Thanks at Thanksgiving, plus a little inspirational downtime

It seems appropriate this week of Thanksgiving to share our ways of giving thanks.  My family joins hands and sings a simple grace most nights as we gather around the table.

Evening is here
the board is spread
thanks be to God
who gives us bread

The one below  is longer, and we use it less often, but it’s one of my favorites.  It captures so much in so few words, and I am thankful for the miracle of renewing life that provides my food, and for all the hands that touch it from seed to mouth.  It can be sung in a 4-part round.

For sun and rain
for grass and grain
for all who toil
on sea and soil
that we may eat
this daily food
we give our loving thanks to God.

Does anyone else have favorites?  Please share in the comments!

Inspirational downtime
When you’re done with your dinner, your post-prandial walk, and as many games of Clue, charades and Bananagrams as you can handle for one evening, consider sharing some truly stunning scenery with your family.  It might even count for extra credit in earth science for your middle school relatives.

Several PA IPL members in State College recently attended a screening of the 93-minute video, HOME at Penn State.  The website description introduces the film in the paragraph below.  Reviews just call it “eye candy”   It’s available in several languages, so choose the one you know best, or one you’re learning. 

“Internationally renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand makes his feature directorial debut with this environmentally conscious documentary produced by Luc Besson, and narrated by Glenn Close. Shot in 54 countries and 120 locations over 217 days, Home presents the many wonders of planet Earth from an entirely aerial perspective. As such, we are afforded the unique opportunity to witness our changing environment from an entirely new vantage point. In our 200,000 years on Earth, humanity has hopelessly upset Mother Nature’s delicate balance. Some experts claim that we have less than ten years to change our patterns of consumption and reverse the trend before the damage is irreversible. Produced to inspire action and encourage thoughtful debate, Home poses the prospect that unless we act quickly, we risk losing the only home we may ever have.”

Arthus-Bertrand’s website GoodPlanet has more stunning film related to the International Year of Forests.  A series of free photo-art posters are available for schools and others wanting to host educational events about forests.  They’re gorgeous.  Would they spark inspiration, discussion, or prayer in the halls of your congregation’s building?

A letter from Canadian faith leaders

A letter released on October 25, 2011 titled “Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change” is worth reading.  Excerpts appear in Canada’s Embassy magazine here.  A PDF of the entire text can be downloaded from the national IPL website here. (Click on “read this important statement” just below the paragraph announcing the letter.)

The first paragraph states
“We, representatives of Canadian faith communities, are united in our conviction that the growing crisis of climate change needs to be met by solutions that draw upon the moral and spiritual resources of the world’s religious traditions.  We recognize that at its root the unprecedented human contribution to climate change is symptomatic of a spiritual deficit: excessive self-interest, destructive competition, and greed have given rise to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.  Humanity’s relationship with the environment has become distorted by actions that compromise the welfare of future generations of life.”

Paragraph 4 is my favorite as an inspiration for both speech and action by individuals, voices of faith, and communities of faith in our wider communities.
“All religious traditions uphold the nobility of the human spirit, calling us to seek moderation and service to the common good.  Such a vision empowers individuals to take responsibility for relationships with each other and our planet.  Indeed, our everyday choices about food, transportation, clothing and entertainment are all practical expressions of what we value.  At the same time, disconnections between our professed beliefs and our daily actions indicate our need for personal and collective awareness and transformation.  We need to seek coherence between our beliefs and our actions, so that our lives and consumption habits reflect our relationship with the rest of humanity and the Earth itself. “

Which parts speak to you?  Please use the comments to lead us to the writings within your own denomination or tradition that have inspired you to act on energy use and climate change!

COOL chants!

Since our “kickoff” was in State College, on a Temple-PSU game weekend, we had a small team of cheerleaders on the downtown streets in the couple of hours before kickoff.  The cheers (and pom-poms) were provided by Barbara Ballenger, and she has given me permission to share them here.  You may use them, too, but please credit Barb when you do.  High tosses, human pyramids, and back handsprings are optional, but attention-getting! (If you’re not sure it enhances the message, check out this 2 minute video of rapping climate scientists  — use the closed captions to catch the lyrics.)

Cricket’s elementary and middle-school daughters have been caught chanting several of these to themselves around the house in the last year.  Neither is interested in cheerleading normally…

Ready! OK!
I say … you say
·      I say Pennsyl, you say vania…
Pennsyl … vania; Pennsyl … vania
·      I say inter  you say faith
·      I say power and you say light….
·      Put it together and say it right – Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
Climate Change Cadence 
I don’t know but I’ve been told (echo)
The North Pole isn’t very cold
The Polar bears are really steamed
Had to buy an ice machine
Sound off…1 2 
Sound off … 3 4 
Take it on down  1 2 3 4, 1 2 3-4

It’s hot in hell or so they say…
I’ll tell you how it got that way
Lucifer that blind old fool
Runs the place on fossil fuel
Sound off …

So do something and do it well …
Join the PA  IPL
Make your carbon footprint small
So there’s a little left for all
Sound off
Lean to the left…
Lean to the left lean to the right
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light
People of faith come join the fight
Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light

Win one for the planet

Hey Pennsylvania!
The earth can’t take it.
Win one for the planet
Before we bake it.  (repeat)
It’s Hot

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
There’s green house gases in the atmosphere!
It’s not, it’s not, it’s not a lie
The temperature is on the rise.

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
Green house gases in the atmosphere
It’s not, its not, it’s not so nice
Antarctica is losing ice.

It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot out here
There’s green house gases in the atmosphere
It’s not, it’s not, it’s not a blast
Climate change will cook your … grass

I’m just saying … 
I’m just saying, I’m not lying
Mother Earth is really frying
We can’t let it end this way
Got to reverse climate change

Push it back, push it back 
Way back, way back  2x

I’m just saying, I’m not lying
Congress isn’t even trying
Who’ll run our economy
When we’re all floating in the sea?

Push it back, push it back 
Way back, way back …

Ain’t no Power
Ain’t no power like the power of the people
Cause the power of the people don’t stop! uh!
Ain’t no power like the power of the sun
Cause the power of the sun don’t stop! uh!
Ain’t no power like the power of the wind
Cause the power of the wind don’t stop! uh!

Children’s Message: Footprints

Yesterday, for our Annual Meeting and conference, PA IPL member University Mennonite Church hosted the worship service.  Following the opening hymns, Bethany Spicher Schonberg offered a fantastic children’s message that could be used in many contexts and any faith community.   On request, she wrote it up for us.  I hope many of you will use it!

Footprints on the Earth: Helping Children Understand Environmental Impact

Materials needed: a globe, a giant boot, a tiny toy shoe (the one from Monopoly works great)

Show children the globe. What do you see here? A globe, yes. This is a way for us to imagine the world – the earth – because the real one is too big for us to see! We’re sitting on the earth right now, right about here. Show location on the globe. Who made this earth that we’re sitting on? Who made the light, the sky and oceans, trees and animals and all the continents that we see on the globe here? God did. And God gave this earth to us to care for and to walk on.

Now, there are two ways that we can walk on this earth. We can walk in big shoes or little shoes. Show two shoes. If I were to step in the mud with this shoe (show giant boot), what sort of footprint would I make? And what if I stepped in the mud with this shoe (show tiny shoe)? If I were trying to walk around this globe here, what shoes would work best? What if I wanted to dance on this globe? 

It’s the same with the real earth. Whenever we use something on the earth – like water – we’re making a footprint. And whenever we throw something away – like a piece of paper – we’re making a footprint. We can make big footprints or little footprints. So, here’s a test. If I turned on the water and let it run for an hour, is that a big or little footprint? What if I turned on the water just long enough to get a drink? And if I colored on ten pieces of paper and then threw them all away, is that a big or little footprint? What if I colored on one piece, turned it over and used the other side and then recycled the paper?

This week, whenever you use something from the earth or throw something away, think about your footprint on the earth. Is it a big stomping footprint or a little dancing footprint? God gave us the earth to walk on and God can teach us to walk in smaller shoes.

Close with a prayer.  

Micah and Bethany Spicher Schonberg
Plowshare Produce

One Year

Here at PA IPL we are preparing for our 1-year anniversary.  To celebrate, Barb Ballenger has given us permission to share her delightful song lyrics from our big Kickoff weekend in 2010.  Please feel free to use them, but, of course, credit where credit is due.  Look for her cheers next week…

The Climate is a-Changing

(To the tune of The Times They are a-Changing, By Bob Dylan)
Come gather round people wherever you roam    
And admit that the sea levels you have grown.
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If the planet to you is worth saving.
You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone,
Cause the climate is a-changing.
Come scientists, pragmatists, beautiful minds
And add up the numbers a couple more times
While Congress ignores all the obvious signs
That we can’t win the game we’ve been playing.
Cause the temperature’s rising along with tides
And the climate is a changing
Come all you deniers and stand on the on the shore
Of an island that soon won’t be there anymore
And try to believe it’s a stunt by Al Gore
To make all the wealthy start paying.
Tell me how do things look from the new ocean floor?
Cause the climate is a changing
Come people of prayer and people of faith
Tell me how will you look own God in the face
When asked why we made such a mess of the place?
Did you stand like a prophet a raging,
Or did you step on the gas just to keep up the pace?
While the climate was a -changing?
Come mothers and fathers from throughout the land
Tell me what did you help your kids to understand
About the true cost of the purchase at hand?
Did you teach them the earth is worth saving?
Do they realize things won’t work out like they planned
If the climate keeps a-changing?
Now people of conscience and people of creed
Who cannot ignore how the earth cries with need
And who see what’s connected to all of this greed
It’s time that we began engaging
With people who long to reverse the degree
Of the climate that is changing.
The Cycle Round  — this one is great for a bike-to-worship celebration!
(sung to the tune of “Don’t throw your trash in my backyard”)
I. Don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway, my driveway, don’t park your car in my driveway, my driveway’s full.
II. With one bicycle, two bicycles, three bicycles, four bicycles, fives bicycles, six bicycles and one built for two.
III.  Idling in traffic jams, traffic jams, traffic jams

Idling in traffic jams won’t get you very far. 

The Little Light of Mine
·       This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine …
·       Don’t need no ‘lectricity, I’m gonna let it shine…
·       To shed some light on climate change, I’m gonna
·       To build a world we can sustain, I’m gonna …
·       Put it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine
·       Ain’t no one gonna “poof” it out….
Sowing on the Mountain
(Guy Carawan, George Tucker)
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
Sowing on the mountain, reaping in the valley
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their greed has done to our mountains…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what their oil has done to our ocean.
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Look at what our factories have done to our atmosphere…
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.
Things are gonna change cause
There’s power in the people… 
You’re gonna reap, just what you sow.  
 The Garden Song

(Dave Mallet, Pete Seeger)


Inch by inch, row by row / gonna make my garden grow. /All it takes is rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row, by row/ someone bless the seeds I sow. Someone warm them from below till the rain comes tumbling down.
Pulling weeds and picking stones/ We are made of dreams and bones. Need a place to call my own for the time is near at thand. Grain for grain, sun and rain, find a way trough nature’s chain
From my body and my brain to the music of the land.
Plant your rows straight and long.  Temper them with prayers and song. Mother earth will make you strong if you give her loving care. And old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree. In my garden I’m as free as that feathered thief up there.


For the Beauty of the Earth
(FS Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher)
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the sky
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night.
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of night
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
God of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
For thy constant love divine
Peace on earth and joy in heaven
God of all to thee we raise 
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Nothing more than nothing

During lunch at PSU IPL’s  Positively Green event, Cricket Hunter read this story, which someone passed on to her many years ago.  If anyone recognizes it, please let us know so that we can properly attribute it.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake” a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

“Nothing more than nothing” was the answer.

“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story” the coalmouse said.  “I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow; not heavily, not in a raging blizzard, no, just like in a dream, without any violence.  Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch.  Their number was exactly 3,471,952.  When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing — as you say — the branch broke off.”

Having said that, the coalmouse fled away.  

The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself “Perhaps there is only one person’s prayer lacking for peace to come to the world.”

Cricket adds: the small choices I make daily and weekly to reduce my impact on the world are my prayers, my contributions to a healthier climate.  Today I hung the clothes on racks in my living room, and my family and I are using only cold water in the handwashing sink during Lent.  What were your snowflakes today?