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:

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

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge

Do you have a shelf full of books you've never read? I sure do.
This year I'm going to do something about it.

Each month, I'm committed to reading 2 books. Some have been sitting on my shelf for years. Some I bought for my Kindle when they were $1.99 and have never been read. Some are old favorites that I don't own but will gladly check out of the public library. The idea is to not spend money buying new books.

Here's my list so far:

January: Of Mess and Moxie and Faithful Families
February: The Gifts of Imperfection and The Sacred Enneagram
March: Bird by Bird and Present Over Perfect
April: Mystics and Misfits and The New Jim Crow
May: Assimilate or Go Home and Asylum Denied
June: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I Am Malala
July: The Grid and Moral Ground
August: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and God and the Green Divide
September: Radical and The Screwtape Letters
October: Hands Free Mama and One Thousand Gifts
November: Pastor's Kid and The Pastor's Family
December: ? and ?

As you can see, it's all just a bit of light reading (sarcasm font). Some of it is topical and thematic, some not.

But I need your help--I ran out of ideas for December. What should I add to this list? What are your favorite reads? Comment with your picks below!

Friday, January 5, 2018

My #oneword365 for 2018

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12

My word came to me quickly this year. It's been with me for several months, actually. This is the bulletin board above my desk.

The words that jump out at me most are bold and hope. And that's where I am these days: feeling the tension between fear and hope, between inaction and boldness.

2017 was a year that scared me. I did things that I wouldn't normally do: I traveled by myself to Seattle for the Climate Reality training, to Minnesota for a conference, and to Pittsburgh for a UMW tour of a fracking site. I drove all over Illinois presenting for Faith in Place. I marched. I had a few writing pieces published. I spoke at my sorority's national conference. I preached. I raised funds to combat human trafficking. I took steps to start getting serious about writing a book--I even let Todd read some of it.

I also encountered anxiety for the first time. I had to get serious about self care and prioritizing my mental health. I felt deep despair about the state of our country. I felt distress about the future of the Church. I saw racism with new eyes. I said #metoo. I felt fear in a way I'd never had before in my 37 years of sheltered, privileged existence.

This year will bring more things that scare me. I'll help craft and direct UMW's climate justice work. I'll be presenting at UMW's Assembly. I'll continue my outreach work with Faith in Place. I'll be attending a conference to help guide my steps in writing a book.

I'm scared, but I also see hope. I'm watching for resurrection. I'm praying with my feet. I'm clinging to Jesus. I'm ready for resistance. It's time to be BOLD.

What's your one word this year?

Previous words herehere, here, and here.