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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, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by Al Fritsch

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An April visitor to daffodil bloom.
(photo: Janet Powell)

April Reflections, 2011

April is a favorite month for many of us.  Winter has made its departure and spring has come;  a new growing season brings on the dandelion blooms and other flowers, which will carpet the landscape;  youngsters are thrilled to get outdoors to play;  all wildlife seems to be animated by longer days and warmer weather.  For Christians, this is the time of Easter glory and the promise of new life.  The yellows and greens of the rejuvenated flora are punctuated by the red and purple tulips, the white and pink blooming cherry, flowering pears and other producing or decorative fruit trees.  This is the month when the first cultivated greens augment our first messes of poke shoots.  Everything points to a productive garden with a multitude of sights and tastes. 

     Faith springs eternal, and that is our testimony during April and the months to follow.  This is a season when our resolutions are tested and we adjust to the hot summer that is sure to come.  April is a changing of the guard, a time of housecleaning, a period when we can open wide the doors and windows and let the fresh air come in.  April marks the post-adolescent period of a maturing year 2011, the time to put on sun block, and to welcome the awakened insect life and especially the pollinators.

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Flowers of the red maple, Acer rubrum.
(*photo credit)

April 1, 2011   Listening and Discerning God's Voice 

      God speaks to us in varied ways.  Believers are aware of this as part of our journey of faith, an attentive journey.  We have more than a single calling and we can get fooled and follow false voices if not attentive.  All Fool's Day is a perfect time to reflect on God's communication to and with us, for we want to be faithful.   We hear all sorts of voices and sounds out there, the noises of the world.  Yes, God speaks in varied ways, and so discernment through prayerful listening is of utter importance.   

      We must be attentive.  We do not want to be like spoiled children who are impatient with a distraction from our busy life. "Okay, God what are you saying?"  There are many competing and alluring voices out there; and we have to discern God's call.  We may be like Samuel in the Old Testament, who mistakes God's voice for that of Eli.  However, the voice may come in unexpected ways through flowers or birds or scenic views;  it may come from humble people or in a speech or homily, or even a dramatic performance;  it may be a failed test, or a doctor's examination with a tell-tale diagnosis;  it may be the soft comfort at a moment of desolation or sorrow -- or that of joy and happiness.  Only an attentive listener can hear when the voice calls to us to change or modify our journey of faith.  We may be called to suffer, to serve others, to avoid something or someone, or to be prepared for the final ordeal. 

      We discern so as to make a correct response.  The critical issue is not that we are called, for God constantly calls, or even that we discern that it is the divine call.  The issue is our response that can be subject to our modification and excuses.  Yes, God calls us but pride or greed enters in to change the degree of our response.  The evil spirit can fool us and so we may need assistance from a spiritually astute friend or a retreat director or, better still, from a regular spiritual director.  Quality response time is critical.  Small matters require daily or weekly quiet prayerful moments; major decisions require more time and the silence that comes with breaking away from routines and the tyranny of connecting devices (phones, TV, Internet and personal interaction).  For some people the demands of life do not allow them to get away -- but they should be assured that under unusual circumstances God provides. 

      We respond in our own way.  Calls are heard and require our ongoing attention and our examination and testing.  People respond in different ways, for we are all unique.  For some of us, the response is definitive and there is no turning back, as in Mary's response at the Annunciation.  At other times, the response occurs over a period of time, as when the person senses the need for a gradual change.  The Lord is merciful.  Often for those needing time, they also need assistance to see the way.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to hear, listen and discern.  Allow us to be sensitive to others who have difficulty in their journey in faith -- and make us see our assistance as part of our own calling. 








Pawpaw harvest.
(*photo credit)

April 2, 2011        Varying Food Tastes on a Daily Basis 

     As we launch into springtime, we may be moved to venture into the frontier of new food tastes.  We ought not let the food industry fool us.  We can prepare our own food, often better than the expensive commercial preparations from pricey food factories.  Let's use the kitchen, and the herbs and spices we have on the shelf.  It is far more economical and add quality cooking time.  

     In 2009, I prepared a different soup every day of the year, each with its unique taste -- and most were quite good.  In a dozen rare cases I took soups from restaurants or at homes when visiting.  I did not go into detail as to how long to prepare soup or what spices and herbs I added -- in fact, impulse was part of my guide, for it makes cooking a form of creative improvisation like that of expert jazz musicians.  Learn to enjoy being creative.  You are allowed to stray from the exquisite tastes of orchestrated cookbook soups or the haute cuisine of mother France.  Maybe it is the true French touch -- for new soups await creation.

      In 2010, I changed from soup and performed a similar feat, and prepared different salads, or on rare occasions accepted the  salads of restaurants, homes, churches, or herb club potlucks.  As with the soups, well over 90% of the year's 365 salad varieties were my own concoctions.  Again, creativity is called for -- and this allows new tastes to be experienced.  Cookbooks have their place, but not for me.  I am sure this resulted in a certain disadvantage, for reproducing the same creation a second time is difficult.  One thing for sure:  it is easier to produce new salads than new soups. 

      In 2011, the emphasis shifts from suppers and lunches to breakfasts, and I am trying 365 different ways to prepare and use old-fashioned rolled "oatmeal" in some format.  As I did with soups and salads, I am not excluding meat, but simply not emphasizing it, since I do not include meat on my grocery list.  I prefer not to call myself a "vegetarian," for that makes it difficult when eating with others.  Limiting meat eating to rare occasions seems more appropriate for a poor person who eats what is served or available.

      What is magic about "365 varieties?"  Nothing -- this is the number of days in the ordinary (non-leap) year.  Why every day different?  In part it is to demonstrate that people CAN live on a poor person's budget (three dollars a day in America) and have variety at the same time.  Do we really need expensive foods for a higher quality of life?  Do we have to import exotic foods from other countries, or choose out-of-season foods in order to have variety?  Be creative; be economical; enjoy a high quality life.  Grow or buy local foods in season, and donate your food budget surplus to help feed the less fortunate.  It makes more sense.  Will the leap year 2012 bring 366 new food creations?

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be food-sharing people and to do this with enjoyment on the part of all. 








Green frog, Rana clamitans.
(*photo credit)

April 3, 2011     Being Radicalized by a Gospel Passage  

      On this fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, we come with a sense of joy, no matter how hard the life we are called to live.  We read in John's Gospel (Chapter 9) the story of the man born blind.  This passage of Scripture impressed me more than any other in my novitiate days.  Why this one?   

      First, in this Gospel Jesus seeks various commitments of faith from  ordinary people: Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus.  In this case of the blind man, Jesus heals the fortunate person, after asserting that the victim's blindness was not the fault of something he or his parents had done. Jesus heals by using the simple things of Earth -- namely, a paste of spittle and dust.  Jesus calls the healed man to do something in return for the gift of sight, to wash in the pool of Siloam.  Furthermore, there is a follow-up in which Jesus gives the healed man encouragement for the difficult life ahead.   

      Second, the honesty of the unnamed man with new sight.  That honesty involves bravely standing up against all obstacles to declare his allegiance to Jesus the healer.  The cured man lacks support from others, even fearful parents;  he is courageous individual and speaks the plain truth to a hostile established system; he is now both physically and spiritually insightful, even though ostracized and abandoned by others; he affirms his faith in Jesus and thus is thrown out of the synagogue.  This means being expelled from one of the tolerated religions of the powerful Roman Empire.  In essence, as a follower of Jesus he becomes an outlaw, lion's bait for the Empire's spectators.

      The third reason for my preference for this passage is that in following Jesus thoroughly we need to be radicalized; that is, come to the roots of what we are called to be and do.  The cured man is a first example of an activist whose faith leads to his being marginalized, while others, even loved ones, fail to support him.  The difficult calling -- to follow Christ -- impressed me then and now.  It is the difficulty as expressed by Franz Zaggerstadder in refusing to fight in the Second World War, and that of Joan of Arc (see March 2, 2008).  In accepting the more radical approach, we join a community of faith that goes back two millennia, and on which embraces some brave souls in a variety of circumstances.

     Last of all, our radical witnessing must be one of joy in being and doing what the Lord wants us to be and do.  Our joy in mid-Lent's spring glory of new flowers and budding trees extends to all creatures.  Peace of soul as expressed in this rejoicing is found in the man born blind, one who goes from not seeing to a person of faith willing to accept all consequences. 

      Prayer: Lord. help us to become deeply radicalized in our faith, and to be willing to do what it takes to change economic, social, and political systems so as to heal our wounded Earth. 




Brilliant rainbow after spring shower.
(*photo credit)

April 4, 2011  Noticing Climate Change-Related Weather Events 

      A climate change discussion is often a red flag.  In reviewing the recent course of events, we find that extreme weather events happen, and the unexpected becomes the expected.  In the past two decades we have experienced extremely warm weather and dramatic weather-related events, namely, hurricanes, droughts, floods, multiple heavy snow storms, and forest fires, as well as unrelated events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  Actually, the year 2010 had one of the worst hurricane seasons in the past century --but most of the storms spent themselves out in the oceans.  We went through another bad winter in many parts of our country, and costly floods in Pakistan and Australia.  According to NASA reports, the year 2010 tied with 2005 as having the warmest global surface temperature on record. 

      Last year there were 950 severe weather events in comparison to 785 over a ten-year average.  See <SustainableBusiness. com/ index.cfm/news. display/id/21666>.  In 2010, we witnessed severe natural disasters as well: earthquakes, first in Haiti with a quarter of a million deaths, and over a million left homeless; other less costly earthquakes occurred in Chile and New Zealand.  Besides floods and earthquakes, uncommon drought and forest fires occurred in Russia; many people suffered from very hot conditions during the summer.  About one million victims still live in very temporary conditions in Haiti and have had to endure periods of heavy rains; a cholera epidemic has followed resulting in over four thousand deaths.   

      Human suffering and loss of life are becoming common in today's troubled world.  In 2010, the world's leading insurer, Munich Re, estimates that the financial cost was $130 billion, whereas it was $50 billion in 2009.  However, these financial costs vary depending on whether hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods strike heavily populated areas --as in the Katrina episode and the Gulf coast in 2005.  In fact, for the greater part in 2010, heavily populated areas were spared extreme natural events.  The widespread damages only show how much the potential for greater losses might be in the coming years if rising ocean temperatures and more moisture in the atmosphere result.  Recently, one study predicts that heavy rains in California could cost the state hundreds of billions of dollars. 

      Can we do anything about these possible upcoming events?  Individually and in small groups we can prepare for disaster conditions, as mentioned earlier this year (February 17, 2010);  we can build more hurricane- or earthquake-resistant homes or avoid building in flood plains; we can have community alert systems to warn of possible tsunamis; and, if willing, we can ultimately take positive steps to reduce climate change. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us be aware of the signs of the times.  Let us remember the large numbers of weather-related victims, and inspire us to take positive steps to address climate change. 









Emergence of fresh mushrooms after period of April showers.
(*photo credit)

April 5, 2011   Trusting Scientific Evidence: A Global Crisis

     Early this year a Rasmussen poll showed that 44% of Americans believe climate change is caused by natural "planetary trends," while 40% of Americans say climate change is caused by human activity.  There is a dramatic reduction in the latter opinion in the past decade.  Why so?  The proponents of irresponsibility, especially the promotion groups for Big Energy, have been quite successful.  In the middle of the twentieth century, industry groups like these cast doubt on the ill effects of smoking tobacco; the resulting procrastination earned hundreds of billions of dollars in profits for Big Tobacco before the public accepted the inevitable.  Is history attempting to repeat itself? 

      Amazingly, in the wake of 2010 being one of the two hottest years on record, we begin to see what legislative gridlock is occurring over the causes and possible solutions of climate change.  It's possible that proof as to causes will only be conclusive after immense damage has occurred, long after our passing.  However, that could be precious time after Big Oil and Coal have made untold profits from the marketing of more fossil fuel products.  Just before the 2009 Copenhagen climate change meeting, European developed nations considered the debate to be over, and that human causation for climate change was established.  However, the propaganda mills continue, and so today a majority of Americans want to believe that we are not responsible for what is happening.   

      We are witnessing continued battles over a balanced approach to climate change legislation.  Local and state governments have some power to make changes but can hardly afford innovative programs with their acute money shortages and crippling debts.  On the other end of the governmental spectrum, the United Nations has potentially effective global programs but does not have the power to implement needed innovations.  The attention then turns to our own and other national legislative bodies.    Legislative paralysis is caused by striving to satisfy all powerful political and economic interests.  Unfortunately, compromises involve minor changes that avoid the more difficult changes that reality demands.  Most people know that rising oceans and melting glaciers will occur after they are gone.  That will be their grandchildren's struggle, not theirs.  If what they want to believe that climate change is caused naturally, then their message to the grandkids is "prepare for troubles."  If prudence dictates that we regard ourselves as a possible cause of climate change then we have a present, not future, responsibility to correct misdeeds.  Today's world does not want to admit we cause any misdeed --sin or otherwise.  The prevailing philosophy is to avoid responsibility and continue present patterns of consumption, such as the spacious home, large car, and jet travel to vacation spots. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see the needs of our day, and to know the signs of our times.  Help us take responsibility for the deeds we do and the consequences of our actions. 





A grandmother's rose.
(*photo credit)

April 6. 2011    Recording Our Ethnic Diversity and Change

      The August 11, 2009 daily reflection involved "American Ethnic Change."  With valuable assistance from Janet Powell and Mark Spencer along with a number of volunteers over the years, we have created an  Ethnic Atlas of the United States with 2000 census data.  Now we are incorporating data from the 1980 and 1990 censuses as well as including data from the 2010 ancestry and racial census data.  This is currently being processed on both a 50 state-by-state level and the 3,000 plus country-by-county basis.  With sets of maps from each of four censuses we intend to show changes along with color-coded primary ethnic group per county.  The 1980 set of maps show traditional concentrations of ethnic groups; the 1990 set includes 120 ethnic museums and centers that celebrate specific or mixed ethnic groups;  the 2000 maps include every ethnic group with 1,000 or more specific groupings such as German or Italian (over 25,000 entries); and the 2010 maps will highlight ethnic changes in counties over the four census periods. 

      Knowing our American ethnicity helps us appreciate our diverse cultural practices.  Ethnic differences invite us to practice tolerance and respect for our neighbors.  Smaller language groups are more inclined to forsake their cultural differences and become what they regard as more homogenized or "American"-- but this can be a mistake.  The impulse to become more American tempts second generation people to distance themselves from parents.  However, third and later generations tend to move in the other direction -- people desiring to know their cultural backgrounds and the lands of their ancestors.  Many are seeking to reestablish their roots through genealogical research, return to lands of their forebears, and by recording the elders' stories when possible. 

     Immediately upon arrival in America, new immigrants are more inclined to cling to ethnic clusters.  With time and cultural integration, their children are less inclined and lose contact with the "old country."  Parents die, ethnic social societies erode, and youth find more exciting things to do than to dress up in native costumes, learn ethnic dances, speak quaint languages to grandparents, and attend specific celebrations.  Ethnic churches and parishes that were so prevalent in the early twentieth century tend to be merged or closed as succeeding generations move to the suburbs and become more "American."   

      Our country continues to be fed by immigration.  Spanish is rapidly becoming the second language of our country, and this is slowing traditional patterns of assimilation through a rapidly growing transplanted Hispanic culture.  In contrast, many people, especially the English or Scotch-Irish, declare themselves to be "American" or non-designated.  Succeeding censuses show "Anglo" groups are decreasing while minorities, especially Hispanic ones, are increasing through natural population growth and immigration.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to know and appreciate America's ethnic diversity and change. 








Sedum pulchellum, native Kentucky plant.
(*photo credit)

April 7, 2011            Global Sharing Is Healthy

      If only you would listen to him today, "Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah..."   (Psalm 95) 

      On this World Health Day we need to consider the health that comes through sharing resources -- not unilateral giving or taking, but through an interchange like our covenant relationship with God.  Sharing is more healthy than merely giving or receiving.  It is the response to the God who calls us.  God speaks to us in those who hurt -- whether close at hand or distant Haitians and others who need the necessities of life.  Hearing the pleas of others and striving to respond by actual assistance is a necessity for our own salvation.  By listening well we can initiate an exchange that has practical significance for all parties involves.  Others need the essentials of life;  we need the prayers and solidarity that come through sharing with the poor.  The networking and resulting actions are part of global security and health.   

      When we fail to listen, or become occupied with peripheral issues, sensitivity erodes.  A hardening of hearts comes through failure to listen, and softening results from contact with the poor.  This is why people with surplus can give and give, and still not do so out of love.  Good motivation can become the exercise of the power to dictate how to use a gift, and to whom it should be awarded.   

      Love is the sharing act, and thus it calls for reciprocity.  Sometimes, healing the sick or repairing social injustice demands that we give before we seek to share.  However, if nothing more, at least we can ask the receiving person to pray for the giver.  Requests for prayers become opportunities to share,  because the prayers of the poor help us to hear and respond to the God who calls us.  Our loving God offers us pure gifts even when we fail to seek help, or respond in crude ways.  To the degree we are willing to share our gifts with others, our responses are purified. 

      This brings us back to World Health Day.  The greater moments are not acts of giving but of sharing.  That is more healthy.  If some grab world's resources so that they can distribute them more wisely, this still is a matter of power being exerted on another.  They become insensitive to what the poor have to give.  They cannot take the risk of the poor demanding, and taking steps to retrieve the commons that is rightly meant for all.  Mother Teresa was moved to share love with the poor;  all of us must try to do the same.  By listening to the voice of God speaking through others, we are able to prepare ourselves for a proper exchange of love.

      Prayer:  Lord. teach us not only to hear your voice coming in many and gentle ways, but to listen carefully and respond through acts of love for and with others.  Help us to move from acts of giving to acts of sharing.    






Yellow trout lily, Erythronium americanum.
(*photo credit)

April 8, 2011   Discerning Use of Land for Food and Biofuels

      As people concerned about our wounded Earth, we are faced with two possibilities: use arable land to grow food for the hungry;  use the land to grow materials that can produce cellulosic ethanol to furnish liquid fuel for our vehicle fleet.  Are these clear-cut options?  Are the optimists correct in saying sufficient land exists for all -- edible crops for a billion hungry people and fuel for hungry vehicles facing possible petroleum scarcity? 

      Optimistically speaking, a report was released in January in the technical journal, "Environmental Science and Technology," saying that there is enough land available on this planet to produce grass crops for cellulosic biofuels with minimal impact on agriculture and the environment.  After subtracting grasslands used for pasture, the report says that there are 1,107 million hectares (a hectare is 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres) or  enough land available to produce 26 to 56% of current global liquid fuel needs. 

      Pessimistically speaking, the amount of land needed to satisfy transportation fuel needs makes us pause.  Isn't a better approach trying to meet fuel demands by increasing fuel efficiency?  Over two-and--one-half billion acres at full production might only meet one-quarter to one-half of global liquid fuel needs?  Aren't these fuel demands expanding when millions of Chinese, Indians, and others enter the middle class and its auto-buying tendencies?  An added question:  How much of this enormous expanse of grassland, and possibly forest as well, will be taken from natural habitat for wildlife, such as the orangutan?   Granted, electric vehicles such as the GM's Volt and Nissan's Leaf are fueled by plugging into an electric grid that includes increasing amounts of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.   

      Realistically speaking, the production of biofuels from cellulosic materials is still little more than the question President Bush made when preparing his 2004 State-of-the-Union message, "What is this switchgrass?"  Well, it is a distant hope for drivers who want to operate their individual vehicles until the oil runs out, and beyond.  The federal government had great hopes, and first projected 100 million gallons of ethanol from the grasslands crops in 2010, but then pared it down to 5 million;  however, we did not see a single drop last year.  However, a sizeable portion of our American corn crop was turned into biofuels for fuel guzzlers.  In fact, this past year the price of global food staples began to rise as did petroleum costs, and that means a billion people continue to face food insecurity and escalating prices.  The desire for biofuels might be good for corn-state farmers and ethanol producers, but it is terrible on people who have to expend 60 and 70% of their incomes on food.       

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us not to play games with the resources of this world.  Help us to see that our days are numbered, and we will have to face God's judgment, reminding us that we have failed to feed the world's hungry.











Country eggs, naturally colored in tans, greens, and white.
(*photo credit)

April 9, 2011  Keeping Easter a Non-commercial Celebration 

      There are only two shopping Saturdays left before Easter and it may occur to us to buy Easter decorations, presents, cards, or gifts.  Why?  Because most of us are reminded to buy in a blizzard of ongoing advertising.  What is it, 35 hours of TV a week for the average viewer, with 12 commercials per hour -- or almost 22,000 in a normal year -- encouraging a constant buying spree?  To be sure, most commercials in all forms of the media pertain to inducements to purchase something.  So, when a special event like Easter comes, those bombarded with commercials reach for the shopping list.  Must we succumb to this temptation, or can we make this a major spiritual occasion with little commercialism? 

      Alternatives to material things are in order, for Easter is not as commercialized and secularized as Yuletide, when the Japanese Christmas salutation is, "Jingle Bells."  Yes, Halloween has costumes, face masks, plastic pumpkins, and trimmings;  Thanksgiving has its cards, turkeys, and launching of the holiday buying season; Valentine's Day omits the prefacing saint's title, and its cards, candy, and flowers are alluring.  What is it about Easter even amid chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and new clothes that exudes a general non-commercial spirit? 

      Easter egg hunts -- This is a traditional event enjoyed at homes, clubs, churches, and schools.  It can become a secular teaching occasion, that is, to teach youngsters that the one who is fastest, boldest, and able to run over others will get the most.  Instead of this awful approach to grabbing things, why not count out the number of eggs and divide by the number of hunters of all ages; tell the kids how many each may ultimately collect, for there are limited resources in this world;  now have the older ones team up with the younger ones and assist them in getting their proper share and only that amount (no exceptions); now let the younger team member "assist" older children retrieve their proper share.   

      Personal greeting cards -- Easter is a time of joy, and so  personal greetings have a high place.  No one can deny that a beautiful card or a bouquet says much to a shut-in or ill person.  However, a personal visit, phone call, email salutation or hand written letter means much more.  Add a smile or even a little personal gift, if that seems proper for the occasion -- and maybe make it something that has religious relevance.  

      Living plants -- Some people insist on giving gifts and that is still okay, given the propensities of givers, receivers, and circumstances.  Since Easter comes in springtime in this hemisphere, potted flowers or transplantable herbs may have special meaning as a substitute for the expected cut-floral bouquet.  Home-grown daffodil bouquets are fine as well.  

      Prayer:  Lord, Easter is coming soon and our thoughts ought to be on what to do significantly for our loved ones.  Help us make a gift list of non-commercial items with spiritual significance.  








Daffodils from the garden.
(*photo credit)

April 10, 2011   Discovering Christ as the Resurrection and Life 

      I am the resurrection.... (John 11:25)   

       As we approach the passion and death of the Lord, we recall that chapter eleven of St. John's Gospel is often used in funeral homilies.  Believers seek to discover Jesus as the center of new life, and then try to make ourselves imitators of him in order to serve our neighbor.

      Christ, as resurrection, our guide, and our teacher:

            the road map for our journey of faith;             

      the gate of heaven and access to God the Father;

      the path to the Father (John 1:18; 12:45; 14:9);

      the way of the cross;

      the venture to save others;   

      the passage into the New Covenant;

      the opening to future glory;

          the compass of our intellectual pursuits;

          the answer to our constant questioning;

          the faithful witness to the Father;

      the eternal Word made flesh;

      the Good News proclaimed to all creation;

      the personification "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23);

      the pleasure of the Father;

      the Suffering Servant;

          the High Priest;

          the Good News living with us;

          the God within; and    

          the Bread of Life.


     We as resurrection and healers to others:

          witnesses to Jesus among us;

          co-sufferers through compassion;

            bearers of Good News;

          members of the Body of Christ;

          givers of encouragement to the discouraged;

          enthusiastic bearers of the God within;

          spiritual lights in a darkened world;

          travelers on the journey of faith;

          examples of joy and love;

          opportunities to assist those in need;

          friends of the marginalized and oppressed;

          sharers in the divine family; 

          consecrated people;

          reclaimers of the commons;

          living testimony to God's love for us; 

          ways to draw others to Christ;

          providers of bread to the hungry; and

          healers of our wounded Earth. 

      Prayer:  Lord, as we approach the Calvary event, make us all the more willing to enlighten others and share with them in their sufferings.  Make our service part of your resurrection event. 








"Social" networking.
(*photo credit)

April 11, 2011   Benefiting from Social Networking

      People ask us whether we read their blogs with an expectation that their current conversations are being shared with us.  When we hesitate, we resolve to include more people on our contact list, for these bloggers are pleading for further communication.  I used to restrict social contact severely for lack of time.  Is that proper, for it is an admission of not having time to listen?  Just how much do we value social communication, whether by phone or letter or personal conversation -- or interaction on the Internet through emerging social contact networks?  Maybe I am in the world's minority without a cell phone, but I do make landline phone calls and use email and postal letters for social contact. 

      Emergency occasions.  Honestly, I detest seeing people constantly chattering on cell phones while driving, or in restaurants, or sitting beside me at airports or waiting rooms.  Chatterers can be unwanted noise-makers;  they can infringe on our silent space, a zone extending to some indefinite distance.  However, the need to be connected is one of the great benefits of social contacts -- and many take advantage of it.  Yes, lacking a cell phone can be a detriment when real emergencies arise, and calling 911 can save lives.  Do I depend on others' immediate contact devices, like smokers who bum rather than buy cigarettes.  

      Isolation-breaking situations.  Quite a few people need to be in contact with others, more than we imagine is necessary.  Some are simply afraid of silent space like being afraid of the dark;  others have to satisfy their loneliness here and now.  Some twelve hours of information intake per day is not sufficient; for them something more meaningful is sought to break the curse of their own isolation.  We need to help break this isolation to some degree, for these folks miss the benefits of village get-togethers, post- church-service chats, and the backyard and front porch conversations among neighbors.  As the world becomes smaller, neighborhoods change in character but the need for social contact remains.  Humans resemble other animals who like to congregate among their own; maybe we are called to help provide togetherness.  

      Exchange opportunities.  In previous times, when publishing was limited to a few of the more fortunate and well-placed intellectual and vocal elite, many found economic barriers to circulating their own ideas.  The social contact networks are allowing for circulation of current ideas, whether from those who think thoroughly and yet are marginalized, or from those who do not communicate freely but still have good things to say.  A democratization of ideas allows for germination and corrective measures that enhance the creative juices in a free-flowing conversation.  This is different from gossip and meaningless chatter, but worth encouraging as part of social interaction.   

      Prayer:  Lord, help us be discerning enough to spread the Good News through proper occasions, situations and opportunities.  Inspire us to use our precious time wisely in such communication. 








Energy Lake, near Cadiz, KY.
(*photo credit)

April 12, 2011      Telling the Last Civil War Story

      On April 12, 1861, one hundred and fifty years ago, the American Civil War, the most monumental struggle ever to occur in this hemisphere, started with gunshots at Fort Sumter.  No living person remembers that fatal day, but an ever-more-rarified segment of our population has known someone who lived at that time.  I happen to be one of these, for the Civil War reality was marked by an eyewitness, our neighbor Joe Davis.  He lived in this border state with family loyalties divided, brother against brother. 

      Ole Joe Davis was approaching ninety when I was eight decades younger, but he was my age when the Civil War started in 1861.  On that crisp and sunny April day, Joe's dad took him to the Mason County campgrounds, for his father was one of those being mustered into the Kentucky Home Guard.  The assembling citizens elected their leader, Colonel Charles Marshall, a direct line within that illustrious Virginia family that included Chief Justice John Marshall.  That colonel's living granddaughter-in-law tells me that the land of the mustering could have been their farm, for over the years a multitude of military uniform buttons have been found.  However, Daddy said that Joe Davis told him the first gathering occurred a mile away at what we knew as the "Old Country Club."   

      As kids we would see Ole Joe, our next door neighbor, shuffling at an extremely slow gait with his classy straw hat and walking cane.  The time it took him to cross the road to reach our house was sufficient to alert Mama who was always busy;  thus she gave us kids the task of entertaining him.  She did not like him calling her "Lizzy," although her name was Elizabeth.  Well into her nineties when her memory was in short supply, I asked her who called her Lizzy and without hesitation she shouted "Ole' Joe Davis."  I told her I discovered in research that it was Joe's mother's name, and his calling her Lizzy was a sign of endearment -- a fact she could not comprehend in old age.   

      We kids were to entertain and be entertained by Mr. Davis' many stories and astute observations about weather, crop-growing, and when times were really tough, namely during the Civil War years.  Joe's daughter Edith told neighbors that her dad's family kept two sets of money (Union and Confederate) should Morgan's raiders reappear, or the fortunes of war bring in the Union army.  Joe's dad was a slave-holding Unionist, a strange combination from today's perspective, but common in Kentucky during that period.   

      Joe Davis' stories were either told directly to us kids, or to Daddy who retold them over the years.  Ole Joe left his mark on all of us before he died in late 1943.  For one, he made me into a storyteller, a fact that made me confess that I "told stories."  Why so wrong?  Because Kentucky stories are often stretched, even though Daddy could tell stories over and over without changing them one iota.  Mine had more elasticity -- and my Civil War ones are a little more stretched.  However, I can vouch that Joe lived through the war.  Exact details are subject to years of embellishment.










Mandrake, Podophyllum peltatum.
(*photo credit)

April 13, 2011      Trimming the Obscene Military Budget 

      On the birthday of our third President, the sometimes frugal and consistently non-federalist, Thomas Jefferson, we should consider tough calls for restricting our military spending.  Our Tea Party and debt-hating legislators need to be persuaded to perform comprehensive military budget reviews.  In January, Secretary of Defense Gates proposed that about $78 billion be cut over a five-year period from programs regarded as inefficient, along with 45,000 associated military jobs.  In 2010 Gates had already proposed to cut one hundred billion dollars, but as savings to be applied to other areas of the military.  Enough is enough! 

    The United States has assumed the superpower role of policeman of the world -- and the duty/honor/distinction is proving quite costly.  Over $700 billion, or 56% of the discretionary funds of our annual federal budget, is going annually for defense purposes;  that is more than the entire military budgets of the rest of the WORLD combined.  Need we continue such extravagance until our nation is bankrupt?  Part of the impulse by legislators to continue funding, and expanding that funding, is the perceived pressure by constituents to be fair to our service personnel;  part is the immense pressure from the military/industrial complex that seems to have captured our American treasury's purse strings. 

      G. Adams and M. Leatherman, in an article in the Jan./Feb. issue of Foreign Affairs entitled "A Leaner and Meaner Defense" (pp. 139-158), list specific savings that could lead to greater security if applied to global food insecurity and unemployment. The reasonable savings are not peanuts -- and we as an irritated citizenry ought to awaken our legislators.  Among specifics the authors propose limiting across-the-board annual pay increases to two years, thereby saving $40 billion between FY 2012 and FY 2018.  During the same period an additional $48 billion saving could accrue by disciplining the health care system  for working military retirees and dependents (TRICARE), and another $60 billion by reforming miliary retirement saving plans.  Removal of intelligence gathering and security procedures could add an additional $120 billion in the period.  A 19% reduction in total personnel, coming mainly from adequately-defended Europe and Asia, could result in $166 billion between FY 2012 and FY 2018.  Cutting unnecessary, outdated and overly expensive military hardware and programs such as the $260 billion F-35 Lightning II could add savings.   

      Canceling five hardware construction and research programs could yield $164 billion over a five-year period.  Exposing the military-industrial complex's appetite for defense spending, which President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address fifty years ago, is an eye-popping exercise.  If we leave the world of security fiction for reality, can we reduce this sacred cow?  An aroused citizenry should not fail to call for frugality.  

      Prayer:  Lord, help us bring down the idol of the military establishment and share the savings with a world in real need.









Running to greet beloved owner. Boyle County, KY.
(*photo credit)

April 14, 2011       Appreciating Roads for Their Blessings 

     In April each year, road-building crews become active and we start dodging them as they patch winter potholes and repair guard rails.  Snow equipment has been put away until late autumn.  Builders are widening streets, constructing bridges and rest stops, and resurfacing areas damaged by road salt used during severe winter weather.  Well-maintained roads are needed to take us to distant places; they are the artifacts of politicians, engineers, and builders cooperating with the lay of the land -- Earth's terrain.  Our roads are needed for human travel and for commerce; they break the isolation that can bind people too tightly into their own communities.  Road are thus liberating in many ways.

      Highways bring us back through history to those first master road-builders, the Romans.  The Empire's road system was a masterpiece in early engineering, and these have in some cases been used for centuries.  The bridges, types of pavement, drainage ditches, arched viaducts, and even rest areas were well ahead of their times and built to endure.  While most bulk commerce was cheaper by rivers and seas, still the good road network allowed for postal service and human travel.  However, even with superb construction techniques roads did deteriorate through lack of good government, constant vigilance and ongoing maintenance.  

      Today, we take our roads for granted;  we measure distances by time rather than mileage.  Drivers are often in a hurry and strive to shave minutes and seconds during routine trips.  However, modern roads invite higher speeds and in some cases tragic results.   With the snowy season behind us spring brings on added speed. As a toddler I recall the Wood Lane, a mud road that bordered our farm and is now a two-lane highway.  We (Mama and a car full of infants) went to visit her aunt; the Model A Ford got stuck in the mud, and she had to walk to a neighbor farmer and get him to bring his horse team over to pull us out.  That was the story of the 1930s when many of our farm roads went from horse-use to that of motor traffic.  Hardened surfaces called for road-building projects that yielded a national Interstate network.  These roads liberate the isolated, and yet isolate people unable to drive.   

      I travel on a relatively good two-lane highway between my two parishes.  Local people travel rapidly on this familiar route especially during morning and evening rush hours.  They travel at faster speeds when traffic cops are not looking.   On this road stretch I have seen several major accidents despite enforced safety belt regulations.  Even with good roads and driving practices roadways are mixed blessings -- air pollution, consumption of petroleum, congestion, excessive mobility, and noise.  Skunks trying to cross even an infrequently used rural road risk their lives.  Likewise, roadways affect wildlife migration routes.  Nothing is perfect, and that includes highways and drivers. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us travel safely and with respect of others. 











Great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

April 15, 2011        Living in the Boondocks   

     During World War II some of the people escaped capture by the Japanese occupiers in the Philippines by fleeing to the wilderness, the less accessible mountainous areas;  these were the "bundoks,"  a Tagalog word that has entered into modern American usage.  In fact, this has become a pejorative term, defined as "being outside of the mainstream."  However, in the last decade this meaning shifted from being an area of land to becoming a human condition, as rural people throughout the world are connected through better highway systems, Internet and cell phones.  

      I would regard my own life of only a few years back as being "in the Appalachian boondocks" by some people's measure.  This came at a price and yet with benefits.  The price was not knowing all the latest fads and way of acting and thinking with the late night television sense of humor.  However, in part this isolated situation was from NOT watching cable television or reading regional newspapers.  Now, it is not where I live (twenty-five minutes from the Interstate System) but how connected I am at a given moment.  I am fortunate to have "broadband" Internet access that allows a connectedness denied to many of our country's rural residents. 

      What are the benefits of living in out-of-the-way places?  There is less congestion and noise, though most parts of the world have airplanes flying over.  We do have wilderness areas in which to take off time, and with a little travel be far removed from other elements of civilization -- to hike for miles without meeting other human beings.  There is fresh clean air that many people would treasure as promoting health and quality of life.  There is the lack of pretension by people who know they are not regarded as being "movers and shakers," or of being up in front of everything.  However, the greatest benefit is that this is a deliberate choice made by escapees from areas of cultural captivity.  This is a restful place -- if escapes still exist.  Living or traveling in the boondocks can mean being removed from the temptations of the fast life with all its stresses. 

      What is the price of being in the boondocks?  For one thing, those living here (or "there" depending on viewpoint) are subject to being marginalized by society, for the mainstream does not regard our living or our words as worthy of attention.  For residents outside of perceived boondocks, a pecking order of importance is subscribed to, and this is insisted upon by those in the inner circle of whatever power structure they define.  In fact, they regard themselves as deserving of special treatment because they are better targets for terrorists.  Urban areas are generally more favored for development.  For many, the "boondocks" are to remain less attended to -- and that may be good or bad. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be satisfied where we are and see benefits and problems associated with any place.  Help us make the best of what we have and to share our benefits with others. 











Water droplets on jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) give the appearance of jewels after a rain.
(*photo credit)

April 16, 2011    Preparing for a Veggie/Floral Garden

      Tomorrow we start Holy Week and also Garden Week.  It is a holy act of praise to testify to the sustaining beauty of a garden where both vegetables and flowers thrive.  Some might want the flowers to predominate.  I prefer the more subtle approach of many veggies and a scattering of flowers, which give vivid color to the sea of growing vegetables.  The mix is important but allows all to find their proper places.  Do not expect to be furnished with a rigid set of "dos and don'ts."  Sorry for the disappointment, but it is better to follow your own tastes and instincts.  Regard flowers and vegetables as companions and make them feel comfortable growing together. 

     If there should be a general rule: become a garden artist with flowers acting as your paint.  I discovered this in 2010 in the year of the salad; Betsee, a keen herb club observer, asked whether I was constructing my salads (especially with red beets or cranberries or tomatoes) in order to maximize color combinations.  That was inadvertently true, and suddenly the quest for color becomes an issue worth more explicit recognition.  Hence, consider the veggie/floral garden as primarily one of aesthetic tastes.  Added color is meant to please the gardener and neighbors and visitors.  Without too much extra work, beauty adds quality to our life, and this gives praise to our colorful God. 

      Flower cultivation and admiration are a way a way to pray.  This, like all reflections, is meant to encourage and not to restrict your creative instincts.  Consider changing the landscape throughout the growing season.  Make the garden a moving montage, a never-exhausting change of scenery so that we can be greeted each day with slightly different combinations of color and grace. 

      Do you want me to tell you which flowers to select?  There are hundreds to choose from, and my favorites (irises, cosmos, begonias, marigolds, and lilies) may not be yours.  Select those that bloom at different times and need sun or shade, depending on specific locations.  Consider that some flowers attract butterflies and others discourage them.  An additional thought might be to choose flowers that are higher on the menu of certain insect pests such as the Japanese beetle (e.g., evening primrose).    

      If you care to record your success in order to encourage other gardeners, take photos at different times, from a special place at a certain day of each month.  This may assist visitors who only come by occasionally.  Make the garden something you are proud of, for it shares a message to the rest of the world about the grandeur of God's creation.  We enhance God's creation and thus cooperate and share in the glory all around us. 

      Prayer:  Lord, accept our humble garden as a prayer of praise to you and to all the vastness of creation.  Let this small piece of land be a sample that has the potential of a ripple effect on a damaged world -- a beginning to the healing process. 












Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) in April.
(*photo credit)

April 17, 2011       Proclaiming Royal Titles 

      Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the day on which Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey in royal fashion.  Many of the bystanders were convinced that here was someone who could lead them against their Roman oppressors;  such were the ideas of a shallow people with a narrow view of the world.  They were wanting to give Jesus a royal title, if he would only act in the limited fashion that they expected.  However, the divine drama of salvation was different, as would be seen before the week ended -- and salvation history took a different turn, never to fulfill their dreams.  Furthermore, royalty itself would be conceived in a different fashion; through the ages believers have given different royal titles to Jesus.  We are invited to reflect on them, for each tells its own story. 

                   ROYAL TITLES

         Word from the Father's heart begotten;

           Earth-bloom from Mary's womb;

         Light dispelling gloom and doom;

           Mercy's model giver, New Hope awaken;

         Good Shepherd to the forsaken;

           Sheep Gate for the left-for-rotten;

         Emmanuel to the ne'er-do-well, forgotten;

           Sacred Heart, your nom de plume. 

         Sower, mower, white harvest reaper;

            Wind-blown, on that blessed day;

         Bearer of a Roman lance parlay;

            Cross-fixed with thieves, True forgiver;

         Grace-filled Flood, Nature's river;

            Holy Water, Precious Blood, Gatekeeper;

         Redeemer quiver, Hell shiver, divine sweeper;

            New Passover, pray come, come we pray. 


      The "Special Issues" section is soon to have a listing of 365 titles for Jesus that are all found in standard liturgical sources.  There may be more titles that you are invited to offer.  

Common blue phlox, Phlox divaricata .
(*photo credit)

April 18, 2011    Contesting the Individual Right to Bear Arms

      Patriot's Day causes us to pause and ask, "Are people armed to the teeth really more patriotic than others?"  On January 12, 2010 we reflected on the right to bear arms as stated in the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  This is NOT the right to have ammunition for automatic weapons.  The January 8th Tucson, Arizona, massacre was caused by a disturbed person who that morning bought an enormous supply of shells for his semi-automatic weapon.  Is this what Constitution framers intended?  The shooter should not have been allowed any weapon and certainly had not the "right" to purchase a cache of ammunition.  Danger does not come from bearing a weapon, but from bearing a loaded weapon.  Why not a strict control on the ammo?  In 1775, British soldiers precipitated the American Revolution by their march from Boston to Lexington;  they intended to retrieve arms and munitions from a communal arsenal. 

     Americans talk about the right to bear individual arms that many, even those of us who are former gun owners, would consider as the communal right to bear arms.  Limiting gun possession by omitting persons with mental disturbance means that we Americans regard this amendment as partly communal.  In some states people are required to take an exam for a license to bear arms.  We have driver's licenses, so why not for firearms as well?  America has almost 300 million individual arms (about one per person), and many of those from infants to seniors cannot use firearms properly.  At least, let's become strict interpreters of the Constitution: limit individual gun rights to one shot muzzle-loaded muskets.  Let's also keep other weapons and ammo in a regional armory, or distributed among police and those deputized in times of emergency.  

    All citizens need security; this should not be confused with the sport of hunting with weapons.  A crazy person should neither store at home or even hunt with a weapon, yet regulations in various states are lax.  Right now in many places a "nut" can get automatic weapons and ammo, with few or no questions asked.  The American Rifle Association has power, but this group seems to overlook that more Americans have died from intentional or accidental shooting in the last three decades (averaging 30,000 deaths per year) than in all of America's wars combined.  These killings were never conceived of by the 1787 framers of the Constitution.   

      Security is not furthered by every individual being armed.  The world, along with our communities and homes, needs strict arms control, something that is hard to achieve in our gun-crazy land.  We read about Afghanistan's weapon saturation after that unfortunate country has endured decades of civil strife.  Let's ban automatic weapons from general commerce, a first step to global  and national security.    

      Prayer:  Lord, give us the courage to advocate for arms control in our world and gun control in our nation.






Taking a break from trail cleanup, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
(*photo credit)

April 19, 2011  Broadening Nonpartisan Environmental Concerns 

      One of my great disappointments is the partisan environmental movement that has evolved since that first, highly nonpartisan Earth Day in 1970.  On this Hanging Out Day we strive to air out publicly the laundry we have just washed -- and to air out grievances that divide our policy makers and cause paralysis when it comes to current environmental climate change issues.   

      Today, battles develop over capping and trading, that is, capping pollutants at utilities and other industries and trading these with less polluting industries -- thus giving an incentive to curb pollution through money transfer.  This approach has the disapproval of specific businesses that must pay, and also of liberal policy makers who dislike turning environmental controls into a capitalistic venture of winners and losers. 

      Partisan rancor and angry voices have increased through the years to a point where they begin to paralyze the environmental protection process.  The United States, as the major consumer of goods and the second- highest greenhouse gas emitter, ought to take a lead, lest no general consensus on global climate change by the major polluting nations is reached.  On the national level we ought to focus on four areas of nonpartisan cooperation:  

      Renewable Energy promotion.  Quite often in this series of reflections we mention specific solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and even some biofuels that could lower our dependence on oil and coal, and help clean up the air and water and reduce climate change.  New jobs can be created in the process of building centralized electricity sources, as well as encouragement of individual domestic applications. 

      Nuclear power issues.  Nuclear power plants are too expensive and risky for private promotion alone; thus the current call for massive governmental loans, insurance and waste storage facilities.  Those who wish to reduce the size of the federal government and budget should take notice; they ought to team up with anti-nuclear advocates and say "no" for different reasons. 

      Energy and other resource efficiency.  The move to omit incandescent bulbs everywhere is a good first step.  More can be done because this has popular appeal and is good economics. 

     Promote targeted economic growth:  Trade agreements that support poor nations can benefit producers everywhere.  Promoting production of luxury materials for the affluent is not economically healthy.  Redistribution of wealth through fair taxes allows an emphasis on producing housing, road and high speed rail systems, small farm supplies, and materials for infrastructure expansion. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to see that the temptation to be partisan in environmental issues cripples global efforts to control consumption and reduce pollution and waste. 









Squaw root, Conopholis americana.
(*photo credit)

April 20, 2011      Working for Greater Food Security 

      Tomorrow is Holy Thursday when we prepare to eat our liturgical meal together.  Let's not forget the food needs of people throughout the world, especially those who spend two-thirds of their money on food and still watch food prices rise.  Perhaps half the world's population spend over half their income on food -- and in severely food insecure regions as much as eighty or ninety percent.  Even our country has a sizeable minority who suffer from food insecurity about tomorrow's meal.

      Many people have difficulty obtaining nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.  Currently such shortages are being experienced in emerging nations, e.g., cabbage in China and onions in India.  Food shortages for the poorer portion of the population are even more distressing, especially the rising prices of corn and rice, basic staples for life.  This can be a life-and-death situation.  The ones who endure such conditions are our brothers and sisters, for we are one family and must conceive of ourselves as such, for their welfare and our own salvation.  Food security can be enhanced in a number of ways mentioned recently: 

      * Global food-storage banks that are pest-free, and with food supplies at the disposal of aid groups during times of famine; 

      * Enhanced programs for improvement of small farms in emerging countries through access roads, proper irrigation systems, improved seeds, and available fertilizers and farm implements;

      * Promotion of reduced meat consumption, and avoiding the conversion of grains into biofuels for use by developed nations;

      * Improved trade relations among food-producing and consuming nations, and halting arbitrary food embargoes in times of food shortages due to floods and other weather- or human-caused disasters; and   

      * Reduction in wasteful food practices in developed nations so that more food is available at lower prices in other parts of the world.  

      Bringing all this about could be regarded as a combination of personal austerity practices (only rarely widespread enough to make a major difference) and regulations imposed on all.  The looming food crisis is part of a disparity-of-wealth problem.  Some people are able to use resources as they please because they have wealth and power; others must endure increasing shortages because they are poor and powerless.   

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see our responsibility to food supplies in two ways: to act as responsible individuals in daily eating practices; and to see our civic duties as helping to change global food practices, so as to result in fair food distribution among all people. 









Waters of our beautiful planet.
(*photo credit)

April 21, 2011  Holy Thursday: Consecrating Us to Serve 

      We begin the Triduum before Easter Sunday in a somewhat non-traditional manner.  We will look at the spirit of each of these three days as a perfect time to assess the need for apparent exclusivity (of agents drawn to bring others to worship God, the All Holy One);  the need extends to a broader-based inclusiveness (by expanding the worshipping community).   

      Passover meals were always a family affair, taken in the immediate confines of the homes of the Israelites and excluding all non-believers in the community.  In essence, this Passover meal of the Lord with his disciples followed the same pattern, and  outsiders were excluded.  All needed to be worthy to partake, and when Judas left his unworthiness became apparent.  He essentially cut himself off through his betrayal, and the rest joined more closely through their consecration to greater service. 

        Holy Thursday was an event of momentary exclusiveness, of preparing those present for work that was to be done later.  The intimate meal was the framework through celebration of the monumental calling to bring all together as one people.  The Chosen people celebrated and still celebrate that calling, and yet it is not a call to remain exclusive, but rather to go forth and incorporate others into the work ahead. 

      Holy Thursday contains a temporary exclusivity of a chosen few gathered together to celebrate a covenant promise and New Covenant institution.  Some were called to carry on the ministry as priests of the New Law through a consecration handed down from Jesus to disciples.  These followed in the tradition of the chosen ones -- like the Chosen People themselves who were called by God.  However, this exclusiveness is often misunderstood -- and some in the Christian community confused the issue of the inclusiveness of the result (an entire world), with the exclusiveness of the calling to bring this about.  The exclusive vocational call to some is only that they may be catalysts to include the many ultimately being called.  It is not glory but work that is involved, namely reversing the Tower of Babel dispersal. 

    One must concede momentary exclusivity (an intimate meal) for the sake of a greater inclusivity.   It is not a removal from the community but a preparation to enter the greater community. What occurs is a consecration so that others may come together; thus the ultimate goal of coming together is that ALL might be inclusively received into a oneness in which all share in being within the family of God -- and to give exclusive worship to the one and only Creator of all.   

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us that we gather in small communities to pray and have communion , not as an act of withdrawal, but a prelude to going forth to others;  help us spread the Good News so all can give praise to your Holy Name. 










Phacelia purshii (Miami Mist) Hydrophyllaceae. Cedars of Lebanon State Park, TN.
(*photo credit)

April 22, 2011   Good Friday: Dying for All Creation

      Today, Good Friday, is the most solemn day of the liturgical year.  A prevailing sadness is felt in the somberness of readings, songs, and liturgical actions.  Jesus Christ dies for us, and this Calvary event crushes home to us in ways the non-believer can't understand.  Yes, this event may appear to non-believers as an utter defeat, a terrible cutting short of a very successful mission by Jesus to teach and heal.  However, there is more to God's mysterious plan.  The apparent "common criminal" dies in the most horrifying manner and is isolated from virtually all.  He is buried in haste before the Sabbath by a small band of followers and family -- not the Palm Sunday crowds.   

     At first sight, Calvary is a solitude that becomes the ultimate ignominy of exclusivity -- a rare common criminal with no support system in place, and little comfort from the Palm Sunday crowd.  In other words, the world created a badge of dishonor that he had to endure.  It seemed that for one brief moment  hell had triumphed and God was absent.  However, in the emerging eyes of faith, Emmanuel or God IS with us.  At Calvary the divine plan of salvation is revealed.  The pride and attempts to be like God by Adam and Eve bears its bitter fruit.  However, at this very moment salvation comes through one person, Jesus Christ;  in fact, the story really starts and does not end here. A new dispensation and a New Covenant emerges.

      On January 9th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we said we must come to terms with what is exclusive and what is inclusive, for there are theological as well as political and economic issues involved.  God alone is One, and there are no other gods to be tolerated.  The Scriptures speak loud and clear; God demands exclusive worship and attention -- and with this solemn demand God directs the Israelite community to prepare the path -- to a common global worship.  The commons was broken at Babel into islands of groups worshiping material things and false gods -- and this division still exists.  Reclaiming the commons, a political and economic mandate, is part of the redemptive work ahead of us as we help give birth to a nascent global community.  Calvary calls out to us all.  

      Rather than let the Israelite community be a static faithful remnant, the process is extended.  Jesus' ministry seems to some to end abruptly, but to those with eyes of faith it begins. Amazingly, the Calvary event is now extended in space and time, and we are invited to enter in -- not in the glory of privilege, but through an invitation by the dying Jesus to suffer with all people in compassion and love.  We are invited to enter into the solitude of Jesus, suffering so that all might be saved.  We help in filling up what is wanting in the suffering of Christ.  A mystery of the inclusiveness of the divine plan is unfolding before our eyes.

      Prayer:   Lord, teach us to join on the lonely hill of Calvary so we can help bring all suffering souls into the unity you desire. 







Rose Vervain, Verbena canadensis.
(*photo credit)

April 23, 2011   Holy Saturday: Rising as Lord of All 

      After the liturgical roller-coaster of the last two days we pause to catch our breath.  We are gaining the strength to celebrate the upcoming Easter event.  In preparation, we take the tried and true spiritual advice of reviewing where we have come from.  The seemingly chosen aspects of the Holy Thursday event are simply to prepare us for a mission that is difficult, but needed to help save our troubled world. 

      Let's return to what we said on January 9th.  The winding Babel tower twists the Divine Command, and this twisted image hangs over us still.  This man-made structure overshadows a divided world, with individuals seeking exclusive privileges rather than sharing the gifts of God with all.  Economic and political theories have been concocted to defend an exclusive privilege that really belongs to God alone.  These competing islands of self-interest have brought strife on family, community, tribal and national levels -- and they plague us still.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims have often misinterpreted the message; they have considered themselves as exclusively chosen for self-possessing privileges of fame, fortune, or power, or special honors.   

      Those misguided in the name of religion place an "inclusive" privilege as being apart from others, or mistakenly in idols that support their retention of certain privileges.  They dare not tell the truth that they have determined to worship idols instead of the one God;  their materialism includes an "exclusive" desire to put "all for me, and me for me."  They seek to justify large tracts of land in the control of billionaires;  they forget there is a limited pie in this world, no matter how much they boast that others can make that pie big enough to incorporate their own selfishness.  The economic/political world confronts the true nature of the Calvary/Resurrection event.  Jesus who dies for us and rises for us is a covenant of the people, the light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7).  The Lord's dying and rising now becomes an unfolding mystery, in which we enter through our baptism.  

      Easter calls us to abandon the materialistic stance of the world and take on that of Jesus.  Our mission is to die with him and rise with him, something exclusively individual but only so that we can enter a community of believers who help the Savior to save others.  We now understand the exclusive demand to worship one God alone;  we now understand the inclusive calling given to all people, to become instruments to bring about this emerging unity, namely the "Kingdom of God."  Our divine leader goes ahead of us as light to all and Lord of all.  The mission given to us is godly participation.

      Prayer: Lord, help us to understand the continued divine mission to proclaim you as Lord of all, and allow us to be Easter people called to help bring about your glory. 









Bell, two years of age. Calvert City, KY.
(*Photo by Silas W. Traylor)

April 24, 2011   Proclaiming Easter Past, Future, and Present 
Today is a new day: Christ has risen; Christ will come again to usher us to eternal life; Christ comes now to all believers. Our hearts are filled through faithful recall, through hopeful promise, and through present joy.   

      Faith in Easter past.  We are caught up in the excitement of Peter and John and Mary Magdalene, and through the years that excitement and enthusiasm means that we enter into the Easter event as fully as did those early disciples.  Easter faith is that continuation of an historic event, witnessed by some who passed on their testimony to us down through the ages as a sacred trust.  Christ is now Lord of New Life -- a new title. 

     Faith in Easter future.  We are swept into the excitement of Easter because it is more than a past sacred event;  Easter announces a future for all who believe.  Down through the ages Followers hope for the time when they will enter into the resurrection event fully when ushered into eternal life -- a blessing that extends our mortal birth and the life we are living.  How precious is that life, and yet we anticipate our promised eternal life -- a rising in victory over death, and the awaited glory of a new dawn beyond the horizon of darkness and present troubles.  This event that is to come gives us courage, and also energizes us to face the present moment.  

      Faith in Easter present.  Today, we celebrate the victory of Christ over death, his victory and ours as well.  We are invited into the divine family, and thus the graciousness of God extends that past event of his resurrection into a life to come for us;  this is a joy that we can begin living that life here and now.  How do we respond to what has been given except through sharing this with others?  Namely, we share the event of the past and the promise of the future -- and both our faith and our hope become a joyful, loving, present moment.  We express that event and that promise through our enthusiasm for the risen Lord within us.  Each of us can help give new life to others; we forgive them in loving solidarity within our troubled human family.  We invite them to believe and to journey together towards an eternal horizon.   

      New life.  Within this atmosphere of forgiveness we are able to start again, to begin over in joy, to help bring about a new creation, to express a "Resurrection-Centered Spirituality."  We CAN heal our Earth;  we CAN make life better for others; we CAN be better ourselves and be involved in the ongoing Easter event.  We are sensitive to the ongoing Calvary of wounded Earth and people; we are enabled by the power of the risen Lord in this ongoing Easter event.  Both a compassionate sensitivity and a powerful promise of ultimate victory energize us today.  Thus we live the present Easter moment in its full. 

      Prayer:  Lord, make us Easter people;  help us rise to the present moment and make Easter an event to heal a wounded world. 








April frost in Kentucky.
(*photo credit)

April 25, 2011   Reflecting on Time: Past, Future, and Present 

      Easter Sunday opens us to reflect on Easter time or even time itself.  Shouldn't all time-related discussions be in the traditional sequence of past, present, and future?  Maybe it is time to discuss the topic of the "philosophy" of time.  Easter is today, but embraces the past event and the future promise.  Our today is a past and a future; we look at the past to find a meaning as to where we are, then to the future as the promise of where we are heading; finally, we return to the present while weighing the future's significance in light of the past.  Easter is more than recalling the past and anticipating the future.  If we create our future we must find our direction from the past, and thus we are aware of this present moment.  The promise becomes partly fulfilled insofar as a magnet pulls us to the future and a past energizes this magnetic power.  Yes, Easter makes our today meaningful.  

      Doesn't the manner in which we announce the sequence create a straightjacket on our outlook?  The sequence of past, present, and future has a somewhat passive aspect to it.  We become the heirs of the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future.  There is the slavishness of trying to adopt an orchestral approach to time, as though we live shaped by a past and move on sullenly into the future.  Yes, there is a bias shown in my describing this approach, for I conceive of it as an example of "lite faith" -- a faith that finds some meaning in following the past in its precision, and never allowing ourselves to become creative.  We know from Jesus' teaching that we must grow in a maturing faith. 

      By placing the future immediately after the past we give it an existential value, insomuch as it gives us enthusiasm to be drawn forward.  The future in respect to the past is making the past meaningful;  our history enters into the way we see ahead to what lies in our future, a future we help create through our enthusiasm -- the God within.  We are spiritually drawn to the future, and thus we find the magnetic pull as beyond us and yet within us.  By affirming the spirit of the past, we incorporate it, and this is the spirit that gives the promise of new life.  Our future is affirmed in respect for and faithfulness to our past. 

      A faithful acceptance of the past in its eternal potential allows us an eternal future.  If Easter is the fullness of God's lordship, then in Easter past comes an eternal future, and so that future stands next to the past in proper sequence.  In affirming past and future we live the present moment (that precious instant between past and future), when recall drives us forward in the present moment.  Elders increasingly recognize the limited nature of the present moment and strive to make the best of it.  Our fleeting present is a meaningful past seeking an achievable future.  But as our mortal future narrows, the present should receive added attention. 

      Prayer:  Lord, you came; you will come; you are here and now.  Help us to make our past and future ever here and now. 









Vivid colors of springtime bouquet.
(*photo credit)

April 26, 2011   Demonstrating the Existence of God through Love 

      My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.  (I John 4:7-8) 

      At Easter time we reflect on our loving God who gives us the grace of eternal life.  Not too long ago, I prayed to God so that I might be able to love others --and God gave me a glimpse of the divine love that overwhelms the world.  Why speak about this, except that so many seek rational explanations for all things -- and, being confronted by so-called atheists, this makes us seek ways to speak to them about God.  However, our speech does not have to be formal discourse; if the other party is deeply philosophical, perhaps rational proofs are beneficial.  Our focus must be to where people actually are -- and many have informal, love-hate struggles in their journey of faith.   

      The letter by John quoted above is quite significant in our day-to-day discussions of God's presence to ordinary people.  John tells us that those "know" God who love, and those do not "know" God who fail to love.  Interesting!  This means that love is the key to our spiritual wisdom when it comes to articulating our relationship to  God.  Some folks are not good articulators, for they lack a special gift of words.  However, does this mean that they cannot speak about God's existence?  Hardly!  Love is at the heart of all we are and do;  if one loves, then what is expressed is that love that includes compassion for others who suffer in some way.  Through suffering with another we show love, and express it in a way that the suffering person understands -- heart to heart. 

      While not disparaging rational proofs for the existence of God, we still are left with the fact that such proofs may be somewhat sterile for the loving and compassionate servers of the Lord.  A failure to express in words may be far more than compensated by a loving service that speaks louder than words.  What this loving service does is extend the love of our hearts to others, and through loving others we show that Love is a person.  To the degree that we love others, we are faithful and we are godly.  Why godly?  Because God IS love.   

    Thank God we have occasions to connect with atheists, for they make us look for shared beliefs.  We have much in common with loving people, for they are on the road to coming closer to God.  Some people come to God through rational understanding and discourse;  however, they still do not know God unless they love.  We cannot talk about God to a person who hates others.  It is impossible.  If they love, then their love is eternal and can never to be erased; we affirm that they are on the road to knowing God.    

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to bring others to you, not in the straightjacket of formal rational discourse, but through the far more liberating act of loving from the depth of our hearts. 








Stump becomes home to native Kentucky plants.
(*photo credit)

April 27, 2011  Earthhealing through the Basic Component of Love

     God is love and extends love.  That love is especially shown to angels and to human beings, both created in the image of God in special ways.  Does God love all of creation?  Of course, says a youth who is quite fond of his or her pup or kitten.  Such truth can hardly be denied.  God loves all creation, for these -- in different ways than from us -- are also made to the divine likeness.  When we search quite deeply we find that all creation tells something of the glory of God, and with reflection we find traits of humility, generosity, beauty, and more in different parts of creation, whether dolphins or flowers.  We find a loving hand of the Creator in the marvelous works around us.  Yhwh, our Lord, how great your name throughout the Earth!   (Psalm 8:1) 

      God's love of creation permeates all things and binds all things together.  We humans can strive to break through our greed and selfishness; we try to be gods with our own attempts at fame and fortune.  Misdeeds abound, and they harm our fragile Earth.  When we seek to love God all the more, and others who are part of our human family, we soon see the potential for misdeeds affecting the human community;  when we look deeply we see that those misdeeds can damage other parts of creation as well. 

      We pray to love as God loves others.  That is our deep desire, and one that God surely always answers -- for God is merciful to us who seek to love.  We see the love of God being shown by the generosity of honest neighbors and, with special grace, by our own deeds as well.  Within this insight of the mixture of good deeds and misdeeds is included the need for healing.  Thus the impulse to heal comes in an atmosphere of divine love extended to us.  We seek to heal because we love; we want to return the loveliness of creation to what has been made ugly.  In essence, a resurrection-centered spirituality calls us to love. 

      Why have we failed so utterly in responding to this love of God?  Why do we do wrong things when we ought to do good things -- and thus are weighed down by our misdeeds?  The bringing of these to light is part of God loving us deeply.  The weaknesses of our past misdeeds haunt us, and yet ever so slowly we learn that God's mercy is forgiving; while unable on our own to repair what we have damaged, we are invited to try.  In being called to be earth- healers of our wounded Earth, we find this a loving invitation; seeing this is the beginnings of a resurrection-centered spirituality.  We are called to do what we can and love what we can.  We are the first generation to sense the harm to Earth that we have caused through selfish lifestyles, and failure to check the harm done by others.  If we love our Earth, we will strive to halt the abuse, diagnose the damage, propose a healing process, and launch the proper treatment with the help of others,. 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us that healing is a godly act and that this draws on the deep wells of your love for us.  Help us overcome our misdeeds, and in your mercy to become true healers. 







Megaphasma denticrus, Giant Walking Stick.
(*photo credit)

April 28, 2011  Showing Compassion for our Wounded Earth 

      In an atmosphere of Compassion (see February 18 and March 28, 2007), we focus on our fellow suffering human beings.  However, to what realms does our compassion reach?  If our love extends to all creation, so must our compassion; we are to be compassionate and to co-suffer with all who are wounded in any way.  The heart of this reflection series is that of healing what is wounded; our Earth suffers from the misdeeds of human beings.  Those who deny that climate change is humanly-caused minimize the effects of these misdeeds, and do a great disservice at this time.  We take beyond our due; we fail to clean up our messes;  we allow the perpetrators of misdeeds to continue their dirty work, even though a democratic society has power to call them to question.

      Is being compassionate for Earth and all creatures any different from that of compassion for fellow human beings?  When oil spills occur in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico we find generous people volunteering to wash off seagulls and pelicans, even though only a few will survive the stress of the oil covering.  However, something meaningful is occurring on the part of the people who seek to help.  They manifest a sense of compassion for animals -- that is shown by many to pets and strays.  Compassion reaches to flora and fauna.  I remember my mother accidentally disturbing a nest of young birds while clipping her rose trellis, and saying (without knowing I overheard her), "You poor little things."  It impressed me in all my callous youth, when I hardly thought animals were of much value.  However, compassion was being expressed and being taught -- and needs to be given today.  Some primitive peoples ask pardon from the animals they harvest for food; others speak to their animal companions as though human.

  People show compassion to plants, though these less sensate creatures have less ability to respond.  Sometimes when we water a thirsty garden, we can almost hear the plants begging for a drink -- or at least our imaginations are triggered on seeing the wilted condition of the drooping leaves.  Certainly the plants are stressed, even though they do not "suffer" in a technical sense.  In this manner of being part of creation to the degree that we feel the stress on a forest or eroded landscape, we enter into a sense of extended compassion for the wounded or needy party.   

      We are exercising compassion to and with our wounded Earth and hear the crucified Jesus say, "See what they have done to my wounded Earth!"  He dies for those who have done the misdeeds;  all the more, he dies for all the victims.  Our mission as Christians is to spread the Good News -- and part of that News is that joy in this world must be mixed with compassion.  Calvary and Easter become a coupled event.  We need to heal our Earth, but we can only do so if we have a prior sense of "Earth pain" -- something Jesus endures on the cross.  We can likewise endure this when suffering the misdeeds to our fragile Earth.  

      Prayer: Lord, teach us compassion for all creatures. 









Mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia.
(*photo credit)

April 29, 2011     Recounting That We are Easter People 

      What are the characteristics that make us who we are?  My suspicion is that the following reflection will not do justice to this fertile subject. Each Easter I reflect again -- and suspect that by comparing these attempts we can find some hint as to the progress of our appreciation of the Easter mystery. 

      Easter people taste victory.  For the believer, Easter means the victory of Christ over death, and that the ignominy of the cross has been overcome.  Death, where is your victory?  Where is your sting?  Jesus has suffered and died for us and now, as Lord of the universe, Jesus is the first to rise and go ahead of us.  We glory in his victory and that gives us immense happiness. 

      Easter people smell the freshness of new life.  The Easter season gives us added joy that comes after a long Lenten season.  For those of us in the temperate northern hemisphere, the winter harshness has ended for a period, and we are now liberated.  We can wear less and lighter-weight clothing, and we can breath deeply the freshness and sunshine of spring.  For us, Easter means new life -- and all life is a blessing and a mystery in itself.  Thus for us, resurrection as new life makes us ever more aware of being pro-life from the womb to old age, from the human to the animal and plant worlds as well.  But Easter is more than a physical seasonal change and an appreciation of life stretches out to new life.   

     Easter people see a horizon of promised eternal life.  Only when we compare the comfort that comes to a dying believer, do we know what faith can do for others.  An absolute darkness and void does not await us, as is expected by those who call themselves atheists, no matter how stoic they are about their own impending end.  Their emptiness makes us feel a tinge of sorrow that they have no future to await, a future of unending happiness.  The Lord's resurrection gives us this promise of eternal life, and fills us with a spiritual joy that is indescribable to the non-believer.  This state of joy encourages us to show continual gratitude for the gift of life itself.   

      Easter people hear a chorus of joy. The Easter songs ring out for us.  Easter is a season when we invite others into our community so that they too may experience "The Ode to Joy." 

      Easter people feel this as a time of blessings.  We can show our thankfulness for life by blessing all life with Easter water.  We move about all to which we come near --pets, livestock, wildlife, garden, fields, trees, flowers, people, and on and on.  By sprinkling Easter water we show that we regard all creation as a blessing, and our encounters as a double blessing. 

      Prayer:  Lord, through faith and baptism we have become a new creation.  Give us the strength to show a tired world that it is capable of new life.  Strengthen our enthusiasm so that we can bring this Good News to others. 









Trillium sessile. Franklin Co., KY.

April 30, 2011  Accepting the Challenge of Creative Writing 

      I have a friend who I try to prod to start up writing again, since a book he wrote three decades ago showed great talent.  But how can I encourage him to pick up the pen and put down his thoughts so others can interact with him?  Isn't springtime as good as any to start writing, especially when making a retreat or vacationing?  Actually, any time can be a writing season, if we refrain from our artificial busyness and the practice of average Americans who watch thirty-five hours of TV a week.  Think about this challenge!  You can become creative, even if only you are satisfied with what you create.  However, it is always more fulfilling to share with others through a social network, so that the creativity can be encouraged through positive feedback. 

       None of us are experts on a wide variety of subjects, nor are we expected to be.  Nor are we usually top experts in any field -- but that should not deter us.  Our friends are always looking for something more in life, and we may be the ones who can help them.  Experts may be good at some things, but lack the ability to communicate to this person at this time.  We have unique talents, and writing can be the perfect opportunity to make contact.  Our writings can become the instrument of spreading Good News within the human family, especially when we use the available Internet.  We can grow together through a dynamic interrelationship involving healing and being healed, learning and teaching.  In healing our Earth, our Earth heals us.  Our writings ought to become a record of our journey in the healing process. 

      Writers must be faithful to themselves; let the writing spring up naturally devoid of pretention.  We cannot preach a grand sermon to ourselves, nor expect to reach a full depth of effectiveness with all readers.  We cannot possibly settle all controversies local or distant.  We create the draft copies of what will be finished over time through interchange with others and through deepening individual reflection.  Fresh subjects can be introduced, but they await ongoing reflection, especially in such turbulent times as these.  We cannot possibly do all we want to do at one sitting, nor ought we to try.  One issue is enough for the moment, but it awaits ongoing probing and further adjustments.  

      Should our writing draw from local or global issues?  Much depends on our immediate inspiration.  We need not be restricted in our outlook, whether a more "catholic" view, or a personally-related occasion or situation.  The challenge is always to do both, and to recall that Sacred Scriptures, interesting biographies, great novels, and superior poetry often contain both local personal and global aspects.  We seek to be clear, to avoid condescension, and to be inviting.  Let's regard anything that we write as an act of profound sharing.  Thank God that we still have breath and the ability to write down our reflections.

      Prayer:  Lord, instruct us in what to say, so that we can learn to pray while writing, and encourage others to do the same.

Copyright © 2011 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved..

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Powell
Sally Ramsdell
Mark Spencer

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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