Thinking about Trash

I am a bit of a tree hugger.  Okay maybe I am a lot of a tree hugger!

I recycled back when it was harder to do.  I recycled when you had to sort your own recycling and you had to drive way out of your way to do it.  I recycled when it was just me and the other lady in her matching Birkenstock sandals and Greenpeace t-shirt at the recycling center (and our Birks weren’t even trendy or cool – just environmentally friendly).

My tree hugging ways are definitely intensifying with age. 

Gone are things like paper towels and paper napkins at the McFarland house.  I dislike storing food in plastic.  I ration zip-lock bags.  I regularly ask the baggie holder if he really  needs that baggie or if a lovely – reusable – environmentally friendly glass container would work instead?  I buy in bulk whenever possible, because it has so much less creation harming packaging. 

I feel some pretty serious guilt over those wretched foam take-away containers our favorite Mexican grocery uses for our Friday night tacos.  I wonder- if once Covid-19 is over – if I might be able to provide my own environmentally kinder containers – but I am sure the health department would have a fit.  (A lady can dream . . .)

As Christians I believe we are called to be good and wise stewards of God’s creation.  Creation does not belong to us.  I believe when God created humanity in Genesis and called us to be his caretakers that we were given an important task – a task we far too often don’t take seriously enough.  Or one we have far too often interpreted “as turn the Earth into our personal garbage dump.”  (Why yes – I do feel passionately about creation stewardship!)

“26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” – Genesis 1:26-28

The NRSV translation of the Bible uses the words “dominion” and “subdue” in Genesis chapter 1.  Unfortunately – we have far too often used those words as an excuse to abuse God’s gifts to us – to spread our trash everywhere – to use to excess – to not think about others. 

I see this all the time when I am out in nature – hiking – walking and exploring. 

Sometimes it is as simple as our next door neighbor’s refusal to recycle anything and her overflowing trashcan week after week.  Weekly we pick up her trash from our yard and the cul-de-sac.  It is a sad, but regular part of our Thursday walks.  (Today is was a McDonald’s bag blowing like a tumble weed through the cul-de-sac.)

This Christmas break our extended family collected over 40 huge black trash bags of trash from the woods up the mountain from where my in-laws have their mountain home.  Some homeowners are so shockingly careless with their trash and bears get into it over and over again.  This endangers the bears and leaves the beautiful mountains looking like a garbage dump.  So the Markward-McFarland clan cleaned it up several times.  Jack, Nic, Bella, and Will were amazing.   We were so proud of them!  Hopefully they are learning important lessons about stewardship of God’s creation and care of God’s creatures.

Here some of us are with our handy work!

Other times it is the trash that litters the sides of the trails we hike.  I am dumbfounded that anyone could hike along a trail drinking a soda and eating a bag of chips enjoying the beauty of nature and then upon finishing these “food” items toss the empty containers onto the ground beside the trail . . .

When Jack, Will, and I were exploring and delighting in the Broadrun Park and Floyds Fork River this week we saw evidence of humanity’s abuse of God’s glorious creation over and over again.

There were overflowing trashcans close to the river.  There was trash that had washed up along the river like plastic bottles and bags and those little yard flags. 

There were golf balls.

There were so – so many broken beer bottles.  Drinking beer and tossing the empties into the river must be the pass time of many an American! 

There were pieces of metal in all shapes and sizes.

As we explored and took it all in – we talked about what we were observing around us.  I didn’t even start this conversation. . .  We talked about the incredible beauty of nature and God’s creation and how ugly humanity’s garbage is. 

And then Jack pointed out that while the plastic and the foam stayed just gross and disgusting – the glass and the metal became interesting as God’s creation reclaimed it.  The broken glass bottle pieces shine and sparkle as the river washes over them. 

(The McFarland sons and I collected an entire tray of broken pieces of glass on Monday afternoon in just a couple of hours!)

The metal also becomes beautiful as it breaks down and returns to the elements of the earth from which it first came so long ago.

Truly there is beauty everywhere and in almost everything – but I don’t think that is an excuse to be bad stewards of God’s beautiful creation.

A steward is someone who cares for something that doesn’t belong to them.  None of this is ours.  We are just borrowing it for a bit.  Would any of us borrow a friend’s home for a while and leave behind a bunch of trash in our wake?  I would really – really hope not!  Why do we do this to God’s creation?

January is a great time to start new habits and try new things.  Perhaps one of those new things could be trying to be a better steward of God’s creation.  Maybe you could remember those reusable grocery bags and stop using those plastic grocery bags.  Maybe you could remember to turn off the lights when you leave the room (I am working on this one myself this year.)  Or could you turn down the furnace when you are sleeping?  Maybe you could start recycling if you don’t already.  Maybe you could put on some gloves and pick up someone else’s litter the next time you are out and about.  Or how about taking shorter showers or showers instead of baths? 

God has allowed us to live on a truly beautiful planet.  We are so blessed.  And there are so many ways we can be God’s stewards in this world – even now in the middle of this pandemic!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

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