Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It ain't easy being green

I wrote the cover story for the October issue of The Current, the news magazine for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was a great honor to be able to share the message of creation care to such a large audience of people of faith. You can read the article online here.

I've had some great conversations since the article was published, and I'm sure I have many yet to come. But the conversations so far fit into one of three categories: "I'm good", "thank you!", or "you're crazy". 

Lots of people think they already do enough for the Earth. Recycling is usually the thing people reference as their main conservation activity. And recycling is GREAT, but I'd argue that it's a starting point, not the finish line. Others in the "I'm good" category think that creation care simply doesn't apply to them--they're too old, too young, too poor, too rural, not good at that kind of thing, etc. To that I'd say that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Start small, start with something that matters to you, and go from there.

Then there are those that think I'm absolutely crazy, part of the "left-wing liberal agenda". They argue that humans couldn't possibly affect the big wide world we live in, or that God would never allow the Earth to be destroyed, or that government regulation is the real enemy here. I understand the disbelief, but I don't agree. But even if we don't agree on the mechanics of what is causing our climate to change, I think we can find middle ground here: we can take better care of God's creation without placing blame or living in guilt. Psalms 24:1 gives us a good starting point (using KJV today, feeling fancy): The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. The Earth is God's, we are God's, we all belong to each other. We should care for one another and our Earth as God cares for us. The end.

Most people I've spoken to have thanked me for my article and for my work with Faith in Place. But it's a guarded thanks--its the acknowledgement of the message with the fear of accountability. I promise you this--if you and I talk about creation care, I will follow up with you to see if I can be of service to you or your congregation, but I'm not keeping score. I'm not judging you. I'm not perfect at creation care, either. I'm simply a resource gatherer and message deliverer.

It ain't easy being green. So start small, with something that matters to your congregation or your community. Not everyone can start a community garden, but many of us could do a water audit and retrofit. Solar panels are awesome, but they aren't suitable for every building. Maybe you could look at better lighting options (LED's, CFLs) instead. Divestment from fossil fuels is a strong political statement, but it's not for everyone for a variety of reasons. 

There have been a number of issues in recent decades that have challenged the thinking of people of faith. When confronted with information that stretches you, where do you fall on the conversation spectrum? Are you all good? Do you think the new information is too "out there" to spend any time thinking about? Or are you thankful that the message is being discussed? 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ask a pastor's wife

One of the benefits of being the wife of an itinerant United Methodist pastor is getting to meet new people everywhere I go.  Seriously, everywhere.  Grocery stores, outlet malls, coffee shops...my husband and I strike up conversations--or respond to others' questions--almost anywhere. It's so humbling to be the hands and feet and ears of Christ. 

One of my most popular blog posts was last year when I opened the blog to your questions.
So I'm doing it again! I'm not shy (you probably already knew that) so don't be afraid to ask!
Post your questions in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter and I'll answer them next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Be still

To celebrate my 35th birthday yesterday, I did this:

This particular idea for a tattoo has been on my mind for some time. One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Melton, has the same two words inked on her wrist as well, but larger and in a different script. You can read about the story of her tattoo here

Some time went by, and then I read this by Lauren Warner at Sipping Lemonade. It's about Benedictine monks and how they take a distinctive vow when joining the religious order. Along with obedience and conversion of life, they also take the unique vow of stabilityStability is derived from the Latin word stare, which means “to stand,” “to stand up” or “to be still.”

The vow is described this way:
We vow to remain all our life with our local community. We live together, pray together, work together, relax together. We give up the temptation to move from place to place in search of an ideal situation. Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion. And when interpersonal conflicts arise, we have a great incentive to work things out and restore peace. This means learning the practices of love: acknowledging one’s own offensive behavior, giving up one’s preferences, and forgiving.
Wow. So much to unpack there. But amen to all of it. The part that really gets me is "ultimately there is no escape from oneself." I don't know about you, dear reader, but the older I get, the more I find this to be true. So I suppose I better start learning to be still with myself. 

A quick search of my Bible app She Reads Truth revealed the following verses containing the phrase "be still":

There are so many themes running through these verses. The ones that speak most to me are those that assure me of God's love and plan for me. 

I've been experiencing some anxiety lately, which is a very new thing for me. It started with having some car trouble a few weeks back and spiraled from there to full-blown headaches, stomach aches, shaking, sweaty palms, and racing heartbeat every time I needed to get in a car. I've realized the need to control my thoughts and learn how to still my racing mind. And a permanent, visible reminder seemed like a solid idea. 

So all of this is to say that yesterday, for $50 plus tip, I let a man who's life's ambition was to "cover the world in tattoos" ink these sacred words onto my wrist where they will stay until the day I die. I wonder if it will take that long for me to take the words truly to heart. 

What words do you need to tattoo on your heart (or your wrist)?

Friday, September 11, 2015


I'm turning 35 next week. I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to celebrate this many birthdays, and I'm grateful. Just by virtue of being born in the United States, I will likely enjoy a longer and healthier life than women in most of the world. In fact, according to information I found on World Bank most of the world's female life expectancy doesn't much exceed age 70. Which makes me... middle-aged. At my peak. It's all downhill after this.

As I age, I grow more concerned with making a difference with the time I have left. I want to be remembered as a woman of grace by my friends. I want to leave my children as intact, effective, compassionate adults who get along with each other. Things I focused on in my youth aren't on my radar anymore; I care far less about what people think of me. Maybe that's what Paul was feeling when he wrote to the Corinthians: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."

(Image taken from http://www.memes.com/img/510571)
Look, I have as hard a time as anyone "adulting" some days. But I'm learning to shed some of the guilt and shame over not being the thinnest or the prettiest or the most put together or the best housekeeper or cook in favor of building better relationships with my husband, my kids, my family, and my friends.

Perhaps the most important thing I'm learning is this, which comes just a bit later in the same chapter of Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." If we get this wrong, nothing we do will have lasting effect. There is no lasting legacy without love. But if we get it right, people will smile merely at the mention of our name. 

Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So that's what I'm working on--letting people know that they are loved and cared for above all else. 

I get this wrong so often, mostly with my kids and my husband. Sometimes I want them to know how inconvenienced I've been because of them, or how tired I am because of their constant needs.  I need to work on that. That's not how I feel in my heart about them, but it's often what is reflected at them. So, as I approach the middle years of my life, I'm coveting love and relationships and legacy, not cars and boys and makeup. Maybe I have this adulting thing figured out after all. 

What are you focusing on more as you age?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fiercely Flourish

My leadership team and I are gearing up for our new year of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which begins on Sept. 10 @ Neoga Grace UMC 

This year's theme is A Fierce Flourishing. I loved last year's theme so much  
and I was initially confused by the new one. "Fierce" isn't typically a character trait encouraged in women, right? "Flourish" made more sense, but what in what areas are we trying to flourish here?
MOPS has done a great job of explaining their intentions but I think the theme means different things to different people. A theme is a starting point, a discussion starter. This is one of the things I love most about MOPS--it's not a Bible study or denominational curriculum, it's designed to engage all moms from all different backgrounds and faith expressions in a conversation about how and where they find intersections of faith and family in their lives.

Anyway, there are 3 content areas this year: embrace rest, notice goodness, and celebrate lavishly. These speak to me. Who among us doesn't struggle with at least one of these things? I'm personally the worst at embracing rest, preferring instead to drown myself in busyness without actually making any measurable progress. I'm good at celebrating lavishly and noticing goodness, but often in and for others, not for myself.

If you are interested in learning how to fiercely flourish with a MOPS group in your area, use this tool to find a group near you. 

In what areas do you wish you could flourish this year?