But it’s in my DNA…

Blaming things on DNA is so 1990’s.dna.jpg

You’re going to need a better excuse.

In church work and leadership, it’s still a big thing to talk about identifying your church’s DNA. Of course DNA is a metaphor in this case.  We use this metaphor we we talk about a congregation’s origin story and significant points in that story that define it or limit it for the rest of the life of the congregation.

For instance,  in the late ’90s, I  pastored a church that had moved to its current location in 1925.  For the ensuing 75 years, this congregation perceived itself as a church that struggles financially.  It makes a lot of sense for a church, which relocated and built just 4 years before the Great Depression, to come to understand itself in such a way.

This insight is helpful. Defining as DNA, however, might not be.

Way back in the 80’s, when I was in college, all the psychology classes included some time for discussion on the “nature v nurture” debate.  What caused or most contributed to a person’s behavior, attitude, intelligence: the intangibles (DNA) one was born with, or the environment in which one was raised?

The answer was always some combination of the two, but we were pretty sure of one thing,: that DNA held deterministic power over the “nature” side of the argument.

But what we knew and what we know are always in a dance together, and this dance has changed.

Sure, genetics, or DNA sets some baselines, or some expectations.  But we now know that genes can be turned on and off during one’s lifetime. My favorite study – maybe because it is the only one of which I know any particulars. In a long-term study, rhesus monkies genetically prone to anxiety, when raised by non-anxious, ‘super-nurturing’ parents, had the gene indicating for anxiety turned off.

The DNA of the anxious monkeys didn’t condemn them to lives of anxiety.  In fact, the expression of the DNA was changed by nurture.

Takeaway:  You are not enslaved by your genes.  I believe this is especially true for any of those settings where DNA is used as a metaphor.  It can be helpful in understanding some of the primal forces that brought you, or the institution, or organization, to where you are today, but there is no good reason to let it limit or determine the paths who walk from this day forward.

So: “What’s in your DNA?” might be a good conversation starter, but it is not a conversation ender nor is it more ammunition for blame games or excuse making.

Apple is NOT the Problem. WE are.

Apple has been in the news a lot lately, and not just beating the human birthrate in fourth-quarter iphone sales. Word is getting out about working conditions at the Foxconn plant in China, for instance. This American Life had an interesting piece on the same topic last month.

But let me make this perfectly clear: Apple is not the problem.  Mr. Daisey, in the This American Life piece, makes it clear that these factories in China don’t build just Apple products.  they build virtually all of the personally electronic devices we all like.

And it is not enough that we all like, and have mostly convinced ourselves need, these phones and tablets and netbooks etc. Most of us have also convinced ourselves of these two things

  1. that we deserve newer and better devices approximately every year and
  2. that we ought not have to pay very much for them.

Because we want newer and better gadgets at incredibly cheap prices, China (and other countries) will continue to work people in conditions you and I would never agree to work in.

Apple is not the problem.  We are.

Are you willing to update your phone every 3 years instead of every year or 18 months?  Would you be willing to pay maybe twice as much for a tablet computer or netbook or ultrabook?

Does decent working conditions and fairer wages figure at all into your willingness?

I decided about six years ago that I would buy only fair trade coffee. Thus, I felt, I was doing something to help the people who actually farm the coffee to live better lives.

Would I be willing to purchase only fair trade electronics if there were such a thing?

Would you?

Is it ok to lie in this case?

A guest in the building where I work asked if I knew where coffee cups were.  I did, and was headed that direction. I lead her to a cabinet of 30 or so coffee mugs, many of which had been donated to us to help us cut down on waste.

When she saw them, she asked if I had any styrofoam cups. I said that I did, but I’d rather she use one of these, and I would be happy to wash it afterwards.  I explained that was why we had these.

She stood there for a moment, said she didn’t have a preference,  then asked again if I had styofoam.  I again said I did, and again suggested a reusable cup. Again I offered to wash it afterwards.

She finally said she would really rather have a styrofoam cup.

Would it have been ok, do you think, to deny having styrofoam for her to use a reusable coffee mug?

Bright idea?

A recent Economist carried a piece about how maybe the increasing efficiency of light bulbs is not going to lead toward a reduction of electricity needed/produced.

It is worth remembering that when gas lights replaced candles and oil lamps in the 19th century, some newspapers reported that they were “glaring” and “dazzling white”. In fact, a gas jet of the time gave off about as much light as a 25 watt incandescent bulb does today. To modern eyes, that is well on the dim side.

Do you think you will be wanting brighter lighting in your house/office/church/store if five times the lighting takes half the electricity?

Go Green, Save Green

“Going green” isn’t always a money-saver.  Buying food that is sustain-ably produced can be costly. buying a new, more fuel-efficient car is expensive (and only arguably a greener option than maintaining a paid-for car you already have).

One way that Rachel and I have chosen to do a part to be better stewards of the earth is to use reusable cotton diapers.  The up-front cost is much higher than disposable diapers, but because we registered for them we received some as gifts.  As it stands now, Eliza is 3 months old tomorrow, and we spent on diapers total what disposables would have cost for this first 3 months.

And we have all the diapers she will ever need. And we have these diapers for a younger brother or sister to use.

We use more water washing them weekly than we would use on disposables, but we put almost nothing in the landfill, and water is, where we live, a renewable resource.

Interesting point-when I mention to young people that we have made this choice, many of them have asked why we don’t use “normal” diapers.  Disposable diapers are now “normal.”

We use Gro Baby and Bum Genius brands of reusable diapers, and they are incredibly easy to use.

No, I don’t leave all diaper duty to Rachel.


My house has been invaded by these things.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that every morning there are hundreds of them all over the outside of our house.

Throughout the day, I kill at least a hundred of these little bugs inside my house.

I’m about ready to buy poison and spray the entire exterior of my house, but I decided to make this effort first.

Can you help me identify these bugs, and perhaps then, help me figure out why so many are so attracted to my house?  The picture to the upper right is really blurry, I know, but when touched these things curl up like that.  I thought this might help someone identify them.  Typically, they are up to an inch long.

I don’t want to spew poison chemicals all over my house, but I am about to that point.  Can you help me find another way to stop the invasion?

Healing Drought

What’s the best way to water your lawn?

The American Lawns website recommends 3/4 to 1 inch of water per week, and applying it “as infrequently as possible.”

I’ve known this for some time and have been practicing this summer.  We try to limit watering any part of our yard to once per week, and watering deeply enough to soak in.  Any expert will tell you that watering this way encourages deep root growth, which makes for a healthier, more drought-resistant lawn.

Since I love making analogies between physical and spiritual things, I wondered this morning, what is the significance of this deep-water metaphor for spirituality?

It makes sense to me that deep watering of our souls would produce deeper, stronger, healthier roots in our lives.  But what is the difference between deep and shallow soul-watering?  Surely not the difference between daily and weekly devotional time?

Have you been watering your soul deeply enough?  If so, what is your method/process? If not, what are you going to do about it?