Scripture: Living and Active

Scripture: Living and Active
Our most significant scriptures are marked with post it notes.

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We gather for worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Children go to Sunday school following their special time in worship, about 10:15 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Contemplation by Naomi Wenger
at Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite – July 28, 2013

Deuteronomy 32:1-4, 10 – 47; Matthew 23:37

In 1989, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a small book entitled Who Needs God. This was a continuation of his thought in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, which he wrote after the agonizing suffering and death of his son. Rabbi Kushner intentionally omitted the question mark in the title of his book about God. Likewise, I have intentionally omitted that punctuation from the title of this meditation; who is god. Why? Because it allows the accustomed question of a person, who may be in a great deal of pain, to turn into a statement of hope for all people. Who - each who of us no matter who we are and what we have been through - who needs God.

Like that statement of Rabbi Kushner’s, who is God begs that we consider God as a person. “Who” is a word that wonders and as it wonders tells you all it knows. We have been exploring this summer, a creation about which God is actively caring. But who is this God? Many of us, when we think about God, we use pictures or images of God that describe an attribute of God. Take our text today, the overwhelming image of God is a Rock. 

photo by Jerry Warstler

I have not talked much to rocks. Yes, back in the 1980s at the same time as Rabbi Kushner was writing his book about needing God, there was a pet rock craze and people actually bought rocks, named them, “fed” them and talked to them – even took them for walks – but I am not sure how many of those pet rocks are still friendly with their owners. We now laugh up our sleeves at the silliness of owning a pet rock.

But, here at the end of his life, Moses thought quite highly of this image of God. This Rock is a powerhouse who is perfect and just and without deceit. This rock is greater than the rocks of the other nations’ gods, who are not able to protect them from the vengeance of God.  Where does Moses get this idea? From early in his life, Moses had encounters that were unusual; maybe even divine.  The book of Exodus begins with God noticing that the children of Israel are suffering in slavery. After 430 years of living in Egypt, God hears the cries of his people and begins to act. The conniving midwives, his enterprising mother and an unsuspecting princess save Moses from certain death. Not yet certain of his calling, Moses is curious enough about his kinsmen to come and observe them at work in the slave labor camps Pharaoh has established in Goshen. Seeing an Egyptian mistreating one of the slaves, Moses strikes him, kills him and hides his body in the sand. Sure enough, Pharaoh hears of it and Moses flees for his life to Midian, where he hires himself out to be a shepherd in the wilderness for one of the priests of the place. Now Midian is in the northwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, beyond the gulf of Aqaba. Later, after Moses has married the daughter of his boss, Jethro, he sees a bush burning but not consumed on a rocky hillside in the wilderness. Out of this bush, God speaks to Moses, telling him to go and set his people free by talking to Pharaoh about their plight.

Later, when the children of Israel are in the wilderness, Moses strikes a Rock and water comes gushing out. And because of this action, striking rather than talking to the Rock, Moses’ experience of the land of promise is reduced to sight only.

Also, Moses ascends a great rocky heap, a mountain, to meet with God and receive the law of God for the people. Here God gives to him two rocks inscribed with laws for the people. After he breaks these first two rocks over the hard heads of the people, Moses prepares two more rocks to receive the law of God. And God says an amazing thing. 

34:5The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” 6The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. 

It is instructive to notice that God is slow to anger and abounding in love to the thousandth generation while his judgment on those guilty of sin only lasts for three or four generations. Yes, God is abounding in love an faithfulness.

photo by Deborah Haak

It is here, on the same rock, Moses asks to see God and God says that no one can see God and live. So, God hides Moses in a rock and passes by whereupon Moses looks and sees God’s backside. Moses and God have a “rocky” relationship.  In fact, it is interesting to note that if you or I had been a lizard in the pack of any of the travelers in the company Moses is leading, our unstinting view would be of rocks. It is therefore not surprising that at the end of Moses’ life, he calls God a Rock. This is an image that every Israelite would have interpreted as ubiquitous, difficult, unmovable, useful, and holy.

Each of them would also have understood the image of God as mother eagle, feeding her young in the crags. That’s exactly what they felt like, out there in the wilderness. Manna and quail on schedule; just when they opened their beaks, God dropped in the food.  This is the image Jesus repeats when he wants to gather Jerusalem like a mother hen her chicks.

google image -- The Prayer Book to Guide Christian Education site

These are realistic images of actual god experiences. Moses does not have to look far to find the 

models for these word pictures. So who is god? Who is god!

God responds: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” There is something about this that is definitional to God. God is the one who rescues. God is the one who hears the cry for justice. God is the one who acts to correct injustice. He is patient with his anger and long-sighted in his mercy. God does remove the Egyptian’s slave laborers, on which they had become dependent, to whom they were cruel, of whom they had ceased to think, “these are fellow humans.” God leads the children of Israel out of Egypt by a way they did not know to a place they did not know among a people they did not know and it was justice. It was also love.

Much later in human history, God says this to the descendants of the people of the Exodus through the prophet Ezekiel (ch. 36), “You profaned the land I gave to you. Then, when I sent you into exile, you profaned my name among the foreign people. You don’t know how to ask forgiveness or even that you need to ask forgiveness. You are so hopelessly lost in your willfulness that you don’t even know who you are. So here is what I will do for you. First, I will forgive you before you ask for forgiveness. Then, I will bring you back to the land that is your inheritance. I will give you a new heart, removing your old one. Then, I will breathe my Spirit into you, like I did in the Garden of Eden to the first man and woman. I will make you completely new. I will even renew the land that has become desolate from the battles and the taking of spoil. Then, you will understand who you are. But more importantly, you will understand who I am.” Who is God; god is a god with a desire for relationship with humans.

Again much later in human history, God determined to come to earth and be born and grow up and live among the people. And God did that. Jesus was born: the God-Man. And when he grew up, he told people this: my prayer for you is that you will be one with me as I am one with God. Be with us. Be part of us. We want you. And he gave us word pictures of relationship like the vine and the branches, shepherd and sheep, lost and found. He painted word pictures of belonging and connection. God wanted us to know that we are desired and desirable.

And through our own histories, we have desired god. So many of our disappointments of god are because god does not answer our expectations. And yet we our very expectations lead us to god. We desire. We long for god.

Barry Lopez, a profound observer of the natural world, in an essay entitled, “The Language of Animals” writes, “My sense is that the divine knowledge we yearn for is social; it is not in the province of a genius any more than it is in the province of a particular culture. It lies within our definition of community.

               "Our blessing, it seems to me, is not what we know,

                  but that we know each other.” 

And I would add to Lopez’s observation that a great portion of that blessing is that we can and do know God.

Who is God. God desires to be in relationship with you and with me. And how do I respond? I respond by weeping with God as two men and two machines eliminate 4 acres of trees and brush in 16 hours. 

photo by Kay Bontrager Singer (07-30-13)
I respond when I hope that the deer, turtles, squirrels find new homes, realizing that God made 

them to do just that.

photo by Kathy Fenton-Miller

photo by Nina Lanctot

I respond by receiving the gallons of wild blackberries that grow without my tending with gratitude. I respond by recognizing that the government under which I live is human construction and I am responsible for it whether I like it or not. I respond by clearing unwanted plants, commonly known as weeds, from garden, field and woodland. 

I respond when I talk to friends about how our wants for what is new, latest and greatest in personal technology creates injustice in places like the Congo and when I curb my own desire for this technology. 

In short, I respond every time I recognize and act on the reality of my relational existence in the universe.

How do you respond?

Jesus showed us that God wants to be with us. God is a personality who cares. This does not make the World perfect. But it makes it relational. We need each other. We need all the creatures, growing things and the rocks of the earth. We need God and God needs us. And that is the blessing. If we can receive this blessing, the blessing of relationship, we can, with God, bless the world with loving kindness to the thousandth generation of those who come after us.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Transition Florence?

On Sunday 30 June a conversation began.  Karla Kauffman hosted us at Maple Tree Meadows for a luscious meal of black bean tacos, greens, mint tea and maple walnut scones under the Maple Trees.  Nine folks attended, including four from *cino -- Culture is Not Optional.

After watching scenes from Transition 2.0 the conversation surrounded how we imagined the future of Florence in light of TRANSITIONING from oil dependency to local resilience.  Nina Lanctot and Kathy Fenton-Miller have been watching and reading the perspective of TRANSITION NETWORK, a global movement to rebuild local communities and economies from joyful grass roots collaborations. 

Kathy, Nina and Karla had also met with Peggy Deames, owner of World Fare, on June 20 to address the same questions in a TRANSITIONS RIVER COUNTRY? conversation.  We are all feeling a sense of urgency about climate changed and the impending end of cheap oil.  Due to our culture's oil addiction, shaping everything we do and how we live, we anticipate huge challenges -- and opportunities.

What shall we do?

Kathy and Willard Fenton-Miller and Karla Kauffman are considering what a CREATION CARE COLLABORATIVE for Florence might look like as an on-going agent for awareness and action.

Donald Lanctot and Kathy Fenton-Miller decided to organize and TOOLS-SKILLS-TEACHIING BANK where we could share what we have more easily with our Florence friends and family.

TRANSITION RIVER COUNTRY? decided to have information available at the HUSS FUTURE FEST on Saturday 20 July.  That information will be part of a Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite table from noon to 4:30 -- and including Congo Cloth as well!  Let me know if you can help spend some time at that table.

In addition, TRANSITION RIVER COUNTRY? -- Karla, Kathy, Nina and Peggy -- have agreed to gather monthly, near to the day of the full moon, to keep the conversation going.  Our next meeting is Monday 26 August.  We hope to have a guest from other area Transition Networks present with us. 

YOU ARE WELCOME TO COME!  Watch for details.

Friday, July 5, 2013

GOD KNOWS US -- Meditation by Peggy Deames, owner of Love Your Mother in Three Rivers, MI

God Knows Us    
Text:  Psalms 139:  1 – 18
by Peggy Deames
Owner of Love Your Mother

Bird House made from recycled candy wrappers.

That is the Word of the Lord.   The theme for the day is “God Knows Us”.  So often we forget that our creator really does know us.  Inside and out.  Top to bottom. Elsewhere in scripture, we are told that the very hairs on our heads are numbered. 

My family often teases me about the amount of generally useless trivia that I have stored away for the right moment, but even I, do not know the number of hairs on my head after some 50 plus years of living with the same head.  And to God, knowing the number of hairs on our heads is not trivial knowledge, but a metaphor for how deeply we are known and loved.  Even new parents do not know the number of hairs on their infants’ downy heads.  It is routine to count fingers and toes, but hairs, not so much. But God knows.

Today’s Bible lesson also tells us that God knows what is on my tongue before I speak it.  Really, if that is so, would not it be easier if our all knowing heavenly parent just typed all of this into my Word document and saved me the trouble of struggling to fathom this text that shouts, God knows us.     

Allow me to share with you how well God knows me and how that knowledge led me to be here today.  Pastor Nina came into my business, Love Your Mother store in downtown Three Rivers last month.  It was a gloomy spring day and my mood matched the weather.  Business had been very slow in my earth friendly shop.  I had unpaid bills.  I had some merchandise that was not selling.  I wanted to purchase some new products to perk up the store for summer shoppers but was at the max on my credit card.  Despite all, I have very faithful customers who are committed to shopping green and locally.  Many folks (some of you here today) often ask me to source items so they can buy locally.  

Love Your Mother: Earth Friendly Products

This dreary day I was going to have to tell a customer that I could not honor her request due to the high price of an initial order from a vendor to whom I had poured out my soul about the wonderful people in Three Rivers and the quaint historic downtown and the importance of healthy local economies, etc. etc.  I had really laid it on.  I felt that I had given so much to my business and had come up short.  I felt a failure.   And then into this scenario walks Nina, smiling, and dressed in (I kid you not) bright peach raiment.  Yep, God knows me.  God knows us. 

Angel Nina, God’s messenger, invited me to come and share with you today.  She had read a lament that I had written regarding the Enbridge pipeline that is being updated and expanded in this area this summer once again reminding us all of our complicity in our dependence on oil and how that impacts all of creation.  Nina had gleaned that I had a personal and professional passion for creation care.   She affirmed me when I was feeling like I had lost my way.  Our text states that God discerns our thoughts from far away.  You got it.  God knows me.  God knows us.   

This fact that God knows us can be a great comfort to us as we journey here on Mother Earth.  Our lesson tells us that we are knitted not on some giant industrial loom but are uniquely handmade perhaps as a kindly graying grandmother would do as she rocks and makes booties for her very first grandchild.  Once again.  God knows us.

And God knows all of creation, flora, fauna, air, water, soil.  All of creation is knit together.  We speak of the web of life, the great circle of life (Is it time to cue the theme from the Lion King?)  Who knows all of these intricate connections?  Any guesses?  God knows us.  And God knows all. 

Despite God’s deep knowledge of us, including our failures to recognize the intrinsic value and importance of all of creation, we are still entrusted with being stewards or caretakers of this breathtakingly beautiful biosphere.   Is God crazy?  We do not have a great track record.   You see God knows us, the good, the bad, and the ugly and still we are called to be caretakers within the circle of creation.  Why, does God continually call us when we continually falter?  It is precisely because God does know us.  God knows our potential.  In the midst of everything, God knows the best that we are capable of and God has our backs.  Sort of humbling, right?  So we muddle through.  Why?  Because. . . Say it with me.  God knows us.

So how do we even get out of bed to face the day, when all around us we see and hear of catastrophic climate change brought on by our too often convenience and consumer driven society?   Would I be making a better start if I awoke on an organic cotton mattress with equally organic cotton sheets and stepped out onto a sustainably sourced bamboo floor before I trudged into my low flow shower and scrubbed myself with Dr. Bronner’s always fair trade and organic hemp soap?  And would I be ever so much closer to right living, if I had organic shade grown fairly traded coffee in my reusable, recycled travel mug, emblazoned with the NPR logo, as I commuted to my job as the administrator of human rights NGO in, of course, my Prius?  Oh, if it were only that simple, we wealthy, white North Americans could simply upgrade our purchases and be quite righteous.  But guess what?  God knows us.

Not that any of the above is necessarily wrong, but God knows and we do also, deep down in our hearts that buying more stuff, even if it is organic and fairly traded, is not the whole answer to our broken relationships with each other and all of creation.  A concerted effort to cleanse our environs of all that we currently deem somehow not earth friendly, even if we could, only touches the surface and opens us up to legitimate criticism in future generations. 

It is easy for us to criticize those who have gone before us and the mistakes that they made, but in all honesty we do see (as scripture says) in a mirror dimly and each generation needs to walk gently and humbly admitting that we do not know what will be known in the future.  For example:  Who would have imagined that with the advent of plastic the mountains of non-biodegradable trash that would be generated?   And who would have known the number of trees that would be chopped down each year just to make the now ubicweus rolls of toilet paper in everyone’s bathroom. Yes, God knows us (and the number of sheets of bathroom tissue we use).

So what do we do with the knowledge that our lifestyles are not sustainable?  Like the proverbial path of 1000 miles, we start with one step.  The adage of reduce, reuse, recycle is not a lesson of living in scarcity, but rather an invitation to unburden ourselves of resources not needed at a particular time and to care for the resources needed in a loving way trusting that in our world community we will have what is needed when it is needed.  This speaks to ebb and flow, the dance of life, and relationship to the whole.  So what I need in my life now as a woman with adult children living on their own, is very different than what I needed as a young mother.   

And God knows, taking the steps to live in healthy relationship with all of creation should keep us so busy that we really won’t have time to be nit picky about our neighbor who may (gasp) be using disposable diapers for his/her baby or chose plastic over paper at the grocery store.  We greenies can be such snobs.  My son likes to tell me that more energy is used to make paper bags than plastic bags.  So OK, don’t use either, it is a good step.  God knows. 

I have learned much from my children and from my customers.  I am no expert.  I am growing and greening as I go.  God knew my heart for healthy living and my first career was in nursing.  Owning an earth friendly general store, I attempt to help people source eco-friendly merchandise locally and to provide a venue for the creativity of producers to reuse and recycle items in new ways.   Ideally, I should be working myself out of business.  When as a culture we expect that what we purchase will be earth friendly, there will no longer be the need for an earth friendly store as all stores would be that way.  We are not there yet.  God knows.

So what do we do with those pesky petroleum based plastics?  Plastic is here to stay because it will not just go away as it is not readily biodegradable and, of course, it is quite practical for some products.  First, we need to stop making new petroleum based plastics.  This will save petroleum as well as lower the amount of plastic on our planet where there is more than enough right now.  What that means for those of us who are not in the business of making plastics is that we need to reduce our use of plastic for so many items.  We need to reuse the plastics we have, like refilling bottles from bulk containers.  Or we can make our own products like window cleaner and reuse the same bottle over and over.  When we buy plastic, we should purchase recycled plastic even if it is only the container for a product (like shampoo). 

While it might be tempting to personally swear off plastic and there are those who do, we need to remember that in order to encourage recycling there needs to be a market for recycled plastic.  If there is no one buying recycled plastic, there will no longer be the incentive to recycle plastic and it will go to landfills or the ocean.  So we need to complete the full circle or recycling.  It is not enough to just recycle (although it is a good start).

Toys made of recycled plastic

I am not advocating that everyone go out and buy more stuff, but we need to think of the little items that we regularly toss like toothbrushes.  Yep, they make great little scrubbers, but eventually we toss them.  How about purchasing a toothbrush that is made out of a yogurt container and sending it back to the company for recycling when done with it?  There is a company that does this.  Many of us get our toothbrushes from our dentists when we have our regular appointments.  Perhaps we can choose not to take the one offered (unless of course, it is recycled and recyclable).  That will spread the word easily about not choosing plastic per usual.  We can start our children and grandchildren off with recycled toothbrushes and replace them in Christmas stockings.  Another option is to purchase a toothbrush with a replaceable head as it is the bristles that wear out not the handles.   

Recycled and recyclable tooth brush

When making any purchase consider where it came from and ask yourself:  Is it locally sourced (buying local is good for your neighborhood)?  Is it organic (organic is a word that has come to have multiple meanings but at its heart it means earth friendly, so regarding plastic is it recycled and recyclable)?  Is it fairly traded (produced in a manner that honors farmers and producers)?  These questions make up an acronym that might help us remember these important concepts.  L.O.F.T.  Local, Organic, Fairly Traded.  One can add the letter “y” to make it L.O.F.T.Y. (Local, Organic, Fairly Traded, Yes) as in lofty goals.   Oh, the toothbrushes to which I referred are made in the US and available in Three Rivers.  And we need to ask ourselves where can the items we purchase go when we are through with them.  Is the item reusable? Is it recyclable?  Is it compostable?  And maybe first of all, we need ask Is it really needed?  And is it life affirming?  And let’s try to eliminate the word “dump” from our options and vocabulary.   

And what about the other half of the plastic/paper dilemma?  Paper.  There is a lot of green washing in the marketplace.  Green washing refers to the practice of manufacturers trying to appear greener than they truly are.  This is the age-old temptation to make ourselves look better than we really are.   Paper production is a classic example of green washing.  Most companies claim that their paper is recycled and they can legally say that because all that means is that the sawdust that falls on the floor in cutting the wood is picked up and put into the pulp to make the paper.  No trees are saved per say but the manufacturers did not waste the sawdust.  The info that a wise consumer needs to know is the post consumer waste percentage.  The higher the percentage of post consumer waste, the more recycled paper was used to make the new product and thus the greener the new paper.   

OK, now is the time for me to share a tidbit of trivia.  Does anyone know how many trees would be saved if every household in the US replaced just one 500 sheet roll of virgin toilet paper with just one roll of recycled toilet paper?  Any guesses?  There is an appropriate prize for the one who guesses nearest the answer.  No cheating allowed.  Keep those smart phones off. The answer is according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. 424,000  trees.  PRIZE.  Folks, you cannot get more down to earth than talking toilet paper.  God knows us from the top of our heads to well you know.

We are reminded in scripture that whoever is faithful in little things will be faithful in big things.  We have big issues in front of us, but God has our backs.  We can talk of massive climate change and feel overwhelmed or we can walk faithfully in small ways that are healthy for the whole planet knowing that it is in community that we can make the biggest changes.   So I have shared with you a couple simple ideas that cover both ends of your alimentary canal and involve both paper and plastic. 

One of the comments I hear regarding purchasing recycled items is that they cost more and this is true.  The general consensus is that the price of recycled toilet paper for example, will come down as the demand goes up.  There is not a lot of incentive to stop clearing forests to manufacture toilet paper if the consumer continues to buy toilet paper as usual refusing to purchase the greener option.  The common thought that the bottom line (an apt phrase when talking about toilet paper) is merely a dollars and cents decision is narrow and can lead us to making all kinds of questionable decisions in life.  Is cheaper always better?  Perhaps not if we are talking about the very planet that sustains us.  We need to think much more broadly regarding the consequences of our choices and what would a good steward do?    

Note: 80% post consumer recycled content!
One way that I have come to look at the increased financial cost of living green, is that in making eco friendly purchases, I am doing something concrete to help the environment.  I am sure that at one time or another, we have all had the grandiose thoughts of what we would do if we only had say a million dollars.  We would give to the causes in which we believe in ways that prior to our windfall we could not .We can make earth saving decisions today without that phantom million dollars!  Yes, there are all kinds of reputable environmental groups that do good work on our behalf and with whom we can join forces for grassroots changes.  These groups do need our capital and our time, yet you are making a donation to these causes every time you shop green.  Sometimes we find it easier to write an occasional check to an organization rather than make the life changes that would help the cause with which we claim solidarity. 

I am not here to suggest that all one needs to do is shop green to make a difference.  I would be making a mockery of my own values if I implied that.  I am simply here to work with folks in making earth friendly choices in the market place.  We vote for the type of future that we desire every time we spend money.   To ignore that fact in the richest country of the world would be at the very least unconscionable.   

Now I want to leave you with a little reminder that I hope will help you acknowledge our common humanity and the simple ways of living that make big differences.  This is something that everyone in our culture beyond the age of 2 to 3 uses everyday and takes for granted.  Take one sheet and pass it on to your neighbor with the words “God knows you and loves you”.  My friends, God is in the ultimate resource recoverer.  Voluntarily reducing literally clears the clutter that can blind us to true abundant living and God is into true abundant living.  God does not give up on us.  God uses and reuses us and is the ultimate recycler and redeemer.  Thanks be to God who knows us and loves us.    

39 N. Main St. • Three Rivers, MI 49093
T, W, Th: 10-6 • F: 10-5 • S: 10-3

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Actions in Care of Creation: COMPOSTING

Kathy Fenton-Miller (photo by Nina B Lanctot)
by Kathy Fenton-Miller

After I agreed to speak about composting, I began to wonder why I had done so.  For one, I am not the greatest composter.   

Photo by Nina B Lanctot

Yes, I do put my kitchen scraps in the bucket on the counter.  But I am inconsistent in taking it out to the pile, something which Willard more often does.  

Lanctot compost pile 1

And the pile itself is neglected.  It lies in a heap most of the year, doing whatever it does largely on its own.

Lanctot compost pile 2

Also, isn't composting something which we all know about?  What could I say about this tired, somewhat moldy subject that hasn't already been said?  Perhaps, I thought, this subject would be better placed in the metaphorical bucket to be carried out to the bin and allowed to re-formulate itself in peace.

But as I read and thought more, I changed my mind. What I want to share is the product of my composting experiences, sprinkled with a few new learnings and into which I have stirred my reflections.

 Compost Memories

My first compost memory has to do with childhood visits to my Amish neighbors' compost pile.
Their pile was primarily aged manure, the product of cleaning out the stable of their buggy horse.  Our goal was  to collect fishing worms and we were quite successful in doing so.  It was fun to peak and poke around in the pile of partially digested straw, dung with the occasional vegetable matter and egg shell pieces.  Although at the time I didn't know the term “compost”, I was definitely impressed by the pile's ability to yield wigglers.

I will fast-forward about 25 years to a second compost experience which occurred when we lived in Chicago's Lower West Side and had young children (Sol and Emma were about 4 and 7 at the time).  Our inner-city home had no front yard and in the postage-stamp-sized back yard we had constructed a genuine square-foot garden.  This was when we became interested in worm composting and set up a worm bin in our basement.  The project was fairly easy to do and space-efficient.  It was appealing to the kids, having the right degree of “yuck factor”.  It even became a second-grade science project.

Eventually the worm bin moved out of our lives, or rather we moved away from it and to southwest Michigan.  Which brings me to the present disheveled pile, which nevertheless contributes to our garden.  Most recently the pile has given itself to four rows of corn which were looking pallid and in need of a nitrogen fix.

Fact Scraps

*  Composting benefits soil structure, chemical and biology and so contributes to the health of plants, and us.

*  Composting helps reduce landfill waste.  The EPA has estimated that 25% of garbage in the U.S. is made of yard trimmings and food waste, which means about 60 million tons annually.

*  Composting leads to reduced methane gas release into the atmosphere.  Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, about 21 times more potent than CO2 and thus a significant factor in global warming. By reducing waste that goes into landfills, we decrease  landfill contributions of methane which in North America accounts for about a quarter of the human-generated emissions of methane.

Action Reflections

*  I have been thinking about how we as a church do (or don't do) compost.  Can we build a compost bin or pile and use it for appropriate yard and food waste?

*  How about checking out our local landfill?  We can see what practices are used there, including harvesting of methane gas.

*   On a larger scale, community composting of biodegradables can deal with waste for which small home systems are not equipped.  This would include meats, bones and pet waste.

photo by Kathy Fenton-Miller
Finally, my action for the summer will be to take our compost bucket to the pile daily.  I want to do so with thoughtfulness and gratitude for the many small beings in the pile – bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, mites, beetles, springtails, sowbugs and good old worms.   

They are all contributing to the compost process, a process of transformation.