John Muir, Earth Steward

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John MuirToday, April 21, is John Muir’s birthday! Born in Scotland, he came to the United States and then to California. A devoted family man with his home in Martinez, he took over his father-in-law’s sheep business for ten years. Taking the sheep (and noticing their devastating effect) up to the Sierra Nevada mountains led him to discover the majestic beauty of Yosemite. That experience changed his life and priorities. The wilderness became his world, with immense consequences. One was his invitation to President Teddy Roosevelt to camp overnight with him in Yosemite. In that one overnight experience he persuaded the President to save it as a National Park. With eyes now open to the beauty of creation, Roosevelt went on to save other places, establishing the National Park System.

I grew up with admiration and affection for John Muir, since my grandparents, then parents, camped every year in Yosemite, as we did throughout my childhood and youth. Muir gloried in every bit of nature, from the delicate colors of the Kaweah meadow flowers, to the overwhelming grandeur of Yosemite Falls seen from above. He even tied himself to the top of a tree one time to experience the wildness of a mountain storm! Muir called the Sierra Nevada “the Range of Light,” and his poetic words* have inspired me and countless others to try to be a faithful steward of the earth with integrity and consistency.

Thank You, God, for John Muir’s life, witness and legacy! Invite, goad and empower us to truly care for Your earth and for all creatures. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

* – I highly recommend reading The Wilderness World of John Muir, edited by Edwin Way Teale.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

God the Artist

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Light ray from sun behind cloud blue“Great work, God!” called out Dr. Don Adams, prompting the conference audience to give a standing ovation in response to God’s artistry as Creator. That was many years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it, both because of its spontaneity and also because of its view of God as the ultimate Artist of life.

Years ago I preached on “God as Artist” at St. Paul’s UMC in Vacaville, CA. With that theme, the worship team invited everyone to bring in evidence of their creativity. And what a thrill it was! Some people had made jewelry; others had written poems, drawn or painted, or taken photographs. Some worked with wood, ceramics, or recycled materials; others brought pictures of their children, or evidence of a special event they had planned. They decorated the entire worship space with the array, covering tables and leaning against walls. God is an incredible Artist, and gives us gifts to be artists, as well!

So it’s not surprising that one article in the first issue of Catalyst magazine* caught my eye, about Patrisha Gill, Artist in Residence at City of Refuge UCC in Oakland, CA. “Creativity (is) evidence of the divine,” she says. “I don’t know if spirituality enhances creativity or vice versa, but I believe we’ve all been given gifts, and those gifts can be used to transform lives.” Already a musician, she is now learning to create sacred space for worship through her Master of Theological Studies using visual arts, video, music, dance, photography and the spoken word. She states, “I want to take the things that I learn here, add my imagination, and ask God to blow on that creation and bless it, so it lives and breathes to bless others.”

What a beautiful steward of art and life!

* – Catalyst: The Magazine of Pacific School of Religion, Spring 2016.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

The Morning-After Net

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It’s doubly hard when a dream turns to dust, when people who have gone through a dramatic life event (a significant relationship, a turn-around experience) see all the goodness vanish. The dream dies, our new life doesn’t pan out, loved ones drifts away. Unsure of what to do, we ask ourselves, Can I go back to who I was before? Can I at least do something that used to be familiar?

fishing coordinating workI can imagine Peter in that state after his betrayal, after Jesus’ unthinkable death, even after the Resurrection. Peter’s sense of life must have been stripped of all feeling, his mind reeling with What do I do now? It’s no wonder he told his fellow former-fishermen, “I’m going fishing.”

So Peter must have been stunned by that morning-after breakfast on the Galilee lakeshore (John 21:1-14). Actually, it was the overwhelming abundance of fish that tipped him off. The Beloved Disciple (John’s stand-in for you and me) recognized Jesus, not by his appearance but by the effect of his action, when their long-empty net was now teeming with fish, including one of every species known at that time.

As with Peter in that moment, even when the greatest events of our lives turn sour, Jesus comes to be with us and provide abundance we never felt was possible. Peter and the disciples had a delicious, nourishing breakfast that day – and then no doubt, as stewards of God’s abundance, they shared the rest of that amazing bounty with the community around them.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

April 26 Author Chat

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Afire front coverI invite you to a free, online “Author Chat” with me on April 26, 2016 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, sponsored by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. I am looking forward to it!

In the first half, I’ll talk (live) over some Power Point slides about what I’ve learned so far through work with churches and my books, Stewardship: Nurturing Generous Living and Afire With God: Becoming Spirited Stewards. Then we’ll have a question-and-answer session using the participants’ typed-in questions and moderated by Marcia Shetler, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

Stewardship bookTo learn more and to register, go to www.stewardshipresources.org and click on “Register” in the Author Chat section. They’ll email you a URL so you can click on the link to participate. I hope you’ll join us!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub