Thursday, April 23, 2015

It Is Good

This is my upcoming Minister's Corner Article in the Saturday, April 25th issue of the Shawnee News Star.

“God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
Genesis 1:31a, The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

            1970 was a momentous year and the beginning of a momentous decade.  That year saw the release of the album, “Let It Be” by The Beatles. It was the Fab Four’s last album[1]. In the fall of 1970, I turned five and started kindergarten. Okay, perhaps that was only momentous for my parents and for me, but I’m going to use it all the same. And in 1970 the first celebration of Earth Day was organized, with events held across the country.

            I don’t remember being aware of Earth Day until several years later, but I vividly remember a PSA from “Keep America Beautiful” that aired in conjunction with Earth Day in 1971. I can honestly say that this PSA will forever be imprinted on my brain. It featured a Native American, dressed in traditional clothing, paddling a canoe on a river. While the river looks pristine at first, as he paddled, trash and litter begin to float past. Signs of industrial development are seen – a barge belching smoke, and tall cranes crowd the horizon. Pulling the canoe onto the shore, the man looks out over a busy highway. The ground where he stands is covered with litter, and as he watches, someone throws a bag of trash out of the window of a speeding car. The bag lands at the man’s feet and its contents scatter in every direction. There are only a few words of narration, but the closing statement is “People start pollution, people can stop it.” This is said as the man turns to face the camera. As the shot pulls in tightly on the man’s face, you see a single tear tracing its way down his cheek.

            Oh that tear! Even as a little girl, that tear pulled at my heart and my growing environmental conscience. It would be many years before I learned about the concept of stewardship, but in my childish way I understood that the earth God created needed protecting. Watching that PSA I made a vow that I would be a person who stopped pollution. I know that I have not fully kept that promise, but to this day if even a gum wrapper escapes my grasp and blows away to land as litter somewhere on God’s earth, I feel terrible. It feels like I’ve caused more tears to etch the man’s face.

            I’m writing this article on Earth Day. Although I’m not participating in any organized observance of it, I take the day and what it stands for seriously. However I know that I don’t do enough to make good on my vow to be a steward. I haven’t calculated my personal carbon footprint recently, but I have no doubt it is much larger than it should be. I realize that people see the environment – how we treat it, how we use its resources – in disparate ways. Yet I always return to the verse from Genesis quoted at the beginning of this essay. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.” What God made, God saw as good. Good seems such a simple little word. We often use it in a throwaway manner. “How was that hamburger?” “It was good.” But in the context of these 13 words, I see good as having a much bigger, much deeper meaning.

            My thoughts about the word good are not based on anything but my own gut intuition, so take them with the grain of salt that’s implied. God’s good is not just nice or nifty. I think when God saw that His creation was good, that means it was complete. It was whole, perfect, beautiful, and abundant with verdant life. God did not make this good creation only for himself. God made it as a gift – for the first humans and for us. When my kids treat things they’ve been given with reckless abandon, I wholeheartedly express my displeasure. My parents did the same with me. Yet if I truly see creation, God’s earth as a gift, how can I treat it with reckless abandon?. But I do – far too often. So on this Earth Day, I vow once again to treat every day as Earth Day, to redouble my efforts to show God’s gift loving care. I will do everything that I can to live up to the promise I made back when. I want to live and care for God’s beautiful gift of creation in such a way that no more tears will stream down that crying man’s face. That will be good indeed.

[1] My rock historian boyfriend, Brent Stoker (who knows more about The Beatles than anyone I’ve ever met), clarified that “Let It Be” was their last released album, but “Abbey Road” was their last recorded album.

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