I think we’re ready for the next step in our family’s food evolution

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Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

I’m currently co-teaching a class based on Shane Claibourne and Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Revolution at my church. It’s a great book about taking the things Jesus actually said seriously, and I’m enjoying our group discussions every week. On Sunday, one of the chapters I taught was about environmentalism, and how important it is for followers of Jesus not just to take caring for creation seriously, but to become partners and co-workers in God’s restoration of all of creation, a project that ultimately ends in the Revelations-vision of a garden-city in the New Jerusalem when heaven and earth finally become one. The book also makes a great connection between the fact that the price of environmental degradation is almost always paid heaviest by the poorest among us, and notes that creation care is inextricably tied to ideas of justice for the poor.

One way the book suggests we can minimize our environmental impact is through our diets, and this reminded me of the journey my family has been on food-wise since 2009. In 2009, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that started me thinking that my diet was incompatible with some of my deepest concerns for the poor and the environment. As I wrote then, “According to Bourne, 35% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock instead of people.  Think about that.  I’ve read that it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, and more and more, that bothers me.  It gets to me to see photographs of starving babies and know that the tasty meat I eat is contributing to the food scarcity that is killing children all over the world.”

Of course, at the time, I was very much a beginning cook, and I didn’t really know how to cook a meal that wasn’t based around a chicken breast, which I bought frozen in giant bags. Knowing that a little change was better than nothing at all, at the time, we committed to one meat-free meal per week. That may seem small (or, depending on how much meat you usually eat, huge), but it actually makes a difference– I had read that if every American committed to one meat-free meal per week, it would be like taking 5 million cars off the road, and if every American committed to one meat-free *day* per week, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road.

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Since that first commitment in 2009, we’ve slowly changed our diet from Meatless Monday to Mostly Meat-Free. In fact, after revisiting that 2009 blog post, I suggested to my husband that we might be ready to commit to eat meat ONLY one day per week. He agreed wholeheartedly. After slowly inching in that direction over all this time, it doesn’t feel like a huge leap. We’ve gotten used to eating “mostly plants” as Michael Pollan says, while still rounding out our diets with eggs, dairy, and seafood. (If you want to see some of the meatless meals we love, I’ve got a pinboard for that.)

I’ll say now like I said then: I don’t envision an entirely vegetarian life for us. We like meat, even if we can largely do without it. Once in a while, we like to split a ribeye at Maddie’s Place or roast a chicken for dinner, and I think we will always want to have the freedom to indulge in something we like once in a while, especially when traveling and getting to know other food cultures. I don’t come at this from the angle that eating animals is wrong, though I respect friends’ choices if that’s what they believe.

I guess I’m writing this now to say: little steps make a difference. You don’t have to try to change the world or even your diet all at once. If you currently eat meat at most meals, you might be where we were in 2009. If you want to try just starting with Meatless Mondays (or any other day that works for you), it will make a big difference in the impact you have on the environment and the global food economy, I really believe it.

And if you’re ever interested in what we’re eating around here, I like to Instagram our dinners with the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner

an earthy good friday

Today is Good Friday. Today is Earth Day.

I saw a tweet about how today you can choose to celebrate the Earth OR you can choose to celebrate the One who made it. As if that were an either/or proposition. I’d like to suggest that in taking care of the Earth, we serve and indeed worship our Creator.

In the past few years, my faith has sort of shifted directions. I feel like I’ve gotten to know Jesus better and been drawn closer to him. As this has been happening, my understanding of what is important about Jesus has shifted slightly. Rather than being focused solely on Jesus’ death and resurrection, I’ve broadened my focus to what Jesus said his mission was– to proclaim the gospel that the Kingdom of God is at hand (that is, available to us right here and right now), a kingdom characterized by resurrection, renewal, and the return of all of creation to the way things were meant to be. This means the saving work of Jesus, which was his life, death, AND resurrection, is not just for my soul, but for all of the earth. And that’s where Earth Day comes in.

Part of the beauty of the Creation story* is that we were placed in a beautiful garden in order to enjoy and care for it. As I mentioned in a post about faith and food that was inspired while listening to a Rob Bell sermon, God told Adam that he was put in the garden to work and to take care of the Garden.  Bell noted that the Hebrew words for “to work” and “to take care of” used to describe Adam’s (if I was going to get literary here I’d say that at this point Adam is a symbol for why all of us were created) role in the garden are usually used elsewhere to describe the act of serving and worshipping God.  Basically, to worship God was to TAKE CARE OF what God created in the garden (aka the world).

I believe a great window into just how far we have fallen from the ideal to which we were created is to see just how warped our relationship with creation has become. A relationship that was supposed to be characterized by reverence and care has become a relationship characterized by exploitation, destruction, and abuse. This is also reflected in our relationships toward our fellow creatures, human and nonhuman, and even in our relationship toward God. We cannot properly love the Creator while destroying the creation.

When Jesus put on human skin and lived with us, he preached the coming of the Kingdom. He modeled Kingdom life, a way of living characterized by right relationship: to God, to each other, and to creation. He taught us to live as children of God, that we might be a blessing to all of creation, as described in Romans 8:18:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

The saving work of Jesus, the liberating work of Jesus, is for us, and for creation itself.

So how does this tie in to Good Friday? On Good Friday, we remember a savior who came to teach us how to live as we were created to live, but who allowed us the freedom to refuse to live it out. He allowed us, rather than responding to him in the relationship that we should have, to reject him and subject him to violence. He modeled a love that, rather than lashing out against enemies, tells us to put away the sword and then reaches out to heal even the one who comes to kill us. He modeled a love that, even as it hung suffering and dying on the cross, was moved to forgiveness. He modeled a love that somehow is not destroyed by evil, violence, and death, but which submits to it, only to come back again. Through this love, we are enabled to transcend evil, violence, and death. Through this love, we become partners in first dying to the old ways, and then in rising to participate as partners in the resurrection and renewal of all things, which will culminate in the New Jerusalem, a place here on earth, in which everything works the way God planned it, and everything is made right.

So on Good Friday, we sit with the wrongness. We sit with the brokenness. We sit with the realization that we are fallen. Fallen so far that we would kill the one who came to save. And we marvel in the love that would let us. And this Sunday, we rejoice in the love that was not destroyed, but resurrected to bring renewal to us and to all things. The experience of Holy Week is very spiritual, but it should move us to very earthy action.

*I believe the creation stories in Genesis are less statements of fact than they are statements of purpose. They tell the “why” of creation rather than the “how.” Thus, I believe in evolution, even as I affirm a Creator God who made everything with divine purpose. As a literature student, I find the language-centered aspect of the story, that God literally spoke things into being, particularly fascinating, but that’s not particularly important for the scope of this post.

my environmentalist awakening, or lack thereof

Today is Earth Day. Being a big, tree-hugging dork, I am wearing a blue dress and a green sweater, the colors of Mother Earth.  (I’m really not kidding about my level of dorkitude.)  Today, the entire blogosphere is abuzz with tales of what finally made people open their eyes to the realities of climate change and the need to take better care of our environment.  And truly, I could write a really handy post about how I discovered No Impact Man a few years ago and set out on a course to live more lightly on the planet, and be mostly telling the truth.  But the real story is, I grew up doing this stuff, and I was basically just returning to a way of living I grew up on.  I was basically raised an environmentalist. I’m not talking about growing up watching Captain Planet, either, although I admit, I did love that show and may have giggled about how much my high school class ring made me feel like a Planeteer. Continue reading “my environmentalist awakening, or lack thereof”

he certainly made an impact

Picture 2
Image via No Impact Man's blog.

About two and a half years years ago, Jon and I were in the car together when we heard an NPR report about a strange guy who had decided to turn his life into an experiment in green living.  Specifically, we heard the voice of this man who was disappointed at the time that a security guard had not let him walk up 19 flights of stairs to the studio in which he was being interviewed, because electric elevators were not part of his experiment, who had decided to try to live with as close to zero environmental impact as possible for a year, despite living smack in the middle of New York City.  It would be an experiment to prove that it was possible, even in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities, to live a green life, and to suggest to others the power of small, personal choices in effecting change.  He called himself No Impact Man.

When we got home, we immediately Googled this fellow and found his blog.  We became regular readers.  And over the course of two years, we followed along as No Impact Man and his family lived without a washing machine, stomping their laundry like grapes in the bathtub.  When they turned off their electricity.  As a rickshaw became their main mode of transportation.  As they ate only locally grown food.  As they composted, with worms, IN THE CITY.  As they produced next to no trash.  I could go on and on linking to various posts, but more than his specific actions, No Impact Man’s positive attitude began to influence us.  He wasn’t a finger-wagging, guilt-tripping eco-scold.  He was just a guy, trying a new way of life, sharing his experiences, and inviting us to come along.  And as he honestly shared that this new way of life was making him happier and healthier, and bringing his family closer together, we began to WANT to come along.

After two and a half years of following No Impact Man and his family, my husband proudly tells people that he “changed the way we think about everything.”  And it’s true.  We compost. We bike.  We use public transit.  We try to grow some of our own food.  We try to buy local food.  We try to buy ethically raised food.  We avoid processed foods.  We eat less meat.  We recycle.  We bring our own bags.  We use all natural cleaning and body care products.  We try to produce less trash.  We got a low flow showerhead.  We’ve made our home more energy efficient.  We’ve made all sorts of small changes in our lives, and we can honestly say most of them started because of No Impact Man.

Which is why I get annoyed when I see publications I usually enjoy, like the New Yorker, dismissing No Impact Man’s journey as just a stunt. Elizabeth Kolbert writes:

A more honest title for Beavan’s book would have been “Low Impact Man,” and a truly honest title would have been “Not Quite So High Impact Man.” Even during the year that Beavan spent drinking out of a Mason jar, more than two billion people were, quite inadvertently, living lives of lower impact than his. Most of them were struggling to get by in the slums of Delhi or Rio or scratching out a living in rural Africa or South America. A few were sleeping in cardboard boxes on the street not far from Beavan’s Fifth Avenue apartment.

Ah yes, there is nothing like criticizing someone who has done a good thing by wondering why they haven’t solved all the problems in the world in one fell swoop. SURE YOU ARE LIVING GREENER, BUT WHY HAVEN’T YOU SOLVED HOMELESSNESS OR GLOBAL POVERTY, HUH, BUDDY?

Elizabeth Kolbert also writes:

The real work of “saving the world” goes way beyond the sorts of action that “No Impact Man” is all about. What’s required is perhaps a sequel. In one chapter, Beavan could take the elevator to visit other families in his apartment building. He could talk to them about how they all need to work together to install a more efficient heating system. In another, he could ride the subway to Penn Station and then get on a train to Albany. Once there, he could lobby state lawmakers for better mass transit. In a third chapter, Beavan could devote his blog to pushing for a carbon tax. Here’s a possible title for the book: “Impact Man.”

This is where I wonder if Kolbert even did her research at ALL. No Impact Man has frequently used his blog to urge wider activism, even as his experiment remained largely focused on small, personal choices.  He has highlighted political discussions, urged readers to contact their political leaders, and even spoken to some political readers themselves.  His posts on these topics are easy to find if you visit his blog and click the line in the right sidebar marked “Activism.”  I’m not sure how much more the New Yorker can expect from one man.

Yes, Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, conducted an experiment in living, which some ungenerous folks might call a “stunt.”  The sequel to the story is played out every day on his blog, as No Impact Man has returned to some of his old impactful ways, having decided they were too much of an inconvenience, but kept many of the practices that he took up during his year of living greenly.  He has a book and a documentary film coming out this month.  And if he changed OUR lives so drastically with just his blog and an NPR interview, I can only imagine how many others will be “impacted” through the book and the film.

And that’s when the criticism of this “stunt” breaks down.  It’s not an either we all change the way we live OR we enact huge sweeping societal changes.  It’s a BOTH AND. Because there ARE lots of us out there who have changed our lives largely because of this man.  And if more and more of us begin to change our lives, and make ourselves and our planet happier and healthier in the process, and in turn inspire others around us to also change their lives, then this No Impact “stunt” will have quite an impact indeed.  Because those of us who have changed our lives, even in small ways, are also the ones calling and emailing our Congresspeople and signing petitions and carrying signs.  And we know from first-hand experience that if we can change our own lives, we can certainly change the world.

Here’s the trailer for the film, which I can’t wait to see!

you(r values) are what you eat

I consider myself pretty well informed about food issues.  My upbringing was decidedly unconventional concerning food, though I didn’t really know it until I went to college.  My parents were rather prolific gardeners, growing most of our produce organically, though at the time I never really knew what “organic” meant.  We had our own chickens from whom we gathered our eggs.  We even briefly raised our own pig.  The first taste I ever got of a frozen vegetable was in a cafeteria, and no lie, I called my mom to ask her why the green beans there didn’t taste right.  She laughed at me, perhaps realizing she’d ruined me for life. As an adult, I try to frequent the farmer’s market, or at least buy organic produce at my grocery store.  I thought I was informed, making wise choices, doing what was right for my body and the planet.

I even read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  So I really thought I knew.

Food IncBut there is something different about SEEING it.  We saw “Food, Inc.” this weekend and afterward, as I headed off on my bike, a backpack full of reusable bags, to the grocery store, my husband asked, “What are you going to buy?”  “Oh, just some veggies and some yogurt.”  “Good, because I’m not sure I can eat any meat today.”  We’ve decided it’s time to get serious about our food choices after watching this film.  It really affected us.  And I hope you will see it too.

There are just too many reasons now for me not to do the right thing in my food choices.  Because I care about the way farmers are treated by big companies like Tyson and Purdue and Monsanto.  Because I care about the way workers are treated by big companies like Smithfield and Pilgrim’s Pride.  Because I care about the way animals are treated, all along the food chain.   Because I care about the way the land and the water are treated all along the food chain.  Because I care about the impact on world hunger.  Because I care about the way consumers are treated by large companies and the regulators who fail to protect them.  Because I care about the health of my body and my community.

Now, I have friends who are already saying things to me about how they don’t want to watch this film because they don’t want to have to change the way they eat.  This shows that they already know there is something wrong with our food system.  They just don’t want to put in a little more effort, maybe cut back on spending in other areas in order to be able to afford more ethical food, maybe spend less time on the couch and more time in the kitchen.  But we can’t sit here with our fingers in our ears singing “La La La La La, I can’t hear you” for too much longer.  Because we KNOW something has to change. Continue reading “you(r values) are what you eat”

bufflo roams back home

a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.
a pic from our trip: a weed near Red Rocks in CO.

So, I’m back from a week spent in Colorado with family, and I’m catching up on all the things I’ve missed out on during what was probably a much needed break from the internets and news.  Seriously, my Google Reader had “1000+” items in it when I got on for the first time this morning since Tuesday (besides a little BlackBerry powered browsing while sitting in airports).  And since I’m motoring through it, I figured I’d put a few of the hits right here.  Sorta like a less-timely Bufflo Tips.  I will probably be blogging more about my trip later, but for now, enjoy some linkylinkys.

First up: I love Jenny Lewis’ video for her song See Fernando.  She’s definitely a girl crush of mine.  If someone would PLEASE teach me how to embed non-YouTube videos on WordPress, it would be much appreciated.  In the meantime, you have to watch this 60’s spy-thriller music video here.

Next, check out the trailer for No Impact Man (and Family)’s documentary!  I’ve loved following their journey on the blog and look forward to seeing the film.

  • We have been out of town for a week.  Duh.  We were staying with family who probably had every toiletry that I could possibly need and thus could have preventing me from needing to pack any.  We didn’t check any bags.  We were gone less than a week.  I overpacked.  It’s chronic.  I should have read this post, from one of my fave bloggers, Decorno.
  • Journalism great Walter Cronkite died this week, and Glenn Greenwald points out that most of the journalists marking his passing and running retrospectives are nowhere NEAR the journalist Cronkite was, and are opposed to doing the kind of reporting he did.  Greenwald writes:

    Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

  • I used to respect John McCain, even if I didn’t always agree with him, until he ran such a despicable campaign for the presidency and chose an idiot to be his running mate.  Now, he’s losing even more points from me because he’s blocking nominees to the Department of the Interior because he wants a copper mine to be allowed in a national forest.
  • Via Jezebel, I never thought Charlie Brown could be creepy.  Turns out he can.
  • Nate Silver notes that Sarah Palin really *isn’t* all that much of a fundraiser.
  • Meanwhile, in my absence, Palin decided to try to string a few coherent sentences together (a huge undertaking from the Queen of Fragments, though I’m guessing this piece was heavily edited by someone with at least a bare-bones knowledge of basic grammar) in opposition to cap and trade in the Washington Post.  Alex Koppelman of Salon’s War Room blog summarized the op ed thusly:

    While the piece is certainly more coherent than her resignation announcement or some of her past interviews, the article makes numerous unsubstantiated claims and reads like a greatest hits list of Republican talking points on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill currently working its way through Congress.

    The entire piece refuting Palin’s points is worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet. I like this part: “She does not rely on any scientific evidence to back up any of the bold statements she makes in the piece.” BECUZ SARAH PALIN DON’T NEED UR FANCY BOOK LERNIN’.  ALSO, SY-ENCE IS FUR ATHEEISTS.  Another good reaction to the Palin op ed can be found at The Daily Beast, written by Edward Markey, of Waxman-Markey fame.  I think I’ll trust the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee over a less-than-one-term governor with a degree in communications that apparently failed to give her a basic grasp of Standard English any day.

  • Ezra Klein says Palin probably didn’t write it.  She signed her name to it.  He’s probably right.  He also writes:

    The term “global warming” is absent. So is “climate change.” It’s a bit like an op-ed that attacks firefighters for pointing pressurized water cannons at everything but never mentions fires, or a column that condemns surgeons for sticking sharp things into people but never mentions illness.

  • Conor Clark at The Daily Dish says “Palin’s op-ed displays an ignorance for the subject so profound it’s almost gutsy. Almost.”
  • Obama nominated a Surgeon General who isn’t Sanjay Gupta and who seems to be an all-around awesome lady.  Apparently some haters think she’s too fat to be Surgeon General, 4rlz.  Frances Kissling of Salon’s Broadsheet addresses those haters.
  • Meanwhile Ezra Klein has a sensical piece about why we as a society should worry about obesity.
  • So, a bunch of “Blue Dogs” are threatening to derail health reform.  Nate Silver points out that this could hurt them in the end, as their districts have higher rates of uninsurance than most.  He writes:

    Mike Ross of the Arkansas 4th, where almost 22 percent of the population is uninsured? This is a bill designed to help districts like his. And the same goes for most of the other Blue Dogs. A lot of the time, these guys are stuck in a tough spot between their party and their constituents. Here, those interests are mostly aligned.

  • Yay for good news when it comes to SAVING THE ANTIBIOTICS.
  • And finally, check out this piece on How Outlet Malls Rip Us Off, and maybe next time you head to the outlets, take a smart phone so you can check reference prices online and find out what retail price REALLY is.


Picture 2Today, two of my favorite thinkers seem to be in a weird synchronicity, so I thought I’d share.

First, Colin aka No Impact Man asks, what fills you with awe?  Colin is not, as far as I know, a Christian, but he’s a very spiritual person, and often in his writing I find things that resonate with what I think and feel and believe as a person of faith.  Today he has a video of whales and writes:

Once in a while, even though it’s trendy, these days, not to talk about other species when we talk about environmentalism, I like to reconnect with that about our planet that fills me with wonder. And for me, one of those things is whales….Meanwhile, what about our planet fills you with awe?

Second, Rob Bell, a pastor from Michigan whose sermons I often listen to via podcast and whose book Velvet Elvis recently changed my  life, has his latest Nooma film availble for free viewing online today, until midnight.  You can check it out here.  This video is about the story of Job, and how God speaks to a man who is in the midst of unspeakable suffering and despair and reminds him that the story is so much bigger than he is, and that his suffering is not the final word in the middle of the grand story of our creative Creator God.  Bell says

We want to know why we suffer like we do…and there are times when the only honest, healthy, human thing to do is to shout your question and shake your fist and rage against the heavens and demand an explanation.  But true wisdom, the kind we find here with Job, the kind that endures…that kind of wisdom knows when to speak and when to be silent.  Because your story is not over.  The last word has not been spoken.  And there may be way more going on here than any of us realize.  So may you be released from always having to understand why things happen they way it does…May you have the wisdom to know when to say ‘I spoke once but now I will say no more.’

What is it that God says to Job that inspires him to be silent?  That changes the way he feels about his suffering?  It’s the thing that ties in with Colin’s question above.  What God says to Job is truly awe inspiring:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone–while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?…

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God’s] dominion over the earth?

Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who gives the ibis wisdom [about the flooding of the Nile], or gives the rooster understanding [of when to crow]?

Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?

Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? They crouch down and bring forth their young; their labor pains are ended. Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds; they leave and do not return.

Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied its ropes? I gave it the wasteland as its home, the salt flats as its habitat. It laughs at the commotion in the town; it does not hear a driver’s shout. It ranges the hills for its pasture and searches for any green thing.

Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night? Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness? Will it till the valleys behind you? Will you rely on it for its great strength? Will you leave your heavy work to it? Can you trust it to haul in your grain and bring it to your threshing floor?

The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.

Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray. It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against its side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’ It catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high? It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is its stronghold. From there it looks for food; its eyes detect it from afar. Its young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there it is. (Job 38:4-39:30)

So I will answer Colin’s question. One thing that has always filled me with awe is the stars. Perhaps I inherited this from my father, who was always calling us outside, sometimes even after bedtime, to point out Mars and Venus in the night sky, to trace the lines of Orion or the Pleiades in their constellations (just like the part I bolded above). Who calls me from 1000 miles away, even now, to tell me to go outside and look at the moon, or Jupiter, or some other stellar thing. When I would go to camp in the summer at Mo-Ranch in Texas, my favorite thing was after vespers, when we’d all go lie on the tennis courts in the dark, their concrete still warm from a day’s baking in the sun, and stare up at the sky, so far from any city that even the Milky Way was visible. And more than any sermon ever could, this would fill me with awe and wonder and a deep awareness of the presence of God. The sight was so overwhelming and beautiful and humbling that tears would well up in my eyes and in the back of my throat.

And my love of seeing the stars is one thing that inspires me to take better care of the environment.  To keep the air clean so we can even see the stars.  To be mindful of light pollution and its effects on ecosystems.  As Rob Bell says, “How we treat creation reveals how we feel about its Creator.” (my paraphrase)

So. I answered Colin’s question. What fills YOU with awe?

Photograph above is by Jim Richardson, via National Geographic.

I’m so pedestrian

When I started a new job in January, I also started riding the bus for the first time ever. I wanted to ride the bus largely because of my environmental convictions– it’s hard to be a tree hugging hippie with a bus stop a block from home and still choose to drive my car, four banger though it is, because I’m sure Al Gore would haunt me in my dreams, shaking his finger at me and telling me about all the baby polar bears I was killing just to drive myself 5 miles to work each day.   I also wanted to ride the bus because my job provides me with a free bus pass but charges for parking. So between saving money and saving the earth, getting familiar with the public transit system was pretty much my only option.

City bus, 1953 via Seattle Municipal Archives @ flickr
City bus, 1953 via Seattle Municipal Archives @ flickr

Before I go any further, I should mention that aside from field trips, I had never even so much as ridden a school bus. Seasoned “car rider” here. My mom didn’t want to miss that decompression conversation with us every day after school, plus she was convinced kids would try to sell us drugs on the bus or something. Perhaps as a result of my bus-free experience up until now, I was quite scared my first day of bus-riding, afraid I’d miss the bus, afraid I wouldn’t get off at the right stop, afraid I’d miss the bus after work, afraid I didn’t know where the stop closest to my house on the other side of the road was, afraid of the kind of people I’d see on the bus, afraid of what I’d do if it was pouring rain and I had to walk two blocks from the bus stop to my office…

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