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The Accidental Green Life

How Christian Piety Can Grace the Earth

When the apostle Paul wrote, "Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love," it's doubtful he intended any commentary on the state of garbage disposal in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NLT). Likewise, when Richard Foster first wrote Celebration of Discipline, he wasn't particularly addressing whether suburban families should buy an SUV versus a compact car. Even so, in urging us deeper into faith, both men seamlessly promote the accidental green life.

The accidental green life seeks to develop a strong and courageous faith, firmly rooted in Christ and love; but in so doing it affects the state of garbage disposal in Chicago and the purchase of SUVs in Boise. It's not a life focused on the environment but rather the Creator of all things; still, along the way, the accidental green life has a natural impact on how the Creator's world is viewed and handled. As Foster writes, "When the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor … and many other things will be given their proper attention."

Today, many Christians have a renewed interest in placing the kingdom of God first by attending to their inner lives. Using resources such as Foster's classic work, Adele Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, or Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms, they're exploring a number of spiritual practices. Here are just five that have the potential to give ecological concerns their proper attention.

Solitude

"The invitation to solitude and silence," writes Barton, "is an invitation to enter more deeply into the intimacy of relationship with the One who waits just outside the noise and busyness of our lives." To enter into solitude, one must first find a quiet place.

Thomas Merton is well known for his journey into solitude. He lived the quiet life of a monk and later moved to a hermitage, where he could be more fully alone. Upon reading his journals, one immediately notices a rhythm to what might otherwise seem like meandering entries on literature, philosophy, spirituality, and so forth: many of the entries are punctuated by frequent observations of his natural surroundings.

Thus his solitude exudes a sort of gentle presence and activity. "Yesterday there were small deer tracks in the snow of the path," he writes. "Tonight the half moon is shining." Or as he observed one day, "This morning toward the end of my meditation the rain was pouring down on the roof of the hermitage with great force and the woods resounded with tons of water falling out of the sky."

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