imported categories–categories set in a field which fundamentally has no place for such a thing as “inspired” scripture or anything supernatural in the first place–or by meeting some kind of external standard of acceptance.  But when we do that we are essentially handing the Church’s text to those who already reject it as anything but an ordinary book and saying, “Here: you decide.” This is a mistake.  The Bible is the Church’s text and need not be handed to those outside the church to be vetted by their external categories.

And this is true of other issues as well.  From what I’ve read of Stanley Hauerwas, for example, his MO is to refuse to debate ethical issues based on non-theological categories.  So in Abortion Theologically Understood, he suggests that for Christians the question of the rights of the mother or the rights of the fetus are the wrong basis on which to look at this subject.

It’s an interesting and refreshing way of looking at things: we are not required to think about ethics or theology or the Bible on someone else’s terms.  For most things these days those terms are what you might call “Enlightenment terms”, in which reason is, essentially, God. While I would never suggest that we should not use our reasonable faculties, I am beginning to wonder if sometimes the term “irrational”, a term with negative connotations, should be embraced a little more.

“Faith seeking understanding” (was that Augustine or Aquinas?) or “I believe so that I may understand” seem like irrational statements in our society.  But somehow those phrases carry a lot of weight and power.

Nature!

(I’m a fan of simple stats–hit counts, sports stats, etc.–and I’ve just noticed that in June I did not break the 10 post mark for the first time since February 2004.  What an unproductive month.  I don’t even really think what I’m about to post is worth posting.  I’m hoping inspiration will hit on our 3-week Western Canadian Tour of Glory or perhaps once we’ve moved in August.)

We have a virginia creeper (or, apparently, Parthenocissus quinquefolia) growing on the back of our house.  The vine covers all of Olivia’s bedroom window and part of Madeline and Luke’s window.  It’s a beautiful plant and a great feature of the back yard.

In July of every year we’ve lived here, however, the creeper gets infested with some kind of bug.  If you walk near the plant when it’s infested, thousands of little tiny bugs jump out and rattle the leaves.  The infestation causes all the leaves to whither prematurely (but it doesn’t kill the plant), leaving us with a dead-looking plant hanging on the back of our house for much of the summer.  After our first summer, I got some pesticide options from a local person-in-the-know, possibly a horticulturalist, but I’ve never followed up on my plan to defeat the infestation.

This year, however, since we’re trying to sell, I don’t want to show the house with a withered vine, so I’m determined to deal with these bugs before they kill all the leaves.  So it’s a good thing that Dixie spotted a bird’s nest, including a mother and a couple of babies, inside the vine.

The nest is wedged between the virginia creeper and the screen on Olivia’s window, so we can get a pretty good view  from inside Olivia’s room.  I caught a bit of the action on video, but the nest is built quite high up in the window, so there isn’t a good angle to see the chicks.  But it’s still interesting.  Let’s watch:

I haven’t determined what sort of bird this is.

Unfortunately, this also puts a snag in my pesticiding plans.  How long do chicks take to fly-the-coop, as it were?  Is it safe to spray the area around the nest?

Today Yesterday

Things went well today yesterday, I think, other than a few mishaps and distractions.

I was inspired by the Wendell Berry-inspired workshop at last week’s conference to speak about the implications for creation care that arise out of scripture.  The Bible does not have a green agenda; if it has any agenda, it’s a redemptive one, and there are implications for our view of creation in that.  My main points:

1.  Genesis 1: God looked at everything he created and saw that it was “very good”.  He never took that back.  The natural world isn’t just incidental to our creation, but is good in and of itself.

At the fall human relationship with the rest of creation was broken, which may well be why we find ourselves where we are environmentally.

2.  The created world is in some sense the voice of God (see Romans 1:18-20–“general revelation”).  I wondered if our current abusive approach to nature isn’t a new way of “suppressing the truth” about God.

3.  The redemptive work of the cross of Christ is for all of creation (Colossians 1:19-20; Ephesians 1:10; Romans 8:19-23)–if we expect to come out of the future resurrection with transformed bodies and yet still be ourselves, it’s reasonable, I think, to expect the same for creation.

It didn’t take long to realize that this was a HUGE subject and a couple of hours of preparation wasn’t giving it nearly enough and it was probably too much to cram into one sermon (especially when I had less time than usual).  It deserves a series, but that’s difficult to do when I only speak twice a month and in the very near future I will start to be bumped from the schedule for candidating pastors.

Oh well.  Live and learn.

I was thinking this week and again after this sermon about what pastors do if they realize they have spoken in error in a sermon.  I made a modern-day analogy a couple of weeks ago when speaking on 1 Corinthians 8 (the “strong”, the “weak” and meat sacrificed to idols) and it occurred to me this week that perhaps my analogous example was a poor one (I’ve decided it wasn’t).  After Sunday’s service I was talking to Phil and realized that perhaps I had made some lazy word choices that might have negative implications (it didn’t help that I was trimming the sermon as I spoke).

Now both of those instances are minor.  But what about a more serious error?  Do you just ignore it?  Bring it up next Sunday?  Issue a retraction?  Fix the error with the following sermons?  An interesting question.  (It is for me, anyway.)  Of course, I’m learning that not everything can be said in one sermon (or even a couple of sermons), so perhaps it’s possible to develop a progression of thought that deals with whatever has gone before.

(Have I ever posted about a sermon before?  I’ve been reluctant to do so.  Still am.  But I felt like posting something.)

Tea

Dixie sent me a link to this:

A four-year study has found that tea slows down brain-cell degeneration, and thereby keeps your mind sharp into old age.

Catechins, a natural compound in tea, protect brain cells from damaging protein build-up over the years, maintaining your brain’s cognitive capability.

In addition, the caffeine in tea, unlike that in coffee, contains the natural protein theanine, which counters the normal side effects of caffeine such as raised blood pressure, headaches and tiredness.

Researchers studied the tea-drinking habits of over 2,500 Chinese aged 55 and older and gave them memory tests.

While two-thirds of the tea-drinkers maintained their memory test scores two years later, 35 percent of non-tea-drinkers had a decline in their memory test scores, which indicates cognitive decline.

(Link – a certain Dr. Mercola has some follow-up comments about further benefits of tea)

Another reason why tea is awesome.  It’s delicious, nourishing and keeps you mentally sharp.

I bet Jesus is a tea-drinker.

A literal mistake (on creation/evolution)

In the past I’ve posted quite a bit on the whole creation vs. evolution debate, with a particular interest in what reading the opening chapters of Genesis could mean (see, for example, here and here).  I haven’t posted much about it lately, but I happened upon an interesting article when reading through some of the comments at Scot McKnight’s blog.

The article is called “Young-Earth Creationism: A Literal Mistake” (that’s a PDF, here is the less readable html version).  If you get past the somewhat smug and antagonistic tone of the article, it actually asks some pretty good questions of young-earth creationism (YEC).  I like it particularly because it argues from scripture (the author “reveres the Bible”), rather than opposing YEC with science, which is something I’ve attempted in the past.

The author’s conclusion is one which had never occurred to me before:

…perhaps we have mistaken what was a telling of Semitic history (Gen. 2–11) as a narrative of human history.  If that is the case, then YECs are not the only ones to have fallen into that trap. They believe it is true human history, while other Christians consider it a poetic rendition of human history, whereas it may very well be true Jewish history, and can be taken as literally as any other history book. (Link)

The article is food for thought.  Check it out.