Five Questions For: Jerry Lawson
Jerry Lawson (quoted in this issue’s Flourishing Church article) is a Christian serving in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal agency that ensures the protection of human health and the environment our health depends on. Jerry was raised in Arkansas and learned creation care at the knee of his Republican, Southern Baptist grandfather who reverently cared for his land to prevent erosion and enrich the soil because doing so made sense. While earning his Bachelors degree at the University of Arkansas, Jerry knew he wanted a career in conservation and environmental protection. After earning a Masters degree at Arizona State University he was able to enter that career field, and has worked as the deputy director for the Arkansas Department of Energy, the director of the city of Austin’s Texas Resource Management Department, and the executive director for conservation, rates, and forecasting at the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin. Since the 1990s he has worked with the EPA in Washington, DC, where he is currently the national manager of the ENERGY STAR Small Business & Congregations Network that supports small businesses and faith communities in their efforts to reduce energy costs and responsibly steward energy resources.
Flourish asked Jerry some questions so that you could get to know this servant of Christ who is working in one of the most important organizations for environmental and public health protection our country has:
1) What creation care-related scripture is most meaningful to you?
Psalm 24:1 tells us everything we need to know: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein.” The world is not ours to use and abuse as we see fit; we are told from Genesis to Revelation that we are to be stewards. I’m also especially interested in asking clergy for their interpretation of Revelation 11:18, in which the various translations seem to agree, “The time has come…for destroying those who destroy the earth.” I find this choice of words compelling, and defer to clergy and other scholars as to their precise meaning. But the clergy I’ve asked all say this is pretty straightforward in meaning what it appears to mean.
2) What is your favorite spot in the outdoors?
I truly enjoy the quarter mile walk from my front door to my roadside mailbox and back in the early morning the year round. It puts me right out in creation’s beauty first thing in the day, making me humble and grateful for the beauty of the sky with varying weather, the trees,
birds, and other wildlife that I’m fortunate to live near.
3) Out of the changes you’ve made in your life to follow God’s call to creation care, what has been the most life-giving, community-enhancing, or faith-strengthening?
Specifically, it is interacting with people across the faith community who also have dedicated part of their lives to creation care that is so enriching, encouraging, and affirming. It is an honor and privilege to help other stewards with their work.
4) What is your guilty environmental indulgence?
I have to admit that I frequently find a plastic water bottle in my hand. I do recycle everything I can at home and work, and carry bottles and cans there for recycling, but I’m trying to do better about filling and carrying a sturdy bottle from home.
5) What would you recommend as a first step in starting a lifestyle of creation care?
Pray, then think and act on the clear guidance we have been given to be stewards. There is so much to pray for in a troubled world that I find praying, thinking, and taking action to do what I can to protect creation from the damage we humans are inflicting helps me keep some perspective on the tragedies and worry with which we are bombarded every day.
Briefly Noted: In Print and On the Screen
The following is a partial list of new or forthcoming books and movies that address issues related to environmental stewardship. We offer this list as a resource for our readers, but please be aware that we may not have read or viewed these titles, so we can’t vouch for the content. If you investigate these resources, let us know what you think! (We may be able to publish your review so that others can benefit.) For a fuller critique of current art and media, please visit the Reviews section of Flourish magazine.
The Tree of Life
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The latest film by director Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life looks the difference between a life lived by nature and a life lived by grace through the narrative of a family in the 1950s and breathtaking natural images. See the trailer to the right.
By Wayne Pacelle
This first book by the executive director of the Human Society of the United States is filled with compelling stories—both jarring and uplifting—from an animal welfare veteran. The book dispenses with animal rights arguments, and addresses animal welfare from a stewardship angle that emphasizes our call to have mercy on all living creatures.
Pollution and the Death of Man (new edition)
By Francis A. Schaeffer and Udo W. Middelmann
A new, repackaged edition of one of the original evangelical apologetics for creation care, Schaeffer’s scripturally based rallying cry to take up our responsibility of dominion is no less applicable today than it was at its first publication over 40 years ago.
Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society
By Timothy D. Willard and R. Jason Locy
The siren song of consumerism and technology has prevented Christians from understanding where our true significance comes from. Willard and Locy expose the masks and peel them back to reveal our truth worth and beauty in Christ.
Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild
By Tom Montgomery Fate
In conversation with the writings of Henry David Thoreau, this Flourish contributor pieces together a meditation on how best to live as an ordinary suburbanite in an extraordinary natural world.
Could the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) be helped by something as simple as a change diet? Researchers in the Netherlands wanted to find out, and they placed randomly selected children diagnosed with ADHD on a restricted diet of healthy, whole foods such as rice, turkey, carrots, and pears. In 64% of the children on the restricted diet, the symptoms of ADHD (forgetfulness, distraction, temper tantrums) were markedly reduced.
Source: The Lancet
- Renewal: Students Caring for Creation, is currently seeking Christian college student applicants for its 2011-2012 Student Leadership Team. The Student Leadership Team leads Renewal by helping to spearhead creation care initiatives, representing Renewal on campuses, mobilizing fellow students around protecting God’s creation, and more. An application is available on Renewal’s web site.
- Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College invites all with a passion for creation care to its third annual “Where Earth and People Meet Conference” on Oct. 1-3 at Merry Lea, near Wolf Lake, Ind. At this faith-based gathering, participants will have the opportunity to experience the lessons of hope and revitalization that the earth offers. The weekend includes hands-on learning outdoors, discussion and worship. The 2004 theme is “Regenerative Communities” and will focus on the intricate relationships that sustain a forest.
- Restoring Eden is accepting applications for its summer internship positions. Summer interns will travel with Restoring Eden to Christian music festivals around the country as part of an effort to inform and mobilize Christians who care deeply about the health of families, communities, and God’s creation.
“When it comes to this world’s future, God will follow the same pattern he engineered in Noah’s day, when he washed away everything that was perverse and wicked but did not obliterate everything. God will not annihilate the cosmos; he’ll renew, redeem, and resurrect it. As Randy Alcorn writes, ‘We will be the same people made new and we will live on the same Earth made new.’”
- From a May 13 post titled “Making All Things New (Not All New Things)” by Tullian Tchividjian on The Gospel Coalition blog.