December 13, 2016 – Perspective on Creation

What did it feel like to take the time to intentionally ask Jesus into your heart and day yesterday? For me at least, I know that this is something I can gloss over. I believe in Jesus, I love Jesus, Jesus is a part of my life. But taking the time to say the words, especially saying them out loud, carries impact. This impact can, has and I’m sure will continue to influence who I am and how I perceive the world.

Presently I am reading an excellent book called God is Not Fair And Other Reasons for Gratitude by Daniel P. Horan, OFM (look for the book review post-Advent). Horan’s book covers a wide range of topics that all link to why we should be grateful for God’s overabundant love, generosity and mercy. One of the key themes that I can see arising from this book is how we look at the world differently when we see it through our relationship with Jesus.

Horan has one chapter that discusses our relationship with creation. He challenges the more standard stewardship model that many Christians operate on: “Rather than think about the whole of nonhuman creation as entrusted to us, which makes us cosmic landlords or property managers for God, we should consider our inherent kinship with the rest of creation” (32). When we view the created world through Jesus’ eyes, what will we see? Will we be looking at a world created for our benevolent (and often not so benevolent) stewardship, a property to be managed that is separate from our own destiny? Or, would we see how when we speak of this thing called “creation” we are necessarily speaking just as much of ourselves as we are the plants and animals residing alongside of us. Are we managers or co-workers in creation?

Do you see how the difference in perspective changes the way we should be operating in the world? Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si is a challenging call for this shift in perspective. Pope Francis says:

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.” All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents (14). – Bold mine.

So what are we to do about it? Today, take your 3 minutes to list 5 ways you impact creation around you. Then, list 5 ways that creation impacts you. Finally, come up with 2 things you can do today that will improve your relationship with creation (some ideas might be being more conscious about your water usage, taking care not to throw food away or if you do need to finding a way to compost it rather than add to a landfill, placing a birdfeeder, talking with your children about the beauty and necessity of winter as part of the seasonal cycle, etc.).

***Does inviting Jesus into your heart allow you to see the world more clearly through His eyes? How does this make you feel? Uncomfortable, challenged, motivated, passionate?Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces.

Worth the Making

For me, holiday season means baking season. I know we aren’t quite there yet but this weekend I made a big batch of sugar cookies for Halloween. I didn’t decorate them like I normally would have which makes me a little sad, but we truthfully don’t have the counter space or storage space for such an endeavor. Just making the cookies themselves took me 3 days. The kids helped make the dough on Friday and then I spent 2 days baking them.

Normally, it doesn’t take 2 days, just a few hours. But when you are living in a space that isn’t your own and you don’t have your regular tools and pans, things can get a little tricky. Like in this example, where the largest “cookie sheet” I have isn’t actually a cookie sheet but a 9X13-ish cake pan. The most cookies I got on that thing was 9 at a time and that was pretty squished. This recipe made nearly 60 cookies (I know, I should have halved the recipe, I usually do. I blame pregnancy on that particular decision-making moment).

As I was going through this baking marathon, before I had decided not to decorate them, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I mean yes, these cookies are good, but they aren’t the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Yes, they can look super cute when they are decorated well, but to truly decorate them well would have taken at least another 2-3 days depending on how long naptime was. To really go all out with these cookies is a multi-day extravaganza that usually leaves me with cramped hands, sore feet and no tupperware left.

For what? Someone to walk in and eat 2 cookies in under 2 minutes. Days of work for a brief moment of enjoyment. Surely it would be easier to go to H.E.B. (Texas’ version of Kroger/Jewel/Raley’s) and buy a box of cookies. Why pour my soul into something so fleeting?

I believe that we do these kinds of things because of the way we were created. God didn’t make us up or imagine us, He gave us life as a reflection of His very self. God poured His breath into Adam while fully knowing that this firstborn of creation would choose disobedience over obedience. God creates us still knowing that now, because of original sin, our lives on earth are but sparks in the night, there for a moment and then extinguished.

We are capable of reflecting God in all things, even in our creativity. Think of someone who is passionate about gardening. They work their soil, preparing it for seeds year after year, constantly trying to improve its nutrients and suitableness. They weed, they prune, they cultivate. They marvel at each flower and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They do all this, knowing full well that these plants that they have loved into existence will die come winter.

Or consider the people who have booths at your local craft fair or fall festival. These people have worked all summer, some all year, long to bring you their merchandise. The hours spent deciding on paint color, harvesting the right kind of wood, repeating the same pattern over and over, was done out of love for their craft. Of course, the financial compensation is also a motivating factor, but for many items these crafters are making pennies on the dollar when you consider an hourly wage and the cost of the materials. Their passion is both a testament to their creativity but also a reflection of the creative God who made them.

Naked pumpkin sugar cookies from the post "Worth the Making" on Daily Graces at
Naked pumpkin sugar cookies. Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2016

So yes, the cookies are worth it. Even if this time they are naked =)Daily Graces.

Surviving Monotony

Part of parenthood is coming to terms with your child’s fascination and obsession with monotony. Anyone who has heard the question “Why?” more than 5 times in a 60 second window understands. Anyone who has had to read the same story 10 times in a single day can empathize. Anyone who has had to listen to the same music in the car for days on end feels my pain.

It’s rather incredible how kids can get the same, if not more, enjoyment out of an activity that they have just engaged in no less than 30 seconds prior. The sheer wonder and pleasure they get from that book, song or slide is baffling. But I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of it.

If I read the same book over and over, I would get bored. Hearing the same music over and over again just makes me lower the volume. Adults seem to value change much more than monotony, which is exactly the opposite of children.

Children, above all, thrive on repetition. I’m currently reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (free on Kindle – nice!). It is a really interesting read. Basically, it’s about his person journey of thought to Christianity. In one section, he talks about how adults shy away from monotony. In his estimation, we falsely believe that when something is monotonous, it is dead – think of a clock, consistently ticking with no variety, no change. “People feel that if the universe was personal, it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.”

Chesterton offers an alternate way of viewing monotony. He suggests we look at children and their love of monotony. “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.”

It’s so true! It’s exhausting , almost painful, to read Goodnight Moon after the 8th time. The words start to run together, you try to skip a page but your child knows the story too well and catches you and you start to doze by the time the quiet old lady/rabbit whispers hush.

Chesterton challenges his readers to consider someone else who perhaps enjoys monotony. For Chesterton, the world was full of wonderful miracles and as he grew, he began to wonder if perhaps these miracles were more than just happy coincidence, what if they were “repeated exercises of some will.” He says “I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller.” Or, in other words, God.

What if

God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them….The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

I love this outlook. For those of you who believe in a personal, loving, creative God, this about sums it up. God creates from pure love and joy, exulting in monotony while at the same time creating each person, each tree, each flower uniquely and individually.

So yes, monotony can be grating on the nerves. Rather than letting it irritate us, we can use it as an opportunity to be grateful. We can look at the sunrise and instead of seeing something automatic, pause to revel in it’s brilliance. Instead of dreading the music on repeat, we can appreciate of gift of hearing. We can speed our way through Green Eggs and Ham, or we can let our children’s delight become our own as they shout with glee “I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM!”

Do you struggle with monotony? How can you turn something that is monotonous into an opportunity for appreciation or gratitude instead of a moment of frustration and a strong desire to escape?