Title or Conscience

A friend of mine shared a quote with me: “Are you a Christian by title or conscience?” I don’t remember the author, but that has been needling me for the last week. I read an article this morning by Dr. Sleeth and it included Matthew 7:16:20- What good would an apple tree be if it never produced any apples? Likewise, our lives should produce meaningful fruit. It’s easy to look like a fruit tree, but Jesus said that we’d be known by the fruit we produce.


Am I Christian by title or conscience? Am I a fruit tree with or without fruit? My first reaction, even though I asked myself these questions, is that I can see people who are Christians by title or as fruitless trees. I point to “those” people who proclaim their Christianity far and wide yet, according to my great self, there is no fruit to back up their claim. “Look,” I shout! “They’re Christians by title. That’s it. Don’t look to them to learn about Christ!.” Well, don’t I feel better! But, the questions come back to me with persistence. This time, it’s not as if I’m asking myself, it’s as if I’m being asked. “ARE YOU a Christian by title or conscience? ARE YOU a fruitless fruit tree or tree laden with fruit?” Oh God, forgive me. For as much as I want to be more than a Christian by title, I’m not sure I am sure my actions don’t always project my conscience or grow fruit or perhaps worse I’m contradictory. One thing comes out of my mouth and I do something contradictory. And this is where I can stop myself from going down a rabbit hole of dark, negative thoughts and say “Thank God for grace!” I thank God for those gentle nudgings that remind me to look at myself to see where I have fallen short, repent and think about a better reaction/ response.


Are you a Christian by title or conscience? Are you a fruit tree bearing fruit? Take some time to really mull these questions over. You may not like the answers, but getting real and knowing where you stand today can you help you take steps to become the person you long to be.


Name or No Name


Name or No Name

I spent time learning about trees this weekend. The gentleman teaching talked about the “magic” of buds and the energy they possess to make leaves. When he said “magic” I immediately thought of God. God’s behind the “magic” of buds. Learning about God’s creation and the systems created bring a more tangible insight to God’s AWE-someness. I can now look at a branch and see the new growth and how much growth it had the year before. Awesome!

I’m mulling over something else that took place in class. I want to know the names of trees. I want to see it and name it. It’s more personal when I know names. Or is it?

In class, we paired up and pulled a leaf out of a bag. We were asked not to name the tree from which it came, instead we were asked to write 7-10 descriptions about the leaves. I could name several trees when I looked at the leaves around the room, but not ours. So, my partner and I were looking at an unknown tree leaf. We started feeling it, counting points, recognizing veins and vein patterns. We worried because we were unsure of official words and their meanings like “pinnate” or “petiole.” So, we used our laypersons terms. We then returned our leaves to the bag and someone picked up our descriptions. The leaves were laid out on a table and each pair got a description of a new leaf and had to pick it out from all the leaves on the table.

Why would our instructors make us do this exercise? If I had gotten the tulip poplar, redbud or sweet gum leaf, how would I have described the leaf knowing the name of the tree?

Recently, a tree caught my attention. I hopped off my bike and took a look at the leaves. I observed. The next day, I was walking and I recognized a leaf. I realized it was the same species as the tree I had seen a day earlier and about a half a mile away. I’m still not exactly sure of the name, but I knew it was the same species because I had taken the time to observe the leaves.

Go outside and observe some leaves. Pick a leaf and write down 7 things to describe it.

If you want to play a game head over to the FB or twitter pages and go on a #leafhunt.





My birthday was in October. My sister asked me what I wanted. There’s nothing I wanted and nothing I needed. So, for my birthday she got me nothing. Instead, she made a donation to two of my favorite organizations. What a great non-gift gift!


It’s made me think. Thanksgiving is coming up followed by Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. What if we approached Thanksgiving and what follows differently.


Instead of skipping over Thanksgiving let’s slow down and be thankful. Perhaps in this state of mind we can make a list. Start with God. Write down the things you’re thankful to God for. Who’s next? For me it would be spouse, child, family, friends. Whatever the order, write the person’s name and proceed to write down the reasons you are thankful for them. This may be an easy practice or you may find some difficulty. It’s ok if it’s hard.


Once you finish your list and reasons to be thankful write another list for God. You may have found more reasons to be thankful after going through your list. Now, go back to the top person on your list. Take a minute to pray for that person and give thanks. Now, at the bottom of that list write an organization’s name that you would like to donate to in honor of your person. Put the dollar amount. Repeat for each person on your list.


What would our Thanksgiving and following days look if we did this?





A few years ago I was in Oregon for a conference.  We had one free day and there was a lot I wanted to see. We headed to Multnomah Falls. There were many things I noticed. I noticed how people were dressed for rain and how the drizzle did not stop people from being outside. Granted, it’s not unusual for there to be rain in the northwest. Living in Tennessee, it seems like if it rains people head indoors. I don’t see a lot of people out during a rain that look like they’re out on purpose. It made me think about rain a bit differently. It also got me researching raincoats which I finally purchased during a particularly rainy week at a mostly outdoor festival. I loved my raincoat and being in the rain. 

A few nights ago I was awakened by a storm. I was tired, but I enjoyed hearing the rain pelting the roof and windows. I thought about the thunder and how it happens. I thought about the earth soaking in the water replenishing the aquifers and plants. 


Leviticus 26:4 I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 


Do we allow ourselves to enjoy and think about the marvelous systems God created? Are we annoyed by rain or do we take time to be thankful? Do we listen to the rain? Do we notice how the creatures respond? 

Slow down and allow yourself to enjoy the God-created around you.  





In the beginning... 

Have you noticed in the first chapter of Genesis that humans were not created until the sixth day. We weren’t created first. And, the sixth day we weren’t the only creation. Animals were also created on the sixth day.


I believe God was preparing a place for us. But, in that preparation we get some insight into God. After each day of creation, God said it was good. Whatever it was: light, dark, water, land, plants, birds, fish. Everything was good. Everything created on the first day was not good because of what was coming next. It’s goodness was not dependent upon the next. It was not good because it would be good for humans. No, God created and what God created was good. Because it was God-created. It didn’t need humans to become good. Now, when God viewed it all collectively on the sixth day God called it all together very good. On its own it was good; all together it’s very good. 

How can we remind ourselves that all creation is good because it is God-created? What action will you take each day to live in this good world?





We were asked to bring soil from home.

As I sat with my small reusable container filled with an ounce of soil fresh from my garden I caught a glimpse of something.


The Big Payback


The Big Payback

“The Big Payback is a community-wide, 24-hour online giving challenge hosted by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. This charitable event will help area nonprofits raise much-needed dollars and bring awareness to pressing needs in our community.” 



Should Christians Care for the Environment?

Should christians care for the environment?.png

Earth Day has been celebrated every April 22nd since 1970. When it began, as far as I know, there was no mention of the original Earth Week. 

When was the original Earth Week? I like to think it was in Genesis. In Genesis 1; 2: 1-4, Moses goes through the account of God creating the world. 


In the beginning there was Earth Week! After each day God declared God’s creation as GOOD. After creating seven days God declared the whole creation as VERY GOOD. 

Do Christians have the responsibility to care for God’s creation? Yes! We were given that responsibility in Genesis; we are to take care of the earth and steward it wisely.

Check out the article I wrote for Rethink Church. 


"Aha" Moments


"Aha" Moments

%22Aha%22 Moments.png

At a meeting in January 2016 I heard if you read three chapters of the Bible a day and five on Sabbath you can read through the entire Bible in a year. Having trouble in the past being consistent with my reading I felt like that was a really doable goal. I decided to start from the beginning. Literally. When I read through Genesis 13 I stopped. I read verses one through nine again. 

So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.

2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3 He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. 5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6 so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, 7 and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land.
8 Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

That is a story of sustainability! The land had provided all Abram and Lot needed until they began traveling together. The land could not support them or their possessions (other people, flocks and herds.) 


When I speak to preschool teachers I often ask them to imagine a classroom set up and supplied for eight children. I then ask them to imagine that same classroom with 30 children. Sometimes I see a shudder in the crowd. Thirty kids vying for eight chairs, eight pairs of scissors, eight napping mats. Can you imagine the “she touched me” and the crying from being hit with wayward elbows as every child fills a space? Teachers trying to handle that chaos while also trying to acquire the materials they need for their children to thrive maybe from the teacher next door who is doing the same thing? It’s called chaos and fighting. 

This is how I imagine Abram and Lot’s herders felt each fighting for their masters possessions’ well-being. 

Share an “aha” moment you’ve experienced when reading the Bible. 



Forest Bathing


Hidden behind a softball field and parking lot there was a trail. I discovered it accidentally through geocaching. There’s nothing on the main road to hint at its existence; no sign in the parking lot. Taking a few steps in the forest on the graveled trail could transport you away from buildings, cars and human-made noises and smells to the pure sounds and smells of nature. Time is different there. Spend just a few minutes walking through the trees and go back to your car feeling as if you’d been there for hours.


One day I picked up my kindergartner from school and told him we were going for a hike. He complained the whole two minutes to the trail. He refused to get out of the car. I walked to the opening of the forest where the trail began and slipped inside. I was out of his sight, but he was not out of mine. He followed; griping and complaining loud enough for me to hear him. Then he stepped inside. I smiled and looked around. He stopped complaining, looked around and took a deep breath. Something palpable changed in him. We began to stroll. He began to talk about what he saw or heard. We’d stop and crouch to take a look at something on the ground. We’d look for the bird singing overhead. We would touch a leaf and feel its softness. We took our time pointing out things. At the back of the park we sat on a rock peeking up from moss. There was an opening in the tree canopy and we could see the sky. My son played with my hair as I marveled at a tree growing through the rock. We were peaceful. When we felt like our time was up we strolled back to the car. I smiled as my son stepped out of the forest and skipped to the car. There’s my happy boy I thought. We must have been in the forest for about two hours I thought as I started the car and checked the clock. Forty-five minutes had passed.


When studies come out touting the benefits of “forest bathing” or spending time in nature I just smile. I am not surprised. I’m not surprised because I’ve experienced and witnessed the benefits myself. I am not surprised because nature is created by God. Should we really be surprised by the benefits of spending time in God’s creation?


Matthew 4:4-11










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    I don’t know how many times I’ve heard and read the crucifixion story, but during Holy Week there was something that caught my attention. It’s been there the whole time, but for some reason I just skip along to an empty tomb.  Matthew 28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.   Between Jesus’ death and resurrection there was Sabbath.  Sabbath. What do you do on Sabbath right after witnessing your Lord suffer and die on a cross? The timing leaves you unable to clean and prepare the body for burial. The person you’ve been spending your time with; observing and learning from, sharing religious observances; he’s gone. Sabbath right after Jesus’ death? What do you do?     



              Olive trees in the traditional G arden of Gethsemane   



     The days leading up to Jesus’ arrest, death and resurrection were filled with activity. There’s travel (walking,) preaching, teaching and preparation. We know the disciples were tired. There was the Passover meal and then Jesus took Peter, John and James to Gethsemane. Jesus asked them to stay awake while he prayed. They slept. He woke them and asked them again to stay awake while he prayed. They slept. When he went back to check on them they were asleep. He went away to pray. When he returned they were still asleep. He woke them in time for Judas’ arrival to betray him.  Jesus died. Then there was Sabbath. Peter had denied Jesus three times. What does Peter do on Sabbath?  John watched Jesus dying on the cross. Jesus saw his mother standing beside John. “Woman, here is your son.” To John he said, “Here is your mother.”Jesus died. Then there was Sabbath. What does John do on Sabbath in his grief with Jesus’ grieving mother?  The timing, right? Everything stops on Sabbath. Sabbath is different than the other six days. With Jesus’ death, everything will be different going forward.  But oh! With Jesus’ resurrection, everything will be different going forward!     






     Sabbath gives space for reflection. Sabbath gave space for Peter and John to reflect on their time with Jesus. Sabbath gave space for physical rest. Sabbath gave space for reflection on the future. Sabbath is a day to reflect on our relationship with Christ and others. It’s a day to learn more about God. It’s a day to rest, restore and reinvigorate our commitment to Christ so we can go forward into the week prepared.     Exodus 20: 8-11 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  9  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  10  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  11  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.


Between Jesus’ death and resurrection there was Sabbath. 



Serve God and Save the Planet

In order to make things fun and cover the numerous areas of creation care I decided to make a board something like Bingo. The goal is to cover the board. Some of these things you can do individually, but why not do it with your family and friends? 




Hymn Trivia

Can you name the hymn inspired by Psalm 98 and written by Isaac Watts in 1719? 

O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

2 The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.

3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

5 Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King.

7 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

8 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together

9 Before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.


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Three Things

Any time we speak to a group, we always ask for each person to think of three things they can do that day to better take care of God's good creation. The people who attended our breakfast at General Conference were no exception. What three things did you choose to do while at GC and what three things are you doing now that you're back home?

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40 Days of Lent

In no particular order, here are 40 things you can do during Lent. Tell us or show us

what you are doing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #bearthtn.


o   Hike one of Tennessee’s beautiful trails.

o   Read Genesis 1 and imagine what God saw after each day of creation.

o   Take a picture where nature and humans interact or collide. (Ex: trash on a trail or bare feet on grass.)

o   Gather some natural materials and make something.

o   Fast

o   Write a poem, haiku, limerick or song about what you see in nature.

o   Take a walk. If you are in a city look for nature in unexpected places.

o   Say a prayer of gratitude for the things you take for granted every day.

o   Take a day off from driving.

o   Eat a meatless meal.

o   Look in the Topics section of your Bible and read scriptures about trees.

o    Audit yourself.

o   Look up at least one of your most common household purchases and see it’s ranking on Could you make a better choice?

o   Program your electronics to go to sleep after 2 (or 5) minutes of inactivity.

o   Turn off the lights when you exit a room.

o   Pack a lunch.

o   Plant a tree.

o   Go on a 3-day media fast. Use that time to pray, read scripture and be with family. Evaluate your media-free time and decide if or how much needs to be reintroduced to your day.

o   Purge things you do not need.

o   Go on a scavenger hunt. (Search Pinterest for nature scavenger hunts. If you have a smartphone, take a picture of the list then take pictures of the items you find.)

o   Only use refillable water bottles and coffee cups.

o    Request a for-here cup when eating out.

o   Practice the 5 R’s. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

o   Try a natural alternative to home-cleaning supplies.

o   Switch your coffee to organic, fair-trade.

o   Sabbath

o   Pick up trash and put in the proper receptacle.

o   Turn thermostat down 3 degrees in winter, up three in summer.

o   Wash clothes in cold water.

o   Give something away.

o   Pray for people who are experiencing environmental injustice. (Ex: the people of Flint, Michigan)

o   Turn the radio off and use travel time as prayer time.

o    Family night- have a meal together, play games, go for a walk.

o   Wait a month to buy something you want to see if it’s something you actually need.

o   Start a garden.

o   Donate your old electronics to a good cause.

o   Compost your food and yard waste.

o   Read Creation Care Themes Throughout Scripture

o   Give an experience as a gift.

o   Switch from paper products to reusable products.

© Blessed Earth Tennessee, 2016.




Abram and Lot

Are you familiar with the story of Abram (Abraham) and Lot? Abram was Lot’s uncle. As family members, they moved together. Read their story in Genesis 13:1-12  and then answer these questions:


·      Why was Lot travelling with Abram?


·      Why could they not live together?

·      Why did Lot and Abram’s herders fight?

·      Why did Lot choose his new location?

What lessons does this hold for us today? 




The season of Lent begins next week. Lent is a 40 day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. If you’re not familiar with Lent, you are probably familiar with Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. This is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting, repentance and preparation for Easter.

The 40 days of Lent represents Jesus’s time spent in the wilderness after his baptism by John. In both Matthew 4 and Luke 4, the scriptures describe Jesus being tempted by Satan those 40 days.

I don’t remember being introduced to the concept of Lent until I was in high school or college. And then, it was only in the conversation of “what are you giving up for Lent?” It was never in the context of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness or as a preparation for the Easter event, Jesus’s death and resurrection for me.

As I ponder Jesus’s time in the wilderness and his preparation for ministry, I wonder what happened in the liminal space (the in-between) not mentioned in the scriptures. The liminal space, I imagine, would be taken up in prayer, examination, reflection, wonderment and joy. Can you imagine Jesus conversing with his father while staring at the stars? Can you imagine the joy in watching the animals cavort, the birds sing and in the aromas of nature? Can you also imagine hearing and feeling the grumbling tummy? Can you imagine the rocks under your knees while kneeling in prayer? Can you feel your muscles shake as they become weaker? In all of Jesus’s physical weaknesses, his faith was strong.

Here are some things I’m pondering leading up to Lent:

·      Have I spent time in scripture?

·      Have I reflected over the scripture in order to get a sense of what it says and what it means for me and others?

·      Should I fast? What is the purpose of fasting?

·      Am I so booked up with wordly things that I’ve not made time for spiritual things?

·      What are the things I need forgiveness from?

·      How shall I prepare for Easter? Can I de-clutter my home, calendar, emails, and free up time for studying, learning, praying and being with God?


What will you do during the 40 days of Lent to put the focus on God?



Thankful Tuesday

Attribution:   Brocken Inaglory

Attribution: Brocken Inaglory



Today, I am thankful for the rain. It nourishes the earth and provides streams for drink. It’s a reminder that God created plants and trees and gave us the earth to tend.  #thankfultuesday

In the day that the Lord[a] God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground—
— Genesis 2: 4-6 NRSV



The Greatest

There are 613 traditional Jewish commandments. When Jesus was asked which is the greatest he summed the laws up with two commandments.

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22: 36-39

If we love God with our heart, soul and mind will we not love what God loves? If we love our neighbor as ourselves will we not care about air and water quality and soil conditions for healthy food?

Prayer of Confession (from The United Methodist Hymnal)

Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have failed to be an obedient church.  We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy.  Forgive us, we pray.  Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen