How to Honor Earth Day

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it – Psalm 24:1

Today is Earth Day. In 1970, the first Earth Day mobilized 20 million Americans to greater care for our planet. Now the Earth Day organizers say they have one billion people committed to the environment and 75,000 business partners working to drive positive action. And there’s so much more work to be done.

I’ve never intentionally recognized Earth Day before. However, given the apocalyptic wildfires in the American West over the last several years – those smokey orange skies over our NorCal home felt eerily oppressive – and the recent unseasonable arctic freeze in Austin, Texas, I have become increasingly convinced of the truth regarding the terrible trajectory scientists claim we are on toward environmental collapse in 2030. On the one hand, that date looks like science fiction, but so did 2001 at one point. It’s only nine years from now.

So I made a list of easy ways we can love our planet well, today and moving forward:

Walk, bike, or carpool to work.

Take a phone call or meeting outside.

Enjoy a plant-forward picnic in a natural setting.

Go for a hike.

Plant something, or tend to your plants, or volunteer in a community garden.

Eat meatless for the day.

Sketch something from nature.

Spend 10 minutes making a list of observations about one natural object (you think you won’t be able to fill 10 minutes – surprise yourself).

Buy a book (or check one out from the library) that will help you fall deeper in love with nature. Suggestions: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimerer, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, anything by John Muir. (Please note: as an Amazon associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases).

Watch a nature documentary. Two I highly recommend (both on Netflix): My Octopus Teacher and A Life on Our Planet (by Sir David Attenborough whose voice, to my ear, sounds like Winnie the Pooh in the classic Disney movies – lovable!). My son recommends Seaspiracy, also on Netflix.

Educate yourself about environmental groups doing good work, like WWF, Sierra Club, or Plant with Purpose (our personal friend is CEO). Check out this list of organizations, or this water-focused list. Consider making a donation.

Take a picture of something in nature that brings you joy – a flower, a tree, an insect – and share it on your social media.

Follow the social media accounts of individuals and groups working to preserve the planet. Instagram suggestions: NatGeo, NatGeo Wild, Mitty, Paul Nicklen, Tim Lamen, and Joel Sartore

Purchase a book or print from The Photo Ark to beautify your home and support their continued work.

Cut down on paper towel use by using reusable and compostable kitchen towels.

Switch one of your plastic disposable goods for an eco-conscious and reusable alternative, like this toothpaste or these makeup removing towels.

Stick a bucket in your shower and use that water to water your plants.

Have a close encounter of the friendly animal kind (i.e., walk your dog or your neighbor’s dog, pet a cat, visit an animal shelter, watch squirrels rollercoaster-ing through trees).

Contact your state or national political representatives and ask them to support pro-environment legislation.

Do one or more actions from this list, then forward this post to others so they can join the fun.

What ideas do you have to share about loving our planet well? What next steps will you begin to take on this Earth Day and beyond?

“Creation is call and response. When Scripture speaks of mountains singing and trees clapping, it’s not just metaphorical. If our range of hearing were a little better, we would hear the voice of God in every drop of water, every blade of grass, every grain of sand.” – Mark Batterson, Whisper

Proof of God’s Existence

I stand in awe of people with the kind of artistic ability you’ll see in today’s guest post. In fact, creative talent of this caliber, in any form–painting, drawing, making music, dancing, writing–seems to me proof enough of a Creator in whose image people were created to create.

re:create recess #21: Jae Moon Lee

Coincidently, during one of my walks, I found a stone that caught my eye likely because its formation looked so similar to one I remember from the place where l spent most of my time in childhood.

Probably not only me but many people must have had a similar experience, that somehow you have seen something before or you have been somewhere before though you might not have, actually.

In China the very first word people learn is “chun.” It means “the whole universe,” no matter where you are, since we all live under the same sky.

The second word is “ji,” meaning, “mother of earth,” like the stone and the dust. No one invented these words specifically. They just spread out among the people for many, many years.

The sky and earth.

The Bible, on the very first page of the Old Testament, also clearly proclaims that God Himself created the universe and the mother earth. I think this similarity between the eastern and western hemisphere is not a coincidence. Am I silly enough to think about it this way? But I like to believe that we are all connected in inexplicable ways.

An atheist skateboarder, mistakenly missing his momentum while showing his flipping technique for nothing, went straight into the bushes like a falling kite. Of course we can easily hear that first word coming out of his mouth: “Oh My God! It hurts!”

And then we say, “Thank God he was wearing a helmet!”

Why is it we mention God so often without giving it a second thought?

In my mind this is proof that someone already controls us from a long, long time ago in secret—or maybe in plain sight. We are all unconsciously programmed in our minds by someone very powerful. We cannot live even one day away from Him or escape Him as long as we are living on Earth.

No matter what we do, our future is already planned, decided by one God who is the pure artist himself.

Lately I paint stones, or rocks, even pebbles that might know the secret of the ancient times. I observe first the color and the lighting carefully, then I will put again and again on the same piece of rock a lot of details here and there, over its own universe and time.

Thanks, God. You are giving me strength and the Spirit to finish more paintings for an exhibition.

Jae Lee is a native of Seoul and has made the Bay Area his home for the last 30+ years. Having earned a BFA in Painting and Printmaking, Jae has made a living in the Film, TV, and Theater industry as a Scenic Painter.

Creating is Like Breathing…

I met Jim when he served as a volunteer youth leader with a ministry my husband and I led what feels like a bazillion years ago; well, Teen was a toddler and we were in grad school, so everything might have been a bit blurry about the edges. Jim wasn’t. He was crystal clear, thoughtful and truthful, a straight shooter who preferred the creative fringe. He saw the boys in the back and found out-of-the-box ways to engage them, to love them, where they stood. He made a difference in their lives and, through his work, in the world; and I have all the respect in the world for him. Please welcome Jim Moriarty!

Create Challenge Guest Post #5 – Jim Moriarty

Creating is like breathing. I can’t imagine living without also creating.

God wired us as creators. He’s surrounded us with this crazy, endless pallet of colors, tools and inspiration. He’s sculpted us into infinite variations within the same human meme…and planted us with insatiable seeds of curiosity and endless imagination. How absolutely amazing is that?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I literally cannot go to sleep without the creation of something. That might be sewing a new bag for a surfboard or spray painting something that most people wouldn’t paint. Most of the time I hack photos.

I get a kick out of the tag #nofilter because we take photos with smart phones which are made up of hundreds of electronic components and run operating systems and apps that are executed from thousands of lines of code…and yet somehow we think what we’re doing is #nofilter. I think this is close to the root of why I take photos and then edit them the ways I do.

A photo to me is false, by definition. What is real is in front of us and whether we sketch that image, paint it or take a photo of it, all of those things deliver false representations of reality. So why not keep pushing those false limits as far as possible and create something else, something new?

This first photo is from my last day at a previous job. It was a party at San Onofre State Beach and we were watching the sunset. The truth is that all sunset photos miss the mark; reality is SO much more interesting. The colors of an actual sunset are lit from behind and change with every passing minute. With these things in mind I took another photo, motion blurred it until it became horizontal lines and then treated it as a transparent layer on top of the beach shot. In my mind this image comes closer to what I felt watching that night.JMsunset

Lowriders work for me on many levels. They define Southern California. They embody a cross-border existence. They make amazing use of what we’ve forgotten and sent to landfills and they (usually) embrace nutty-cool color schemes. That’s why I make images like this one.JMlowrider

The sky is as close to cobalt blue as I could make it. The vermillion, metal-flake car paint is overdone…pushed to a place where it’s no longer calm. It’s overly hot in every way. And to further push things, I’ve made everything that isn’t the car the same color as the sky.

When we take photos we are visually capturing assets. These are pieces to puzzles. They will never become the real thing, that’s impossible. So let’s create things that challenge our point of view and turn it into something else, something hopefully more emotionally interesting.

Creation should be pushed until it breaks…and then pushed a bit more. This is when we find something new.

That’s what I’m trying to do with this photo. JMsurfer

First, Southern California skies are simply magical in the winter. Many nights I’m out on the water looking at a sky-sized gorgeous fade that feels imaginary. So why not try and represent skies that way? Regarding the surfer, I see this image all the time. I love the simplicity of an isolated surfer and their board. I also like pushing that idea until it breaks and is on the edge of not making sense. That’s why I cut off the body and floated it up. I’m proactively trying to create something that makes me think differently about that surfer.

I love graffiti, especially smart graffiti. Any time I’m in an urban environment I’m that person off to the side, photographing interesting tags and walls. If I share those images I rarely present what actually exists and this wall is no different.JMgraffiti

The death to hipsters was a sticker in Brooklyn, the mail label came from San Francisco (I think) and the MP sticker doesn’t exist at all. It’s a photoshopped hack I made to round out the tags (and show a nod of respect to what I see as the best surf photo ever taken).

Life is this way. We take influences from various places and people, mix them up, interpret them, add in things that weren’t there before…and move ahead with a new take or new idea. This is what software development is about, what art is about, cooking, etc. Same with photos. It’s all innovation. All invention.

Creativity is about making something that wasn’t there before but doing so with the tools, influences and assets that existed prior. We’re all standing on the shoulders of those who created before us.

I dig old, outdated things. Look at this RV. The aerodynamics are…nonexistent. The color scheme is brilliantly simple (and perfectly ‘70s). This vehicle just works for me. I take photos like this all the time and always straight on like this one. I like the stark truth a profile delivers. Let’s face it, a photo of an RV is kinda boring, so I tried to make it less boring. I floated it on an ocean of an almost-complimentary color. The exact complimentary color is easy to identify…but less interesting.JMwinnie

Many of us have to make something and so the question becomes, What should we try to make? Images like these work for me because creating them can be done on a highly portable platform. We always have a smart phone in our pocket and tiny slices of available time as we progress through a day. And most of us also have powerful computers nearby for other touches. We create for selfish reasons; we create for ourselves. What I’ve noticed more and more is that we create because we have God-given curiosities, talents, restlessness and experiences.

Creation is how we understand who we are; creativity is how we understand who God made us.


Jim’s life has been defined by ideas larger than himself: punk rock, Christianity, fatherhood, software development, the internet, environmentalism and brand citizenship. He spent the last decade running Surfrider Foundation, the largest nonprofit focused on coastal environmental protection, and currently works at 72andSunny where he connects global brands with deeper purpose. He married the love of his life yesterday (almost 30 years ago), is father to twins and his favorite surfboard is a 6’ singlefin. 


Books – The Recent Round-Up

Even though May might just be my favorite month – days slightly brighter and longer and birds and flowers singing and springing – the end of school year seems always to twist me up and set me spinning. Not enough time! Too much to do! You have a what project that requires what supplies and you left it to now? Yeesh!

So I’ve been reading but not posting about reading – one too many steps in a busy season. And I’ve picked up a few books and set them back down again, trying to maintain my year’s goal to put myself in the way of beauty; some books create worlds I can’t inhabit right now, though another time, perhaps.

Let’s start with the novels:

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ishiguro’s voice reads like a graceful whisper, punctuated by the secrets his characters tell, overhear, and discern, dropped like bombs. The full-bodied characters are people you know: the energetic and sensitive boy with a big temper, the every-girl who knows how to calm the boy, the ring leader who manipulates them all. This book is simultaneously a beautiful homage to the human being and a cautionary tale against scientific progress that cares for some at the painful expense of others.

The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was 9 or 10 years old. I’m not sure why I read it – it wasn’t assigned for school, but maybe it was in the classroom? Maybe a teacher or librarian recommended it? Fantasy/sci fi have never been my standard fair. Still, scenes and themes from this book have continued to resonate in my mind and heart throughout my lifetime: an honorable, hard-earned quest, companionship, Bilbo and Gollum and Precious, power and humility…

As an adult I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy – before the brilliant movies were released. The Hobbit movies are a great disappointment in comparison, but I enjoyed rereading the book with my own child, now just past the age I was when I first read it.

I relate to Bilbo’s reaction to Gandalf’s suggestion of an adventure: “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.” Though he reluctantly agrees to leave the comforts of home, he often longs to be back in his cozy hobbit hole; except that adventure as a whole changes him so that when he eventually returns, he doesn’t mind that the townspeople consider him odd.

My own adventures, however reluctantly undertaken, have changed me enough that I might somewhat-less-reluctantly venture forth again.

And now for non-fiction:

And It Was Good: Reflections on Beginnings (Genesis, #1)And It Was Good: Reflections on Beginnings by Madeleine L’Engle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At least my second reading of this book, I am taken by her descriptions of the world – the wild and beautiful and dangerous natural world; and the world occupied by humans so full of both good and evil and still image their Creator God. L’Engle reminds me to maintain wonder, in spite of the so prevalent brokenness that is our context, and to let wonder move me to prayer.

“When I look at the galaxies on a clear night—when I look at the incredible brilliance of creation, and think that this is what God is like, then, instead of feeling intimidated and diminished by it, I am enlarged—I rejoice that I am part of it, I, you, all of us—part of this glory” (82).

Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents' Guide to Helping Children with Executive FunctioningLate, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book after reading an article on twice-exceptional kids that referenced the book. Two twice-exceptional kids and no educator or doctor had mentioned the term “executive functioning”: “…a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.” The executive functions include inhibition, mental/emotional flexibility, emotional control, initiation, working memory, planning/organization, and self-monitoring.

The book is clearly laid out, explaining challenges and providing real-life examples and practical how-to-help tips. Reading as a parent of two very different kids with different strengths and weaknesses, I have lots to digest; reading at the end of school year was not the best timing and I’ll need to review it all again in August as we begin a new year’s regimen.

The gift of this book lies in its practicality and hope: “…we believe that our children’s best hope for the future may lay in the discovery of some strength that blossoms into an island of competence, and perhaps even becomes a continent of possibilities for personal satisfaction and job success. After all, people thrive when they build a life around their strengths. There are many different paths to success, even though this is sometimes hard to keep in perspective during the school years” (202).