Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I was putting together a worship service this morning, and ended up choosing a hymn by my old counterpoint professor Thomas Benjamin (this goes back to the time when I was studying at the Peabody Conservatory and thought I was going to be an opera singer). I knew he was in our hymnal; I had sat next to him at a UU Musicians Network conference many years ago. I just forget sometimes that I used to take counterpoint, and had to write a fugue over spring break...

Friday, October 27, 2006


I finally saw "Inconvenient Truth" and without giving away the surprise ending for those of you who haven't seen it, there was one graph that totally changed the way I am experiencing autumn. Gore was showing a graph of the increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, and though the general trend was steadily up, it wiggled up and down every year. He explained that the trees in the deciduous forests of the northern hemisphere released enough Carbon Dioxide with the dropping of their leaves in fall to change the CO2 for the whole planet. Right now the trees in our hemisphere are exhaling. No wonder fall feels different than spring. I mean, they both are transitional seasons, right? It can't just be the quantity of light, because fall and spring do feel so very different. Spring is what it feels like when there is more oxygen in the air, fall is a time with more CO2. The air you breathe in fall is literally different than the air you breathe in spring (and that doesn't even account for the radically different plant matter in the air in each season). This is seriously blowing my mind.

blog lazy

Sorry for the long silence. On Friday the 13th I spent the day at Hidden Villa with an environmental leadership program called "Be the Change." It was SO what I've been hungry for- to spend time literally staring at a tree and listening to birds. Ever since I started reading Thomas Berry, it became clear how important it is for each of us to know our own place, for me to know the seasons and plants and birds of my own neighborhood, my own eco-system. It's also good to get to know my political eco-system as well. Did you know that there was a comprehensive trolley system in the Bay area in the 1920s that was bought up by private interests and ripped out to promote the car and highway system? We live in such a highly mobile society, that it's easy to loose site of the fact that each place is different, follows different patterns, offers particular gifts. We risk doing damage if we are not paying attention to our particular community, and we risk missing out on the beauty that is uniquely ours.

Then last weekend I went up to Bioneers. It was my second year, so of course I'm all jaded and harder to amaze. Okay, I was amazed by Paul Stamets and the crazy creepy world of mushrooms. Apparently during the first major extinction on the planet (we're in the 6th right now) some asteroid hit the planet and the earth was covered by a dust cloud for about 10 years. The plants could not survive and the fungi ruled. Or how about that 2,400 acre mycelium mass in Oregon? I'm not even going to describe how a mushroom can kill an ant- it will give the little ones nightmares.

And of course Lois Gibbs is amazing- to hear what they went through trying to get officials to pay any attention to the residents of Love Canal was really disturbing.

But for some reason what really got inside me was hearing Tzeporah Berman from Forest Ethics talk about the loss of forests on the planet. Only 3 countries in the world have forests left that are big enough to maintain full bio-diversity. She has been fighting for the "Great Bear Rain Forest" which runs along the North West up into Canada. They re-named the forest because it is the last habitat left for the Great Bear. It is known to the government as "Mid Coast Timber Supply." It's this clash of worlds that made me grouchy with my family all day Sunday when I came home. It's not just that beautiful balanced habitats and communities are being destroyed for short-term financial gain, it's that the people who are making 1,000 year old trees into Victoria's Secret catalogues don't even see living beings- they see "timber supply."

And what can I even do from so far away? It's not much, but I can call the companies who send me catalogues and ask them to desist. I can try to remind my church why they really do want to spend the extra few dollars to use post-consumer paper. And I can vote yes on Santa Clara County Proposition "A" and save the little bits of "open" space left in my own community. I suppose the Buddhist Teacher and Deep Ecologist Joanna Macy would remind me that it's not about avoiding despair, but hoping that this heart break will give me the courage to do something real to save what matters.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Whole Elephant

Sometimes I get a little confused about who I am and what I'm doing. Not in a "see your doctor" kind of way but in a "what does it all mean?" kind of way. Sometimes I even get confused about what it means to be a minister. In most situations I'm the only minister in the room, and everyone is coming from a different paradigm- engineers, teachers, project managers, full-time parents, doctors...

I feel a little like the elephant in the Buddhist story.
The project manager says "A minister is one who is in charge of making sure our projects run smoothly"
The Finance team says "A minister is like a CFO who takes care of our fiscal health"
The deep thinkers say "A minister is the one who provides the deep thoughts for the congregation."
The Caring People say "A minister is someone who is there for us in times of sadness or angst"
The Activists say "A minister is a prophet who helps make the world a just place."
The Marketing people say "A minister is the public face of a congregation, representing us to the wider world"
Each person seems to have a different piece of what ministry might be, that grows out of their own experience of the world, and their own calling within it.

And I get a little confused, because I know that a minister is all those things, and that those are all important ministries: our world would suffer without the ministries of all those people. Perhaps what they are really saying is that they believe that their own ministry is real, and important. I could not agree more. The path and values each of us is called to in our lives is real ministry.

But when I go to be with my colleagues, and am surrounded by people who have given their lives to be something called a Minister they say "a Minister is like nothing else but a Minister."

And more importantly they say "A minister is like you."

And all of a sudden I remember who I am and what I am doing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My First Mistake

I was recently remembering the first big mistake I made at this church, back when I was so new that I imagined I was making mistakes every minute. I foresaw these mistakes would become visible slowly over time as people knew me better and trusted me enough to reveal the fact that I had stomped on their toes while I was getting settled in.

At my first church I had been the closet queen. I had gone through every art supply and piece of fading construction paper with a team of volunteers and had put a bi-annual closet cleaning event into the church calendar.

When I first came to this new congregation the closets were SERIOUSLY over-stuffed. Even in my own office there was not 6" for me to hang a file in the overflowing file drawers. The rooms were also rich with art supplies and books and games, and by rich I mean junky-looking.

So I said in an offhand way to our church administrator "These closets are gross, and what's up with the junk in the classrooms? This is not acceptable."

Her brow furrowed, "but (T) your predecessor worked so hard on those. She was in there for weeks cleaning things out. We've been working together to make things better for you." It was proven out over time that (B) our administrator had been on junk and clutter patrol, and kept on it for the next 3 years we worked together with relatively minor assistance from me. Before she was taken from us, the junk was down to respectable level, and the closets and rooms were totally usable. Our closet volunteers have done a great job maintaining the order, and all I have to do is preside over seasonal purges.

The moral of this story is: When you see something in your community that does not meet your standards, ask first "What's the story?" because you may find that it took a lot of hard work just to get it to the place it is.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Day in the Life

Sometimes I wonder if because most of my writing is so pondor-ful, people imagine me sitting in the lotus position trying to solve the great mysteries of the universe all day, but really most minister days would look familiar to most people who work in an office. What if my blog read like this:
Answered e-mail for 4 hours today
Committee meeting and working group meeting
Wrote board report

I mean, I'm falling asleep writing it.

My work is extremely engaging, don't get me wrong. Even on these very ordinary days, I usually spend my final moments hopping from foot to foot with my key ring around my index finger trying to tie up those most urgent loose ends in time to beat the clock at my son's daycare. (If you are late you pay $2 a minute, and people look at you like you are the worst mom ever).

I'm just saying that the challenge with ministry, as with most jobs, is to find balance and spaciousness. And so the preponderance of pondering in this blog.