Naturally Artificial: The Interaction of Technology and Nature

In my previous post we explored the two components of the theology of creation and the importance of both. This is a continuation of that discussion (because Nikki said it was too long for one post)…

Nature as Revealing God

If we ignore the importance of nature as a revelation of God’s beauty, we can quickly turn to an exploitative approach to nature. If we treat nature as merely a resource, a source of extraction of goods, and fail to value the preservation of the beauty of creation. If agricultural or genetic engineering is coupled with species elimination, we have are ignoring God’s design of diversity in creation. Even within technology, we can be guided by the principles of God’s creation. When we engineer for homogeneity, we are not engineering according to God’s style. If we engineer without regard for sustainability, we are not follow God’s approach.

If we ignore God, the creator, it is quite reasonable to erroneously value nature for nothing more than its means of providing resources for humans. But acknowledging a creator demands that we put a value on nature as God’s artwork, something with a value worth preserving beyond just its utility to humanity. Those who worship God, should be those most invested in protecting and honoring God’s creation, yet Christians have acquired a reputation for having the least concern for our planet, our climate, and the creation that surrounds us.

Likewise, this concept is important for how we treat people. We live in a world where people tend to be assessed by what they can produce, their performance. Yet God’s creation reveals beauty that goes far beyond just resource production. The beauty of creation has so many facets and intricacies that no one can be truly appreciated if only seen for their function. Likewise as we approach others, we must look for beauty beyond just productivity. We must appreciate the beauty of diversity, of the uniqueness of individuals, the wide range of gifts that God has given people.

Delegated Creation

On the other hand if we ignore the important of the delegation of creation, it is easy to fall for the appeal to nature fallacy. And not only does the theology of creation teach us that the concept that God has called man to create and design, but the Bible also teaches that while nature may reveal God, nature itself is fallen (Rom 8:19-22), and natural instincts and the natural process of “natural selection” are ruthless, God has called man to step above these. I recently saw Monkey Kingdom, a great documentary of the life and society of monkeys. One thing was clear: monkeys are horrifyingly ruthless towards each other. They have brutal caste systems and the elites will hoard food and inflict horrible punishment on lower caste who attempt to break rank. The natural systems, societies, and structures of monkeys and man are broken and ruthless, God has called us to challenge these with a greater concept of society.

This has implications for how we assess (or can’t assess) ethics, organization, and morality as well. While God’s design reveals His purpose, the delegation and progression of creation means that we can not hold up an image of original creation as an infallible blueprint for morality. We can’t use Adam and Eve as a definition of proper moral living.

This also means we can’t assume that there are “natural” forms of economics or governance that are superior. There are no easy solutions from simple economic models or democratic structures, we are constantly challenged to think, innovate, and consider new ways of improving upon our systems. Simply letting things be is rarely the answer.

Appeal to nature fallacy can lead astray in everyday ways as well. Millions flock to “natural” foods, remedies, and other products that often lack any substantial verification of superiority, and are merely marketed on the basis of being more natural. The tremendous commercial success of organic products has largely been attributed to the appeal to nature, and fear of the artificial. Where these products help improve labor practices, increase species diversity, and reduce antibiotic resistance they are to be welcome and appreciated, but the intuitive superiority of their naturalness is easily overestimated. For many, this “naturalism” distortions may simply lead to extra spending, but for others, on the edge of development, where small improvements in agricultural efficiency can provide the opportunity to properly feed one’s family, advances in genetic engineering can be a matter of life and death, with thousands of lives at stake. Distorted perspectives may not have big consequences for us, but denying the opportunities of engineering, that God has given us, can really mean life or death for others.

If we are to properly respond to God’s design of delegated creation, it means that God has invited us into creation in every aspect. We can’t inconsistently assume that we can rightly engineer computer chips and attempt to actively influence people’s beliefs, while we ignore God’s invitation into creating that also extends to genetic engineering, sophisticated medical and pharmaceutical innovations as well.

Likewise, environmental protection is critical to helping to preserve the beauty of God’s creation, but excessive zeal is manifested in the attitude that any and all human interaction with nature and consumption of natural resources is negative and should be avoided. Shortly after Nikki and I were married, we had the opportunity to go to Switzerland. One of the things that I was very impressed by was not only the beauty of the mountains (of course!), but how the homes that dotted the hillsides actually accented and added to the beauty of the amazing mountain valleys. In the states it seems there is often either total take over of develop-able land, or complete protection. But in Switzerland, I was amazed at how thoughtful design can actually complement nature.

God intends for man to continue to invent, dream, innovate, and create with everything from electronics to genetics, while still being guided by the principles of creation: caring and providing for for others, while cherishing the principles of beauty, diversity and sustainability. Let us embrace both of these aspects of creation.

Adventures in Transition, Part 2

As I wrote previously, our faith family is in a time of major transition. It is both an exciting and scary adventure. It is also very insightful and as we move from one phase of this transition to another I feel like we have grown both individually and collectively. Just like an individual, a faith family should never stop growing or become stagnant. Change itself is uncomfortable and not something we will all voluntarily choose. I also don’t think that most of us voluntarily choose to settle into a rut. It is something that just happens over time. Things that you might have thought more about at one time become common, habitual and once in a while it is good to have things shaken up a little bit. While change isn’t comfortable, if we respond to it in the right way it can lead to healthy growth. And pardon me as rant for a moment, by growth I DO NOT mean people filling seats, which is probably the most common way to measure the growth of a church. What I have seen in our family is growth in spiritual maturity, in relationships, and in serving others. I’d much rather have this kind of growth than be part of a faith family that is big in attendance but shallow when it comes to the essentials of spiritual life. Rant over. 😉
Here are a few of the gems that I’ve observed in our faith family:

1.) A healthy faith family prays, lots. They pray both together and individually.  One of the best results of this transition for us is a campaign called “Take Fifteen” that encourages every person to commit 15 minutes each day to praying for our body. It’s an easy commitment and we were even given specific prayer requests so it was not hard to fill that time. I hope this continues even after this transition. Prayer is powerful! This isn’t rocket science but is always a good reminder.

2.) A healthy faith family communicates properly. Gossip can do terrible, terrible damage more quickly than I think most realize. When a complaint or rumor has come up rather than spread it to neighbors and close friends the party concerned has been encouraged to take these concerns directly to the leadership or individuals involved. It has meant a LOT of meetings but it has also meant a lot of misunderstandings cleared up and further hurt avoided. Again, not a novel idea but it’s so easy to fall into gossip if we aren’t careful.

3.) A healthy faith family is quick to forgive. As I mentioned in my last post people respond to change in different ways. This is bound to cause misunderstand and assumptions to be made. As people are learning to communicate properly they are also learning to be quick to forgive and quick to ask for forgiveness. This has been one of my favorite things to observe.

4.) A healthy faith family respects other points of views. In any group with more than, well, one person you are bound to have disagreements and conflicting points of view. When it comes to the non-deal breaking theological issues we have seen many views expressed in our faith family. I have appreciated the way that we as a group have respected each other. While we might not all agree, we still love and respect each other and really, we will not know the answers to some of these questions until we can ask God directly so why cause strife in a relationship about it?

5.) A healthy faith family encourages each individual to use their gifts to bless the whole. We all have different talents. Not all of us can play the guitar, preach a sermon, say an eloquent prayer, or lead a bible study. However cleaning the upstairs bathrooms, coordinating the speaking schedule, and keeping the driveway from icing over are all just as important and it has been wonderful to see so many step up and say, “I can help out by doing that.”

6.) A healthy faith family remembers who its true leader is. At the end of this transition we will have some new leadership but really, our true leader has never changed and this whole process has been such a good reminder of that. No one individual makes up the whole faith family or should ever be the face of it. We are all members with Christ as our head and he never changes.

Adventures in Transition, Part 1

A mentor and very wise woman I know has this phrase as her email signature line:

“From a distance it looks like an adventure … up close it is filled with challenges”

I think she may have even been the one who originally said it. Did I mention that she is very wise (and also doing some awesome things in the country of Uganda)? Anyway, I’ve thought of this saying often in the last three months as our faith family experiences some very big transitions. Typically I think that transition is fun and exciting, especially  when I am anticipating it. However when it’s out of the blue, forced upon me, it’s another story. This transition in our faith family was big and nothing short of a shock that left many people feeling hurt, abandoned and confused. To be honest I am very excited about where this will lead our community. I am excited about  the many opportunities to grow and experience a level of freedom we’ve not know for a very long time. From a distance it looks like a fun adventure….

…but up close, in the day to day interactions, it is filled with challenges. Relationships are messy and church is weird. It doesn’t function quite like a business or workplace nor does is it fully function as a family. Navigating the ins and outs of daily church decisions and relationships can be tricky. I’m sure this is true any time but it is magnified when there is a transition.

I am learning and seeing that people respond to change in different ways. Some people embrace the change and use it as a impetus to change lots of areas. They tend to think, since A is changing we might as well make changes to B and C as well. They may even change things not because they need to be changed but simply because they can be changed.  In this way they can create a feeling of security or control in an insecure time. Other people respond in pretty much the completely opposite way. Feeling shaken up by the changes they have experienced can lead them to cling tightly to all that is familiar.  Any new changes, even small ones, feel huge and uncomfortable. They resist change because the last change was hard and uncomfortable. They tend to think, why would we want to change anything else right now? By holding tight to everything that remains familiar they can create a feeling of security or control in an insecure time.

Now take all these people, who really both have the same end goal of feeling secure, and encourage them to be an active participant in this faith family. Ask them to contribute and use their gifts and insights, tell them to “get off the bench and into the game” and imagine what happens. Challenges. Lots of them.

Challenges are not bad. They are great opportunities to grow and learn. What is bad is when people in the first group see the people in the second group as sticks in the mud that they can’t work with. Or when people in the second group see the actions of those in the first group as reckless and disrespectful. What we need to see, what I’m trying desperate to remember during this time, is that we need each other. We balance each other out and together make a fuller, more accurate representation of Christ than we could ever do alone. Isn’t that our goal in the end, to look more like Christ?

So perhaps up close all we can see is a bunch of messy brush strokes that seem too dull and too conservative or too bright and just too much but hopefully from a distance we really are a beautiful and slightly unfocused image of Christ.

When I Want…May I

Friends, as we start a fresh week here is what’s on my mind, in my heart and in my prayers: 

When I  feel like yelling, may I whisper.

When I want to push THAT person away because they are driving me crazy, may I draw them closer (maybe physically, maybe relationally).

When I want to judge, may I try to look at it from their perspective.

When I want to vent (aka gossip), may I keep my mouth closed.

When I want to assume, may I look for the best.

When I want to criticize, may I compliment.

When I want to give advise, may I slow down to listen and empathize.

When I want to compare, may I choose to be thankful.

When I want to respond emotionally, may I consider their emotions first.

When I want to complain, may I consider what I am willing to do to fix the problem.

When I want to indulge, may I consider those who don’t have enough.

When I want to worry, may I instead pray.

I pray that this week is a week of peace, healing, and steadiness for you as well as for myself. 

 

The Commune Table-October Week 1

Here’s what we enjoyed eating last week. May your table be full of yummy foods and good conversations. 

Sunday-Balsamic Roast Beef French Dip Sandwiches, Corn and Basil Salad

Monday-Our school was doing a fundraiser at Sonic Drive-In

Tuesday-Coconut Curry Soup, Brown Rice
I love this recipe because it is flexible. This time we added fresh chopped zucchini from our garden. 

Wednesday-Kale & Butternut Squash Pasta, Fresh Fruit

Butternut Squash, bacon, and pasta, a match made in heaven!
Butternut Squash, bacon, and pasta, a match made in heaven!

2013-05-22 17.46.33-2

Thursday-Sesame Chicken Edamame Bowls, Fruit Salad

Friday-Easy Butter Chicken, Rice, Roasted Garlic Cauliflower, Naan

Saturday-Leftovers

Training Your Eyes

I wrote this a couple years ago and for some reason it never made it on the blog. I was reminded of this struggle and lesson as the Halloween decorations started appearing this weekend. 

I don’t know why but for some reason people in Utah LOVE Halloween.  So many people here full out decorate their houses, plan elaborate costumes for their kids AND themselves, and even get off work early to get ready! The haunted houses and haunted-themed events abound for the whole month of October.

Because we are attempting to raise our kids to be able to relevantly relate to their culture and not just build a christian bubble around them we’ve chosen to celebrate this holiday in certain, thoughtful ways rather than just excluding it from our lives and vocabulary. We try to find ways to redeem and reclaim that which sin has darkened and perverted. So on this particular night in the past we’ve let our kids dress up and we go to the local senior center. We walk through the halls and greet the residents and talk to them. We talk to our kids about trying to bless others with their presence and I’m not gonna lie, they get a ton of candy too. I’m not saying that everybody should do what we do, it’s a personal decision that has to be made with lots of evaluation and prayer.

Recently we moved to a new neighborhood. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of our neighbors and are really enjoying getting settled into our new surroundings. As this holiday approaches we’ve watched as a few houses here and there have put out hay bales, pumpkins, and the occasional spider or scarecrow. Pretty much just cute autumn stuff. Then this week it happened. Down around the corner from us the little house and well manicured yard overnight turned  into an evil graveyard. Now, one of my biggest pet peeves in the blogesphere is exaggeration for poetic flair and I try really hard to write honestly and realistically. So I hesitate to say that our neighbor’s decorations are “evil” but honestly I can think of no other accurate way to describe them. These decorations are beyond the typical Halloween scary stuff you see, they are just horrible, dark and, well….evil.

The first time I drove past this transformed house I shuddered, shook my head in disgust and then got irritated. I thought, I have to drive my kids past that house every day. Thanks a lot jerks!  All that morning that stupid house was on my mind because I knew later that day I would have to drive past it with my kids in tow. What was I going to say when they saw it? Then an idea popped into my head, we don’t have to drive past it! There are other routes to our house. I can just use those routes until those decorations are gone. Yes, no other route is nearly as direct. Yes, I will have to drive out of the way, multiple times a day, for the next 30ish days…ugh. This is not looking like such a good solution. Back to the drawing board.

So I continued to pray about this irritating house. I contemplated paying these neighbors, who I’ve not met yet, a visit and just letting them know how offensive their decorations are to me, my children, and probably any other family with young kids in the area. I can just visualize how well that would turn out: Hi, I’m the new neighbor down around the corner. Well I just wanted to let you know how I feel about your horrible Halloween decorations…

So my next solution, I pray that God would blind my children’s eyes to this house for the next month. God, you can do that right? I’ve heard stories of bible smugglers in other countries who have watched in amazement as police have searched their bags and literally not seen hundreds of bibles and study materials. So God, please blind my children’s eyes to these decorations so I don’t have to deal with them seeing them and don’t have to drive out of my way.

Fast forward to that afternoon when I pick my daughter and her friend up from kindergarten. My son is also in the car with us. We drive by the house, I silently pray and hold my breath. Then I hear:

“MOM!!! DID YOU SEE THAT HOUSE!?!!?

I look in the rear view mirror and see all three kids with their faces practically plastered to the window visually sucking in all the horrible things on display. So no blindness, huh God?

Then, amazingly instead of freaking, out of my mouth come words that I believe had to have been from God, because I certainly wasn’t thinking what I was saying. I listened to myself as I told the kids that sometimes there are yucky, scary, or icky things in this world. It is sad that some people chose to like those things and sad that they chose put them out so that everybody has to look at them. So what we have to do, I told them, is to teach our eyes to not look at those yucky, scary things. We have to tell our eyes, “I know you want to look at all that stuff, but it isn’t good for you, so you need to look away.”

The kids responded so well. They said, “Okay, we have to not look at that stuff cause it isn’t good for us?”

“Yes, that’s exactly right.”

And that’s what they’ve been doing ever since. We don’t drive out of our way to get home, we don’t talk poorly about those neighbors for liking that stuff, we simply look away. The more I think about it, the more I see the need for this at other times in our lives. Down the road I know there will be times when my children will need to choose to look away from something. A website, a photo in a text, a billboard, etc. There are lots of things they will be exposed do that I can’t control or protect them from. I hope this simple exercise of training their eyes will give them strength to make the right choice when the consequences are greater.

Even now every time we drive by this particular house we talk about training our eyes. The other gem that has come up from this house is that we cannot control those people and what they put in their yard. But we can control our own bodies and what we allow our eyes to look at and our minds to think about. So I guess in the end I should be thanking these neighbors for the good life lessons. 🙂  

The Commune Table

It’s officially fall which means time for soups and breads and recipes based around squash, yum! Apparently nobody notified the weather and so we’ve been eating soup on 90 degree days. Oh well, we’ll get there eventually. Here’s what we enjoyed this last week:

Monday-Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad
I followed her suggestion and topped the chicken with bacon and cheese and broiled it. It’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

Tuesday-Personal Pizzas, Green Salad
This is a commune favorite, we have a fantastic dough and sauce recipe. The kids love to make their own pizzas and this meal works great on busy nights when not everyone is home for dinner at the same time. 

Wednesday- Garlic Lovers Veggie Stir-Fry, Brown Rice
Simple, quick, and so good. I confess that I forgot to remove the huge chunks of ginger from the oil before I added the vegetables. This meant a few very surprising bites…not recommended. 

Thursday-Homemade Chicken and Noodles, Roasted Green Beans
This is my family’s recipe and was what we always requested for our birthday dinners. My favorite part is making the noodles together. The kids love unrolling the long strands of dough and tossing them with flour before they go in the broth. We always leave one noodle rolled up and see who gets it in their bowl. 

P.S. It’s a short menu this week because the kids and I took a spur of the moment trip up to visit my family.

Reading List 2014

books

I’m several months late but I thought I’d share with you what has been on my reading list this year. It’s an ambitious list and may spill over into 2015. For the books I have finished I’ll include a brief review. I’d love to hear about what’s on your reading list too!

1. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
I will write a whole post on this book soon. What an interesting read! I highly recommend reading this book no matter what form of education you have chosen for your children.

2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is a quick and entertaining story about a boy, born with a severe facial birth defect, who is attending public school for the first time in his life…and at middle school no less! I picked this book up because I had heard such great things about it from teachers and parents alike. It’s a great story about good friends, facing challenges, and not allowing the difficulties we encounter define us but rather shape our character. This is will be a book my children read when they are a little bit older.

3. A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling
An autobiography about one of the primary student leaders of the Tienanmen Square protests and the massacre that followed. She shares her whole story from childhood to present day. I found the section about the events at Tienanmen Square the most interesting mainly because I knew so little about the uprising and the politics involved. Ling flees China as a most wanted fugitive and eventually becomes a Christian and starts an exciting and legitimate foundation to fight female gendercide in China.

4. Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
I’m almost finished with this book but the chapter I’m currently on is the most convicting and personally challenging so I’ve slowed down my reading a lot in order to process the conviction I’m feeling. Too often I read a good book and the information remains just that, information…head knowledge. Hatmaker’s writing is enjoyable, very funny, and approachable. She does not use guilt or flowery language to cajole her reader into making changes. She simply and honestly shares her experiences and thoughts and leaves the reader to make their own personal applications. That’s what I’m trying to do.

5. Just Moms Complied by Melanie Springer Mock & Rebekah D. Schneiter
I stumbled across this book accidentally at church and I’m SO glad I did. I thought it was going to be a “How To” book about conveying the ambiguous concepts of justice to our children. Instead it is a compilation of (mostly) blog posts from (mostly) Mennonite and Quaker authors who (mostly) live in the Pacific Northwest and are wrestling with how to teaching their children how to love, live, and think like Jesus, namely how to care for the least, our environment, and live a life of non-violence. They don’t give five steps to make your kids love justice, they just share their daily revelations and struggles. I found each chapter encouraging and refreshing and while I didn’t always agree with the authors I longed to discuss the ideas with someone. This would be a great book for a moms’ or parents’ group to read and discuss.

6. Pursuing Justice by Ken Wystma
After Kris’s great review of this book here how could I not add it to my reading list? 😉

7. Stiff by Mary Roach
Somewhere, I think on NPR, I heard a great review of this book and it’s a New York Times Bestseller. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

8. The Beloved Disciple by Beth Moore
Okay, confession time, I have never done a Beth Moore bible study or read one of her books. Gasp! Since I’m still here typing and not burnt to a crisp from a lightening bolt I’m guessing that despite what our Christian culture might think that’s not a mortal sin. But seriously I don’t have anything against BM, I just have never had the opportunity to participate in one of her studies. I’ve heard great things and I found this book on my mother-in-law’s collection so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about, plus I’ve always wanted to do a study on John.

9. The Educated Child by Bennett, Finn, Jr., Cribb, Jr.
I may not read this whole book. It’s thick…like 600+ pages! I intend to use it more like a reference book as my kids dive further into the public education system. I am SO thankful for the great school they go to and the unique education they are getting BUT just because they are going to school doesn’t mean that I don’t have a huge role to play in their education. I want to use this book to help guide me as I fill in the gaps and hopefully help my children be well educated children.

10. Overrated by Eugene Cho
Our community group voted to read this book together. We will discuss chapter one next week. I listened to his TEDx talk and am excited to work through this book as a group. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, he is pretty hard hitting from the beginning, but usually growth isn’t easy.

11. Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Our church is in the midst of a huge transition and this book feels like an appropriate read.

12. The Mary Russell Series by Laurie R. King
These books are my purely for pleasure books. I’m part of a little book club (very little, as in two people) and this is the current series we are reading and discussing. Sherlock Holmes has retired and taken to bee keeping and solving the occasional mystery for his brother. He crosses paths with an orphaned and outcast teenage girl (Mary) whose wit and insightfulness just might match his own. They form a partnership and eventually a friendship while they recover kidnapped children, evade murderers, and prevent political coups.
King is a smart writer who really does her homework. Even though I am reading for pleasure I feel like I am learning with these books. The series is long so we are just reading a few:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, A Letter of Mary,O Jerusalem, The Game, Pirate King
I’m currently on The Game, which also happens to be my favorite so far.

13. The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
These are fast reads, somewhere in the genre with The Hunger Games but not as well written or compelling. The first book is by far the best. I read all the books because I was hoping they would continue to improve with each book. Sadly they don’t. Again, entertaining but little more. The movie for the first book is comes out this month.

The Commune Table

Here’s what we ate this last week with recipes or links whenever possible.

Monday–Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad (see recipe below) and Fresh Fruit Salad.

Tuesday–Chicken and Black Bean Soup, Chips

Wednesday–Cheesy Kale Stuffed Zucchini, French Bread
Recipe changes: Instead of turkey I used 10 pieces of bacon, baked and crumbled  up. Yum!

Thursday–Caprese Grilled Chicken, Green Beans

Friday–Leftovers

Saturday–Potstickers and Fried Rice

 

Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad
2 chicken breasts, well seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning (or something similar)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 head butter lettuce, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, rinsed

Grill the chicken and slice. Toss all other ingredients into a big bowl. Top with dressing (see below).

Cilantro Lime Dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 TBS lime juice (more or less to taste)
2 TBS  red wine vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro (depending on how much you like it)
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix until smooth and yummy.

Welcome Back…To Me!

It’s been a long time since I (Nikki) wrote a blog post, since March 2012 to be exact! Kris has added a lot of great content to this blog in the last two and a half years, including a new name. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to write a post but my menus and little everyday posts seemed insignificant posted next to posts about fighting malaria and social justice.

But I’ve missed writing regularly…okay, semi-regularly. I have quite a list of things I want to share with you from amazing books I’ve read to fun menu ideas. So Kris and I will attempt to merge our writing styles and create a balanced blog that represents both of us. Can it be done? Is it possible? I guess we will see!