Thursday, December 18, 2014

Permaculture Principles for the Fourth Week of Advent

Permaculture Principles:
 A natural path in the desert
By Cindee Karns
A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord; construct in the desert a road for our God.”  (Isaiah 40:3) (NET)
Finding your way in the desert is hard enough, but building a road?  Seriously?  And then
Photo from
once it’s built, how do we, as Christians, prepare the way for others to follow? It may be the most important question of our time!
Western culture often has a “we’ll get her done” attitude.  The bigger the machine, the faster we can work and we will all be amazed at the result.  A road can be built pretty fast, but we never stop and ask if that is the best way to do it.  So let’s ask!  How do we make ready a path in the desert?

We certainly have enough stuff to get her done.  But sometimes it feels like we are all alone---wandering lost in a desert of STUFF without knowing where to start. This stuff has been mass-produced, is toxic, has a high-embodied energy (both in manufacture and in transport) and is bound for the landfill.   What if we ignored our stuff to make a natural path in the desert?  What if we used permaculture principles? 

Permaculture, formed from the words permanent and culture, is most simply, “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”  It’s a much more earth-friendly, indigenous view. 

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It’s truly amazing what happens to us when we interact with nature and take our place as stewards of the planet. 

“ – we come into right relationship …by taking our rightful place and answering the endless questions human beings have been asking for hundreds of years about the meaning of our lives….we thrive by helping everything around us thrive. By coming into right relationship with the world, we find inner peace…”  (Tippett, 1994)

There are already many people traversing the permaculture path, who are creating truly interdependent relationships with nature.  The path starts with these ethics: Earth Care; People Care; and Fair Shares.  There is also a set of principles to guide us. We will need many people to help us make this path smooth.  The ability to get on this new permaculture path may ultimately prove to be the key to our survival on the planet. Here is an amazing example of using permaculture in the desert.

Prayer: Creator God, we know you want us to thrive in abundance.  Help us begin today by walking the path and inviting others to walk with us so that we take our places as stewards of the planet and make ready the way, even as we pray “thy kingdom come.”
Contributor: Cindee Karns is a permaculture designer/instructor in Alaska and the owner/operator of Alaska’s only Bioshelter.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

More Intimate Communion with God in the Third Week of Advent

By Mary Porter, Hospice Music Practitioner,
Retired Pastor
The Lord has sent me to comfort all who mourn. . . . . I the LORD love justice..                 (Isa 61:1-2, 8) Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing, (1 Thess 5:16-17)

Preparation for the in-breaking Christ calls for a BOTH-AND orientation:  attention to loss AND hope, mourning AND rejoicing, action AND prayer.  My recent learning includes:
   PEC eco-tour and climate change conference in Alaska in early September.  Beginning and ending each day in worship (rejoicing) we focused on Signposts of Hope and agreed to immediate concrete actions--using refillable water bottles, eating locally grown and low on the food chain (vegetarian).
   September 21, People’s Climate March. The exuberant, sometimes boisterous activists paused –all 310,000+ of us--for a moment of eerie silence, mourning for those affected by climate change.
   Sidelines of the march.  One group remained in silence, legs crossed Eastern style, meditating/praying--holding the psychic space for protesters.

As we work for justice AND pray without ceasing (individually and communally), I suggest another BOTH-AND; that along with our revealed texts of scripture we read (with the help of contemporary science) the texts of creation, what Michael Dowd and others call Big History, the “13.8 billion-year science-based tale of cosmic genesis—from the formation of galaxies and the origin of life to the development of consciousness and culture, and onward…”

Through Big History we learn that we are made of stardust and that we’re related to everything.*  What a profound sense of kinship might overcome us with such a reading! (Who is my neighbor?) What awe and reverence might bowl us over! (Oh God, how majestic is your name in all the earth! What are humans that you are mindful of them!)  I suggest that such dual reading provides a firm basis for dealing with BOTH the challenges of our times  (fossil fuels, water, climate change) AND entering into more intimate communion with God and all that God made and loves.

Prayer: God, who never ceases to awe and amaze, heal us, guide us, use us.
 Use our failures as compost for the new Earth you are creating. In the name of the Christ in whom all things are created and through whom all things hold together.  Amen.
Contributor: Mary McQueen Porter is a retired pastor and a former director/chaplain of Ruth and Naomi Senior Outreach, the non-profit in Birmingham, Alabama, she co-founded.  Grandmother, poet, Certified Sage-ing Leader and Certified Music Practitioner, she leads workshops in Conscious Aging and works part-time for VITAS Hospice, playing Celtic harp at the bedside.

*Dowd, Michael.  “Evidential Mysticism and the Future of Earth,” in Oneing:  An Alternative Orthodoxy, A Publication of the Center for Action and Contemplation, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2014), 18.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Read the Winter Edition of the PEC Update Online


Read the entire PEC Update HERE

We need all the wisdom we can gather.

During these times of acute climate change, it is so important to be open to ancient words and holy words, words of past and present prophets. Recently, in the search for Earth justice, I have been gifted to meet some amazingly wise and passionate people.

The Yukon PEC conference was certainly one of those times where I made contact, heart and mind, with people of great wisdom and passion from theological, scientific, and spiritual perspectives. I am grateful to have met native persons from Alaska, particularly Larry Merculieff, an Aleut elder from Pribilof Islands. Through his words, we learned the importance of relationship and how silence is a great teacher.

I also am grateful for having met and worked with Curtis and Cindee Karns in their bio-shelter, a one of a kind (in the world) home in Anchorage. They shared about lifestyle integrity and relationship though Christian permaculture.

During the UN Climate March, (wearing my PEC t-shirt), I introduced myself to a woman from Syracuse, NY, standing next to me, who said, "Perhaps you knew my father, Bill Gibson." What an honor! I truly am grateful beyond words for his prophetic and pioneering work in eco-justice, a term he coined.

As we look to our 20th anniversary in 2015, I am reminded of Dr. Gibson's words:
"Eco-justice [is] the wellbeing of all humankind on a thriving earth. As a goal, it retains and reinforces all of the church's longstanding commitment to justice in the social order, and it adds a major new insight of our time: that justice to human beings is inseparable from right relationships with and within the natural order. Eco-justice includes social and economic justice and, by combining it with ecological awareness and appreciation, profoundly affects the way it is to be achieved. Eco-justice means justice to all of God's creation." (From: Keeping and Healing the Creation; a Resource Paper of the Pres-byterian Eco-justice Task Force, issued by the Committee on Social Witness Policy of the PCUSA).

Praise be to God for Saints past and present, Prophets of wisdom who have tilled and planted the Garden. Let us together continue to harvest and share the harvest wisdom. Let us pray and prophesy and hold fast. For it is our work and our calling.

Diane Waddell,
PEC Moderator

Photo taken by Tiffany Immigan at Camp Birchwood's Psalm Lake in Yukon Presbytery.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent Devotional

The Gifts of Water:  A Kiss from God
By Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff, Aleut

With introduction and prayer by Rev. Dr. Curt Karns
The whole creation waits with eager longing…groaning in labor pains…awaiting redemption. (Romans 8:18-25)

This year PEC is contemplating the blessing that water is to the world, and the necessity for people of faith to join with others in advocating for a stewardship that better cares for water.  In this Advent season of waiting and meditation I therefore asked Larry Merculieff, a Native American elder, to reflect with me on the sacredness of earth’s water.  

“I was walking along the beach one day and I noticed that the longer I stayed there the better I felt.  I realized the ions in the water that were doing this magic.  I wondered how this could be and thought that this was a kiss from God.  God wanted to remind us humans of the divine, and so he kissed the universe.  The universe sent the kiss everywhere until it hit our galaxy and touched everything.  The kiss went to the moon, which then sent the kiss to the waters of Earth.  The waters of Earth moved in response, creating swells and waves which came ashore in a way that created these ions which then touched me, making me feel inexplicably good. These waters are everywhere: the brooks and streams, the rivers, this ice, the snow, the rains, the seas, and our bodies.  A kiss from God.

“The waters of the riverways and the oceans were and are sacred to all our peoples.  Let us remember all her sacred aspects.  Water cleanses our bodies, heals open wounds and gives us the sustenance our bodies require to live.  Water purifies everything it comes into contact with. Water was and is used in our sacred ceremonies for the life-giving force of Mother Earth.  All creatures, including human beings depend on water to survive and thrive.
“Water teaches us many lessons.  We are taught: how not to fight the flow of the river of life, but to go with it; how being fluid and soft can even mold and shape the greatest of mountains and boulders; that water reflects our moods and emotions.  Walking next to the water raises our spirits, even when we are feeling downtrodden.  Being in the water always refreshes us.  Our bodies are made mostly of water.  We are born in a salty sea of water in the womb…
“Water comes to us in the forms all creatures need at the times they need it, be it snow, rain, ice, or fog.  Without the ice we would not have the polar bear or the permafrost.  Without snow we would not have creatures like the snowshoe hare, the rivers, and the plants would not have a coat to wear while they sleep through the winter.  Without rain, we would not have fresh water or lakes, or fertile lands where berries and all the bounty of the land we depend on grow, including all the healing and food plants, vegetables, and fruits…
“We are nothing without the sacred waters of Mother Earth.  And so, our ancestors built craft in ways taught us by the seas, rivers, and oceans…ways to create beauty and function to honor the waters, and ways of respect, reciprocity, reverence, and humility in the face of the awesomeness of the gifts, wisdom, and power of water…


Holy God, teach us “to listen and conduct ourselves correctly to receive the gifts and wisdom of water or we will lose that which we are given, and let the Elders lead us in the ways of the Real Human Being.  To forget is to bring about our own destruction.”

Contributors: Larry Merculieff has almost four decades of experience
serving his people, the Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands and other indigenous peoples in a number of capacities—locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. For his entire career, Merculieff has been a passionate advocate for indigenous rights/wisdom, and harmonious relationship with the Earth Mother. Currently, Merculieff is an independent consultant and is working on projects related to the resilience of rural Alaskan communities, assessing the academic needs of Alaska-based wildlife co-management organizations.

The Rev. Dr. Curt Karns and his wife, Cindee, are stalwart stewards of creation.  They live in Alaska’s only bioshelter, are teacher and host for the Alaska Permaculture Learning Center, and were the primary founders of the Yukon Presbyterians for Earth Care. Curt is the executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Yukon, which oversees 21 PC(USA) congregations, including eight that are not on any road system.  Curt is a son, sibling, cousin, husband, father and grandfather.  His family hunts, fishes, gathers, gardens, and otherwise finds every excuse to celebrate and live-out a thriving relationship with God’s beautiful, beloved creation.