Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

By Deanna Matzen, Operations Manager

For Lent, I chose something different from last year. You may recall that in 2008 I chose to give up driving to work. It was a very action-oriented choice though some of the benefits were more time to pray while walking and enjoying nature during my alternative commute. This year I decided to do something more physically passive, but spiritually active. I am going to commit to pray for the environment every day.

I am a big fan of prayer and am involved in prayer ministry at my church. But what I rarely pray for is the environment or the faith-based environmental movement. I firmly believe that as activists, we so often forget about one of our most powerful tools - prayer. I hope that many of you will join me on this journey of prayer.

To make praying for the environment a little easier for myself and for anyone wanting to join me, I have developed a prayer "map." Modeled after a tool I learned in a Lutheran Sunday School growing up, it will aid us in having a balanced prayer life. The mnemonic device is ACTS - adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Here is my weekly prayer schedule, I hope you will follow along with me:
  • Feb 25 – Adoration: Praise for God for the aesthetic beauty of creation and use nature images as metaphors for the character of God
  • March 4 – Confession: Confessing on behalf of yourself and God’s people how we have sinned against the earth
  • March 11 – Thanksgiving: Thank God for being forgiven of our sins and all the ways God provides through creation
  • March 18 – Supplication: Pray for Earth Ministry’s work, operations, staff, and board
  • March 25 – Supplication: Pray for justice for creation and people
  • April 1 – Supplication: Pray for God's people to engage in action, advocacy, and acknowledgment of the world's needs
  • April 8 (Holy Week) –Praise & Thanksgiving for the redemption of all creation & for signs of hope

I will also use a few books on prayer to help me through these weeks: Praying with St. Francis, Praying with Julian of Norwich, and The Celtic Book of Daily Prayer, to start.

As of yesterday, I have already begun making time to praise God for creation and using nature images to reflect God's character. The hardest part is staying focused and making the time. But the time I have spent has been sweet. Praising God is hard to do. It doesn't come naturally, so the easiest way I've found to praise God is through song. I attend a church that sings a lot of contemporary Christian music. Here are two of the songs I have been singing, inspired by the Psalms (another great place to find praise for creation and the Creator):

I praise Your Name among the nations
I praise Your Name with all my heart
I join my voice with all creation
Giving You praise for Who You are

And the rocks will not cry out before me
I will ever sing Your praise
Blessings You have poured out on me
Everything, Lord, You gave everything and more


Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the skies
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide

I will lift my voice to worship You, my King
I will find my strength in the shadow of Your Wings


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday, Start of the Earth Ministry Lenten Blog!

By Jessie Dye, Program & Outreach Director

Remember, Man, that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return.

We at Earth Ministry take Lent very seriously. Though from a wide variety of Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Lutheran, UCC, Episcopal) the journey and the discipline of Lent is something that means a great deal to each of us. We fling ourselves into fasting and prayer as enthusiastically as partiers in the French Quarter let the good times roll.

It’s not that we are ascetics in general. No one can get into the spirit of a costume party like the staff of Earth Ministry, and we have been known to let loose (most recently at the fabulous cocktail party at the Governor’s Mansion after Environmental Lobby Day). So it‘s not that we are a morose and sober bunch. In fact, we are fun loving and up-beat, and each of us has our share of guilty pleasures.

It’s just that during this long and recently crashed gilded age we’ve just been though when consumption was virtually a household deity, Earth Ministry preached simplicity and sustainability. It’s one thing to enjoy a good party, another to become addicted to endless stuff, be it food, plastic toys, cars or designer jeans. The real addiction we rail against is the mistaking of stuff for the presence of God.

Lent is a natural fit for Christians who wish to live in balance rather than excess. It’s the season when we let go of our own bad habits and feel the pain of saying no to ourselves. In the void left by our fasting comes awareness of our true feelings and needs. Into that empty space comes the possibility of intimacy with ourselves, with each other, and with God.

In making this a fast from our own excess and from environmentally destructive practices, we honor the Creator of this good Earth and the Redeemer whose journey we witness in the six weeks ahead. It’s a small price to pay, given that He whose story we follow in this season gave everything for us.

This year, I’m returning to the Irish Catholic traditions of my childhood. The adults in those years were forbidden to eat between meals, a mandatory fast for all grown-up Catholics; we kids only had to give up candy. And even now, no meat on Friday is still required in Lent. So I’m eating only three meals a day (eating a meal means I’m sitting down!) and a planned snack (again, sitting down at a table). We’ll be vegetarians on Ash Wednesday, for six Fridays, and during Holy Week. No more grazing through the kitchen after dinner, looking for love in all the wrong places. No more Dick’s milkshakes just because I crave one. We are moving down the food chain for six weeks.

I will let you know what I learn as I make the real choice to organize my life around something besides food. It’s a way to practice simplicity each day, like monks observing the hours. The other staff of Earth Ministry will write in this blog on their Lenten experiences as well so remember to check back each day for a new post. It’s a joyful thing to practice the Lenten discipline with a team. And it’s very satisfying to walk our talk!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Micah 6:8 - Act, Love, Walk

By Deanna Matzen, Operations Manager

My church is doing a sermon series right now on worship. It's part of a meta-series on the spiritual priorities of our church. A couple of weeks ago, the sermon was on Micah 6:8, "God has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Typically this scripture is used to justify any justice-based ministry and is a key scripture for the faith-based environmental movement. So I listened attentively as my pastor started preaching on this seminal scripture. Would he take it to a place of seeking justice or environmental stewardship? I doubted it, but I paid close attention anyway and here is what I learned:
  • Act justly - Follow the rules and apply them fairly

  • Love mercy - The original Hebrew word for mercy used in this scripture refers to a faithfulness to covenantal relationships

  • Walk humbly - Have a proper perspective on your circumstances

I was moved by the exegesis of this scripture. Speaking of having a proper perspective...this scripture took on such new meaning for me. And now that it's been broken down, let's build it back up into an environmental scripture with more guts.

Follow the rules and apply them fairly

What are the rules for living in this world? What has God called us to do? In the Old Testament, we see commands to let the ground lay fallow once every seven years. We interpret this rule as an instruction for not overusing our resources. The Ten Commandments themselves are a wealth of rules that if we followed them with more intention and thought, we may avoid many environmental issues. "I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other gods before me." often do we slip by that one? Yet, I believe that many of our social, economic, and environmental ills stem from worshiping false gods...the love of money, individualism, ego, pride, greed... I could go on, but I think you get the point. The New Testament calls on us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we were to apply this rule fairly, what would it mean for "the least of these?" Would there be enough food and clean water? Would the oppressed people of this world bear an unfair burden?

Be faithful to covenental relationships

We have a covenantal relationship with God, God has a covenantal relationship with nature (Genesis 9), and many of us have covenantal relationships with other people. We must ask ourselves when we degrade God's creation, are we being faithful to God's covenantal relationship with nature and with humanity? Are we allowing for an abundant life? Are we impeding the flow of grace in this world? Is this an act of love? Am I being faithful to all that God has taught me? If we value other people, then we must value caring for the creation that provides sustenance and life for all of the world.

Have a proper perspective on your circumstances

Humility is one of those paradoxical puzzles in life: if you know you have it, you don't; if you don't know you have it, you probably do. Ultimately a proper perspective means to realize that the world does not revolve around you. I know that I have struggled with perspective, wondering what God's will is for my life and what am I supposed to be doing. That's a very me-centric position, as if I am going to change or save the whole world. As I've aged, my perspective has changed. God's will is for me to be in relationship with God (see the previous two sections). No matter where I am or what I am doing, I must honor my relationship with God and with others through love, respect, honor, and humility. Hopefully these actions will change a part of the world, but I know realize that I am not the center of the universe.

This perspective is useful for environmentalists who see all the world's problems and are overburdened by them. It is a gift to see the need for healing and wholeness and, yes, we are called to act. But at what cost? Do we kill ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually to save the world? I think God wants us to honor ourselves in that process too. There are things we can do to make a difference, but, like Jesus, we must temper action with rest and prayer, realizing that God holds it all and we have just one little piece. With 6 billion people in the world, I think we can share the burden of saving the world with at least a few other people. Let the grace of God free you to hold only your piece of the pie.

Now hear what the Lord has required of act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Green Cleaning Toolkit

Beth Anderson, Outreach Associate

Spring cleaning is just around the corner--time to get rid of winter dust and grime and start fresh! Are you looking for safe, non-toxic cleaning products to shine up your spaces?

The National Council of Churches (NCC) recently launched a set of downloadable resources for green cleaning at home and in your church buildings. Cleanliness and Godliness is designed to educate folks about the importance of choosing non-toxic, environmentally-friendly products and to give information about practical alternatives to store-bought cleaners.

The set includes two parts:

#1: Cleanliness and Godliness: A Green Cleaning Toolkit
This section contains recipes for homemade, non-toxic cleaning alternatives and a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid when purchasing commercial cleaning products.

#2: Cleanliness and Godliness: A Guide for Planning a Green Cleaning Fellowship Event
This guide is a step-by-step resource for hosting a green cleaning activity in your church. Simply follow the suggestions to organize a fun and informative event!

You can find these and many more environmental health resources on the NCC environmental health initiative website. Also, look for opportunities to take further action on environmental health issues in the weekly Earth Ministry e-digest or on our website!

While you're at it, make sure to put the upcoming Toxic Free Legacy Coalition Lobby Day on your calendar: Thursday, March 5, 2009. Advocacy is a great way to put your faith into action--contact Beth at Earth Ministry ( to learn more.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recognizing Voices

By Mikaila Gawryn
Outreach Associate

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to the quails outside my parents house in Nevada. Wind pulls sand across the red rock mountains, and if you're quiet these plump little ground dwellers will tiptoe out from behind the rocks and cacti, bobbing their full plumes as if swimming through the hot air. Their cooing makes the silence around them feel even more dense.

I've recently been reminded of how wonderful it is to recognize a friend's voice over the telephone wire, or know immediately who is approaching by the familiar sound of their footfall on the front porch. It occurs to me that with some practice I might learn to recognize my non-human neighbors with a similar familiarity. I've heard this skill described as environmental literacy, and if that is the correct term, than I'd like to learn how to read.

The few neighbors that I've met so far come from northwest Washington (where I grew up) and Nevada, where my parents live now. I've included pictures and sounds from a few of my favorites for you to enjoy. Who's voices or faces in nature do you love the most?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Running to the Social Justice Beat

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

In December, my roommates and I made a pact (well, we pinky swore, which is the most binding agreement in the legal system if you ask me) that we would all work together to put a priority on getting in-shape before the end of our LVC year. We called it our Six Month Six-Pack Challenge. As a result I have been working out regularly for the past month. Two evenings a week in the Loyal Heights Community Center weight room and two or three evenings running around my neighborhood. I've never been one to "work out" but I am finding that it is a great way to relieve stress and feel energized. I can't say that I have seen much of a body result so far, but even if I don't just the fact that I am moving my body and getting off the couch is enough of a reward for me.

One of the issues that has always discouraged me from running in the past is boredom, which would focus my attention on how much I disliked the running. I would be easily defeated. Since January, however, I have been using my MP3 player to listen to music while on my evening run. This has been a fantastic change. I only have two albums on my MP3 that are appropriate for any kind of exercise music (I used to use it while I was studying at the library and haven't updated the "study" music with something more upbeat), one is the John Butler Trio album "Three" and the other is the Caedmon's Call album "Share the Well". Both albums were written around social justice themes.

The John Butler Trio is from Australia and has been advocating against uranium mines in Australia and for the rights of the Aborigine people. Caedmon's Call is a Christian group passionately involved with the Dalit Freedom Network to help the "untouchable" and impoverished Dalit people of India. Since these are the only two uptempo albums on my MP3, every time I run I get a good dose of encouragement about social justice issues. It makes for an uplifting, inspiring, and soul satisfying 45 minutes.

I would like to share the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from Caedmon's Call. Its the title track called "Share the Well". I tried to find it online to post in the blog, but couldn't. You can go to the Caedmon's Call website by clicking on this link or on the picture below and you can listen to to the song there. Enjoy!

"Share the Well"
words and music by Randall Goodgame

Je Ra Ji Ra, Ji Ra, De Ji Ra, De Ji Ji Ji

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend

Je Ra Ji Ra, Ji Ra, De Ji Ra, De Ji Ji Ji

Do you think the water knows
Flowing down the mountain thaw
Finally to find repose
For any soul who cares to draw
Some kindred keepers of this Earth
On their way to join the flow
Are cast aside and left to thirst
Tell me know it is not so

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend

All God’s creatures share the water hole
The blessed day the monsoon comes
And in His image we are woven
Every likeness every one
From Kashmir to Karala
Under every banyan tree
Mothers for their children cry
With empty jar and bended knee

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend

Je Ra Ji Ra, Ji Ra, De Ji Ra, De Ji Ji Ji

You know I’ve heard good people say
There’s nothing I can do
That’s half a world away
Well maybe you’ve got money
Maybe you’ve got time
Maybe you’ve got the Living Well
That ain’t every running dry

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well my friend

Je Ra Ji Ra, Ji Ra, De Ji Ra, De Ji Ji Ji

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Organic Valentine's Day

by Deanna Matzen

This week, The Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham (the founder and president of Interfaith Power & Light) announced the release of a new book titled, "Love God, Heal Earth". Can we say it more simply than that? Isn't that the basic gist of all the work we do? If you love God, you will treat the earth with love, which means actions which are healing, not destructive.

As Valentine's Day approaches, I can't help but see the holiday in a new way. As a day of romantic and love-filled expression, does our love heal? Specifically, does the mass purchasing of flowers during a time of the year when our gardens are dormant make sense ecologically? Are we healing the earth when we buy flowers from greenhouses and foreign countries to express our love? If only Valentine's Day were a couple months later, then we could pick bouquets from our gardens.

Here are a few "fun" facts about American Valentine's Day consumerism:
  • 180 million cards will be exchanged (not including kids)
  • 73% of men buy flowers on V. Day
  • 15% of women buy themselves flowers
  • $1.1 billion were spent on candy

Given the economic downturn, many people are choosing to downscale Valentine's Day. What a better time to rethink how we express our love. Here are some thoughts on ways to make Valentine's Day a way to love one another and heal the earth:

  • If you buy flowers, buy organic or from a local farmer's market- There are no rules regulating pesticide use with flowers and many growers suffer health problems from pesticide exposure, working long hours, and bad working conditions.
  • Give fair-trade, organic chocolate
  • Cook a meal at home with local food and wine
  • Buy a recycled card or make one out of reused paper
  • Make a gift like homemade cookies and package in recycled materials
  • Spend the day outside remembering why you work so hard to love God and work to heal the earth

Have a happy and healthy Valentine's Day! From your Valentine, Earth Ministry