This week’s Lenten Fast suggestion: Tips to Use Less Plastic

From: THE UCC’s Environmental Justice Mission Group

Check out these easy ways you can start reducing your waste in your everyday life! Did you know that of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the US in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling? 
Here are 17 ways to reduce your plastic waste:

  1. Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw
  2. Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often! 
  3. Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic. 
  4. Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
  5. Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging. 
  6. Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
  7. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop
  8. Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam. 
  9. Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter. 
  10. Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods! 
  11. Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
  12. Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
  13. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money. 
  14. Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
  15. Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
  16. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
  17. Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.

Trying even one or two of these ideas can lead to good habits that will last well beyond Lent!

Lenten Devotional – Mon, Mar 1: WHO

The people referenced in these blessings are considered in a communal way. In particular, they are the followers of Christ within the Greek-speaking community for whom the author of the Gospel of Matthew wrote. They are also, in another sense, all humans. Common folk. People like you and me.

We might not want to recognize ourselves in these lists, or in others who find themselves described within the Beatitudes. It’s an uncomfortable association.

Yet among these lists of challenging human conditions, we’re likely to identify with one or more of the circumstances that are described by Christ in the Beatitudes. Since we’ve had these experiences, we are encouraged to develop empathy and connection with others. If we have recognized ourselves in these Beatitudes, we can also reach out to those who are living within these circumstances and experiences.

These blessings remind us that we are connected to each other, as well as being welcomed into the community of God’s children. This expansive view of who is blessed also cautions us that we’re not in charge of the invitation list for the kingdom of heaven. We don’t decide who sits at the common table.        

This human community belongs to Christ, who has given out the invitations. Now, elbow to elbow, we’re invited to share more than just a meal.  — Rev Gail

Meditations:

You are me, and I am you.
Isn’t it obvious that we “inter-are”?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you; you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Challenge or Question: Who in your life is a sounding board for you? Who holds up a mirror for you and helps you become more self-aware? And for whom do you offer this reciprocity?

WEEK TWO of LENT: Devotional – Sun, Feb 28: BLESSED

Beatitude texts for week two:

02. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

03. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Sun, Feb 28: BLESSED

The scholars Malina & Rohrbaugh suggest that the blessedness of Beatitudes also refers to honor. It means to ‘bring honor’ or to be ‘filled with honor’.

What then is the blessing for those who are sorrowful, or as some translators more broadly explain, live in misery or protest at the wrongs and hurts experienced by other humans in their communities? And what does meek mean, anyway? Who identifies as meek? What gift is offered to them by Christ?

Again, Christ’s statements seem to honor those who find themselves in this doleful emotional or psychological state. And recognizes those who are humble and gentle, yet will stand against what is wrong in the world. Rather than isolating them, ignoring them, criticizing them or trying to ‘fix’ them, Christ sees such people. In his life, he kept company with them. Reached out to them. Sat with them. Listened to them. Attended to their needs. Only then did Christ choose to teach and preach. He cared first for their physical and spiritual wellbeing.

In our times, Christ doesn’t necessarily change the causes of people’s suffering. Yet his recognition offers a response. Through engagement with those who mourn and grieve, who are sad and miserable, he honors their state of being. He draws them into the perception of God, beneath the gaze of heaven, and into the sight of other people. — Rev Gail

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. — Willie Nelson

You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings. — Elizabeth Gilbert

Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken. — Albert Camus

Like a thin place, a blessing can help us perceive how heaven infuses earth, inextricable from daily life, even when that life is marked by pain. — Jan Richardson

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. — Woodrow Kroll

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it. — Thomas Paine

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. — W.T. Purkiser

Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering. Steve Maraboli

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. Steve Maraboli

God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you? William Arthur Ward

Challenge or Question: Identify a blessing within your life. One aspect of your life for which you are grateful. Give thanks for it. Say a prayer, write it in a journal, or light a candle to acknowledge this blessing.

Lenten Devotional: Sat, Feb 27: IS

In these Beatitude statements, the ‘to be’ verb is open-ended. It is not past tense. It is not even present-tense. Nor is it conditional. It creates the world by declaring it as accomplished.

In fact, as Maxie Dunnan and Kimberly Dunnan Reisman write, “Originally there was no verb in the Beatitudes … ‘are’ … did not appear in the original Greek or Hebrew text. That word was added to bring out the meaning of each sentence.” William Barclay explains, “Jesus did not speak the beatitudes in Greek; he spoke them in Aramaic … The Beatitudes are not simple statements; they are exclamations.”

To retain that meaning across different languages, the verbs used to translate this Beatitude from Aramaic into Greek, shape a statement that presumes that what it declares will become true. It emphatically pronounces it and renders it real. The scholar Boring says, “The beatitudes are written in unconditional performative language. They do not merely describe something that already is, but bring into being the reality they declare.”  

Within this verb, we do not find a promise for the future. Rather this is a spiritual wealth, rooted in belonging to each other and to God’s kingdom, that is already ours. Dunnan and Dunnan Reisman add, “This means that the Beatitudes are not an explanation for what might be—could be; they are exclamations of what is. … And it is ours now, not in some future time.” It’s the first of several paradoxes.

When Christ says it, this blessedness unfolds. The Word creates. Again and again, over and over, then and now.

Perhaps the people described within each Beatitude statement don’t feel blessed or special. The circumstances described in each Beatitude aren’t ones that we, as humans, aspire to attain. We don’t want to be poor, hungry, or sorrowful.

Yet these states of being are part of the human condition. And Christ confers a blessing on these least likely of humans. Yes, we can admit, that we may continue to wonder, where is the blessing that comes with this circumstance in which I find myself? Maybe we even think: I’d rather return the blessing so that I do not need to live in these undesirable, unwanted conditions.

Our perspective about these worrisome, painful, underdog conditions — these difficult states of being now labeled as blessings — are forever changed by Christ’s attention. Martha Storz tells us, “Jesus blesses us by sharing our lot and reversing it … A philosopher calls this sort of speech performativespeech because the words themselves deliver the goods. A Christian calls this incarnation.” Back in Jesus’ time, and now in ours, perhaps the blessing begins by being seen and acknowledged as one who matters in the eyes of God. — Rev Gail

Meditations:

I was born the day I thought: What is? What was? And what if? — Suzy Kassem

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou

Make the most of yourself … for that is all there is of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are. Lady Gaga

Challenge or Question: What is possible for you? What limits have you put on yourself? What limits have been placed on you? When have you been seen and valued for yourself?

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