Friday, November 20, 2015

Greening up Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. I love it so much I invited 30-ish people to celebrate with us this year. But you know what I don't like? The excess--too much food, too much waste, too much noise, too much rushing, too many people, too many uncomfortable political or theological conversations...I'm an extrovert who loves to entertain, but even for me, it's a lot. 

So I've gathered some tips (inspired by this post) to make the holiday more manageable (but watch this for help with the uncomfortable conversations thing). If you desire to make your Thanksgiving a seasonal feast that reflects on all that you're thankful for, here are a few ways to tread a bit lighter on Mother Earth and make your Thanksgiving meal meaningful:

1. Eat less meat.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.  Take a minute to let that sink in. And we know that whole-food, plant-based diets are better for us. So here's your chance to help your body and our planet! Does every dish need to have meat? Are there substitutions you can make? There are countless online resources for vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. Here's a good start from the folks at Food Network

2. Eat seasonal and locally-sourced foods:

For the past two years, we've bought our turkey from a local Amish farmer. We know the animals were humanely treated and what they were fed. I also plan to make persimmon pudding from pulp harvested by a member of our congregation. Find a local farmer's market to buy your potatoes or green beans if you can. has some great suggestions for creating a local Thanksgiving menu. There's even a movement from Sustainable America to have a 100 mile Thanksgiving to use less fuel and support local farms. 

3. Be aware of packaging waste:

Buying local can help reduce packaging waste. When I'm buying produce, I skip the plastic bags found at the grocery store and use a small sized reusable bag instead. We recycle all cardboard and as many plastic bags as we can. Glass jars and tin cans are re-purposed or recycled. If I have a choice between buying a product using styrofoam packaging and one without, I always opt for the product with less packaging. 

4. Wash the dishes:

Though much depends on the detergent you use and the efficiency of your dishwasher, it's almost always better to wash your dishes than to use disposable plates, silverware, and cups. This article from The Sierra Club helps weigh the benefits of using porcelain over paper. 

5. Waste less food:

Did you know that almost half of all food in the United States is thrown away before it's consumed? Few things make me feel worse than wasting food. But who doesn't love Thanksgiving leftovers? In my opinion, they're even better than the first time around. Here's a roundup of recipes to use up the leftovers that might be even better than the original. Just in case you don't, you know, eat them straight out of the container while watching football games on the couch.

6. Have an attitude of gratitude:

It's Thanksgiving, after all! When you list off what you're thankful for, where does the Earth rank? Heighten your awareness of how God's creation inspires and cares for you on a daily basis like in the foods you eat or in a beautiful sunset. This awareness can lead to a greater appreciation for the earth, and in turn, more intentional care for creation.

Want to know more? Go to for more about the food, faith, and climate connection. You can also visit Interfaith Power and Light's page. And of course, consider inviting me to your congregation or small group to talk about Faith in Place.

What do you do to green your Thanksgiving? I'd love to share recipes and hear your tips!  
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where does it hurt?

Deep breath, everyone. 
It's been a rough few days. Are you OK? Are your loved ones accounted for? I've seen through various social media sources (not always 100% reliable, I know) that we've lost over 115,000 souls combined in earthquakes in Mexico and Japan, suicide bombings in Beirut and Baghdad, and terrorist attacks in Paris since Friday, November 13. The hashtag #prayfortheworld has gained momentum in the last 48 hours. Lord, hear our prayer. 

As I read the news reports and President Obama's remarks about the Paris attacks, I held my breath and remembered my travels to Paris in high school. I tried to imagine how I'd feel if this had happened in my town, shattering my sense of safety. Or if I was a tourist or student studying abroad and didn't know how to get help or speak the language. What could I do, other than rely on the kindness of strangers? 

But as I watched my Facebook feed turn the red, white, and blue of the French Tricolour, I couldn't help but notice something was missing. Where are the flags for Beirut?
Where were they in April for Kenya? Or Japan? Or Mexico? 

I think most people identify with the French because they're white. We imagine they're most like us. We struggle to identify with those in the Middle East or Africa or Japan or Mexico. But that doesn't mean they deserve less of our prayers, attention, or air time. They are hurting, and we should both recognize and help to heal that pain. 

The evil we've seen in recent days is like an illness in the body. When healing illness, we often employ multiple remedies: rest, medicine, and therapy. I know we'd like to get to the root of all the things making our world ill, and there will be time for that in the days and years to come. But for now, we need to rest and heal. And that starts right here in our own homes and communities. I've learned that evil is contagious, but so is love. 

There is hurt everywhere. When people in far away countries hurt, we hurt, too. So let's be small and deliberate and weed out that hurt right here. Bake those cupcakes for your neighbor undergoing chemo. Encourage your coworker. Invite that new family in town to dinner. Pray. Hold space for both the hurting and those who feel the need to hurt others.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere. Let's be healers. Let's start right here. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Set out, Pilgrim

There are two types of people: those who like yard sales and those who don't. I put myself in the latter category. I tend to sort through and discard my junk all year long instead of waiting to purge all at once. It's too overwhelming for me to let it pile up.  

And with rare exception, I'm not all that interested in pawing through and/or purchasing someone else's junk. I want to hide in my house during the two weekends each year when Neoga holds their city-wide yard sales. I have collected some things over the years--knick knacks, glassware from my deceased relatives, gently used kids' clothing, etc. But I try to only add things that bring me joy or serve a purpose.

This yard sale attitude has served me well as an adult. I handle issues as they come up instead of stuffing them somewhere inconspicuous to be dealt with at a later date or when I stumble upon them again, whichever comes last. 

When I met my husband I was a practicing Catholic taking a break from church during college. He was a Methodist who figured he would eventually find his way back to church once he settled down. We had a lot of stuff between us when we married and had to sort through it all, mostly things from our childhoods like old sports trophies and porcelain clown collections. Some things I discarded with glee, others were harder to part with.

As we began to sort through our things, we had to sort through some deeply held beliefs, too. Where would we attend church? What makes us us? What belief systems do we keep and which do we discard? Is there anything we need to add to our pile?

I've been part of the launch team for Sarah Bessey's new book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, which is being released tomorrow (November 3, 2015). Out of Sorts was written for those of us looking for answers to yard sale-like questions: what stays and what goes? What should I take with me on my journey to knowing Jesus? 

Some of our beliefs will need to be discarded as we go, and they will be hard to part with. We may feel like we're losing part of our identity with their subtraction. Other times we'll light a bonfire and watch those beliefs burn in joy and relief. And we'll likely collect some new ideas as we sort through it all.

It is said that the church goes through a kind of holy rummage sale every 500 years. It's part of our life cycle of death and resurrection; the death of some old ideas makes room for new life and new energy. We're on the cusp of a Great Emergence, an idea brought about by the late Phyllis Tickle. This shift will likely set us off in new paths and directions as pilgrims in search of answers, just like our Christian brothers and sisters of the past. You are not alone in your wandering.

Bessey covers a range of topics including grief and loss, family and parenting, the Bible, community and friendship, justice, and calling. It is directed at those who have always gone to church and those that are sorting out their feelings about church (I recently wrote about that here). This book has something for everyone.

My hopes for today's pilgrims are summed up in this quote, part of Bessey's final chapter titled "Benediction":

I pray you would embrace your place in the Body of Christ, your right to learn and test, your right to read and explore. I know that sometimes it seems as if there is more room for wonder and delight, beauty and mystery and grandeur in astrophysics than there is in religion. That's because religion tells us that it's all figured out, there is nothing left to learn, here are the answers, so learn them. But instead, I pray you would be an explorer, you would recover delight and wonder and curiosity about your faith, about God, and about the story with which you continue to wrestle.

So set out, pilgrim, on a great spiritual rummage sale. Discard what needs discarding, set aside some things to ponder later, and gather near to you that which sets you free. I hope to see you along the way.

If you have been holding onto church hurts or are seeking answers to questions and need to give yourself permission to ask them, please pick up a copy of Out of Sorts

Better yet, let me send you a copy! To enter the giveaway, comment below with your answer to the following questions (the more comments you leave the more entries you get): 

What is the best thing you found at a yard sale?
What do you wish you had never given away?
What is your ideal yard sale purchase? 

**Contest ends Monday, November 9 at midnight.**