Saturday, November 28, 2015

Citizens Called to Climate Action - an article that three of us wrote

The following is an article that Kate, Jim, and I wrote for the Leader-Telegram "Matter of Faith" column on the day before the U.N. Paris Climate Talks are set to begin. Kate and Jim are co-leaders of our local chapter of the Citizen's Climate Lobby. Kate was a professor of English at UWEC and Jim is currently Prof. of Chemistry at UWEC.

We have just celebrated a day set aside to offer thanks for and to enjoy earth’s bounty, autumn’s harvest. Thanksgiving is a day that believers and non-believers alike celebrate, sharing life on earth. This Sunday, Christians will mark the beginning of Advent, a period of waiting and watching for good news which is to come.

 Tomorrow also begins another time of waiting and watching: world leaders will arrive in Paris for COP21—the 21st ‘Conference of the Parties’ at which the desperately needed global response to climate change will be discussed. The question at hand: will humans of any or no spiritual tradition allow the earth’s climate to change beyond humanity’s capacity to adapt? After many failed attempts over too many years, the nations of the world are poised to reach an agreement to reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that threaten to make large parts of the earth unlivable. For the next two weeks, concerned global citizens will watch and wait for some good news, for word that humans are at last ready to act in defense of God’s creation: our planet we share with 7 billion other human beings, a vast community united by the great arc that curves beneath our feet, the wind that moves across its surface, and the atmosphere that has made life here possible.

 The issue of climate change is not only scientific but also moral. For we who follow Jesus, this is an important matter of faith. We are charged by God to take care of our planet, not to dominate or carelessly use it to extinction. We are also commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Addressing climate change has become an essential part of living that love. 

 We ask readers to consider why, as we celebrate the bounty of God’s great earth, we would refuse to be good stewards of it. Why would we stand by while our elected officials (and even some of our religious leaders) defy scientific consensus and work actively against earth’s, and therefore our, health?  Why, caring for creation and for our brothers and sisters, would we allow the rolling back of hard-won pollution regulations and deny the overwhelming evidence that global warming is already affecting humanity—indeed, all life on the planet? Why would we not fight to address this threat with all due speed, with all of our considerable resources?

 Many of us are perhaps fearful of the changes to the earth and to our way of life. I suggest that we ought not fear this change, but welcome it. Almost 400 times in the Bible one divine being or another says, "Don't be afraid," including—as we will hear this Advent—the archangel Gabriel to Mary. Like Mary, we need to ponder this change in our hearts. We need to look, unafraid, at the truth that our choices are negatively affecting our climate; we need to be willing to change our hearts about how we live on and use our planet’s resources.

 Like all things mortal, the Paris accord will be a work in progress; nations will need to periodically revise their commitments to be more ambitious—we are in uncharted territory, but our moral obligation is clear.

 You can begin to take action on climate change tomorrow (11/29). While government leaders are gathering in Paris, concerned citizens will be rallying around our precious globe to express their support for climate action. The cumulative impact of these rallies with be illustrated with group photos taken all over the world, to be posted on-line. You can be part of the Chippewa Valley gathering at 2:00 pm at the  Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Energy Education Center  4000 Campus Rd., Eau Claire (west side). For more information, contact any of us, or see the Citizen’s Climate Lobby-Eau Claire Facebook page,

-- Rev. David J. Huber, Pastor at Plymouth United Church of Christ; Dr. Kate Hale Wilson and Dr. Jim Boulter, Prof. of Atmospheric Chemistry, co-leaders of Citizens’ Climate Lobby-Eau Claire chapter. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Tree adventure, 2013, a photo essay (a funny one)

Back in 2013, I bought a new, smaller Christmas tree because I was tired of putting up and taking down my giant tree in which every branch has to be placed separately. It's ten levels high, and has about 100 of the dang things. So, bought this tree that was all one piece and quick to go up. However, soon after putting it up - and thankfully, when I only had two ornaments on it - the cheap construction of the base caused it to lose a leg and the tree went down. Then, I discovered, the tree came with a non-standard diameter shaft, so I could not a new tree stand ti fit it. I did the best I could. But, anyway, after the tree went down I was so angry I left on the floor for a few days with the caution tape and army men (as you will see), and then I did the rest of the photo essay when I was ready to deal with it again. I posted it over on facebook.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Daily Gratitudinousness as we come into Thanksgiving

I did this two years ago when I first heard about the "during November, post a gratitude every day through Thanksgiving". I did it just on Facebook, and not in this blog. This year, I thought I would do so in my blog. I will update this entry each day with a new gratitude. Of course, I didn't get the idea to do this on my blog until I was six days into November... so this first one will have all that I have done so far (done only on facebook again).

What are you thankful for? What are your gratitudes?

Here are mine:

Gratitude Day 1: medicine and medical care and the scientific method that develops meds and methods that work. And health insurance.

Gratitude Day 2: numbers/mathematics. I often say that God's first language is mathematics. (Second, of course, is German. Even Frank Zappa said that). And God said, "image below", and there was light.

Gratitude Day 3: for living in a home that faces and gives me such a great view of the sunrises, and to watch God's wonderful wildlife - deer, fox, possum, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, turkey, and so many song birds, woodpeckers, crows, and a hawk that has claimed this area. I am very blessed to have this specific apartment.

Gratitude Day 4: YukiYukiYukiYukiYukiYuki!

Gratitude Day 5: that I've been getting out and about in Eau Claire and meeting people, and such a fascinating and incredible bunch of very interesting and talented people passionate about art, politics, social justice, homelessness, poverty, music, theater, parks, ecology, and so on. Lots of pretty awesome people in this city, and lots of compelling and important things happening here.

Gratitude Day 6: Computers and the Internet. Especially the developments in the past few years with cloud computing, developments in WiFi, mobile computing, and the way that so many apps and programs and devices work together in ways we only dreamed of - or didn't even dare to dream of, it seemed so impossible - a decade or more ago (such as I can control a lot of my lights by voice or from my phone or my Kindle, and that due to the magic of computers, my lights will turn off automatically if my phone gets more than a block away, and turn on if the phone comes within a block - that's cool! Or that my lights will flash if someone mentions me on twitter - that's cool!). And to look back at some of the tech even in a show as recent as ST:TNG and see how the designers and writers didn't dream big enough about what interfaces could look like, and what computers could do, and how some of their super-futuristic tech has been passed at warp speed. (transporters, though? Could we? Please??!)

Gratitude Day 7: For my family. I recently changed my Facebook cover photo to a photo of my dad's family that was taken in the 70s, with my grandma and 15 of her children (including my dad). There should be 16 children in the photo, but one is missing. They are lined up by age, youngest to the left (as one looks at the photo). As I've been looking at the photo for the past day or two, I've had so many good memories of time spent with these wonderful aunts and uncles, and how I miss the six who have died, including my dad, and also my grandma, Ella, who was the only grandparent I really ever knew.

I remember amazing weeks spent on her farm as a kid, and the family reunions, and the 40-whatever cousins that were an ever-present circle of friends in my life. I remember growing up just assuming that this was normal, until I was in high school a friend mentioned to me that his "entire family" were gathering at a grandparents' for a holiday. I asked how many would be there, and he said something like eight or ten or some small number like that. I felt so sorry for him! I thought wow, at our family gatherings, we could have eight people disappear and it would be a few hours before anyone noticed.
Our Christmas and Thanksgiving meals for many years had 30 or more people, and that was just with some of Huber family in Janesville. As my generation grew up and got married and ha their own kids, those extended family gatherings became fewer and fewer because it was just too many people, and I miss those days. But we still have great family reunions, and I still love them all. Considering the hundreds in the family, on mom and dad's sides, there aren't any I don't enjoy being with, and being back at the farm is always a joy. I've had the great pleasure to do weddings for a number of cousins, and been blessed to officiate the funerals of a couple of my uncles, and that's a unique connection and blessing that people with a normal job don't get to do.

Ah, memories of shooting guns out the upstairs bedroom window at grandma's house, and grandma just yelling up "stop that" or something non-chalant like "go outside if you're going to do that"; lighting smoke bombs in the bedroom with my cousin Paul and grandma yelling up "Are you boys playing with matches?" - "No, grandma, not matches." - "Ok"; and a few years ago, as I was coming back to the farm after a funeral and pulled in to the yard to park, cousin Debbie waving and yelling to me with pistol in hand, "No, you can't park there. We're shooting there." I have a great family. grin emoticon

My mom was also from a large family. with seven kids (and giving me 15 cousins on that side), and her side is also great. I guess I was just thinking more the Huber side because that's the photo I posted.

Gratitude Day 8: Language, oral and written and symbolic. The ability to communicate with one another, to store knowledge to share with others and to share with later generations, to entertain, to offer new ways of thinking, to trade ideas… In English, we have 26 symbols to denote certain sounds, and with those and some punctuation we can communicate anything we can think of.

Gratitude Day 9: For the wisdom of mentors, teachers, elders, peers, youngers…. anyone who has taught me anything. Thank you! Many of you I’m thinking of are on Facebook - so if you are one of them, thank you! If you aren't, I bet you are to someone else!

Gratitude Day 10: The noƶsphere. Not sure about the Omega Point, but definitely the noƶsphere.

Gratitude Day 11: Journalists who are true to the vocation of journalism, and the employers of those journalists who allow them to be so.

Gratitude Day 12: Ducks. I've always enjoyed seeing ducks in the wild, watching them fly overhead, listening to their quacking. When I'd walk through Riverside Park, I loved walking along the Hudson and watching the ducks swimming around. And of course there's Donald Duck and Daffy, and Carl Barks' incredible run on the Donald Duck comic book. The Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" - hilarious! But mostly, I like to eat them. Mmmmm.... it feels kind of weird to give a gratitude for an animal I like to eat, but I really like duck. Definitely my favorite bird, and possibly my favorite meat. Duck. [My friend Roger later reminded me that I missed Howard the Duck; I was never a fan of it like Roger was a superfan, but still, I should have thought of it…]

Gratitude Day 13: Feeling gratitude that my mom taught me how to find my way in the kitchen and how to bake, and that Mary Salter taught me to do it on an industrial scale. grin emoticon Thinking of this as I cranked out four loaves of bread and forty-eight scones tonight. I am ever-thankful that I was taught how to cook and bake (and that I had the smarts to be interested in it at an early age).Baking is a special kind of joy and relaxation. Though living alone, I bake for myself pretty much just once a year when the rhubarb first comes out, and some peanut butter kisses at Christmas, though do make the occasional loaf of bread as well. Thanks, chemistry, for making baking possible.

Gratitude Day 14: For the ability to laugh and find things funny, or to find the humor even in things that are not, themselves, funny. Whether it be slapstick or wordplay, topical or just inane, dark humor, stand up comedy, gallows humor, laughing at people who take themselves or their religion too seriously, or (especially!) sitting around a table with friends having a great laugh over whatever we're talking about... thank you, God, for humor and a sense of laughter, because the universe is sometimes too scary not to laugh at it, and sometimes it's so joyful one must laugh.

Gratitude Day 15: Star Trek. The vision of humanity’s future that Roddenberry offered us was one in which poverty and many forms of intolerance had been left behind; exploration just for the sake of exploration and not for capital exploitation was the norm; that the combined brainpower of human beings and the other species were capable of overcoming problems; and one in which not only the earth was united, but united with many other planets and species under the United Federation of Planets. It was hopeful without being utopian or nostalgic, because as good as it was, Roddenberry also showed that even the best systems require vigilance and monitoring by good-minded people. It said that if we put our minds to it, if we work together, if we support one another, and give up our biases and prejudices, and give up our fear, we can make a better world. In fact, we can make a better galaxy!

Gratitude Day 16: Paper and pens and crayons and markers. The blank page, full of possibility, ready to accept whatever our imagination or determination need to be put on it. Paper that becomes a letter to a friend, a painting, a musical score, a doodle, a sermon or a novel or the beginning of a social or theological movement, a book, a newspaper, a medical transcript, a concert poster or the final bill from the hospital after a child’s birth, a blank sheet that becomes a screenplay that is nothing more than a recipe to tell talented people how to its turn ink stains into sounds and visuals that can be sent around the world to touch the hearts of their fellow humans and those yet unborn. Billions of pieces of paper churned out every day by machines or made by hand, billions of creative possibilities just waiting to happening as the universe holds its breath in anticipation of what each will become. Paper.

Gratitude Day 17: Today I am feeling gratitude that God gave us the ability to comprehend.

Gratitude Day 18: surprise gifts from friends. Received some Kona coffee and a jar of jelly from a Hawaii friend today that came totally out of the blue. smile emoticon I'll include in this the surprise email or phone call from friends I've not heard from in ages.

Gratitude Day 19: the birds and squirrels and other animals that come to my bird feeders. They sure are fun to watch! And most of the time they are quite peaceful, but every now and again the birds get into a squabble (squawkle?). Also fun to watch, when I'm sitting outside, as certain birds fly around the fence to come to the feeder, then see me, and in about dt seconds retreat rather hilariously and impressively. Wish I could turn like that.

Gratitude Day 20: For an awful lot of talented, passionate, wise, hard-working, life-giving, and spirit-driven clergy peers in the UCC and in Eau Claire. Thank you all!!

Gratitude Day 21: For the joy of silliness and physical comedy and sharing laughter with good friends and an almost sold-out theater full of people. Nothing quite like laughing at something with a few hundred other people. After a week of painful news and terrible things happening, that was a joy for which I am very thankful. And there was also the laughter and humor in the car ride there and back as well.

Gratitude Day 22: On this "Christ the King" Sunday (or call it "Jesus is Lord" Sunday or "Realm of God Sunday" ...) thinking I am grateful that God is willing to take on the role of being God so I don't have to. With the reminder that I also shouldn't try to. grin emoticon Thanks, God, for holding the universe in Divine Hands of Love and arcing our history toward justice and grace.

Gratitude Day 22 update: totally forgot to mention in worship and offer in prayer that Friday was the transgender day of remembrance - and so i offer a second gratitude today for what I have learned from my transgender friends and acquaintances about struggles and pain, how to reframe my language, how to be more inclusive and sensitive, how to enlarge my worldview about the full potential and range of human expression of love, gender, biology, psychology... and for those who have been courageous enough to be public, even knowing that there are people out there who would rather kill them or hurt them with words/actions than accept the full range of God's creative love.

Gratitude Day 23: For my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity and B-Section Kettering Lambda Chi Alpha local chapter, for all the good things they do in the world and on college campuses, and for lifelong friendships with a special kind of bond that is unlike other friendships. I know folks like to poo-poo on the fraternal system because there are some bad eggs, my experience was really really good, and has been a great joy in my life even lo these many years after college. Like any organizations, most are functional and some are dys. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. And a special shout out to house mom Carol Sue, one of the greats and a truly special woman, who didn't see her role as employee but as boss and mom to a house of 50 young men, and in a very good way. grin emoticon Thanks, Choppers!