Plan for Earth Day April 22

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Earth Day is coming up soon this month, so now is a perfect time to decide as a congregation what you can do to encourage good stewardship of this earth. Here is a response I sent to Adam Hamilton, United Methodist minister and author, in reply to his 2015 blog about Earth Day at adamhamilton.org:

“Thank you, Adam, for highlighting Earth Day to raise awareness of the importance of being good stewards of our earth. I especially appreciated your emphasis on the daily ways we can care for the earth in the habits and patterns of our lives.

” As a U.M. minister and stewardship writer, I’ve seen what a great impact individuals in a congregation can have on their local community. One local church formed a group called Earthkeepers. They educate their neighbors in community events, and host free toxic clean-up days.

” As we move closer to 2017 Earth Day this month, we can get more ideas from www.earthdayinitiative.org, and decide to do something locally. Sincerely, Betsy Schwarzentraub, generousstewards.wordpress.com.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

The Energy Within

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There I was with the Urgent Care doctor, someone I’d never met before, as he looked at my hand, overused after recent surgery.

“I’m a writer,” I explained. “I’m writing a book.”

“What are you writing about?” he asked.

“Stewardship and generosity: generous-hearted living.”

“That’s great!” he immediately replied, looking me square in the eye. “I see so many people day after day. They’re focused on Number One: themselves.” Then he went on to explain. “There’s this energy within each of us, and it just has to get out. Counseling lets it out, but most people won’t go to counseling.”

“Prayer gets it out, too,” I added.

He went on. This energy gets bottled up and it needs to be let loose, he said, to get out of the box somehow. As he left the room he said, “What you’re doing is needed. You finish that book.”

That gave me both healing and energy – not just for my hand, but also for my heart.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Don’t Panic

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knee-patella-blue“Don’t panic” was a key phrase early in my life with personal computers. It was the Post-It Note message I stuck on my monitor, back when I wasn’t sure the computer had stored something as soon as it left the screen.

I’d almost forgotten that phrase until earlier this month, when I discovered I would be giving I.V. antibiotics to my husband five times a day for the next six weeks. He had gotten a total knee replacement, and in less than a week had a second, more major surgery to clean out an infection and a hematoma the size of the surgeon’s fist. After a few days in the hospital he was ready to come home with instructions for me to inject infusions starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. daily for the foreseeable future.

Since then we’ve discovered there’s a lot of life on the other side of “don’t panic.” Almost anything can become normal when it’s necessary, and my husband has been a very patient patient. I quit worrying about injecting air bubbles in his blood stream, but make sure I’m attentive through every step of the procedure.

Underneath what people can do to affect our health, it’s amazing how our bodies can instigate and promote healing! And it’s equally amazing to realize how much we can do when we get beyond the phrase, “Don’t panic.”

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

A Reminder from the Birds

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These past months the wild birds have been everywhere, first seeking whatever they could to build their nests. When much of the U.S. was still battling snowstorms, Northern California began to see spring. Thankfully we’ve had enough rain this year to cancel the current year’s (although not long-term) drought. Mornings have been filled with birdsong In the Sierra foothills, and through the day the soon-to-be avian parents picked up bits of hay, sticks, goose fluff, our horses’ hair strands, and even some hay-bale twine to build their nests.

The sparrows in our barn built one new nest and reinforced two from last year, and laid their eggs. In one stall the babies hatched and matured to the flying stage. The five babies formed an excited flying circus along with their mom and dad, as we fed and tended the horse beneath them. Under the eaves of our home, one nest is full of babies alSwallow 3most ready to fly. We’ve been able to see them perched on the string of lights in front of their nest, as the parents hurriedly fly back and forth to feed them.

All their activity reminds me of Jesus’ words in Luke 12 and Matthew 6, where he notes how God feeds and cares for the birds of the air. Like those bird parents, we are to nurture the young in each season, but not be consumed by worry. We are all precious and valued by God at every point in the rhythm of life. The trilling birdsong each morning is a lovely reminder of how we need to go to work providing for one another each day, but also to trust in God, Who sustains us through it all.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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

Animals Know

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I’m one of the honored few. Our horse Tuxedo greets me regularly the way trusting horses meet one another: by coming nose-to-nose, breathing in each other’s breath. It takes trust, especially for a human being: one push of his head against my face could knock me silly. But it’s trust on his part, too – an affirmation of kinship that has nothing to do with dominance.

Tux and Gunner CROP at grinding rockAnimals know a lot more than many human beings do. Some new friends of ours came to our property today especially to meet our horses. The wife carries a portable oxygen tank and does very well with it. When she came close to our other horse, Gunner (my special guy), he rested his nose on her chest, as if he knew her need for healing in her lungs. It was a God moment for all four of us human beings.

When we steward our relationships with others, we begin by paying attention, listening, watching and learning. And when the animals we care for are teaching us, there is a lot of compassion to learn.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Stewards of God’s Mysteries

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Space discoveries have been thrilling these past few weeks, thanks to traveling telescopes launched many years ago!

Pluto

Pluto

The New Horizons program, nine years on its journey, has sent back amazingly detailed photos of Pluto, the icy dwarf planet at the near edge of millions of icy-rock balls in the Kuiper Belt at the far edge of our Solar System.

Then there are the Kepler photos of “452B,” a planet that shows some surprising similarities to Earth. Who would have imagined this? It is one of twelve planets that are roughly similar to our “pale blue dot” (as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse-Tyson describes Earth). The thing is, 452B is 1,400 lightyears away from us. This means it is so far away that it would take 1,400 years for us to get a message to them, and another 1,400 years for them to send a message back!

The scope of God’s creation is staggering. Currently I’m pondering a sermon involving the Hubble Telescope, launched twenty-five years ago. It is now sending incredible photos of nebulae where entire galaxies are born, or die, or super-nova to distribute their elements back out into space. I can’t help but respond with wonder and awe at the immensity and intricacy of it all!

“Think of us in this way,” Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “as stewards of God’s mysteries.” It’s so easy to operate within our comfortable, human-centered surroundings. But in the context of the universe and our tiny place in it, it is even more extraordinary – and essential – that God has called us to be stewards of our planetary home.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub