I WRITE THIS editor’s letter looking out over eight acres of rolling Kentucky bluegrass, a barn, a chicken shed, and a few different breeds of chickens: Barred Rocks, Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons. Somewhere in the meadow there are 26 goats, also of varying breeds: Saanens, Boers, Kikos, and our herd sire, a Myotonic (yes, that is the fainting goat breed; no, I have not yet seen him faint).
A little off to the right is a quarter acre’s worth of garden, which in late May is producing spinach, lettuce, radishes, turnips, scallions, and mint. The tomato plants are still in the greenhouse. Yesterday we bought two hives of bees. Today we picked our first strawberries.
from frozen spinach to beehives
I grew up a city kid, or at least a typical American suburban kid: eating fish sticks and frozen spinach from the grocery store, drinking milk out of boxes in school lunches, admiring my father’s rose garden as “a thing of beauty and a joy forever,” but never imagining the freedom of playtime pursuits over vast acres. (I think my older daughter fancies herself as either Laura Ingalls Wilder or Lucy Pevensie.) In Sunday school, I learned to thank and praise God “for the beauty of the earth,” but not until we began this outdoor adventure did I realize quite how beautiful, diverse, and fragile that creation is.
Christians have sometimes had ambiguous thoughts about God’s creation. We know that the Bible tells us there will ultimately be a new heaven and a new earth, so we wonder how closely this earth is related to our ultimate home; some have cautioned against getting too attached to this earth or worrying too much about its care. Yet there’s also a strong strand in church tradition of finding joy in the creation, treating it as God’s “second book” from which we can learn about his nature, and stewarding its bounty.
Christians have written poetry, prose, hymns and sermons explaining how contemplating God’s wonders led them to a greater love of God. They have created art to capture its beauty; they have worked to farm and tend it, responding to the cycles of day and night, summer and winter that God put into the natural order. And they have reminded us how one of the charges God gave us in the Garden of Eden was to till and keep this world (Gen. 2:15).
So in this issue of Christian History, which we produced with generous support from the Templeton Foundation, we’ve tried to capture the essence of the work of these Christians. We’ll tell the history of how they have found God in nature, and along the way we’ll see some of the fruit (pun intended) of their inspiration in the form of art, poetry, hymns, and reflections.
When I look out my office window at the bluegrass and the goats (pictured below), it moves me to contemplation and prayer, as well as to stewardship and action, including on behalf of the “least of these.” We pray this issue does the same for you.
And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go enjoy another strawberry. CH
Jennifer Woodruff Tait
P.S. You can see more of my backyard on p. 8 of the printed magazine.
This article is from Christian History magazine #119 The Wonder of Creation. Read it in context here!
By Jennifer Woodruff Tait
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #119 in 2016]
Cows and pigs, not leprechauns: Celts and creation
Celtic religion had an agricultural tinge.Garry Crites
Getting back to the land
How do we care for God’s creation?Ellen F. Davis
The Flower (excerpts)
A poem from The Temple (1633)George Herbert
Christians have talked about God’s creation as an inspiration and a responsibility for 2,000 yearsthe editor
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