Thursday, June 25, 2009

30 Things....

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

As many of you know, the American and Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) is currently being heard in the US House of Representatives and tomorrow they will vote on this monumental bill. Its the biggest climate bill in U.S. history and will cap global warming pollution and establish the framework for a clean energy economy. In honor of the enormous impact this will have on human produced green house gasses, I put together a (far from comprehensive) list of 30 things you can do personally to reduce your carbon emissions.

1) Weatherize your home
2) Use a push mower
3) Air dry your clothes when doing laundry
4) Compost all food and yard waste
5) Use a digital thermostat (and put on a sweater in the winter!)
6) Eat lower on the food chain (the less meat the better)
7) Take shorter showers
8) Install a low-flow showerhead
9) Leave your car at home (use public transportation and carpool whenever you can)
10) Use compact fluorescent bulbs
11) Replace old appliances with energy efficient models
12) Plant a tree (especially with the help of a child...they are excellent tree planters!)
13) Switch to a tankless water heater
14) Buy as much locally produced food as possible
15) Make sure your vehicle's tires are properly inflated
16) Fill the dishwasher
17) Switch to double pane windows
18) Bring your own cloth bags when you shop
19) Unplug unused electronics
20) Commit to cutting all use of plastic bottles
21) Buy a hybrid car
22) Reduce your garbage
23) Recycle
24) Use recycled paper
25) Don't let your car idle
26) Eat with the season
27) Turn off your computer when not in use
28) Buy minimally packaged goods
29) Get a home energy audit
30) Contact your legislators on environmental issues that important to you!

If you haven't called about the ACES bill yet, please call (202) 224-3121, ask to speak to your representative, and urge him/her to vote to "strengthen and pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454)." This is the single most important creation care action you can take in the next 24 hours. Every little (and BIG) step is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Simplicity and Possession

By Deanna Matzen

In Matthew Chapter 19, a young man comes up to Jesus and asks what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Jesus responds by telling him that there is only one who is good, but that he should keep the commandments. The man asks, "Which ones?" Jesus basically tells him all of them. The young man, pleased with himself, says that he has kept all of those commands and asks Jesus what he lacks. Jesus tells him that to be perfect he must sell his possessions, give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus. The man was dismayed because he had many possessions, so he walked away.

Jesus responds by saying to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples were astounded and asked, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible." (Matthew 19: 16-26; NRSV)

For many of you, this scripture is probably old hat. Many of us remember this passage because Jesus is either using hyperbole with is eye of a needle metaphor to grab attention, or we're in serious trouble. One of the explanations I've heard for Jesus' metaphor is that the "eye of a needle" is a gate in Jerusalem's wall that is so small that a camel would have to get on its knees to pass through it after removing all of the items it was carrying on its back. While some people suggest that this explanation is just not accurate and off the mark entirely because it puts salvation in our own hands and not God's, I would like to posit that even though the gate explanation may not be what Jesus meant, it certainly does serve a purpose. While this explanation may suggest that we can get into heaven of our own accord by simply removing our possessions from our camel (sell them and give them to the poor), I believe that we need God in order to do even that.

In my opinion, choosing to live simply (voluntary simplicity) requires something from us that is unobtainable on our own. In order to live sustainably on this planet in ways that honor God, neighbor, and planet, there is a quality required of us that is more than any human can obtain on their own. We need the Spirit of the Living God to call our hearts to contrition and desire to care for this planet by relinquishing possession of our stuff. It is a spiritual call that requires Godly strength to resist temptation, grace for the times we fail, and hope that change is possible. We are all rich--no matter what our socio-economic status might suggest--we all need God to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

One way to read this passage is that one of our greatest barriers to God is our possessions. Jesus did not answer the young rich man's first question about obtaining eternal life with the command to sell his possessions. He told him to keep the commandments. The man, pleased with himself but unsatisfied with the answer asked Jesus again. What Jesus saw in him was the truth that the young rich man wasn't keeping the commandments because he coveted his possessions too much. I recently read essay on simplicity by A. W. Tozer* and it called us to consider deeply the things that possess us. It is not wrong to have possessions--we all need clothing, shelter, hobbies, and tools for living--but when we are possessed by our possessions, we are not free; we are enslaved to our self-life.

"To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them...Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us...We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate."
Ask yourself today:
How am I like the rich young man?

What in my life possesses me and veils the face of God?

What am I not willing to take off my camel to enter into the Holy City?

What choices have I resisted making that would help me better steward God's creation?

*In "Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines," edited by Richard Foster

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Fun!

By Chris Olson, Outreach Coordinator

I have to admit that fall may be my favorite season, but I really, really, really love summer as well. This is going to be my first summer in four years not working at summer bible camp. I already miss it. The campfires, the starry nights, the screaming kids; they all came together to make for a splendid three months. My last summer there I worked as the Sustainability Coordinator and did my best to incorporate nature into the regular bible study curriculum as best I could. I enjoyed it very much and I feel like the kids gained much while looking at the Bible and God from the view of caring for creation, a view they don't often see.

I may not be at camp this year but I can offer a number of resources and activities to connect kids with nature and creation care this summer. Earth Ministry has a number of pages on its website specifically for Children and Youth (click the link or click on the picture to go to the main page) that offer books, videos, educational materials, and games to engage youth in learning about and caring for the environment. I developed some of the activities last fall and I'd like to share a couple of them with you in this post.

Icebergs and Polar Bears

Have all the kids line up on one side of the gym. Spaced out around the other side of the gym should be numerous gymnastics mats (the kind that are rectangular and about 6 ft X 10 ft or anything similar). The kids are polar bears and the mats are icebergs. Whenever the game leader says "Go" the kids have to run to stand on the icebergs. For the first round there should be enough mats so that every kid will be standing in a group on one of the mats (meaning no one is “out”). Instruct the kids to go back to the starting line and the leader announces that the global temperature has increased by X-degrees or that the carbon dioxide has reached X-parts per million (whatever is most appropriate for the age group/ties in with the overall activity) and folds over or removes one of the icebergs because it “melted.” After saying "Go", the kids race over and will either be more cramped on the remaining icebergs or some may not be able to fit on at all and they are out. This continues until the temperature gets so hot that there are only a few icebergs and a few polar bears left or until there are none left at all. This can then be tied in with global climate change and how we as humans are changing things for the animals and for the world. We must care for all the children of all species for all time.

Fair Ball

Tell the campers to form a large circle (whatever is appropriate for the size of the group). Scatter a bunch of balls in the middle of the circle. Explain to campers that they are going to race to gather as many balls as possible. Before starting the game, form the campers into three groups. One group can run to get the balls, the second group can only crawl and the third group must wiggle on their stomachs across the floor to gather the balls. All groups must move their assigned ways for the entire game and all must bring their balls back to their group’s headquarters (where ever the game leader points that out to be). Clearly, this game is unfair. By the time the campers who are only allowed to wiggle reach the balls, there probably won’t be any left, while the campers allowed to run probably will have most of the balls. Replay the game a few times, giving each camper a chance to run, crawl, or wiggle. Once finished, discuss what happened in the activity. Talk about personal feelings, fairness, and the fun factor. Make a connection between the activity and the world’s limited resources that we all must share. Discuss the need for an equitable distribution on the world’s resources to all people instead of to only a small percentage of the world’s population. Make a special note of how the world’s resources will be affected by climate change and how that change will disproportional hurt the people in the world who are “wiggling and crawling”, making it even harder for them to gather the resources they need to survive. Ask what can we do to help bring about greater fairness/justice in our world? This is a good activity to work Micah 6:8 into.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What Makes You Say Yes?

By Meighan Pritchard

What makes you say Yes at the core of your being? That’s the question I’ve been wrestling with and continue to ponder at Pacific School of Religion, where I just finished my second year (of three) in the master’s of divinity program. The answer to that question changes from person to person and even for one person at different times, but I think it’s a good guide to figuring out our calling.

By Yes I’m talking about the response at a deep, spiritual level when you recognize that something is true or meaningful for you. For some of us Yes comes from a good sermon, calling out what is best in us, reminding us of God’s abiding love and grace, urging us on to do God’s work in the world. Yes helps us figure out where we fit in God’s plan, who and what we are called to be in life.

Music consistently elicits a deep Yes from me. Listening to a symphony or a church choir, I can find myself weeping, raw, grateful, barely able to breathe and yet breathing hungrily at some unfathomable spiritual level. A friend calls this “being cracked wide open.” It is exhausting and exhilarating.

Climbers experience Yes at the top of a mountain, gazing over their 360-degree view and feeling fully aware of being tiny, mortal, and part of all this awe-inspiring creation. A painter may be guided by a sense of Yes in determining what colors to use and how to proceed to make the painting match some inner image. There are infinite ways to experience Yes.

In recent years, I have felt Yes around studying global warming. It feels not only like the right thing to do but like the most compelling way to spend my time. Climate change is the issue of this century, and I want to understand it better in order to figure out how to minimize my carbon footprint, how to live my life, and how to be part of community strategies that will help to mitigate the effects of climate change. This spring I took an environmental ethics class in which we read Sallie McFague, James Gustave Speth, James Garvey, and others. We discussed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, calculated our carbon footprints, and planted drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly plants in a community garden. This summer I am an intern at Earth Ministry, where I hope to learn more about the intersection between faith and the environment. What better place to explore a sense of Yes around issues of global warming?

Studying climate change specifically in a theological context is an enormous Yes for me. We humans have used creation to our advantage, for very understandable reasons but with dire consequences. How can faith communities help us to shift from anthropocentrism to biocentrism, to recenter our focus not just on our species but on all of creation? Genesis 1 tells us that God gave humans dominion over creation. We may be at the top of the heap in some ways—top of the food chain, for example—but that means we need to ensure that the rest of the food chain is healthy and in balance if we want to keep eating.

What makes you say Yes? How are you called to be a positive force in the world? I hope to have that conversation with some of you as part of this internship this summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Gift of Craftiness

By Deanna Matzen

Last fall I learned how to crochet and, for the first time in my life, I found a craft that kept me coming back for more. On one of my recent trips to see my parents, my mother happily handed over all of my grandmother's retired crochet hooks and some of her pattern books (where I saw a few familiar afghans). Oddly, I somehow made it through 33 years of life without realizing that my own grandmother crocheted and that's why my brother and I were given matching yellow, orange, and green crocheted bedspreads when we were kids. It's all coming together now.

While I was excited to get my grandmother's crocheting tools, there was a deep sadness in me that when she was alive, she never thought to teach me how to crochet. Granted I didn't see her very often, she lived in Indiana and Arizona most of my life, but when we did get together she taught me things like Cribbage, Gin Rummy, and Solitaire; couldn't she have taught me this simple crafty skill?

There are many levels to this sadness, one is that crocheting (like knitting, which I tried to learn as a child but never took to) is a useful skill that fits with a simple, non-consumeristic lifestyle that I strive to live out, though often failingly. Since October when I learned to crochet, I have given several scarves, two hats, two blankets, and one stuffed animal as gifts to friends and family with some more scarves in waiting to give to the homeless this fall. Each of these gifts has been received with great joy, more so than anything I could have ever bought them.

The beginning of these projects were boxes of old yarn I'd be carrying around for years that I wanted to put to use. It's that thrifty, don't waste anything, pack rat part of myself that wanted to rile against the consumerism of this culture that held onto that yarn. Now, it has a new life and new purpose.

To that end, I want to share with you a project I look forward to working on later this summer or fall, a crocheted Market Bag designed by Lion Brand yarn (the pattern is free, but you have to sign up for their newsletter to view it). I can make it with my old yarn and use it for groceries or other shopping outings, making it an easy fit into my enviro-ethic! I am so grateful that I finally learned to crochet and can reclaim some of the thrift, simplicity, and self-sufficiency our grandparents took for granted.

If you have eco-crafty projects that you'd like to share, feel free to comment on my blog post or email me! Happy Crafting!