God Knows Us
Text: Psalms 139: 1 – 18
by Peggy Deames
Owner of Love Your Mother
|Bird House made from recycled candy wrappers.|
That is the Word of the Lord. The theme for the day is “God Knows Us”. So often we forget that our creator really does know us. Inside and out. Top to bottom. Elsewhere in scripture, we are told that the very hairs on our heads are numbered.
My family often teases me about the amount of generally useless trivia that I have stored away for the right moment, but even I, do not know the number of hairs on my head after some 50 plus years of living with the same head. And to God, knowing the number of hairs on our heads is not trivial knowledge, but a metaphor for how deeply we are known and loved. Even new parents do not know the number of hairs on their infants’ downy heads. It is routine to count fingers and toes, but hairs, not so much. But God knows.
Today’s Bible lesson also tells us that God knows what is on my tongue before I speak it. Really, if that is so, would not it be easier if our all knowing heavenly parent just typed all of this into my Word document and saved me the trouble of struggling to fathom this text that shouts, God knows us.
Allow me to share with you how well God knows me and how that knowledge led me to be here today. Pastor Nina came into my business, Love Your Mother store in downtown Three Rivers last month. It was a gloomy spring day and my mood matched the weather. Business had been very slow in my earth friendly shop. I had unpaid bills. I had some merchandise that was not selling. I wanted to purchase some new products to perk up the store for summer shoppers but was at the max on my credit card. Despite all, I have very faithful customers who are committed to shopping green and locally. Many folks (some of you here today) often ask me to source items so they can buy locally.
|Love Your Mother: Earth Friendly Products|
This dreary day I was going to have to tell a customer that I could not honor her request due to the high price of an initial order from a vendor to whom I had poured out my soul about the wonderful people in Three Rivers and the quaint historic downtown and the importance of healthy local economies, etc. etc. I had really laid it on. I felt that I had given so much to my business and had come up short. I felt a failure. And then into this scenario walks Nina, smiling, and dressed in (I kid you not) bright peach raiment. Yep, God knows me. God knows us.
Angel Nina, God’s messenger, invited me to come and share with you today. She had read a lament that I had written regarding the Enbridge pipeline that is being updated and expanded in this area this summer once again reminding us all of our complicity in our dependence on oil and how that impacts all of creation. Nina had gleaned that I had a personal and professional passion for creation care. She affirmed me when I was feeling like I had lost my way. Our text states that God discerns our thoughts from far away. You got it. God knows me. God knows us.
This fact that God knows us can be a great comfort to us as we journey here on Mother Earth. Our lesson tells us that we are knitted not on some giant industrial loom but are uniquely handmade perhaps as a kindly graying grandmother would do as she rocks and makes booties for her very first grandchild. Once again. God knows us.
And God knows all of creation, flora, fauna, air, water, soil. All of creation is knit together. We speak of the web of life, the great circle of life (Is it time to cue the theme from the Lion King?) Who knows all of these intricate connections? Any guesses? God knows us. And God knows all.
Despite God’s deep knowledge of us, including our failures to recognize the intrinsic value and importance of all of creation, we are still entrusted with being stewards or caretakers of this breathtakingly beautiful biosphere. Is God crazy? We do not have a great track record. You see God knows us, the good, the bad, and the ugly and still we are called to be caretakers within the circle of creation. Why, does God continually call us when we continually falter? It is precisely because God does know us. God knows our potential. In the midst of everything, God knows the best that we are capable of and God has our backs. Sort of humbling, right? So we muddle through. Why? Because. . . Say it with me. God knows us.
So how do we even get out of bed to face the day, when all around us we see and hear of catastrophic climate change brought on by our too often convenience and consumer driven society? Would I be making a better start if I awoke on an organic cotton mattress with equally organic cotton sheets and stepped out onto a sustainably sourced bamboo floor before I trudged into my low flow shower and scrubbed myself with Dr. Bronner’s always fair trade and organic hemp soap? And would I be ever so much closer to right living, if I had organic shade grown fairly traded coffee in my reusable, recycled travel mug, emblazoned with the NPR logo, as I commuted to my job as the administrator of human rights NGO in, of course, my Prius? Oh, if it were only that simple, we wealthy, white North Americans could simply upgrade our purchases and be quite righteous. But guess what? God knows us.
Not that any of the above is necessarily wrong, but God knows and we do also, deep down in our hearts that buying more stuff, even if it is organic and fairly traded, is not the whole answer to our broken relationships with each other and all of creation. A concerted effort to cleanse our environs of all that we currently deem somehow not earth friendly, even if we could, only touches the surface and opens us up to legitimate criticism in future generations.
It is easy for us to criticize those who have gone before us and the mistakes that they made, but in all honesty we do see (as scripture says) in a mirror dimly and each generation needs to walk gently and humbly admitting that we do not know what will be known in the future. For example: Who would have imagined that with the advent of plastic the mountains of non-biodegradable trash that would be generated? And who would have known the number of trees that would be chopped down each year just to make the now ubicweus rolls of toilet paper in everyone’s bathroom. Yes, God knows us (and the number of sheets of bathroom tissue we use).
So what do we do with the knowledge that our lifestyles are not sustainable? Like the proverbial path of 1000 miles, we start with one step. The adage of reduce, reuse, recycle is not a lesson of living in scarcity, but rather an invitation to unburden ourselves of resources not needed at a particular time and to care for the resources needed in a loving way trusting that in our world community we will have what is needed when it is needed. This speaks to ebb and flow, the dance of life, and relationship to the whole. So what I need in my life now as a woman with adult children living on their own, is very different than what I needed as a young mother.
And God knows, taking the steps to live in healthy relationship with all of creation should keep us so busy that we really won’t have time to be nit picky about our neighbor who may (gasp) be using disposable diapers for his/her baby or chose plastic over paper at the grocery store. We greenies can be such snobs. My son likes to tell me that more energy is used to make paper bags than plastic bags. So OK, don’t use either, it is a good step. God knows.
I have learned much from my children and from my customers. I am no expert. I am growing and greening as I go. God knew my heart for healthy living and my first career was in nursing. Owning an earth friendly general store, I attempt to help people source eco-friendly merchandise locally and to provide a venue for the creativity of producers to reuse and recycle items in new ways. Ideally, I should be working myself out of business. When as a culture we expect that what we purchase will be earth friendly, there will no longer be the need for an earth friendly store as all stores would be that way. We are not there yet. God knows.
So what do we do with those pesky petroleum based plastics? Plastic is here to stay because it will not just go away as it is not readily biodegradable and, of course, it is quite practical for some products. First, we need to stop making new petroleum based plastics. This will save petroleum as well as lower the amount of plastic on our planet where there is more than enough right now. What that means for those of us who are not in the business of making plastics is that we need to reduce our use of plastic for so many items. We need to reuse the plastics we have, like refilling bottles from bulk containers. Or we can make our own products like window cleaner and reuse the same bottle over and over. When we buy plastic, we should purchase recycled plastic even if it is only the container for a product (like shampoo).
While it might be tempting to personally swear off plastic and there are those who do, we need to remember that in order to encourage recycling there needs to be a market for recycled plastic. If there is no one buying recycled plastic, there will no longer be the incentive to recycle plastic and it will go to landfills or the ocean. So we need to complete the full circle or recycling. It is not enough to just recycle (although it is a good start).
|Toys made of recycled plastic|
I am not advocating that everyone go out and buy more stuff, but we need to think of the little items that we regularly toss like toothbrushes. Yep, they make great little scrubbers, but eventually we toss them. How about purchasing a toothbrush that is made out of a yogurt container and sending it back to the company for recycling when done with it? There is a company that does this. Many of us get our toothbrushes from our dentists when we have our regular appointments. Perhaps we can choose not to take the one offered (unless of course, it is recycled and recyclable). That will spread the word easily about not choosing plastic per usual. We can start our children and grandchildren off with recycled toothbrushes and replace them in Christmas stockings. Another option is to purchase a toothbrush with a replaceable head as it is the bristles that wear out not the handles.
|Recycled and recyclable tooth brush|
When making any purchase consider where it came from and ask yourself: Is it locally sourced (buying local is good for your neighborhood)? Is it organic (organic is a word that has come to have multiple meanings but at its heart it means earth friendly, so regarding plastic is it recycled and recyclable)? Is it fairly traded (produced in a manner that honors farmers and producers)? These questions make up an acronym that might help us remember these important concepts. L.O.F.T. Local, Organic, Fairly Traded. One can add the letter “y” to make it L.O.F.T.Y. (Local, Organic, Fairly Traded, Yes) as in lofty goals. Oh, the toothbrushes to which I referred are made in the US and available in Three Rivers. And we need to ask ourselves where can the items we purchase go when we are through with them. Is the item reusable? Is it recyclable? Is it compostable? And maybe first of all, we need ask Is it really needed? And is it life affirming? And let’s try to eliminate the word “dump” from our options and vocabulary.
And what about the other half of the plastic/paper dilemma? Paper. There is a lot of green washing in the marketplace. Green washing refers to the practice of manufacturers trying to appear greener than they truly are. This is the age-old temptation to make ourselves look better than we really are. Paper production is a classic example of green washing. Most companies claim that their paper is recycled and they can legally say that because all that means is that the sawdust that falls on the floor in cutting the wood is picked up and put into the pulp to make the paper. No trees are saved per say but the manufacturers did not waste the sawdust. The info that a wise consumer needs to know is the post consumer waste percentage. The higher the percentage of post consumer waste, the more recycled paper was used to make the new product and thus the greener the new paper.
OK, now is the time for me to share a tidbit of trivia. Does anyone know how many trees would be saved if every household in the US replaced just one 500 sheet roll of virgin toilet paper with just one roll of recycled toilet paper? Any guesses? There is an appropriate prize for the one who guesses nearest the answer. No cheating allowed. Keep those smart phones off. The answer is according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. 424,000 trees. PRIZE. Folks, you cannot get more down to earth than talking toilet paper. God knows us from the top of our heads to well you know.
We are reminded in scripture that whoever is faithful in little things will be faithful in big things. We have big issues in front of us, but God has our backs. We can talk of massive climate change and feel overwhelmed or we can walk faithfully in small ways that are healthy for the whole planet knowing that it is in community that we can make the biggest changes. So I have shared with you a couple simple ideas that cover both ends of your alimentary canal and involve both paper and plastic.
One of the comments I hear regarding purchasing recycled items is that they cost more and this is true. The general consensus is that the price of recycled toilet paper for example, will come down as the demand goes up. There is not a lot of incentive to stop clearing forests to manufacture toilet paper if the consumer continues to buy toilet paper as usual refusing to purchase the greener option. The common thought that the bottom line (an apt phrase when talking about toilet paper) is merely a dollars and cents decision is narrow and can lead us to making all kinds of questionable decisions in life. Is cheaper always better? Perhaps not if we are talking about the very planet that sustains us. We need to think much more broadly regarding the consequences of our choices and what would a good steward do?
|Note: 80% post consumer recycled content!|
One way that I have come to look at the increased financial cost of living green, is that in making eco friendly purchases, I am doing something concrete to help the environment. I am sure that at one time or another, we have all had the grandiose thoughts of what we would do if we only had say a million dollars. We would give to the causes in which we believe in ways that prior to our windfall we could not .We can make earth saving decisions today without that phantom million dollars! Yes, there are all kinds of reputable environmental groups that do good work on our behalf and with whom we can join forces for grassroots changes. These groups do need our capital and our time, yet you are making a donation to these causes every time you shop green. Sometimes we find it easier to write an occasional check to an organization rather than make the life changes that would help the cause with which we claim solidarity.
I am not here to suggest that all one needs to do is shop green to make a difference. I would be making a mockery of my own values if I implied that. I am simply here to work with folks in making earth friendly choices in the market place. We vote for the type of future that we desire every time we spend money. To ignore that fact in the richest country of the world would be at the very least unconscionable.
Now I want to leave you with a little reminder that I hope will help you acknowledge our common humanity and the simple ways of living that make big differences. This is something that everyone in our culture beyond the age of 2 to 3 uses everyday and takes for granted. Take one sheet and pass it on to your neighbor with the words “God knows you and loves you”. My friends, God is in the ultimate resource recoverer. Voluntarily reducing literally clears the clutter that can blind us to true abundant living and God is into true abundant living. God does not give up on us. God uses and reuses us and is the ultimate recycler and redeemer. Thanks be to God who knows us and loves us.
Find Love Your Mother here:
39 N. Main St. • Three Rivers, MI 49093
T, W, Th: 10-6 • F: 10-5 • S: 10-3
T, W, Th: 10-6 • F: 10-5 • S: 10-3