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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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December, 2021

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holly tree
(*photo credit)

December Reflections, 2021

         We enter December with a new Church Year coming so suddenly that we discover our inability to halt the rush of time.  But should we try to slow things down?  December points out a possible answer; this month invites us to go with the flow of time.  We are meant to enjoy every moment of life, and this last month of the calendar year indicates something about cherishing bits of remaining time.  Let the passing old year and the promising new one coexist in happy harmony.

Holly (llex aquifolium)

Green pledge of lasting joy
  you endure wintery blasts,
punctuated by red drupes
  breaking the spell of gray.
Suddenly one day the birds
  come and feast awhile.
Holly, keep us happy! 
  Help us become holy!




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First snowfall of December in Kentucky.
(*photo credit)

December 1, 2021     Hoping During the Advent Season

        I can hardly imagine living without hope.  As for the future of the world, there is a colorful spectrum of possibilities, from the worst to the best.  What will happen, I do not know.  Hope forces me to believe that those better alternatives will prevail, and above all it forces me to do something to make them happen.    Vaclav Havel

        Hope springs eternal and rightly so.  It is in the air we breathe, for without air there is no physical life -- and without hope no spiritual life.  While immersed in hope, we seldom think much about its value and necessity.  Without hope we are lost in the sea of surrounding troubles in which we often feel helpless.  Like survivors riding in a life raft before rescue, we learn to make the best of where we are and how to live with the limitations that surround us.  Our ability to continue and discover opportunities is our hope; our enthusiasm to persist testifies to God within to whom we confidently give witness.

        Act in hope that others act in a similar fashion.  Some who are cynical say we are fooled by expecting others to follow our example -- but these unfortunate souls often verge on despair.  If we act hopefully there is an inbuilt magnetism that draws others, even when words fail us or reason sees little sure success ahead.  It is not the vain hope of a gambler who places everything in one last bet.  Rather, it is the sure belief that promises bathed in love and fulfilled in time will continue to be fulfilled.  Christ came yesterday at that first Advent; Christ comes today into our hearts; Christ will come again as promised at the Parousia.

        The world around us needs a heavy dose of hope, for troubles seem to multiply.  Without hope these unfortunate people lack the alertness to see new possibilities.  They need assurance that we can help save a threatened Earth with its changing climate due to human activities.  We can challenge the fossil fuel practices of the past and put in their place renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and tidal) -- and a rising generation of earnest folks can bring on this renewal.

        Hope involves listening to the Spirit in our lives.  It is more than insights by technically astute people; it involves breathing in the air of freedom.  The hopeless suffocate within the imprisonment of their own mental constructs -- they say it is no use to continue; they regard growth as impossible.  An atmosphere of hopelessness allows no fresh ways of thinking and doing; it leads to paralysis with no room for the Spirit.  On the other hand, our hope promises to conquer despair and we must hope that our enthusiasm continues in troubled times to encourage the wandering.

          Prayer: Lord, through your Resurrection we are empowered to hope and to discover that you are in charge of our world.  Help us to challenge and conquer despair and to work with you with greater confidence and love for the betterment of all.








Club mosses add touch of color to December forest floor.
 (*photo credit)

December 2, 2021  Proclaiming Expectancy an Advent Characteristic

        When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads
high, because your liberation is near at hand.         (Luke 21:28)

        We are entering a season of awaiting the coming of the Lord.  In essence, we practice this virtue of expectancy throughout our lives and in a variety of circumstances.  A baby awaits the bottle at feeding time; youth listen for the bell that means outdoor exercise or the end of the school day; teens long for the day that they can get a driver's license and be "free" behind the wheel; the pregnant mother counts days before delivery; workers look forward to retirement; and elders start to reflect on what follows mortal life.  Life from start to finish involves vigilance, waiting for a more promising event to occur.

        Expectancy is at the heart of the Old Testament as all awaited the promised one, "The Lord our justice."  The Messiah will bring a new order to a troubled world and all will be able to live in peace.  While our reflection on history includes the gradual coming to a better world order, still work is unfinished.  Jesus comes as the awaited one and he teaches, heals, suffers, dies, and rises from the dead.  But Resurrection is part of an unfinished movement of which we are invited to be part.  We do not wait passively; we are invited to enter and participate in the flow and even help accelerate the final coming of the Lord in glory. 

        Expectancy then includes our participation in the fullest sense in the final Advent, the Parousia.  This involvement gives a completely different cast to all the series of anticipated events that we have looked forward to in life.  The promise is something that is to come in a fashion we anticipate, but do not have a definite image of what will transpire.  Events are often foretold by homemade prophets and all of these have been proven false over time.  We are party to the coming; we are not paralyzed by the fright of the unbeliever. Rather, we stand erect and hold our heads high.  Amazingly, this is the posture and role of the activist, not one who is unable to move due to fright. In fact, St. Paul (I Thessalonians 3:12-4:2) says we are to redouble our efforts -- our improvement in conduct as the end of time draws nearer.

        Among the elements that accompany the virtue of expectancy are the following: the ultimate outcome will be successful for God's justice will ultimately reign; if we remain faithful, we will participate in that justice; we can expect the signs that will indicate the final occurrences; we are not to be frightened but continue in the work we are doing in a redoubling of effort; we are to support those who seem paralyzed by what is coming; and we know for sure that time is shortening with each passing day.  Some may regard these elements as foolish, but we can look out and see -- and know full well that a failure to perceive signs is really the condition of the foolish.  We are all called to be alert.

          Prayer: Lord, help us see signs of the time with equanimity.







Snow squall
Snow squall, Rowan Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 3, 2021  Existing While Stranded in a Blizzard

        The list of things to do while caught in a storm could be quite varied depending on whether within or without shelter.  It is quite different if on a canoe in a lake, or in a car on a stretch of forsaken highway, or in the confines of your home.  I have been stranded a number of times (once for an entire week), and was lucky enough to creep by auto down the clogged Interstate to the Oldenburg, Indiana Franciscans and to make my annual retreat during that never-to-be-forgotten storm.  Another time the place where I was forced to stop driving was near a motel north of Lafayette, Indiana on the way to a Jesuit meeting in Chicago -- and conditions deteriorated when stranded guests ate up all the snack food in a short while.  In both these cases the conditions were temporary.  In some home circumstances, utilities have failed, and patience to endure the storm was tested.

        Maybe "don'ts" should precede "dos" for the stranded: 

* Don't leave home (in a car) without taking some essentials -- changes of clothes, sleeping bag, candles, flashlight and batteries, crash blanket, some basic high energy food, matches, battery cables, gloves, boots, ice scraper, and warm cap.
* Don't neglect weather reports. It is not wise to try to outrun a storm; if you know the storm's direction adjust your route accordingly to miss its direct impact.
* Don't forget about neighbors or others caught in the storm; they may be less prepared than you for the consequences.
* Don't strain yourself in too much digging out of the drifts or de-icing the vehicle.
* Don't wander about in the stormy outdoors -- and get lost.
* Don't allow blizzard conditions to overwhelm you.

        Certainly "dos" are equally important:

* Do keep posted on weather conditions for they can help with change of routes to travel or, for safety sake, to stay put and collect necessary supplies.
* Do keep warm with many layers of clothes to conserve body heat.  If space heat goes out in your lodging, use the crash blanket or its equivalent and do not over-exert yourself.
* Do take along reading and study materials and find the light of day an ideal time to do some catching up.  If you have things set aside for the snowy day, the frustration of being stranded is highly reduced.
* If you are caught in a storm outdoors, build a protective burrow or shelter and insulate with grass, leaves and any
vegetative material at hand.  Stay put until the storm passes.
* Do consider the storm to be an ideal time to pray, for that can be done in the dark or where reading materials are absent.

          Prayer: Lord, winter means being prepared.  Inspire us to follow weather conditions and grant us the fortitude to withstand the elements and prudence to act properly.







Must We Continue to Press for Climate Change Curbs?

       Our “Facebook” essays in December deal with citizen action concerning the curbing of climate change in the immediate future.  Yes, an old theme!  We intend to ask some basic questions and must not relent on confronting governmental agencies and legislators: they must act now in order to prevent a catastrophe at mid-century.  Certainly young people are right in saying that this change of climate will affect them more than those of us near the end of our mortal tenure, and they hope matters will stay within a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures.  Actually, the International Energy Agency states that based on policies that countries have announced, the world will have around a 2.4 degrees rise by the end of the century – a real catastrophe!  
COP26 at Glasgow in November made a series of promises dealing with conserving resources and controlling methane emissions, but the conference was too timid in addressing the fossil fuel phase-out possibility (calling for a phase DOWN – not out – of coal).  Many participants called for taking positive steps to curb climate change.  For the first time a COP gathering spoke of fossil fuels, but like the 25 preceding COP conferences they had no enforcement mechanism.  The money to bring changes must come from the heavily polluting nations, but there was no consensus on that either.  However, the growing pressure to act makes semi-enforcement possible, that is, global weight of public opinion for each government to abide by the announced pledges of meaningful carbon dioxide reductions; specifically, this awaits  the upcoming COP27 in 2022.

       Does persistent citizen pressure help?  Much depends on how many apply it and how continuously we confront the establishment.  Without a doubt, action must be taken now, since demands for energy are rising rapidly, especially in less developed lands seeking to install air conditioning and driving individual’s vehicles with internal combustion engines.  In order to utilize cheap energy, these nations (which could broadly include China and India), still favor use of coal with all its carbon dioxide and toxic emissions.  Yes, renewables are coming, but not fast enough to satisfy existing and new energy demands, and this is having a telling effect of a constant rise in global temperature at a time when it should be dropping.

       Why end the year on such a serious note?  No doubt we are tempted to do otherwise, for this is the celebratory holiday season.  We must stay emotionally balanced and for that reason we need social life with its sense of togetherness.  Yes, that is to be encouraged – but again this is a partial picture.  We must continue to apply our climate-curbing methods and stay steadfast to the tasks before us; this includes holding all governments accountable.




A blooming rose in December. Rockcastle Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 4, 2021   Preserving the Last Rose of Summer

        One early sharp December evening fifty years ago, I was on my way back to my residence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and passed the National Botanical Garden.  I was surprised to see that a single flower on a rose bush had survived a deep frost.  Granted, today in far warmer times there might be many survivors on that bush -- and they all ought to remain for viewing by passersby.  In my sense of compassion, I picked that 1971 surviving rose and took it back to my room, and pressed it to include in a Christmas card for my mother who loved roses; a less than perfect act imitating Jacob fooling his father Isaac.  Why let a rose die alone?

        Why this somewhat sentimental tale?  We like to see survivors even when their remaining time is limited.  These are the ones who last long beyond their normal time, when others have happily served their duties and passed on.  The competitor who goes for the crown when others are left behind receives the applause, even though we are convinced that such crowns have hollow rings.  However, survivors of more noble causes stand out and touch our hearts for their sheer endurance; they move us to give them a special place.  In life's great competition, those who last to the end deserve our recognition.  We are encouraged to hold on until the end, for so St. Paul instructs Timothy; surviving is an act of fidelity.

        A single thought might survive.  Often when giving a homily, I pray that if one point changes one person for the better then the homily is worth it.  What is at stake is the hope for plentiful survival of all our actions including our many words spoken or written.  We tend to forget that we mortals are deeply immersed in a survival struggle.  Each of us is a survivor functioning in a world of constant change. 

        This writing is a final blooming of an older person, and its survival is a struggle infused with hope.  Our reflections have a moment in the sun and then as the busy days of life go on, they fade and often others snatch up fragments; these fashion themselves into new works to be stitched together for some good purpose.  Surviving enters into the DNA of living tradition.  Our reflections have no permanent copyrights unless we are a rare Shakespeare -- and we are not.  Most of the Bard's thoughts did not survive though some very good ones did.  Like that last rose, we strive to remain a lasting sign of Summers's past before we fade.  What survives even crumbling memorials?  Only eternal Love. 

          Postscript: While distributing my mother's keepsakes after her passing in 2005, we found that last rose of summer in her bible.  I confess I do not know whether it survived that discovery.

          Prayer: Oh Lord who is love, help us understand what is truly enduring and make this the center of our lives; help us see survivors, even roses, as witnesses striving for permanence; make us seek after love that survives, after faith and hope passes.










Looking up
Reaching for the sky.
 (*photo credit)

December 5, 2021  Becoming Forerunners of the Future

        A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord.
(Luke 3:4)

        During this holy season of Advent, we look into history and reacquaint ourselves with prophets.  We become briefly acquainted with the Old Testament prophet Baruch (5: 1-9), one who remotely prepares the way for the Lord by leveling the barriers that lead to an easily accessible pathway.  In the Gospel we observe the proximate forerunner, John the Baptist, a voice in the desert preparing the way of the Lord.  He is a transition, a bridge between Old and New Testament.  Through discipline he trains in the desert for his mission.  When his time comes, he delivers a prophetic word for those who venture to hear him in the desert.

          Forerunners are out front exerting themselves spiritually by preparing the way to improved practice.  This requires the discipline of planning and building a highway, and still more.  It takes effort to be forerunners to a future not yet actualized.  Ours is the continuation of the path of salvation history with its years of preparation both remote and proximate.  As individuals, we need to be people capable of focusing on the essential needs of our world.  We make our future with its unique imprint.  We want it to benefit all, and with God's grace we help actualize this goal.  We cannot act alone; God strengthens our cooperative endeavor with its strong community dimension.  

          HERE is the place of contention.  We are driven by the Spirit to break the silence of inaction, to speak out, and to accompany words with needed deed.  It is not a distant remote issue but one that is right at hand.  Silence is never enough and so at times we are moved by the Spirit to speak out.  We know that forerunners do not stand back; through consistent training they prepare for the race; through major exertion they run in an attempt to lead the pack.  Troubles inspire us to run; preparation moves us to the right action.  We cannot mess around and get distracted, for our race is serious work.

          The time is NOW.  We are called to take responsibility when others are hungry and in need of essentials, food, shelter, etc.  One virtue needed is human dignity, strengthened when we show   others that they are important in helping to renew our world.  Encouragement may not make us heroes, but we are vital leaven for fermenting change.  The poor will rise and those in high places come down -- and we who are forerunners to this coming revolution.

          WE must act together.  Forerunning is not uniquely an individual exercise, for we are called to prepare roads that take mutual cooperation.  Preparing the way is difficult work, for we may suffer in order to bring about the Lord's Advent.  Yes, called to be forerunners, we see this as an opportunity to make a future involving cooperative action to hasten the Day of the Lord.

          Prayer: Lord, give us the stamina to be good forerunners.       










A surprise finding in a warm early December.
 (*photo credit)

December 6, 2021     Attacking Climate Change    

        Climate change comes under attack in at least three ways: negatively, deliberate effort by some to demean the findings of the world's climate scientists; acknowledging the phenomenon, but say it is not through human causation; and positively, as ecological efforts to halt the change and save our environment.  After each hot summer and associated wildfires, fewer people think climate change is either not occurring or from non-human causes.  However, a minority of Americans (more than those of other nations) still follow merchants of doubt who want to stretch fossil fuel to the utmost.  Why do potentially well-informed folks doubt?   

        The answer is commercial propaganda of a very perverse sort, one that captures hearts and minds by persistence of its message: climate change data is emerging and there's a chance scientists are wrong.  The merchants of doubt are continuing similar efforts perpetrated against dangers of smoking that resulted in decades of unregulated profits for Big Tobacco.  Today we confront immense commercial forces, namely Big Energy, which wants to fight regulations by capturing conservative legislators.  Thus, these doubters are buying time to continue receiving perks associated with fossil fuel (oil, coal, and natural gas) use.  They discourage energy efficiency and renewable energy, for these climate-control routes would undermine their profit-taking.

        These profiteers feed on a media that loves to construct "two sides" to an argument, all the while pretending to remain neutral.  In fact, from a scientific viewpoint the case is closed; Big Energy continues to damage a wounded Earth that may take millennia to recover from greedy corporate practices with their social costs to the public and private profit to the few.

        In this Advent season when we ought to come to grips with radical spiritual insight, we must resurface this American industry-led harassment of U.S.-based climate scientists who are not often political in temperament.  While needing to observe signs of the times, we are confronted with a hidden organized effort to doubt scientific evidence showing that climate change has anthropogenic origin.  Incidentally, these doubts have had strong encouragement by the previous Administration and its donors. 

        Currently, fossil fuels fill in the gaps before full transition in the 2040's to renewable energy programs: carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing in this country due to rapid fuel source transfer from coal; the speed is reduced by the use of fracked natural gas with increasing methane emissions that could run as high as 4% of natural gas procurement, transport and processing.  This "clean" fuel hastens climate change faster than burning coal, because released methane (in natural gas) is two dozen times more potent as a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide.

          Prayer: Lord, give us the clear insight to see what is happening to our Earth, and give us courage to challenge doubters.









Ice is nice
Ripples of ice from melted icicles.
 (*photo credit)

December 7, 2021    Realizing that Pearl Harbor Could Reoccur

        In early December eighty years ago, I clearly recall standing at the church steps with another grade schooler and discussing whether New York City would be attacked next.  The thinning ranks of those of us who remember Pearl Harbor, and a dwindling number who were actually at the attack site, can testify to the trauma of going to war in 1941.  Likewise, the awful 9-11, 2001 incident makes it easier to talk about possible surprise attacks.

          Cybernetically, such an attack in this computerized age could do immense damage to utilities, transport networks, communication systems, and banking establishments, to name just a few.  We would be in a state of chaos, and it would most likely take time to recover.  Many national safety experts worry; homeland security people focus attention on the possibilities of such an attack and its aftereffects.  To some extent cyber warfare may have already been discussed by various terrorist groups and nations.   Who knows whether Cyber warfare lies before us?

          Biologically, some forms of pathogens could be introduced into our food supply and do untold harm.  It may be slipped through air, land, or sea routes and go undetected until the first victims appear.  Has it already been done?  What about spread of Lyme disease affecting so many from tick bites (brought from visiting deer into a guarded government biolab)?  Such forms of pathogen escape or intentional introduction are not beyond possibility. 

          Terroristically, airplanes or other modes of transportation could be destroyed by a competent and secretive "underwear" bomber who sneaks lethal materials aboard and detonates them.  We want safeguards that are not intrusive and yet cover an entire cohort of travelers coming to our country from all parts of the world.   Such absolute and complete security cannot be ensured or, if attempted too rigidly, would add much to expense and inconvenience for travelers.  Many do not appreciate the heavy-handed searching that is required for such thoroughness, but will tolerate it for "other" people.  Terrorists recognize their power of surprise that adds suspense to their purpose, widespread publicity, and effective, and yet untested, deadly methods.

          Oligarchically, Pearl Harbor could involve the total takeover of our democratic process by a wealthy contingent of individuals who dictate policy through lobbyists' and donors' demands to those in power in our country.  This is a threat of immense and unrealized dimensions, and in some way is more subtle and yet just as grave as others mentioned.  We can lose our freedom and never even know it happened.  In place of a Pearl Harbor event, it could be a time lapse with victims' attention turned to bread and circuses; attention is missing from what is actually happening.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to be alert, especially during this Advent season, and never let down our guard.  Help us to live with worldly troubles and still retain our peace of soul.










Sun beams through the forest with a blanket of snow.
 (*photo credit)

December 8, 2021  Considering Immaculate Conception and Motivation

        Today's is the patronal feast of the United States, and it is also the feast that is more misunderstood than any other in the Church calendar.  To some, this Feast of the Immaculate Conception deals with the conception of Christ, but that is not the case.  We speak of Mary being always free of any stain of sin, in God's preparing her for the coming of Christ.  God's singular grace is given to her, and we celebrate that gift in a special way.  We can liken the preparation of Mary's physical birth to our being born into the Church through Baptism.  Here we extend our reflection to our maturing purification of motivation on our journey of faith.

        A pure intention is one that is spiritual in its depths and without individual human material self-satisfaction as a principal motivation.  Part of this world's troubles is greedy profit motivation that builds on the human tendency to selfishness.  In response we must reflect on the degree of purity of our motivation and attempt to leave selfishness behind.  We are people on a sacred mission; the material aspects are there and must be sorted and understood.  Individually, we are to become more and more selfless people working within a spiritual community to serve our brothers and sisters in need.  Through our desire to be like Christ and sacrificing self we touch the hearts of others and assist them in their faith journey.  This is also Mary's special role.

        It is not the summation of all totally pure motivations that make a change in our world, for such total purity is nearly impossible.  What is within reach is the quality of people becoming more motivated to be selfless that gives others inspiration to become selfless in their actions.  To the degree that this goal of dignified human struggle is in the forefront, our purification of motives will approach that of the Virgin Mary's acceptance of God.  Strangely, our purification process has a material element -- the essential needs of all people (food, shelter, education, and health), and through awareness our work can be successful. 

        The spiritual quest for a purified national motive to reach a lofty selfless goal is always accompanied by a concern that includes furnishing essentials to all people.  We are not divorced in the spiritual quest from matter, for Mary realized in time that a Messiah's rearing was challenging; he would eat, sleep, and walk about like the rest of us.  Through likeness to Mary we also learn about the wedding of the spiritual and material in the incarnation of the Lord.  An authentic and purely motivated spirituality includes material concern for all people and not just ourselves.  If America were so motivated, we could be a great nation.  Mary's purity is what we seek for our purified national goals and an enhanced motivation to bring about needed renewal.

          Prayer: Lord, give us as individuals a sense of selfless concern for others who are in need.  Help us as a nation to rise above profit motivation and to assist others within our land and in the world to help meet their essential needs.










Happy Holidays
Festive outdoor lights to warm the evening spirit.
 (*photo credit)

December 9, 2021  Decorating with Taste, Safety, and Cost in Mind

        Decorating home, office, school or church seems so appropriate on Tinsel Day; do we run the risk of repeating ourselves on safe decorations and choice of artificial decorations?  If you are moved to decorate for the holidays, consider these points:

          Decorating with taste is presented first because people intend to splurge during the holidays to some degree.  In Depression times we went on a hike on a December Sunday and chose the cedar in the field that would be ideal for decorating our humble home.  The scent of cedar to this day brings back happy Christmas events. In a frugal way my family saved decoration materials, even tinsel from year to year, and yet we had mistletoe and other simple but tasteful natural and temporary decorations to fit with festive foods.  Others in more affluent times splurge on elaborate streamers, banks of lights in and out of the house, and numerous examples that may even be regarded as in bad taste.  Some hope the gaudiness will be caught by a media seeking houses ablaze with Christmas light.  Consider simplicity at Christmas.

          Decorating safely is often overlooked when it comes to open fires, heated surfaces, and combustible materials, all possible when dealing with modern decorations.  For instance, the artistic decorator may create a centerpiece of pine boughs with candles to be lit on a major occasion.  In the middle of that event, the lit candles are forgotten and cause a fire.  It may have been a tasteful choice but a fire hazard, since pine sprigs dry out and become ideal tinder for a conflagration.  St. Lucy-style maidens with lit candles in their hair will testify to one or other terrible story of the unexpected hair fire.  Taste should always be balanced by safety, and pine boughs that easily burn could be replaced by less flammable holly and vine wreathes.  Safety first decorators ought to focus on less flammable products.  Evergreens tend to dry out indoors, while more safe as outdoor decorations.  Refrain from open fires, lit candles, or smoking.

          Decorating expenses may not be a determining factor, but this year many households will watch their pennies.  Perhaps a deciding factor that trumps taste or safety is a recyclable artificial tree.  Also, a tree with roots and plantable in the yard as a permanent decoration may mitigate an initial expenditure.  Some tasteful folks demand the real thing, and we will not quibble for time calls us to focus elsewhere; besides, real tree commerce keeps small growers alive.  The Great Depression made us captivated by real "weed" cedar bushes so why not now?  Christmas decorating comes once a year.  Homemade decorations always can top commercial varieties, when creations compete with costs and manifest extra creativity.  Furthermore, in the long run the homemade decorations are remembered and treasured by young and old alike.

          Prayer: Lord, give us balance in our decoration tastes, safety and economics in what we do on festive occasion and in our efforts to beautify this world properly.









Will Methane Emissions Be Brought Under Control?

            We continue to reflect on curbing climate change in the light of the recently completed COP26 Conference in Glasgow.  At one phase of that meeting, one hundred nations pledged that they would cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.  For those of us who have been aware of the pollution problems associated with methane (the major component of natural gas), this seems reasonable only if the nations are willing to act.  Certainly reductions will have a major effect in an attempt to curb global temperature increases, but will nations keep promises?

            The sources of emissions are only partly anthropogenic, and some are more easily controlled than others.  The sources are 1. Natural wetlands; 2. Paddy rice fields; 3. Emissions from livestock production; 4. Biomass burning (forest fires, charcoal combustion and firewood use); 5. Anaerobic decomposition of organic wastes in landfills; and 6. Methane escape in fossil fuel exploration, drilling, transport and processing.  The exact amounts of  emissions from each source is not fully known, and so experts say a much larger amount is emitted in fossil fuel extraction that what is normally reported.  On top of this is the potential source of vast amounts of methane escaping from melting permafrost in the Arctic regions, due to rising  temperatures – and this is not yet counted  as a major source.

            Reducing methane emissions is perhaps the cheapest method of curbing climate change.  Some experts say that one-quarter of the already observable changes due to climate change is contributed by methane emissions.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that restricting these emissions could be equivalent to closing all of the Chinese coal powerplants.  In fact, the easiest methane control would be in fossil fuel production improvements.  The IEA states that global oil and gas changes in technologies available today could cut three-quarters of the emissions -- and two-thirds of this would be at no net cost to the industry.  Further reductions could occur in utilizing escaping methane from landfills, for some of the sources (such as marsh gas) defy meaningful controls.  Certainly, cutting meat and dairy livestock use by vegan dieting would have some effect, but the amount is highly disputed by agricultural groups.  However, cutting rain forests for new pasturelands in Brazil and elsewhere could accelerate climate change.

            The issue is more complex because methane, while having a far greater greenhouse effect per unit in contrast to carbon dioxide, still remains in the atmosphere for only a decade; carbon dioxide emissions remain for several centuries.  However, curbing new methane emissions is the cheapest way to get the results we sorely desire.  So we must keep up the pressure on nations to observe the pledge, especially the U.S., with its recent reinstated regulations in fossil fuel production.    








Snow squall
First snowfall in the Mountains. Rowan Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 10, 2021  Emerging Ethnic Group in Appalachia

        Do I know more about our Appalachian people after living among them in my early years and then working for another 44 years within the region?  Yes and no.  After some study and keeping our observational skills honed, we discover that many ancestry traces and cultural traits blend over time.  We have in this Appalachian region strong traces of Native Americans, especially those who were not expelled or killed but, rather, who receded into the recesses of the hollows or quietly intermarried with settlers.  These added their good qualities to the emerging Appalachian culture. 

        To this Native American trace is added the strong independence of Celtic Scotch-Irish and the northern English who wanted independence and self-sustainable living as a hallmark of their vision of success.  Freedom comes with fierce loyalty and can include clannish and isolated ways.  The northern half of our Appalachian region has an added dose of Germanic character coming from movement directly west from the Atlantic coast in the 19th century.  Add to this coal mining employment opportunities that brought African Americans, Italians, Hungarians, Slavic people, and others to the mountains to add spice to the culture.  All these elements have led to an emerging culture that differs from pure strains of presumed "Mountain" ethnicity.

        Ethnicity now becomes an Appalachian blend; by definition, this ethnicity is a feeling of belonging to a given culture to which one is proud to identify.  Amazingly, many in our region do not understand the Census question about ethnicity and are genuinely puzzled by the limited list, for "Appalachian" is not mentioned.  They belong to a distinct culture that can be defined by music, dance, choice of words, goals in life, and cuisine.  Some of this shows strong Celtic origins and some is new and flavored by the others who came, have been welcomed, and integrated into the total regional culture.  Incidentally, most don't know a Celt.

        More than in any other part of America, many Appalachians resort to accepting the definition of being "American," and this in many central Appalachian counties outnumbers the more standard listing of English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Irish, and German.  In some counties one or other of the named groups will in a period of data-gathering outnumber the "American" component, but not by much.  Had there been an entry called "Appalachian" that would have won hands down because ethnicity has this real sense of being so identified.  Most of the older ethnically-rooted support institutions have never existed in Appalachia, while strong local and regional cultural groups have emerged as substitutes.  Identity comes through acceptance of local ways of doing things and here they are "Appalachian."  The Ethnicity of incoming groups was not emphasized except in rare cases such as northern West Virginia or further north. "American" really means "Appalachian."

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to love what we have received and to help improve it through mutual support of cultural connections.









Bird's treat
Gift for hungry winter birds.
 (*photo credit)

December 11, 2021  Finding Ethnic Amalgamation or Diversification

        Some would note that older ethnic groups melt away or amalgamate over time as discussed in yesterday's reflection.  This is why it is all the harder to find the Scottish and Scotch-Irish in our midst even while people with these traces are around, but are not familiar with their roots.  As mixed marriages occur over time children of varied ethnicity are the product; thus, it is increasing difficult to identify distant roots.  Over time we can expect that ethnic diversity occurs.  In fact, this is why many will resort to put on a census form that they are simply "American" -- as commonly found in Kentucky, Tennessee and states immediately to the south and west.  In these states specific European origin becomes more unclear for native residents.

        In our Earthhealing ethnic work over five decades we find an emerging ethnic picture of localities and entire regions in motion.  While amalgamation does occur, especially in older 17th and 18th century arriving groups, America has always had a fresh infusion of emerging ethnic groups; amalgamation is not the total picture.  In this 21st century, large numbers of Asians and Latin American people have come to this country legally or otherwise, and these add diversity in amounts not seen since the great migrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  At that last great migration period, large numbers of southern and eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners formed ethnic clusters, communities, and parishes found in industrialized America -- and followed the similar migration patterns that filled rural America a half century before.  Over time, rural groups weaken as noted in our Ethnic Atlas maps.
Diversification is a factor in the 2020's. 

        Since many of the older white ethnic have lower birth rates than the Latin Americans, we expect minorities to become a new majority through births and continued immigration.  At this time, total general population rise through amalgamation is occurring at a slower rate than population rise through diversification.  Trends will change and we do not expect that Greek or Italian or Polish clusters will expand to the degree that Hispanic and Asians will, because Greece, Italy, and Poland do not furnish large numbers of immigrants.  This is certainly the case also of England, Scotland, and Wales as a dwindling source of immigrants.  Decline of certain ethnic groups and rise of others give mobility to ethnic maps.

Amalgamation occurs through intermarriage and failure of new generations to identify with those of their parents, for as third and further distant generations forget their roots.  They prefer to forego their last name and make a hyphen with a spouse; they move to a suburb or another city and live in a mixed community of those wishing to be "Americans."  But other factors are also happening.  The diverse and newly arrived groups are growing in numbers and this deserves quantification.

          Prayer: Lord, help us know ourselves and honor our forebears; help us be proud of our ethnic diversity.









Paperwhites in the windowsill.
 (*photo credit)

December 12, 2021  Coming of the Savior: A Joyful Advent  

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty savior.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

        The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) is a time when the constant joy of God's presence in our midst is celebrated.  This occurs during a rather somber season when we often are focused on immediate troubles and not on the eventual outcome.  As people seeking comfort, we are overjoyed to find strength in God's presence.  Realizing the hope of God with us and that we are with God, we find joy; so, it is found in a unity of Spirit in our everyday activity.  We are empowered to act with enthusiasm.

          Material satisfaction is transitory.  Simply focusing on the troubles and not the outcome is dispiriting and will wear us down.  Those who want us to focus on the allurement of materialism would like to keep us in this distracted state.  We say "no" to their desire to couple our real poverty with a sense of weakness.  On the other hand, an authentic spirituality allows us to confront the insatiable appetite for material things, and resist successfully.

          We rejoice with the Lord.  Thus, a focus on our calling is reason to rejoice as we flee from the materials that can make us lose heart.  We rejoice in our liberation (a past event), the gift of inner peace (present condition), and the anticipation of greater things to come (future possibilities).  All of these manifest God's promised presence, the coming in time and continued presence, and the future final triumph that will hopefully have our mark upon it.  Past history and future promise unite in the present moment, and involve our participation in the eternal NOW of God. 

        Victory is before us.  Oppression will not triumph even though we have experienced it in a very real way.  Now is a time of jubilation because the pandemic and immediate troubles are not permanent, and we have the power if we believe to help bring a renewal in our world.  We can shake up this status quo, which the privileged want to go unquestioned; their very position totters for it is temporary and unsustainable.  Through the eyes of faith, we see the limits of crass materialism.  We see that changes in global climate are real, can be checked, and the wounds left by wanton human greed can be addressed.  God is savior and as believers we find salvation and assist in saving our threatened world.

          Jesus, the savior and liberator, initiates a process that is ongoing.  We are not bystanders; we are participants in the grand act of liberating this world from those of privilege who do not want us to speak or act.  Our inner peace is knowing God's presence and our awareness of it.  This energizes us, for we do not stop and gaze in the splendor of a beatific vision beyond the horizon.  Jesus leads us to liberation, and we are God's liberating arm by acting in a non-violent manner and with enthusiasm.

          Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to be upbeat even in troubled times.  You are our justice and peace and that is Good News.










Picture 1538
Tall-standing grasses in Washington Co., KY prairie.
 (*photo credit)

December 13, 2021   Identifying State-by-State Ethnic Groups

Alabama            Creek
Alaska               Aleut, Athapaskan, Tlingit, Eskimo
Arizona              Hisp., Hualapai, Navajo, Papago, Mohave, Hopi, Pima
Arkansas            Ozark, Hisp.
California           Hisp., Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Cornish, Persian, Cahuilla
& Native American, Vietnamese, Oceanic
Colorado            Hisp., Ute
Connecticut                Hisp., Ukrainian,
Delaware           Nanticoke, Early Dutch, Hisp.
Florida               Hisp., Seminole, Cuban, Haitian, Jewish
Georgia              Hisp., Old English
Hawaii               Hawaiian, Japanese, Hisp.  
Idaho                        Hisp., Welsh, Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Bannock
Illinois                Hisp., Polish, Lithuanian, Letts, Serbian, 
Indiana              Hisp., Swiss, Shawnee, Miami
Iowa                 Danish, Czech, Dutch, Luxembourg, Sac & Fox, Hisp.
Kansas               Hisp., Germans from Russia, Kickapoos, Potawatomi
Kentucky           Hisp., Central Appalachian, Congolese    
Louisiana            Hisp., Cajun, Acadian, Chitimacha, Houma, Coushatta
Maine                        Canadian, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Micmac
Maryland            Hisp., African American, Piscataway
Massachusetts     Hisp., Irish, Cape Verdeans, Armenian, Wampanoag
Michigan            Hisp., Finnish, Bosnian, Chaldean, Arab, Ottawa
Minnesota          Hisp., Chippewa, Swedish, Somali
Mississippi          Delta African American, Choctaw
Missouri             Hisp., Austrian, Northern Ozark
Montana            Hisp., Crow, Blackfeet, Assinboine, Cheyenne, Flathead Nebraska Hisp., Winnebago, Omaha, Ponca
Nevada              Hisp., Basque, Paiute, Washoe, Pit River
New Hampshire   French Canadian, Scottish
New Jersey         Hisp., Indo-American, Italian, Brazilian
New Mexico                Hisp., Tiwa, Zuni, Keresan, Eastern Apache
New York           Hisp., Greek, Maltese, Turkish, Mohawk, Seneca,Albanian,
Yiddish, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora  
N. Carolina         Hisp., Moravians, Scotch-Irish, Cherokee, Lumbee
N. Dakota          Norwegians. Gros Ventre, Mandan, Hidatsa,
Ohio                  Hisp., Croatian, Slovene, Manx, Hungarian
Oklahoma          Hisp., Cherokee, Osage
Oregon              Hisp.. Umatilla, Modoc, Klamath, Siletz, Walla Walla
Pennsylvania      Hisp., PA "Dutch", Slovak, Ruthenian, early Swedish
Rhode Island      Hisp., Portuguese, Narragansetts
South Carolina    Hisp., Gullah, Huguenot, Catawba;
South Dakota      Hisp., Sioux
Tennessee          Hisp., Southern Appalachian
Texas                        Texmex, Other Hisp., Wend, Arab, Celtic, Alabama
Utah                  Hisp., English, Mormon, Samoan, Goshute
Vermont            French, Yankee English
Virginia              Hisp., Filipino, Salvadoran, Pamunkey, Mattapooni
Washington        Hisp., Makah, Quinault, Salish, Yakima, Puyallup, Spokane
West Virginia      Appalachian, Scotch-Irish
Wisconsin           Hisp., German, Belgian, Menominee, Icelander, Oneida
Wyoming           Hisp., Shoshone, Arapaho

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to celebrate our many ethnic groups.










Picture 1530
Frosty fruits of the coralberry, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus.
 (*photo credit)

December 14, 2021  Honoring Sacagawea's Contribution to America    

        Sacagawea was a humble Native American woman who died 209 years ago today and played a vital role in the settlement of our nation.  Sacagawea embodies all the nobility of her people, for she helped in simple but important ways, as guide and spouse of the interpreter of the historic Lewis & Clark expedition.  It was that official exploration in 1803-5 that solidified our nation with the first formal understanding of the vast Northwestern territory from the Dakotas to the Pacific Ocean.

        Sacagawea was born in present-day Idaho, a member of the Shoshone nation; she was kidnapped at an early age by the Hidatsa and brought to their settlement in present-day North Dakota.  At age thirteen she became the wife of a Quebec trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau, and was pregnant when the Expedition arrived and employed her husband as interpreter -- in part because they heard that his wife spoke Shoshone.  During the travels, Sacagawea through her quick reflexes rescued Clark's journals and artifacts during a river spill, and thus the Sacagawea River was named in her honor.  She was overjoyed when reaching her native territory and her reunion with relatives.  At that point the expedition discovered to the fortune of all that the chief of the resident tribe was her blood brother, Cameahwait, who proceeded to furnish horses and supplies for a key span in the expedition. 

        Sacagawea gave further valuable assistance during the thousands of miles, once by recommending a route through what is Gibbons Pass in Montana and then later the location of Bozeman Pass, each of which she recalled from early travels.  Clark regarded Sacagawea's greatest contribution to be her presence when passing through hostile tribal territory.  These tribes were never accompanied by women when engaging as war parties.  She and her family unit became a sign of the expedition's peaceful intentions, a fact that Clark acknowledged was more valuable than words. 

        Clark was so fond of Sacagawea's son that he regarded him as his own and so he wanted him to receive a formal education.  In fact, the family did move to St. Louis in 1809 where Clark was an official.  Sacagawea died unexpectedly at an early age of 24 in 1812 but her burial place is a matter of dispute.  Her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, and infant daughter Lizette, were left without a mother.  In 1813, the boy was signed over by his father to the special care of Clark, and the boy was educated at the Jesuit school in St. Louis.  He proved a restless soul and became a miner and died during one of the mid-century gold rushes.  It is noted that Sacagawea and her son have their features on an American one-dollar coin, and a number of monuments and statues have been erected in her memory, including one at the North Dakota state capitol.  While not totally appreciated in her life, a grateful nation has responded in later years.

          Prayer: Lord, help us to appreciate the noble contributions of humble people who enter our lives and make them better.










Summer into Autumn
Fall into winter. Maple leaves on weathered farm fence.
 (*photo credit)

December 15, 2021  Confronting So-called "Corporate Persons"

        Corporations are not people.  People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance.  They live, they love, and they die.  And that matters, because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people.
Senator Elizabeth Warren

        The Bill of Rights was a postscript to our long-lasting American Constitution.  Those rights found in these first amendments to our Constitution are guarantees to each and every individual person in our nation.  So much for the flesh and blood of who we are -- but to extend those rights without duties and responsibilities to corporations --- the work of crafty human hands -- is an abomination.  We forsake our Constitution when we idolize corporations and concede powers to their puppeteers who manipulate them.  We create false idols when we allow these corporations to roam freely; the multi-nationals ought to be controlled through fair taxation just as required for the less wealthy population.

        We know the value of larger and small corporations, the many that are incorporated in our nation.  We realize that this very website is one of these incorporated bodies, though a non-profit one.  Earth Healing Inc. must keep rules and follow the confines of the law with annual reporting requirements which are dutifully fulfilled.  It exists to protect all parties and is to stay in existence as long as it fulfills the informational dissemination purpose of its founding.  Then like all mortal concepts it will happily be laid to rest.

        Some multinational corporations have grown bigger than life and are subtle proponents of corporate socialism.  Under an arena of unregulated globalization, they are able to move their resources from nation to nation at will, making Cayman Islands have more corporations (90,000) than people (54,000).  The tax havens allow the rich to slip their money out of the reach of legitimate taxation and to bargain for tax holidays when they bring their billions back and reinvest tax-free; then they move their profits back to the tax havens abroad, or rich outsiders bring their fortunes to tax-haven USA.  This perversity of justice is explained quite lucidly and in a succinct fashion by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in The Betrayal of the American Dream.

        Are we watching the erosion of democracy?  Or better put, are we awakening to what has already happened to us with the loss of millions of jobs?  There was hardly a whimper as plant after plant went overseas with no deference to the communities in which workers had given their livelihoods and care to keep functioning.  It was all for lifeless unregulated corporations with no penalties for tax evasion and outlandish salaries and perks for CEOs.

          Prayer: Lord, keep us patient enough to confront theft, courageous enough to challenge it, and powerful enough to preserve our hard-won democracy.










Springtime in Kentucky
Billowy seeds of the thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana.
 (*photo credit)

December 16, 2021  Promising Renewable Geothermal Energy

        Geothermal energy is essentially renewable, for the greater part is environmentally benign and, once tapped, is dependable and low-cost.  While it is part of the total renewable energy mix, it is less than 2%, but expected to grow later in this decade.  This form of energy uses the internal energy of the Earth's crust and is tapped generally by drilling costly holes 3 to 10 kilometers deep.  This source has heavy up-front costs due to seismic inventory, drilling costs and preparation for production.

        The U.S. leads the world with more than one-fifth of total installation and production of geothermal energy with Indonesia a strong second, followed by Kenya, Philippines and Turkey.  America has many potential geothermal sites, and it seems the future is rosy. In Iceland 90% of space heating and 27% of electricity is derived from geothermal sources.  American geothermal sources are centered in California and other western states.  However, even with the rapid 21st century solar and wind advancements, U.S. geothermal electrical generation grows at a far slower pace. 

        The Earth's heat is utilized for electrical generation from hydrothermal fluids (steam or water) and direct application in residential, industrial and commercial uses, such as greenhouses and fish farms.  Highly efficient heat pumps are the popular means of tapping geothermal ground sources.  Once drilling and installment of equipment is complete, the heat and hydrothermal fluids are sort of free of charge, as so much of costs are up-front and in initial investment.  The current Administration favors development of renewables, but promising geothermal will require loans in order to expand production to compete with rapidly expanding solar and wind energy applications.

        Improving the American geothermal portion in our energy mix could follow the example of Germany and another dozen countries and experiment with feed-in tariffs.  These have included fixed payments for the electricity generated by wind turbines, solar panels and biogas power plants.  Germany introduced these renewable support systems in the year 2000 and has reached world leadership in renewables.  Germany extends this to geothermal, though beginning from a low starting base; their FIT amount averages 14 cents per kilowatt hour, but is adjusted according to when projects are completed, how the technology is used, and the type of technology employed.  German plans are ambitious.

        Geothermal could become a more sizeable part of the U.S. energy scene, and much depends on selling this excellent renewable source to the growing green energy financial community in this country.  In addition, new ways of public financing initial investments may be an answer.  This potential needs tapping to curb climate change.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to value safe energy sources at hand, and to make every effort to use those more environmentally benign for the benefit of all our citizens.







Are Renewables Advancing Fast Enough to Curb Climate Change?

          In the light of the recent COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, we are asking some fundamental questions, which deserve periodic repeating because of their critical nature.   Climate change must be curbed and we have seen that one easy way is to curb natural gas escape from fossil fuel processing and applications (last week’s essay).  A more difficult question deals with the replacement of fossil fuels, which are essential right now to meet increasing global energy demands.  The amount of coal used in 2021 for meeting energy needs increased over 2020 and equaled 2019. 

          Wind and solar electricity generating capacity is increasing, but is partly offset by reductions in renewable hydropower due to drought; these renewables are 20% in 2021, but are expected to rise to 22% in 2022.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2020 wind added 14.6 gigawatts of capacity, with 17.0 GW expected in 2021 and 6.9 GW in 2022.  Utility-scale solar capacity rose by 10.5 GW in 2020, and is expected to rise by 15.7 GW in 2021 and another 18.2 GW in 2022.  Small-scale solar (systems of less than one megawatt)   grew by 4.5 GW to 27.7 GW in 2020 and will grow by 5.8 GW in 2021 and by another 7.8 GW in 2022.  Yes, growth is occurring but not fast enough.

          If this near-term situation holds steady, curbing of climate change will not be met at less than a 1.5 degree Celsius rise as expected by 2100.  Will this prevent a catastrophe?  To repeat a previous essay, the International Energy Agency said that based on policies countries have actually announced, the world will have around a 2.4 degree rise in global temperature by the end of the century and this most certainly would be a catastrophe.  Changes must occur and they must occur rapidly, if a catastrophe is to be avoided.  First, the efforts to reduce methane emissions by 30% (as mentioned last week) are a beginning and will assist in total greenhouse reductions.  More is quickly needed, and the second most effective effort after methane reduction must be discontinuing subsidizing fossil fuels and shifting all the financial resources to improvement and development of renewable sources.  Tens of billions of dollars are at stake and some estimate the subsidies are over 600 billion annually.

          The third method for curbing climate change is to generate more independent and governmental investment money for solar and wind.  These include solar on roofs of buildings and parking lots, as well as solar farms on right-of-ways and desert space.  Add to this the expansion of the electric car market as quickly as possible.

          Energy conservation and efficiency measures are a fourth way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and are worth further promotion by citizen groups, as well as educational and religious agencies.  More conservation is possible at all economic levels and in all consuming countries, not just selected ones.  On the optimistic side, renewables are highly popular and many more people are willing to utilize them when possible.  It is possible by the 2040s to have these completely replace fossil fuels, but it will require more willing determination on the part of the community of nations.








Springtime in Kentucky
View along Thompson Creek. Mercer Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 17, 2021  Making It in America and Wright Brothers Day
        This title is not an opportunity to practice American chauvinism; rather, the goal is social justice.  Our nation has lost ten million jobs to overseas manufacturers since the turn of the century.  In our small-town factory area of Appalachia, the economy has been devastated; had jobs remained, our region would be thriving.  Profiteers and captains of industry, without consulting the local community, decided to move operations to less regulated and lower wage-scale lands.  Workers who gave their entire working lives to a company were heartlessly fired.  

        Why bring up this subject on Wright Brothers Day?  Because the American Wright Brothers were instrumental at the beginning of the 20th century in achieving what humans had dreamed of for millennia, namely, to fly like a bird.  A struggling survivor in our crippled industrialized economy is the aircraft industry that is also being gradually outsourced to China.  When enough expertise, tools, and blueprints have been acquired, the Chinese will start their own competition to Boeing -- and, in fact, they already have launched a lighter aircraft industry that will start to mushroom. 

        Our attention should not be focused on the rise of competition in other lands, but rather on preserving our home-grown industries from shoes to steel, from clothing to machine tools, from food processing to aircraft.  Some advantages to keeping our industry includes better control over desired quality when homegrown.  The energy sources and raw materials are closer at hand and products can be delivered in a dependable manner in shorter time.  Skilled people with a sense of self-worth find this characteristic strengthened by job guarantees, especially in periods of middle life when demands on earnings are great.  This self-worth extends to entire communities and involves past social capital needed for future community development; this includes academics, worship, retirement and health services, and the political life of people.

        In energy areas closer to home, renewables are starting to thrive and a quarter of a million U.S. job opportunities exist for their preparation and maintenance.  Yes, cheap fracked natural gas is prolonging the fossil fuel era economy, but is being seen as not as clean as originally anticipated.  With this new Administration, far more attention is being given to competitive solar and wind renewables, along with installment of hydropower facilities at existing dam sites.  These, plus geothermal applications, require materials that could competitively be U.S.-produced and delivered.

        The movement to improve our infrastructure (roads, airports, shipping centers, health facilities, educational institutions, bridges, railroads, parks, and seaports) will take resources: building materials and equipment, as well as construction.  All can expect the need for millions of American workers.

          Prayer: Lord, give us courage and foresight to help build a sound and healthy local economy for the common good.









Springtime in Kentucky
Skyward view in mid-December.
 (*photo credit)

December 18, 2021     Caregiving and Institutionalization

          One of the most onerous decisions for responsible and concerned people is when loved ones need additional care, beyond what the family caregiver can provide.   The possibility looms for institutionalizing these dependent people.  A difficult decision emerges for the family and, the more loving the group, the harder it is.  Granted, care at home is better, all things considered, but some questions need to be addressed with growing dependency: Is the care receiver getting total care?  Is the home facility up for the task?  Are increasing duties beyond the capability of the current caregiver?

          The person cared for is the primary consideration.  Though some who love them immensely would like to be the primary caregiver, this may work for only a certain period of time.  However, aging, infirmity, and physical or mental conditions may render the caregiver less able over time.  Lifting, bathing and showers may be too much.  Will the cared for individual improve and return to semi-independence, or is the condition permanently worsening?  Helping someone in their span of semi-independence is one thing; when they are totally dependent and need nursing care, it takes full-time caregiving and it taxes many home caregivers beyond their means.  If this condition degenerates into an impossibility of improvement, then caregiving must change.

          Facilities of "home-care" have a good and familiar ring that makes the sick or elderly comfortable.  While it is ideally better to be lodged in one's home with loved ones around, that is not always the practical solution.  What if the place is relatively isolated and transporting supplies to it is difficult?  What if it is not a suitable place due to severe winters or summer heat?  What if the vicinity is congested, noisy, insecure, or prone to flood or other natural disasters?  What if living accommodations degenerate over time?  Homes are wonderful, but for the sick or elderly person they may not be or remain ideal or even serviceable when better-suited alternatives are available.

          Caregivers have their limitations.  Some have to do extra exterior work to meet financial needs.  (Public support of caregivers could alleviate this, with public support of visiting assistants or nurses).  Heroic efforts may simply be too much for the loved one who is the caregiver.  Does the ideal home situation give way to the need to institutionalize the patient?  One answer is public finances of the dependent remaining at home but having outsiders hired at government expense for caregiving services.  This avoids the problems of institutionalization and frees overworked domestic caregivers.  In fact, this is a source of occupations that gives worth to the hired persons and additional comfort to the ill and elderly.

          Prayer: Lord, direct and guide those who reach the limits of caring for a growing dependent loved one.  Inspire them to ask sound advice from those who understand the situation.









In my backyard
An elderly pet does some exoloring, with supervision.
 (*photo credit)

December 19, 2021  Expecting Parents: A Blessed Advent
          I never had the experience, but I have been close to folks who have expected a new member of the family -- and observed the blessedness of the event.  The birthing experience appears to be a consuming one with dangers, timing, questions about assisting personnel, and even possible need of emergency facilities.  At every hour on this planet over ten thousand births occur, but let us flash back to a particular one on that first Christmas -- and the situation of those poor and ill-equipped travelers without proper anticipated lodging or assistance.

        Mary has gone through a trauma in being with child and yet of unknown father to some -- an event, had it been known, in the strict local circumstances could have been punishable by ostracizing or more.  She had a secret with the Lord and she still showed magnanimous gratitude in what God had done for her.  Amid this vast uncertainty of an expected birth she traveled with Joseph to the census event in which he was required to go to his native place of Bethlehem.  But as the journey took them closer to this town, the frightful reality of an upcoming birth and no room because of crowded conditions stuck her in a special way as mother-to-be, a first time.  What went through her or Joseph's mind?

          Joseph was the watchful foster-father to be, and severe trepidation confronted him as well.  He was inspired to take Mary as his wife even though the great mystery of what happened eluded him.  What Mary had in trust of divine protection was also in some degree shared with Joseph.  As protector, he had to find their way to a safe and secure lodging, and with possible assistance from a kind and skillful midwife.  Then reality set in after this tiresome journey -- there was no inn available to these humble folk.  The only shelter was a cave/stable in the vicinity, amid the livestock. This was the best, and humbling enough for this poor couple.

        As we contemplate the preparations for that first Christmas our minds turn to the on-going birthing of millions since last Christmas, and wonder about pregnant women who are refugees, and also of those who are in such modest circumstances that they are uncertain of food and clothing for their offspring.  We pray for those who have had troubles leading up to birth, those whose partners have abandoned them in this time of need, and those who are starting a single-parent family. 

        Our hearts go out to all such poor folks in our troubled world, and we hope that caregivers will be available and generous during impending moments of need.  As a new year approaches, let us hope that health facilities are expanded in our land and world to handle the many emergencies that will arise.  Let's pray that newcomers will be able to survive and reach a higher quality of life needed for growth and contribution within a needy world.

          Prayer: Lord, look kindly on all expectant mothers and fathers and on their offspring in this troubled world.









Springtime in Kentucky
Noticing a small, but tenacious member of the forest community.
 (*photo credit)

December 20, 2021      Realizing that Winter Is Coming

          Tomorrow is Winter Solstice and we must be prepared.  Of all the seasons this one of hibernation tempts us to hunker down to endure ice and snow.  However, that is not really the best way to view the season.  With Christmas coming on Saturday, we have programs to prepare, gifts to deliver, and visits to make.  It is not a sleepy weekend ahead for us, nor ought it be; now is when we must spend some time thinking of others.  Kids may see winter as a time for special outdoor excitement with new-fallen snow; for older folks it is the time of treacherous streets, icy pathways and steps, and sharp winds.  For all of us, winter invites challenges.

          Look after others.  Unexpected storms bring stranded travelers and people ill-prepared with limited supplies.  It may mean opening our doors to some folks who are far from home, or to give them food or gas money.  Sick and elderly neighbors may need refills on medications or special errands run; others who are less mobile may need a ride or a trip for groceries. 

          Look for opportunities.  Often the snow needs to be cleared from doorways and sidewalks, and early risers may be the first to clear the snow from cars and driveways.  During winter the number of opportunities to assist others actually mounts.  Most often the phones and electronic devices are functioning, and so it is good to check up on near and far loved ones.

          Look over supplies.  Sleet storms are possible in large portions of our country.  These can be exceedingly crippling, for downed electric lines mean blackouts that can last for a period of time.  Preparation for such possible events includes candles, flashlights and fresh batteries, crash blankets, canned food and water supplies, and even power generators.  Everyone should be set for the basics for a two-week stint if sleet happens their way.

          Look out for birds.  Don't forget that winters are hard on wildlife that do not migrate.  Keep bird feeders supplied, for permanent residents have a hard time, especially with prolonged snow cover.  Keep wildlife needs on the winter list.

          Look over winter requirements.  It takes extra time to see that all is in order for food, water and fuel supply.  A final check on insulation and covering certain windows and closing off unused living space is important.  Must we add: save fuel, dress warmly, and prepare for the colder times ahead?

          Look for reading materials.  Winter can be a good catch-up time for the reading we have put off over the more active summer season.  It makes the bad weather a little more endurable. 

          Prayer: Lord, we generally prepare for what is immediately before us such as the Christmas event, and still overlook the possibility of unexpected winter weather for several months.  Give us the foresight to plan well and make this a pleasant winter.








Scenes from the farm
December snow through the pines.
 (*photo credit)

December 21, 2021  Praying for Our Country on Forefather's Day  

        This is a preparation for Forefather's Day in memory of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock.  We have a history for better or worse and are inheritors of a sacred trust: democracy that is of, by, and for the people.  In this age of wealthy American aristocracy, we are closer to losing this inheritance than ever before in our history.  Much of the financial wealth, media, and legislative bodies of this nation are within the hands of oligarchs who regard themselves as above and beyond the law.  What would our forebearers have said about this condition?

          Often this year, this website reflects on a serious threat by secularists to remove God from our courts, our motto, our coinage and bills, and in every phase of public life.  This secularism seeks to become an established religion that is cast in a sea of varied belief and unbelief.  The Pilgrim forefathers would shutter at such a movement, for it is so removed from the values of the American founders and revolutionists.  We are called to be faithful to their spirit, and if our land is taken over by the wealthy, we must rise once more in defense of democracy. 

        What does this all mean?  We cannot continue the unregulated practice of the many of extreme wealth to send their ill-gotten money to out-of-reach tax havens, nor should we allow corporations to dictate tax benefits for themselves at the expense of those taxpayers who hurt in paying their fair taxes.  We are finding it difficult to elect and monitor representatives when they may prefer to function for billionaires and not all the people. 

Prayer for Our Country

        O my Jesus, you say, "verily I say to you, whatsoever you should ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you."  Behold in your name I humbly ask our Heavenly Father to protect every man, woman, and child in our great nation from those who want to delete Your name from our society, i.e., on our money, in our courts, and in our schools.  Protect us from plans of destruction from which our enemies have plotted.

        You, heavenly Father, are the real foundation of our nation.  I thank you for making me a citizen of this land of freedom and unlimited opportunity, which are the results of its Christian base.  Please surround and protect us, and our military with Your love and mercy...in Jesus' name.  Amen

Permission granted by:
Dr. Lyn Fontenot
937 Kaliste Saloom Road
Lafayette, LA 70508










Donkey Face
Portrait of donkey.
(*Photo by Shean Donovan, Creative Commons)

December 22, 2021   Presenting Gus at the First Christmas

        I was born on a farm and came to like Christmas quite early because it was a change in the rhythm of work.  It struck me early that animals like Christmas just as much as we do.  We forget that animals have a great part to play in the early life of Christ.

A Children's Story

        Sheep were in Bethlehem's fields, oxen in the stable, and doves ready to be sold for a child's presentation.  Oh yes, the donkey had a place as well.  History shows us that one such beast of burden was named "Gus," in honor of the current Caesar Augustus.  Some even said this donkey was one of the dumbest of the class of animals called "stupid."  He was the laughing stock of Nazareth.  His price fell because the owner said he wouldn't amount to anything.  The kids said he could not even kick or pull a cart or do farm work.  All he could do was wiggle his ears, but he was sort of proud of that -- if Gus had anything to be proud about.

        Joseph having been engaged to Mary was anxious to have a means of travel for her when she went on journeys.  As a lower-income worker, Joseph kept an eye out for reasonably-priced beasts of burden, and so the asking price for Gus was just right.  If children would approach, at least Gus wouldn't kick or hurt them if they came too close.  The angel Gabriel came to Mary and she said "yes" and thus become the mother of the Lord.  She had to hurry off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was ready to give birth to John the Baptist, and Gus had the task of transporting her.  He did what he had done to the local kids a thousand times before and wiggled his ears at every opportunity, but she seemed to be caught up in other thoughts and so he simply trudged along.  Well after a long visit and rest Gus brought her back to Nazareth; Mary was greeted by Joseph who asked about the kinfolks, travel conditions, and how well Gus performed.  In a short time, Joseph informed Mary they had to conform to a census decree from Emperor Augustus, and they must return to native Bethlehem, for he was of the House of David.

        Gus was especially careful since Mary was expecting a child in a very short time.  However, there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn.  And so, the three of them --Mary, Joseph and Gus had to go and spend the night in a stableThe Christ child was born and placed in a manger of hay-- not straw, which is bedding.  Gus noticed the little child in the manger and he did not eat for fear of disturbing the bed of hay on which the child rested.  He breathed more heavily because his warm breath would kill the chill.  Gus noticed the child look up and open his eyes.  Here was an audience as with kids in Nazareth.  Gus wiggled his ears -- and infant Jesus smiled.  It wasn't gold or frankincense, nor the little shepherd with a kid, or the little drummer, for that would all come later.  The first of the gifts to the new-born king was given by Gus the Donkey, an adopted member of the Holy Family.

          Prayer: Lord, show us when to bring on a smile at Christmas.








Beautiful Sightings in Kentucky
Scene from a carefully-planned meditation garden.
 (*photo credit)

December 23, 2021  Constructing Outdoor Meditation Space

          At St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church, we are turning our surplus 3-acre lawn into a meditation garden as a service to the worshiping and wider community.  Our parish council has voted that this is a special outreach to our community, for it shows that the Church is more than an ornamental building in a community; it is meant for both indoor formal liturgy and its surrounding outdoors is meant also for the glory of God.  To date, lawn projects have included:

        * Fruit and nut trees were planted early on a few years ago and dedicated to various donating families.  These include mulberry, peach, pear, cherry, apple, plum, hazelnuts and pecans. Blueberries have been planted on the steep hard-to-mow hillside.  Except for mulberries, the fruit-bearing record to date has been spotty.  Besides these, we have ten other tree species together with a raspberry patch.

        * Eight raised-bed Garden plots for growing organic vegetables have evolved over time.  In the last two years we have had bumper crops of mustard, onions, garlic, kale, collards, sweet and hot peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, Swiss chard, endive, arugula, and lettuce.  We add a variety of tomatoes and cucumbers as well, and have flowers interwoven to bloom in much of the growing season.  The garden area contains a compost bin for kitchen wastes.

          * A wetland area has been left in proper vegetation along with volunteered jewelweed (for use in making skin lotion) and other volunteer species such as goldenrod.

        * A circular herb garden, about 24 feet in diameter with six equal-sized slices with gravel walkways all around, has been added with help from the local herb garden club.  In the sections are six principle mints (apple, spearmint, peppermint, Kentucky, chocolate and pineapple mint and bay balm) with about three other herbs per section, for two dozen total.  At the center is a statue of St. Fiacre, the patron of herbal gardens.                  

        * A reflection pool has been constructed approximately 18 inches deep so as not to be a danger for young intruders.  The bottom is covered with a buried pool liner after sandwiching it with layers of felt.  This is home for contented singing frogs.

        * A 55-gallen rainwater barrel at the storage building allows good water for watering small amounts in dry times.  We also have a hookup to a 10,000-gallon cistern under the rectory for watering the vegetable and herbal gardens during times of drought.

          * Flowers are tended on the hillside above the Church along with several flower plots beside and in front of the church.

          Prayer: Lord, help us as a community of faith to create sacred space, and to invite all who desire to come and meditate.






Can We Reach Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050?

          This essay is being written at the end of the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, and what started as an optimistic gathering of almost 200 nations on November 1st was ending on a more realistic note.  Much more must be done to overcome the heavy influence of 600 Big Energy lobbyists attending (bigger than any one nation’s delegation), pushing to keep fossil fuels for the indefinite future.  Even the bare mention of possible reductions in such fuels brought immediate opposition; this failed to reach a more needed call to phase out coal, oil and gas applications by 2050.  The youthful alternative conference attendees were irate that more was not done to promote fossil fuel phase-out.  Energy producers and consuming nations like Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and India did not accept a general policy of pin-pointing culprit fuels and this added to disappointment by environmentalists.

          These things being said, what are the chances that zero carbon emissions can be reached by the mid-century?  And if they are not, does this mean we are heading for 2.4 degree Celsius rise and the possible catastrophe; such would deeply affect Pacific Island nations by ocean rise and Bangladesh through severe flooding, along with inundated coastal strips in many parts of the world inhabited by the poor?  A pessimistic outlook is appearing, and an optimistic one is questionable at this time.  Realism, with its hard work and possible failure is before us, and takes a spiritual insight to remain steadfast in coming to save our threatened planet.

          Investment funds could be secured; technologies for effective renewable energy replacements are known and currently operative; collaboration on the part of many private institutions and public agencies are committed to zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 – and they are already working for that goal.  Their numbers must be multiplied quickly, but is that enough?

          I am convinced more must be done in controlling the current economic system with its gross inequalities – and that civic interest and religious and educational groups are far too mild in proposing their joint goals.  We cannot expect the influential Big Energy giants to be converted to the zero goal.  These must be confronted and political action taken by major governments to cut subsidies and enact fair taxes.  Divest from the fossil fuel industry, expose their policies.  Is it life and death for them?  One practical answer to oil, gas and coal corporations is to be creative and expand their horizons to become energy efficiency and renewable energy organizations, for there is a great future here; the expanding population needs energy of some sort to run their air conditioners and electronic devices.

          The future can be one of sufficient energy, but it must be of a renewable type or its equivalent through conservation alternatives.  We elders will not be around at the half century mark, but our efforts could assist in saving the mid-century world, if we work hard.  Let’s hope so.








Autumn treats
Waiting for a long, winter night.
 (*photo credit)

December 24, 2021    Spreading the Pure Joy of Christmas

          Christmas joy to you!  This is our basic message to many faithful readers and viewers.  A multitude of cards, phone calls, emails and social media messages express this joyful sentiment as we try to spread that sense of bliss and happiness to others.  Let it be a way to comfort those who have endured and survived the past two-year pandemic.  May all find peace that the Christ child brings to our troubled world. 

          Christmas joy is a child's delight.  Little children stand at this supreme moment amid their songs and skits before the crib with memories of great expectancy coming to fulfillment.  For some, it is the few additions to their lives of material want; for others it is a prayer that good things will come about and loved ones return and be present; for still others it is a sense of satisfaction that they have shared a little of what they have with the needy.

          Christmas joy is the Liturgy of this night.  In our parish we conclude our post-communion period by the tradition of turning down the church lighting, and each holding a lighted candle and singing "Silent Night."  Here we enter the mentality of children who have waited so long, who expect good things, and who await the coming of Christ in a special way.  At one blessed moment when the troubled world pauses, we feel the wintery darkness outside and yet we discover the softness of the world's brightening light. 

          Christmas joy is found in growing light.  We are told that the original pagan feast occurred when supposedly the increasing autumn darkness of each passing day would not end, but rather the world might be cast into total darkness.  When the first signs of lengthening day light occurred, there was great celebration.  Believers also came to realize that the darkness of sin has not conquered; light is returning and days are getting longer.  The soft and gentle light of the candle foreshadows new brightness to come in the near and distant future.  Darkness does not conquer; we have eternal light; the Prince of Light is here.

          Christmas joy deserves a brief unfettered sight.  With this sense of hope we return to the pure joy of this evening.  While those who suffer call for our attention and rightly so, let us not abandon them, but look inside our hearts and discover a peace of soul that is not disturbed by darkness all around us.  For one brief moment, let us celebrate this peace in sacred communion with the Lord who comes to us amid our hardships.  His coming in a stable and amid uncertainties of homeless parents is a blessed event, when time stands still with the sacred NOW of God's presence: angelic choirs sing, shepherds adore, and even the animals around give a sense of solemnity to this monumental event.       

  Prayer: Lord, you come as promised to a world of unfinished business; help us focus, even for so brief a moment, on the importance of this coming to us.  Give us the simple joy of that first Christmas.








In my backyard
The Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides.
 (*photo credit)

December 25, 2021  Recalling Christmas and Manchester Prisoners

        The blessings of Christmas to all readers and to those who are confined in circumstances wherein they are immobile.  My heart goes out every frosty Christmas morn for the many who are unable to share this blessed event with their families and loved ones.  I recall memories from my ministry to prisoners at the Manchester Federal Correction Institution.  No group in America deserve more compassion than the three million Americans behind bars, for these deserve our prayers and well wishes amid their confinement.  Amazingly, their very locations show a more cheerful atmosphere on the outside than what they can see and experience within.  I try to depict this in our book Appalachian Sensations: A Journey through the Seasons with Warren & Pat Brunner with a December excerpt:

December -- Glistening Razor Fence at Manchester Prison

            The spirit of the Lord
            YHWH has been given to me,
            for YHWH has anointed me,
            sending me to bring good news to the poor,
            to bind up hearts that are broken;
            to proclaim liberty to captives,
            freedom to those in prison.
(Isaiah 61:1)

          For one brief moment the Manchester Corrections Institution seems like a giant Christmas display set amid Appalachian hills.  On closer inspection one finds razor wire, guard posts, and a vast prison complex.  When lights illuminate the place on wintry nights, the place sparkles like shrubs with a million Christmas lights.  But behind the glittering wire, a thousand unfortunate prisoners are outcasts to a fearful culture.  Some keep their offense a secret; others regret lost time and uncertain futures that await an ex-felon's life; still others feel the hurt of suffering family members.  They are all part of Appalachia's prison growth industry, victims of America's singular war on crime with few programs for rehabilitation, for there's still much to learn from others, even primitive cultures.  Could we not liberate prisoners by finding better methods of public service and restoring them to society than razor wire sparkling at Christmas time?

          Prayer: Lord, allow your coming into the world to be a special event for those who are unable to celebrate it through duty, confinement, or distance from loved ones for any reason.  Give them the warmth and blessing that only you can provide.







Winter holidays 2005
Glistening of a vintage "tinsel" tree.
 (*photo credit)

December 26, 2021  Struggling Families: Parents and Children  

And Jesus advanced in age and favor... (Luke 2:52)

        Today's Gospel reading deals with the one recorded incident in the 90% of Jesus' life on earth -- from infancy to initial ministry -- that goes mostly unrecorded.  This story of being lost at the Jerusalem Temple never fails to surprise us as to its content and the interaction of parents with child.  In one sense, it is an ordinary event in growing up; on the other hand, this is an extraordinary event in an extraordinary family with a rare happening.  Youth and teens grow and sometimes worrying incidents occur, especially when pre-teenagers venture beyond home life.

          Jesus is finding himself; he has the strength and energy to catch up with his slow-moving family unit as they return to Nazareth from Jerusalem, and so he lingers behind at the Temple.  He wants to engage with scholars of the law, listen, ask questions, and offer answers.  Jesus is a bright young person on a steep learning curve, an advancement that he finds needed for the ministry that is awaiting him.  He seeks out, finds, and engages in social interaction.  And he is drawn by the Spirit in what he does.

        His parents are immersed in that slow-moving family unit containing young kids and elders.  Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is missing, and this obviously causes them consternation, for nothing like this has happened to him before.  At twelve, Jesus is coming of age, but what does this mean for him and for them?  Parents know youth need space to mature and expand their social circles.  Like all youth, Jesus needs space to grow.  Basic humanity is showing itself, and this comes more shocking for parents at times than for youth.  Parents find obedient children doing things that were neither commanded nor forbidden; these actions youth decide to undertake on their own.  Mystery unfolds where least expected and Mary ponders this event in her heart.

          Parents and children grow and even mature in different ways.  Every human being is a free agent before God.  Each must plot out the pathways ahead, and hopefully stay on the right path.  A parent points the way, teaches and prays and leads, but individual youngsters must do the rest themselves.  Freedom in choosing our life journey is an awesome task, and it takes individual experience that is gathered over time.  We come to know who we are with others' help, but we are speaking of an individual creation within the confines of our heart.  God gives each human being space to mature.  Awesome, yes; how Jesus responds is all the more awesome.  Mary ponders Jesus' freedom as part of her prayerful reflection.

        When each of us do good things, we give glory to God.  We respond to grace and that is awesome; when we encourage others to find space and respond freely, that is all the more awesome.  Parents and teachers hold this privileged opportunity.

          Prayer: Lord, help us be or to help others be good parents.








Osage Orange
Thorns of the osage-orange, Maclura pomifera.
 (*photo credit)

December 27, 2021      Planning for 2022

        Some folks never plan and some compulsively plan for every possible contingency.  Neither is the perfect way, since we are so uncertain what the new year will bring with its challenges and promises.  A moderation involves some planning, but not as though we have complete control over our lives.  The New Year may be expected with fear or with deliberate avoidance.  We approach 2022 with memories of the pandemic, economic uncertainties, knowledge that climate change must be fully addressed, and a host of personal concerns.  Here are some planning hints that may help you:

          Review last year's plan.  See how well the 2021's plans were kept or even remembered.  The track record for these twelve months may give a clue as to how much ought to be attempted next year.  Some say that with experience old plans seem simplistic or useless, and so the rationale for such an undertaking is questioned.  Should I plan?  Honesty allows us to plan with a touch of light-heartedness.  We need not fret knowing that cowards die many times before their death, as Shakespeare says.  The past made us wiser.

          Plan something upbeat.  We do not have to make dire plans or those so abbreviated that they are meaningless.  In fact, be brave, and plan for bigger things, the Lord willing.  Plans joined with prayers can have an upbeat tone, for God empowers us.

          Don't over-plan. The thin line between under-planning and over-planning is often hard to determine.  This is especially true of people who remember past plans that went awry and times when no plans were made that proved full of achievements.  Plans allow us to be future-oriented, and to refrain from walking backward in history.  On the other hand, over-detailed plans are stifling.

          Make some longer-range plans.  The temptation is to spell out details for a short period.  Rather, more time ought to be given in determining whether a longer-range plan is really the issue worth focusing on this coming year.  Give the pluses and minuses of the subject being accepted as the 2022 master plan.  Central planners in former USSR (the precursor to Russia today) or China have always had their five-year plans and prided themselves on reaching or exceeding these materialistic goals.  America doesn't undertake such centralized planning practices -- but some plans help.

          Accept a degree of uncertainty as part of life.  All depends on God's will and none on our rigid desire to plan out and have control of our journey.  While we make plans so that we can set the course of our direction, God may have more in store than what we imagine.  The difference may make us chuckle next year.  Any private planning must end with a simple prayer that God is really in charge.  In fact, uncertainty grows with time, but we simple folks still make our plans -- and God is still in charge.

          Prayer: Guide me, Lord, to strive to use the gift of time most wisely and to the benefit of our brothers and sisters.








Vegetarian Fungus Soup
Soup of assorted mushrooms, black fungus and beancurd.
(*Photo by Soon Koon, Creative Commons)

December 28, 2021        Creating A Novel Soup Today

        The year is ending so let's be creative and do so in the kitchen.  Godliness means participating in the divine work of making something anew or, for that matter, dreaming up something that has never been concocted before.  For those of us who do not like to be bound by recipes, we reach for our creative juices and embellish the new without seeking to reduplicate the old.  We can stand by a waterfall and experience divine power; we can observe a sunset and experience beauty; or we can create or retell a special short story.  Try being inspired in the kitchen as well.

          Creative power of soupmaking.  We are able to take the materials at hand and turn them into something new, if we put our imagination and spice shelf to work.  Virtually every soup created from scratch tastes a little different, and each can taste delightful, if we put our heart and soul to the task.  We have to think creatively, especially with foods left over after the Christmas rush.  (Unfortunately, I lost my taste three years ago).

          Public power of soupmaking.  We can play games or watch TV or go shopping, or we can energize ourselves and other hungry mouths with soup, a novel soup.  To make a soup commits us to the judgment of special people who may be invited to partake of our creation, or in a more effective way, to muster the courage to make their own soup from scratch.

          Economy of soupmaking.  We save money by refraining from purchase of commercial canned soup that has too much salt and too many over-cooked ingredients.  The leftovers in the refrigerator from the festivities are inviting themselves to become a new creation -- and the result has never before been conceived at such a low price.  Conserving foods becomes an incentive for creating novel soups.

          Hidden power of homemade soup.  A nutrition-filled soup can be a wonderful stimulus for us on cold days, and so the warmth and vitamin-filled liquid gives us new vitality.  The hidden power to fix a new soup translates into energy to do other creative acts as well.  We can end the year on a happy note and prepare with a zing for the coming year and the wonders it will bring.

          Resolving power of soup.  Preparing for New Year's resolutions is tricky, for too many get lost in a short while.  We always try too much and then have regrets when the concept lapses into irresolution.  Making soup is different, for we always get hungry, we need a fast response with little effort, and we desire food economy.  Soup is the answer, for it defies canned tastes and recipes and brings out the creative within us.  Now let us improvise, for soup is the jazz of food dishes, something that expresses our determination for quality without imitating others.

          Prayer: Lord, teach us to see that in becoming confident soupmakers we may gain the courage to reclaim our stolen Commons.








Potter's hands
Potter's hands.
(*Photo by Anduze, Creative Commons)

December 29, 2021  Seeing God as Eternal Potter; We Are the Clay

Take a potter, now, laboriously working the soft earth,
shaping all sorts of things for us to use.
Out of the same clay, even so, one models
vessels intended for clean purposes
and the contrary sort, all alike;             
but which of these two uses each will have
is for the selfsame potter to decide.  
(Wisdom 15:7)

          Potters teach us much about how to craft the formless clay into something useful.  This nearness to Earth allows us to be creative, for we touch the origin of who we are.  Yes, we are made from clay but are empowered nonetheless; we can transform this stuff into something new.  On deeper reflection we recall that our craftperson's creativity is God-given, and that our finished products inspire us to help renew our troubled Earth.  We are allowed at given times and in somewhat subtle ways to partake in the divine act of creation.

          We are clay.  As we prepare for 2022, we realize that life we will live next year is currently formless, waiting to happen.  We open ourselves to allow the Lord to work in and through us.  Our hearts can be molded; the more we open ourselves to God's working within us, the more we can come to reflect the divine creative power by which we become empowered to act in a Godly manner.  We help make our future.  By willingly being molded, we present God to a wandering world.  God gives us gifts: time, energy, and an unmolded heart.  We sculpt who we can and must become using God's gifts to do so.  Yes, we are free to refuse, and that freedom is a precious gift as well.  By an affirmation and a strong "amen" we maximize that freedom. 

          We are also potters.  From dust and into dust is that mortal span, and grace is the moisture in which we mold the dust into a loving act.  Not every one of us has the artistic skill and inspiration to fashion something out of physical clay of whatever color and texture.  We can, however, assist the Lord in the fashioning process, helping to put finishing touches on the molding of a formless world around us, so that God's imprint will show most tellingly.  By molding ourselves and especially our hearts, we learn to be sculptors of a future.  We freely invite the Lord to work within us, for God is not forceful when it comes to our acting in freedom.  We look within and use the given grace to mold a gentle, warm, open heart willing to be attentive and to serve the needs of others.  And God is with us at the potter's wheel.

          Prayer: Lord, the year 2021 with all its sound and fury comes to an end and we thank you for allowing us to see it through amid the raging pandemic and problems we have faced.  You are the master potter and we are the clay.  Help us to be molded into new persons able to see the coming year afresh and willing to spread Good News.







Mosses and lichens.
 (*photo credit)

December 30, 2021  Recognizing Anti-Catholic English Words

        On these quiet days of festivities, we need be sensitive to words that are racists or that reflect biases against certain groups.  One that is beginning to fade involves English words, especially stemming from 16th through 18th century times of persecution, and are offensive to Catholics who know their origins and intent.  These vary in degree of bias and some bear a misunderstanding as to origin.  Here are six examples:

          Propaganda is perhaps the most definite Catholic ascribed derivative.  In using a capital letter, Propaganda refers to the Roman Curia that was formerly named in the 17th century the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide.  This Church office was given the care of missionary functions.  In this evolution of a biased meaning, the word came to mean ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.
          Pontifical is used to refer to the pope in his functions of office.   Actually, in its root meaning the word means a bridge (pons) builder (facio), or one who brings opponents together.  It is used in a biased fashion to mean haughty or arrogant.

          Indulgence has many meanings including granting liberties by English kings Charles II and James II to dissenters and Catholics.  Today the principal meaning is "giving way to one's desires."  In church terminology it means satisfying conditions for temporal punishment (correcting disorder resulting from misdeeds) after sin is forgiven.  A misunderstanding of indulgence in environmental circles include comparing cap-and-trade practices with allowing "one to sin," or a misunderstanding of medieval church practice.  A correct understanding of "indulgence" is responsibility to make restitution for "environmental" damage done by individuals or by culprits.  Actually, ecological and theological goals are allied.

          Dogmatic refers to the section of theology that studies the Church's dogmas dating back to the very early Councils of the Church through the centuries.  In its biased sense, dogmatic means speaking in a definitive or arrogant manner without proof.

          Jesuitical is stated in the dictionary as a hostile term meaning a crafty schemer, cunning, or dissemble, and is used by anti-Jesuits.  English people in the 17th and 18th century called people unrelated to Jesuits by that name to show disdain.  Blaise Pascal, mathematician and Jansenist sympathizer, spoke harshly of Jesuits in Lettres provinciales (1656-57) as to laxity in moral teachings that he regarded as official church positions. 

          Hocus Pocus is a magician's incantation when performing a trick and is attributed to the priest's words at consecration during the Mass from Latin Hoc est corpus meum (This is My Body).

          Prayer: Lord, inspire all to understand when words are offensive to certain parties and to refrain from their use.








A frosty morning scene.
 (*photo credit)

December 31, 2021     Counting Your 2021 Blessings

        Every year is different, and we ought to have become wiser as this year draws to a close.  This first draft was written while the pandemic was in full force.  Amid the difficulties of this watershed year, we thank God to be called to be present and try to do what we can.  We are blessed in many ways:

        * Faith and gratitude to be called to take part in the immense work ahead that is opening before our eyes and that we help bring about the Reign of God here on Earth;

        * Physical and mental stamina to address and confront the many challenges facing our land and world from pandemic to administrative we change, from lack of distribution of wealth to addressing the continued and unabated climate change threats;       

          * Food in sufficient amounts even amid the challenging weather in many sections of our vast land, but we also witnessed food price rises and are aware of this hardship in many parts of the world;

          * Medicines in sufficient quantity and quality to address the raging pandemic, but also the awareness that these must be shared by those who are in need in other parts of the world;

        * Housing in abundance to meet the needs of people in our land to keep them safe and secure, but far too many are foreclosed, under water, and awaiting completion in construction.  Adequate and affordable housing is a blessing and an incomplete work;

        * Roadways and all means of travel by land, sea, and air, that permit the safe and convenient mobility of population, even though infrastructure needs enhancement in the coming years to the tune of several trillion dollars;

        * Internet and dependable postal and phone services to help us keep connected to loved ones and to share information with others. However, high speed services and economic prices are denied many in our land due to excessive profits for communications networks;

          * Educational facilities to allow our people to grow in understanding through access to proper information and literacy training needed in our complex society.  However, many have had to experience school closures and lack of in-person services;

        * Security through police and military forces which are needed and yet must be reviewed when our resources are limited; and

          * Support communities in Church and local civil society that pull together in times of emergency.  This spontaneous show of generosity is meant to counter restrictions on freedom of religion.

          Prayer: Lord, give us perseverance to carry on in 2022 and with hope that things will return to some degree of normality.

Copyright © 2021 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Kalisz
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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