Lauren’s CRAN: This Barn. That Thing? (and the Finish is where it Starts)

Since my first or second post, you’ve been hearing about my fascination with BOLD Nebraska’s response to the Keystone XL pipeline. BOLD Nebraska is a grassroots collaboration of ranchers, farmers and Nebraska natives who believe there are other ways to fuel our future than mining the Canadian tar-sands for oil, and transporting it to refineries in Texas.


This Barn, Road Rd 22, Nebraska

This Barn, Road Rd 22, Nebraska

Last Fall, in response to proposed pipeline routes and legislation, BOLD Nebraska built This Barn.  I have been looking forward to seeing it for myself and made sure my CRAN route would get us close to the right spot.  Parvati’s thin tires aren’t too friendly with gravel roads, it so happens, so SAG Master (Mom!) played chauffeur for a quick detour. Time was of the essence and to be sure we didn’t drive in circles, we pulled alongside two farmers talking by their tractors.


This Barn’s roof 🙂


“We’re looking for BOLD Nebraska’s Barn,” my Mom said.

“Oh, that thing?” one of them said.

This Barn.  That thing.



And there it is: the teeter-totter on which so many climate conversations lie.  I’ve had 450 miles to ponder this.  In some moments, it’s “game over.”  I don’t have the courage or energy to be curious.  There are other moments too, however, when Grace descends and the capacity to hang out for a few more sentences appears.


Build Our Energy sign at This Barn

In a few hours, I’m going to ride from the outskirts of Lincoln, into the City where I grew up.  I will be met by members of the village that raised me.  It marks the “Finish Line” for my CRAN.  For the past two days, I have been pedaling slower, not wanting it to end.  I am savoring these HUGE skies, brimming with cotton-candy clouds, these green, green fields and redwing blackbirds dancing ahead of me on the wide swath of road-meets-horizon.  Out here, pedaling my prayerful pilgrimage, my purpose has been clear, guided, exquisitely simple.  Ironically, the rubber meets the road, when I get off my bike and attempt to talk about why I did this and what I’ve learned.


Left turn to Lincoln!

I pray for the courage, the clarity, the command of language to share this story in a way that might invite others to share theirs.  I pray that each of us has the patience and perseverance to bring curiosity to the conversations that might initially ring, “game over.”  I pray that, together, we can begin to create a new chapter in our story on this planet…and that we might take delight in the creativity that has been given to us through birth.


Lauren and Parvati, enjoying a different kind of spin


May our capacity to innovate and care for one another and this great spinning home of ours be fueled by great sky, deep ocean, strong mountain, fresh breeze, cool grass, and the spirited animals everywhere.  Amen!  See you at the Finish, where it all Begins….

P.S. If you haven’t made a donation and want to, there’s still time.  Whaddy say?  Finish line together with 10k?  You can make a secure online donation NOW by clicking on the ‘Support Me’ button. You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!

Lauren’s CRAN: Why Do I Care?

Two days ago, I was on Day Three of my Climate Ride Across Nebraska (CRAN).  Maybe it was the 57 hilly miles of headwind,

Hwy 81 S, Nebraska

Hwy 81 S, Nebraska


The Pioneers named this river and the sandy hills surrounding it, "Dismal."

The Pioneers named this river and the sandy hills surrounding it, “Dismal.”

or maybe it was the tepid response I’d received in the North about why I was doing this, or maybe I was feeling the ancestral energy left behind by the pioneers who had attempted, in far worse conditions, with covered wagons (for gosh sake), to trek the sandhill terrain I’d been pedaling across for the past 72 hours.

Whatever the reason, by the time I turned East on Hwy 2, my mind was a tornado and my heart a jumble.  Hwy 2 marks the place where the ranches and rodeos, meet railroad and industry.  The trains barrel by on the tracks nearly every 20 minutes and every second or third one is filled to the brim with coal.

Train, along Hwy 2, Nebraska

Train, along Hwy 2, Nebraska










For a few hours that morning, I had the morale boost of a riding companion (I’ve seen a total of 5 cyclists this week!).  It was a gift to share conversation and humor as we both leaned in and howled at the wind.  My new friend, it turns out, is a scientist, with advanced degrees in conservation.  When I shared how much I was looking forward to seeing the Nebraska State Forest (I would be passing it that afternoon), he mentioned that all those trees, hand-planted in the 1920s, were wreaking havoc on Nebraska’s water table.

Oh, Noooooooooooo!!!!!!

I really didn’t want to hear that.  Nor did I want to be reminded of my dependency on coal in a steady train-after-train succession, and NEITHER did I want to puzzle any more over what I could ask or say when I’m talking with others who don’t believe there’s a problem with the way we’re using the remaining resources on this planet.

In that moment, clipping along the highway shoulder at a steady 14 mph, I lost it.  Tears ran down my face, sobs unlocked the knot in my throat and I wailed loudly as another train roared past.  “Why Do I Care So Much?” asked the voice in my heart?  “Hmmmm, Right,” said my head.  “Why do I care?  And, would it really be fair to think that others do NOT care?”

I mean, let’s start with you.  Do YOU care?  And if enough of us care, why isn’t change happening faster?

Flowers in the wind, Sandhills

Flowers in the wind, Sandhills


Global warming isn’t going to stop because we reuse our bags and ride bikes (great things, of course – keep doing them, start doing them, don’t stop doing them), AND change is going to be fraught with complexities we don’t want to hear and will find overwhelming.

It takes courage to stick with it.  I shrink away a lot.  It requires vulnerability to feel the grief and of what humans have done to our Earth home.  I look the other way sometimes.  When we vow to do this together, sort of like working with that damn headwind, we set a pace for one another, resisting the seduction of becoming complacent.

I think that’s part of what my CRAN is about.  I’m looking for ways we can ban together, use our voice, and foster change.  One way to do that, is to support others who are organizing this effort grassroots to grand, all around the globe.  Thanks to so, so many of you, we have raised nearly $9000 to divide between my three chosen beneficiaries.  My ride, however, is NOT over.  If you haven’t made a donation and want to, there’s still time.  Whaddy say?  Finish line together with 10k?  You can make a secure online donation NOW by clicking on the ‘Support Me’ button, on my Climate Ride page. You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!


Getting my Kicks



Why Lauren Bikes

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]



In 35 days, I’ll be up in Fortuna, CA, and preparing to ride the 350 miles to San Francisco – 5 days of cycling to celebrate this Earth-home of ours, and to raise awareness about how we can do a better job of taking care of it.

So, SO many of you have already offered support.  Thank you for your generosity!  And for those of you still wanting to give, you have 4 more weeks.  You might recall that I’ve designated 4 NGOs, in particular, to receive the funds raised on behalf of my pedaling.  For the time remaining between now and Oct. 2nd,I’m going to focus on 1 NGO a week, highlighting why I think their efforts are important and worthy of your donation.


This week: The East Bay Bike Coalition

Their mission: Promoting bicycling as an everyday means of transportation and recreation since 1972.

Geek Treat: In the United States, 25% of trips are under a mile, but 75% of those trips are made by car.  Biking or walking one mile instead of driving will save you at least 15 cents on gas. And what about all those fun interactions with people and your neighborhood when you’re not stuck behind the wheel? (


And now….Why Lauren Bikes


“God made so many different kinds of people;
why would God allow only one way to worship”

– Martin Buber


I bike because it’s when my body prays.  I bike because it makes me feel strong.  I bike because two wheels take me to locations I wouldn’t otherwise see.  I bike because I always return from rides feeling different from when I left.  I bike because the challenges scare me…and I am someone who needs to lean into her fears directly.


A few years ago, I was riding my first double century – a double century is 200 miles in one day.  I became very afraid, suddenly, when I learned a big climb was coming and we’d be working very hard for the next hour.  “Climbing for the next hour?”  I questioned inwardly. A young voice inside whimpered, “I can’t!” and I wanted to cry….but another harsher voice snapped, “You can’t cry and ride a bike at the same time!  Keep moving!”


I finished the climb; infact, I finished the entire 200 miles, but I also became irrationally fearful of climbing.  For two months after that ride, I avoided certain roads and noticed an existential distancing between me and my love for meditation on the bike.  I knew I had to lean into this fear and find out what it meant.


In sought-out time with a Buddhist teacher, who is also an avid cyclist, he asked, “Lauren, do you KNOW that you can’t cry and ride your bike at the same time? For whatever it’s worth, I had a lovely cry on my bike just last Sunday.”  He also questioned wisely, “About how old was the one inside who said she couldn’t?  And who was the one who told her she had to?”  Before ending our session, he asked me to describe what it was like to finish all 200 miles.  Had I even taken time to acknowledge the accomplishment?  Ever so gently, with his own tears of joy leading the way, we both wept and celebrated my first double century triumph.  I agreed then to address the fears directly by returning to the East Bay hills, and I vowed to let him know what happened.


One week later, on a very foggy morning, I climbed South Park Road, one of Tilden Park’s steepest.  Along the way, I spoke to the fear, “You can do it.  Look at you: you’re doing it!!  You don’t have to go fast; you can stop if you need to….but look at you!  You are doing this.  Breathe.  Pull, push.  Breathe.”  At the top of the hill, I cried.  I cried and pedaled and laughed and whooped my way across the ridge, tears and snot running down my face, while I rode my bike at the same time.


Practice with Parvati, my two-wheeled Guru


I ride my bike because I see Creation from ever-changing angles.  I ride my bike because it is meditation in motion.  I ride my bike because in our dance together, we find God.




What is the Power of Your Love?

[I delivered the following homily in the summer of 2007 at my Renewing Ceremony.  The ceremony was created as a ritual to both renew my 1999 Ordination vows as an Interfaith minister and profess myself an Eco-chaplain.  Similar to a minister whose Call is healthcare ministry or prison ministry, I had come, through uncomfortable discernment, that my calling is to care – very intentionally – for the Earth and all Her inhabitants.  With my seminary’s endorsement and the blessing of my spiritual communities, I stepped into this new “office” on June 23, 2007. The ceremony began with an invocation by Jane DeCuir, of the Cherokee Metis Nation…]


Jane's Invocation


In seminary I was taught that Interfaith ritual should begin first by honoring the land on which you are gathered and the people to whom it belongs.  Thank you, Jane, for your presence here today.

I’ve heard that when the Europeans began arriving in America, they confused the Native People by asking them to translate “God” and “nature.”  In many indigenous languages, of course, the two words are the same. It’s the newer languages that felt a need to distinguish the God we know in nature as different from the God we know, perhaps, in the train station.

Looking for God, seeking the Holy in a variety of settings, is the work of a chaplain. Just as the chapel is separate from the church or temple, a chaplain resolves to create sacred space in the complexity of hospitals, war zones, city streets, Wal-Mart… At first glance, these intense places may be perceived as separate and God-less. A chaplain’s call is to bring some light; to prophetically state, “Here, too. No matter how horrid, the Source of our Breath abides in this place, too.”

A year ago, I began to see that my work was changing. Caring for the Earth had become my deep love in ministry. I’ll admit I’ve been making it up as I go, but I’ve been calling the work “Eco-chaplaincy.” I say it with love and dread because, after all, what does it mean when our Earth is so ravaged that it too, like a prison or the Iraqi desert, needs a chaplain?  And what, exactly, does an Eco-chaplain do?

Offering Homily

One of my favorite movies of all times is Mary Poppins. I love how Mary Poppins finds magic in the mundane. I also love her fastidious tendencies. For a good long while now, I’ve wished badly I could snap my fingers and—just like the toys in Jane and Michael’s nursery—have the environment return itself to a lush, forested, healthy planet. InMaryPoppins’ world, it’s fine to use what’s around you and to play with vigor, so long as you put it back…each article in its right place.

I went through a dark, troubling period last Fall. In the world around me, nothing was being returned to its right place. I saw 1-person-per-car idling on the freeway, an endless supply of Styrofoam cups and plastic bags being used once and tossed. Then one day, walking down University Ave., I saw a “SALE” sign in the Goodwill store window!

What does it mean when a thrift store has so much stuff it requires storewide liquidation?!?  We are clearing the Earth’s forests to the tune of 69 acres per minute, so we can drive to the store and buy stuff, to give to Goodwill, so they can send it to the landfill, some of it contaminating our soil and water for a millennium or more.  What is going on???  The whole scene had me feeling desperate, judgmental and angry — a pretty undesirable litany for a minister.

Blessing of Earth Worms


I knew that blame was pointless and staying mad felt miserable, so I did what one is wont to do when feeling sad, afraid, and misunderstood: I turned toward what I love. I spent a lot of time alone, turning toward the rocks, the trees, the smells of nature. With some kind coaching and encouragement, I got strong enough to ride my bike into these hills so I could sweat and breathe Mother Earth’s theology. It’s Her theology, after all, that gives birth to all the others. The miracle of our 13 billion year story on this planet is what, for me, truly makes sense.  We are this soil, this water, one great breath, breathing together.


As I connected again with all that I am and what I so dearly love, I began to thaw. The anger melted to grief, and the words of Eco-philosopher, Joanna Macy comforted me: “The grief you carry for this world comes from your love for it. It is high time we tasted the power of your love.”

My work as an Eco-chaplain, I’m coming to see, lies in the very heart of this question: What is the power of your love? My guess and my hope is that there are more Eco-chaplains out there.

I’m not at all certain how this work will continue to evolve, but I would like to close by sharing my present intention for what I will do in this role:

What is the Power of YOUR Love?

  • As an Eco-chaplain, I want to remind us all of our True Nature.  We are inextricably connected and linked to everything in this universe.
  • From this awareness, I want to act and serve on behalf of all species, advocating eco-justice.  I want, likeMaryPoppins, to teach that the magic is in the mundane. I want to celebrate the abundance inherent in simplicity.
  • In the face of adversity or despair, of which I know there will be plenty, I want to practice not closing down, but rather, “allowing in.”  I’ve heard this practice described as “poor man’s equanimity.”  With the stakes so high and the enormity of the crisis so deadening, “poor man’s equanimity” frees us to move and act without the guarantee of success.  After all, I have no clue how this story ends. The Divine invitation for each of us is to bring our creativity, our compassion and our Whole Self to each moment … one at a time.
  • And finally, the biggest secret: I want to do this work with joy!  An Eco-chaplain’s work, though wrought with a sense of urgency, is wonderfully Joyful!  I believe this is so because in caring for our interconnection to all and with all, I can clearly recognize—at least for brief, ecstatic moments—that there is no end to our mutual belonging.

If we humans want to live sustainably on this Earth, we have our work cut out for us: BIG time. As an Eco-chaplain and fellow human, my vote is that we get busy. And I invite us, like Mary Poppins, to find the magic in the mundane—to draw deeply from the wellspring of joy and love.

The Divine is ready, willing, awaiting our next act.

What is the power of your love?