Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Come and See

In a Books & Culture essay entitled “Come and See,” I like this from Bruce Herman…

You’ve got to be willing to ‘stand under’ something in order to understand it. (November 2006)

My friends and I are trying to “stand under” important issues by meeting for a social issues reading club. This means we’ll never read Charles Dickens together, or Ernest Hemingway, or my favorite… Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Right now, we’re reading a book called Living Downstream: A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment.

Wow! Coming from a church of less than 100 members, where we’ve lost three young fathers, a mom, a young grandma, a young grandpa and a dear little girl to cancer, and where we still have four people living in remission, this book seemed like a must-read.

In church, it’s not uncommon for us to think, I don’t know why the Lord brought this on “so-and-so.” But, to read a book like Living Downstream is to see the cancer epidemic as something that plagues both the “wicked and the righteous,” at an alarming rate around the world. (And, one in three Americans now gets cancer.) It is to understand that we are somehow bringing this on ourselves as a society.

So, I find myself saying, “Sure, let’s pray, but let’s make more changes too.” This is what I like about people like Sara J., over at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly. She’s standing under a lot of issues, paddling upstream to make changes at the source...changes that revolve around her own family’s lifestyle.

Paddle, anyone? Shall we go see what we can see?

“...if you say, 'Look, we did not know this'— does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it” Proverbs 24:10-12

Dry Creek & Stone Pile Photo Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.


Blogger Andrea said...

"So, I find myself saying, 'Sure, let’s pray, but let’s make more changes too.' "

I agree. However, I find myself thankful *more* for hte prayer part. Doing these changes in vain is hopeless and depressing. There will be *no* change done that way. In fact, a lot of times I *do* feel though I am doing the small changes, how is it affecting *anything*. Only through the supernatural power of Christ is it going to do anything. So coupled with prayer (being the MAIN focus) lots can be done.

Good post, L.L. I appreciate your standing up in our community and promoting these social issues.

8:23 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Yes... when I pray the Lord's Prayer, which I thought I'd left behind as a child but now have recaptured, I have a special urgency in my heart at the...

"thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." I long for God's peace, God's grace, God's healing in our very broken world. And, as you suggest, it's the only thing that makes my reaches for change seem meaningful. Stewarding is my way of saying "thank you" to God for the gifts he's put into our hands.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

So, can I let you read this in my stead and just glean the wisdom through your posts?
What can I do, as a consumer, to make a difference?
A new friend called me out (in a very nice way) on Friday night. I used to be good about using old socks to dust and mop. Then I got married and moved into a house, a whole house, and got lazy. I buy the disposable cleaning "grab-it" paraphernalia. My convenience just over-road my desire to take care of this world and the people in it.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

This post troubles me--in a good way. So I have to preach at myself a little bit here.

My friend Dan was telling me about Luke 19 where Jesus tells the story of the minas. In verse 13, the noble master gives each of his servants a certain amount of money. His instructions to them in the NKJV are clear: "Engage in business."

The word for business is pragma. Our word pragmatics is one of its cognates.

That's what stewardship of the environment is all about for me. And politics and everything. I pray (not as powerfully as I should), but I also try to be practical.

I think we need to be pragmatic. And that is scary because if I have to be pragmatic about fixing some of the big problems in the country, I can only do that by changing my own life.

And the truth is I like to be comfortable. That and I'm a little bit of a coward. I'm afraid to let the people at my church to know what I really think about some of these issues. (I live in small town Texas.)

Whew. Long post. Thanks for letting me ramble. I just have some pent up nervousness today--couldn't imagine why!

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just started reading The Secret Lives of Things today, which has given me great pause about the overall impact of even the "little" things I do, like have a cup of coffe.

I kind of want to quit reading it -- so many people seem blissful in their ignorance.

But instead, I need to pray about the changes I will make. God is sovereign, but he's passed along to me some choices.

3:05 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Heather... I'll leave the answer to that first question up to you. :)

As for the consumer question, consumers have tremendous power. That's why analysts are always going on about "consumer spending" and "consumer confidence." I have a fascinating book by the coalition of concerned scientists that notes how CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) manufacture halted as a result of just one too many consumers refusing to buy aerosols that contained it. An industry plan to stop production was in the works, but they didn't intend to act on it 'til quite later. Consumers forced their hand. I think the organics movement is another good example.

Mark... so you know how I felt posting this today! Somehow, it seems anti-God to some people, to take care of what God himself gave us. Yet, I sometimes wonder if the way I treat God's first free gift (creation) isn't a true signal of how I'm treating his second free gift (the creator, Jesus, who "holds together" (Colossians) what my race is feverishly breaking apart).

Charity... yes, God is sovereign, but as you say, we have choices. I wonder if this is why Revelation says "your wrath has come, and the time for...destroying those who destroy the earth." (11:18)

There now, Mark & Charity, I've given away two dear thoughts that are in my book. But that chapter might get dropped anyway, though it's one that's closest to my heart.

5:25 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

This is a powerful reminder, although we have Christ live in us, we are still in the world...

I lost my dad to cancer - he was only 52. I asked the Lord for year - 'WHY'...Although I still miss my dad - I am at peace with it knowing that I will see him again and we will feast at the same table again.

8:13 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Eph2810... Your dad...so young...a great loss...but still your hope. Thanks for sharing that.

I know this sounds odd, but reading Living Downstream was a comfort to me as I thought back on all those we have lost... those dads, the mom, and grandparents and the child... I felt their suffering had been put into a context. One in three Americans. (similar in other industrialized countries) I suddenly understood that these I loved were some of the one in three.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Great posting, L.L.

For the life of me, I can't fathom why so many evangelicals pooh-pooh environmental concern as something from the political "left".

You don't just keep dumping chemicals in water, land and air without consequences!

9:37 PM  
Blogger Jim Martin said...

A fine post. Thanks for the call to both pray and do. You are so right.
Sounds like you are part of an interesting group.

11:43 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ted... I don't know the history of such a perspective-shift. I'm going to guess it's related to several things:

- fear of falling into "Mother Earth" type thinking

- lack of theological understanding (particularly the inclusion of land/animal stewardship in Sabbath-keeping and a misunderstanding of Jesus' nature as Creator and his love for all creation)

-an emphasis on soul-saving without the balancing thought of body nurturing (we're more Greek in our thoughts sometimes than we are Judeo-Christian)

Jim... yes, a very interesting group. We are not all the same in our thinking, but we've all committed to opening our eyes.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Hey L.L! Thanks for those book suggestions...I added them to my wishlist. Yes, I agree with you about stewarding our environment...I am learning so much this year. So true about the cancer epidimic. My father is battling an agressive form right now and our prayer list at church is long with cancer requests. I hope you will share some information you are learning from your book club.

We have been trying to make changes in our lifestyle and when we pray before meals, we ask the Lord to heal our bodies and nourish with the food He has given even if it may be imperfect. Liked your thoughts on the Lord's supper. Blessings for your day!

11:23 AM  

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