Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Justice, Mercy, Reconciliation

Some thoughts from N.T. Wright:

"But justice without forgiveness is revenge. And forgiveness without justice is appeasement."

"The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world-put-to-rights, which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents."

"Two examples here. The first is Desmond Tutu and his work on the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. I have no hesitation in saying that the fact of such a body even existing, let alone doing the work it has done, is the most extraordinary sign of the power of the Christian gospel in the world in my lifetime. We only have to think for a moment of how unthinkable such a thing would have been 25 years ago, or indeed how unthinkable such a thing would still be in Beirut, Belfast or—God help us—Jerusalem to see that something truly remarkable has taken place for which we should thank God in fear and trembling.
The second example is the killing of the Amish school children. The families of the girls who were killed extended forgiveness to the man and comforted the family. Also, these families insisted that some of the money raised by the Mennonites to support them be given to support the family of the shooter, who killed himself. These countercultural examples show how the Christian community can react. "

What is "Church"?

I'm very invested in the Sunday morning worship service. That's what the church has hired me to do, and, as a musician, there is a huge part of me that needs to express my spirituality through music, and, while I can do that alone, I love to do it corporately with my church family on Sunday morning.

For some people, church means "going to church on Sunday morning". It means singing, hearing good preaching, maybe catching up with some friends in the hallway, or going out to eat after the service is over. I do all of that. But that's not what church means to me.

Here's a quote from Pastor Rob Bell of the Mars Hill church:

" We say, "This isn't the church, this is a church service. It's just an hour where we have some teaching, some singing and you'll hear about things in the community." If there are 43 "one anothers" in the New Testament—serve one another, carry one another's burden's, confess to one another—you can only do a couple of those in a church service. Until you have a community that you are journeying with, please don't say you are a part of this church. You just come to a gathering. We are very intentional about that. The question is, "Who do you call when your brother ODs on cocaine? If your mom is in the hospital, who comes and sits in the waiting room with you? When you cannot pay your rent, who do you go to and say please help me out?" That's your church. "


Blogger Lisa at Greenbow has a great post up today reinforcing why we should all take more of a live and let live attitude toward dandelions. She always has very nice photos of her garden and the local flora and fauna. Check it out!

I have learned that, as much as our native birds love dandelions, the plant itself is not native to the US. Apparently, early British settlers brought them here to plant as salad greens, and they have naturalized (and how!!). So, enjoy them or dig them up, either is fine with me. Just don't go after them with the poison.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On Not Keeping Up With The Joneses

It's spring yard work season, when I focus on trying to stay ahead of the weeds in hopes of averting disaster later in the summer. I'm not a competitive grass grower, but out of respect for my neighbors I try to keep the front lawn looking reasonably nice, as in mowed, trimmed, and weeded. Most years I have put a dose of weed-and-feed on to knock back the dandelions. Isn't it funny that people don't like them? Such a cheerful yellow, and they look wonderful mixed with all the violets! Yes, I have biodiversity in my lawn. No one seems to mind the violets, but oh, those dandelions are evil. They exemplify a household too lazy to get out and dig them!
But nowadays no one actually digs them; they are nuked with chemicals, either applied by the homeowner (in my case), or by a lawn service (in the case of most of my neighbors). After all, we are all about saving time while maintaining curb-appeal.

I was going to take care of that little task this weekend, until I started reading "Living Downstream". By the third chapter, Sandra Steingraber's evidence on the relationship between cancer and herbicides/pesticides was giving me pause. No, actually, it was giving me chills. I could picture all those chemicals being washed into the storm drain in front of my house during the next little rain we have.
From there, the water would wind up kitty-corner from my house in a drainage swail that runs through Mattis Park.

It still looks nice and clean at this point. When I went to take this picture I gave Mr. and Mrs. Mallard quite a fright, and they frantically tried to lead me away from their nest. And, just as my own children did, there must have been someone catching tadpoles down there recently, judging by the orange Little League cap caught in the gravel. When I have walked past this area, I have often seen muskrats, ducks, frogs, Canada Geese, and even herons. It does have many of the hallmarks of a "wetland". I remember when I was a girl, this part of the neighborhood was still open fields, and this particular spot was always a little swamp. Later, the city ditched and drained it to put in the road. They left a little flood plain along the ditch, which is good, because it definitely still gets full to the brim when we have a big rain.

Without this ditch my basement would be wet about 2/3 of the year. That's because this is the very spot on the county watershed map that is designated as the headwaters of the Embarass River. From here the water goes down to a man-made retention pond, and then, ultimately wanders in the form of the Embarass over toward the Wabash, then the Ohio, then the Mississippi, then the Gulf of Mexico. And along the way, it gathers a lot of fertilizer and pesticides running off lawns and fields

The Embarass isn't the only river affected by all of us in Champaign-Urbana. At this very point in the county are located the headwaters of both the Kaskaskia watershed and the Vermillion watershed, as well as the Embarass. It sure doesn't look like it, but we are actually high ground here, thanks to the glacier, and all the water runs away downhill from us. All the oil that drips out of our cars, all the trash that blows into the the creeks and ditches, all the lawn care chemicals that are used here in this town, are headed off to the Gulf.

So, you see, I and my immediate neighbors get first crack at polluting the Embarass. And today, I just decided I'm not going to have any part of it. I'll do my best to keep ahead of the dandelions, but if you drive past and see a few little golden twinkles in my lawn, please don't write me off as a slacker. I'm not trying to bring the neighborhood down. Hopefully, our children and grandchildren will benefit from my tolerance of those weeds. Bring them over, and I'll let them pick a bouquet for you!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Challenge Number 2

I've been involved this month in a challenge with some other bloggers to attempt to purchase nothing unnecessary for the month of April, and I did really well until today. Then, in an attempt to find a book to read for a reading challenge, I made the mistake of entering Pages For All Ages Bookstore. Really, a judge should issue a restraining order to prevent me from going in that place. I simply cannot leave without buying something. All I can say in my own defense is that this time it really was only one book!

Anyway, the book I purchased was, as I said, for another challenge for the month of May. Participants are supposed to read a book related to environmental issues. I was looking for "Serve God, Save the Planet" by Matthew Sleeth, but they were out of it and will be ordering it for me. My thinking was that if I bought that book, read it myself, passed it around the family, and then donated it to the church library, it would be a worthwhile purchase. But, since they were out of it I just had to look around.....and buy a different book.

I'm glad I did though. The book I wound up with is "Living Downstream-A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment" by Sandra Steingraber. Steingraber is a Central Illinoisan and biologist/environmentalist, as well as being a cancer survivor. She writes beautifully about this part of the world and the environmental degradation that has led to clusters of cancer diagnoses, carefully tracing back, back, back to the origins of those carcinogens. Naturally, buying the book caused me to scrap any practical use of my time today and dive right into reading. After several chapters, I can tell you I am completely hooked and would highly recommend this book to anyone.

I do hope to also read Sleeth's book this month. It's been on my "To Read" list for a while. I'll review that one as well when I get to it. If you are interested in getting involved in the reading challenge, look on my blog roll and go to Green Bean's blog. And I promise to learn to hyperlink soon!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day 2008: A Satisfied Creation

Psalm 104

1 Praise the LORD, my soul.
LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
2 The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
4 He makes winds his messengers, [a]
flames of fire his servants.

5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number-
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.

Praise the LORD, my soul.
Praise the LORD. [b]

Psalm 104:4 Or angels
Psalm 104:35 Hebrew Hallelu Yah; in the Septuagint this line stands at the beginning of Psalm 105.

Faith Stories

My job at First Baptist is to work with the music and worship planning for the Sanctuary service. This service is pretty traditional. We sing for the most part out of a hymnal, we sit in pews instead of movable chairs, we meet in the room that has the stained-glass windows and 35-rank pipe organ that were moved from the old downtown church. As much as I like contemporary music, I really love the all that tradition as well. Sometimes, though, we have realized that it was time to add a new element to the service that comes from the more contemporary models being used elsewhere. The "Faith Story" is one of those elements.

We are by no means a stuffy congregation, as all the interaction in the Java Junction can attest. We have lots of small groups, Bible Studies, and Sunday School classes, that have a great sense of community . Sometimes, however, people don't know about something really neat that is going on in some one's life. In spite of the structure of the Sanctuary service, the worship planning committee wanted to make sure that the congregation had a chance to share in some of that good news by adding a "faith story" to the service a few Sundays a month. These stories are told by ordinary members of the congregation to help us understand and celebrate the fact that God is working in our midst every day. We've heard stories about providential adoptions, involvement with the poor, interfaith interactions, a house remodeled for someone in the church who is wheel-chair bound, and much more. It's very inspiring!

David Swanson, in his review of the book "Jesus For President" says:

"In each of our churches there are astonishing stories that happen every week. People caring for each other, sacrificing for each other, taking risks for the Kingdom. But if your church is like mine, you probably do not talk about these stories very often. Whether we wish to avoid pride or simply don’t have enough time during our services, the result is many untold (yet inspiring) stories. Stories about people who are living as citizens of an alternative Kingdom. And while it may seem a tame response to a radical book, perhaps our first step is to become better storytellers.
The stories we tell shape us. What stories are being told in your church? Are they stories about power and influence that unwittingly celebrate the values of empire? Or, are you sharing the stories of ordinary people living out the extraordinary values of an alternative kingdom? "

So, if Pastor Dick calls you up and asks you to share your story, I hope you won't be shy. And if you hear of someone doing something that should be shared, be sure and let him know. We can all be blessed and uplifted when we hear how God is working today.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Buy Nothing New In April-Week 3

Just a quick update:
We still haven't bought anything that was not food. However, we have eaten out a little. We also had to buy gas for both cars, which isn't surprising, considering we started off with only a half tank in each car. We made it on that for 18 days!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shaken, But Not Stirred

We were shaken awake early this morning by what turned out to be a 5.4 magnitude earthquake. At first I thought Mike had gotten up and was walking around very heavily, because things were rattling on the dresser-top, but then I realized he was still in bed. Was it the wind? It is tornado season. But there wasn't any sound of wind. Then I realized it was a quake, similar to the one we had when I was a kid.

On the news this morning they said it was centered southeast of us near West Salem, which is a good ways away, and apparently they could even feel it up in Chicago. The Chicago newscaster said it only lasted a few seconds. Maybe that's true up there, but we had a whole long conversation while it was going on, so I think it was at least 30 seconds, with a little break, and then another 10 seconds or so.

It was interesting, but not scary at all. We never felt like we should get up and run outside. The funniest thing to me was that, in my groggy state, I kept asking myself if we should go to the basement! Wrong natural disaster....

Update: We just got bumped around again at 10:15am. The first incident occurred at 4:35am.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Forsythia Fountains

And the Winner Is...

Tonight the choir voted from among the whole year's worth of choral anthems to pick their top three favorites. We will be singing these May 18th as our final time to serve in the service before we dismiss for the summer. So, choir, here are the results.

The hands-down winner was "Joy In The Morning".
Tied for second place were:

"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"

"Jesus At Your Name"

"It's All About the Cross"

I thought that since we had used "It's All About the Cross" twice this year, we should not use it again. So we will use the other three. I think, in looking at the list, we can work them all very nicely into the service.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Blog

The other day my son, in my presence, jokingly told some friends, "My mom is toddling down the information super-highway with her walker!" Gee, thanks Grant.

Actually, I thought it was very funny. He is so right. Having been called to be my tech support on several occasions (and Grant, I will master hyper-linking soon, I promise!) he knows that it is only my bull-headed determination that has gotten me this far with blogging. Once I start trying to learn something new, I just can't quit until I have it figured out, whether it is something that comes naturally to me or not. It's kind of a curse.

I hadn't touched a computer until about six years ago. PCs came out the year I left the workplace to stay home with babies. We didn't have one in our home for probably another eight years after that, and I didn't need to learn how to use it to wash dishes or wipe noses. Then, when Paul was going to India, I thought I'd like to learn how to use e-mail. That was my initial experience. Since then I've sort of accidentally by-hook-or-crook learned how to do a few other things, but there is still a loooong way to go!

Pastor Randy encouraged the church staff to think about blogging as a way to communicate with church members. So, dutifully, I gave it whirl. I'm not so sure that anyone from church reads my blog, but, whatever, I'm doing it anyway, and I've found out that I really like it. I love it as a form of self-expression. If you want to know what's on my tiny little mind, this is a good place to look. And I really love meeting and communicating with people in the blog world. There are gardeners, bookworms, green activists, and Christian homemakers from all over the US and UK that I have exchanged comments with, and I think that has been the real benefit.

Some of you may wonder at the, um, "eclectic" mix of material that shows up here. Well, here's the deal: I'm a wife and mother, so I write about my family; I'm a church musician, so I write about music and worship; I'm very interested in environmental stewardship, so I write about that; I'm a Master Gardener, and if it ever gets warm, I might write about that. And, first and foremost, I'm a follower of Christ, so I write about that. I am who I am and I write what I write. I'm not here to rant or preach (at least not more that the average blogger!); I just enjoy writing. And I love hearing from all of you. Please drop in and comment! You don't have to agree with me, and you don't have to think I'm cool. I'm 52, and I'm so over that. But it never hurts hear opinions and exchange advice and ideas. That's why I blog.

Monday, April 14, 2008

2 Chronicles 5 Worship Style

For years and years and years, the music for Sanctuary worship at First Baptist was accompanied by only the organ and the piano. This year has seen a paradigm shift that our worship planning team has long hoped for. With the hiring of our new pianist, Cindy Chen, we have also been blessed with the voluntary services of her husband, Eddie Tsai, on violin. My daughter Robin also committed herself to playing trumpet whenever we needed her services. This has allowed us to "play around" with the instrumentation that we use on the hymns.

Our new Celebration Hymnal comes with excellent instrumental arrangements for all kinds of instruments. We have the violin and trumpet books that go along with the hymnal, and we will gradually acquire the ones we need for other instruments to join in. I know of one excellent flute player, for instance, who only needs to overcome her shyness about performing to prompt me to order the flute book!

One thing we have just loved to think about in planning has been the idea of using various instruments to create an appropriate atmosphere during the worship time. For instance, on a "big " hymn, like "Crown Him With Many Crowns", we might use all four instruments for an exciting time of praise. Then, around the prayer time, we might use only piano and violin to sing a quieter, more reflective hymn. I have heard many positive comments from the congregation about the variety they experience this way, and the way it helps them to worship as they sing.

Though Robin graduates this spring and will move on, there is another young trumpeter coming along who I think will be very useful to us. I know of a cellist or two, a flute player, and a couple of clarinetists. Many are a little reluctant to play publicly, but I hope they will eventually feel called into service. I don't believe in arm-twisting people; I think they should have the chance to think about whether this is what God wants them to do. They will become part of the larger worship team we have on the platform: organ, piano, wind instruments, and four part choir. Once they get a taste of the joy that comes with serving this way, I think shyness will subside. It's fun, and it glorifies God!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Week 2 of the "Buy Nothing New In April" Challenge

Okay, all you bean-counters, here's the lowdown on our spending for this past week:

$3.86-primer and spray paint for Mike's frame for the art show


That's it. We could have done better on food, but we ordered pizza one night, and Mike also attended a good-bye party for some workmates at Jupiter's. I have no remorse about either of those; I think they just count as food.

So far, we still haven't had to buy gas. We had good biking weather at the beginning of the week, so the car stayed home from Sunday noon until Wednesday night. Then the weather got stormy and I drove, though Mike took the bus on those days.

We've had slight little temptations here and there, but nothing too troubling. Mike saw some sale items at the hardware store he said he might have picked up were it not for the challenge. I just didn't go into any stores except the grocery store. The pizza is sort of a fun tradition on Saturday night, and then there are leftovers from it for Sunday lunch.

P.S.-For those of you who have no idea why I'm posting this on my blog about worship, I've agreed to participate in a "challenge" with some other bloggers. We're challenging ourselves to try not to buy anything non-essential for a whole month. I wanted to do this (and Mike is doing it too) so that I can remind myself of what is essential and what is not. And the cool thing is, we're saving a ton of money!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More On "What To Do With All That Money We're Saving"

My post from April 9th has sparked some comment over at http://www.goingcrunchy.blogspot.com/ . You might want to pop over and take read.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Well, Duh!" Environmentalism

Every month the church orders a case of 1,000 Styrofoam cups and stir sticks. Each case costs a little more than $22.00. A case of 1,000 cup lids costs a little more than $17.00.

We encourage the use of lids, though most people don't take one. Spills are common, especially among the children getting their cocoa. This means we have to have Dave Ross out frequently to clean the carpets, particularly in the Java Junction area, and down the halls immediately adjacent to it.

Ultimately, the cups, stirrers, and lids wind up in the wastebaskets, which are lined with plastic garbage bags. Our custodian, Jun, gathers them, as does the set-up person that does the Saturday night walk-through. We don't have a weekend custodian, so if there is an event on Saturday, the wastebaskets can sometimes be overloaded with trash- mostly cups.

All of that goes out to the dumpster. Recently, there was some discussion about having yet another weekly pickup added to our hauling contract, since we have frequent over-flows. However, we haven't done that yet. From there, the hauler takes all our trash to the landfill, which is 40 miles away in Vermillion County, burning diesel all the way. Why does it have to go so far? Because when our county landfill was declared full in 1990, we couldn't build another site any closer, without the risk of groundwater contamination. It's east-central Illinois; the water table reflects the fact that this was all a tallgrass swamp at one time. Thus the trip to Vermillion County.

Once there, it is entombed in perpetuity (we hope!) in a modern landfill arrangement that is designed to keep water out and garbage in. Nothing really rots away there; it's just buried. It actally never goes away. So, all our Styrofoam coffee cups, which wouldn't rot anyway, are all over there near Danville, awaiting the end of time.

Now, I have a suggestion:
What if everyone who regularly attends our church started bringing their travel mug in with them on Sunday morning, or even for meetings? I'll bet nearly everyone has one. In fact, I'll bet a lot of the cars in the parking lot have one sitting in the cup-holder on a regular basis, so it would just be a matter of bringing it in when you come in the building. If we all started doing this we could buy fewer cups, lids, and stirrers; produce less trash; keep the carpets cleaner (since travel mugs usually have lids), and extend the life of the landfill. So, we save the church a fair little chunk of money each month, save ourselves some tax dollars that go to landfill maintenance, as well as act as good stewards of our environment. At home, I call this "well, duh!" environmentalism, because it's an easy, cost-free change that saves money. It's a no-brainer!

If you're with me on this, leave a quick comment. Who's in?

Friday's Beautiful Thought

From a book review by Katie Galli in the April 2008 issue of Christianity Today:

"Yes, we're Americans. We multitask all day long. Efficiency is one of our top cultural values. I, too, am pragmatic. I'd like to use Sunday morning to worship God, to get a few pointers on how to improve my relationship with Jesus, and to reconnect with community. But every Sunday, the first words I hear are, "Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." And I'm reminded that we gather weekly not to hear a practical talk on how to better live out our faith or to provide a venue to tell our friends about Jesus. We gather to corporately worship God, to celebrate the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, and to remember that our lives are not about us."

Why do you come into the Sanctuary on Sunday morning?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Big Reveal

A block up the street from our house is Bottenfield Elementary School . My sisters and I attended this school when we were children; then my four kids went there. While they were there, I worked as the crossing guard and lunchroom/recess supervisor. Then, four years ago, my son was hired to teach art there. The school has always sort of been an extension of our home. It's certainly an integral part of the neighborhood. Maybe that's why I still hang on to that crossing guard job, despite those subzero days and driving rainstorms. It keeps me in touch with the little people in my neighborhood, and a lot of their mothers, too.

When I worked inside the building I made friends with a wonderful woman named Debbie, who was the school custodian. She was one of the most hard-working people I ever knew, and she loved the kids, instead of resenting the continual messes they made. Last fall Debbie lost her battle with breast cancer. She was a strong Christian, and I know I'll see her again, but all of us wish she didn't have to go so young. The children decided to do a fund-raiser for cancer research in her honor.

I'm not exactly sure how the idea of an incentive developed, but to encourage the students to raise $2,000, my son and one of the fifth grade teachers agreed to shave their heads in an assembly if the goal was met. I kind of had the impression, in talking to Grant, that he didn't think that amount would be raised-a bit of denial, if that's the case. I don't know why this head shaving thing was such a motivator for the students, but I heard about this for several weeks at my crossing, as children showed me their little baggies full of coins, or told me they were giving their birthday money towards the cause, because they so wanted to see those teachers get their heads shaved!

Well, they more than made it! Yesterday was the big day. So, here's the big reveal:

Grant, you're a trooper! Thanks for taking one for the home team! Debbie would have loved cleaning up your hair.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What To Do With All That Money We're Saving

Some of the people who are involved in the "Buy Nothing New In April" challenge have been recognizing that they are saving quite a bit of money.

Now, some joined the challenge because they want to get out of debt. They will want to pay down those debts with the money they are saving. More power to them! I've certainly been there and done that!

Some are trying to find ways to give up part of the family income so that a parent can stay home with little ones. I've been there, too.

Some may want to make some expensive changes like solar panels on the house. Some are very invested in supporting environmental initiatives, and they have a list of organizations to which they would like to direct more funds. I'll admit I haven't done that yet, but I understand where they are coming from.

Here's another suggestion:

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:22

Wordless Wednesday-Java Junction, Good Times

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Weekly "Buy Nothing" Update

I kind of hate to admit it, but the "Buy Nothing in April" challenge has been....easy. That's what thirty years of practice will do for you.

Here's the run-down:
$37.80 for groceries
$26.74 for non-food items:
batteries for my bike-light: $4.25
paper lawn bags: $5.50
download of tax program: $16.99
Total: $64.54

All were necessities. And, obviously, we continue to use our basic utilities as usual.

Where I think we were really pleased was in the area of transportation. Three different days last week, the car didn't leave the garage. Of course, this requires some cooperation from the weather, but we are going to see how long that 1/2 tank of gas we started the challenge with will last.

Okay, enough with the boring bean-counting. Let's go have a fun day!

P.S.-I'm not sure what all the hate towards Target is about. I like Target! It's not their fault if you spend too much when you go in there!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Transcendence and Immanence

Once a month I meet with our worship planning team to plan services for the following month. There is a lot of careful thought given to our services, and I'd like to post about that here on occasion, in hopes that it will help you enjoy your time of worship more.

One thing we try to make sure we include each week is the concept of God's transcendence and His immanence.

Transcendence refers to the fact that God is far greater than His Creation. He is, and always will be, unchanging, infinite, independent, and Lord over all. A Bible passage that might exemplify this:

"The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is
like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to
look on the heavens and the earth.?" Ps. 113:4-6


"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human
hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and
breath and everything else." Acts 17:24-25

We start the service trying to capture this aspect of God, by singing hymns like "All Creatures of Our God and King", "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name", or something similar.

But if we left it at that we would be neglecting the fact that as high as God is above us, He loves us and cares for us personally, and we can know Him. This would be the concept of His immanence.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child
she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved
you on the palm of my hands." Is. 49:15-16

"You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba!
Father!'" Romans 8:15

At this point, usually in preparation for a time of prayer, we sing things like "What a Friend We Have In Jesus", "I Need Thee Every Hour", or "As the Deer".

It is this understanding of His immanence that allows us to pray to Him with faith that He hears us. It is the understanding of His transcendence that allows us to know that He can do what He says He will do. If one element were missing, we would be unable to worship Him completely on Sunday morning.

Next time you attend worship, look for both of these elements in the service and let them deepen you knowledge of God.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Beautiful Thought

"Then, if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love
alike. Herein we cannot possibly do amiss." John Wesley

Amen, and amen!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cathedral Stone #2

We've always had a ton'o'bags under our sink. In fact, last year's kitchen remodel drove me to find a more sensible way to keep them rounded up, and I bought this handy thingy for the cabinet door, which has been really helpful. Before, they were sort of loose under there, and I'm pretty sure they were breeding like rabbits. How in the world could we be accumulating so many? We reused them to line the bathroom wastebaskets, clean out the kitty-litter box, and Mike used them to carry his lunch to work. We even used them to cover our bike-seats on rainy days! Believe me, we are recyclers extraordinaire, and we thought we were really being good with them. But there were still waaay too many to deal with.

Sometime last year, I became aware that there is a movement to change people's habits with regard to plastic grocery bags. They have been nicknamed "urban tumbleweed" for a very good reason, since they somehow escape to blow about, snagging in trees and bushes, clogging storm sewers, drifting into farm fields (from which they must be cleaned or they clog the farm machinery), and, in coastal areas, winding up in the water, where sea animals mistake them for yummy jelly-fish and ingest them. My daughter just returned from a trip to Annapolis, where she heard they are banning them to keep the litter out of the Chesapeake Bay. Cities in California are doing the same. And, in my own walks around the neighborhood, it's rare to go a block or two without seeing one hung up in some one's landscaping. The worst thing about them is that they have a life expectancy of almost infinite length, especially if they are in a land fill. They never go away.

So, back last summer, I decided to do my bit and try to get away from using them. I first started refusing a bag when I bought just one or two small, manageable items. That was easy; why hadn't I thought of that before? Then I scrounged around the house and came up with a few reusable cloth bags of various ages and sizes. I tossed them in the back seat of the car, so I would have them handy when I went to the store.

It took awhile to develop the habit thoroughly. I would get to the checkout line and realize I had left them in the car. Or, I would be in the other car that I rarely drive, and they weren't with me at all. Eventually, persistence paid off and I now am very consistent about using the cloth bags for groceries and even other stops like the drugstore or Target. The clerks tell me they are seeing them more and more, and they really don't bat an eye when I use them. And now, all our local grocery stores, along with Walmart, are offering reusable cloth bags for $.99. Even my dad has gotten them, and was showing them to my sister on Easter. It's a trend!

This was really a very easy change to make. Yes, a very slight amount of thinking ahead is necessary, but come on, we all need to put a new wrinkle in our brains from time to time. When you think about how nice it would be to get rid of the "urban tumbleweed", and save up to 11 million barrels of oil a year (if everyone in the US gave them up), it doesn't seem like it's too much to ask of ourselves, does it?

Universal Hallelujahs

I'm glad I live where there are four distinct seasons. I think it breeds a real appreciation for the signs of spring! Seeing these little crocus, with their vivid splash of royal purple against the dead detritus of the late winter flower bed makes me think of the refrain to a Chris Rice song:

O praise Him, all His mighty works!
There is no language where you can't be heard!
Your song goes out through all the earth-
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 3 of the "Buy Nothing Challenge"

This has all been interesting...very interesting.

I went into this challenge a little cavalierly, and I really wasn't sure if Mike would come along for the ride. However, Mike, after some initial hesitation because of the need to buy some art supplies, has actually had one of the more interesting things happen. He mentioned to some workmates that I was doing this, and why he was supportive yet reluctant, and someone apparently asked him what exactly he needed. He mentioned that, in preparing to display some of his paintings at a showing in a restaurant downtown, he was framing one, and needed some black spray paint to finish the frame he was making. He had a tiny bit left in a can here, but he knew it wouldn't be enough to complete the job. His workmate suggested that she had some she would be glad to give him, and that if anything else came up he should just send out an all-office e-mail and see what turned up. So, one day into the challenge he was feeling much better about it-in fact, he was almost gloating!

As for me, my thinking had been that it would be somewhat like other fasts I have done, in the sense that it would help me see where my areas of temptation lay, and teach me discipline in resisting those temptations. Always a healthy thing, I think. And I was fine until last night when I was riding my bike home from choir practice and my bike-light batteries gave up the ghost about half-way home. Well, shoot. Now I had to decide: new batteries so I can ride even at night? wait until the month is up, since I don't ride at night very often? I just hate paying such high prices for gas, so I decided to buy the batteries.

That's fine, but that means going into a store, where all the temptations await! Gardening magazines and snack food were the things I had to avert my eyes from as I walked through the aisles. I didn't look, but I sure heard them calling to me! So there you go; now you know some of my main downfalls. But I was a good girl, and got out of there with only what was on my list-a few food items and the batteries.

The other place I notice I'm somewhat tempted is the sale flyers for home-improvement places that come in the newspaper. I started to give them a glance, then realized I needed to just get them out the garage for recycling. Many pats on the back for that, Joyce!! You're so disciplined!!

So, I spent $4.99 on a non-food item, and it's only day three. But it's instructive, very instructive.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April "Buy Nothing New" Challenge

Well, I've committed to participating in a challenge to buy nothing new for the entire month of April. Basically, participants agree to buy only food and medication, and I suppose gas for the car. I think it will be interesting to see how we do. We're pretty frugal, but I know giving up eating out will be hard, because we've fallen into that habit since the kids have grown up.

Wish me luck! I'll keep you updated on how we do.