Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life, and Our World Paperback – Mar 17 2009
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“Firmly one of the most socially relevant topics today, environmentalism elicits a variety of intense reactions. Michael Abbate’s book lifts creation care above the typical debate and gets back to its appropriate starting point — on our knees, in awe of the Creator. His passion for God and affection for creation is evident throughout, while weaving together science, Scripture, and personal experiences, with probing and comfort-squashing questions. As he advocates for worship, he also provides numerous practical, and even easy, tips for caring for creation that has me thinking far beyond energy efficient light bulbs and my stellar compost pile.”
–Tim Osborn, Lead Pastor, Mosaic Church, Portland, Oregon, www.mosaicportland.org
"For Christians wondering why we should care for God's creation and how to get started, Mike Abbate's book, Gardening Eden, is a great introduction, with answers from the Bible, terrific stories, and practical tips on how you can make a difference."– Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., President and CEO, Evangelical Environmental Network
“This is a book Christians should read! Though our primary task is to carry out the Great Commission while on this earth, we must not neglect the place God created for us to live.”
–Dr. Gene A. Getz, President, Center for Church Renewal, Host, Renewal Radio, Dallas, TX
“Evangelicals will be well informed and morally challenged to tend the garden without being throttled. And, progressives will be thrilled to hear the Christian call to care for the earth. Where was this two decades prior? I give my evangelical and progressive, two green thumbs up!”
–Rev. Leroy Hedman, Georgetown Gospel Chapel, Seattle
“Michael Abbate’s book, Gardening Eden, offers a sound, compelling and practical approach to ‘Creation Care.’ As people seeking to become better ‘gardeners’ ourselves, we appreciated Michael’s style and approach and wholeheartedly recommend this book!”
–-Mike & Danae Yankoski, authors of Under the Overpass
About the Author
A nationally recognized expert in green development strategies, Michael Abbaté is a founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm. He frequently speaks to students and leaders about practical ways to minimize the impact of building and landscape design on natural resources. His works have been featured in national magazines, newspapers, and trade publications. He and his wife, Vicki, have two adult daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I especially appreciated Abbate's landscape architectural background, and it was nice to read a book by someone from the Pacific Northwest. However, I was a bit disappointed that these two aspects of his background weren't foregrounded a bit more effectively. I would have enjoyed some more detail on the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and I would have enjoyed more examples of how his profession shaped his love of the natural world.
When I read Annie Dillard, John Muir, or Henry Thoreau, I am awestruck by the passion and sense of place such environmental writers can evoke. Abbate has written a much more general and practical book than Dillard or Thoreau. That's fine, and I do appreciate the practical elements here. Still, I would have liked more descriptive detail and passion in the prose. The high point of the book for me emotionally was an encounter with a pangolin in the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, there were no other points that neared this emotional peak.
The book starts with an engaging interplay between Abbate and a biology instructor who had invited him to speak at her college. The edgy interplay between them on the issue of Abbate's Christian foundations intrigued me at first, but in the end left me a bit disappointed. I liked this way of starting the book, but I must admit that I wish Abbate had gone much further here. It wasn't quite edgy enough, and it didn't delve deeply enough into the uncomfortable ground between science and Christianity. I also wish that he had struggled a bit more with the entire "garden" and "good steward" metaphors/paradigms than he does later in the book.
And perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the book was that the Christian passion wasn't evident either. I am sure that he felt this passion, but it didn't manifest itself in his writing. When I read E. O. Wilson's "Creation," I definitely felt Wilson's passion for the environment and for the study of biology. Abbate didn't do the same thing for Christian environmentalism.
In the end, this is a very measured book, written to bridge chasms between environmentalists and Christians, and in this Abbate is primarily successful. While he doesn't step on the political/religious landmines littered about this topic, he also doesn't inspire his readers' to follow him as strongly as he might. Abbate does, at times, seem to be too aware of the issues here, and is a bit too tentative as a result. I can understand his anxiety; certainly the country's current partisan extremism is frightening at times. However, while he succeeds in answering thorny questions and reconciling conflicts, he doesn't inspire us to see God in nature the way that I would have liked. And I must admit that I felt the same kind of lukewarm disappointment in the recommendations for actions near the end of the book that I did at the end of Gore's "Inconvenient Truth."
This is a good book for those who feel some real emotional conflicts about combining Christianity with environmentalism. However, it isn't a really good book for those of us who have already reconciled many of these conflicts. For me, the book doesn't take the reader far enough into the wilderness and not nearly close enough to God. We are left somewhere closer to a lovely Saturday afternoon in nice city park, remembering that there is church on Sunday. Still, enjoying a city park can be a good way to ease closer to wilderness, and it can be like taking a step closer to God, I suppose.
David once sang God's praises by proclaiming, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9, NIV).
The author wrote, "We strive to be liberal in love, conservative with resources" (Abbate, 217). The environment should not be a political issue - but one of worship to our God. We have been entrusted with his creation - we have been given dominion (not domination). This world is not about me, it is not about more, and it is not about now. I appreciate the author's biblical instruction and practical ideas. He does not approach the subject as an environmentalist (who often focus too much attention on the art and can resort to blaming others) but instead as a conservationist (who focuses on the Artist and thus takes responsibility personally). My hope is that the church would join in celebrating Earth Day - not in honor of the dirt that we walk on but instead by using this day to remind others of our Creator and his gift to us.
Official Description: Before the snake, the apple, and the Ten Commandments, God created a garden, placed humans in it, and told them to take care of it. "Spiritual environmentalism" did not start out as an oxymoron--it was an invitation. Yet today, many believe God's original job description for humankind has been replaced by other worthier pursuits. So when did this simple instruction become so controversial? How does one sort through all the mixed messages? Is making the world a healthier place for the next generation really a responsibility--or even possible? Gardening Eden is a new understanding of how the spiritual dimensions of life can find expression and renewal through caring for our incredible planet. Empowering, simple, and never polemical, Michael Abbaté outlines the Bible's clear spiritual benefits of caring for creation, exploring new motivations and inspired ideas, and revealing the power of our basic connection to all people and living things through the growing interest in spiritual environmentalism. Green living is no longer a fad--simple lifestyle solutions are now available to everyone. Gardening Eden shows readers how this shift transforms not only our world, but their very souls as they're drawn into deeper harmony with the Creator. This book invites them to discover the powerful spiritual satisfaction of heeding the call to save our world.
Official Biography: A nationally recognized expert in "green" development strategies, Mike Abbaté is a founder of GreenWorks, an award-winning landscape architecture design firm. He frequently speaks to students and leaders about practical ways to minimize the impact of building and landscape design on natural resources. Abbaté's work has been featured in national magazines such as Metropolis and Landscape Architecture and in many local newspapers and trade publications. He and his wife, Vicki, have two adult daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.
by Michael Abbate' (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 2009)
Frank Abbate is a city planner for Gresham, a suburb of Portland, Oregon. He came to speak at our Concordia University-Portland campus on Oct. 1, 2009. I gave my mission course students the option of attending and writing an extra credit report on the topic “Is care of God’s creation part of God’s mission for His church?” Certainly care of creation has become a mission for a significant portion of our USA population, particularly among young people. One of their major criticisms of the church is its reluctance to support environmental protection efforts.
Mr. Abbate' addresses this criticism early on in his book, Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith Your Life, and Our World. He points out the irony that 50-75% of Christians in this country express willingness to sacrifice for the same of the environment. Yet, pastors and lay leaders have generally been reluctant to take any leadership on the issue. Abate' attributes this disconnect to evangelical Christians’ association with the Religious Right and reluctance to embrace a “liberal, leftwing” political issue (p. 19). It looks to our critics that the church is more interested in promoting a secular political agenda than our biblical call.
Abbate' focuses his biblical argument around five themes: “What God Made Is Good,” “God Loves the World He Created,” “What God Made Is God’s, Not Ours,” “Everything Was Made to Glorify God,” and “”God Appointed Us Stewards.” This material can be very helpful for conducting a congregational Bible Study on the topic.
These biblical themes lead Abbate' to pose the three questions which provide the framework for the book (p. 25):
• Do I have a responsibility to protect the planet?
• Are some of my current actions having a detrimental effect on the environment?
• Should I make changes to better steward the resources we have been given?
The first half of the book, then, outlines the deterioration of our natural resources with sections such as food, energy, transportation, home, air, land, ocean, and fresh water. A helpful chapter (entitled “The Big Push Back”) is where he addresses five common objections heard in evangelical circles, such as “God gave us the earth to use, so don’t sweat it,” “It doesn’t really matter – the planet is going to be destroyed anyway,” and “People are more important than nature.” He follows this chapter with two unique chapters on “Creation Care as Worship” and “Creation Care as Compassion.”
The second half of the book is 84 pages on how to put all of this into practice. It’s aptly entitled “Becoming a Gardener.” Abbate' urges us to action, not only to stop “mortgaging the future” of our planet for the poor and our descendents, but to grow closer to God as we recover His original mandate to Adam and Eve to have a caring dominion over His creation. Thus, the title of the book. We grow closer to God as we do the work He intends for us, for Abbate' points out that gardening was not Adam’s punishment but his purpose. (p. 39)
As an appendix to the book, Abbate' gives us 15 pages of resources and organizations we can turn to for guidance and support. One disappointment I had in this regard is that Abate' fails to point out the witnessing potential of our involvement in environmental issues. A great many of these activists and organizers have a very negative view of the church. As we respectfully and humbly join their God-pleasing efforts, we express in action our repentance for our sins of omission. We gradually gain new credibility for our message of God’s saving love when others see it expressed in action.
Finally, what might this mission focus look like in a congregation? Under the congregation’s Stewardship Board, I could see a task force on environmental stewardship. Just like government and businesses need to provide an “environmental impact” study with any of their proposals, this task force could do the same with all congregational plans.
Utilizing the 50 “Gardening Tips” in the second half of the book, the task force could make proposals for the greening of their congregational life, perhaps as a one-minute presentation each month in the worship services. Drawing on Abbate’s tips, such practical suggestions for congregational life might include:
• Storage of personal mugs for coffee, instead of styrofoam cups
• Recycling bins
• Digital announcement screen, instead of paper bulletins
• Bike rack
• Low-energy lighting, hot water, heating/cooling, etc.
• Solar panels
Combine these organizational commitments to environmental stewardship with personal involvement in outside environmental organizations, and one might well find some new people with dirty fingernails crossing the church’s threshold.
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