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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

February, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Al Fritsch


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Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) in Kentucky winter.
(photo: Sally Ramsdell)

Reflections February, 2012

Thank heavens, February is our shortest month!  That is something shared with all lovers of spring.  Eagerly, we look amid the snowy whiteness and naked grayness of the month to the first signs of a refreshing season.  We listen for the first stark call of the mourning dove -- and that makes our day.  We find dandelions sprouting among leaves, and welcome sprigs of wild garlic.  We discover new culinary creations to avoid cabin fever and change our reading and writing styles to conform to late winter challenges.

      February is when we look about and see nature barren but inviting.  We listen; the sap is rising!  We smell the season in the fresh air!  We feel hope springing eternally.  At first glance the countryside appears lifeless, but we imagine a natural renewal starting to occur.  Commercial shops brighten the environs with decorations and displays, with bright red hearts and bunting.   Valentine's Day points to warmer and gentler seasons ahead.  On the first warm day of the month we seize our spade and hoe, and dash out to turn soil for the first sowing of peas -- at least I follow my mother's tradition of doing so here in Kentucky.  Prime yourself, for spring is coming; survey the landscape; alert the neighbors.  Spring work is just around the corner.

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Muhlenberg Co., Paradise, Kentucky
Muhlenberg Co., KY coal-fired power plant.
 (*photo credit)

February 1, 2012   Fossil Fuel Still Favored over Renewable Energy

      We observe the lengthening days and the warmth of the solar rays beginning to penetrate our daylight hours.  The desire to use more renewable energy strikes us most deeply in mid-winter.  In saying this we ask, "What progress is being made in challenging global warming through favoring renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, tidal, and certain biofuels).  Certainly wind turbines are being built globally in unprecedented numbers.   

  Environmental awareness is fairly high.  Renewables are talked about, but naysayers highlight noise impact and birds killed due to wind turbines, minor habitat disturbances, and major bankruptcies within solar projects.  On closer inspection we discover that these difficulties are minor in comparison with the severe impacts of fossil fuels: elevated carbon dioxide levels, escape of natural gas (with methane at 23 times CO2 impacts), mountaintop removal, toxic substances loosed into the environment, unprotected fly-ash piles, gas and oil pipeline breaks, and oil spillage in deep water drilling and waterway transportation.  Unfortunately two facts constantly stare us in the face: global fossil fuel consumption is expanding, not contracting; current global assistance is six times more favorable to fossil fuels than to renewable energy.  

      In 2010 (the last year with complete statistics), fossil fuel use expanded by over 5%, with coal-fired powerplant construction in China and India setting the pace.  If continued unabated, this will lead to a projected seven degree F temperature rise by 2050 and a global climate change catastrophe with accelerated ice sheet melting, ocean current changes, and water level rises that cover highly-populated shorelines.  Japanese, European and even North American concerns will bring some declines, but not to compensate for the rapid rise in consumption by emerging economies.   

        The second disturbing fact (and one easier to correct) is that globally fossil fuel in 2010 got six times more subsidies than renewables (Reference: International Energy Agency, "World Energy Outlook").  Much of this is aid ($409 billion) to customers of gasoline, gas, and coal, reflecting rising energy prices.  This is in contrast to $66 billion for renewable energy sources and electricity supplies.  These immense differences result from fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks dating back to the Second World War.  However, in 2009 the Group of 20 pledged to eliminate their own national assistance to coal, gas and oil.  These very same pledged nations spent $160 billion to assist in fossil fuel production and consumption -- with over one-quarter from Saudi Arabia alone.  The world is facing immense difficulties, and word is out even though deniers consider human causes to be insignificant with regard to climate change.  Social addiction exacerbates the picture.

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to know the signs of the times, to see how we have damaged our fragile Earth, and must now repair it. 










Preparing for the coming Spring.

February 2, 2012      Give Light to All in Many Ways 

      Yes, with you is the fountain of life;

          by your light we see the light. (Psalm 36:9)

      On Candlemas Day, it is fitting that we review the many ways we can do more than receive light from sources; this is an exercise in ways we can give and share light with all around us: 

      1. Encourage others to use their talents better and thus benefit from the many opportunities at hand; 

      2. Teach someone or a group about an area in which they need to be educated such as how to garden or how to handle drugs; 

      3. Lighten up the meeting with a sense of humor when the mood of many in the room is more or less depressed; 

      4. Show how energy conservation and choice of proper lighting (fluorescent or LEDs) can easily brighten a house; 

      5. Go outdoors with others and participate in full spectrum sunlight (if shining today), thus improving our disposition; 

      6. Enliven the gathering by some music or singing.  Make this a pre-Lenten Marti Gras celebration;  

      7. Give a light touch to meals or the house by rearrangement of stacked up materials and furnishings;   

      8. Tell a story to lighten the spirits of those around you; it is a perfect time to listen to something new; 

      9. Relate the potential of solar PV panels to offer luminescence at no or very low cost to the domestic environment;   

      10. Read an informational book and become personally enlightened so that the light can be shared with others;  

      11. Use a social media outlet to share insights; 

      12. Note times of inspiration and record them, for the lights of our insight shine with ever greater intensity; 

      13. Pray for the light to see good and avoid evil; 

      14. Let some house lights burn as a welcome to the wayward; 

      15. Light a candle and do not curse the darkness; and  

     16. Keep extra candles in case the electricity fails. 

      Prayer: Lord, you are the light showing the way, inspiring our spiritual growth, and helping us burn with desire to come to you.  









The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura).
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

February 3, 2012     Harbinger of Spring: The Mourning Dove 

           They call you Zenaida macroura, how sad.

        They brand your song mourning, that's bad.

      Little is it known by the naming folks

           That you, gray bird, have other strokes. 

      First you're a dove, global sign of peace

            Bringing back olive branches on release,

      But few olives grow here you understand,

             You're not nesting in a peaceable land. 

            Instead, you're hunted game by my macho cousin,

            Who loves to bag you by the dozen.

            Astounding, since cooked you're hardly a bite,

          It's body counts that bring delight. 

            I'd settle that mourning describes your coo

             Except that you have another service too.

            You break bitter winter's endless sting,

            Great and glorious harbinger of spring. 

            When I heard that sound on February second,

        How glorious it broke the silence, I reckon.

            Witch hazel, groundhog, wooly worm, others?

           Mourning doves, if I had my druthers. 

      See February 8, 2007 for the first poem entitled by the same name, "Harbinger of Spring." 

      Prayer: Lord, Give us the grace to observe nature in its fullness and to learn from all.  Give us the courage of the mourning dove, a creature willing to announce the spring in a public way.   May we be encouraged to proclaim the coming of the Lord.  
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore, near Keystone, SD.  

 (*photo credit)

February 4, 2012  Honor Our Constitution by Initiating a Second One 

      The U.S. Constitution is the oldest one in continuous use.  We can best honor this document by making it more relevant in the age of globalization.  A constitution is the special place where we can address disparity of wealth, the greatest danger today to our democratic structure.  Consider these ten points in preparation for a Second Constitutional Convention: 

     1. Express the basic right of all people to life from birth to death.  This includes the basic right of individuals to health facility access.  All species have a right to corporate life.  

     2. Promote a realistic dream that all our sisters and brothers on this planet will go to bed tonight with a full belly, under a decent roof, and with basic security.   

      3. Encourage the democratic process, wherein all participate in determining their own destiny, and through which they can assist non-violently in taking back what is rightfully the commons.

      4. Champion equal opportunity for work and for earning a living.  It must be enshrined that our government is the ultimate employer; we need not await private initiatives that take from a pool of human beings who are regarded as economic commodities. 

      5. Contribute to Global Development Funds to alleviate world hunger, lack of housing, and major health problems.

      6. Restrict incomes to a determined amount dependent to some degree on the cultural conditions of time and place.

      7. Transfer portions of a military budget to health facilities for the health security of people in poorer parts of the world.  

      8. Promote a spiritual profit-motivation by discouraging a material profit motivation -- for, in this needy world, material profits for some are at the expense of others.    

      9. Tax excessive wealth so that there are limits to what individuals can retain.  At the same time, reduce the tax burden on lower-income people, but retain taxes on luxury items and on items and practices linked to substance-abuse such as alcohol, tobacco, and tanning salons.  Commit our government to help remove tax havens for the wealthy and redistribute this wealth to the needy.

      10. Organize local groups to discuss these matters and to prepare for the eventuality of some being delegates to a future Second Constitutional Convention.  

      Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to support needed changes as a way to improve the quality of life and to heal our wounded Earth.  Inspire us to speak in favor of this change even at the risk that some compromise will be needed. 







Kentucky Ice Storm, 2009
Ice coating on Queen Anne's Lace,  Daucus carota.
 (*photo credit)

February 5, 2012      Job's Trials Are Ours as Well 

        Remember that my life is but a breath... (Job 7:7a).  

      In the book of Job we discover desolation on the part of one who suffers.  However, this is not specific to one person; rather, all of us suffer desolation at one or other time through awareness of our mortality and our unfinished work.  Some amount of short- or long-term depression is in each person's life.  It is true when looking back as much as looking ahead; our services undertaken were not perfect and this pains us.  Lent is an opportune time to review our own approaches, and reaffirm that the Lord is willing to accept us and forgive us for our past performance.  In God alone we trust, our remedy for desolation.  Job discovered this; so ought we.  That ever-shortening span of life ahead makes the reality of Lenten review all the more imperative with each passing year.  Focusing solely on ourselves apart from God adds to our desolation. 

      Group desolation may prove more problematic than remedying our individual conditions.  In part this is because our consumer culture captivates so many with a social addiction that is hard to overcome.  For many, the more that is purchased or consumed, the better, and that material appetite for more is insatiable.  The treadmill of goods gained, maintained and sought is self- perpetuating.   

      Saint Paul (I Corinthians 9) says he has made himself all things to all people in order to save at least some of them.  He accepts that his work has some benefit and feels the need to act accordingly.  We join Paul and find hope in the power of the Lord's Resurrection.  Will we succeed?  The question haunts us, for the tasks needed to save our wounded Earth are daunting.  Many people strive to become materially secure, refuse to change behavior, and fail to conserve limited resources.  Along with Job we search for an answer and discover that true success is rooted in God's designs, and that trust must emerge when we see and understand the futility of our own limits.  Belief in the Resurrection is to place a sure promise at the heart of our efforts to bring people to see the problems facing us -- and to act accordingly.  The Lord assists us to break through the fog of desolation.  Now we are able to serve God and bring a promising and renewing spirit to others.    

     Our trials in these troubled financial times are real.  We stand before God as an addicted people who think that more and more material things will satisfy us.  However, painfully we realize that a new economy must be in the offing, for material greed is insatiable -- and the first steps at this realization often come through realizing the causes of desolation.  Jesus implores the Father for help; so ought we when we are down and out.  Lent helps us discover the ultimate spiritual frontier. 

      Prayer: Lord, you heal the brokenhearted and bind up our wounds.  Help us gain the patience it takes to endure these times and circumstances with the sure trust that you will conquer all.









Not my best friend, Dolomedes tenebrosus
Dark fishing spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus.
 (*photo credit)

February 6, 2012  Confrontation as a Possible Christian Virtue                  

      I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were burning already!   (Luke 12:49) 

      Why am I so confrontational?  My answer is that it is neither my particular personality nor a sense of dysfunctionality, but because I am a Christian.  In fact, I regret not being more confrontational on various occasions.  The Luke quotation above is on the wall in front of me; it strengthens my resolve.  It is the countermeasure to all who seek to caution that my passion for justice ought to be toned down in order to retain benefactors.  One doctor once suggested that certain anti-depressants could help tone down social activists, and he even had a name for the malady.  Rather, my prayer is that more would burn with the fire of Jesus.

      All too often the virtues of people, and especially Christians, include how patient they are, how tolerant of what others do, and how much they are supportive of the current system.  Amazingly, Jesus does not extol these so-called virtues.  Some will remind us that Jesus says to render to Caesar what is Caesar's, but this must be seen in the political context as a method used to trick Jesus into affirming one or other competing systems -- that of Rome or that of Jerusalem.  He says to give each its due in taxes, etc.  He does not say to promote the Roman Empire or current religious practice for which he has strong words.  Jesus does not mince words in speaking of the rulers -- "Tell that fox..." 

       We find Jesus willing to confront others, whether personal or the system itself. Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites for preaching one thing and acting in other ways.  Jesus takes a whip and drives out the moneychangers, and cites the passages that this is to be the house of prayer FOR ALL THE PEOPLE.  His defense of the commons has a minority of today's Christian followers, especially from the more "prosperity-minded" sector of Christendom.  Will these in the silent majority learn that saying nothing when democracy needs defense is not a Christian virtue -- it is conforming to the system of mammon and not following the gifts of the Spirit within us?  People lack essential services and their rights are violated -- and those who are on fire must say so.  

       Wealth cannot be condoned when destitution abounds.  Again and again, we must raise the issue: why not share the wealth that is accumulated and is not being used.  If the wealthy are unwilling to share, or to pretend that this is what keeps an economy running (even while dysfunctional), then citizens must take matters into their own hands.  Christian virtues must come into play, namely, to take non-violently what is rightfully ours.  Downsizing the rich affords them a better chance for salvation.  Overturning the tables of moneychangers hurts no one physically, only economically. Such actions can arouse opposition.  Ask Jesus.   

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to confront the establishment and to do so with heart, lips, and arm; let our actions be loving and public. 












Venison and pork sausage meatballs
Venison and pork sausage meatballs.
(*photo by matthewf01@flickr, Creative Commons)

February 7, 2012  Deer, Venison, and Hungry Neighbors 

      Recall that today is Charles Dickens' 200th birthday. 

      When we see people who lack nutritious food and then observe wildlife eating and bounding about, we add two and two together, "Eat locally-grown deer meat."  Venison is delicious and nutritious; it is organic and inexpensive if you are a good hunter.  Though mentioned in the past, we need to focus more directly on the subject of wildlife as food, because food prices rise and nutritious food is beyond reach of poor folks.   

      Harvesting deer is similar to the practice of poor Africans in their search for protein sources from "bush meat;" the big difference is that much of African wildlife is in sharp decline and even endangered.  Here, deer (which I never observed locally when I was young seven decades ago) is now virtually ubiquitous.  A major rural, suburban and even urban complaint in virtually every part of the continental U.S. focuses on deer.  Wildlife is graceful, beautiful, and plentiful, and can be pests that enjoy chomping on shrubs and flowers.  All said, deer preferences are finicky.  In fact, using hot sauce or sprays will keep them away from specific flora, but only until rain washes away the agent.

      Definitely these animals are hard to divert, though dogs barking will keep them at bay for awhile.  Deer are smart and adaptable; keen observers in infested areas talk about seeing evolution at work among these animals.  Deer platforms and blinds have been fashionable in the past, but recent generations of deer survey the platforms to make sure no hunters are present before entering an area.  Smart!  However, these animals find busy highways puzzling.  They can cause considerable damage when deciding to cross at the wrong time and are subject to frequent encounters with speeding vehicles.  Appalachian roads are littered with their bad decisions.  

      Amid deer proliferation, an answer to human hunger and animal pest control is harvesting.  The hunting season could be prolonged to provide meat as venison sausage.  At this writing, I expect guests for dinner this evening; the main course will be venison stew much like the burgoo mentioned on December 17, 2011, except the Crockpot contains a single type of wildlife.  The gamey smell/taste of venison is softened by herbs such as oregano, bay leaves, or thyme.  Also added are fresh parsley, collard leaves, chopped carrots, sweet peppers, corn, cabbage and vegetable juice.  As the cooking progresses, dehydrated potatoes are added as a thickening agent.  Venison sausage is also excellent with scrambled eggs, and in various stews and soups of infinite variation.  America's harvestable deer population is over ten million and growing; at least one-fifth could be harvested each year without noticeable decline (one pound venison per American poor person). 

    Prayer: Lord, allow us to harvest Earth's bounty, and to do so with respect; let us be grateful for our food supply. 








Two white oaks, gracing the skyline, Anderson Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

February 8, 2012 Is Wealth Incompatible with a Strong Democracy? 

     Why quarrel with wealth?  Isn't it because in this world of haves and have-nots, the disparity of wealth damages the democratic structure of our society?  Wealth is commonly defined as the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions.  Secondarily, wealth applies to entrusted materials, personal talents, or spiritual attainments.  The more materialist context really has no universally agreed definition because it is partly dependent on what is of "value" to a particular culture or time.  Democratic systems demand control over acquired or retained wealth in the form of wealth distribution; a right to higher quality of life exceeds a right to excess property by a privileged few.  Those who defend the right to immense personal wealth argue in many ways: 

     "Don't you realize that prosperity Christianity and blessings of wealth manifest divine favor?"  Hardly so, for in reading Scripture we find God's favor is always with the poor, and so should ours.  Prosperity in a world of unjust social conditions is a mark of false prophecy and should be exposed as such.  The struggle involves rejecting the "nobility of wealth" in a democratic society where extremes are intolerable.  We who trust in the power of God's victory in Christ seek a redistribution of wealth for the Common Good -- and ultimate victory. 

      "Wealth shows the plenty of the Creator."  No doubt when wealth theoretically means an abundance of resources then the bounty of God's gifts is recognized.  However, when wealth means what is accumulated and controlled by privileged people then this bounty becomes restricted to some and not others.  The greater demonstration than material wealth is the wealth of a democratic will of the people to control and distribute bounty to those in need -- and this also expresses the gifts of the Creator. 

      "The wealthy are worthy of honor."  This has been the generally accepted philosophy of royalty in times past, but hardly that of a republican form of government.  Honoring private wealth no matter how obtained and retained is ill-conceived and leads to breakdown in respect for all forms of government, for it gives excessive power to the ones with wealth.  On the other hand, the wealthy have a duty to share excess, and citizens must see that this occurs.  The right to livelihood using this wealth extends to adequate nutrition and also to accessible health facilities and to educational opportunities for all people.

      "The wealthy will conquer you."  A temptation exists in our minds to stay silent and dare not question wealth for fear of losing our support from those who otherwise like the ministry that we undertake.  Fear of retribution from the wealthy is the funders' blackmail; keep silent about their holdings no matter how unjustly they were obtained or they will withhold funding from you.  

      Prayer: Lord, help us save the wealthy from themselves by turning our talents to liberating them from their material chains.










The "Pasty," with potatoes and other veggies.  An ethnic Cornish meal.
 (*photo credit)

February 9, 2012     Champion the Humble Potato   

      Finally, after 2,131 contributions to this website, do we venture to that prolific, tasty, and multipurpose root vegetable called the "potato."  Do we take Solanum Tuberosum for granted? 

      An historic moment: Potatoes are truly versatile; they are highly productive over a wide temperature range.  The high Andes is the home of a wide variety (5,000) of potatoes of various sizes, shapes, colors (white, yellow, brown, shades of red, tones of blue and purple), and tastes.  See Charles Mann, "The Eyes Have It," Smithsonian, November, 2011, pp. 86-106.  The humble potato started in the Andes and was tamed by clever inhabitants, since early varieties have toxic substances that are controlled by clay.  With the Spanish conquest, the potato was introduced to Europe where, in historian William McNeill's words, "By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over much of the world between 1750 and 1950."  The monoculture of cloned potatoes (slices and not seed yield new ones) made crops more susceptible to potato blights and the Colorado beetle, which were treated with the first chemical pesticides.  

      A prolific crop: Tubers are staple crops that when compared to grains are far more productive; the underground product is not subject to being in a head of seed subject to the rain and wind when in the ripening stage.  Potatoes are adaptable to a diverse variety of weather and soil conditions.  The yield can be upward to 10,000 to 12,000 kilograms per acre depending on climate, weather, and availability of nutrients.  In comparison to grains, the calorie per acre content is three or four times more.  It was these yields that allowed the vast expansion of the population of Ireland in the 19th century, until the awful potato blight of the 1840s from which the population has not yet recovered. 

      A culinary delight: Potatoes offer creative cooks a wide variety of outlets: baked, fried, scalloped, mashed, and made into soup alone or mixed with other vegetables.  We can make a rapidly constructed potato soup by heating dried potatoes with onions, margarine, milk, and with seasoning of one's liking; augment this with fresh parsley, black pepper, and soy sauce and a touch of hot peppers.  The boiled potato invites eating with various sauces; it may be fashioned into potato salad with mayonnaise and pickles or a tangy German potato salad.  Potato "fries" are an American favorite and are money-makers at fast food places.  Potatoes go well with many meats, fish, vegetable dishes, and potato flour into baked goods.  Furthermore, potatoes can be fermented into alcoholic drinks of various concentrations. 

      Note: Many cooks prefer to peel potatoes and toss out the most nutritious portions just below the spud's surface. 

      Prayer: Lord, give us insight to see the simple foods that will benefit more of our hungry and the more affluent alike.







Pipsissiwa, Chimaphila maculata
Spotted on a February hike: Pipsissiwa, Chimaphila maculata.
 (*photo credit)

February 10, 2012       Walking for Health

     Running, sprinting, and jogging are good physical exercises; so are walking, strolling, hiking, and skipping along for other folks.  Exactly six years ago, I spoke of "jogging for health," but natural aging makes me now champion a slower pace for healthy exercise.  While accepting the art of walking as good legitimate exercise, busy people prefer the allurement of jogging.  Yet it takes convincing to persuade long-time joggers that exercise can come through slowing down.  Walkers learn to break away from indoor routines when weather and less snowy conditions persist; outdoor walkers get fresh air and full spectrum sunlight, and overcome February's proverbial "cabin fever" (see February 1).  Brisk walking also allows sweating out toxic substances, though to a lesser degree than jogging.  However, walking also refreshes the lungs, lowers blood pressure, controls weight, and reduces stress.  

     Equipment: Walkers, like joggers and others, ought to invest in good equipment, though it is not as critical as in more demanding sports.  Good walking shoes or boots are a must for those cautious about their feet and ankle conditions.  The footwear ought to be broken in, but how can it without walking?  Socks should be absorbent; outer clothing need be adequate and able to protect against rain, snow, and especially worrisome wind.  For some, a walking stick can give good assistance.  I have had several such sticks, but prefer a heavier and shorter favorite one. 

      Routes: Choose a selected pathway that is free of traffic and fumes, has a firm enough surface, and is free of snow and ice.  Never walk where it is icy, but that is easier said than done in winter months.  Take a route that is less congested and has a scenic background if possible.  Some prefer a familiar route and to know exact distances; others prefer to vary routes according to particular whims.  I have three different routes: one is a park with others exercising (closed part of the winter and at dark); another is a residential area where the elders sit on their front porches in summer and enjoy a passing conversation; and the third is a forested hiking route, which unfortunately I reach by car.

        Timing: Keep to daylight hours as much as possible for walkers, like joggers, may stumble and have a spill.  Walking may invite companion participation depending on speed in which travel occurs.  I would say "take a brisk walk," but that is too much for some.  Rather, take the exercise to the degree you find convenient.  At least one half hour daily is generally prescribed by the doctor but if combined with other exercise should be more.  

     A hidden advantage of walking is that there is more time to reflect than when jogging.  Walkers can meditate more easily and the safety of footing is greater than when the pace is quickened.

      Prayer: Lord, help us see our movement from place to place as a sacred procession, a symbolic reenactment of our journey of faith, a mini-pilgrimage, a day or so at a time.  







Northern Mockingbird or Mimus polyglottos
*photo by Trisha Shears - Creative Commons)

February 11, 2012  Encourage Inventiveness in Earthhealing 

      On Inventor's Day, the birthday of Thomas Edison, we realize that many of us have creative ideas but that these are not always profitable, nor patentable (nor do they need to be).  The entire patent picture is somewhat complex as, in recent years, companies patent all sorts of variations on devices; these are meant to cover all aspects of property rights when competitors come close to their product.  Patents involve gross profit-making that goes under a guise of invention.  On this day six years ago, our reflection was on use of our body (hands, feet, etc.) in creative ways, and especially the dexterity of our hands -- for a multitude of activities: crafting, cooking, sewing, and landscaping.     

      While there is much individual inventiveness still to surface, we ought to look beyond individual creativity and include cooperative or team inventiveness.  Our complex modern world expects us to cooperate in teams where skills of others add to the total finished invention.  The team leader is not necessarily the most inventive person, but the one who influences creative individuals to work together for final results.   

      Earthhealing requires such cooperative skills.  Local communities need skilled designers, promoters, and managers of community-based tourism.  Technical people must work together to establish small-scale green energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and certain biofuel) sources.  Local groups may cooperate to create community gardens, grow commercial crops, and even help establish markets for products.  Cooperative credit unions, small businesses and crafts, and other areas can be highly fruitful, and all of these welcome inventiveness in order to flourish. 

      In this age of globalization, we can anticipate the continuation of large-scale businesses and factories.  However, the emphasis on sustaining small communities shifts attention to making healthy local communities that furnish locally their own food, water, fuel, and building materials.  Furthermore, these could be interlocked with small groupings in other places, and inventiveness depends on facilitating communications and exchanging ideas among these like-minded people, often at a distance.  Inventions of global interest may be a new light bulb, but it is also ways to conserve and reuse resources.

      On a still broader level is the inventiveness required to develop ways of redistributing the wealth of this world to address the essential needs of the poor.  It involves resources of all types and that includes the tax-haven money of this world; it includes enforcing and distributing processes themselves so that precious financial and material resources are not squandered and misused.  Necessity is the mother of invention -- and necessity conditions (hunger, illness, illiteracy) cry out for attention. 

      Prayer: Lord, Creator of all, enhance our creativity for those who are in need, and not for some to make fortunes on new devices. 







Tree identification tags at the Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center
Appalachia - Science in the Public Interest (ASPI).
 (*photo credit)

February 12, 2012    Healing Troubled People, Troubled Earth             

      I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.  (Psalm 32) 

      Six years ago, in our reflection on this Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time we focused on dealing with troubles by direct confrontation, selective isolation, compassion, Lincoln's Emancipation, and through prayer.  Today, let's concentrate on the last of these, on prayer alone, for we need prayer to address the troubles plaguing our world.  Our attention needs to be focused in troubled times, for we soon discover our limitations.  We perceive our inherent powerlessness and turn in prayer to the Almighty power of God, our Lord and companion.  We must believe that healing is found in our total dependence on God -- and this faith is a gift. 

      Petition: In today's reading, the leper approached Jesus with the words, "If you will do so, you can cure me."  This is a prayer of petition, a coming to God from one who is isolated through processes outlined in Chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus.  The outcast status was the result of people in those times sincerely trying to deal with a communicable disease.  Jesus addresses the troubled soul immediately.  We beg God to come to our rescue so that we can break isolated conditions and touch the lives of others in some meaningful manner.  Resurrection power will come to us.  

      Forgiveness: Jesus has compassion for the leper; he cures him.  The cleansed leper is to appear according to the Mosaic Law and be declared cured so that the social outcast status can be removed.  Jesus charges the cured leper not to tell anyone about his cure, but to carry out the legal prescription instead.  So far so good.  But as one might expect, the cured fellow is bubbling over with enthusiasm and announces his healing; he disobeys and hinders Jesus' ability to preach openly to those wanting to hear him. 

      Praise: God has already conquered all and thus troubles are of a passing occurrence -- though very real to us here and now.  We praise the power of God at work among us and so see our abilities to tackle problems as God's power at work.  The Resurrection is a victory, and we are called to affirm this -- and in this affirmation we give praise to the Lord of all.  Troubles occur, but God invites us to receive divine power both within and without.  Our praise in perceiving divine power at work or expected in the future is part of our humble service. 

      Thanksgiving: Often we pity ourselves for being face to face with our own and others' troubles.  Why Lord?  But on second thought, this is a privilege that God has given us, to live in these troubled times and to be furnished with the gifts of endurance and optimism, and to see these as divine gifts. 

      Prayer: Lord, we beg you to help us confront present troubles; we ask for forgiveness for past imperfections; we thank you for letting us live and being with us in troubled times.







Cranks Creek Survival Center, Harlan Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

February 13, 2012 Methamphetamine Epidemic and Drug Company Profits

      Methamphetamine is a pox: it burns, it scars, it poisons, it kills, it ruins countless lives and is a tremendous financial burden on our justice and healthcare systems.
                                                                        - William Spatford Smock, MD, University of Louisville

      Today, we in Kentucky and neighboring states live in the midst of a profit-induced drug epidemic.  Today, Kentucky ranks fourth after Tennessee, Missouri and Indiana in numbers of "meth labs" in the nation.  That is where Pseudo/ephedrine (PSE) is chemically converted to the highly dangerous drug d-methamphetamine (meth) that goes under the street name of "ice," "crystal," "glass," "batu," "shabu," "Tina," and on and on.  The drug when produced resembles glass or ice crystals.  No barefoot chemist could ever synthesize PSE, but only convert it to Meth with common reagents.

       Meth starting compounds and reagents are available at American stores, with PSE sold over-the-counter since 1976 as a decongestant.  Drug companies lobby intensely to leave it that way and to carry on pseudo educational programs that are only partly effective.  In recent years many countries, including Mexico, have banned PSE entirely.  First Oregon in 2006, and then Mississippi in July, 2010, have returned PSE to a prescription drug status. Kentucky and a number of other states use electronic monitoring of PSE (an imperfect strategy supported by all profit-makers).  While Oregon meth lab numbers dropped to near zero, Kentucky's total (1040 in 2010) has tripled.  State police estimate that they locate only one-tenth of meth labs.  All the while, drug lobbyists smother our legislators with promises and goodies.

      A simple solution exists to clean up this terrible mess -- and it is a mess.  Home meth-lab operators are sloppy, and thus their young children get contaminated.  Meth users die horrible deaths on an average of five years after first addiction; explosive fires result through carelessness; the barefoot chemists have no compunction of scattered reagent materials and explosive containers wherever is convenient; and medical bills of those who are affected and contaminated mount to tens of thousands of dollars.

      Quick-profits of over one thousand dollars an ounce for the finished product drive more and more to get-rich-quick schemes by enterprising meth producers.  Drug company lobbyists ensure that PSE containing over-the-counter decongestants stay over-the-counter (even though Kentucky limits sales to individual purchasers).  Such limits do not stop multiple buyers and pharmacy- and doctor-shopping.  Furthermore, dozens of less dangerous commercial drugs are effective.  Initially electronic tracking looked promising, but it is now being completely evaded through group and individual ID "smurfing."  Prescription drugs, though never perfect, are better.  When will we tackle drug privateers and the drug culture itself?

      Prayer: Lord, inspire us to address socially addictive drug problems as the gateway to healing our wounded Earth. 









Coming soon! March blooms of the rue anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides.
 (*photo credit)

 February 14, 2012  Valentine's Day and Flowers for Every Season 

      More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always.

                                       Claude Monet 

      I agree with Monet's words and appreciate his pleasant paintings and join in his love of flowers.  If we are committed to healing our wounded Earth, we discover somewhat by surprise that flowers have a key role to play.  Today, on Valentine's Day, many loving couples try to cure broken relations and improve good ones through the healing effects of flowers.  A blooming dandelion among leaves today can gladden winter-starved hearts as well. 

       On sunny February days several of our forsythia bushes send out a blaze of yellow, a floral affirmation of renewal of life.  Our outdoor flowers, thanks to sacristan Clara, bloom from February to mid-December before heavy frosts kill unprotected snapdragons and petunias.  We will have spring flowers galore and the hillside behind the church full of ground phlox, ox-eyed daisies, and the blooming black locust -- and fruit tree and blueberry blooms as well.  Floral summer is heralded by blooming weigela bushes, rose of Shannon, and irises.  Deeper colors include Sister Theresa's beds of zinnias and the imposing hydrangea; my own garden lilies add color.  Autumn includes mums, cosmos, and golden rods.  Winter is the problematic season for flowers, but my protected salad beds (cloth coverings) are able to protect a few hardy survivors.   

      Indoors is well-taken care of by the contributions from our parish flower gardeners -- and these seem to make our Liturgy a more celebratory event.  The reds and greens of Christmas flowers actually usher in the floral year and give impetus to the start of a floral 2012.  Houseplants such as the Christmas cactus certainly help in domestic scenes.  We are blessed in our local church having interior floral arrangements every month except March, when Lent covers the entire month (as this year).  Fulfilling our craving for Easter lilies is associated with the Resurrection event.  Floral arrangements are too numerous to catalog, but all gladden hearts needing consolation. 

      Monet writes as well as he paints.  Flowers were deep in my mother's consciousness, for she grew them and admired them -- and in a wheelchair tour of her retirement neighborhood could name about ten with sureness even when her mind slipped on other subjects.  Flowers remained for her, the heralds of eternal life.   I firmly believe that what we love will live in eternity, and that those appreciating flowers will find many decorating the place.  Flowers are God's special gift to those who are desolate.  Because of the serious content of our reflections flower photos are added; they encourage readers who have too heavy a diet of environmental crises.  Janet Powell's flower photos help elevate my spirit when most needed.  Is that true for you too?  

      Prayer: Lord, we appreciate the gesture of giving us flowers to brighten our outlook with the hope that things will improve.










a forest floor of new growth
Mixed mesophytic forest scene, Rockcastle Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

February 15, 2012    Facts about Global Deforestation 

      Our world suffers from deforestation that is occurring at a very rapid rate.  Living within the Daniel Boone National Forest area makes me sensitive, since our Mixed Mesophytic Forest (ecologist Lucy Braun's terminology) is the oldest and most varied temperate forest in the world -- and we ought to protect it for climatic control reasons, and because eco-tourism is our major economic asset.  Facts about serious deforestation issues include: 

      * The world's rain forests at present rate of decline will be no more in 100 years, and yet these are the lungs of our planet; 

     * Forests cover 30% of the Earth's surface, but the annual loss is equivalent to the surface area of Panama.  However, the rate of deforestation is declining due to growing awareness of disaster and the start of global controls and proper management; 

     * Forests are cut for agricultural uses (many corporate plantations): cattle grazing (takes 70% of land for only 6 to 11% of humanity's food); palm oil plantations (fastest growing vegetable oil source) are established in ecologically valuable swamp land; and soybean production is expanding.  Blaming small farmers for deforestation is overstated; rural populations are declining, but still forests are cut for food crops and firewood;  

      * Forests yield timber in large amounts, often with severe impacts on wildlife habitats in tropical areas.  Timber production is especially severe in southeastern Asia where the wood products are the capital for expanding palm oil plantations; 

      * Forests are currently lost due to other types of development such as roads, mines, rail facilities, airports, and urbanization.   Road-building exacerbates deforestation for it allows access to still more logging, part of which is illegal or poorly managed; 

      * Some deforestation is due to increased numbers of wildfires; 

      * As said often in these reflections, forests play a vital role such as reducing violent temperature swings.  Deforestation leads to climate change and to loss of habitat for native species and more of these are threatened or endangered each year; and 

  * Solutions include stopping the clearcutting practice and excessive tree-cutting.  When timbering is needed, sustainable forest management practices ought to be used. 

      References: "Root of the Problem," Union of Concerned Scientists Report, Condensed in Catalyst, Fall 2011; also National Geographic Society, "Deforestation," 2011. 

      Prayer: Lord, you give us the gift of forests; give us a sense of growing respect for these fragile gifts in all their varied beauty and benefits. 








Prairie tall grasses / Bernheim Arboretum, Kentucky
Take a hike in mid-February.
 (*photo credit)

February 16, 2012      Ten Ways to Avoid Cabin Fever 

      Stop the Violence Day touches the lives of many of us who ignore forms of "violence" to ourselves or to others.  Many of us suffer from "cabin fever," which is defined as a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a group or individual must remain in a small place over an extended period of time.  Hints to break this winter-related malady include: 

      * Go outdoors at opportunities during daytime, especially on these sunny but cold February days, for the full spectrum sunlight does wonders even in cold weather;  

      * When weather and personal energy permit, perform a garden-related operation: spading the ground, sowing peas, repairing fences, and trimming grapes and fruit trees;  

      * Step outdoors on the star-lit night and take in the night sky, for the vastness of outer space and the immense distance from the twinkling heavenly bodies stretch our imaginations to the limits and allay petty concerns; 

      * Visit friends even though much of the time is in the vehicle taking one to and from the place.  The change in scenery has an important quieting effect on cabin-induced nerve problems; 

      *  Be diligent in attending regular religious worship and find the opportunity to assist others who need companionship and encouragement; 

      * Feed the birds in the backyard and spend time at the window observing their feeding and other habits; 

      * Take in a new book, a DVD, a lecture, or an Internet class, to break loose and reach out to broader vistas of interest.  Travel books and TV and Internet travel scenes may help cure the cabin fever; 

      * Get a houseplant to add to the indoor color, for these give the comfort needed for an otherwise drab season (see February 14).  The Christmas cactus and other blooming plants must be given prominent places and purchasing a bouquet may bring a smile; 

      *  Cook an ethnic meal and couple with acquainting yourself with the land of culinary origin and all its other interesting practices and arts; and 

      * Redecorate the house thus giving the place a new look to help raise the spirits of all dwellers.  Add a touch of color while awaiting spring flowers and returning birds. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us see the coming Lenten season as an opportunity to enliven our own spirits and those of loved ones, friends, and neighbors who find winter a major challenge.






Shining Clubmoss, Lycopodium lucidulum
View from the winter forest floor.
 (*photo credit)

February 17, 2012    Pray Your Own Way; Yes, Pray Your Own Way 

      When in the Novitiate in the 1950s, I was assigned for a period of time to assist an elderly Jesuit who was partly paralyzed, and to tidy up his room.  On my way to the infirmary, I went past another elderly brother's room, and he always seemed to have a vocal conversation during his morning prayer period.  It became apparent that he was praying to the Lord or some saint in a familial manner, and aloud as senior citizens often do.    

      Praying to God should be as second nature as a neighborly conversation.  Some have certain rituals before praying including a period of quiet time.  I find this somewhat disconcerting because I try to converse with God in a more informal manner and often during the day.  Those who find prayer foreign may set aside times, places, and physical postures that manifest a sense of respect for the Almighty who loves and has mercy on us.  We may develop our own way of praying outside of formal prayer times and places (Morning Prayer, chapel, etc.).  Perhaps not having a monastic calling does permit greater informality for those of us whose ministry is less communal.  We pray in pauses and breaks of the day or on walks and find God as our companion as we age. It soon becomes evident what it means to hear the Scriptural admonition, "Pray always."  Informal prayer times and places become routine and ever more present as we near the end of our earthly journey.

      God does not need our prayers; we do.  We are drawn to beg for things that seem so impossible to attain, and yet all things are possible with God.  Are we willing to accept that prayers will be answered after we leave this passing world?  The important thing is the trust that prayers will be answered in God's good time, for even time is not ours to own.  Letting our trust grow is paramount. 

      Our prayers are so often begging, but we have to constantly remind ourselves that we ought to give prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  We need to see the gifts given and praise God in ways that other creatures are incapable of, for we can freely offer these prayers as exercises in precious freedom.  At times we are dry and need not rely totally on our own words, for to pray the Scriptures or to pray the Rosary are praiseworthy as well, and deserving of encouragement.  Yes, formal prayer is praiseworthy, and so we can repeat familiar prayers when composing our own becomes quite difficult. 

      Prayers of thanksgiving are a common theme in these "Daily Reflections" -- and they ought to remain so.  Earthhealing is a task before us, and we thank God for the opportunity to serve at this moment and place.  Healers are specially called; we need the will to respond.  Amid this land of plenty we are moved to show gratitude for the gift of our vocation. 

      Prayer: Lord, help me to pray always, and help others to see the comfort and liberation that such a wonderful practice affords. 






Lake Huron
Along the banks of Lake Huron.
 (*photo credit)

February 18, 2012  Maritime Transportation and Global Air Pollution

      One area of pollution that contributes perhaps as much as ten percent to global air pollution is that of maritime shipping.  It is an overlooked area that often defies policing except when ships are within the territorial waters of maritime nations.  With the vast increase in shipping in this 21st century and, with the use of less expensive high sulfur fuels, maritime pollution amounts have been rising (except for the dip during the Great Recession).

      In 2010, a report by Daniel Lack of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed measured emissions from one commercial container ship; when the ship approached the California coast with its strict state sulfur fuel requirements, the ship switched from "heavy fuel oil" (3/15% sulfur) to "marine gas oil" (0.07% sulfur); it slowed its speed from 22 knots to 11 knots.  Through this procedure emissions of sulfur dioxide and fine particles dropped about 90%.  Also due to slower speed and fuel switch, carbon dioxide emissions dropped a total of 58%.  Directly related, the International Maritime Organization is adopting a Energy Efficiency Design Index requiring ships built in the last part of this decade to improve energy efficiency by 10% and in the 2020-24 period improving them by 20%.    

      From the very latest research, we are becoming aware that some air pollutants have a cooling effect on climate, though many pollutants have the warming effects we experience.  This makes maintaining air standards a somewhat complex issue with near-term human and animal-health benefits and longer-term problematic results depending on the pollutants cleaned from the air.  Also, NOAA in its Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows a steady upward climb of pollutants since 1880.  Just since 1990 all air pollutants have increased 29%.  The year 2010 has seen the highest rise in carbon dioxide levels (up 5.8% in one year and 45% since 1990 levels).  Global coal consumption increased 7.6%, natural gas 7%, and oil consumption 3%.  This was driven by 10% economic growth by China and 9% by India.  Methane release levels are also rising, and this is more alarming since methane has many times the climate change potential as does carbon dioxide.  Furthermore, warming Arctic climates may accelerate the rate of methane release. 

      By 2015 the International Maritime Organization will require switches to very low sulfur fuel, for areas such as the entire coastline of North America (out to 200 nautical miles) as well as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the English Channel, and other heavily-used global water lanes.  Within this decade sulfur limits will be tightened on all fuels from 4.5% to 0.5%.  Setting goals will not come any too soon, for dramatic potential temperature rises are expected by mid-twenty-first century standards.

     Reference: Christer Agren, "California Rules Give Great Benefits," Acid News, October, 2011, p. 20-21; also p. 15. 

      Prayer: Lord, inspire us to monitor and clean up our air.








Crocus bloom despite February snow.
 (*photo credit)

February 19, 2012      Penitential Rites Give Us Comfort

      Lord, heal my soul for I have sinned against you. (Psalm 41) 

      In the Gospel reading for today (Mark 2: 1-12), Jesus enters a house and a paralyzed man is lowered from the roof due to the crowd.  Jesus forgives the man's sins, but some of the scribes object, saying that this is blasphemy.  Jesus asks them what is easier to say: the words of forgiveness (spiritual healing) or the words of physical healing, "Walk again."  The physical miracle causes the crowd to be awestruck, but many fail to get the message that the spiritual healing is more important.  Jesus is not doing this as a wonderworker, but as teacher and spiritual healer. 

      In God's mercy, the power to forgive sins is extended to the entire Church; through God's instrument on Earth, pervasive greed and hatred are broken and individuals are freed of enslaving bonds.  The transferring of this power to his disciples on that first Easter Sunday (John 20:19-31) through ordination down through the ages, is an ongoing Resurrection renewal.  God allows us to bear and hear words of forgiveness so that we can start life anew.  Today, this is ever so needed in a world where misdeeds of the sinner's past remain on unforgiving computerized records, and renewal of life is unrecognized by a merciless world. 

       God's mercy is utterly needed, and this is shown in the Church's penitential rite.  We are all sinners, and we benefit mightily in hearing with our ears that we are forgiven.  Of course this means we first admit our misdeeds -- and that is the difficulty for many in a culture where we seldom ever acknowledge wrongdoing.  Here the act of God's forgiveness is manifest, but it is all the more so when surrounded by a reverent and fully meaningful penitential rite.  With the proper setting, the degree of comfort to each who is forgiven grows all the more; the resolution to sin no more becomes a reality in one's spiritual journey, and thus it is that peace of soul can be more definitively established and our outgoing work can have a firmer footing. 

      In forgiving sin, Jesus teaches us that healing is of the highest spiritual priority.  Thus, the institutional power to forgive is God's gift to our unforgiving world.  But still this power does not stand alone.  All who are members of the Body of Christ are called to heal grievances that are wrought against them.  All of us offend and are offended in some ways; all must not let these "stepping on our toes" stay unresolved.  As we prepare for the Lenten season we should make use of the Church's penitential rites where possible to ask God's pardon; furthermore, we should make a firm resolve to forgive those who have offended us in any way.  How deadening is the refusal to forgive and thus heal our Earth and people!  Earthhealing and forgiveness go hand-in-hand.

      Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to ask forgiveness for offenses and to forgive others, so that individual comfort will grow and that our joint journeys of faith will be energized.   









A replica of Abraham Lincoln's grandmother, Bersheba's home. Springfield, KY.
*photo by Mark Spencer)

February 20, 2012  Presidents' Day: Washington and Lincoln Insights

      Many of our American presidents have made singular contributions to our nation either while in office or prior to or after that time.  Recall the military exploits of Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower.  Others did so as presidents such as the two whose birthdays we celebrate this month, namely, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Our current efforts at limiting wealth ought to incorporate two major presidential insights: the Washington concern for a union of colonies and the Lincoln insight in the process of abolishing slavery.  

       George Washington came to realize with other American revolutionaries that thirteen independent colonies would not address commercial and safety needs; for furthering commerce and security, these united states (colonies) must become THE United States.  That was an emerging Washington insight, first seen during the Revolutionary War; his conviction grew during the Articles of the Confederation period and the struggling period before and through the 1787 Constitutional Convention.  It was solidified in the period from 1789 to 1797 during his eight-year presidency.  True to the tradition of our founders, we must be willing to abandon more local "sovereignty" for cooperative structures to meet global financial and environmental demands.  Fidelity to Washington's goals of going from state to a federated national level now involves transition from national to global structures. 

      In a similar manner, Abraham Lincoln realized that our nation could not continue to exist half slave and half free.  Extending this insight, one realizes that a safe and prosperous world cannot exist with one-tenth haves and nine-tenths have-nots, or 1% rich and 99% Americans in an economic struggle.  Americans must be first in calling for efficient governing structures to handle global issues beyond that of a single nation.  Along with others, the United States must work to overcome the wealth disparities and the source of global insecurity and distrust.  We aspire to be number one, not as quantitative producers and users of goods, but as a leader in a more perfect global union to a higher quality of life. 

      For us today, global destitution is economic enslavement for many have-nots.  It is our sacred duty as Americans to lead in freeing the world from its bonds of poverty.  Global regulations must include all areas of the commons: air, water, specific land areas, health facilities, educational opportunities, intellectual property and communication networks, silent space, commerce, and movement of people (see Reclaiming the Commons on this website).  Our national interests must transcend our borders to all the world.  Thus, emerging global structures must address the financial, personal security, care-giving, nuclear proliferation, and environmental crises of our age.   

      Prayer: Lord, expand our awareness of our historic treasures and the good that our leaders have done to improve the quality of our nation; help us bring these insights to a troubled world. 






Summer into Autumn
Share homemade goods with others on Fat Tuesday. 
 (*photo credit)

February 21, 2012   Celebrate Marti Gras; Ponder Fat Tuesday 

      In various parts of the world Christians observe this day before Lent.  If done in moderation, this can be joyful and a reminder that Ash Wednesday will usher in serious reflection.  None of us refuse celebrations, for the human spirit needs this partial withdrawal from worldly concerns.  Really, Mardi Gras brings to a fitting close an extended Christmas season.  Do have a good time, but leave room to reflect on the "fat" (Gras) aspects of the day. 

      In years of more rigid fasting, homemakers would rid the household of animal fats prior to a meatless 40-day Lenten span.  This was achieved by special dishes, sauces, and baked goods that involved a heavy dose of leftover fats.  My mother's people loved to do what many Southern people do, and that is use plenty of lard in everything from fried chicken to peach turnovers.  Making use of lard's high boiling temperature meant that meat was less prone to food-borne contamination.  All meat dishes were well cooked, but at the price of artery-clogging substances moving through the body.  And so obesity, heart disease, and diabetes problems were the inevitable price of using lard as the cooking fat of choice. 

      Reflect on animal fats a second way; these require enhanced amounts of resources when compared with vegetable oils.  Quite often animal fats take much more agricultural resources (land, water, and feed) than growing soybeans, peanuts, corn, or olives for vegetable oil.  Granted, some grazing lands are not useful in other cropping (and could be left as wilderness), still it takes grains and other cropland products to fatten livestock.  All in all, resources needed to breed, raise, shelter, transport, and butcher livestock are far greater than those needed to grow and process vegetable crops.  Recall that 70% of the land mass in agriculture is in grazing and the result is only 11% at most of the ultimate food.  While many meat and animal products make good foods, they are also resource intensive at a time when food-growing choices must be considered in feeding a hungry world.

      Maybe, amid today's celebration we should ponder whether our meat diets ought to be reconsidered, and Lent is a perfect time to do this.  This is not a promotion of vegetarianism, for some meat is good for us, and prolific wildlife needs to be controlled and harvested (see February 7); the deer harvest yields ideal food products (organically-grown without tending or feeding in winter) in the proper season.  The argument is not to totally refrain from meat products though that may be a laudatory cause.  Rather, efforts ought to be made to reduce excessive meat consumption such as large steaks and quarter-pounders with fries and coke.  Say goodbye to heavy meat meals; consider more vegetables for that is healthier for people and Earth.  

      Prayer: Lord, teach us when to celebrate the bounty we have, and to do this with moderation; help those of us in a land of plenty to reflect on ways to share resources with those in need of greater food security. 






Kentucky Stream
Unknown histories of stones in a riverbed.
 (*photo credit)

February 22, 2012  Ash Wednesday: Will Daily Reflections Be Ashes?  

      On this beginning of the solemn season of Lent, we are reminded by the ashes on our head of the passing of things of this world.  Mortal life is terminal, and so are all the activities in which we are now engaged.  Our possessions are not absolutely ours but as Psalm 124 says these belong to God.  Humbly, we are from dust and unto dust we will return, and yet there is more.  Between beginning and end of dust periods we make a lasting mark for better or worse.  After the ending dust emerges an eternal life -- or death.  Thus, through the cloud of dust comes an anticipated future, and through faith we know that the love we acquire between dust-to-dust is carried with us before the throne of God.  

      What about the mortality of these Daily Reflections?  The idea of such essays was conceived almost thirty years ago, but only made public on the Internet less than a decade ago.  Will this service move also to ashes or does it matter?  One answer is that it certainly will end and that's that.  A second is that if Daily Reflections are given in love, and received in love, their value extends beyond their lifetime.  In and through Jesus's sufferings all loving acts are saved; they are part of an eternal sacrifice that means "making things holy."  We do not hold a concrete accounting record of the lasting value of what we do, and we are not able to measure the content of each act of love.  God is the master accountant, for God is Love and almighty.  We simply dip into or plunge into the ocean of divine Love; God knows how much.

      Making our actions (including Daily Reflections) effective is our constant prayer and refrain.  We hope that our efforts have a love content that is contagious to others, God willing.  This is more than a game, a pretending, a neutral time spent spinning wheels.  Only occasionally is the feedback positive enough to suspect some reflections have been seen through 40,000 daily hits. Through a Resurrection-centered spirituality we realize that potential effectiveness rests in the enabling power of God.  New life is possible for those who believe.  We can change minds, if we believe that God enables us through divine power.  Something will remain well after this website has turned to dust.  True love is eternal, and so are messages sent and received in love.

      A variety of issues have appeared in this series.  A few are more related to average readers than others.  Themes such as halting misuse of resources, introducing healing practices, and radical sharing of what we have with others, must become familiar.  One may say, "I hear this often," but we become confident that this is part of making it "often."  Will concrete effects result?  Radical change may be slow to germinate; the growth process has many donors, for it takes a village to make a person.  We are servants doing God's work; what we seek will come to be and, in believing, it more quickly comes to be.   

      Prayer: Lord, you are the eternal accountant; help us grasp that what looks likes ashes is fertilizer for an eternal spring. 







Candle in the dark
A light against dark February evening.
 (*photo credit)

February 23, 2012  A Peace Dividend: Take What Is Rightfully Ours

      On Peace and World Understanding Day we wonder whether we have exhausted the subject.  We talk about extending understanding among others through quite popular educational and experience-exchange programs; we mention global interfaith gatherings such as occurred last year at Assisi III; we give generously to victims of earthquakes and floods; we even sponsor groups to go and assist victims of such disasters.  We strive to bring peace and understanding in many ways.  Is there more that we can do together with others?  Have we looked around for peace issues and engaged in them with all the poor?  Have we focused actions on taking what rightfully belongs to the commons? 

      A culture of domestic arms.  Americans talk about strutting about bearing individual arms.  Why allow them ammo?  The numbers of Americans killed by gun-related violence is staggering and surpasses ten thousand each year.  Bearing individual guns make inexperienced Americans be tempted to shoot before they think.   The vast majority have no need to carry loaded weapons. 

      An untamed military budget.  The current financial crisis teaches us that we Americans must trim our military budget, one greater that the rest of the world's combined.  Why us as global police?  Enough military-industrial complex pressure!    

      Foreign aid cuts.  Foreign assistance is a favorite whipping boy though it accounts for less than 2% of the entire national budget.  The poor have little voice; they are not lobbyists.  All living Secretaries of State of both parties testify to the need for adequate foreign aid.  Don't these funds belong to the poor?   

      Proliferation of nuclear weapons.  This is the result of a world where untamed nuclear energy has been unleashed.  Should not our peacetime effort be to see that these weapons are destroyed?

      A society on drugs. Medicine advertising and available over-the-counter medicine and agents along with a massive amount of prescription drugs make this entire nation drug dependent, whether legally or not.  Rather than bring peace to souls, this disturbing drug condition causes desolation.  Why feed the drug corporations with funds needed for proper health facilities for all?   

      The death penalty continues.  We still witness in too many states (including Kentucky) where unfortunate prisoners are being put to death.  Life is precious and each person needs one more chance to change ways.  Isn't this why abolitionists work so hard?  

     Lack of health funding.  Our nation needs a lower-priced accessible health system.  On the global level all people have a right to adequate health facilities.  Is this beyond the world's financial ability to care for our needy brothers and sisters?   

      Prayer: Lord, help us find ways to work for world peace.  






Anderson County
Anderson County, KY farm scene.
 (*photo credit)

February 24, 2012   Sowing Peas Early in Kentucky 

      Why talk about sowing seeds in a winter only two-thirds spent?  Yes, a host of reasons exist of which the following are but a few: 

      Sowing peas in February continues a time-honored tradition in our family and neighbors who like early sowing as a sign of readiness to tackle a difficult growing season. 

      Sowing peas satisfies the restlessness of the gardener wanting to get things going for 2012.  Preparing ground (provided not frozen solid by the winter freeze) is the best way to start.   

      Sowing peas manifests faith in the promise of harvest.  Some sowing is premature, and seeds will rot and have to be resown later in spring.  The act of sowing is what is important. 

      Sowing peas allows production of garden produce that is early, mild, and full of flavor.  The anticipation of such flavorful produce makes one's mouth water, and this becomes an energetic stimulus to go out and conquer the world of gardening in 2012. 

      Sowing peas energizes sowers who must be reminded that the joy of harvest comes after the sweat of sowing.  Without the beginnings of the process, the results can never be achieved and so it affirms the work of the sower of many seeds -- material and spiritual.   

      Sowing peas confronts neighbors who think you are crazy.  They are forced to see the need to have an early start in garden work. 

      Sowing peas answers the question, "Can't you wait until spring?"  A holy impatience consumes so many of us.  Putting out peas in February is a testimony that we want to heal our wounded Earth ASAP and bring on the New Heaven and New Earth.   

      Sowing peas is a form of proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom. It is a spiritual experience that will start the gardening year.  We hope for success and we trust in God's gift of favorable weather to allow the harvest to be plentiful. 

      Sowing peas gives bragging rights in conversation.  To start early tells others that we are organized enough to do this on a planned schedule, and we hope that extends to our entire life.  While this seems trivial, it is our way of overcoming slothfulness.

      Sowing peas accompanies the weather in our noble commonwealth; this act tells the world that ours is a fertile and productive land, a worthy and cooperative endeavor between land and people. 

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to continue the simple ways of life so that all might benefit from such humble procedures; allow us to continue ways that teach all to be good healers and to be in tune with the needs of our wounded Earth and people. 







Heavy with snow_tree shelters a henhouse_Laurel Co KY
Ice storm burdens tree, which in turn leans upon hen house on Washington Co., KY farm.
 (*photo credit)

February 25, 2012   Global Anticipation of More Natural Disasters 

      Global disasters of possible partial human causation (floods, hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, major snow storms), along with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, seem to be happening with greater frequency in recent years.  The insurance firm SwissRe that insures other insurance companies estimates that global disaster costs have gone from $25 billion dollars per year in 1980 to $130 billion in 2011.  Part of this rise is due to climate change and part due to human habitation and development in proximity to disaster-prone regions; yes, part of this is attributed to natural activities and part to Homo sapiens -- but it is a higher cost. 

      When this was written three months ago, Thailand (the world's major exporter of rice) had suffered a prolonged flood lasting from July and still continuing into late November; this was leading to possible shortages of rice.  During 2011, the United States experienced heavy flooding in the upper Midwest, drought in the South Central region, hurricanes on the east coast, deadly tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama, wildfires in the Southwest, and heavy snows across much of the northern portion of the country. Virtually every major region of this country has witnessed heavy losses through disasters.  Globally, what about droughts in the Horn of Africa and the earthquake in Japan in March with its costly aftereffects -- and this mentioned flooding in the Bangkok area? 

      Is this doomsday talk?  Authentic questions arise as to whether disasters are really unexpected, or are these to be expected with rapid climate change and increased world population.  People are settling onto flood plains and nearer volcanically active areas with rich soils.  Some speculate that ocean temperature rises will spin off more hurricanes in the upcoming seasons though that theory is unproven.  Carbon dioxide, a climate change culprit, continues to rise due to increased combustion of fossil fuels and losses of forest that have mitigating effects on severe climate. Methane, a major climate change player, escapes during increased production and from the warming of the tundra due to global warming.  We need renewable energy replacements.   

      Mother Nature cannot be tamed by human effort, but it ought not be teased either.  A deeper respect for the planet's processes and how to fashion our activities in fragile zones would help.  We have to do our part from building wind turbines to more flood control projects, from halting deforestation to stopping the development of flood plains and the sides of active volcanoes.  We can challenge affluent people who build on hurricane-prone seashores and in wildfire-prone forested regions -- and who then expect expensive taxpayer protection in times of disaster.  All need informed choices for residence and land use regulations.

      Prayer: Lord, help us to see the signs of the times and to treat our Earth with proper respect.  Help us do this while trying to curb the release of climate changes pollutants and the other pressing environmental problems which confront our world. 









Picture 8185
Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota, with snow.
 (*photo credit)

February 26, 2012   The Temptation to Keep the Status Quo 

     'The time has come,' he said, 'and the kingdom of God is close at hand.  Repent and believe the Good News.'  (Mark 1:15)

      Amid the turmoil of current financial convulsions, unusual weather conditions, and climate changes that are denied by so many, we need to heed the words and deeds of Jesus.  He assessed the critical world situation immediately after his forty days in the wilderness amid wild beasts and consoling angels.  The world

was changing and included the arrest of his cousin John the Baptist.  Yet amid this turmoil Jesus launches his ministry.

       The first Sunday of Lent is always dedicated to temptations, starting with those that Scripture says were endured by Jesus; the actual content was noted in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark's Gospel.  Thus we could digress from specific temptations (see 2010 and 2011) and consider the overall temptation of people to deny the troubled times (some say no climate change today), to excuse themselves from any remedies to disastrous conditions (this is a matter for experts), and to escape once more into the allurements of the consumer culture and substance abuse.  

      Those who are inclined to turn away and champion a dysfunctional status quo suffer from an addictive culture.  This becomes a distraction from the saving and healing of our wounded planet and its inhabitants.  The temptation is to refuse to face reality and confront the forces that work against the spiritual life so needed in these times.  Facing reality takes a prayerful reflection to see where we really stand and how much we are enticed by the materialism all around us.   We must be able to discern the elements of the political/economic/social system that have merit and what parts must be changed.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has touched on the inherent disparity of wealth and its tight grip on the system.  Are we to remain silent or are we to confront this system with its conditions of unemployment, hunger, and loss of housing through foreclosure?  Will we speak up in time to reclaim the commons?  Are we tempted to avoid facing reality?   

      The temptation involves the feeling of being too weak to make a difference.  If individuals can do so little on their own, why attempt to change?  "Let's focus on saving our precious hide."  This temptation to withdraw from the conditions threatening our world and fall back on some safe past stance is the work of the devil.  Prosperity for a few privileged and those lucky enough to succeed is the wrong way -- and is the temptation to defend the status quo.  We must show that a power is at work in the world, the power of the Resurrection of the Lord in which we are called to participate.  With this empowerment and through a prayerful discernment period of Lent we can challenge the current system and make the necessary changes demanded.   

      Prayer: Lord, help us recognize the temptation to silence, and to be energized through your power to make changes as needed. 








Early Spring, 2010
Lenten rose, hellebore, blooming in February.
 (*photo credit)

February 27, 2012  Risks in Discerning the Reality of Our Culture  

     If we want to be like Jesus, we may have to share the risk taking that he underwent in his shortened ministry.  Are we willing to follow in his footsteps or are we tempted to remain inactive?   

      Question conformity.  We learn early in life that conformity is the hallmark of popularity when working within the system: same haircuts, vehicles, height of lawn grass, and color of ties.  To fail to conform could risk losing one's position, status, place of honor, chance for promotion, perks, enhanced salaries, recommendations, and other things that comprise the road to success.  Nothing seems so non-conformational as to question capitalism, especially in all its immense global reach and power.  Yes, we conform to the rules of language and use English, the language of this communication to the best degree possible.   

      Question credibility.  Some would argue that to be credible one must say the things people desire to hear.  Popularity in such cases is for them the proof of credibility.  In his day Jeremiah saw that to speak about a reality that was surely coming was highly unpopular and considered "incredible."  In every age facing reality bears the same time-proven risk of being rejected.  People hesitate to go along with something unpopular.  They say, "What's the use of prophetic words if no one listens?"  Impending ruin is not a popular subject and so people do not listen. 

      How does one discern authentic credibility?  The first alert is to question popular issues when systems are dysfunctional and not fulfilling their purposes; this becomes a flag that something may be wrong.  In weighing different courses of action weigh whether words and actions work in tandem.  Recall that Jesus focused criticism of the religious establishment of his day on the lack of those whose words did not conform to their deeds.  Choosing to believe means that hearers must be open to truth; one must ask a neutral observer or spiritual director.  Are we open to change?  

      Question justification.  We live in an addicted culture and so need to weigh the reasoning used to consume more (drugs, fuel, and electronic devices).  Are these not simply excuses to be more immersed in the culture?  Justifying a wealth-driven culture is not sound, and yet many are not equipped to defend their reasoning.  However, spiritual battles before us go beyond rationalization.  The poor and simpler living people know this, even when unable to articulate the position for fear of being ostracized and ignored. The unpopular could be so for not saying enough on a subject, or of saying something that people do not want to hear for one or other reason.  Measuring just how much can be said at a given time is an art, and we do strive to present a pleasant message with appealing photographs so as to hold our audience.   

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Help us discern the qualities of conformity, credibility, and justification and be willing to risk unpopular reception.   






Springtime in Kentucky
Blue skies beyond...
 (*photo credit)

February 28, 2012   Sport Events Can Become Unhealthy 

      As we approach "March Madness" (over excitement about basketball final contests) in Kentucky starting on Thursday we ask whether sports have as many debits as benefits? 

      Sport animosities build and last.  When I first started serving here in Estill and neighboring Powell County, I would tell inquirers when asked that I was originally from Mason County.  The reaction was amazingly one of distance or disdain.  Eventually it became apparent that this has to do with sports for Mason County was a competing basketball powerhouse.  Our state motto is "United we stand; divided we fall," and yet this is not always observed in sports.  Home players and coaches are idolized; distant ones are not.  March madness sickness is really year-round, and I must confess having been infected by it on numerous occasions.

      Sport economics is obscene.  Think of the high prices that coaches are paid, the highest salaried persons in many major American universities.  The schools are generally principal state ones or those in particular loyal regions or cities.  This high popularity results in transfer of large sums of money as the mass media vie to sponsor sports events.  Commerce demands high-powered athletic programs, extensive coaching staffs, pressure to acquire promising players, and immense stadiums.  Big time campus sports have little to do with academics; student athletes must juggle studies and sports and often await professional drafts.

      Gambling temptations are always present, either betting on the games when clean or attempting to subvert players to throw games.  The first is overwhelming; the second is risky, for perpetrators are often caught because some athletes or teammates cannot keep secrets.  Actually, the worst cases of corruption are often overseas, and may threaten war among competing countries.

      Spectator cheering isn't physical exercise except for vocal cords.  Too often those who exercise in minor amounts regard the sitting before television or in an arena or stadium as somehow participating in the sporting event itself -- as though their shouts change the outcome.  Actually, watching sporting events is no match for walking, jogging, or gym workouts alone or with friends.  In fact, high tension games can be unhealthy, for the tension is hard on the heart.  Look out adrenaline rush! 

      Spectator hysteria is that uncontrollable rage that comes over crowds at a perceived bad call by an umpire or referee.  Maybe using video equipment could help decrease the supporter's anger.  Such outbursts are not good on the nervous system or on a charitable spirit.  Sport madness is itself dysfunctional and changes might prove risky.  That is how an unnamed monk of old stopped the gladiator events in the late Roman Empire.     

      Prayer: Lord, direct our competitive spirit to meaningful causes such as the risk of changing our economic system. 









Springtime in Kentucky
A "leaping" friend from summer, 2011.
 (*photo credit)

February 29, 2012   Make This Leap Day Truly a Timely Gift     

      The average person in America living today will live over 28,000 days.  That is a significant number, and yet every four years we discover this extra leap day as though the calendar designers knew we need a break.  We try to make the best of this grace-given event.  This is when we come to realize that every day is a temporal gift, for God is the author of life and we live in God's good time to help make the world a little better.   

      Is there something extra to do today?  Maybe this is one day that we simply ought not find something extra to do -- that is an everyday condition.  Just be thankful and reflect: recall the times when life-threatening dangers approached and the nearby car could have hit us; think of diseases we avoided while others suffered; events could have been different.  Mortal life is precious and terminal; it gives way to eternal life, and so we must make the best of this short testing period.  Our patience has often been tried and especially during Lent -- but spring is soon coming and so we find each day of testing one closer to a better season.   

     Leap Day is a joyful time even for those of us who find leaping somewhat challenging and risky.  The joy is in believing that we can make this another day to be offered for and with the Lord.  Extra time is part of God's creation, and so in a spirit of gratitude and joy we should look ahead to how we can be better healers through a combination of action and rest.

      Do I use my extra time meaningfully?

      Will I review each day before going to sleep?

     Have I thanked God for the gift of life?  

     Should I inspire others to use their extra time efficiently?

     How do I persuade others in a positive way so as not to burden them with guilt for watching TV or playing games?

      Must I remind myself once more that life is short --

          and this mortal time span constantly shortens?

     On the other hand, must I take the passing with a certain

          sense of equanimity and resignation?

     Would it be wise to remind myself once more that this is the federal election year?

     Also remind myself that this is Olympics Year?

     Will I prepare well for coming events?

    What does it mean for me to make every day count?

     Is it right for all days to be special?

     If so, what was special about yesterday and the day before?

     Am I able to even recall yesterday and the day before?

     Can I look ahead; what will be special about tomorrow?

     Should I record the singular part of "special days?"

      Prayer: Lord, may I convert questions into answers over time.  Let our time for reflection be an opening of the way to prepare for what is to come seeing each as a special time to be of service to you with an ongoing expression of gratitude.  Please be my spiritual accountant for it is easier that way.

Copyright © 2012 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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