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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

April 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Al Fritsch

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Cutleaf toothwort, Dentaria laciniata
(photo: Janet Powell)

April Reflections, 2010

   Here in the Appalachians we await breathlessly the coming of April's glory. Anticipation is felt after the harshness of winter's wind, sleet and blowing snow. Nature shows its resilience once more and gentle breezes, showers and punctuated rainbows. An array of daffodils, azaleas and irises will soon decorate the landscape. The forests will come alive first with the faint pink of the redbud and then later in the month with the more pronounced white of the dogwood. Resident birds seem to come to life and are greeted by those that are either returning or passing through. Here and now April brings forth a renewal in life.

   At this time of year each sunrise is a new opportunity for glory, something that is anxiously awaited a little earlier each morning. The first rays bring hope. Springtime glory! The rising is the forerunner of eternal resurrection, the promise of everlasting splendor. While spring sunsets are colorful, still we may prefer through location and culture to turn to the west in autumn and to the east in springtime (north in winter and south in summer). For me, April and glory meet at a spring-fresh sunrise.










Daffodils to greet the new month. Washington Co., KY.
*photo credit)

April 1, 2010    Maundy Thursday, Creation and Service  

      Holy (Maundy) Thursday comes from the Latin prayer of washing feet, just as Jesus performed on this day.  He wanted to show how much he wished his disciples to do humble service for others -- the deepest form of Christian spiritual activity.  He was teaching them what to "lord over another" really ought to mean.  They would be called to exercise power as we will see on Easter Day -- the power of the risen Lord.  However, that power was not worldly lording over others in the form of subjugation or exploitation.  One counter movement to false lording has been what is termed "Creation Centered Spirituality."  The basic impulse is good, but centering only on creation's glory and wonder is not sufficient; damaged creation must be renewed and healed.  We must not go to the Last Supper, stay for a short while and perform individual creative acts, and then leave before the uncomfortable work of foot-washing commences.  Glory also comes in repairing damage done. 

      The central issue of "creation spirituality" is glory and wonder, creative expression, a refusal to control and exert power, and an acceptance of being part of creation but not above it.  The sense of mystery even of the Passover event is present more like that of an observer, not a participant.  To tiptoe through tulips, observe golden sunsets, and acknowledge all plants and animals as part of the community of being is needed -- BUT IT IS NOT THE TOTAL MESSAGE.  The Last Supper is filled with a creative liturgy much of which is transposed to Holy Saturday in our Catholic tradition.  However, the key is Jesus' washing feet, a sign that Christian gratitude is expressed through service to/for others.  

      We followers of Christ are "needy" folks.  Our service is a mandate and a challenge to answer our unique calling in the light of individual talents, circumstances and opportunities.  We need courage to overcome the reticence to give service for fear of its exposed imperfect performance.  In a spirit of creative glory we know we have been given immense gifts, and now we are moved because these need sharing through the ultimate human act of love.  We do not want to appear foolish and do nothing when one billion people lack essentials of life.  An appreciation of creation must not result in inaction; rather we are drawn to share with others the gifts we have received.  Gazing at stars or resting at mountain tops are fine if they are refreshing pauses before needed action.  If they fool us into a quietism and inaction, they are wrong.   

      We need to pray, reflect, look and see, give, share, and remove any form of greed that stifles our spiritual vision.  In doing so, we become sensitive to the needy through the eyes of faith.  Necessities can now be distinguished from luxuries, and we begin to know when we are fooled.  Our service becomes our way to purification and insurance against corruption. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see the glory of creation, to show gratitude, to refrain from damaging gifts given, and to be willing to undertake the service required to repair a damaged Earth.   








Finches at the feeder (American goldfinch, Spinus tristis and
purple finch, Carpodacus purpureus).
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 2, 2010    Calvary and the Mystery of Redemption 

      On Good Friday we reflect with some difficulty on our human condition.  Suffering and dying are part of the human condition. Before that mortal end that awaits us, we can enter into or ignore the suffering all around us, or we can embrace the world of suffering as a reality that we accept and seek to alleviate.  Furthermore, we can make our own sufferings something positive in offering them to God for the needs of others.  Thus suffering can become a prayerful opportunity.  This is in contrast to others who regard suffering as a catch-22, meaningless, or as an absurdity as articulated by certain philosophers.  

      Jesus suffers and dies for us.  Christians, as followers, strive to accept suffering in reparation for past misdeeds or as preparation for rewards in the next life;  for them, suffering is part of human life, something God gives as a challenge; for them it means to imitate Mary, John and the holy women standing below the terror of the cross.  The call is to glory in that cross, not in its gory details, but in its power and glorious ultimate reality.  The Christian sees what Jesus does for us, and also what we can do by standing with him in this event that transcends space and time.  We are present at Calvary; we enter into the divine mystery of suffering;  we  can become sensitive to those who suffer;  we grow through patience in an expanding world of compassion. 

      For many Christians, Good Fridays invite an individual response focusing on our imperfect self with many misdeeds; what becomes apparent is the damage we have done to the entire social structure; we have caused Jesus to suffer at Calvary.  The vivid Passion of Christ, manifested in liturgy and dramatic settings may lead us to a grander salvation event, a redemption.  The creation-centered approach may serve as a reaction to an individually redemption-centered spirituality that ignores the wider social dimension of redemption.  Individual devotions in reparation for misdeeds are needed, and are associated with Good Friday, BUT THEY ARE NOT ENOUGH.  Salvation reaches beyond ourselves.  Our acts must have a social dimension.   

      Many seek to avoid, run from, deny, ignore, condemn, blame and do a host of other things to flee from suffering and seek to avoid a thought of death itself.  Few run enthusiastically to personal suffering or death, though the suicidal actions of terrorists make us aware that some do. Ultimate sacrifice has been visited upon millions in the thick of battle and on those who give up their lives for the sake of others. Today we commemorate one who suffered and died for us all -- and Christians cherish the memory of his action on Good Friday.  As Christ's followers we join Jesus in Calvary, so we can celebrate at Easter.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to approach the cross as public witnesses with Mary, John and the Holy Women.  Help us to extend the graces streaming from the cross to our efforts needed in saving and healing our wounded Earth. 








Fresh flowers of the sugar maple, Acer saccharum.
(*photo credit)

April 3, 2010     Corporate Creation/Redemption and Haiti  

      As we pause after the desolation of Good Friday and prepare for what is to come, we take a deeper look at a redemption-based approach and find its role in a meaningful Holy Week retreat.  We know that an individual orientation solely to creation's glory or redemption's agony is insufficient in itself.  Merely concentrating on either creation or redemption apart from the other denies the total Christian message of life, death and resurrection.  A second insufficiency emerges:  celebrating creation is a joint adventure and redemption has a strong social dimension as well.  

      Creation-centeredness diverts attention from activity needed to address the damage done;  an individual redemption-centered approach is limited in not balancing the sense of past and coming glory.  Many of those who seek a redemptive-focused Jesus-and-I relationship are also shorthanded.  Focusing on self may lead to neglect of our neighbor.  Jesus is our model;  he thanks God for all gifts given including the fullness of creation; he suffers for all through his suffering and death on the cross.  He invites us to a similar balance in life through extending his Calvary and Resurrection event in space and time; his compassion becomes a binding glue that holds the world's community together.  

      The invitation is to help bring balance to our dysfunctional world.  The Economist, January 16th, 2010 (p. 35) speaks of the new faces of hunger; in rather prosperous New York City the number of people having trouble paying for food has increased 60% to 3.3 million since 2003.  One in five of the city's children relies on soup kitchens and this is up 48% since 2004. We are struck that this city is better equipped to handle its needy cases than many others in a world of dozens of cities now larger than New York -- once one of the world's largest.  More and more people move into urban areas where they cannot sustain themselves off of the land.   Needs can be met where people congregate, but the congregating now involves millions of people.  The invitation to this deeper spirituality goes to entire peoples and not just to individuals only.  What about the poor Lazarus of the Western Hemisphere, Haiti?   This land visited by hurricanes and floods in the twenty-first century and now this year with a horrendous earthquake is a focus for our giving to those in need, and we are learning to live on far less.  Haitians become our teachers.  

     We are being called to see God's glory in creation and to see the saving opportunity for a needy people who are part of glory through suffering.  The invitation is for corporate gratitude and mutual compassion.  Haiti at our doorstep becomes an opportunity not only for Haitians to share their misfortunes, but for us to grow in compassion or suffering with others.  Materialists may flee from such scenes, throw pennies from a distance, and seek to erase the vision of suffering people.  By turning to Calvary we see beyond; we see a glorious horizon in the future. 

    Prayer, Lord empower us to change things through compassion. 








A rainbow in the forest.
(*photo credit)

April 4, 2010   Resurrection:  A New Centrality 

     I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.   
                                                                                 (Ezekiel 36:26)

      At Easter, the resurrected Christ comes back to life;  death continues to stand before us, but in a deeper sense Christ has conquered death itself.  Christ, in power, becomes our own future promise of eternal life.  The scenes of springtime in our northern hemisphere remind us that a new life is coming in our natural world -- a life abounding in wildflowers and new life.  Creation gives way to a new and a far more astounding creation in which we have a hand.  Furthermore, we realize that the saving power of Jesus at Calvary continues, and thus is now extending in space and time through the Liturgy, which is the work of the people.  We are invited to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ, for the sake of his body, the Church (Colossians 1:24).  The mystery of incarnation includes both Christ coming into the world and our bearing the Word to all the world;  so the mystery of the resurrection draws us into a participative creation/redemption mystery.  We help in the saving event by assisting in the new creation now becoming known to all. Christ's merits are realized. 

      Water is blessed at the Easter vigil and is poured over the newly baptized, those who experience new life in its spiritual fullness.  That water becomes the Easter water that we take and sprinkle on the fields, the plants and animals around us.  The risen Lord's blessing is now in the water of new life, and we are God's instruments in bringing new life to others.  We recognize  water's cleansing and life-giving properties.  We seek to extend the Easter event to others, and water is a special instrument.

      The new fire of the Easter Vigil and the paschal candle are additional symbols of new life.  Darkness is dispelled by light, and each of us helps enlighten this dark and troubled world.  At dawn and during the advancing Easter daytime, light fills our world and we are overjoyed by the new life that light helps give.  Just as we are bearers of water, so we are bearers of fire that burns away darkness and enlightens the lives of others.  Fire and water remind us that there is something profoundly physical as well as spiritual about Easter.  We are called to celebrate because we are more than spectators;  we receive new life -- eternal life -- and this gives us the sense of joy, victory, hope, peace and forgiveness.  It is the promise of joining Jesus who is now Lord in glory.  Thus in his suffering death and resurrection Jesus extends life to us, a future filled with unending joy.  This foreshadowing of new life for us is what Easter is all about.  Thus resurrection, not creation alone or redemption alone, becomes the center of our spirituality. 

      Prayer:  Lord give us grace to assist in participating in the new creation and in extending your saving deeds to all the world. 









Purple cress, Cardamine douglasii.  Woodford Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

April 5, 2010     Reclaim Our Land Commons     

      As we till the soil, we  consider the value of our land.  Our American land policy developed from European, mainly Anglo-Saxon, land ethics (see Reclaiming the Commons on this website).  The notion that this country could have private holdings staked out from the Native American land commons was regarded as legitimate, and protected by the might of military power.  That staking process extended in the entire settling of the west, and the land grant and railroad grants of the nineteenth century -- and is still regarded as the almighty right to land-holdings of varied sizes.

      Throughout human history certain lands were common hunting territories (native tribes considering Kentucky as commons) or were reserved for common grazing (English commons) or other purposes.  Today, in this resource-short age, scarcity of global land for essential food production makes some modifications in land use and land commons imperative.  Some practices include:    

      * Redistribution -- The small farmers of the world, especially those producing grain and oil-crops, should be given land to use.  This may mean the dividing of unproductive estates, hunting preserves, large lawns, and golf courses;  

      * Regulation of use -- Forbid the use of food-producing areas for biofuel production (now occurring in Malaysia and Indonesia).  Better results could be achieved by use of non-productive space for biofuels or the use of wind and solar energy sources.  Farms must be used for essential grain and oil-bearing crops and not for  animal and specialty crops; 

      * Forbidding misuse --  Poor land practices can deplete soil through erosion, salination or destruction of soil microbes through corporate farming practices, such as pesticides or overuse of commercial fertilizers.  Strip mined and urbanized polluted lands need to be reclaimed at the expense of the culprits;  

     * Zoning and land conservation measures -- Some regard the title to land as a privileged entitlement to use as one sees fit.  The community needs to have a voice in how land is used properly; and

      * Edible landscaping -- Encourage the use of lawns and small urban patches of land for edible landscape in order to help feed local populations.  Often local rules require certain types of lawn grass to the detriment of vegetable, herb, fruit, and nut crops. 

      Prayer:  Lord teach us to be humble (derived from the Latin word "humus" for soil).  In this recent season of Lent, we were reminded that we are from dust and will return.  Help us to respect the rich microcosm of soil beneath our feet and to regard all of this wealth as a commons meant for the benefit of all people.






Lady bird beetle on fresh spicebush flowers (Lindera benzoin).
(*photo credit)

April 6, 2010      Give Thanks for April's Blessings 

      Each month is a time of thanksgiving -- and it is easier to find examples for some months than for others.  With the sunshine and freshness of April, our hearts and minds go out to a plentitude of good gifts all worthy of mention.  Without being exhaustive, let us give a few examples and encourage you to list your own.  We are thankful for: 

      * Enhanced greenery in grass and in the carpets speckled with yellow dandelion blooms, which some despise but others delight;

      * Pink to purple redbud and the white to pink dogwood, all ablaze in glory in woodlands coming alive with spring wildflowers; 

      * Gentle spring showers that bring on a plethora of May flowers of all varieties and colors; 

      * Frisky colts and the new-born nestlings and pups, lambs, kids, kittens, calves, and piglets -- and infants at all seasons; 

      * Migratory birds, passing through on the great flyways, many stopping and resting for a period on their journey, all adding to the color and sound of our glorious spring; 

      * Easter celebrations with the atmosphere of joy, victory and hope, and the blessing of land and all creatures with Easter Water; 

      * Sounds of shrill delight among children who know that winter is past and the outdoors is a more friendly place for all; 

      * Crack of bats as the baseball and softball season opens in the local parks; 

      * Opportunities to take down the window insulation, to do spring cleaning, and to air out the house on those warmer and breezy days;  

     *  That first taste of poke greens and other wild salad greens along with some of the early mushrooms for those who are observant; 

     *  Longer days and shorter nights so that travel is now much easier in the evenings; 

      *  Spring hikes with the sounds, smells and sights of new life abounding all around us;  

     *  Cheerful dispositions on the part of winter-haters; and 

      *  Leafing-out of the trees during the final weeks, which gives a fullness of greenery to the landscape. 

      Prayer:  For all of these we give our heartfelt thanks.  May eternal life be an everlasting April. 







Water, a precious resource.  Mercer Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

April 7, 2010      Eight Critical World Health Threats 

      On World Health Day, we ought to review some of the major threats that exist, or will soon emerge to threaten world populations.  It seems so strange that, despite a world of advanced water and air purification techniques, health and safety prevention measures and sophisticated medical equipment, threats loom over the poor in 2010.  The World Health Organization strives mightily to alert the public to new threats, but needless death and injury persist.  Is this world health threat survey complete? 

      * Tobacco products -- While the world today suffers the shortened lives of three to four million per year at current smoking rates, the number could rise manyfold in two decades.   

     * Contaminated drinking water -- After so many years of knowledge about infectious diseases, how is it that so many still lack the basic chlorination needed for today's drinking water? 

      * Polluted air -- Residents subjected to pollutants in the outdoor air, especially in rapidly industrializing countries, have emerging severe asthma and other respiratory problems. 

      * Defective cooking stoves -- Over one billion poor people still cook their meals with wood or charcoal over fires that  require close attention.  Women cooks, as well as the elderly and youth who spend much time indoors in buildings with poor ventilation, are especially vulnerable.  Solar cookers and better stoves could greatly reduce this threat. 

      * Alcohol and drug consumption --  A rising tide of middle class people with higher paying jobs may only exacerbate the spread of alcohol/drug consumption among those with more spending money.  The war on drugs seems to never end as cartels continue their lucrative business and governments fail to halt the flow.

      * Defective home construction -- Deaths were about 230,000 in Haiti this year and up to 77,000 deaths in China in 2008 in great part due to poor building construction methods. 

      * Traffic accidents -- With the rapid increase in automobiles, especially in Asia and Latin America, and the urge to drive fast and furiously on poorly constructed and policed roads, the awful toll on drivers, riders and pedestrians will most likely rise. 

      * Lack of vaccination --  This last seems the most preventable threat to eliminate in the coming years, but gaps remain in a world where health funds are strapped and treatments are restricted by lack of access to proper vaccines. Some parents avoid vaccinations, but their concerns are regarded as unjustified by health experts. 

      Prayer: Lord, give us a deep concern for our brothers and sisters in other lands, and help us see that redistribution of resources would help alleviate health threats in our world. 








Bark of oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 8, 2010      Redirect Current Tea Parties 

      Tea parties sound benign enough, but the ones thrown throughout the United States in 2009, and continuing until now, put a bite into the beverage.  These tea party-goers do not sit around holding up their little fingers and eating crumpets.  They are more in the style of the 1773 Boston raiders who threw the crates of British tea into the bay.  They are angry;  they want change; they speak with emotion; and they have already helped swing elections in New York, Florida and other places where they show influence. 

       Many non-tea party-goers sympathize with the deep discontent of this new movement, but some of us think it is not as well directed as was the one by our forbearers in the 1770s.  Are the discontented patriots of the twenty-first century, with their easy access to information, still confused as to the causes and sources of their discontent?  Certainly, discontent arises over a stagnant jobs picture, persistent plant closings, long-term unemployment, home foreclosures, high prices of heath insurance (if insured) and higher education bills.  There is much anger over a complacent government allowing the privileged to take bonuses at what seems to be taxpayer expense.  The discontented see that favors to Wall Street scalawags, while Main Street is ignored, only fuel resentment of government.  This focus of resentment doubly frustrates would-be tea-party supporters, because troubles are directed only to a government with runaway spending, while untouchable corporate spending is totally overlooked.  It is as though Wall Street cannot be touched by criticism. 

      The greatest problem is that the patriots, who deserve to be incensed, chant a mantra prepared for them by corporate America -- "no new taxes."  Is that what they really want?  Do they forget that the super rich pay the lowest tax rate and they, the little fellows, the highest?  Should it be "Tax them (the rich), not us (the poor & middle class)," for this would have social as well as economic dimensions?  The equivalent of the eighteenth-century patriot's nemesis (George the Third) should not be found in national government but in the globalized banking system.  The party- goers have been so propagandized against big government that they overlook something that looms bigger and is less controllable -- an existing military/industrial/corporate complex.  This giant is now allowed to speak at elections with full use of financial resources and can influence votes through highly controlled media.  The tea party-goers ought to direct attention to a new nobility of the financially privileged, who can buy influence and governments at will.  If the agitation were well directed, still more citizens would rally to the cause, and maybe rightly so.  Jefferson could be the patron saint;  he hoped that his revolutionary spirit would survive, grow and show itself in new ways. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be social enough to go to tea parties, and socially-oriented enough to point out why the party should pinpoint accurately the causes of discontent. 






Seeing the forest... for the trees.
(*photo credit)

April 9, 2010      Big Government Is Bad; Little Government Is Worse 

      Some people disparage big government with fears of an emerging socialistic or communistic or autocratic regime.  History can teach us much about the sorry state of such absolutist governments with their Stalinist mines and Nazi concentration camps.  So much for oversize.  However, not to be overlooked are the examples of failure of government (failed states, anarchy, or the usurping of government by private individuals or companies). Greedy, enterprising people can enter a place and take advantage of lack of regulation to create mischief by exploiting weaker communities and  unguarded natural resources. 

      Size is all important, for too much government restricts freedom and so does too little; thus a lack of balance in government permits the rise of private globalized entities that can dictate terms for employment, livelihood and even the standards of living.  Too little government results from the lack of regulation that checks the greed of groups or individuals, and greed can become addictive.  Unchecked greed is infectious and leads to greed on the part of more and more -- and even moves down to poorer folks who strive to enter the greedy foray.     

      From its earliest days the United States has generally been plagued by too little government, and the overlooking of the power of the unregulated super-rich.  During various periods of time, the wealthy could take their riches to foreign tax havens, make decisions to ruin manufacturing centers, and move their businesses to foreign lands with fewer regulations.  The most fearful sight is autocratic and undemocratic governments making agreements with each other on the use of sovereign funds and on the enticement of business so as to bypass regulated and democratic governments.  The UN lacks enforcement powers, and this limits its ability to tackle global problems.  Global government is currently too small. 

      A host of problems is now plaguing the world commons: air pollution, land erosion, lack of food security, limited water rights, international lack of privacy, transportation and communications problems, movement of peoples, limited availability of health care and control of outer space to name only a few (see Reclaiming the Commons on this website's Special Issues).  What is starting to emerge is the demand for a more powerful United Nations with teeth.  A superpower (e.g., United States or even the European Union) does not have the power to regulate the globalizing trends of totalitarian businesses whether public or private. 

      Concerned citizens are rapidly moving towards the idea that a more powerful super-government is necessary to handle the multitude of global problems that are arising.  The 2008-09 financial crisis was a failure in financial regulation at the global level; we need regulations that go beyond those of individual nation states. 

      Prayer:  Lord teach us to explore the changing conditions that require new systems to bring justice to the world.   








A fallen log adrift in Kentucky creek.
(*photo credit)

April 10, 2010     Striving for a Sense of Mercy     

      We read about people in earlier centuries who went to gory executions where convicts were drawn and quartered (look it up if you are unaware), or chopped-off heads were spiked at the city gates, or the disabled were ridiculed by crowds.  We regard ourselves as far more merciful, and in some areas maybe we are.  Most people do not like or allow their loved ones to endure sights of aborted fetuses and dying accident victims or battle sites. 

      However, before we pat ourselves on the back, let's look a little deeper and consider where merciless actions still exist: 

      * Redistribution of resources -- Three million die of hunger each year while in the lap of luxury some throw away half of their food supply;

      * Capital punishment -- Among civilized nations only the United States and a few other permit the death penalty;  

      * Corporate decisions -- Plant closures can deny livelihoods and disruptions to entire communities; 

      * Merciless profits -- Some few make fortunes while their workers barely make ends meet; 

      * Lack of immigration reform -- Twelve million are preyed upon because of lack of proper status; 

      * Massive unemployment -- The irresponsibility on the part of governments, which should create jobs by using the bonuses of the undertaxed privileged ones in society;       

      * Jailing for lack of bonds -- One half million poor Americans fit into this category; and 

      * Merciless spectator conduct -- booing of the defeated or the referees with little sign of appreciation for competing groups. 

      Some of these examples may be regarded as "tough love" or deserving action by readers;  other examples may be forthcoming as well.  A few may champion issues that others may object to on ethical grounds, such as allowing "mercy killing" of a deformed newborn or "putting away" an elderly human being in the manner of a sick animal.  Mercy comes with different interpretations, and what is merciful action to those who would terminate human life is transformed into works of mercy by those who care for the helpless, disadvantaged or infirm.  Much of this interpretation of mercy rests on the component of gratitude for gifts given and the universal love we have for our brothers and sisters (see tomorrow).

      Prayer:  Lord, give us a deeper sense of mercy that seems to grow upon us as we become thankful for the gifts given to us as  individuals and as the People of God. 







Discovering a wild game trail in the forest.
(*photo credit)

April 11, 2010    Consider Divine Mercy and Earthhealing 

      This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
                                (Psalm 118)

      Within the last decade, the Sunday after Easter has been called Divine Mercy Sunday.  For years I did not understand its placement when we were celebrating Easter's joy, triumph and faith.  However, with time the merciful aspect has become more evident -- and the merciless aspects of our social and economic system have added to the understanding.  We are to renew our Earth and this must be done in an atmosphere of mercy.  Easter mercy and joy extend beyond a single Sunday, and are celebrated on every week's First Day.  They also need to be part of our everyday activities.

     God's mercy comes to us in the suffering, death and rising of Jesus Christ, who is now Lord in power (Romans 1:4).  Through a seemingly powerless condition, Jesus rises as triumphant Lord.  At the moment of utter powerlessness, suddenly the power of God is manifested.  Nor is it contained in an event of two thousand years ago;  the event now includes us who are part of the divine family of God through the fullness of baptism/confirmation.  Here and now we discover the mercy of God at work in what lies ahead of us.  

      The gift of trusting in the Lord extends to those who believe in this Easter event.  We are made whole enough and empowered to help heal our wounded Earth.  Can we bring about new life, or is the planet doomed to deterioration, to melted ice caps and flooded coastal areas, to hurricanes of immense magnitude and extremes of heat and drought?  However, power comes in becoming present to the Calvary/Resurrection events, and thus we see the mystery of our participation in the divine plan.  Furthermore, this incorporation is a sign of God's mercy, not divine vengeance.  We are called to address our misdeeds and to make reparation -- and this reparation involves healing.  In loving gratitude we become merciful.  

      We Easter people make a choice between life and death.  Those without a sense of Resurrection fall into the death trap  -- abortion, "mercy" killing, death penalty and military engagement. They see no hope, and resort to becoming increasingly self-centered;  they deny facts, excuse themselves from work, and escape to material enticements.  On the other hand, Easter people affirm divine mercy and life itself through merciful deeds.  Easter people are empowered in the resurrected Lord;  we recognize Calvary's powerlessness, and Easter's power that can confront the materialistic despair all about.   

      Through new life, our wounded Earth can be renewed; we can now unite, work together, and help establish peace;  we see that renewable energy and resource conservation are healing deeds. 

      Prayer:  Lord, in your mercy, counter our unbelief.  Help us see that we can better our world, and that we are rejuvenated in the Risen Lord through your mercy that extends through the world. 







Glacier near Hyder, Alaska.
(*photo credit)

April 12, 2010     Global Warming Coming Sooner and Faster               

      Many of our reflection headings this year begin with an active verb, indicating that we ought to do certain things.   If one is needed today on Global Warming Day, it is to defend the findings of 98 percent of scientists in saying our planet is warming, and that this is due in great part to human efforts.  We are called to act as individuals and communities in curbing resource use and to persuade those in public office to make this a matter of top priority.  This is especially true with the recent disappointment of the Copenhagen meeting and its lack of definite final accord.  

      Climate change matters are worse than predicted a decade ago, and the alarm continues to rise.  Emerging middle class people in China, India and other economically advancing nations are determined to imitate the West's materialism.  The supposed goal of only a +2C (degrees) global temperature rise will have drastic effects, but a more likely (at present expanding consumption patterns) greater rise would cause massive chaos on our planet. David Miliband, the UK secretary of state, says,  "We cannot cope with a +4C degrees world." In a world map published a few months ago by the British government the +4C would not be evenly distributed, because many ocean areas would have lower temperatures and the North Pole regions would rise as high as +16C.  Sober and shocking effects of such rises were enumerated on the map:  

      * 60% likelihood of irreversible decline in the Greenland ice sheet resulting in a 7 meter (over 23 feet) global sea-level rise;

     * reduction of permafrost in Canada and Alaska and almost complete disappearance in Asia (thus resulting in methane release, which will exacerbate climate change);

      * Maize and wheat yields reduced by up to 40% at low latitudes in North America, South America, and Africa and a decrease of rice yield by up to 30% in China and India;

      * Marine ecosystems could be altered by ocean acidification with significant impact on fisheries;

      * Drought events twice as frequent across the Mediterranean basin and parts of Africa and Indonesia;

      * Sea-level rise and storm surge likely threatening Netherlands and southeastern England;

      * Half of all Himalayan glaciers significantly reduced by 2050 (amounts are disputed).  The Indus river basin obtains 70% of its summer flow from glacier melt; and

      * The hottest day of the year in Europe up to +8C degrees.    

      Many other troubles are expected as well due to flooding (500 million affected) and two billion without access to fresh water.  In order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, we must press our governments to cut emissions and help vulnerable nations to adapt.  Full report: <www.unep.org/compendium2009>

Reference -- Acid News, No. 4 December, 2009 pp. 12-13. 

      Prayer:   Lord, we are to observe the signs of our times;  Help us to know and to persuade other to act now. 







Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) complemented by fresh blooms of the quince.
(* photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 13, 2010  Greed Can Ruin Democracy 

      On Thomas Jefferson's birthday we ought to celebrate by going past the third president's foibles and faults that investigative critics have been quick to point out.  Rather, we ought to dedicate ourselves to reaffirming the democracy that Jefferson so loved;  we need to expose today's threats to our freedoms just as he exposed the weaknesses of George the Third when writing the Declaration of Independence. The greed of banking and financial interests today would make Jefferson cringe.  He would soon discover that what he disliked about the excessive powers of the British crown has now become commonplace in a world lacking global government enforcement.  He knew that democracy is a fragile plant that needs constant cultivation and growth much like any agricultural crop.  Without constant watchfulness our democratic process can be stifled and we could lose our precious heritage of freedoms.   

      Today, our American way of life is under attack by a global capitalism that allows communities to be vulnerable to decisions made in boardrooms thousands of miles away.  Furthermore, nothing is more vulnerable than this democracy where the power of lobby groups overwhelms legislative process and defenders of democracy (including my friend Ralph Nader) are blackballed by media controlled by corporations.  With new areas of corporate finance directed to election campaigning, people are even more vulnerable to disparagement by the media.  

      The bigness of the corporate world (something Thomas Jefferson never imagined) leads to political power, and this leads to access in Washington to the halls of Congress and the White House, and this leads to influence that perpetuates the bigness.  The entire process of coming to influence is motivated by greed and profits and leads to further erosion of democratic process and citizen monitoring.  Greed is never satisfied, but leads to ever higher levels of want.  Greed is addictive to the individual and infectious to a society that finally concedes that one can function successfully only by having more power.  For the greedy, basic needs and an orderly control of distribution of resources are overlooked.  Greed breeds ever deeper greed and becomes self-perpetuating.  

       A society that minimizes private or individual control measures (fasting, abstinence, sharing, etc.) will overlook the needs of others.  Powerful greed in the hands of a few can infringe on the rights of the weaker members of society, and thus usurp the right of all to adequate resources in our world.  Proper governance takes a back seat to the power of the emerging financial nobility.  When corporations have a global reach and no global restrictions, the power to evade regulation grows with a pact of the greedy and autocratic states.  Democratic governments become unpopular and maps of "freedom's fate" appear.  Will we be a Jefferson?   

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to recognize greed, and to expose, denounce and neutralize it from the contamination it can cause.








Violets emerge early in Kentucky spring.
(* photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 14, 2010   Pan American Day and Immigration Reform  

      What have you done to your brother? (Genesis 4:9) 

      On Pan American Day we consider our Latin American brothers and sisters, both those resident in foreign lands, and those who have migrated to our shores.  The latter are regarded as second class citizens, not entitled to the benefits of our nation -- but this is not socially just.  The oversight is all the more egregious, because these "illegal" migrants are often saddled with low-paying menial jobs on farms and gardens, in home care and in cleaning and other serving occupations.  Without these hard-working folks, our country's operations would grind to a halt.  Without proper safeguards, these people work under great uncertainty, and they suffer much at the hands of those who profit from their vulnerability.  In essence we repeat what was said three years ago (April 22, 2007) on this subject:   

      Our nation is a nation of immigrants.  Our ancestors came from many lands.  Over the decades, such a diversity of peoples has enriched our culture, economy, and religious experience.  Widespread migration and controversies about it remain a part of our national experience.  We as church must speak to this sign of the times from the perspective of gospel values and as Christian witness.   

      Our basic principles are clear:  We respect the right of nations to enforce their borders and to enforce reasonable immigration laws.  At the same time, we regard every person, illegal immigrant, legal immigrant, or citizen, with the mind of Christ as a human person worthy of dignity and respect. 

    Taken from "Every Man and Woman Is the Image of God,"
      Catholic Conference of Kentucky, August 25, 2006

      Any new immigration legislation should have the following elements: 

      * Family-based immigration reform that reduces backlogs and waiting times for family reunification;

      * The restoration of due process protection for immigrants taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA);

      * An earned legalization program for the undocumented population that is workable and that includes a path to citizenship which is fair and achievable;

      * A future worker program that permits migrant workers to enter safely and legally and that includes worker protection and the option for participants to pursue a path of citizenship; and

      * Policies that address the root cause of migration, including economic development in originating countries. 

      Prayer:  Lord, inspire us to press for immigration reform that is just to all parties, for it is long overdue.   





Redbuds (Cercis canadensis) create quite a display against blue sky.
(*photo credit)

April 15, 2010   The Right to Work and Downsizing Expectations 

      Workers are available.  Taxes are due today, and civic duties come to mind.  One thing becomes ever clearer: every citizen has a right to make a meaningful life, and this involves meaningful work.  Some find ways on their own, and others need people to assist them in discovering and adjusting to the particular civic tasks to which they are suited.  In working, all citizens deserve compensation for themselves and for their dependent family members.  Government must guarantee this right to work when it cannot be found elsewhere.

      Jobs are available.  On Leonardo de Vinci's Birthday (born 1452) we should realize that creativity extends to many of the artistic and practical areas in which he was interested.  Creativity in work opportunities is desperately needed today.  An under-secretary of creative jobs should seek out positions for meaningful work that people will like; examples of such opportunities may include:

    * Ten million domestic caregivers now going uncompensated;

    * Two to three million in renewable energy programs who are now being compensated through stimulus funds;

   * One-half million small food producers who could be compensated through funds now going to large agricultural enterprises;

    * At least five million who could become part of a new conservation corps, and assist in infra-structure revitalization (water systems, roads, tree planting and maintenance, and recreational facilities); and

    * A million waiting for new construction jobs at schools. 

      Private capital is unavailable.  If jobs are sought and needed  work possibilities actually exist, the specter of rising and persistent unemployment stares our national leaders and all citizens in the face.  High health insurance costs and the private sector's inability to create jobs weigh heavily upon us.  To make this basic right to work operative requires a radical readjustment of the economic system, a redistribution of wealth.  Government is the employer of last resort;  Works Progress Administration (WPA) project products from Great Depression days endure today.

      Unemployment runs around ten percent in this country, and even higher in certain European nations, and swells to over half the population in poorer African nations.  Some estimate Haitian unemployment at three-quarters, though sizeable numbers could now be employed in rebuilding that earthquake-ravaged nation.  In Appalachia, higher paid low-skilled manufacturing jobs have vanished through automation and shifting markets.  After World War II, West Virginia had 125,000 coal miners; the state now has less than one-fifth that number.  Hopelessness enters communities with long-term unemployed workers, leading to domestic discord and substance abuse.  Work is a key to community cohesion.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see that deep-seated social unrest results when people do not have an opportunity to make a living.  






Seeds of the thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana),
soon  to be dispersed for late summer blooming.
(*photo credit)

April 16, 2010   Compensate Domestic Caregivers 

     Many nights I am up with him (a husband with Alzheimer's disease) at least two or three times a night.  (54-year-old wife) 

      During this year some efforts have been undertaken by the Obama Administration to allow for greater support of and compensation for the (maybe as high as ten) millions of mostly overworked adult women who care for elderly parents and relatives and those of all ages with special needs.  These people often sacrifice much of their adult lives and give immense attention to real needs on the part of unfortunate individuals who are not institutionalized at a major expense to the taxpayer -- and who live under the loving care of those most concerned about them.  Much is saved through voluntary service by these heroic caregivers, and often with little word spoken in their defense.  Furthermore, compensation to domestic caregivers would have a number of hidden benefits:

     * Just compensation would remove from the job market millions of heroic souls, who strive to hold down generally lower-paying jobs while rushing home to care for their aging parents and other dependents.  Give the outside jobs to those with less responsibility and leave the domestic tasks to those who care most; 

      * Just compensation would reduce the high cost of institutionalizing many who need assisted living or total care.  Most often, the compensated domestic caregiver can do the task at far lower cost and with greater love and concern.  Often total care comes to $50,000 to $60,000 a year, far more than domestic compensation.  Research finds that adult day services for dementia victims improves the health and reduces the stress of all parties; 

   * Just compensation would be good use of government money, better than much of the military expenditures.  Perhaps, our nation of tolerated bonuses to undertaxed multi-millionaires should think twice and tax the rich.  Through revenue gained from taxing the wealthy fairly, social services could be expanded to pay for domestic associates, home health nurses and physical therapists who assist domestic caregivers by helping upgrade their services;   

      * A just and fair tax on the wealthy would help redistribute income.  It would afford funds to pay for caregiving jobs.  Such a program could eventually be global in scope and give employment to three hundred million domestic caregivers; and 

   * Taking responsibility for those who cannot care for themselves satisfies the demands of the common good.  Those who sacrifice for those in need deserve a just compensation as part of the benefits to all in the commons.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to find meaningful jobs for the un- or under-employed, and to compensate domestic caregivers who play a vital role in giving love and concern to loved ones who need care. 






A row of vibrant tulips along a garden's edge.
(*photo credit)

April 17, 2010   Tips for Garden Week 

      Gardening is on our minds now and really throughout the year. Sometimes we stand back and look at more general tips for the successful gardener: 

      * Perform seasonal garden planning and not just once a year planning.  For example:  winter planning for deciding what to grow and obtaining seeds; spring -- for adjustments in plans;  summer -- in preparing fall garden; and autumn -- for protecting crops. 

      * Decide on summer varieties now, that is the types of tomatoes and the variety of herbs and greens both for spring and fall.  The greater the variety, the better the chances that some will do very well, and the less the chance that there will be an over-production of certain produce. 

      * Control weeds through a combination of methods.  Some purchase and maintain a tiller for larger scale gardens;  others like a sturdy hoe (avoid the commercial cheap ones found at bargain stores) that may be obtained at flea markets or old fashioned hardware stores;  still others use mulch on the walkways or in the beds themselves, though some mulch can drain nutrients because of natural decomposition, as much as supply nutrients.  

   * Inspect frequently for pests.  Feasting insects can be nipped early by manual removal before they proliferate.  Consider growing companion plants, which are preferred for consumption by common pests such as Japanese beetles.

      * Secure a good water source, for this may prove to be a dry year.  All too often people rely on municipal water to tide the more vulnerable veggies through stressful times; chlorinated water is hard on produce.  Remember that better mulching can be especially helpful during dry times.  

      * Watch the garden's progress, and give the task to others in those summer spells when you will be away.  Do not allow the garden to be neglected, for it deserves tender, loving care. 

      * Think autumn variety of produce that can last through much of the winter. It is always time to talk about temporary or permanent cold frames that can tide one through part of the winter.

      * Talk to local gardeners across the fence or at civic functions, while at the store or after church.  Many have suggestions for new methods, the weather, seed availability and new literature, which you may want to acquire. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us inspiration to sit for a moment and reflect on the actions to be undertaken, not only today but throughout a longer period -- and to see this as part of our prayer life. 








A well-known fishing spot in Anderson Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

April 18, 2010   Fishing in Today's World 

     St. John's Gospel, Chapter 21, tells us much about the resurrected Lord and how he wants us to cooperate in spreading the word.  We are to be partners with the Lord, as illustrated by a story about people fishing.  Peter begins the scenario by saying he is going fishing, and others agree to follow along.  However, Jesus is not present;  they toil in vain;  then Jesus appears on the shore and directs them to cast nets elsewhere.  They follow his direction and catch an enormous load of fish -- maybe one for every land in the world.  Or is this another of the signs that are found in the Gospel of John?  Is 153 fish a mere extraordinary number (the sum the cube of the integers --1 cubed + 5 cubed plus 3 cubed)?  Or does it tell a message that Christ gives plentitude?

      Peter puts on his garments and jumps into the water -- really,  one of Scripture's humorous passages!  He goes to Jesus on the shore and finds that he has lit a fire for their breakfast and asks for part of the catch so they can eat together.  The invitation is always out for each of us to take our troubles to Jesus, and then find solace in his presence and care for each of us.  The Lordship of Jesus is not one of distance and aloofness but one of immersion and concern.  Our own efforts may prove seemingly fruitless, but if we have a sense of listening, we will recognize that the Lord directs us to be ever more fruitful.  "None dared ask him who he was."  The Gospel of John is a story of all coming to know who he really is. 

      This chapter concludes with Jesus asking Peter to repeat his vocational call.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and really loves him (Jesus uses a more intense word for love the third time he says it).  We must realize that our past must be put behind us so we can live a new life in Christ, and that this is of utmost importance to complete our ever expanding mission.  Each must learn that just as the Church grows in age and wisdom, so each of us must mature until the day we die.  Jesus asks Peter to follow him all the way to the end, even when others will take over his freedom of movement, and lead him where he does not want to go.  There and then, the fullness of following the risen Lord is realized.   

      In some ways this last part of St. John's Gospel stands alone, and in other ways it is the whole of our relationship with the risen Lord.  Christ is in our midst loving, working and encouraging us to continue in our journey of faith.   Many of us have that summer call of life to take on new possibilities as we grow and overcome the weaknesses that crop up in mid-life.   Let us move one step farther, and see that the Lord is calling our faith community to grow in age and wisdom as well.  Christ is with us and yet we must perform our action as part of the body of Christ, one that grows with age and wisdom.  

      Prayer:  Risen Lord, you call all of us to give up the self-seeking found in trying to do all things by ourselves, and to find you in partnership in the work we are undertaking. 









Fowler's toad, Bufo fowleri.
(*photo credit)

April 19, 2010    Participate in National Volunteer and Wildlife Week          

      Spring cleaning hovers over us as a ritual that comes with the season.  This week when the dogwood and redbud are in their glory, we appreciate opportunities to put on our volunteer clothes and focus on the landscape.  No beautiful landscape nor animal habitat should be damaged by human misdeeds, and when they are, we must help bring about a more pristine state.  

      * Trash pickup at roadsides and near rivers and lakes is needed.  I find this task somewhat trying, since each throwaway is the sign of thoughtlessness on the part of someone who expects another to come behind and pick up his or her trash.  Through poor policing, few have to pay the $500 fine so frequently posted throughout our Commonwealth.  The state would have no financial woes if it received a fine for every article of trash.  We still need a bottle deposit bill after many decades trying. 

      * Bird sanctuaries are quite possible without the purchase of land.  Many landholders would like to see their woodlands and other places designated as such sanctuaries, but have never gotten around to making and installing the signage.  Google for where to buy signs.  With effort sanctuary areas can be expanded. 

      * Trail maintenance requires only a  dedicated lower-skill work provided supervisory personnel are present.  If new construction is anticipated, a higher-skill level is called for. Trails should not be opened to and allowed to continue in highly sensitive and fragile areas, especially if adequate policing is not possible.   

      * Tree planting is a good way to involve youth in voluntary efforts, and the product will have years of future growth and benefits.  Nut or fruit trees offer food for humans and also wildlife.

      * Nature study programs should be emphasized.  All young people should have opportunities to visit and observe areas of natural beauty, with formal educational programs pertaining to native flora and fauna, so that all can come to appreciate the immense natural beauty all around them.  Essays, paintings, and projects dealing with such beauty should be encouraged.

      *  Removal of invasive species such as kudzu, wild garlic mustard or bush honeysuckle takes much time and effort.  In the estimation of some, invasive species are an often overlooked major environmental threat.  In removal operations, those who suffer from poison ivy must be protected and dissuaded from working in infested areas.

      Prayer:  Lord show us the many ways in which we can render a helping hand to enhance wildlife habitat and add to the beauty of our landscape.  Help us enlist and involve others in the process. 






Pond with solar-powered pump.
(*photo credit)

April 20, 2010       Assign Energy Use Properly 

      In calculating energy consumption, does the caregiver who makes the house call have the fuel use assigned to him or her, or to the patient?   This sounds a little puzzling and it is.  As we approach Earth Day, we hear a litany of statistics about resource use, and some are scary.  One of these is that the United States with 4.6% of the world's population (2004) produces 15.9% of the world's energy and consumes 22.5%.  It all seems so straight-

forward, though the first two stats are more easily obtained; people are counted and barrels of oil recorded.  Both have indefinite aspects, for the degree of precision of world population totals depends on indefinite population counts of both small and large populations. If one nation has a hundred million people plus or minus ten million, the total count is only precise to that degree.  Furthermore not every wood twig is counted as energy when burned.  Amid indefiniteness, the first two stats are fairly well known.  What about assigning consumption of energy? 

      In January, the hospital ship Comfort went down to Haitian waters to treat the many earthquake victims from Port-au-Prince and its surroundings.  The ship used fuel to reach this destination, as did the many medical personnel to reach the ship.  Helicopters used to ferry victims to the ship consumed fuel.  To what extent does one assign ship or helicopter fuel to caregivers, pilots, or patients?  Is it assigned to the source nation, the United States, or to Haiti which benefits?  Or to individuals in that nation that are assisted?  What about energy resources used to educate the medical personnel -- really an immense accumulated total?  What about assigning making and testing medicines or hospital equipment or material?   Assigning is difficult. 

      Are energy production stats fairly precise, but energy use statistics so complex as to be nearly meaningless?  Not so, for we know the energy is being used for and by someone or some group.  However, assigning benefits is difficult.  Energy profits in money terms could be assigned; the amounts of energy can be measured properly.  However, the assignment of energy use within a society may be as hard as assigning blame for some misdeed done.  To assign energy consumed to a materials' exporting country, and fail to mention the importing one where the materials are used or consumed, makes the assignment imprecise.  A hermit cooks for himself and, as retreat provider, cooks for others.  However few are hermits and many share energy benefits with many.  Even hermits share in the heavy use of energy by the military.  The more resources shared, the more complex the calculation.  In this century the world population is to grow 50% from six to nine billion people, but worldwide energy consumption is to grow over 300% from about 400 to 1,400 QBtu (one "q" or Quad = 1015 Btu (U.S. Dept. of Energy estimates).  How is all of this energy to be assigned? 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to interpret what we do and how each action is social and affects the lives of others. 







Heal-all, Prunella vulgaris, and stone
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 21, 2010       Earth Day at the Fortieth Anniversary        

      In 1970 I was sitting on the lawn before the famous tower of the University of Texas at Austin.  The crowd was listening to a series of speakers telling about air and water pollution problems, and why the activism that was then popular in civil rights and anti-Vietnam War areas ought to extend to the environment.  The mode was one of jubilation as though, if the student power were refocused on this environmental issue that Rachel Carson and others were raising, we could soon have a much cleaner world.  The fellow sitting in front of me in the grass clapped enthusiastically, as he smashed his filtered cigarette butt in the lawn grass.  In one moment I knew this was a bigger issue than cheers and handclaps -- and resolved to get involved. 

      We must focus far more resources on healing, enhancing, preserving, and protecting our fragile and precious planet.  It has been a long time since the heady days of that first Earth Day in 1970, when the issues seemed so easily solvable and the solutions so easy to implement.  Certainly many pollution problems have been attacked (air, water, lead and mercury pollution), and some solved,  but "climate change" was not discussed.  Unfortunately, the urgency of the general issue has not diminished, but has grown, as we see the problems with ever clearer vision today.  "Times, they are achangin'."  We are now confronted with new problems -- terrorism, financial crises, melting glaciers, and rising oceans.   

      However, non-technical problems related to eco-solutions are emerging.  A number of influential environmental groups are too cozy with moneyed interests, and have lost their initial sheen by arguing for soft approaches to environmental problems (new nuclear power plants and biofuels from limited corn supplies). Furthermore, the existing economic/political system is too outdated to cope with the global environmental crises.  This system is too limited, too filled with greed, and too narrow in interest to be able to tackle global problems of such magnitude.  On top of this, vast numbers of people are destitute, while the wealth divide widens, and regulatory agencies seem paralyzed by the power of the privileged.  

      Popular hope for easy solutions started at Copenhagen is waning, as the world realizes the Chinese and Indian emerging middle class (one billion new members in less than two decades) want their equal part of the resource pie possessed so long by Americans and Europeans.  Now is the time for action, and yet who is to stop the new greed with an ever widening carbon footprint -- even if it could be stopped?  Justice-related answers are difficult and challenging.  These demand regulated controls on resource use, something that must be imposed by governments.  Not only do  individuals need to become better conservationists, but also we need controls at all levels of society -- along with a United Nations with enforcement powers.  

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the energy to do what has to be done in the years to come and to do this in a realistic manner. 







Flowers of the Ohio buckeye, Aesculus glabra.
(*photo credit)

April 22, 2010    Accept, Not Assign, Blame on Earth Day  

      Everything we do has a social impact or as Barry Commoner's First Law of Ecology states, "Everything is connected to everything else."  When we do something good, the entire world benefits;  when we mess up, that extends beyond our immediate environment;  each time we toss away an empty bottle we make a ripple effect on the commons of our world.  This applies to good and bad deeds, to acts of love and to misdeeds as well.  It also applies to some degree each time we consume a resource whether out of need or out of thoughtlessness.  If we feel guilty each time we make a cup of coffee we become paralyzed -- and this benefits no one.

      On this Earth Day we realize our responsibility in our use and misuse of resources, how we are not blameless as past users,  how we find it difficult to assign energy use and misuse to particular people (April 21st), and how we need to accept and not assign blame for past misdeeds.  To heat our coffee we use a microwave connected to a grid that has electricity generated by a coal-fired powerplant.  This powerplant produces emissions that add to the pollution load of the world to some little degree.  However, we often regard the smallness of the degree and not the cumulative act itself.  Resource use has a social dimension, and we all bear responsibility to see that resource use is for the benefit of all. 

      Christians speak about how  our sins have crucified Christ -- and some see this reality with greater force than others.  We were never just bystanders but participants in that event, though in God's mercy we see that now we can stand up for the suffering Christ in love and compassion;  we have helped to intensify the Calvary event;  we are invited to help in renewing this wounded world.  When Haitians accept their sufferings, and we enter in to alleviate them through compassionate action, we accept blame unto ourselves as part of a global sacrifice.  The redemptive act of Calvary applies to our wounded Earth, and we can help in extending the salvation won for us to this planet.   

       Blame is not easily divvied up among individuals, for all resources are used for better (benefits) or worse (through greed and selfishness).  The greedy effects of the past do not evaporate;  they contribute to the total debit of our social capital.  In turn, the concept of partial remission of sin means that the social debit can be assumed by actions in which we participate here and now as members of the Body of Christ.  The more we engage in ecological actions for the benefit of others the better;  the more we repair damage done by past misdeeds, the better we help heal our wounded Earth.  Traditional spirituality often focused on individual sinners and their own personal misdeeds; right as far as it goes.  We have another greater task; we need to accept blame even when assigned to others -- to a polluting industry and to the consumers of the product.  Let's accept blame and be on with healing.

      Prayer:  Lord, make us healers who realize that blame is better accepted than assigned.




Spring scene along Kentucky creek.
(*photo credit)

April 23, 2010      Go Only to Green Conferences 

      Some regard their importance as measured by the number of conferences invited to or attended.  Since a large carbon footprint comes with expending fuel for auto or air trips, many people have second thoughts when the meeting is beyond a subway or railroad ride.  The options for green participation go down as the conference-goers must come from out-of-the-way places.  All in all, a number of considerations are in order:             

      * The necessity of the conference.  Many can complete their business by use of letter, telephone, internet conferencing and other forms of communication.  Often conference organizers have built-in expectations in which the attendees are a major component -- and a synergy can be generated through personal meetings, etc.  On the other hand, the conference can be make-work for those who seek ways to spend their time.  They need to be more creative.

      * The presence of everyone.  Quite often people come who are meant to form a critical mass of warm bodies, but could just as easily be at a distance or have one representative present who reports back to the rest of his or her community.  A car-pooled group would reduce travel costs somewhat, but many coming from one place can also be a waste of time and resources.  Money and fuel would be saved if one or two would only report back properly. 

    * The frequency of the meeting.  Greener consciousness may mean that there can be cuts in the number of times a group meets, that is, monthly to quarterly, quarterly to annually, annually to every five years, etc.  The farther the distance and the more scattered the conference-goers, the less frequent the event ought to be.  Another approach is to meet together infrequently and intersperse these meetings with conference calls and Internet meetings.  

      * The centrality of the location to minimize travel costs.

      * The structure of the meeting.  So often meetings are held with canned speeches by people who are notable, but maybe not necessarily creative in what they have to say.  Large numbers come and sit in an audience in a rather passive manner, and then take coffee breaks and talk with partners or other acquaintances for a period and return to more listening.  Couldn't the prepared papers be distributed to interested parties in order to save all travel? 

      * The substitutes for conferencing.  We need no longer sit in large audiences like medieval students who could not afford books or even writing materials.  Today, so many other methods exist for achieving the same results besides going to a conference and dutifully taking notes.  Let's grow up!  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to weigh options before we decide to travel great distances.  Help us see that "greener thinking" may entail less travel. 







False rue anemone, Enemion biternatum.
(*photo credit)

April 24, 2010      Increase Physical Exercising 

      In preparing for National TV Turnoff Week, let us consider attitudes that hinder physical exercise, whether when traveling away from home or home-bound during inclement weather.  Some enjoy exercising and some are embarrassed or dread the bother.  Some students hate school-mandated exercise; some elders may not find a suitable exercise or place or time; workers may say they have had enough exercise at work.  Surprisingly, many excuse themselves from exercise.  Here are some hints to bolster resolve: 

      * Show an interest in that family members and friends do some exercise.  When someone is noted as omitting exercise, an effort should be made to encourage a type that fits into that person's temperament, finances, time, and body condition.  Our encouragement should include offering options that the individual has never considered (e.g., stretching in place for the elderly or individual exercises for those who do not want to compete with a friend who is far ahead in a particular activity such as golfing or jogging).   

      * Insist that youth exercise.  Some are driven to the school or school bus door and do so little walking that obesity can become a problem -- exercise becomes all the harder.  Often biking or use of a rowing machine for body building can have an appeal to some who would otherwise be couch potatoes to the detriment of health.  Those who hate competitive sports should be offered alternatives. 

      * For the elderly who cannot walk or stand, exercises in place (while sitting) can be used to exercise every muscle in the body -- and these methods should be taught with patience.  The elderly may shy away from exercise, and so they need encouragement;  such practices improve physical health, mental outlook and psychological balance.  Some  physical exercise advocates say they can tell how much an individual exercises by his or her outlook on life.  

     * Workers, who stand at a check-out post or who work at a computer desk all day, should vary their position.  Sitters should have opportunities to stand; those who stand ought to be allowed to walk about;  those engaged in light exercise ought to exercise more strenuously.  Variety in activity is a key to better health.  Travel times are the most challenging, but even here lay-over periods can be slated for exercise. 

      A few suggestions to increase exercise:  set aside a specific time; record each day's time exercising or the number of rowing strokes, or other measures or carry a meter to determine distance;  do not substitute attendance at spectator sports for your own exercises;  you may identify with active athletes but you are NOT exercising.  Strive to find successful exercising folks who are patient and willing to teach you a new activity.   

      Prayer: Lord, inspire us to move about and to become enlivened as was David when the spirit moved him to dance about. 








Blooming fragrant vines of the wisteria.
(*photo credit)

April 25, 2010     Observe Vocation Sunday 

     My sheep hear my voice.  I know them and they follow me.

                                    (John 10:27) 

      Each of us is called by God.  For Christians the call is to follow the Lord, but what does this mean -- being dutiful sheep before an all-powerful leader?  Thus to answer our call we need to see that through baptism we are to be other christs to the needy of the world.  In following, we are called to be leaders.  

      Shepherds may have different characters as do all leaders.  Some leaders are physically forceful and corral their charges through force, thus herding the reluctant because of the power of the leader.  That is hardly a proper model.  Some are magnetic and draw people to themselves by the charismatic nature of the individual person.  Christ, as magnetic shepherd, acts in a loving manner, knowing the characteristics of each under his charge;  he calls each by name and is sensitive to presence or absence;  he is willing to sacrifice much to bring them back into the fold.    Shepherding is a God-given and Christ-refined art that must be willing to be a guiding principle for all who follow.  Christ   enlightens others, catalyzes them to action, leads them on the way, and is a light of the world that warms the hearts of those who have gone cold.  Thus shepherding is enlightening through the example given for each of us to have the insight to follow, even when the circumstances are somewhat different. 

      As followers of Christ, we are not meant to be dumb sheep who enjoy the pasture field and the confidence of a leader who will care for them.  We are called to also be shepherds in our own right, and that is not just in parish or other church situations.  We imitate Christ by being other christs to our brothers and sisters throughout the world:  through sacrificing and giving them special care; through risking ourselves in bringing them back to security from dangers;  through coming to know individuals and their own particular needs; and through standing out as being counter-cultural in what we do and how we act.  Just as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is willing to lay down his life for us, we, in turn, are willing to be of service to and for others on this Earth -- plants, animals and human beings within a community of all beings.  

      Becoming other christs is the heart of vocation for each and every person.  Some are called to the priestly state or the committed religious life;  others are meant to care for their elderly parents or a special needs child;  some will give special attention to teaching immigrants our native language.  Callings are unique, and yet we must see the generic vocation to shepherding as more-or-less similar to that of being followers of Christ.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to hear our unique calling and to follow you as best we can.  Help us to respond not by blind following but by creative leadership in the work ahead.   






Golden Ragwort, Senecio aureus.
(*photo credit)

April 26, 2010    Reform and Empower the United Nations  

      "In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need... for a reform of the United Nations Organization....so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth."

     Benedict XVI,  Charity in Truth, No. 67. 

       Should the United Nations (UN) be reformed to meet the expanding needs of the world community?  The New York City-based international "World Federalist Movement" and its successor "Citizens for Global Solutions" have been concerned about expanding global government and its enforcement powers.  Ever since the Second World War organizations have demanded global governance because of "larger-than-a-single-nation" problems such as:  climate change, international labor conditions and relations, mass migration and undocumented workers, refugees, water-sharing issues, ocean resource development, ocean shipping and piracy on the high seas.   Other problems include:  Antarctic research and tourism issues,  delicate international cultural treasures and trade of national works of art, space regulation and junk, disposal of toxic wastes, communications regulations dealing with Internet problems, financial and banking transactions, tax havens, early disaster warnings, and air and water pollution.  The list is not exhaustive.  

      Modern issues resulting from globalization force us to confront both our current economic and political structures.  One nation can hardly handle corporations that are larger than the nation state in which they are located.  One weak state can be played against another in areas of commerce and industrial development.  Small size is not the only problem.  We are seeing that nation states, no matter how large, are insufficient to handle global problems, nor ought they try to do so in a unilateral manner.  Even clusters of states (European Union, possible African Union, Eastern Asian grouping, or Pan American Congress) are only partly able to handle the demands for a more perfect union.   

      The creators of the Articles of Confederation immediately after the Revolutionary War gave way to the writers of the United States Constitution a decade later, because the union needed to be more perfect.  Our world is reaching the same conclusion with the often good work of the UN and its multiple agencies (World Health Organization, etc.).  Enforcing sanctions takes a greater surrender of existing powers -- and that reaches beyond the limits of the current UN Charter.  The World Federalist Movement was started by fifty-one organizations from twenty-four countries in 1947 at Montreux in Switzerland.  The more current "Citizens for Global Solutions" has about 25,000 supporters; this organization offers a series of programs including internships to college graduates <internships@globalsolutions.org>. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us see what more has to be done to safeguard the weak, by forming a community of nations where all peoples may benefit.






Unidentified moth on window pane.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 27, 2010   When Did We See You Hungry and Not Feed You? 

      We need to stand before the Lord some day.  Will we be brought to the community of the saved or not?  So much depends on how we have treated our neighbor.  So we are not caught by surprise, let us ask some nearer-term questions such as:  

    What if we do not insist that the thousand billionaires  share with the one billion people without essential means for life? As democratic people who may participate in elected government, this nearer-term question may be somewhat disconcerting as well as that final one in the title.  The key is our role to play in redistribution of wealth as individuals and as communities: 

      *  Give food items in areas where food shortages exist; 

      * Join the resurgent tea parties (April 8) and redirect their focus to the real culprits -- the privileged on this Earth; 

      * Live simply so others may simply live.  Grow vegetables in the backyard or in containers in any available space.  Conserve energy and all resources.  Think and act in a green manner; 

      * Consider down-sizing menus to include lower resource intensity foods, i.e., fewer animal products -- and share the savings with poorer folks; 

      * Demand banking reform, halting of bonus-giving to the spoilers, and the payment of fair taxes by all; 

      * Hold companies accountable to stockholders and strive to have companies owned by the workers; 

      * Speak in support of the United Nations and other efforts to remove tax havens so that more tax money can go for international relief efforts;

      * Press congresspersons to readjust taxes so the poor pay the smaller proportion and the highest income receivers the largest -- the opposite of what is occurring today in terms of total and not just income taxes; 

      *  Insist on a Marshall-type plan for small farmers and food producers in poorer parts of the world, as well as large-scale food storage facilities for times of natural disasters; and 

      *  Think about how this listing may be sharpened and improved.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see how we can feed the hungry all around us and to launch programs to share with others.  Make us ever more aware that we need to address these questions at all seasons of the year, not just in Lent. 








New growth on blue spruce tree (Picea pungens).
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 28, 2010     Let Workers Own the Workplace 

      One of the two counties in each of which I serve a small parish is Powell County, the third poorest in Kentucky.  A group of us gathered recently to brainstorm about ways of enhancing employment.  On the current employment rolls, virtually none are listed as "manufacturing;" only a few decades ago there were a number of small sewing and other factories here.  As in much of rural America, many of the factories have been outsourced.  In the process of going elsewhere, profits were the only consideration, not the welfare and livelihood of the workers who were faithful for long periods of their working lives.  These faithful workers were voiceless when it came to work decisions.  The right to work must also include the right to decide on working stability and conditions.  

      One theme has been repeated a number of times -- and that is the need for worker-owned employment.  This seems to be the wave of the future, though it is a weak wave of a cooperative form of government that is neither collectivistic nor capitalistic (where the public or private officials make decisions from a distance).  Examples are cropping up of the longer-term success of worker-owned businesses, some with shares in the place of employment that could be traded, bought and sold.  In January, BBC reporter Peter Day, gave several examples of the success of worker-owned factories in the UK and elsewhere.  The precise organization of these worker-owned businesses seem to differ considerably.  Some original owners give up all their shares; some keep minority shares;  some retain a majority with the minority in the hands of the workers.  

      It is apparent that immediate involvement of workers leads to internal controls.  Internal theft and damage to equipment at one company virtually vanished with worker ownership and the resulting internal policing by fellow owner/workers.  Management problems can be highly reduced also as democracy demands that the management is from the workers, along with removal of big differences in salary. With all realizing that their livelihood depends on their diligence and need to sacrifice at times, the decision to curb costs become far more paramount.  Creativity increases among workers who can communicate their ideas more easily through the more open management systems.  Why not worker-ownership? 

       The various models of such worker-businesses need to be studied and discussed in greater detail.  Could this be a Third Way, the wave of the future?  For those of us who subscribe to the principle of subsidiarity, the more control there is at the bottom, the better the conditions and health of an organization.  Globalization could be such that various levels have their own independence; the higher levels are coordinators and communicators, not controllers.  In fact, all could be influential in some ways. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to allow the lowly to rise and take over their own means of production, and let those in high places be brought low. 









Birdwatcher encounters a muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus (lower right corner).
(*photo credit)

April 29, 2010     Must Jails Be What Jails Are? 

      In January, I heard a program on National Public Radio on the broken nature of a jail bond system, where an estimated one half million poorer folks cannot raise money for their bonds.  Thus many of these are forced to sit in jail often for longer times than the ultimate sentence -- if they are found guilty.  Many plead "guilty" in order to get out with a lighter sentence -- even in some cases where innocent but jailed awaiting processing.  In some cases, it is the integrity of the jailed poor person that increases the time he or she spends behind bars.  They do not want a conviction on their record, and so they remain jailed until the trial. 

      As a prison chaplain, I realize that my privilege to assist federal prisoners could be revoked without my even knowing the reason, at least that is what I have been told.   Actually, I have a generally good opinion of those who work the prisons and find that many seek to help the incarcerated when possible.  Of course, some misuse of power by the jailers may exist, and this certainly ought to be exposed.   My critique does not rest against individual prison personnel, but with the entire American jail system, where one quarter of the world's prisoners (local, state and federal) are housed.  Furthermore, this is done at major expense to the taxpayers -- at  least $30,000 per jailed person per year.  The non-bond-affording incarcerated cost taxpayers an estimated nine billion dollars.  If we include those non-violent offenders who could be on public service release instead of being in jail, we run up possible savings in the tens of billions. 

     The system of putting or keeping non-violent people behind bars is in need of radical reform, and much of the civilized world knows this.  We Americans have not yet caught the message, but why?  There may be three reasons:  stories of violence lead voters to conclude that those harder on crime are securing the nation better than those who favor moderate sentences;  a better-than-thou attitude makes the public offender far more worthy of harsh treatment than the one reading or hearing about the supposed offense; and some of the poor deserve what they get for not being successful in material things.  The attitude is one of harshness to the accused and a general lack of mercy on the part of citizens. 

      Returning to the question, must jails hold those who are too poor to raise bond even though they would most likely appear at the trial?  Is the "jail" the arena of last resort for a community that does not know how to process misdeeds expeditiously?  Is there a residual racial bias against minorities and especially Latinos and African-Americans?  There seems to be what reporters call a two-tier system of justice for lighter misdeeds, one for those with enough money to get off and one that includes jailing for those who are poor.  Some certainly need to be jailed, but not all.  Maybe fiscal conservativism may merge with social justice and reduce the need for institutions of correction.  Run us out of a job! 

      Prayer:  Lord, the Liberator, free the imprisoned.  











Claiming its perch, the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor).
(*photo credit)

April 30, 2010      Confront Wall Street Barons

      The mandate for an equality that establishes world peace is that those in low places rise and those in high places come down.  The insight with the recent Haiti earthquake and its aftermath is that many of us are needed and not just a few, for the lowly to be able to rise.  We do not often consider that the same must be said at the other end of the resource use spectrum -- the high end.  To think the lowly can rise on their own power belittles the cooperative measures needed to achieve success.  To trust that the wealthy will voluntarily adjust their appetites, and generously bestow their excesses on the have-nots of the world, is naive and even bordering on an insensitivity that paralyzes us.     

      A democratic people must help raise up the poor and bring down the wealthy.  This is part of Mary's prayer (Luke, Chapter One) but it is often regarded as an embarrassment.  Raising up the poor without bringing down the rich is insufficient.  Sometimes even to talk about tinkering with the status of the wealthy is regarded as radical, even by those who daily pray Mary's prayer -- a part of the official prayer of the Church.  We need to consider several principles in order to launch the leveling process.   

      First, it is intolerable to allow the gap between rich and poor to widen, for that generates more instability in the world.  On the day the Haiti disaster struck,  an equal disaster occurred near Wall Street when the bonus-takers were allowed fifty billion dollars from banks that had received governmental support.  

      Second, some violent methods are simply not viable because violence breeds violence, and the privileged have the power of purse and military weaponry as well; non-violent ways are the only viable alternatives.  Non-violence does not means that all will be free to have as much as they like.  For the greedy, giving more and more money to some only feeds their addiction.  Satisfaction for the greater number means that those in low places need essentials for a higher quality of life; satisfaction for the privileged comes when they are converted from materialistic to spiritual goals.  

      Third, a fair system of redistribution must entail providing essentials to the poor and ensuring a fair return on the other end of the spectrum -- the Wall Street herd.  But what is fair?   Forcing the high rollers to give up bonuses taken recently should be done in the form of "fines" or taxes, whichever designation is less hurtful;  it also means retention limits of income for all.  Get your millions per year, if you are a nationally known star athlete or bright Wall Street broker.  Fine, make as much as your lawyer can weasel from some sponsoring institution, but tax it.   

  The first and second steps just outlined are easy to accept compared with the third hurdle, for wealth will be used to retain wealth.  With prayer and good will the third step can be achieved. 

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to act as we ought.

Copyright © 2010 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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