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Apr 21st: Earth Care, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.

Posted: Sun, Apr 21, 2024
Earth Care with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Psalm 24.1. This Sunday, we celebrate and hope to deepen our connection to the Earth. Join Rev. Dr. Steven Koski and member Stacey Wilhelmson as they discuss connecting children to nature through Forest School and the importance of nature for mental health, education, and spirituality.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


Earth Care with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Psalm 24.1.

This Sunday, we celebrate and hope to deepen our connection to the Earth. Join Rev. Dr. Steven Koski and member Stacey Wilhelmson as they discuss connecting children to nature through Forest School and the importance of nature for mental health, education, and spirituality.


We are blessed to be given a constant reminder of the beauty and sacredness of the earth. Living in Central Oregon. Have you noticed how vital it is for our mental, emotional, physical, spiritual well being, to get outside spend time in nature. People often say they feel closest to God in nature. I mean nature is our best teacher, therapist, healer, preacher. Nature is healing. How ironic it is that we turn to God’s holy earth, to heal ourselves. When God’s holy earth is in crisis, and calling out to us for healing, the Psalm has said the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it. The Earth doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the earth, in saying the earth is the Lord’s the psalmist reminds us of a mistake we commonly make when thinking about God’s creation. We view God’s creation from a very human centered lens, as if God is only concerned with with us human beings. And God simply designed the rest of creation for our personal use and pleasure. From this perspective, we treat the earth as a commodity, to be used and consumed rather than a sacred gift, and community we belong to and share. The poet and writer window berry road we have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would of course, be good for the Earth. We’ve been wrong with disastrous consequences. We must change our lives and live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the earth will ultimately be good for us. And that requires that we change our relationship with the earth and rediscover the sacredness of the earth. The lens through which we see the Earth will determine our behavior towards the Earth. Thank you we will not fight to save what we do not see as sacred we will not restore and renew what we do not Revere. We will not make the necessary sacrifices for what we don’t love deeply. I am really excited today to share a conversation in celebration in honor of Earth Day with Stacey Wilhelmsen. Stacy, her husband Matt and their children, Henry Sawyer and Sloane a belong to our church. And Stacy has a master’s in early childhood development. And her passion is connecting children to the wonder, beauty and gift of nature. She’s the learning and curriculum specialist for the Forest School. Right here in Bend. Stacy, welcome. I am so excited to share this conversation with you and honor and in celebration of Earth Day. Can you tell us a little bit more about your what is Forest School? And and why did you choose that particular path for your children? Yeah, thank you for having me here. By the way, I feel honored to be able to talk about something that I’m very passionate about. I am an educator and I chose for school for my children. Because it’s something that has been an a passion of mine. Since I found it, and I found for school, during my time getting my masters I knew pretty quickly that that was the there was the values that were in for school were the way I wanted to implement in my own classroom. The things I wanted to do with my students in my own classroom. And that is really it. The connection to themself the connection to place. The the the moderated risk, which is really important for young children as they’re developing their sense of self. But most importantly, it was exactly what you were saying in that I really felt an urge to, to kind of shift up the way we were living our life in order to help build that sense of connection to to Earth and forest school really was a beautiful way to do that with my children. And and so yeah, we made the move over to the forest school and it’s all nature immersion. So children are learning outdoors. It’s inquiry based and child led, which is something very important to me. And as a as a teacher and as a mother. It fills me up to be able to work out there and to be to watch See, our young children really connect with nature and in such an authentic way. You don’t have to do much to to get kids to find their way in the forest to find their own way. And that’s I think, that’s, that’s the biggest thing for me is for them to build that confidence in themselves. And they do that through play, and through being outside and through, through learning in that in that environment. I said earlier that nature is our best is our best teacher, really, and our best healer. What do you think? What do you think it is about? Nature? That is such a powerful force that that, you know, might bring not only peace, but but balance to our lives? I mean, why? Why do you think it is so important to have that deep and strong connection with nature? Particularly for children? Yeah, no, it’s a fabulous question. And I think there’s, there’s a few answers for it. For me personally. And I think I think the first thing is that we are nature we are. As humans, we are part of this planet we are we interact with it, we’re interconnected, there’s then the end, I think we’ve lost a bit of that, in the in the current way of the world, I think we’re very much into our technology and electronics, which I am too, and my children are too and I’m there. I’m not here to be anti technology. But I think that there is a bit of ourselves that we have lost by not being immersed in nature. And this is something that I was noticing in the classroom with the students I was teaching, and I was, I was really intentional about it. When my children were young, that I, I wanted to help them find their own way in nature to find themself. Because at the end of the day, I feel like my role as a mother, my role as a teacher, is always to help my students and my children connect to their higher self to their, to whatever it is inside of them. That’s that is creating motivation, whether it’s learning or whether it’s to protect our planet. And so if they don’t have that internal motivation, they’re not going to they who who would, you know, if you don’t care about something, or you don’t have a connection to something, they’re not going to fight for it. And so it’s a balance, I think, between fighting for the earth and nature, and also fighting for ourselves in our, our connection to ourselves a little bit, you’re talking a little bit about that deep connection, and back to the psalmist words that that the earth, the earth is the Lord’s so the Earth is the creators, and all that is in it that, that it doesn’t belong to us than that we belong to it. And you said a little earlier that that we are nature? Can you say a little bit more about that, in terms of what really, what are the implications of that, and I love what you said about about somehow nature helps us to find our truest self, I know for me, if I’m out on a trail with with dirt underneath my feet, with my dogs by my side, somehow my anxious mind is calmed and my troubled heart become settled, and I get a better perspective. You know, so often my perspective can be kind of all about me. And some have just been part of nature kind of lifts me beyond myself. So can you say a little bit more about how that works with kids particularly? Yeah. I think for myself, growing up as a child, I really connected with that, that, that, noticing of it, and calming my nervous system, that recognition that when things were feeling out of sorts, or hard, I could, I could go outside and that was a constant. And I think that that constant of watching, watching the cyclical nature of being outside and knowing, you know, the seasons, and kind of recognizing that we as humans have the same cycles, that we also weave, we need to slow down or we have energy at certain times of the year or certain parts. And I think just like, for, for me, it was something that I connected with, and I wanted for my own children. I knew that pretty early on it. It was a mental health thing, and then learning about it, learning about the values of the Forest School and the idea that we have disconnected from nature so profoundly in the last, you know, 30 plus years with the rise of technology and with efficiencies and so it’s it’s like it feels Urgent to reconnect with what we come from, with what our natural rhythms are in with what you know, the things that, that we just that we just know, bring us peace. And instead of searching for in all the places and making it really complicated, being outside and just walking, or, you know, just sitting in the grass and looking at the trees or listening to the birds, there’s just that moment of silence in your own self, that, that, that break from the noise. I think it’s so important for our little ones, and in us, but especially them growing up in a world that, you know, we don’t really know what the future is going to look like for them with regards to AI or technology. And I think we have an opportunity right now to really be intentional about that, and to connect our children to something bigger and greater, so that we don’t fall into, you know, reliance on something outside of ourself. Because really, at the end of the day, we have it all within ourselves. And if we go out, and just kind of take all the way take away everything else and just be just be there. And nature really gives us that space to do that. Because it’s not asking for anything back kind of reminds me that I often think of like the ecological crisis, the environmental crisis, the the climate crisis, I think what we’re talking about is actually deep down at a foundational level of spiritual crisis, kind of, as I said earlier, that we won’t, we won’t make the necessary sacrifices for that which we don’t love deeply. And I don’t mean love in terms of like a selfish love as to what what can this do for me, but, but a love that recognizes the value and the worth, in, in the other in the earth in, in in nature, and that we won’t, we won’t kind of work for renewal and recovery and restoration. For that, which we don’t revere for that which we take for granted. So in celebration of Earth Day, in honor of Earth Day, what are some ways that that we can participate in in healing the earth? And what are ways that we can perhaps strengthen and deepen our own connection in a healthy way? With the Earth? Um, to answer the second question, something that I have, I really have learned from for school that I’ve taken as a practice of my own is something called a sit spot. And it’s very simple. But the concept is that, and this is a practice that the children do out at the Forest School is that they have a spot in nature that they sit in every day, and, and there’s no, there’s no expectation, there’s no guide. It’s just sitting and noticing, and just reflecting whether that’s on your day, or on your week, or just in the moment and being present. And it’s, it’s so fun to watch after, you know, you’ve implemented this with young kids and you go out and you see all these kids just sitting in their spot in the forest. And they’re just, some are playing and some are doing their own thing. And I, I do it with them, I sit and I would have my own sit spot with them. And so now it’s a practice I bring home, at my own home. And it’s something I have found is so simple. But if you have a sacred spot somewhere at your, at your home, or some a special place that you go to, and you just make a practice of sitting. And there’s there’s nothing that there is nothing you have to do. It’s just sitting and just being still and being quiet. And I like the idea of it being the same spot. Because with children and with us too, it’s an opportunity to be able to notice how things change over time. And that’s a practice for children to be able to throughout the seasons, notice, oh, in my sit spot, look at how the leaves have changed, or the birds are singing at this time of year and they’re not at this time of year or it’s colder or warmer, or they’re feeling sensations, it’s just a space and time to be able to connect with themselves again. And like I said, Do what you’re, you know, saying to a deeper, a deeper meaning something beyond that sounds like just a beautiful ritual to live what the psalmist said that this doesn’t belong to us. It sounds like just a beautiful ritual to remind us and to experience that, that we belong to the earth. We are part of this and this is part of part of us. Yeah, and that’s beautiful. I mean, we just celebrated Easter and the promise of Easter is, is really that that destruction, that suffering destruction and death. Do not and will not Don’t ever have the last word. And with so much destruction right now, I think that is so important to hang on to that promise that, that God has the power to make all things new. Again, the poet Wendell Berry Berry said, it’s not our job, to practice, resurrection, to bring to bring life where there is destruction and death to bring to bring hope, where there is despair. I mean, I think of the very first sentence of the Bible where we were taught, it says, In the beginning, God created. But the original Hebrew actually says something profoundly different. It says, In the beginning, God began to create, that’s very different than in the beginning, God created in the beginning, God began to create, and God continues to create. What I hear in that is that is that God’s not finished with us that God’s not finished with the the world yet and God continues to create and restore and renew and to heal the earth. And that we’re called, to be partners with God. In that holy work, you know, as you were talking, it reminded me of those amazing words from Chief Seattle where he said, we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We are borrowing the Earth from our children, and from their children. So it just makes me wonder, what are we willing to do when what sacrifices are we willing to make, for the sake of love to partner with God and healing the earth, not just for ourselves, but for the sake of our children, and for the sake of their children, and their children. And so, to close our conversation and an honor and celebration of Earth Day, I mean, if you had a prayer, if you had a prayer for, for the earth for nature, if you had a prayer for your own children, and their relationship to the earth and nature, what would that prayer be? Hmm.

That prayer would be for my children to find peace, within themselves. And, and balance. Balance in, in this ecosystem, this this process that we’re all a part of, and to know how interconnected they all that they are to the earth and to each other, and, and that they can always find solace. And they can always find themselves out outdoors and in nature, because they are nature. Yeah.

That’s beautiful. Because that’s I think we find peace within nature. We’re going to want to respect Revere, love, cherish and care for the earth. Well, generally, we close prayers by saying amen. And the word amen. Literally means. May it be so May it be so. Stacy, I can’t thank you enough for the work that you do. And for this conversation, I appreciate it. Thank you. Me too. It’s an honor to be here. Thank you.

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