O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Massachusetts born and bred Wellesley College professor Katherine Lee Bates visited Colorado in 1913. She had traveled the expanse of prairieland and had seen the amazing sight of the looming Rockies as her train traveled westward. But it was when she climbed Pike’s Peak and saw range after range beyond, that she was overwhelmed with the natural glory of her homeland. This is what inspired her to write the familiar words of America.

Here in Southern California, we have been blessed this year with an abundance of rain, which has led to some awesome “super bloom” displays of desert wildflowers (above). It’s hard to remember that for the past several previous years this region has suffered one of the most severe droughts in its history. However, our experience of drought has been tempered by modern techniques of diverting and storing water from one season to another. Imagine what it would be like if we were completely at the mercy of fickle rainfall patterns.

Well, we don’t have to imagine. We can read the story of hardship and deprivation told by John Steinbeck in his famous novel Grapes of Wrath. Between 1934 and 1940, a change in weather patterns caused a radical reduction in rainfall over the midwestern United States. This, together with poor farming techniques, led to the worst drought in the region in three hundred years. Farms in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and other nearby states were destroyed by severe dust storms, and many families left this “Dust Bowl” for the West Coast.

Flowers and dust — that’s the story of our planet. It may seem that natural resources are unlimited in a blessed land like ours, but history gives us plenty of illustrations of the fact that balance between the forces of nature can never be taken for granted. From the Genesis flood story, to the destruction of Pompei by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, to the Black Death plagues of the Middle Ages, these disruptions remind us how unruly our planet can be.

But here’s the fascinating backstory we’re told in the Bible’s Creation Account:

Then God said, ‘Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So, God created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Genesis 1:26-28)*

Have dominion, fill, subdue — these words represent our responsibility to take care of God’s planet, earth. We’re his earth-stewards, asked by the Creator to protect and improve our planet for his glory, not rape it and use its resources up on our own greed and indulgence.

Earth-stewardship is not political; it’s Biblical.

— Pastor George Van Alstine

* Other significant Bible passages that talk about our earth-stewardship of our planet include Genesis 9:1-3, Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7, Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Psalm 8:6-8, Psalm 115:16, Hebrews 2:8, James 3:7