Bright Ideas

Adapted from "Stewardship: Being in and Working with Creation"
by Liz Schmitt, *Sojourners *

When you hear about stewardship in church, you probably think of your checkbook. Stewardship is the term we use to talk about financially supporting our churches and organizations. But another holy use of the word involves being stewards of creation.

I thought that to love nature, I had to leave it alone and let it mysteriously all work out on its own. But the truth is, humans and nature aren’t in neatly separated boxes. We are connected — and interdependent — although our modern lives are often designed to make us forget that. True, some ecosystems do just fine without our interference, but there’s really no such thing as wilderness for its own sake, untouched by human tread. That might be what environmentalism looks like to some people, but we need the land and it needs us.

We use the world’s resources, but the trick is to use them wisely, and with a careful, conservative sense of balance. That’s the difficulty of stewardship. When we use up resources — the resources God gave us — with abandon and without care, the results aren’t pretty. We can never really grow it back. That’s the thing about nature; we can manage it well, but we can’t create it from scratch. Only God can do that.

Stewardship is the balanced middle way — it’s not "use it up and move on to the next," but it’s also not untouched nature for nature’s sake. Because human hands, while capable of a great sin like mountaintop removal mining, are also capable of great beauty. Human hands have nurtured beautiful new species of flowers, drought resistant food crops, and rooftop solar panels. We can do so much sacred work with our God-made human hands.

Because being in and working with the creation is much more fulfilling than using it up or keeping it at a distance. God calls us into the creation: into the woods, into the worm-filled, muddy soil of our flowerpots. God calls us into our walking shoes, rather than behind the windshield of our cars. While I’m still learning what stewardship looks like, and while there’s still the temptation to use resources with abandon, there’s a sacred satisfaction in the balance. Whenever I find it, I find that stewardship brings me closerto my Creator.

Saving time over the holidays

If there's one thing we never have enough of during the holidays, it's time. Here are a few helpful tips for saving time over the holidays.

1. Do Your Shopping Online

Not only will you avoid the long lines, but you can also save a lot of money by doing your shopping online. Just remember—you need to be aware of shipping deadlines.

2. Tackle Work Commitments Early

Be aware of your upcoming workload and plan accordingly. Identify any projects or other work-related issues that could take time away from your family and address those issues ahead of time so you're not celebrating the season in your cubicle.

3. Get Ready for Guests Ahead of Time

Do the necessary shopping, plan out your meals ahead of time, and know when your guests will arrive. You're bound to forget something, but the more prepared you are going in, the better off you'll be.

4. Limit Your Commitments

We have a tendency to overestimate how many social commitments we can squeeze into our lives, especially around the holidays. Just remember: You don't need to attend every holiday party. The holidays are about spending time with the people you love and limiting your commitments can take a lot of stress out of the holidays.

5. Take Extra Time for Travel

Make sure to budget plenty of time for your travel, especially if you're flying. Everyone's heading to the airport during the holidays, and if you don't budget your time for traffic delays and long lines, you'll find that missed flights and baggage drama will ultimately cost a lot more of your time.

How to Green your Thanksgiving

  1. Simplify the Day. Celebrate being with those you love.
    Don't overdo the cooking -- and savor whatever you make. Linger over dessert, play games,
    watch football or a favorite movie, take a walk.
    Revive special traditions from the past and create new ones you can turn to next Thanksgiving,
    and the holiday after that.

  2. Decorate with boughs and berries.
    There's no need to buy fancy Thanksgiving decorations. Head out to your yard with a pair of shears
    and find tree branches, bush stems loaded with berries, flowers whose seed heads have dried on the stem,
    and flowering grasses to fill tall vases, hollowed out punpkins and autumnal baskets.

  3. Let there be light. Illuminate your table with candles of varying heights and widths.
    Use votives in small glasses or carved sugar pumpkins.

How to save gallons of water a day

About one percent of all water on Earth is drinkable. Drinkable water plays a huge role in our daily lives, from brushing our teeth to cooking our food. The US Geological Survey reports that the average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day at home. However, saving drinkable water is imperative to ensure clean, accessible water for generations to come. Here are some simple tips to help reduce your water use:

  1. Shower for five minutes:
    The average shower in America is eight minutes long. Take three minutes off your shower time to help reduce water. Daily savings: 7.5 gallons

  2. Minimize use of kitchen garbage disposal:
    Garbage disposals use about eight gallons of water per day. A better way to dispose of fruit and vegetable scraps is to compost them for the garden. Reducing use of the garbage disposal can save 50-150 gallons of water per month. Daily savings: 1.5 to 5 gallons

  3. Recycle indoor water and use for plants:
    Instead of pouring a cup of water you no longer need down the drain, give it to your plants. It saves time and water so you don’t have to use a garden hose.

  4. Wash full loads of dishes and laundry:
    These are the two appliances in your home that use the most water. Only washing full loads of dishes or laundry saves 15-45 gallons of water in the washer, and 5-15 gallons of water in the dishwasher. Daily savings: 7-21 gallons (assuming daily dishwasher use, plus one load of laundry per week.

  5. Don’t run the water while brushing your teeth or shaving:
    Two to three minutes without the water on while brushing your teeth can save 2-3 gallons of water each day. Instead of having the water on while shaving, fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse your razor. These two adjustments can save 180 gallons per month. Daily savings: 2-6 gallons.

Stay Healthy: 6 Tips for Avoiding Cold and Flu

It’s a beautiful fall day—and the beginning of the cold and flu season. Interested in a few easy steps to stay healthy? People who are exposed to cold and flu germs every day -- doctors, flight attendants, teachers -- know a thing or two about how to stay healthy when everyone around them is sick. Their suggestions can help you, too.

  1. Get a flu shot. It's the No. 1 thing you can do to prevent the flu.

  2. Wash your hands -- a lot. No matter what line of work you’re in, if you come in contact with people who are contagious, you have to wash your hands over and over. To completely get rid of viruses from your skin, you need to scrub hard for 20 seconds or more. A good way to time yourself is to sing "Happy Birthday" twice while scrubbing the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. It doesn't matter if the water's hot or cold -- the very act of scrubbing will physically remove the germs. If you can’t get to soap and water, sanitizer can kill cold and flu germs.

  3. Avoid getting close to people who are sick. For example, don't shake hands. Just explain, ‘To avoid spreading colds and flu, I’m not shaking hands. But hello! Nice to meet you!’ They understand.

  4. Keep your surroundings clean. Start your day by cleaning your work space with virus-and-germ-killing soaps. Look at your environment and think "What could be contaminated?" It may look clean, but it might not be. Don’t forget to sanitize doorknobs and light switches.

  5. Keep up a healthy lifestyle. It's important to look after your own health. Get adequate rest, good nutrition, don’t smoke, and keep your allergies controlled, because if they’re out of control, then your upper respiratory tree is already inflamed, which sets it up to more easily acquire a virus.

Prevention is Key to Avoid Dehydration

Making an effort to stay hydrated is crucial at any age. While the risk of dehydration increases as we age,
simple changes and good habits can prevent harmful conditions related to decreased hydration levels.
Keep these tips in mind, and start enjoying the benefits of a healthy, hydrated body.

Use these tips to help prevent dehydration and stay hydrated:

o Try to drink between each meal.
o Make sure water is within reach throughout the day.
o Try drinking fluids a few ounces at a time so it’s not overwhelming.
o Try infusing water with fruit, herbs or cucumber to make it taste better.
o Accommodate for any disability with drinking equipment, such as straws or cups with handles.
o Don’t make the process of hydrating feel forced, make it easy and a natural part of your daily routine.

Bright Ideas for Summer

Keeping cool when temperatures reach record highs isn't just about comfort. Dangerously high temperatures can result in heat-related illnesses ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The following tips can help you keep cool all summer long.

 1. Take advantage of cooler times (early morning or late evening) for outdoor exercise.  
 2. Wear loose-fitting clothing, preferably of a light color, and cotton rather than synthetics.  
 3. Fans can help circulate air and make you feel cooler even in an air-conditioned house.  
 4. Try storing lotions or cosmetic toners in the refrigerator to use on hot, overtired feet.  
 5. Keep plastic bottles of water in the freezer. Take one when you go outside so you'll have a supply of cold water  
 with you.  
 6. Take frequent baths or showers with cool or tepid water.  
 7. Combat dehydration by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.  
 8. Some small, portable, battery-powered fans attach to water bottles that spray a cooling mist.  
 9. Eat lighter summer fare including frequent small meals or snacks containing cold fruit or low fat dairy products.  
 10.    Pay special attention to the elderly, infants, and anyone with a chronic illness,  
 as they may dehydrate easily and be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Don't forget that pets  
 also need protection from dehydration and heat-related illnesses, too.