Friday, February 29, 2008

Jessie: The Wrestler and the Bushman

From Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry, Program and Outreach Director

I live with two adorable boys who could eat nothing but meat, three meals a day, seven days a week.

One is my son, an 18 year-old high school senior who wrestles. The other is a home-stay with us, a 26 year-old crew chief for Earth Corps. He is from the Namib tribe, related to the Bushman in southwest Africa. Though they come from wildly different cultures, do not look like brothers, are at different stages in life and have dissimilar family systems, they are active young men of the human species and eat like it. I’m a sedate matron of a certain age and I’m happy for the most part with light meals. They need more calories, I need fewer. I’m reducing my time in Purgatory by cooking for them night after night.

When I told these two that there would be no cows for Lent, they carefully negotiated for pizza deliveries when I work late (none for me). They asked for plenty of pork chops, fish, lamb and, in Iggy’s case, there was a plea for goat meat. My son would no more eat a vegetable than fly, never mind how well I’ve parented him. He gets whole milk and I don’t drink it. It’s a challenge each night to think up what’s for dinner.

But the truth is we can do without beef and cheese and no one is hungry. I’m actually loosing weight, and the boys aren’t demanding fettuccini Alfredo or Caesar salad. Everyone likes (wild) salmon, frozen from the Ballard Seafood fest last year, and tuna noodle casserole may not be gourmet but they eat it (as long as Brian can’t find any vegetables in it). There is really no sacrifice to them as long as they are full. The world’s cows are better off and producing less methane. Chickens and pigs are better use of feed to calories, and I don’t need cheese. Life is good.

The boys like action movies and adore video games; they love dogs, loud music and soccer and the two of them gang up against me! But that’s a story for another day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Deanna: A Dilemna...What to do When You're Sick

From Deanna Akre Matzen, Earth Ministry's Operations Manager

I was doing well until I got sick last Thursday. I apparently got the bug going around that hits you with it's tail on the way out. Luckily, I started getting sick on the day I work from home, so I just rested. By Monday, I thought I was on the mend, so I took the bus to work. Tuesday I woke up feeling like I had caught a second bug or that the first had sent in a surge of troops to take me down. So I stayed home that day and rested. By Wednesday I was feeling better but far from 100%. I decided to go to work for a few hours at least, but I just didn't think I should or could walk the mile to the bus. I had to drive.

I really didn't want to break my Lenten fast, but the options were not appetizing. I got winded just carrying the laundry up two flights of stairs in my house. Walking 2 miles round trip to work seemed more like a death march. And Wednesday was the first day it had rained since Ash Wednesday (at least on a day I had to go to work).

The least I could do was to find ways to minimize my impact. I had heard that turning off your car's engine if stopped for 30 seconds or more helps reduce carbon emissions. In fact, some studies show that it's even worth shutting off your engine for 10 seconds of idling. According to, "For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile." So the first thing I did to mitigate driving to work was to turn off my engine at stoplights or any other time I was idling my car. The next mitigation effort was to at least run some errands along the way. This saved me making several individual trips later, out and back.

I'm bummed that I was not able to bus this week. I guess I'll have to bike next week to make up for my carbon use or find some way to avoid driving over the weekend to make up for it. Meanwhile, I'm making my list of errands to run on the way home.

Carbon Saved: 58.8 lbs

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kaitlin: How to Clean it Right

From Kaitlin Torgerson, Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator

I stepped into our bathroom this Sunday, armed and ready to clean. It was my week to clean the bathroom and as usual, I had put it off until the last day possible. However, this time my arsenal of cleaning products were a bit different.

Most of my college career was spent in the microbiology/parisitology or anatomy labs, studying the infectious bugs or tiny creatures that lurk in public places. If not in the lab, I was reading about these very germs that are the reason for sick days. Unfortunately, all that time staring at these critters under the microscope has led me to be a little bit of a germ-phobe. Yes, I am the odd one who waits for someone else to open the door to the public restroom. I’ll admit it. I’m the one who always washes her hands and is never found without hand sanitizer in her purse. Needless to say, when it comes to cleaning, my motto has become, “the stronger, the better.”

When I set out this Lent to change my water-use habits, I included that I would use cleaning products free of phosphates or other potential water pollutants. If I was preserving water, not only must I be careful of how much I use, I must make sure I don’t pollute the water we do have. Already, we’ve polluted 40% of America’s rivers and 46% of our lakes to the point that they can longer be used for fishing or swimming.

For Lent, I traded in my classic bathroom cleaner with bleach for simple white vinegar and baking soda. I mixed up an all-purpose cleaner with ½ cup vinegar, ¼ baking soda, and ½ gallon of water. Even though I wasn’t quite convinced I was still killing germs, my bathroom looks and smells clean. The baking soda worked as a great scrubber and the vinegar left it smelling and looking fresher. Using any sort of disinfect is overkill and does more harm than good. Deep down, the microbiologist inside tells me I’ve only been contributing to making germs more resistant and harder to kill.

I guess I’m getting over my fear of germs and recognize that there are much safer alternatives for cleaning. The bathroom is clean and no toxic chemicals got into the ground water. That’s really what I care about, not my fear microbes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

LeeAnne: A little more Mary, a little less Martha

From LeeAnne Beres, Earth Ministry Executive Director:

Now as they went on their way, he [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but every time I read this passage, I want to march right up to Mary and tell her to get to work. I’ve always identified with Martha, the one that sees what needs to be done and does it – and gets frustrated when others don’t see the same need and pitch in. If the Lord were to show up at my house, I know I’d be running around trying to make everything just perfect, and probably miss out on everything important He had to say.

My “break from busyness” this Lent has caused me to re-think my perspective on this story, and to put myself in Mary’s place. If I’m honest with myself, the root of my frustration with Mary may be that I secretly want to be her. Wouldn’t it be nice, just for once, to be the one seemingly without responsibilities who can take the time to sit and listen, rather than to always be the one making sure the tasks are done?

Jesus himself said that Mary had chosen the better part, yet like Martha, my self-imposed work ethic and standards of service prevent me from simply sitting and taking it all in. But no matter how much I get done, no matter what I accomplish, there’s always more to take its place. When I am constantly busy I make little time for God, thinking “I have to finish this one thing first”, but before I know it another day has passed and I still haven’t gotten to what I wanted to get things out of the way for in the first place.

Part of my Lenten practice is to work on being a little more Mary and a little less Martha in the coming weeks. I started last Saturday morning by sitting in the sun and reading/reflecting on this Bible passage, rather than launching right into the mountain of tasks that presented themselves around my house. The dirty laundry is still undone and the house didn’t get vacuumed, but amazingly enough, the world didn’t end and my place in it seems just a bit more grounded.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Beth: Vegan Birthday Dilemma

From Beth Anderson, Earth Ministry's Outreach Associate:

This past week has been fairly uneventful in local-vegan-food land…aside from passing up the onions on a recent trip to Safeway (one variety was shipped in from Chile and the others were of unknown origin) life is pretty normal. Our household has settled on some new favorite meals: pasta with oil, garlic, and spicy greens; burritos with locally-made Field Roast chorizo; scrambles with potatoes, instead of eggs, as the base.

However, the big challenge comes tomorrow—my birthday! During my past Lenten fasts, I’ve always decided that my birthday could be an oasis of gluttony in the midst of whatever form of austerity I was choosing to pursue. This year I am going to try to stay on the straight and narrow. I will honor my Lenten commitment, and I will find a way (or even many ways) to celebrate with local, vegan treats.

I plan to start the day off with some Mighty-O donuts—I might even invite the Earth Ministry staff to join me in this feast. Later in the day, my husband will take me out to my favorite vegan Thai restaurant (yes, Araya in the U-District), and the finale will be a yummy lemon cake. Mm…I can’t wait.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Maiko: The Japanese people, God's love, and caring for the earth

From Maiko, Earth Ministry's Intern

Today I attended the seventh annual conference of Reaching Japanese for Christ. This conference is for people who want to share God’s love with Japanese people, so they learn how to bring Japanese people to Jesus through this conference. Japan has less than 0.2 percent of Christians. Why do Japanese not become Christian? This is one of the seven wonders of the world. However, there is another fact, the number of those who became a Christian outside of Japan is seven times more than those becoming a Christian in Japan.

I brought my coffee mug today with Fair Trade coffee. I bought the mug in the airport in Japan and it has a picture of a temple in Kyoto and a tree with cherry blossoms. Japanese people usually love temples or shrines and traditional atmospheres with seasonal nature’s symbol such as the cherry blossom. These traditions have prevailed in Japanese culture throughout history. I believe that it is really difficult for Japanese people to be separated from these traditions such as the spirit of Zen Buddhism, Shinto, or nature. This is a form of Japanese spirituality. They cannot give up their precious traditions and their spiritual events such as going to shrines or temples for New Year’s celebration and etc. I think that this is one of the reasons that Japanese people do not become Christian.

However, I believe that ecological thinking is a key to bring the idea of God’s love and His hope to Japan. Indeed, among Japanese many people are now concerned about eco-activities. Everyday many TV commercials, shows, newspapers, and magazines show them the importance of sustainable use of energy and their renewable alternatives. They know what to do, however, they do not have the motivation to do what they need to do. And, they do not know the real reasons to do it. It is hard for people on a small island in the east of the world to imagine the situations of the poor far away from them. But, if Japanese know God whose love is ubiquitous in the world, they will know the reason to do what they need to do for Him. As He shows and give His love to us, we also need to show and give our love to people around the world. By doing so, ecological thinking is the powerful idea for Japanese to reach the poor or anybody in the world even though they are far away from the small island. I hope people will notice His love someday for spreading their eyes in the world through His love.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jessie: Those Poor Beasts

From Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry's Program and Outreach Director

Anyone who has seen the videos of those diseased and disabled cows being tormented in the Chino, California food processing plant must believe with me that somewhere we humans have lost our way. I gave up cows for Lent for just this reason, that I would not be part of the holocaust happening to these big, lumbering four-legged ones. Yet when the news reports came out, I didn't feel the self-righteousness that has been flitting around the edges of my psyche for Ash Wednesday. I felt sad and sick that my somewhat haughty evaluation of the problems with animal husbandry was in fact accurate. We are guilty bystanders in a miserable agricultural system, and my Lenten sacrifice seems small compared to the magnitude of the problem.

It's hard to give up beef and cheese. I've been hungrier than I imagined, even eating lots of nuts and oils and finding no shortage of sustenance. Dairy is in almost everything, and letting it go for a season is a personal effort that takes me away from the systematic abuse of my fellow mammals but limits my choices. We Americans love choice , and I have limited mine for the sake of these creatures and my immortal soul for a mere six and a half weeks. I question my long-term courage and my attachment to my own fat at the expense of these fellow travelers to the grave as I worry about what I will do after Easter.

In an NPR story on the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal, Seattle author and Stranger publisher Dan Savage commented how hypocritical we are to condemn dog fighting but look away from factory farming. Dan made a point, and I wrestle with my conscience just as I fantasize about T-bone steaks and cheese pizza. For years I have volunteered for Seattle Pure Bred Dog Rescue, and fostered Golden Retrievers who were abandoned and abused by humans. We in rescue accept that essential pain of living on Earth is that there are cruel human beings and always will be. But what happens in factory farms does not come from individual brokenness and sin; it is systemic brutality for the sake of our collective excesses. In my Mardi Gras posting, I joked about torturing cows for one last day before Lent started and I foreswore hoofed ruminants. It's not funny anymore.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deanna: Finding my Groove

From Deanna Akre Matzen, Earth Ministry's Operations Manager

I finally feel like I'm getting into a groove. I'm going to bed early and getting up early enough to actually have a leisurely morning before heading out for the bus. And it's not like this week has been uncomplicated. The two days I worked in the office this week, I had to be somewhere besides home right after work. A schedule like that invariable drove me to my car. But I put my mind to it and came up with creative transportation solutions that involved a little more bussing than usual and coordinating schedules with my husband to utilize the car he leaves at a park-n-ride when he busses to work. I probably could have bussed a little more or walked a little further, but I still saved a lot more carbon than I would have before Lent. And, ultimately, there was one less car on the road.

My secret to success? Well, I think giving up driving to work coupled with the other Lenten practice my husband and I chose to do together are dovetailing nicely and causing a ripple effect. My husband and I decided, for the second year in a row, to turn the TV off during dinner for Lent (I know, sad but true). I find that if we don't turn it on when we're sitting down for the first time at home, we don't turn it on at all. And then we find other things to do with our time like talk, run errands, read, and clean, all of which seem to distract less from feeling tired than TV does and then we go to bed early, starting the day off right.

The ripple effect of this Lenten practice has also extended into other areas of life. I spent a lot of time this past weekend thinking about boundaries and discipline. I decided to spend a little time each day cleaning up around the house, especially putting everything away after I've finished a project. I have a tendency towards clutter, which ultimately hits a climax and throws me into an exhausting cleaning frenzy. This way, cleaning is spread out over a long period of time and overall I feel more relaxed about my home environment and I'm happier. And with the TV off, I have time to pick up the leftovers of my little projects.

All of this leaves me feeling like I've found a new and sustainable groove. Overall, I'm more content and getting more sleep at night. Who knew Lent could be so life changing?

Carbon Saved: 51.5 pounds

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kaitlin: A Personal Decision?

From Kaitlin Torgerson, Earth Ministry's Outreach Coordinator

The other day, I stood watching one of my housemates as she awkwardly used a bowl she had cooked in to wash dishes. When I asked her what she was doing, she responded, “Oh, I’m just trying to save water and support you through this Lent.” With a warmed heart, I thanked her and realized how our personal choices are really never “personal.”

When I started up my Lenten practices this year, I was trying to live in solidarity and see what I could do to treat water as the God-given gift it is. What I didn’t realize was that by making a decision public, I was getting others to think about their own personal choices. In letting others know about our creation care practices, we are creating a conversation about sustainability. It creates the opportunity for people to ask, “Why did you decide to meet at this coffee shop and not this one?.” Or instead, “Why does it take you so long to get to work?” Our decisions are more like conversation starters.

Perhaps this support is why my Lent has been so easy. I live in a great community with the three women in my house who have taken my practices in stride. I have the words of advice and encouragement from the Earth Ministry staff and I am blessed to have an abundance of friends (including our blog readers) and family who support me not only with words, but through their own actions.

Many thanks to you all for your words, suggestions, and for sharing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LeeAnne: Moments of Grace

From LeeAnne Beres, Earth Ministry's Executive Director

Praise be to God, the sun was out this weekend and the glory of creation was marvelous to behold. It’s amazing to me how much I need the tangible reminder of our Creator’s presence in the majesty of the mountains, the fragile beauty of a newly-bloomed flower, and the power of crashing surf – all of which I reveled in on my series of daily walks in the sunshine in the past few days.

I’m two weeks into my Lenten practice of giving up busyness, and while I still struggle, I’ve had moments of grace which remind me of why I’m doing this in the first place. In the last week, I’ve kept up my commitment to walking every day: in Lincoln Park and around Green Lake with dear friends, along the Seattle waterfront with my husband, and home from church by myself. I’m enjoying this time outside, and in the words of the 1990’s band Poi Dog Pondering, “you get to know things better when they go by slow”.

Slowing down gives me time to enter into conversation with God, which I find myself doing more often now that I’m being more intentional about it. These conversations take some of the weight of daily life off my shoulders, and give me a sense of grounding that stays with me long after the walk is over.

Slowing down in the morning also helps me slow down throughout the day. A new practice I’ve taken on is not speeding – yes, you heard me right. I have a chronic lead foot since I’m habitually rushing from place to place, and the lackadaisical drivers here in Washington who go ten miles under the speed limit in the left lane generally drive me nuts. (Don’t tell the SPD or they’ll set up a speed trap between my home and Earth Ministry!).

This past week I’ve made a point of taking a deep breath and going with the flow. I’ve found that I don’t get as frustrated, and even though it does make me a few minutes later, I don’t arrive at my destination as wound up as before. So as I continue to struggle with the unending calendar of meetings, events, and speaking engagements at Earth Ministry, at least I can control the speed of which I move through life…and be open to those moments of grace when they come.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Beth: Pleasures Abound

From Beth Anderson, Earth Ministry Intern:

As I write this, I’ve just finished an afternoon snack of chips & salsa, along with a tall glass of iced tea. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it? If you witnessed a snapshot of my new eating habits, you might never even notice that anything was missing.

After a slightly rough start on Ash Wednesday, I’m settling in to my vegan ways. I still stare longingly at the cheese section in my local grocery store, and I continue to be surprised by the lack of vegan options in some of my favorite restaurants, but I’m no longer panicked by the prospect of cooking dinner.

And though veganism mainly involves fasting from certain foods, I am also being invited to feast on new combinations of flavors and textures. I am experiencing the kind of spiritual growth that comes only through change—I’m being called beyond the comfortable sameness of my normal eating patterns and into unfamiliar & exciting new territory.

Luckily, I’ve had some support along the way—last week my husband and I were invited to dinner at the home of some friends who practice Orthodox Christianity, and they were thrilled to be able to serve us a delicious vegan meal. Since a big part of their religious calendar is a series of fasts and feasts, they were quite possibly the perfect hosts! We delighted in sharing both a meal and our stories about the trials and tribulations of vegan eating.

In this season of simpler living, pleasures abound…

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Maiko: Fair Trade, It's More than Just a Name

From Maiko, Earth Ministry's Intern

Yesterday, I went to a café near my school, which is known for having their own brew machine. Of course, I ordered a chamomile tea which was labeled Fair Trade and had an organic certification. I enjoyed it while my friend enjoyed an Americana...

As I mentioned in my first blog, I am giving up non-Fair Trade coffee for Lent. To my surprise, it has not been difficult for me so far. Before I started this practice, I drank coffee first at my home in the morning and second at school in the afternoon. However, as time goes by, I really did not feel like drinking coffee that was not Fair Trade. How did that happen?

It happened because I learned about the work conditions of laborers on coffee farms in poor countries. Once I imagined the laborers working hard for an unlawful fee, I could not help avoid drinking any kinds of drinks which are not Fair Trade. So, I also try to avoid drinking non-Fair Trade tea as much as I can. Giving up non-Fair Trade coffee helps people working under unjust conditions. Learning how food choices affect other people around the world has gotten me to think about other food-related choices and their environmental impacts, but I will talk more about that another time.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jessie: Struggling with Unreasonable Expectations

From Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry's Progam and Outreach Director

Struggling Giving up Cows for Lent seemed so easy and so cool when I started planning it. Then the blog idea came up for us at Earth Ministry and we developed a great, spiritual esprit d'corps. Now I'm struggling, with the actual Lenten fast and especially with my own unreasonable expectations. They are:

* I'm not as good as Deanna, because she's giving up driving. Cows are so easy to give up as compared to not driving.

* I'm too old to have to do this (or too young, or too busy, or not spiritual enough).

* I'm doing it for the wrong reason-to lose weight not to connect to my core or for the environment.

* Milk is my habit. How can I not have cream in my coffee? This is too hard.

* Just CHEAT.

But I'm doing it anyway, "keeping the faith", as we would have said in my youth. And maybe that's what it is, really, keeping the faith. It's not that hard, as a practice, to give up Cows; it's only a change of habit and a slight inconvenience. I grieve because if this is so hard for me, a committed environmentalist taking this step during the sacred season of Lent, how is our culture as a whole going to step away from mass consumption and back to our true nature as Children of God? In the end, I think I may have the entitled-consumption disease as badly as the next person. Maybe the concept behind Lent is to heal us of self-righteousness.

God help me!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Deanna: Everything Has Its Price

From Deanna Akre Matzen, Earth Ministry Operations Manager

"Everything has its price. And church history suggests that the spiritual life is no exception. Dissatisfaction with mainstream life can lead some to despair, but for others it can be a stimulus toward a radically different set of priorities. The spiritual journey from head to heart requires a passion for the real thing. It's hard, Jesus said, for those who are rich--for those who are already comfortable (Matthew 19:23). There is a future, however, for anyone who is willing, if called upon, to give up everything."

From "A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality" by Glen G. Scorgie

Since deciding to give up driving to work for Lent, I've been reflecting on the fact that being an environmentalist is hard. We give up so much -- comfort, money, time, etc. -- and all for the greater good. The quote above reminds me that it should be that way for Christians too.

Having said that, I'm now going to ask for some grace. This week I failed. I drove to work on Monday and Tuesday. This is significant considering that I work in the office only 3 days a week. But I failed not for a lack of desire or effort but because we had an event Tuesday night that required me to bring arm loads of stuff from home - plates, glasses, food, etc.

To make up for driving to work 2 days this week, I decided to ride my bike to work on Wednesday (no carbon emissions!). It was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures peaking in the upper 40s. A decided improvement over the last four weeks of weather.

The only challenge was that I had taken a large cardboard box home with me to keep some dishes from flying around my car and it turned out that I grabbed LeeAnne's box, one she needed to take her own dishes home in. I had agreed to return it the next day, but on the drive home realized that I had a small engineering problem. I'd have to strap it to my bike or break it down and put it in my paniers. I chose the latter option.

It was so fun to be on my bike again after several months of furlow. However, the ride home (uphill 4 miles) was less than inspiring. Hopefully amnesia will set in soon and I will again join the small mass of brave winter riders before Lent is over.

Pounds of Carbon Saved: 35.4

Previous Post: Maybe I Need Some Cheese with my Whine

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kaitlin: A Creature of Habit

From Kaitlin Torgerson, Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator

As we push into week two of Lent, I’m realizing that I’ve got it pretty easy in comparison to the rest of the staff. I’m not lusting over ice cream or scurrying out the door to catch the bus in the morning. In fact, I have more time in the morning since my shower time is probably a quarter of what it once was. Instead, I’m just giving up a few of my simple pleasures in life, which honestly is something I haven’t been happy about. Believe me, I’ll get over it, but I’ve been surprised as to my crankiness, especially in the morning. Let me explain and preface this by saying I am NOT a morning person.

My morning routine previously consisted of crawling sleepily out of my bed after convincing myself that a hot shower would indeed feel just as good as my cozy bed. I would step into the shower where I would spend at least the next fifteen minutes. I knew I didn’t NEED that long to shower. I just WANTED that long to shower. It was my time to focus and think about the day, meanwhile washing away the sleepiness from my mind.

Now here’s my current situation: My alarm goes off, and I convince myself that even though my bed is warm, I NEED to wash my dirty hair. I grumble under my breath, but get in the shower running the water only to get wet and to rinse off again. In my opinion, it’s taken all the fun out of it, and I feel like I’m six again when my parents had to convince me to bathe. I leave the shower chilled, still sleepy, and not empowered to welcome the new day.

I need to find a new way to meditate and prepare for the day—something that doesn’t use at least 20 gallons of water. Perhaps now I can take those extra ten showering minutes to peruse the paper that stacks up on my table only to be recycled at the end of the week unread. Or maybe I can take that time to read my daily devotions that get opened up to on a biweekly basis. These would both be good changes and as much as I don’t want to admit it, they are probably more constructive and certainly less wasteful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

LeeAnne: Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste

From Earth Ministry Executive Director LeeAnne Beres:

Like my Earth Ministry sisters, I too am struggling a bit with my Lenten practice. I pledged to take a break from busyness, to slow down and stop rushing, to spend more time walking in and appreciating nature, and to listen for the voice of God in my life.

I have been true to some of my commitments, like walking for at least an hour every morning before work. My Alaskan Malamute Stella and I have made our daily pilgrimage to Lincoln Park in West Seattle, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of one of my church’s pastors and her sweet Golden Retriever.

When I’m alone, I think and I pray – that is, while wrestling with an 80 pound squirrelly dog who has to stop and read every piece of “pee-mail” along our route. When I’m with Susan, we laugh and talk and share the joys and challenges of our respective callings. Just yesterday we were treated to the sight of two of the park’s coyotes trotting along the path, a sure sign that even in the city, there are places of wildness that development can’t touch. Whether I’m alone or in community, these walks are serving their purpose to draw me closer to the Creator and creation.

The problem is that things aren’t going quite so well once I get to work. There is just too much to do in a given day at Camp Earth Ministry to get it all done, but I’m unable (or at least unwilling) to let things go. I did say that I’m a perfectionist, remember?!

So I’m still frantically multi-tasking, trying to do too many things at once, and begrudging every minute of an interruption that pulls me away from the ‘one more thing’ I’m trying to squeeze in before rushing off to the next meeting…or making the decision to finally go home at 8pm. My mantra is still Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste, so I work to make every minute productive.

The result is that the tight pit of stress living in my solar plexus is not only not leaving, it’s settling in and picking out window treatments. And as long as I’m full of stress, I’m afraid God has very little elbow room to move around. So I’ll begin my next full week of Lent with a renewed commitment to open my heart, mind, and calendar to God, and try harder to let go of the things that separate me from the connection that I long for. I’ll let you know how it goes next Tuesday!
Previous post:
A Break from Busyness

Monday, February 11, 2008

Beth: A Rocky Start

From Beth Anderson, Earth Ministry Intern:

I knew it was going to take some effort to make the switch to a vegan diet for Lent. But the past week has been tougher (and more frustrating!) than I’d imagined.

For one thing, I spent a few days in Boston for a training on toxics with some folks who do work on environmental health for the National Council of Churches. Now Boston is a lovely town, but after I traveled all day Tuesday and woke up in a hotel room on the morning of Ash Wednesday, the idea of finding some vegan food for breakfast was about enough to send me back under the covers. After bypassing the yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and cereal with cow’s milk offered at the hotel’s continental breakfast, I settled on toast with peanut butter & jam and black coffee. (Later that evening I went on a quest for soy milk to liven up the next morning’s caffeinated beverage—I only had to walk about a mile and a half to find a market…)

The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly, food-wise: the Boston-dwellers attending the training recommended several great vegetarian restaurants, and I even managed to find some vegan food at Logan Airport!

However, I arrived back home to find that our house was not well supplied for the new animal-free diet—I think my husband had been subsisting on pasta with olive oil and garlic while I was away. The main thing I’ve learned so far this Lent is that the transition would have gone better with a little more spiritual & practical preparation.

I’m praying that the coming week will present fewer challenges and more time for peaceful Lenten reflection…

Previous post: A Vegan & Local Lent

Friday, February 8, 2008

Maiko: Bring me a Cuppa Fair Trade

From Maiko Minami, Earth Ministry Intern

This is my first Lent after I accepted Jesus in my life.

“What is Lent?”
It was the question I asked to my host mother when she came back from her church with her forehead with ash last year on Ash Wednesday.

I came to the United States in spring 2006. I grew up in a Buddhist family in Japan. So, I was a follower of Buddha before and when I came to Seattle. My motive to come to Seattle was that I wanted to study the relationship between religion and ecology, so I started with Christianity to pursue my study. About six month later, I started to go to a Bible study for international students who came from the different background from Christianity.

As I got to know about Jesus through the Bible study, I naturally felt that it was difficult not to be a follower of Jesus. I felt Jesus knock on my heart so that I had to open it, so I finally decided to let him come in to my life last year. Actually, it was on Good Friday in 2007.

I know what Lent is now and I have been thinking of what I can do for Lent this year.

First, I decided to read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren because I wanted to have a stronger relationship with Jesus and this book has chapters which we can finish in 40 days.

Second, I am not going to drink coffee unless it is Fair Trade. Fair Trade is good not only for farmers who can receive fair price for their products but also for the environment. For example, they cannot grow GMO products to receive certification and agrochemicals are not allowed except when absolutely necessary.

After I chose to give up non-Fair Trade coffee, I found out that I can support Earth Ministry by buying Fair Trade, organic, shade-grown coffee through Grounds for Change. I just bought a bag of Earth Ministry’s blend of coffee and, as soon as it arrives, I will make a cup and read The Purpose Driven Life. In the meantime, I couldn't wait for my coffee to arrive, so I looked online for coffee shops that sell Fair Trade coffee. I found one 10 blocks from my house, so I walked down there and enjoyed a cup! It was good!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Deanna: Maybe I Need Some Cheese with my Whine

From Deanna Akre Matzen, Earth Ministry Operations Manager:

Well, my first day of not driving has come to an end and I think I have the hardest job this Lent! Let me set the stage for you. I took the longest and most indulgent Fat Tuesday a girl could ask for – a week long trip to Hawaii! But now I’m suffering serious Fat Tuesday hang over. I’m tired from flying back at midnight and fully acclimated to weather that was a solid 40 degrees warmer than Seattle. So here it is, let the whining begin…

Since I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night, I let myself sleep in a bit. After my shower, I checked the clock…8:55am – Oh No! I knew I had missed the bus that gets me to work on time, but I had no clue when the next one was. At this point, I'd normally hop in my car. No such option today, since I’ve given up driving for Lent. I jumped on the computer and saw that the next bus was 9:10…Not gonna happen since it takes me 20 minutes to walk to the bus. The next bus after that was 9:40, which would get me into work an hour late and gave me 20 minutes to get ready. So I ran around the house cutting corners where I could, grabbed my coat and ran out the door.

As I’m walking to the bus, I’m thinking, okay, what should I reflect on while I walk? My first thought was discipline. I need more of it, always have. If I was more disciplined, I wouldn’t have stayed up late watching the season premier of Lost that we recorded while we were on vacation. If I was disciplined, I would have gotten up early enough to make the right bus. I trudged on and began to notice that my head was achingly cold since I hadn’t fully dried my hair after my shower. I began to think of Christ’s suffering. Part of this Lenten journey is to identify with Christ’s suffering and his temptation in the wilderness. Yes, I was tempted to run back home and jump in my warm, comfortable, and quick car because I was suffering. But I trudged on. I got to the bus 5 minutes early; the bus was 5 minutes late. I got to work an hour late, but I saved 3.62 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) by walking and taking the bus.

Each mile I drive produces 1.1 pounds of carbon dioxide, a global warming pollutant. By walking 1 mile to the bus I saved 1.1 pounds. By taking the bus, I consumed only 0.26 pounds of carbon per mile instead of 1.1 for a total savings of 0.84 pounds of carbon per mile. For the duration of Lent, I plan to keep a tally of the total number of pounds of carbon I save. I recommend you do the same. Sightline provides a handy graph to help you calculate.

At the other end of the day, the hardest thing about taking the bus was watching the clock and knowing when to leave. Missing the bus on the way home creates a big pile of hassle. So yesterday, when we had a 3pm staff meeting that was running past 5:00, I started getting nervous. At 5:30, I checked the bus schedule. The next bus would arrive at my stop between 5:37 and 5:51pm. I better bust a move!

I started on the one task that needed to be finished before I left. Then I turned off my computer and started packing up, all the while feeling as though I wasn’t mentally ready to leave yet. At that moment, Jessie says, “I didn’t get that email you sent earlier.” So I turned my computer back on and resent it. Then I start asking LeeAnne about tasks for tomorrow, but realize I simply have to go. I get to the street and check my watch, 5:45pm!!! Oh no! I better run! As I’m 50 feet from the corner, the bus goes by. “Please God, let the bus stop!” I round the corner and, Praise God, someone’s getting on. I keep running – “please don’t leave, please don’t leave!” I put one foot in the door and the doors shut; I barely made it on.

I ride the bus for 15 minutes and get off on a dark, four-lane street that I have to cross at a non-intersection. I start walking. I pass a strange guy who creeps me out. I turn up my street and realize, as cars are passing a little too close for comfort, that I’m wearing brown pants and a green jacket in the dark. I begin to think about Christ’s suffering again as my feet ache and I worry for my safety. Another 3.62 pounds of carbon saved and a whole lot of discomfort experienced. Praise God I’m working from home on Thursday.

I got home at 6:15pm. It’s been a longer day than usual. Between my fatigue and epic journey, I just couldn’t bear to drive the nearly 9 miles to my church for Ash Wednesday services. So I walked to a church only 7-8 blocks from my house. Of course, by the time the service was over, there was a howling windstorm with pouring rain. Happy to be home for the night, I collapsed on the couch.

26.6 pounds of carbon saved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kaitlin: And We're Off

From Kaitlin Torgerson, Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator:

Today, it all begins. After an evening of ice cream and a long shower, I woke up today with a sense of darkness that was more than the dreary Seattle weather outside. I knew that today, I had to completely change my mindset.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been gearing up for my Lenten practices. Several days ago, my roommates and I installed a low-flow shower head. Since my housemates and I are part of a volunteer program that pays a small stipend, we knew we had to be a little creative in doing this. Thankfully, we were able to obtain a free shower head from Seattle City Light, who give out one free shower head to each customer. Even though our previous one actually was low-flow, it had been leaking and was no longer doing the job of saving water. This small, easy change could save over 14,000 gallons of water a year.

However, this is just the start for me this Lent. I avoided the shower entirely this morning (I showered enough yesterday) and dread tomorrow when I don’t get my long, morning shower. I need to shake the fear and understand why I’m doing this.

Tonight, I will go to church and be marked with a cross of ashes on my forehead. The words, “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return” will be said over me. This will be the change in mindset I need to enter Lent—a cross to echo my baptism in Christ and ash to remind me of my own mortality, but everlasting life through Christ. It is the centering I will need to recognize my destructive ways.

We are part of this journey together, united in faith. What will the cross and ashes mean to you? Are you adding something new into your life? Or are you giving up something to find more time for prayer and reflection? Tell us about your Lent this year by using the comment feature on our blog and take the opportunity to reflect on this practice together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jessie: Laisser Les Bon Temps Rouler

From Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry Program & Outreach Director:

It is Mardi Gras, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. I’m eating steak, ice cream, whole milk in my café au lait, roiling in cow grease. I’m fat today, but I’m terrified about tomorrow.

At Mass on the first day of Lent, the priest will place a cross of ashes on my forehead and say “remember man that thou art dust, and into dust thou shalt return”. The black plague is around the corner, and we are toast. No matter how thin, beautiful, rich or powerful I am, tomorrow comes the smiling mortician. Pandemic is waiting in the wings for me and the babies regardless how many plush toys they own. All of human mortality presses in on me.

This is no longer the theology of Lent, but I’m there anyway. My genetic memory of the potato famine is too close to the surface.

Ah, but this is Mardi Gras, and I can overindulge. I can let the good times roll, eat all I want, and torture those cows I’m giving up tomorrow. I can, for the moment, forget about self-discipline, the environment, and the common good. I can eat anything I want. Tomorrow, we all fast.

Actually, I’m not against excess, within limits. Mardi Gras is one of those times when limited excess is a good thing. Today Kaitlin is taking 45 minute hot showers, LeeAnne is up till midnight crossing items off her to do list, Deanna is driving everywhere and Beth is eating omelets and Chilean mangoes. Me, I’m overindulging in cow products and had a T-bone for dinner.

Scared as I am to actually keep up the fast for 40 days (and as public about it as I have ever been) I know that putting boundaries on my own gluttony is a personal gift to myself, a sign of inner adulthood, and truthfully not a deprivation at all. I realize that I will feel better, my arteries will be happier and all the worlds’ atmosphere will have less methane because I fast from cows. I will be closer to the Source, more clear about the spiritual journey.

But today the inner 4 year-old runs the show and I eat ice cream till the mint chips run green and the sun rises on Ash Wednesday.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Beth: A Vegan & Local Lent: Studies in Mindfulness

From Beth Anderson, Earth Ministry Intern:

"What?? My favorite bread contains whey protein? How can this be?"

"This apple came from New Zealand, ugh…"

Forty days without consuming any animal products and eating only West Coast produce may prove to be a difficult task, even in a relatively progressive, vegetarian-loving, environmentally conscious locale like Seattle.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 10 years now, so it might seem like going vegan for Lent would be a relative non-issue. I don’t crave meat—I never liked it much, even though I grew up in rural Minnesota with a mother who used to comment, “It’s not really a meal if you don’t have meat!”

But choosing to forgo dairy, eggs, and honey (anything produced by animal beings) is quite a bit more complicated than my standard vegetarian diet. For one thing, I enjoy a good omelet or some French toast on a lazy Saturday morning. I love baking, and many of my favorite recipes call for a couple of eggs or some butter. And, though it may seem odd, some of the protein-laden soy products I’ve come to rely on happen to contain ingredients like egg whites or milk-derived proteins (often used as thickening agents).

And then there’s the matter of limiting my produce purchases to fruits and veggies grown on the West Coast—I try to think about my choices, but in the winter I often see myself casually toss a South American tropical fruit or an apple from New Zealand into my basket. Once my local farmers market is closed for the season, I take a hiatus from local produce.

For the next forty days, I will look at the label on my prospective veggie or fruit and take a moment to envision its journey to my grocery store—how much carbon was released during its travel? Were the farmers who grew it paid a fair price? What about the farming practices in that part of the world—have forests been razed or has the soil been depleted of nutrients? Are the resources of our sacred Earth being destroyed in order to bring this piece of fruit to my table?

So when Lent arrives, I will be found scrutinizing labels in my local grocery store and asking lots of questions before I place a restaurant order in an attempt to eat only strictly vegan foods and relatively local produce. This may sound like irritating behavior, but having tried veganism for short stints in the past, I know that it forces me to slow down…to really think about what I’m putting in my cart, on my plate, and in my body.

I hope that my practice will also help me to be more mindful of the effects of my consumption on the other human and non-human beings with whom I share this wondrous, Spirit-endowed world. During my forty vegan days, I will think more about animals, not less, and I will take time to reflect on the hard work of my sisters and brothers throughout the world who are farmers and food purveyors. I will remember the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail": “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Friday, February 1, 2008

LeeAnne: A Break from Busyness

From LeeAnne Beres, Earth Ministry Executive Director:

As I was thinking about I would do for my Lenten practice this year, a zillion thoughts flew through my head. I could give up meat, alcohol or sweets; I could pledge to take more public transportation; I could turn off the TV.

All of these would be good for me and many of them would be good for the Earth, two of the goals I set for myself this season. Options abounded and I began to pursue each one with my characteristic zeal to have everything thought through and planned out well in advance (just ask the Earth Ministry staff).

But as my mind raced, I became aware that what I really needed to do was stop and reflect on the meaning and purpose of Lent, which is to make room to listen to the voice of God in our lives. This realization made the linking of “goals” and “Lenten journey” a bit of an oxymoron! And as sad is it may sound, I know that my hectic schedule and perfectionist tendencies have left little room for God to be heard lately.

My personal addiction is to busyness, and I have been running from meeting to meeting, event to event, always juggling priorities and trying my best to meet everyone else’s needs while neglecting the most important things of all – my health and my relationship with God.

As Rev. Annie Ruth Powell said in a sermon entitled “A Charge to the Sisterhood: Love Yourself”, taking care of ourselves is the first step to having a loving relationship with God and other people. She describes a triangle with God at the top, the self on one side, and the neighbor on the other, each connected to the other. When one side of the triangle is weak, all three relationships suffer.

We are commanded in the Bible to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, but as Rev. Powell asks, “given our human brokenness, especially among women, can we assume the presence of self-love” that makes the other relationships possible?

As an immensely practical person with a strong service ethic, I have spent far more time on the self-neighbor relationship than the self-God relationship, and this lack of self care has taken its toll. This Lent, I intend to stop, take a deep breath, and give myself time to slow down and hear the small, still voice of God that I so often overlook as I cross the next item off my to-do list.

I’ll try to set some realistic boundaries for what I can actually take on, say no a little more, focus on one thing with my full attention rather than frantically multi-tasking, and stop rushing so much.

As a daily practice, I’m going to reinstate the hour-long walks that I used to take each weekday morning before my schedule got out of control. I would walk and pray and feel the presence of God in the glory all of creation, and it filled my soul. I long for that connection again, and know that the time is right to re-forge that covenant with myself, and with God.

My morning walks will be a time of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection – good for the mind, body, and spirit. And for at least an hour each day, a break from busyness will mean I will ultimately have the ability to restore the balance of my relationships between self, God, and neighbor, and allow me to be open to the opportunity of new revelation. And in the end, it will indeed be good for both me and the Earth!

Next installment:
A little more Mary, a little less Martha