Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My #oneword for 2019

It's my favorite time of year (where my Enneagram 1's at?). Time to get organized! Finish projects! Lose weight! Tidy up (looking at you, Marie Kondo)! But also time to chart a course for 2019 by choosing one word to guide me.

I've done this for the past few years, and I've found it very helpful in setting the tone for the year. For example, last year's word BOLD was a theme in many of the things I accomplished. I continued my work at Faith in Place and transitioned to full time. 2019 will likely bring some bold new changes as I discern becoming an outreach director for our proposed southern Illinois office. 

I spoke and preached. I marched. I organized. I lead. I advocated. I raised almost $600 for Dressember. I traveled. I devoured books, blogs, and podcasts. I learned a lot about myself through the Enneagram. But I started noticing something I needed to do more of: listen.

Since moving to southern Illinois this summer, I've learned that our new community has different needs from the last one. I like to fix things, or at the very least connect people with resources, but sometimes it's best to just listen. So through face-to-face conversations and social media, I've started doing just that. But I see patterns and behaviors that challenge me and my faith: being stuck in black and white thinking or partisan politics. 

I've worked very hard to try and embrace both/and thinking, especially with challenging topics like health care, immigration, gun control, human sexuality, and climate justice (just to name a few). It's possible to hold complicated feelings about these issues that challenge our faith and our politics. I received an advanced copy of I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations and it has absolutely lit a fire in my soul. With every page I turn, I find myself nodding (or yelling) in agreement. And in one of those late-night reading jags, my word became clear: NUANCE. 

Nuance (noun) nu·​ance | \ˈnü-ˌän(t)s
sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value). 

I should say that this word is extremely hard for me. I'm an Enneagram 1. We're not so good at grey area. We are, "Conscientious with strong personal convictions...have an intense sense of right and wrong, personal religious and moral values." But the good news is, we also "...wish to be rational, reasonable, self-disciplined, mature, moderate in all things." So this year, I'm going to try strengthening those parts of me that want things to always be certain or or settled. As a person of faith, I need to learn to embrace (or at least try to remain open to) mystery, uncertainty, and grey area. I'm also hoping to work on finding shared values with those I disagree with and prioritizing relationship over rightness.
While we were visiting family in Michigan at the holidays, we attended worship at our old church in Warren, MI. I scribbled some notes in the margins of the bulletin to think about later, and as I was cleaning out my purse when we returned home on New Year's Day, rereading these notes told me I was on the right track with my word.

Pastor Melissa Claxton said that the new year is, "not about getting back to normal, but about starting something new." She's so right. I want NUANCE to be the new normal in my life. I hope I can make my work and personal relationships stronger by listening more. But most of all, I want my hard work to help me be a new creation, not just a thinner or tidier version of my old self.

What's your one word for 2019?

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Hope Candle Burns the Longest

I spent the first days of Advent in warm and sunny San Antonio, to meet and strategize with my fellow Jurisdiction Guides about the UMW Climate Justice goals for 2019.

This year we brought together several community organizations for a UMW event in Rio Texas Conference.  We introduced our Just Energy 4 All campaign, which focuses our advocacy and action around decarbonization of the transportation and energy sectors. We are doing corporate engagement with Ford and Chevron, advocating for stronger environmental standards at the EPA, and educating our members on our 13 Steps to Sustainability. We do these things together--big policy and systemic change in addition to small personal change--because there is no silver bullet to solve the climate crisis. We need all of it.

We heard about the dangers of oil and gas industry from many perspectives. We heard from Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, who has concerns about oil and gas workers and the lies they've been told about the health impacts of their work. She understands that the poor, rural residents of Karnes County, TX have been taken advantage of, promised tax revenue and jobs in return for leases to their land. Instead, drinking water wells have been poisoned, habitats destroyed, and the promised profits never materialized. Being good, neighborly folks, though, the residents don't want to make any trouble. So they allow the fracking to continue. But as Sister Elizabeth says, we're all children of God and deserve to live with clean land, air, and water.

We heard from Adelita Gonzalez Cantu from the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. She shared the health impacts of the oil and gas industry in Karnes County, TX. It's true that unemployment has decreased since fracking arrived, but health issues like rashes, cancer, STDs, respiratory problems, crime, and pregnancy complications have increased. Another little known effect of fracking: increased traffic, noise and light pollution, insomnia, and stress. The fracking pads run day and night and are brightly lit. This makes it difficult for residents to sleep. And people who don't sleep well can suffer a host of other issues--addiction and marriage and family problems most notably. As one of her patients told her, "I know we can't make them [fracking companies] go away, all I want is for them to be good neighbors."

We also heard from Eloisa Portillo-Morales from the Office of Sustainability in the City of San Antonio talk about their Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. Efforts to retire coal plants, increase solar, plant trees, and welcome climate refugees have been largely successful and ongoing. Their goal is an, "equitable, environmentally resilient, and economically viable future."

The UMW attendees listened and asked questions. They prayed and reflected. They participated in a Climate Justice Simulation Experience using a scenario from the Little Village community in Chicago that suffered environmental injustice from some dangerous coal and industrial plants. This was perhaps the most impactful part of the event, as participants were asked to assume the role of a member of the impacted community. Tears were shed and anger and despair were expressed. 

To be honest, though the event was a success, I felt weary. I'd heard and seen the health impacts of oil and gas this very same week last year in Pennsylvania. It was upsetting to know that these injustices were not isolated and that they were continuing.

I arrived back in southern IL tired from my travel and missing my family and routines. In my attempts to set things right, I unpacked our Advent wreath and Jesse Tree devotional. In our move this summer, our Advent candles were damaged (or perhaps melted from the heat) and replacements were needed. But as I held the lumpy purple and pink wax in my hands, I noticed the difference in size. One purple candle was quite small in comparison to the others. Having grown up lighting an Advent wreath, I knew why: the first candle of Advent, the Hope candle, burns the longest.

I was immediately comforted. When I feel like the world is falling apart and I alone can save it (LOL), I'm reminded that Christians were made for such a time as this. We've long been on the front lines of social change, and we can be here at the peak of the climate crisis, too. Sometimes that will look like testifying at an EPA hearing, as I did on behalf of UMW in September. Sometimes that will look like encouraging our churches to stop using styrofoam or starting to compost. We do all of this because we hope--hope to change, hope to save, hope to create a better world for our children.

The hope candle burns the longest. It will burn all throughout Advent. And it can burn in us well after. My prayer is that it might kindle our hope into action, and that those actions will catch fire in our churches and communities.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Hungry Ghosts

 "There once was a man who was giving and kind. One day he was about to leave his house when a monk came by begging. The man instructed his wife to give the monk some food. After the man left his house his wife was overcome with greed. She took it upon herself to teach the monk a lesson, so she locked the monk in an empty room all day with no food. She was reborn as a hungry ghost for innumerable lifetimes." (source)

A few months back I heard a Buddhist teacher use a term I'd never heard before: hungry ghosts. In Buddhist and Taoist tradition, hungry ghosts are the wandering souls of people who endured particularly violent or unhappy deaths. Hungry ghosts can also emerge from neglect or desertion of living ancestors--that is, when they've been forgotten by their living relatives. According to tradition, desire, greed, anger, and ignorance in life are all factors in causing a soul to be reborn as a hungry ghost, because these behaviors cause people to perform evil deeds.  

Ultimately, hungry ghosts are unable to take in what they desperately need. The problem lies in their constricted throats, which cannot open for nourishment. They wander aimlessly in search of relief that never comes.

This idea keeps coming back to me, especially as I watch the news these days. Desire, greed, anger, and ignorance are in seemingly unending supply. Though I'm a Christian and don't believe in reincarnation or karma based on my actions--good or bad--during my lifetime, I do believe that I will answer for my actions when I die, and I do think the behaviors of previous generations can impact future generations.

I've been learning about and reflecting upon the recent IPCC Climate Report, which states that we have 12 years to limit a climate catastrophe. The world’s leading climate scientists have warned that an increase in temp even half a degree beyond 1.5C will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic.

The root causes of this catastrophe? Over-consumption, greed, and a general lack of care for the poor. We have forgotten that the earth is a gift and caring for it reflects our love of creator and neighbor. And our children will bear the brunt of our mistakes.

As we enter the season of Advent, I'm trying to focus myself and my family on the birth of Jesus and not presents and busyness. I'm trying to teach them to be content with what they have and thoughtful about what they give. I'm hoping to show them how to take in the nourishment they need: family time, rest, good food, quiet. Most of all, I'm teaching them to care for others, like we read about today as we celebrated Christ the King Sunday:

"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matthew 25:37-40)

For me personally, that means participating in my 4th Dressember, where I'll wear a dress every day in December to raise funds and awareness for the millions of women and children impacted by human trafficking. For my family, that means coordinating and giving to our church Angel Tree and being mindful of our consumption at the holidays--decreasing our food and paper waste, recycling all we can, and keeping to our Want Need Wear Read gifts rule (even asking the grandparents to join in this year!). 

How are you and your family fighting for what you really need this holiday season?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Ask a Pastor's Wife

Oh, hi there. Hello. I disappeared for a while. Let me get you up to speed.


Since my last post in April, some things have changed:
Todd was appointed to a new church.
Ava turned 9.
I attended and presented at UMW Assembly in Columbus, Ohio.
Maddie finished 7th grade, Ava finished 4th, and Harper completed 3 year-old preschool.
Maddie turned 13.
Maddie traveled to Seattle with my parents.
We moved to southern Illinois.
Ava went to camp.
I moved to full-time at Faith in Place doing outreach in southern Illinois. 
Harper spent a week by herself in Michigan with my parents. 
We got a kitten.
I traveled to Minnesota on behalf of UMW for the Creation Care Summit for the United Methodist Church.

So, nothing big. How was your summer?

I'm at a loss for what to write these days, so I thought I'd crowdsource my next post. Let's do Ask a Pastor's Wife!
Submit your questions in the comments below or by commenting on Facebook or Twitter. I'll answer your questions in a new post next week.

Can't wait to see what you come up with...

Friday, April 6, 2018

Ask a Green Person {Earth Month Series}

There once was a column I followed called "Ask a Clean Person". That got me thinking...and from that idea was born "Ask a Green Person", my first installment of my Earth Month Series for 2018.

My first ever question comes from Patti. P.:
Q: What does green living look like in daily life?

A: This is a big topic, so I'll break it down into smaller sections. My family's daily care for creation takes shape in a few areas: food, waste, cleaning, and energy/transportation.

Food in our house is mostly vegetarian. I'm the cook, I'm a vegetarian, therefore I cook vegetarian. My vegetarianism comes from a desire to decrease my carbon footprint and improve my health (and
the health of my family) by eating a plant-based diet.

Image result for decreasing meat consumption is good for the planet
Image taken from: https://www.bustle.com/articles/149271-the-single-biggest-thing-you-can-do-for-the-environment

Last year we purchased a share in a local CSA First Fruits Homestead, which yielded us fresh, local produce and the ability to form a relationship with the people who grow our food.

We compost our food scraps and use it to fertilize our garden in the spring. We recycle all paper, cardboard, and plastic that we can locally. We try not to buy overly packaged products. We use our own grocery bags instead of plastic ones. We pack lunches in reusable containers and baggies. We use stainless steel straws instead of plastic and steer clear of other single-use plastic items. We're working on remembering to keep reusable mugs and take out containers in our cars so we can avoid styrofoam cups and take out containers.

I subscribe to two eco-friendly products services: Grove Collaborative and Mighty Nest. Both of these services help me find non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning products as well as personal care products and home goods. I'm a big fan of Method products, which are eco-friendly but also meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Using eco-friendly and non-toxic products is good for the environment and good for my family, reducing the amount of chemicals in our bodies and watersheds.

We drive a plug-in hybrid car. We try to fit as many errands as we can into one trip into town. We use a programmable thermostat, close unused air vents, use LED light bulbs, unplug items like cell phone chargers when not in use, and do all our wash with cold water.

Green living is more than fancy products or a holier-than-thou attitude: it's a way we show love for our creator and care for our neighbors.

What are your best green living tips? Post them in the comments below.
Want to submit a question? Email me at christina.krost@gmail.com