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Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 1

November 12, 2012

Good Morning!

Welcome to Creation Care Week – 2012 edition!

Our unofficial theme for the week is – are you ready for this…….. – All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir!

(Read to the end for a link to a special treat!)

Song writer Bill Staines and author/illustrator Margot Zemach collaborated to produce an award winning children’s book in the late 1980’s conveying a message of joy and celebration among all God’s creatures – “some sing low, some sing higher, some sing out loud on the telephone wire, and some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now…..”

To a lively tune, children of all ages learn how “bullfrogs croak,” how the “hippopotamus moans and groans with a big t’do, and the old cow just goes ‘Moo’.”

Dogs and cats are included – they “take up the middle.”  Then honeybees hum, crickets fiddle, donkeys bray, ponies neigh, and coyotes howl!

Our feathered friends sing too!  They bring us “melodies with the high notes ringing.”  “Hoot owls holler over everything, and the jaybird disagrees.”  (Do you know any jaybirds?)  Then there’s the duck – he quacks.

Leaving feathers behind, the story and song address less conspicuous members of the choir – the possum, who doesn’t have much to say – and the porcupine – who, sadly, talks to himself L.

Not to be left out, the ox, fox, grizzly bear, grumpy alligator, hawk, sly raccoon, and turtle dove join in the “simple song of living sung everywhere.”

In a light-hearted and fun-loving way, this story and song describes the fabric of God’s creation – a “choir” much more complex and intricate than can be told in one sitting or known in one lifetime.  In fact, while there are probably only about 2 million species named by scientists, there may very well be more than10 million species making up God’s creation – no one knows for sure.  And did you know what the oldest profession is – no not what you think – it’s taxonomy – naming God’s creatures!  Look it up in Genesis 2.

Why is this a fitting theme for this year’s Creation Care Week – because our special guest and chapel speaker for this week, Dr. Fred Van Dyke, has dedicated a lifetime of service to caring for God’s creation – studying the “choir” and identifying methods for conserving and restoring the “fabric” of what God has created and that has become “frayed” and “unraveled” in the absence of informed and effective stewardship.  He works to protect and restore harmony to a biosphere in which dissonance is becoming the norm.

Formerly Professor of Biology, Biology Department Head, and Director of Environmental Studies at Wheaton College, Fred now serves as Executive Director of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Mancelona, MI (www.ausable.org).  For more than 30 years, students from Christian colleges and universities across North America have taken advanced field-based science courses through Au Sable, all of which promote an understanding of environmental stewardship based on the findings of scientific inquiry and supported by rediscovered biblical principles for creation care.

Dr. Van Dyke has authored numerous papers in the fields of ecology, conservation biology and environmental education, including a widely used textbook – Conservation Biology: Foundations, Concepts, Applications (published by Springer) – and two books dealing with the biblical foundations for environmental stewardship – Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship (Intervarsity Press, 1996, with David C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon, and Raymond H. Brand), and Between Heaven and Earth: Christian Perspectives on Environmental Protection (Praeger, 2010).  In collaboration with his colleagues at Wheaton College, Dr. Van Dyke also contributed a chapter on biodiversity to Keeping God’s Earth: The Global Environment in Biblical Perspective (Intervarsity Press, 2010, edited by Noah J. Toly and Daniel I. Block). 

A quick side note – Keeping God’s Earth – is available in our bookstore – AND – one of the chapters is authored by Dr. David Gushee, our Willson lecturer from a couple of years ago.

After a couple of meetings this morning (Monday), Dr. Van Dyke will accompany several of our biology majors on a field trip to the Ogallala Commons Playa Lakes Education Center near Nazareth, TX.  On Tuesday he will speak to our Faith and Science seminar on the biblical basis for protecting biodiversity.  Dr. Van Dyke’s chapel presentation will continue in that vein, addressing scriptural foundations for Christian environmental stewardship.  From 12:30 until 1:30 or so on Wednesday, Fred will be available in UC211 for an informal question and answer period – so bring your lunch on up and find out more about what fuels Fred’s passion for creation care, or what Au Sable is all about, or explore more deeply the message he offered in chapel.

In the coming days I will follow God’s lead and offer some sort of brief devotional to underscore the unofficial theme for the week.  SOOO – watch for other opportunities to get to know Dr. Van Dyke – AND – if you would like to invite him to your class – let me know and we’ll see if your schedules match up.  We are leaving open time slots for providential opportunities!

Finally, I have a confession to make.  In an earlier life I often performed All God’s Critters for audiences of the younger (and less musically discerning) generation.  Imagine this song in an audience participation format – with children of all ages croaking, groaning, humming, hooting, mooing and howling – not as a critique of my performing skills, but simply engaging in the joy of being part of God’s choir!  Yeah – it was fun – but if you really want to enjoy this song, try the following link (ON YOUR OWN TIME PLEASE – DON”T BE DISTRACTED FROM YOUR WORK).  I think you’ll crack a smile, your mood will lighten, and your day will be brighter for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqm-S9J1s_k&feature=related

 

Have a day blessed with beauty and appreciation for all of God’s creation! - HDG

 

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 2

November 13, 2012

The Choir Sings from the Plains!

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.  Psalm 24: 1-2   

One of the striking things about our landscape in this part of the world is ……. there is very little that is striking – or is there?  Sloping almost imperceptibly from about 3,000 ft in elevation on the edge of the caprock to our east, to a little over 4,000 ft in elevation before dropping into the Pecos River basin to our west, the southern High Plains offers little in the way of scenery.  Unless you look a bit closer.  What are those depressions that are sometimes all around us?  We are serenaded by sandhill cranes and geese and other waterfowl this time of year – where are they going?  Where did they come from, and why is their presence here fairly predictable.

The answer lies in those depressions – playa lakes, or sometimes we just call them playas.  Yesterday, Dr. Van Dyke accompanied a couple of our biology classes on a field trip to the Ogallala Commons Playa Lakes Education Center near Nazareth, TX.  Established by Dr. Darryl Birkenfeld, a native of Nazareth, the education center hosts scores of public school and university field trips, as well as several weekend workshops throughout the year.  One goal of the center is to deepen our understanding and appreciation for these common but threatened elements in our landscape.  (Their website (http://www.ogallalacommons.org/ ) has some great resources if you would like to know more.)

There are estimated to be more than 25,000 playa lakes scattered across the high plains of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Colorado and Kansas, with almost 1400 identified in Hale County alone!  I suppose that some might look at playas and see only a place to get stuck because they are wet spots on the landscape, others as a ready source of water for irrigation; as a barrier to roads or irrigation sprinklers; or just as a low spot in the field that in some years might be very productive if they stay moist and don’t flood.  But to members of “The Choir” (see yesterday’s devotional), playas are the source of life-giving sustenance during the growing season, or during their stopovers on their long and arduous seasonal migrations north to south in the fall, and on their return route in the spring.

So, how big is the playa “Choir” – 200 species of birds; 9 species of amphibians; 37 species of mammals; and upwards of 200 plant species.  You can hear them singing if you try!

But their voices are muffled these days - agriculture and grazing have taken their toll on the fabric of the high plains.  Even though playas make up only about 2% of the landscape, many have been destroyed by plowing through or to their edges, which loosens soils that erode into the playas so that they no longer provide habitat useful for members of the “Choir.”  Moreover, playas are an important source of recharge water for the Ogallala aquifer, which also is impeded when the soils under the playas are disturbed. 

Finding a balance between living in God’s creation as stewards of the landscape and all that belongs to Him, and serving the needs of our brothers and sisters through our use of the landscape is difficult.  Where do we start?  I think, by recognizing that, as the Psalmist declared -  “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…….”.  If our stewardship decisions are informed by that simple principle, we will find that balance so that all God’s Critters will have a voice and a place to sing out loud – glorifying God - creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things.

Tomorrow, Dr. Van Dyke will share with us through his chapel message the foundations for creation care that he finds in scripture.  I hope you can all attend and that you will be blessed by his message.

Have a great day!  Go outside and listen for a while! - HDG

 

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 3

November 14, 2012

Before launching into the main message for this morning – Have you noticed the displays outside the caf? 

Each day this week, a student or campus group is setting up a display outside the caf highlighting their creation care efforts.  On Monday, the student chapter of the Texas Academy of Sciences had materials on display concerning their field trips, research, and conservation efforts.  Yesterday (Tuesday) the WBU Community Garden group set up an educational display with Mark Hilliard’s Olla’s on display.  Today (Wednesday) the WBU Geological Society (WBUGS) will be promoting their various efforts, including an invitation to participate in a Running Water Draw cleanup the Friday afternoon.  Thursday, Sigma Tau Delta, an organization of students, faculty and staff from the School of Languages and Literature will highlight the success of their “Better World Book” collection project.  AND – on Friday – ENACTUS (formerly SIFE) will exhibit the success of their prescription drug drop-off project.  Thanks to all who have dedicated so much time to making Wayland a more environmentally conscious community of believers!  I am sure they will appreciate your kind words of support and appreciation!

The cornerstone event of the week takes place today – Creation Care Chapel!!  Dr. Fred Van Dyke has been graciously participating in several of our classes in the School of Math and Sciences, including our Faith and Science seminar and General Ecology lecture and lab.  His words and messages have inspired our students and faculty alike to consider how the message of scripture to exercise a stewardship ethic toward all of God’s creation (the Choir) seems to have been forgotten over the past century or so.  The papers and books he has authored in recent years call out that message.

In Redeeming Creation, Dr. Van Dyke and his co-authors point to a simple message from Genesis 2:15 - Adam was instructed to till (abad – to serve) and keep (shamar) the garden.  I will defer to those in the School of Religion and Philosophy who are certainly more qualified than I to translate from Hebrew, but I believe the authors of Redeeming Creation have gotten it right when they conclude that our hearts and minds have been distracted from the real message of the Garden – we are charged with caring for God’s creation in a manner that nurtures rather than exploits; that sustains rather than diminishes.

In Keeping God’s Earth (on sale at the bookstore now!) Dr. Van Dyke writes a chapter in which he describes what is happening to “all God’s creatures.”  In brief, human impacts on the biosphere have resulted in startling numbers of species extinctions, and ever growing numbers of species threatened with extinction.  The primary reason for this is habitat fragmentation and destruction.  Around the world urbanization, deforestation, and landscape conversion for agriculture or other uses is taking its toll.  As a conservation biologist, Dr. Van Dyke concludes that “To be successful in the long run, the conservation of biodiversity cannot simply be a clever combination of technical expertise and tactical strategy.”  He goes on to say that the conservation ethic we follow must be grounded in moral terms recognizing the intrinsic value of biodiversity.  In other words, we need to rediscover that protecting species from extinction is rooted in our most basic understanding of scripture, to abad and shamar the garden, and reflects our relationship with our creator.

And that brings us to “Between Heaven and Earth: Christian Perspectives on Environmental Protection.”  In this volume, Dr. Van Dyke provides the most thorough treatment of the foundations and principles of creation care that I believe has been written to date.  In this work he addresses not just the scriptural basis for environmental stewardship, but asks more basic questions, like why do we seem to share this notion that nature or the environment is something subject to our management?  By evaluating many other related questions, Dr. Van Dyke addresses fundamental differences between secular conservationists and those informed by faith traditions, most importantly Christianity.

The impact of his work extends beyond the growing community of Christians recognizing our obligation to care for creation; his writings and presentations are informing in very positive ways a much more important conversation that is taking place within the conservation community.  Conservations who are non-believers are coming to recognize the veracity of the points Dr. Van Dyke and his colleagues are making regarding the moral foundations of what we call creation care, and what they simply call conservation.  This discourse will continue for a very long time and there may always be points of contention.  But for the efforts of Dr. Van Dyke, and those of other Christian conservationists, this debate would never have been engaged!

Where do we fit in – budding tenders of the garden – servants of the “Choir?”  I hope we are all curious and eager to learn what we can do in our lives to abad and shamar God’s creation.  I hope that, because we are inspired to act, His glory will be known to all alive today and for generations to come, through the voices and sounds of the “Choir.”  And I hope that today’s chapel will propel us all on a journey to serve and to keep “all God’s critters.”

“…. but as for me and my house, we will serve (abad) the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

Have a Blessed Day! - HDG

 

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 4

November 15, 2012

Singing Out Loud From the Telephone Wires!

 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light.  And God saw that the light was good…….  Gen 1:1-4

 

Good Morning!!

 

If you attended Dr. Van Dyke’s chapel session yesterday, I hope you came away with a great respect for the care he takes in interpreting scripture.  He lead the audience through an insightful and thorough analysis of how God informs us through scripture to care for that which He declares to be “good” and that which He considers to have intrinsic value.  For example, in the creation account in Genesis 1, God pronounces His creation to be “good” six times.  Dr. Van Dyke reasons from this and other scriptural references that God imbues His creation with intrinsic value.

 

The idea that “all God’s critters” are intrinsically good might be threatening to some.  Does that mean we need to take conservation to extremes?  We know that we have the capacity to diminish and realign the makeup of the “Choir,” but do we have the authority to do so? 

 

Again we are informed by scripture – Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”  (Gen 1:28)  This is the often quoted scripture in which “rule” is in some translations “dominion.”  What does this mean?  Dr. Van Dyke carefully explained how “to rule” in the context of this passage is to rule as a good and Godly king would do, not as a tyrant.  In fact, we are to rule creation by serving creation – to serve and to keep.

 

So, are there resources – living and non-living – that we can use for human good?  Of course!  But we should always be mindful of the consequences of our rule and make wise and informed choices.  When does use of resources become misuse?  How can we strike a balance between actions that abad and shamar creation while at the same time draw from creation for our well-being?  These are incredibly important questions that, until now, many of us may not have considered. 

 

There are certainly a substantial number of resource managers and corporate executives who see no limit to what humans can or should do to the environment – they are most often driven by profit motives.  There are others who disagree with that mindset, but who do so without recognizing the sovereignty of God over all things.  The foundation of their conservation ethic might address the utilitarian value of creatures in peril, or they may even point to every creature having intrinsic value, but based on what?

 

The message that Dr. Van Dyke brings to us, and to the broader conservation community, is that there is a fundamental source of truth upon which an ethic informing the care and protection of all things is based – the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all creation.  He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.  For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”  Col 1:15-17

 

In conversation, Dr. Van Dyke shared with me some background on a discourse that took place in a major scientific publication between conservationists who hold evangelicals accountable for many of our environmental problems, and a group of Christian conservationists who refuted such claims.  In several of his talks to us, Dr. Van Dyke quoted from that discourse as follows:  (Keep in mind, this was published in a very reputable scientific journal!)

 

“Every time we celebrate a conservation success story such as the recovery of the white rhinoceros in southern Africa, we are strengthened in this present hope that God is working with us to redeem his creation, furthermore, these present successes are a very real foretaste of even greater things to come on that day when God will fully restore all that He has made.” (Stuart, S. et. al.  2005.  Conservation Biology 19(6): 1689-1692)

 

What a wonderful and effective testimony the Christian respondents provide in their challenge to what is an all too widely held belief by non-Christians that all Christians see God’s creation as something given to us to exploit! 

http://m7.i.pbase.com/u42/tmurray74/upload/27341017.CRW_7115_RJ.JPG

So, what song will His Choir sing on the day of judgment?  How many of God’s critters will no longer be singing in that Choir when Christ returns in glory?  And, how will the only species with the biblically-based  moral imperative to serve and to keep be judged when we are held accountable for a tattered and torn creation?

 

These are questions Dr. Van Dyke posed for us and that we all must consider.  As for me and my house – I intend to “sing out loud from the telephone wires” in accordance with Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Eastern and western meadowlarks are ringing the high notes these days as they migrate through our area, and some may even overwinter.  May your day be blessed by the “Choir” - HDG

 

 

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 5

November 16, 2012

Good Morning –

Well, two more events and Creation Care Week will have passed for another year.  We could use your help with the following:

 

Running Water Draw Clean Up -

Don’t forget this afternoon from 1 – 4 the WBUGS will work on cleaning up Running Water Draw.  They could sure use your help!  Meet out in front of Moody Science just before 1:00 pm.

 

Electronics Recycling Pick Up -

Tomorrow from 9 till 2 we’ll be holding an electronics recycling pick up at the city recycling center.  We need volunteers to help with that as well.  Bring your computers, monitors, printers, TVs, etc. (no appliances please).

 

Clap Their Hands, or Paws, or Anything They Got Now!

Now back to our theme.  Have you ever thought of what a caterpillar has to clap.  Their little legs and feet don’t seem to make much of a sound, but they do have rhythm!  Sure, you’ve noticed how they waggle along in a rhythmic motion.  They are keeping time for the “Choir!”

 

Turns out our granddaughter has developed quite an affinity for these fuzzy little creatures.  This past weekend we took a family trip to Trinity River Audubon Nature Center near Dallas.  Eiley found these fuzzy little friends and was enthralled with watching them explore her fingers and hands.  I wonder what they were thinking.  Even so, Eiley has become quite the caterpillar conservationist.  As we were leaving the next morning, we had to postpone our travels for a short time while she rescued a caterpillar off one of our tires!

 

You’ve got to love that kind of innocence and curiosity.  I think I used to be that way – I wonder what happened.  What is it that life does to us to dampen our childlike awe and enthusiasm for God’s creation?  Shouldn’t we be more like our children when praising God?  I know that I am happiest when I can find that spirit of childlike innocence and wonder in my thoughts and praise, but as I have “matured,” I find that those times are far too infrequent and far too short.

 

Scripture tells us that Jesus placed great value in the praise of children.  In Matthew, after some priests expressed alarm at the proclamations of nearby children “Hosanna to the Son of David” after seeing Jesus heal the blind and lame, He said to them – “…have you ever read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”  (Mt 21:8 and Psalm 8:2)

 

Does this mean that God is glorified when we see his creation in wonder and awe?  I think so!  And never more glorified than when this praise comes from children.

 

Lately I have been reading a book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.  This is one of those books that helps us realize why we keep thinking about the good old days as the Good Old Days.  In fact, in the opening paragraph he quotes his son as asking him “Dad, how come it was more fun when you were a kid?”  I’ll bet that strikes a note with many of us.  I certainly remember my childhood on the farm, spending many hours with a hoe in my hand, and then evening walks just listening and watching what was happening around me. 

 

There is a chapter in the book entitled “The Spiritual Necessity of Nature for the Young.”  Very refreshing and hopeful to find this emphasis in a book that has been on the New York Times Bestseller list.  In this chapter the author quotes Rabbi Martin Levi who stated – “to be spiritual is to be constantly amazed.”  WOW!!  Then the Rabbi quotes one of his teachers who said – “our goal should be to live life in radical amazement.”  WOW AGAIN!!!!  But the best comes a little later in a section with the subheading “Faith-based Environmentalism, Science, and the Next Generation.”  Here Mr. Louv states outright that “We cannot care for God if we do not care for his creation.”  He goes on to recognize the writings of many other leaders, authors and men of wisdom who have drawn that same conclusion.

 

This chapter of Last Child in the Woods closes with a story concerning the author’s son, Matthew.  Matthew had asked his father – “Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?”  Hmmmh?  During an interview with Fred Rogers (yes – The Mr. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister), Mr. Rogers made a personal connection with Matthew and learned of his profound question.  Mr. Rogers did not have an answer, but he suggested that by having loving parents we get to know what God and Nature are like.  Then he whispered privately to Matthew, as only Mr. Rogers could do – “Will you let me know, as time goes by, what answer you find to your question?”

 

I think we have arrived at an answer to that question – they are neither married nor good friends – God is the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all things – Mother Nature – the Choir – all things!  But the innocence and wonder contained in the question should remain in all of us.  We should never feel so self-assured that we know all there is to know about God and his creation. 

 

Well, another Creation Care week has passed.  The success of this week cannot be measured by how many bags of trash we pick up, how many computers we recycle, or how many bins we empty into the blue boxes on campus – it can only be measured in how many of us realize how empty we are when we have given up on seeking that state of “radical amazement” – that causes us to CLAP OUR HANDS, OR PAWS, OR ANYTHING WE GOT NOW!

 

Thank you all for your participation in the various events of this week, and for your patience with my daily promotional devotionals.  Trust me, I fully appreciate how simplistic my interpretation of scripture is and I am humbled by your gracious reception of what I have offered.  I will now go back to my day (and night, and weekend) job of being a biologist in humble admiration and awe of our Creator and His creations seeking that state of radical amazement.

 

God Bless! - HDG