Saturday, August 1, 2009

God’s Green Earth

I am writing from a chemical free, green, organic bed and breakfast, Topia Inn in Adams, MA. Coolest decorative finishes here: the walls are covered with clay, not paint; wood, some cherry, I believe, and some oak, floors were finished with non-toxic finishes; the carpets on the stairs are cotton and hemp; linens are organic cotton, air is filtered. Topia provides organic, chemical fragrance free toiletries for your use—not that all organic means non-allergenic—I can sneeze at organics and biologics too. Like many such places this green renovation of the inn was prompted when one of the co-owners developed multiple chemical sensitivities during the renovation of an old armory into an arts center and while running a restaurant. We got a peek at the armory cum theater and it is clear that detox still needs to occur, although the first pass has made a big improvement. Inexpensive theater rental rates now—all a part of an artistic and economic redevelopment project for the town.

Artistic highlight of our visit: On Thursday evening we went to a concert in the courtyard of the armory. Singer/composer Razia Said and her band performed. Razia is from Madagascar, and her band members were from Madagascar, Brazil, New York and Cleveland, as well as getting back up vocals from the inn co-owners, and the sitar player of the Greek raised inn co-owner, Nana. Still on the green theme, several of the songs she sang, promoting her new album Zebu Nation, soon to be distributed by Putamayo Music, were about the ecological problems facing Madagascar: Slash and Burn was the only one in English, but she has composed both laments and songs of hope in Malagasy, and if you ever listen to world music, track this down—I recommend it, and plan to bring home a copy.

Over breakfast both mornings we had great conversations with a couple of our fellow guests, and it turns out that David runs an information website called the
Green Yankee
. I checked it briefly and it is as wry, witty and down to earth as he was in person. He’s a cook, gardener and generally curious/interesting person, and the website reflects that.

If you haven’t had the chance to drive Route 2 in the western half of Massachusetts, aka the Mohawk Trail, this is a good year to do it. Everything is lush and green from all of the rain we’ve had—this was in marked contrast to the dry high desert mesas of my trip a couple of weeks ago, but truly an example that God must love and encourage variety as a creator and in creation. Do pull off Route 2 onto Route 8 north and take 30 minutes to an hour to see the Natural Bridge State Park. With water levels high, the only marble dam in the country is letting a lot of water pour through the Natural Bridge—one of the wonders of the natural world—where water has carved a tunnel through rock and left a natural bridge above. This is one part where I am reminded of the Arches National Park rock formations in Utah, only most of these rocks are marble, not sandstone. Cool, both in temperature and as vista, but noisy from the rush of the water!

I'm preaching next Sunday, and have been thinking about using the alternative Hebrew Bible text about Elijah’s encounter with God in
1 Kings 19:11-13 where Elijah meets God at Horeb—not in wind, earthquake, fire, but in sheer silence.
"… and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'"

Perhaps this green excursion can serve as a reminder that we all need to find some quiet time to answer that question, particularly as it regards God’s green earth: "what are you doing here" to protect and be good stewards of creation? I am heartened that many Christian conservatives have begun to rethink the dispensationalist position that the earth was going to burn up, so we may as well use it up.

And finally, fittingly, I found where the phrase God's green earth originated: this poem originally published in The Scottish Christian Herald:

The Spirit of the Seasons
By the Rev. W. M. Hetherington

Оh! beautiful is God's green earth!
When in the gentle Spring

Its flowery beauties leap to birth,
And wild-wood echoes ring.

Instructive with melodious joy,
Glad Nature's anthem pure and high,
To Him whose goodness gave them birth:
Oh! beautiful is God's green earth!

Oh! beautiful is God's bright earth !
In Summer's golden prime,

When tides of light and life roll forth
Round every kindling clime;

Till the full bloom of gracious love,
O'er earth below and heaven above,
Beams in majestic splendour forth:
Oh! beautiful is God's bright earth!

Oh! beautiful is God's rich earth!
'Neath Autumn's gorgeous skies,

When the deep robe of ripened worth
O'er Nature's bosom lies;

Benignest dignity and grace
Adorning her maternal face
With heavenly smiles of conscious worth:
Oh! beautiful is God's rich earth!

Oh! beautiful is God's grand earth!
When Winter's mighty spell

Bids tempests in their savage mirth
O'er land and ocean yell;

Locks up pool, lake, and stream, or throws
O'er hill and dale soft veiling snows;
Pours through each vein health's glowing mirth:
Oh! beautiful is God's grand earth!

Oh! beautiful is God's green earth!
The changing Seasons all,

But give its varied glories birth,
And on man's spirit call

For grateful praise: О God above,
While life is mine still shall I love
Thy works, still shew their beauties forth,
Still praise Thee in thine own green earth!

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