And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered tThe word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2‘Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. (Jeremiah 18:1-4)
God spoke: “Separate!
Water-beneath-Heaven, gather into one place;
And there it was.
God named the land Earth.
He named the pooled water Ocean.
God saw that it was good.
God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.”
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning—
(Genesis 1:9-13, The Message)
These verses from Genesis paint a picture of a vibrant earth, alive with green plants, emerging as the water and land are separated. A vast variety of vegetation was present before animals and humanity. The plants bearing seeds and the trees bearing fruit, ready to sustain life.
While discussing plants on the On Being radio show, Robin Wall Kimmerer shared, “I have photosynthesis envy. The ability to take these non-living elements of the world — air and light and water — and turn them into food that can then be shared with the whole rest of the world, to turn them into medicine that is medicine for people and for trees and for soil — and we cannot even approach the kind of creativity that they have.” I’ve been reading Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer’s insight as a botanist and from being a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation challenged me to look differently at the plants and natural world around me. She sees the plants not as inanimate objects but as “living beings of the earth” and as kin. We are all related, connected, and dependent on one another.
We best live in balance with the earth when we are aware of our relatedness. Kimmerer challenges us to go beyond sustainability to live in reciprocity with all of creation. Kimmerer explains, “The idea of reciprocity, of recognizing that we humans do have gifts that we can give in return for all that has been given to us, is I think a really generative and creative way to be a human in the world.” This requires each of us to build a relationship with the land we live on, recognizing the many gifts we receive and finding a way to give back. Perhaps we can become more aware of these gifts and begin to see plants as part of our extended family when spending initial time in the garden, on slow thoughtful walks through a neighborhood park, or while learning together at camp. I’m excited to immerse myself into the greater Creation story alongside our campers this summer, knowing that intentional time in community with the natural world shapes me.
Director, Suttle Lake Camp
*PHOTO: The fruits (literally) of photosynthesis at Suttle Lake (Todd Bartlett).
When it gives you a chuckle, or maybe even a belly laugh! If you are reading this camp and retreat ministry newsletter, you are most likely a lover of nature. You don't have to be convinced of the majesty and beauty of God's creation, especially in places like our National Park system. But apparently not everyone agrees. It turns out that every single one of the 63 national parks in the U.S. has received at least one 1-star rating on Yelp. So a talented graphic designer took those reviews and turned them into posters. (The tagline from the poster for Yellowstone: "Save yourself some money, boil some water at home.") View some of the highlights here or visit the artist's website here.
Photosynthesis is, according to the google definition, the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. It's a way of converting energy. In camp and retreat ministry, we convert the energy that comes from campers + natural environment + God's love, and synthesize it into transformed lives. And when you donate your dollars to that ministry, we convert those gifts into the "food" that feeds and supports this faith-synthesis process. Thank you!
*PHOTO: The fruits (metaphorically) of faith-synthesis at Camp Magruder (photographer unknown).