2020 was a challenging year to say the least. For others, it was filled with moments that seemed to crawl by. For some, moments flew by unnoticed. One of these moments flew higher than most of us were aware of. A mile above our heads to be exact. The “moment” is more like a week of moments, the week of June 21st, 2020. This week has so much to teach us about restoration and God’s work amongst creation.
The latter half of June was interrupted by the Saharan Air Layer, a cloud of dust making its way across the Atlantic Ocean from the Saharan Desert. The dust cloud made landfall setting records for the most dusty day since July 31, 2013. The sky turned a milky greyish white color. The sun was covered in a mysterious haze. Most of us in the United States were worried about breathing hazards and visibility concerns. Dust is rather annoying. However, we read in Genesis 2:7, dust is life.
Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7 NRSV
This dust is formed in an area of Chad in north central Africa in a long dry lake bed known as the Bodélé Depression. Lake Chad was once a great lake, about the size of Lake Erie. As the climate shifted and water demands grew the lake level fell. Of course the sand and dust left behind is at the mercy of the howling wind. The lake was not an empty vat of water however. Life flourished beneath its waters and as the water fell, so did fish and plant life. These once living members of the ecosystem are now calloused into the dry, dusty landscape. As the winds whip up dust it also takes tiny particles of these fish. This mineral rich dust then begins its journey halfway across the globe riding on the wind.
These tiny specks of dust contain phosphorus which is an essential mineral that plants need to thrive. Without phosphorus terrestrial landscapes would lack the resources they need to thrive year after year. The Amazon Basin in particular needs an enormous amount of phosphorus to nourish its densely packed rainforest. The dust from the Sahara Desert makes its way across the Atlantic Ocean and is deposited into the Amazon Rainforest where it is essential to the sustained life of the forest.
Even in death, God sustains life. The Sahara is a barren wasteland in many ways. However, that death brings about life on the other side of the planet. God is doing a reconciling work in each of us. But it is so much more than that. God is reconciling and restoring all of creation. Unnoticed by the general population, dust flies over our heads on its way to provide life to one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. The death of the Bodélé Depression is not final. In a sanctifying way, it brings life to the world.
In 2 Corinthians we read of the reconciling work of God. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NRSV
God does not hold our dusty pasts against us but rather transforms our dust covered bodies into a new oasis of life. We are to go and do likewise, participating in the transformation of our world. We allow the transformative power of God to change us from the inside out. It is only because we have experienced this transformation that we can participate in the life bringing power of God. We are invited to participate with God in the reconciliation of all creation as agents partnering with God to breathe life out of the dust and create something new. When you see that milky haze across the sky or cough on a bit of wind blown dust, may you remember the resurrection power and its invitation for all of creation.
As I am writing this post I find myself halfway into a Masters in Sustainability Studies at Texas State University. In this degree I have studied plants used for agricultural purposes, water management for both humans and the environment, specific species, and more. The courses I have taken so far have been far more in depth than a basic biology course. I love what I am studying and I love that I see things in my world in a new way in light of my education.
I often look at plants and think about the way they grow, respond to environmental factors, and produce fruit and flowers. I look at streams and rivers as they flow by me. I think about all the decisions that go into the flows. So many stakeholders are seeking those molecules of water. As I look into the river I see fish of all kinds. I picture their skeletal structure and respiratory system. So many detailed and nuanced things are happening inside of a single minnow.
These things mean so much to me. I can’t understand all of the systems around me. Things too complex, too large, too small, too infinite to grasp. There is wonder in my eyes and in my heart when I look at the world around me.
My undergraduate degree is in Pastoral Ministry. As a pastor I have studied large portions of scripture. I love the portions of scripture that speak about creation such as in various Psalms and Job. I know scripture asserts that there are parts of creation that humans cannot hope to understand because we were not there when it was made. We know nothing of the mysteries of creation or why things such as the “behemoth” exist (Job 40:15-16). All I know is that much like the psalmist, I am struck with awe in light of creation. I have studied God’s Word so that I might teach others. I have sat through theology classes contemplating God’s Word, philosophy classes where I discussed how God’s Word impacts me, internships where I taught others about what God’s Word says.
It is no surprise to me that I feel overwhelmed with creaton. It impacts me at a core level. But why? After some study, I believe that the way creation overwhelmes us might just point to ways we are lacking in our spiritual lives, particularly in the way we worship. Worship is often taught as a personal experience. Almost as if we “think” ourselves into a state of worship. We feel like we need to know who God is before we worship God. The more we know, the more we introspect, the “better” the worship experience. In some ways this creates a lackluster version of ourselves particularly in the way of worship. I heard it said that we become or rather are taught to be, one-demensional Chrisitans.
Once again we turn to the Hebrews and their ideas about God in an effort to understand our own ideas. The Hebrew people seemed to know that the immense power of God could be seen in the work of God. There is “knowing” that can happen when we enjoy God’s creation and learn more about it. Joy comes from our experience with God and the things God has created.
In Redeeming Creation, the authors say,
“Modern worship must return to an emphasis on the joy of the works and wonders of God in order that joy may become once again an experience instead of a concept. Joy must be a taste, a touch and a smell, not an idea only, and God must be not only the Lord of heaven above but also the Maker of earth beneath.”
Maybe our worship would not feel so one dimensional if we understood God as more than the things we read in scripture but also as the Creator of the world we see around us. I also believe that what we typically think of as worship will change with this mindset. Just maybe we will not feel boxed in to gathering together, singing 3 songs, listening to a sermon, singing 2 more songs, praying, and walking out the door. Instead worship could look like sitting quietly near the stream. It could look like cleaning trash from a greenbelt near you. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to worship. I worship God through walking through and enjoying the things God has created. Witnessing creation in all its glory gives me many ways to praise the Creator and a new understanding of God’s love for all of creation.
If you are anything like me then you find yourself working nonstop throughout the week. All the time. Go, go, go. I can be anything in this world, except one thing, unproductive. Part of this I attribute to my growing up in the United States where the ultimate goal is to achieve as much as possible, earn as much as possible, and never rest. The “American Dream,” some arbitrary goal that none of us seem to truly know but all of us seem to strive for, in and of itself is constant work. Working, striving, and constant productivity makes me tired. Weary even. However, if I should stop, I will not get to where I am going. Wherever that is…
Part of this “constantness” is evident in humanities search for the bigger, better, faster, more efficient, more profitable, and more abundant. We use these justifications to take from the land and build more. If we indeed value the “constant” then we leave no room for rest. Not a single second can be spared, no resource left untapped.
Sabbath simply defined, is rest. We see sabbath in the creation narrative of Genesis as God the Creator rests on the seventh day. God instructs the people of Israel to sabbath during the week. God instructs the people of Israel to give the land sabbath every seven years and every seven times seven years. Jesus took time for sabbath. Sabbath is life.
While there are many important implications of sabbath for the human mind and spirit, here we will focus more on sabbath for the land and humanity’s role in this kind of sabbath.
Trophime Mouiren in The Creation, says, “the creation has no meaning for man unless man takes time to give it meaning in rest and prayer: rest, in order to look at the word otherwise than simply as answering his needs; prayer, to ask God’s blessing, to offer something to God.”
Sabbath is rest, but more than that, sabbath is creating nothing, destroying nothing, and enjoying the splendor of the earth.
By creating nothing we are reminded that God is the ultimate Creator. By destroying nothing we remind ourselves that the world is not our own but God’s. By enjoying the splendor of the earth we remind ourselves that we are not responsible for its bounty but rather God is.
God tells Moses that the land must observe the sabbath to the Lord in Leviticus 25:1. The land must rest every seventh year. This means that no fields are plowed and no crops are grown. In part this is to teach the people to trust God. It is no accident that this practice has important implications for the land as well. Letting the land rest helps to restore nutrients resulting in fertile fields. Erosion can be curbed. Species persist.
The year after the seventh sabbath or the 50th year is known as the year of Jubilee. You can think of this as the “sabbath of sabbaths.” We read about this later in Leviticus 25. On this year the land was not plowed but also was returned back to its original owner. Debts were forgiven and slaves were set free. Large plots of land and money were not to stay in the hands of the rich. Slavery was not a lasting part of the history of Israel.
You might wonder how Israel would sustain itself if no one planted crops and there were no workers to tend the fields. Simple. Israel was to enjoy the splendor of the earth. They ate from the bounty of the previous year provided by God and rested.
Sabbath was made for humanity but more specifically, sabbath was made for all of creation. Humans are but a part of this creation. When we are spurred on by love and strive to live into the full image of God, we take part in the restoration of humanity to God’s image as well as the restoration of all of creation.
A dear friend and professor of mine, reflected on a parable of Jesus in the gospel of Mark. He says,
“The good of the garden happens mostly –
– without me.
It grows of its own.
I scatter, but I can not make it grow.
In the meantime, I’ll sabbath.”
We cannot make anything happen and really we cannot create much of anything without acknowledging the first Creator. Sabbath is for more than just us. Sabbath is for all of creation.
Michelson, Marty Alan. Gardening and Parables Teach Me about Sabbath, 1 Jan. 1970, sabbathandservice.blogspot.com/2011/04/gardening-and-parables-teach-me-about.html.
“Sabbath.” Redeeming Creation: the Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship, by Fred Van Dyke, InterVarsity Press, 1996, pp. 67–68.
Everywhere you look there are people who advocate for a zero waste lifestyle. Each person has their own personal reasons for making the switch to using less. Filling our life with less plastic can seem so daunting. I look around and so many things are made with that stuff! It is overwhelming.
If you want to take some baby steps toward living with less then keep reading!
Like most habits or lifestyles, nothing is going to “stick” if you do not have a strong conviction behind what you are doing. Put simply, it is important to find your why.
Do you see trash in one of your favorite rivers?
Are you tired of seeing animals ingest lethal plastic?
Is the process of obtaining materials and the process of making plastic appuling to you?
Do you want to save species from extinction?
The list is literally endless and personal to you! It is so important to find your “why,” otherwise you will find switching and sticking so hard.
My why has to do with my belief in biocentrism. Humans are not the center of the world and I don’t think we should act that way. I believe we should do our part to care for the other species living with us on this rock. I also believe as a Christian that we are asked by God to take care of the creation we are loaned.
Another super important thing to do is look at the things you use. Keep a record of the trash you create a day. You might be surprised at how much waste passes through your hands. By knowing what kinds of things you use most you can pinpoint the places you can try to find waste-free alternatives.
You might find it hard to do all the things at once and make meaningful switches for all your plastic products. By assessing your trash you can prioritize a little bit. Maybe you notice you throw out lots of plastic bags from the grocery store. Your next step can be to get a canvas bag to bring to the store with you. You can put your focus on that one thing until it is a habit before moving to all those coffee cups you drink each day.
If you are anything like me then you want to make every switch imaginable right away! When I first began thinking of transitioning to zero waste I went straight to the internet to look up every zero waste product I could think of. The thing is, I didn’t need all those things right away.
It is ok to use all your non-reusable products before you go buy a sustainable one. Buying products and throwing them out unused is just as wasteful as throwing them out used. When you have used that last plastic snack bag and hopefully found somewhere to recycle it, then go find yourself an alternative!
The beauty about zero waste is that you probably already have most of the things you need to live a zero waste life! Clean out and use jars you have on hand. Bring a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. Even tupperware is a great option to reduce waste in your life. Waste is something that ends up in a landfill at the end of its life. So you can use what you have, recycle what you can, find somewhere to compost your scraps, and give things you don’t want anymore to family and friends. The thing about transitioning to zero waste is just that, a transition! It will take time to filter through your life and make the switches you can. One thing I have learned is that it does not help to compare yourself to others who have been doing this for a long time. You will always get discouraged looking at your pile of plastic compared to others who can fit all their trash for the last four years in a single mason jar. (For real, this is a thing! Check out Lauren Singer’s zero waste journey in this video.) By all means, be inspired by others but don’t be discouraged. You can do it! Let’s do it together!
Plastic makes our lives so convenient and easy but comes with some very negative drawbacks. There are a bunch of things that you might use daily that you had no idea had plastic in them. Today we are going to talk about 10 items you might not know had plastic in them.
The reason chewing gum is chewy is largely due to plastic and rubber. Most of the time, when you read the ingredients list on most major gum packages you won’t find a specific term describing a plastic or rubber. Gum manufacturers use language like “gum base” to describe these materials. One of the major raw materials in chewing gum is Solid Poly Vinyl Acetate (SPVA). SPVA is a rubbery synthetic polymer that is best known as wood glue, white glue, PVA glue, or chewing gum base. This polymer is a type of thermoplastic and we chew that plastic in every stick of gum we put in our mouth.
Murray, G. T. (1997), Handbook of materials selection for engineering applications, CRC Press, p. 242, ISBN 978-0-8247-9910-6.
Amann, Manfred; Minge, Oliver (2012). “Biodegradability of Poly(vinyl acetate) and Related Polymers”. Advances in Polymer Science. 245: 137–172. doi:10.1007/12-2011-153.
Nail polish comes in hundreds of shades and finishes. The color of our nails flows with the trends. If we take a look at what is in nail polish we see a story much different than the latest fashion trend. The odor that seeps out of the bottle comes from the concoction of alcohol, solvents, resins, and plastics that allow the polish to stick to the nail, hold color, and avoid chipping. Nail polish is a plastic coating on our nails and when it chips, you guessed it, tiny bits of plastic spread everywhere! In order to get this plastic coating off our nails, we have to use a strong solvent when it is irritating to not only our eyes but our lungs too.
With an effort by many to reduce single-use plastic consumption, lots of companies are using paper products such as paper cups for both hot and iced drinks. While these paper items are designed as single-use, they generally can be recycled. There is one catch. Most cups are lined with a very thin plastic coating that keeps the cup from degrading quickly while it has a liquid in it. The main problem with this is that the lining is not easily separated from the paper and it is very hard to find a recycling facility that can handle this type of work. Next time you get coffee on the go remember that even if you put your cup in the recycling bin, chances are it will get thrown away anyway.
Glitter seems to be an integral part of any festival loving, Christmas decorating, sparkly covered human. While it seems intuitive, some people are not aware that glitter is made from plastic sheets that are cut into tiny pieces and used in hundreds of different products and cosmetics. Glitter pieces spread everywhere and when washed down the drain or into waterways this plastic becomes microplastics. Microplastics measure less than five millimeters in length. That is one tiny piece of plastic! These plastics are found in every one of the world’s oceans in the whole length of the water column. All forms of marine life eat these plastics where they collect in the digestive tracts and kill the animal. Not only that but when fish eat plastic and we eat fish, we are effectively eating plastic!
Most menstrual products on the market today include plastics in them. It’s thought that one pack of pads is equal to 4 plastic bags and the pad itself can be made of up to 90% plastic. That is a lot of plastic friends. Tampons are no stranger to plastic. The cotton insert as well as the string contains plastics not to mention the plastic applicator which is made of polyethylene and polypropylene. In the UK, period products are not considered a medical device and are not sterilized as such. This means that all that plastic packaging is a waste.
Most uterus havers know not to flush pads and tampons down the toilet as this causes blockages. If they do not cause a blockage, pads and tampons end up in the ocean and can wash up onshore. The Marine Conservation Society suggests that for every 328 feet of beach, 4 pads, panty-liners, backing strips, and at least one tampon and applicator can be found. As the plastic associated with our periods breaks down they become secondary microplastics which we have already talked about.
Stay tuned for another blog all about periods and their products!
Cigarette butts are thought of as the world’s most littered plastic item by the National Geographic Society. It is known that cigarettes can be damaging to your health for their nicotine and heavy metal content but what is not as well known is that they contain plastics too. Most of the cigarette is disintegrated when it is smoked but the filter or the butt is left in the end. It is estimated that the world smokes 6.5 trillion cigarettes each year and only one-third of these butts end up in the trash. The rest find themselves on the sidewalk or in a waterway.
The plastic that makes up a filter is called cellulose acetate. E-cigarettes are largely made of plastic which compounds the problem. If you are looking to recycle your cigarette butts you might have to find a specific company as most municipalities don’t recycle them. These plastic filters full of toxins break down into you guessed it, microplastics.
Chances are if you look at the tag on your shirt one of the main materials will be polyester. Polyester is a synthetic fabric woven from polyester fibers. These fibers are created by a chemical reaction between petroleum, coal, oxygen, and water. In short, polyester is plastic. Polyester is derived from petroleum which is a non-renewable resource and fossil fuel which has a high carbon footprint and byproducts.
Polyester is made of polyethylene terephthalate also known as PET or PETE. PET is used in plastic water bottles and any other plastic with the recycling number ‘1’. The water bottle you are drinking out of and the shirt you are wearing are made of the same thing.
Most of us have collected aluminum cans at one point in our life. Some people collect hundreds at a time and take them to a recycling facility. Aluminium is an infinitely recyclable material and uses up to 95 percent less energy to recycle than to produce new aluminium. It is estimated that 75 percent of all aluminium that has been produced in all of history is still in use today.
Most aluminum beverage cans contain a polymer lining. Even though you think you are drinking out of aluminum, really you are drinking from the plastic lining. This lining is there to stop the acid in the beverage from corroding the metal which affects the durability of the can as well as the flavor of the beverage. The American Can Company first produced a can with a plastic lining called Vinylite on September 25, 1934. Companies have been using this method ever since.
This makes recycling a bit difficult as you can imagine. The plastic inside the can must be separated from the aluminium in order for both parts to be recycled. The bottom line is there is plastic in aluminum cans.
AG, interstruct. “Aluminium Recycling – Développement durable”. recycling.world-aluminium.org. Retrieved 2018-10-26.
I love tea and drink it quite often actually. However, most tea bags are sealed with plastic. Some companies such as Clipper claim to use a “bio-plastic” which is still just that, plastic. A material known as PLA or polylactic acid is used to seal the small bags. In other cases, an oil-based material is used to heat seal the bags.
Nathalie Tugenkji and her team from McGill University conducted research and found “…that steeping a single plastic tea bag at brewing temperature [205 degrees Fahrenheit] releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of the beverage.” These plastics do not break down, cannot be composted, and are rarely recycled.
Tetra Paks a packing option that holds all sorts of foods and beverages. Common things that are packaged in Tetra Paks are a variety of plant based milks, soups, dairy products, juices, and even water. What most people don’t know is these types of packages contain different layers of plastic and aluminum as well as paper. Because of this, Tetra Pak is difficult to recycle. Each layer needs to be separated from the others in order to be recycled.
Most people think Tetra Pak is a better option than plastic because of its paper appearance. The problem is that Tetra Pak requires specialized recycling facilities which are not readily available. If Tetra Pak cannot be correctly recycled it is often sent to the landfill.
Environment and Recycling Archived 15 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Tetralaval.com, retrieved 1 December 2011
There are so many things we use daily that contain plastic. If we are not careful with how we use and recycle them, these products are sent to landfills. Each of us can play our part to be diligent about the kind of products we buy to reduce the amount of plastic we produce and introduce into our world.
“Again and again we read, ‘And God saw that it was good.’ This signifies two things for us. God’s work is good as the unimpaired form of the will of God. But it is good only in the way that the creaturely can be good. Because the Creator views it, acknowledges it as his own and says of it, ‘It is good.’” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall
Primarily in Genesis, we read about God creating all that is known and unknown. It is through God’s Word that we read about God’s work. It is only through the Word of God that we can attribute value to creation. God calls creation good therefore it is. It is through the failure to grasp this idea that there is an issue with attributing value to creation particularly in conservation ethics. The value of creation is outside of anything humans can do to or for creation. The value is not dependent on us but rather simply because God attributes value to creation.
I suspect that if you have spent any time at all amongst creation you will have sensed the value and embedded beauty and awe within it. This feeling is mysterious and hard to explain. However, deep knowledge of creation or an exciting experience with creation is not enough to establish an ethic. Value should be thought of as more than economics but rather something philosophical.
In Genesis chapter one we begin to read how all we know to be was formed. The narrative consists of a repeating formula. God creates and calls it good. Six times this happens, creation and goodness. If you are like the average American, then something good means something good for you. Mosquitoes, those itchy, blood sucking insects. Those are usually not good for soft human flesh and I have seldom heard another person call them intrinsically good.
If we pay close attention to the text we see that God calls creation good even before humans are breathed to life. Creation, excluding humanity, has value because God called it good. Humans have value because God called them good. All of creation is good and has value because of its Creator’s existence and exclamation of its goodness.
The mosquito is of no real “use” to humans but God takes delight in God’s creation which includes the pesky (to humans of course) mosquito. It is for this reason, the delight of God, that even mosquitos have value.
Sin, from the very beginning, is the idea that humans make themselves the center of all things rather than the notion that God is the center of all things. It is through this failure that we sense the alienation of humanity from the rest of creation. It is essential that we as humans take on a God-centered value system in order for us to rightly understand our relation to creation.
The cute Golden Barrel Cactus, also comically known as the Mother-in-law’s cushion, is a beautiful cactus that spots perfectly even spines and a rounded, almost ball-like structure as a young cactus. I often see them used in the yards of water conscious neighbors in their outdoor landscaping. Barrel Cacti grow very slowly so they are the perfect cactus for the indoor plant hobbyist.
Like most other cacti, the Golden Barrel does very well in a sunny spot, most commonly a southern window. While the cactus can tolerate some shade it is important to consider that if shaded too much, the cactus will grow more slowly and potentially even stretch out.
Golden Barrels are very prone to root rot so be sure to water infrequently. Every three or four weeks will do. The soil you put your cactus in is almost more important than how much you water it. The better drainage the plant has the happiest it will be and you won’t fall victim to death by overwatering as easily.
The humidity of your home naturally should be just fine for these cacti. They favor warm dry environments so if you have a humidifier for your houseplant jungle room it might be best to put this one in another.
You almost will never find an environment that is too hot for the Barrel Cactus as it is native to a desert environment. It is important to watch how cold the temperature gets. These cacti can tolerate temperatures down to 40 degrees Farenhiet.
Feed your cactus around every four weeks during the growing season. This is not necessary though!
It is not thought that the Golden Barrel Cactus is poisonous to humans or pets but their spines are the thing to watch out for! Keep out of the reach of small fingers and sniffing snouts.
String of Hearts is one of my favorites! You might also know them by the name Rosary Vine, Chain of Hearts, or Hearts Entangled. This beautiful trainling plant cascades down the side of the pot with long delicate tendrils. The long strands tend to tangle but that adds to the uniqueness of the plant. I got my first String of Hearts from my cousin as a cutting. It did so well (until I overwatered it… keeping it real here folks) and it was so fun to watch it grow each little pair of leaves.
String of Hearts handle bright indirect light the best. You might notice them growing faster or becoming more full if they get adequate amounts of light. If you keep them in the extremes you risk stunting their growth. Too much light or direct light can burn them while too little light causes their leaves to become sparse.
This was my downfall with these plants. String of Hearts like to dry out between waterings. This helps avoid root rot. I was watering a bit too much and root rot set in. In the summer they can tolerate a bit more water than in the winter. Decrease the amount or frequency of watering when fall and winter comes your way.
The average humidity of your house is just fine for the String of Hearts. If you increase the humidity levels your plant might grow faster than it otherwise would.
String of Hearts are not too picky when it comes to temperature. They can tolerate temperatures from 40 degrees fahrenheit to upwards of 85 degrees. I wouldn’t recommend leaving them outside if the temperature drops much below 55 degrees. You will also notice that you need to water more often as the temperature rises.
It is totally ok to fertilize your String of Hearts in its most active state. More than likely this means the spring and summer for you. There are tons of options in the way of fertilizer. Whichever you choose it is best to dilute it to half or quarter strength.
String of Hearts are non-toxic to little bellies. While they may not be toxic to pets, the long strands might attract some unwanted attention from your feline or fido.
Aloe Vera is one of those plants that I remember from my childhood. My neighbor had a huge plant he inherited from his mom. I loved that thing! It seemed to be the solution to all life’s ails. Aloe is a succulent with medicinal properties that is cultivated all over the world.
Sometimes when people think succulents they think lots of light like a cactus. This sometimes can be true but direct sunlight is not the way to go with aloe. These plants prefer bright indirect light as they can get sunburnt in direct light. (Kinda ironic huh!) When this happens they can turn reddish-purple. As aloes dry out they shrivel up and turn yellow.
It is best to water aloe very well but not often. They like a deep soak but be careful not to let the roots sit in water or soggy soil for too long. This can cause root rot. A good rule of thumb is to let the soil dry out on the top two inches and then water again. Outside the growing season like in winter you can wait 3 weeks or so to water.
Aloe does not need any extra humidity like other houseplants and tropicals. They handle dry air like a champ. Whatever is comfortable for you inside your home will most likely be comfy for your Aloe Vera too.
Aloe vera thrives in temperatures between 55 and 80°F (13 and 27°C). The temperatures of most homes or apartments are ideal for growing those little guys.
From May to September, you can bring your plant outdoors without a hitch but do bring it back inside in the evening if nights are cold.
Aloes can be kept outdoors in full sun during the summer, when temperatures are above 70°F (21°C). Make sure to acclimate your aloe slowly when transitioning it from inside to outside in full sun. Otherwise, they will burn quickly. If nighttime temperatures drop below 60°F (16°C), bring them inside.
These guys don’t need much in the way of fertilizer. You can fertilize once a monthly half strength in the growing season. No need to worry about adding fertilizer in the winter.
Aloe Vera is a great plant to use as a topical treatment for minor skin irritations but ingesting aloe especially in high quantities can be toxic causing nausea and vomiting. Use it carefully!
The green spaces that surround us and the animals that live within them stir something deep within humans. Something about snow-covered, mountainous landscapes moves us to question our place within the world. Serene old-growth redwood forests full of marbled murrelets, carpeted in ferns prompts the human mind to question its impact on the Earth. Even vast deserts move humans in deep and complex ways. Many of us attribute this sensation to something spiritual, something more than we can understand, some greater being. For those of us who do attribute this feeling to God, it is important to frame our understanding of the spaces we hold most dear. Often we use the words ‘nature’ and ‘creation’ interchangeably when speaking about the world around us. The words we choose can play a huge part in shaping our thoughts and beliefs about this planet we call home and the entity we believe to have spoken it into being.
Within the biblical text, the Hebrew people always call the world around their creation or the created order rather than nature. This begins to make sense to us when we think about the meaning of the word ‘nature’ and the ways we use the words that come from it. The word nature brings us other words like ‘naturally’ and ‘natural’. Usually, when we use a word like one of these we mean something that happens on its own, without our interference. Something that occurs naturally does so because of the design of a system or in some other self-sustaining way.
Have you ever spent so much time inside, much as I feel in the midst of this global pandemic, that you have an urge to go outside, put your feet in the dirt, and take a deep, long breath of the air? In some ways, we feel isolated from nature and have a desire to “get back” to it. Humanity sees itself as something separate from the natural world around it. It is almost as if humans see themselves as something that does not belong in the surrounding world at all. Why would we insist on “leaving no trace” if we believed otherwise?
The ancient people of God referred to the world around them as creation for various reasons. These people held that the world was a creation because it was unable to exist on its own and needed a sustainer otherwise known as a Creator. Interestingly, and in some ways, more importantly, the Hebrews saw themselves as creatures inhabiting this creation along with the other creatures which were created. All the creatures of the world were believed to have been created for the pleasure of God.
Maybe a simple change of our language can help us to reshape our outlook on the world around us and the God that created it. By calling the world creation we are acknowledging that all that we know to exist was created by God and is sustained by God. We will also begin to admit and acknowledge that we as humans are a part of this creation. The mountains and trees around us did not create themselves, do not sustain themselves, and humans are not different but part of this created world.
Thinking of ourselves as a part of creation gives us a new outlook on our life atop this floating space rock. The psalmist beautifully depicts creation in the 104th Psalm. Take a little time out of your day, find a quiet place outside, and read these words with a new lens. We are not a natural occurrence on this planet but rather a created being, sustained by the Maker of the heavens and the Earth itself.
If you want to learn more about creation, environmental stewardship, and the biblical perspective for both, check out Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Dyke, David Mahan, Joseph Sheldon, and Raymond Brand. I highly recommend it!