Creation Care Part 3: Stinging Caterpillars

One of the most inviting parts of God’s creation is the grass.  In movies, children are often seen frolicking in the grass, families picnicking in the grass, and individuals lying in the grass.  In theory, that sounds like a great idea: the grass looks soft and inviting.  In reality, that sounds like a horrible idea: there’s always something lurking in the grass.

In Oklahoma, it’s chiggers. (No one really knows what chiggers are, but they’re itchy.) …and let’s be honest, there’s nothing soft about Oklahoma grass anyway.

On Long Island, it’s bumble bees.  The grass is soft there, but there’s a risk to walking through the grass barefoot…or even in flip flops as my cousins and I have discovered.

In New Orleans, it’s stinging caterpillars (among other creepy crawlies).  Yes, stinging caterpillars…

By the time someone told me about stinging caterpillars in New Orleans, I honestly didn’t believe them.  Surely, this city can’t have another thing that different from the rest of the country… But, yes, there are stinging caterpillars here (in fact, I’ve heard they’re the only kind of caterpillar here) and this time of year they are everywhere.

IMG_9105

There are two questions that immediately come to mind when first hearing of a stinging caterpillar:

  1. What does this stinging caterpillar turn into? A stinging butterfly? The answer is a really disgusting moth with horn-looking things on its head. (Thankfully, I’ve only seen pictures.)
  2. WHY?

I don’t have the answer to question #2.  I’m sure a scientist somewhere does, but I still just don’t get why God made a stinging caterpillar.

My whole life I’ve been taught that caterpillars are fun, cute even! They have caterpillar rides, books, and toys.  One of the first science projects I remember is watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. I feel like all those thoughts about caterpillars have been completely destroyed.  I now hate caterpillars and take every opportunity to squish as many of them as possible (with shoes on, of course.  I’ve heard stepping on one is like getting glass stuck in your foot…).

As I’ve been thinking about creation care, I can’t help but think about this seemingly awful part of creation.  How do I take care of something that repels every part of my being?

Maybe start by not squishing them.

I don’t necessarily mean that literally.  (I am not convicted about squishing the caterpillars in the least.) I mean that in comparison to God’s highest creation, His image-bearers…yes, our fellow man.

There are some people that I have no problem taking care of or treating with respect, but there are others that repel me about as much as a stinging caterpillar.  In fact, there are some people that I’d do anything to avoid…even roll around in a pit of stinging caterpillars.  (And there are some that I secretly wish would go roll around in a pit of stinging caterpillars themselves.)

But that’s totally not Christ-like.  Jesus said, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:29 ESV).

When faced with stinging humans, I think need to ask myself the same two questions I asked myself about stinging caterpillars.  Only, these questions are slightly different (they’ve been through metamorphosis, if you will) and they’re in reverse order:

  1. Why did God create this stinging human? Why did He put this person in my life?
  2. What could this stinging human turn into? In other words, what would it look like if this person experienced the grace I’ve experienced? What’s his or her potential? How can God use him or her?

I also think I’d add a third question (like adding the butterfly’s wings gives in the ability to travel a much greater distance):

  1. How can I love this stinging human? How can I not squish them with my words, actions, and thoughts?

I think that’s how we take care of these stinging caterpillars…a part of creation I’ve yet to understand.

Creation Care Part 2: Rest

Amazingly, taking care of creation not only spurred me to think more about stewardship, it caused me to think about one of the most unrecognized disciplines of today (besides maybe fasting):

Rest.

Rest, also known as the Sabbath, is mentioned a lot in the Bible. Each time I read the Old Testament, I’m re-convicted about how little I honor this commandment (that has pretty harsh punishments for not honoring it). Jesus definitely debunked some of the traditions that were added to this part of the Law, but He didn’t dismiss the Sabbath.

I’m the one that was prideful enough to do that, not Him.

Matthew Sleeth was one of the speakers at the forum last weekend.  When discussing man’s relationship to the climate, he noted that the seventh day was the part of creation described as “holy” rather than “good” or “very good.” “Holy” tends to send shivers down my spine, yet I honor the Sabbath a lot like I honor bills, cleaning, or other tasks I tend to put off. Sleeth pointed out that “the Sabbath reflects God’s ethic of restraint rather than man’s ethic of consumerism.”

This semester I’ve been convicted that I really don’t rest well.  The Lord’s convicted me of that a lot, but this semester I actually made a commitment to honor the Him in this way.  I’ve learned that resting really does require restraint.  Sundays are the only days that I don’t have work or class, so it’s tempting to do schoolwork on that day.  My whole life I’ve done tons of schoolwork on Sundays, but this semester I’ve committed not to do that.

At the beginning of this commitment, I really struggled with what to do on Sundays.  I found myself bored, antsy, and restless.  Most of my friends here would be busy all afternoon doing homework, so I felt guilty or lazy not joining them.  For once in my life, I wanted to do schoolwork.

I also quickly learned that it takes a lot of planning and hard work the rest of the week to actually take a day off (kind of like preparing for a vacation).  It took me several weeks to train myself to complete all my work for Monday before Sunday.  Now, I am exercising restraint each day of the week, not just on Sundays.  Monday through Saturday I have I have to restrain from laziness and distraction.  Sundays I have to restrain from work.

A few weeks after getting into a rest routine, I started finding things to do on Sundays.  I started understanding beneficial rest.  One week, I went to a coffee shop I’d never visited and spent the whole day reading and journaling (for spiritual growth, not class).  I left refreshed and ready for the week.  Each week my Sundays have looked different and most have involved service, but I’m learning the beauty of rest…the beauty of restraint.

Our world today really is one of consumerism, not restraint.  Whether the result is burn-out, smog, or debt, the heart of the problem is the same: a lack of trust in the Lord.

I am the worst offender in this area.  I work myself until I can’t work anymore.  I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of laziness (I am lazy, I just don’t let people see it).  I value hard work and I believe God does too.  I’m grateful to be in a society that produces.  I recently visited the World War II museum in New Orleans.  I was reminded how much our country’s rich history of hard work and production has protected and sustained us through the years.

But it’s ultimately the Lord that protects and sustains us.  I think we’re missing some of life’s greatest blessings and some of the sweetest fellowship with the Father when we neglect rest.
I think it’s also one way we get caught in idolatry. We get mixed up. We worship the wrong thing.
Romans 1:24-25 says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (ESV).

I am so guilty of creature-worship in the area of work.  I worship myself, exalt others, and forget the One that calls me to work and how He calls me to work.

As I learn to worship God better in the area of creation care, I need to do better in including rest in my worship: taking care of myself, those that help me, and the possessions for which God’s entrusted me.

Creation Care Part 1: Stewardship

We’re at the point in the semester where all of us are questioning our callings, wanting to quit, and regularly having emotional breakdowns. Our grades aren’t what we’d like them to be and the situation has seemed pretty hopeless for most of us…UNTIL the extra-credit-opportunity-to-end-all-extra-credit-opportunities arrived: a forum hosted by the school that professors were asked to incentivize to increase student attendance.

Professors started offering the most outrageous extra credit I’ve ever seen to attend this forum: 3 points added to our overall grade, 10% added to our overall grade, and 3 hours of excused absences are just a few examples of these generous offers. Thrilled, we all naively signed up for the forum.

We should’ve known that such incredible grace comes at a high price…

Let’s just say there’s a reason the professors needed to incentivize this beast of a forum: it began on Friday night at 7 and went until after 9:30. If that weren’t enough, it continued the next day from 8am (on a Saturday) until around 2pm. The forum was highly academic, experts were invited to come and discuss climate change in our chapel. They read lengthy research papers and presented extensive data on screens. I can think of about 1,000 ways I’d prefer to spend a weekend.

Yet, the forum proved to be interesting (well, the parts I understood)…and convicting. The speakers were intentionally from different backgrounds. The two main speakers stood on different sides of issues regarding fossil fuels and global warming. I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly “green” person. I try to recycle (or I did before living in a dorm) and I try to waste as little as possible, but I could definitely be a more informed citizen on these issues and a better steward of that which God’s entrusted to me.

Despite that weakness, I love seeing God in His creation. Like everything else post-fall, I believe what God said was very good isn’t quite as good as it was before and will only get worse (before it gets better in the end, that is). Sinful man is good at messing things up! Yet, I am grateful that we are still able to see God’s glory in His creation.

Two days before this forum, I walked out of work and saw a captivating sunset. Although I’ve yet to see a sunset that compared with an Oklahoma sunset, this one came pretty close.

IMG_6011
There’s no denying that the sunset itself is beautiful, but what struck me was seeing such beauty in the middle of such destruction. I was standing in a neighborhood filled with poverty, violence, and hopelessness–still not fully recovered from Katrina. Yet, God’s glory was displayed just as magnificently there as it was on the other side of town. It could not be contained by its surroundings! God cannot be contained by His surroundings!

Seeing A glimpse of God’s glory that night made me think of the account when Jesus’ disciples said, “’Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’” (Luke 19:38-40 ESV)

I don’t want to let the stones cry out. I want to be the one leading the way in praise. I don’t want to be the one trying to squelch God’s glory by glorying my circumstances or idolizing my life. I want to worship Him in all that I do.

This weekend reminded me that I don’t worship enough when it comes to taking care of His creation. I’m not a good steward of that. It also reminded me that as I’m called to share His love with the world, that includes considering how my stewardship choices impact the whole world…His highest creation, mankind, not just selfishly focusing on myself. I think that’s at least closer to what God called “very good”…

How to Eat a Crawfish

I’ve heard it said that there are four seasons in New Orleans: Snowball Season (complete with a condensed milk topping), Football Season (“Geaux Saints” as the locals say), Carnival Season (Mardi Gras), and…

Crawfish Season.

Yes, Crawfish Season.

The season includes more forms than imaginable: crawfish quesadillas, crawfish jambalaya, crawfish hot dogs, crawfish nachos, crawfish tacos, crawfish etouffee, crawfish bread, crawfish poboys, crawfish gumbo, and crawfish pizza…just to name a few.

But all forms of crawfish pale in comparison to the granddaddy of crawfish cooking…boiled crawfish.

crawfish

Grocery stores proudly display seasoning, oil, and pots used to boil these little crustaceans.  Every weekend churches, families, schools, and organizations host crawfish boils and their dismembered shells are found in trashcans across the city.

Yet, this delicacy can be slightly intimidating for someone not accustomed to eating a mini-lobster with her fingers…

So how do you eat a boiled crawfish? Or, more importantly, a pile of crawfish?

1. With friends. Crawfish-eating is not like eating a salad or pasta.  It’s about the experience.  It’s about socializing.  Don’t go with someone you’re not prepared to bond with and definitely don’t go on a first date to eat crawfish.

2. With corn & potatoes. Corn on the cob and red-skinned potatoes are a must with boiled crawfish. (People down south eat these potatoes with their fingers…there’s no mashing or silverware-using…just biting and maybe adding some salt and butter.)

3. In casual clothing. NO one goes to a crawfish boil in nice clothes.  Wear a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.  (In less, of course, you’re royalty at a crawfish festival.  Then, a tiara and dress are a necessity…just make sure to include a bib over your sash.)

4. With NO manners. The key to crawish-etiquette is to forget all other etiquette.  Get the image of your grandmother scolding you for putting your elbows on the table or not using silverware out of your head.

If you can’t get past this step, you might as well go get a burger.

5. Grasp both ends of the crawfish and pull. This seems brutal, but you read it right: start by literally pulling this little guy apart.  He may be looking at you, but keep in mind how tasty he’ll be.  Seasoning and oil will likely squirt on you at this point…don’t bother wiping it off with a napkin, it’ll just get worse.

6. Pinch the top of the tail and break the shell.

7. Pull the tail meat out as fast as you can and ENJOY. It’s worth the effort.

8. Take the head in your hand and suck. Yes, I said “suck.”  This kind of resembles sucking the brain out, but it’s really just sucking out the oil and seasoning.  Only wimps put the head in the discard pile without sucking (I’m unashamedly a wimp…there are just some things I’m okay with missing out on).

9. Toss the meatless crustacean to the side. “The side” being the other side of the to-go container, the ground, a paper towel, or a nearby trashcan.

10. Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat.  Many crawfish boils and festivals include crawfish eating contests, so don’t hesitate to eat up.  You won’t be alone.

11. Grab a roll of a paper towels. Yes, a roll…you’ll need it.

12. Wash down with a snowball and sit back for live music (no crawfish boil is complete without it).