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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

January, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Al Fritsch


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Maple leaves in January snow.
(photo: Janet Powell)

Reflections January, 2012

     Is the year 2012 to be a watershed, a time when financial reality stares all of us in the face?  Can we create the balances that are so needed to bring us greater security, or will we tolerate and perpetuate the imbalances that result in war, unemployment, and inequality throughout the world?  In winter when outdoor activity is often more limited, we seek opportunities to reflect in indoor comfort.  Winter lovers (skiers, skaters, and snowshoe hikers) will wax eloquent on the glories of January -- but we winter critics are challenged to barely exist and survive during this harsh month.  In January we harbor doubts that the greenery of spring and warmth of summer sun will ever return.   

      However, tree roots are starting to stir even when we do not observe these phenomena with our eyes.  Our hope is that things will get better.  We strive to cultivate equanimity, a thankful spirit, and the hope that spring will come again this year.  As for those who love the snow and ice of this period, so be it!  Enjoy those ever wonderful and uniquely-designed crystals, and ski and skate to your hearts content but don't ask me to participate. 

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A nearly-frozen Kentucky creek.
 (*photo credit)

January 1, 2012      Give Global Peace a Chance   

      The modified refrain from a vintage 1969 song hums in the background of our war-tired world.  Peace calls out to be heard, and yet it seems unattainable.  However, our world longs for peace at the start of 2012, and what seems impossible could be attained with the right willingness.  Military readiness and activity saps our precious resources that could go for more beneficial activities.  On this Day of Peace when we celebrate a holyday and a Sunday all wrapped into one, we recommit ourselves to peace; we pray that we can become willing peacemakers.  Look at the places: 

    Afghanistan/Iraq withdrawal -- Why continue these expensive and disturbing military actions?  The two wars have become the longest in American history and are verging on the costliest as well.  It is time to break away and let these countries handle their affairs.

      African assistance -- A multitude of Africans suffer from the vast inequalities of our world -- lack of food, health, housing and jobs.  A "Global Marshall Plan" geared toward that continent could overcome the differences among nations and assist small farmers, focus on employment infrastructure construction, and on health and education improvement.  Africa needs roads, railroads, seaports, airports, clinics, schools and virtually every physical facility for a better quality of life.  Much economic resource leaves the lands through corrupted leaders (one trillion dollars slips out to tax havens elsewhere) or never comes to the people through unfair oil, gas, and mineral revenues. 

      Middle East peace -- Why do we tolerate continued settlement building in the West Bank while calling for Israeli and Palestinians to get together?  Is it like asking two unequal people to come together voluntarily, as though both are equally able to make such decisions?  Something horribly disingenuous exists before our eyes, and we Americans demand that both parties take equal measures. 

      Human rights championing -- A fourth global area is that of minorities in such places as Tibet, among Coptic Christians in Egypt, and tribes on the border of the new republic of South Sudan.  It is right that our State Department continues to make demands for the rights of minority peoples throughout the world. 

      Nuclear weapons banning -- Calling for the ban on nuclear weapons and also on the "peacetime use of the atom" for electricity generation could go a long way to removing a potential danger from the face of the Earth.  Last year concrete steps were taken between the U.S. and Russia and these need to be accelerated and include all countries.

      Prayer: Lord, inspire us to be primary peacemakers in this year.  Help us see that inadvertent promotion of a military/ industrial complex in this land and abroad is utterly destabilizing and threatening to world peace.








Remnants of summer, waiting for spring
Dried teasel growing near old, abandoned home site.
 (*photo credit)

January 2, 2012  Predicting 30 Trends: Is this a Good Exercise? 

     Perhaps the village drunk is as good at predicting the course of 2012 as is the Nobel price economist.  They both will get fifty percent within a margin of error.  Realizing this makes me hesitate to engage in predicting.  However the practice holds out the hope that the unpredictable will mean better times.  So reasoning that way, here are my 2012 environmentally-related predictions (not  including the politics of the U.S. or global economic conditions): 

     * No comprehensive climate change treaty will be signed.

      * Global carbon dioxide emissions will show a slight decline.

      * Wind will be the leading energy source in expansions.

     * Natural gas will be a growing part of the global energy mix.  

     * Nuclear power as part of total energy mix will decline.

      * Global coal production will remain steady and emissions per unit burned remain the same
         (powerplants will open and close).

      * Oil surpluses develop and prices at the pump decline.

      * Deep-water drilling will increase overall.

      * Global efforts will seek to reduce nuclear stockpiles while worries about Pakistan's weapon's
       security will increase.

      * Shale formation fuel sources in Israel will prove promising.

     * Biofuels from food crops will show a slight decline.

      * Solar energy price per watt will dramatically decline.

     * World food prices will rise especially among staples.

      * World hunger will continue at a worrisome level.

      * Over one million (especially infants) will die from hunger.

     * Food wastes exceeding global hunger needs will continue.

     * Oceans will rise and glaciers shrink.

     * Polar ice cap will continue to decline in summer and trade route through Northwest Passage will
       gain a few days.

     * Whales will continue to be harvested for "research" purposes and excessive sharks continue to
       be fished for shark fins.

     * Polar bears will suffer declines.

     * Asian middle class will expand by five to ten million.

     * Electronic books will beat paper ones in numbers produced.

      * Reforestation will gain momentum in parts of the world.

     * Annual storms and severe weather will exceed 21st century average in frequency.

      * Meat and animal products consumption will reach high mark.

     * Anthropogenic global warmer deniers will decline in number.

     * Outrage over environmental issues will increase.

     * Broadband access will continue to rise.

      * Social contact will encourage increasing numbers of protestors in cities and towns
         throughout the world.

      Note: While some of these informed guesses will be straight forward next New Year's, still others will await final tabulations that may not be known for several months into 2013.  So we will not have a listing of our success in prediction on January first. 

      Prayer: Lord, give us this day a sense of what is coming, and the energy to help shape our future with a sense of hope. 








Enjoying a Kentucky winter sunset.
 (*photo credit)

January 3, 2012  Election Year and Hidden Marks of Leadership 

      It is election year again and we have the primaries here staring us in the face.  What do we expect of a leader?  George Washington was regarded as a leader from the beginning of his generalship in 1776.  On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln, though a leader, was heavily reviled throughout his tenure of office.  Instant recognition is not an essential characteristic, even when candidates for office show hidden qualities.  While religion and patriotism are presumed public expressions, let's focus here on hidden characteristics that we might detect in candidates: 

      1. Enthusiasm means the God within.  Is the candidate inspired and inspiring for enthusiasm must be contagious?  For us who really suffered under Reagan, we still admit he could arouse people.  Some current candidates will not motivate a goldfish. 

      2. Commitment means that candidates have specific agendas and, if they change, they do so on principle; they do not look over their shoulders at pollster numbers, but choose and hold causes on principle -- even though some of us voters differ in specifics. 

  3. Realism is expressed in manner of response to questions and ways of presenting a cause.  Those who promise to do better than someone else may or may not, and we have to be discerning when it is difficult to predict what future leadership will demand. 

  4. Sincerity is a quality that is overlooked because we are so fooled by surface glamour and glib conversation.  At least it is good to watch the personal response during debates or when winning or even better when losing contests.  Sincerity shines through. 

      5. Respect is a hidden virtue that goes against the grain of a self-promoter, who is tempted to demote others in order to raise oneself.  However, successful candidates must respect the dignity of others; this is done through a basic diplomacy that is able to bind people together for common goals and a sense of purpose. 

      6. Radicalism means getting to the roots of problems.  Beware of glib speakers or those who say the expected thing.  Do they show deep enough knowledge of general history and world affairs as well as of local issues. 

      7. Motivation is that hidden aspect that is so hard to interpret.  Come to know the financial resources and the friends of the candidate, for these give hints of what is the motivation behind certain viewpoints and actions.   

      8. Openness to change and new ideas may be hidden, but observe the manner in which campaigns are run and emergencies treated.  Leadership rests with the ones who can do these things well. 

      Prayer: Lord, open our minds and hearts to choose well, for from our democratic choices must come tomorrow's leaders. 







Old Taylor Distillery
Old Taylor Distillery gates.  Millville, KY.
 (*photo credit)

January 4, 2012    Indebtedness: A Crime Against the Future 

      A few years back an Appalachian activist decided to start up a non-profit organization.  It seemed a spur of the moment decision and so I asked him how he intended to fund the new group.  He said, "I have a credit card."  Unfortunately, he was anticipating that sometime in the nebulous future some benevolent donor would rescue the group from its debt.  It was incomprehensible and so the life of the organization was very brief to say the least. 

      This may raise a question as to whether a failure to prepare for the future is a serious misdeed or simply an overlooked foible that can be dismissed.  Expecting a future sugar daddy to pay for present extravagance does seem somewhat irresponsible.  Some people incur debts that may never have a hope of being repaid, and so the condition is one of inevitable bankruptcy.  In the last few months the credit-card-now-and-pay-later mentality is not something limited to individuals in our society.  It is a way of thought for entire communities or nations, and there is little that restrains such behavior except limits on an ability to get into further debt. 

      Few regard such deliberate indebtedness as wrongdoing, much less criminal action.  Of course, much depends on the manner in which personal debts were incurred, for often these debts are the result of mishap or unexpected illness.  However, sometimes the "good name" of the person's credit-worthiness led to debt.  In other cases the debt is for an education -- that does not guarantee a good enough job to repay the debt in reasonable time.  Forgiveness of such debts ought to have higher priority than bailing out banks.  Sometimes debts are business investments with debtor expecting to repay the lending agency in proper time.

      What about spending beyond one's means through sheer failure to plan for the future?  "Let the descendants take care of it for I will be gone before the bill comes due."  In some way, this is what governmental debts are all about.  A crisis will occur but that is beyond one's lifetime -- and nothing matters beyond such a selfish one's death.  In such instances debt is a denial of responsibility for the future -- even a future when those saddled with debt will curse the ones who made it in the first place. 

      For fiscal conservatives deepening debts are incomprehensible; it is simply putting off for others what must be considered today's heartaches, difficulties, and duties.  Leaving debts does not endear us to future generations.  Love demands respect for those living and those to come, whether neighbors here and now or future people out there and then.  However, we know that some debts are not going to be repaid and so the consequences of a default loom on the horizon and is regarded as a good way for a fresh start.  Bankruptcy and default, if properly managed, does promote new beginnings.

      Prayer: Lord, give us a sense of responsibility and a resolve to leave the scene in a better condition than how we found it. 









Winter blues. St. Ignace, MI.
 (*photo credit)

January 5, 2012   Academic Contributions (Credits and Debts) 

      Ought we to question the current academic institutions and ask whether they are really worth it?  Often in current news reports audiences get an impression that intellectual life rests solely within these august and expensive institutions of learning, and that outside ivy walls few meaningful thoughts occur.  Some accept that scattered entrepreneurs and executives can think, but for the greater part academic centers are springboards of people meant for meaningful contribution to the current system.  The subtle message is clear to and from institutional donors: "Whatever you say, do not rock the boat in these turbulent and stormy waters."  

      What became startling in the American "Arab Spring" is how far removed academic institutions are from radical thought -- and this tells us something.  Those in academics risk their occupation if they are on the front lines of change.  The funders of expensive institutions do not like activists in the midst of the hallowed walls upsetting a rather stable establishment.  Granted, teachers do not like students diverting time from precious studies, and administrations expect the same from teachers.  I asked one administrator to support one of my causes, and he said his school would not dare allow him to do this.  Such is academic life!  

      This raises the question of high costs of education and the massive funds needed for top research, extensive athletic programs, high-priced coaches, beautiful campus buildings, and all the paraphernalia associated with roaring arenas and noble prize winning centers of learning.  Is all that really worth it?  Are the students and beleaguered parents caught in this academic hype by forking out thirty to fifty thousand dollars a year for what could be learned by attending lectures on the Internet or for free?  Is it time for academics that is offered free of strings?  Is it not the situation in which a "free university" could flourish even without the credentials and recognized degrees?    

      A highly mobilized public relations department in every academic institution tells of the glory of that place; the agency explains why funds paid for tuition and lodging in swank places are all worth student indebtedness.  However, a debit side exists: the ivy walls are the barriers against profound change that must be entertained and voiced in a dysfunctional and materialistic society.  Unfortunately, as in this very society, the debits far outdistance the credits and will only be paid on the backs of a future generation.  Yes, credits do include some forms of innovation, but many occur apart from the academic hype in simple garages (yes, Steve Jobs) and hidden research facilities often cloaked in trade secrecy.  All too often innovative occupants either rejected academic hype or had to be retrained later in life.

      Prayer: Lord, help us to keep from pretending, but rather to see the simple things in life, and to recognize the meaningful work of others no matter what their status or academic credentials. 







Hardly a cloud in view.
 (*photo credit)

January 6, 2012    Are Americans Supposed to be the Greatest? 

      Hubris blinds a person -- and perhaps a nation as well.  Even if the United States was the 20th century superpower, must this continue?  Is this land to be greatest in what?  Car population? Size of housing per person?  Length of super highway systems?  In compiling this listing we find that in everything from power plants to electronic devices the U.S. is ceasing to be number one in production and in utilization.  China with its fourfold larger population is running ahead of the U.S. (and Canada added in when referring to North America).  Surely greatness has to be based on more than material items and resource use.  But even in education or health quality to social and financial equality   others nations seem to be slipping into number one spot.   

      Traditional national greatness is more a perception of exceptionalism from which the justification of privilege of one type or another is based.  Perceived greatness was a lesson we learned from those colonial-minded European ancestors who came to our shores over the last half a millennia.  It has a tinge of being chosen for a special mission; it included a justification of placing others in the status of servitude or even slavery; it involved senses of power and control based on army and navy might and scattered global military bases.  It even included the impunity to enter another's sovereign space and assassinate someone who was marked as "a terrorist."  Greatness and privilege went hand-in-hand, and raised the ire of others while we overlooked the seething anger of those subjected to our might and overhead drones. 

      Some of what has just been said makes patriotic people resentful and say, "But our security has been at stake."  But in a longer view maybe we ought to ask, whether our perceived greatness and its preservation might have become a cause of insecurity, and that true greatness could perhaps rest in another measure, namely, to be the first to share resources with the underprivileged of the world.  A spiritual form of greatness has been absent from the political discourse of the upcoming elections in November.  Isn't it time that some endeavor to talk about sharing resources with the needy, and that the greatest security in the world in which we live is the health of Africans?  We hear candidates of both political stripes tell why we must continue our role as "great" in the most unrealistic and selfish manner.    

      Besides, isn't one nation per century enough for the limelight?  Wasn't one American century enough for a time?  However, we need not abandon the global scene.  Rather let us be the first to redefine "greatness" in spiritual terms, something that even materialists in emerging nations overlook.  Let's be first to feed all the people, give health opportunities to all, liberate prisoners, and share resources with the disadvantaged.   

      Prayer: Lord, give us new insight to see that if we are to be great, let it be in service for others; help us to expand freedom and equality, and thus be faithful to our founding ideals.









Kitchen Experimentation: Project Pickle!
Sour pickles, in the works.
(*photo by Shannon Henry. Creative Commons.)

January 7, 2012  Welcome to the Vinegar-Loving, Sour-Pickle People 

      One observer asked me, "Are you really so short of new topics that you resort to sour pickles?"  How about raw sauerkraut, pickled pigs feet dashed with horseradish, old-time damson plums, or cheaper red wine?  I always wanted to write about sour pickles and other such delights, but now have the nerve in old age.   

      Lovers of sourness are so few in number that we risk being marginalized or regarded as requiring counseling due to distorted taste buds.  One of my relatives confided half in secret that her little three-year old loves sour things, and would take a pickle over ice cream.  I said that it is okay; I often cover ice cream with slices of pickles.  I confided that if the little one is not simultaneously favoring sweets, she may never have an obesity problem; of course when she favors pickles for dessert, she must be prepared for ribbing by those with culinary intolerance.  

      Yes, I began this by eating a sour pickle from my collection that I would share with others, except most wince at the sour taste, and ask for a dose of honey or molasses.  A small number of us in this world (I suspect less than one percent) love sour pickles, and the sourer the better.  Forget the "sweet and sour" sugar additions.  Keep it straight vinegar -- a godsend for the world of sourness, but be careful, for too many sour things undiluted could wear away the enamel from your teeth and solely sour things may upset the digestive system.   

      Attention vinegar lovers!  Moderation in everything is utterly important, even those tempted to swig unadulterated (non-aqueous) vinegar.  Please, cut all drinks with water, even non-intoxicating ones.  However, continue to look for a multitude of ways of making the vinegar more enjoyable with a host of herbs that you or friends grow -- and to list all that could be used (it would take the remainder of the page).  In fact, just about any edible herb or herb combination could be added to make a fine, special tasting vinegar that can be used in soups, salads, meat and fish stews, and other dishes.  Promote vinegars as a new enterprise worthy of economic embellishment in an age seeking new job opportunities.


      Note: In December, without fanfare, I suggested that my fourth year of food varieties (after 365 soups, 365 salads and 365 oatmeal preparations) will be 366 ways (leap year, you know) to make herbal vinegars.  However, the prospect of creating all those vinegars is daunting, and so the 2012 variation cooking is broadened to include the use of vinegar in cooking; this gives a wider variation and the goal can be met more easily.  Again, even among you more moderate sour pickle lovers, suggestions are welcome.

  Prayer: Lord, allow your creativity to rub off on us.  Acidity has its place in the universe in so many ways from fermentation to photosynthesis, so let at least a few of us celebrate it on occasions. 







Planted narcissus blubs bloom in winter.
 (*photo credit)

January 8, 2012     The Privilege to Relinquish Privilege 

      The feast of Epiphany is when we celebrate a Messiah for us all, not just for the chosen people, and we celebrate being included and thus being privileged in a general way.   

      Letting go of what we held as infants and children and teenagers and middle aged is all part of life.  Often what is given up is the privilege of the younger or more immature lifestyle for something of greater responsibility for and to others.  Privileges of status, or perks, or foods, or treatment are relinquished for a greater good.  In essence, we can understand this in unselfish ways of acting as individuals, but does this not also apply to groups of people and even nations and cultures?  Does maturation involve abandoning privileges at a national level for a global body? 

      The greatest form of exceptionalism that is wrecking our world, robbing our resources, and heightening pollution levels is that of indiscriminate use of resources.  If one has the power of the dollar to buy whatever one likes (it is never satisfying), then acquire all the more and more of the "playthings of life."  The next innovative device must be acquired to keep up with the neighbor.  This feeds on a consumer culture that grows to the profit of a few and the dreams of the have-nots.  Material privilege is the goal of many emerging, immature, and greedy people seeking to imitate the other richer greedy folks in the world.    

      The challenge for us all is to show that it is a privilege to give and not just to receive.  From Jesus we learn that the privilege of service done in love is a godly act that makes us deeply happy in this life and in an eternity as well.  Thus, those who have little and are happy in giving refute the prevailing attitude in our consumer culture: "the more materials the better."  On the national level, a quest for less material benefits could divert attention to people with essential needs.  Fair taxes on the wealthy opens the doors for financial resources for expanded health care that is a global security issue.  A new development is to focus consumption patterns on satisfying the needy of the world, a major undertaking of immense proportions and potential benefits. 

      A peacetime dividend, a feedback loop of benefits will result.  The act of being willing to relinquish is the trigger to starting a contagion of good, but a people committed to less materialism must lead the way or else it will never be done.  Those who see the privilege of relinquishment of material things can see the benefits that could accrue on a national and global level, and that these actually work to the betterment of a world in turmoil.  Yes, spiritual benefits result for all.  We break the chains of disparity of resources. We are called to be wise people bringing gifts to the Jesus of the struggling world, and in so sharing we gain global solidarity -- a privilege for us and those we serve. 

      Prayer: Lord, make us wise in giving our treasured gifts to the helpless babes of this world and all live together in peace. 






Unusual mailbox
An unusual mailbox.
 (*photo credit)

January 9, 2012     Support the U.S. Postal Service 

      We post a letter and send it great distances.  We take for granted this service along with the regularity of the postman or woman.  In rural areas of our country we find this service is of great and often unspoken value; many postal deliverers serve as a civic connection, a buddy system for isolated elders and a pre-alert for the immobilized.  The one who discovers mail piling up generally notifies authorities to investigate a dwelling -- and this is a valuable service that glues our country together.  

      Reduced mail volume places our Postal service in danger of defaulting, since it runs as a semi-private entity with strong governmental requirements and corporate demands.  Efforts are being made to keep the Service solvent and functioning in this age of electronic mail and reduced hand-written letters and greetings.  Proposals for solvency have included issuing postage stamps; the U.S. Postal Service realizes that stamp collectors add tens of millions of dollars to the coffers buying colorful commemorative stamps.  Will turning to living people cause controversy as to selections?  Further attention has been given to limiting service by cutting Saturday delivery that may not be a major inconvenience for many.  However, cutting down the number of post offices, even though many of these are social centers for certain communities will take a toll.  Relocating offices to business establishments as practiced in Europe with great maintenance savings is one option.  

      "Snail mail," as it is pejoratively known, has certainly taken a major hit in the past few decades through the emergence of electronic mail, cell phone, Facebook, and Twitter.  Social connections avoid the post.  Certainly the desire to be connected has many benefits.  However, failure to answer that same day is regarded by some as virtually rude or inconsiderate -- or implying that the person is so deathly sick that 911 must be summoned to a residence.  As one who is cell phoneless, I regard instant response as a burden even when trying to oblige quickly by email.   

      The often overlooked benefits of posted letters is that these are concrete records that can be filed; they are more private and confidential than emails; they are written with more forethought and omit rapid and often abrasive responses; and they allow the time it takes to reflect on the full meaning of contents.  A card or simple letter of greeting, celebration, or condolence means so much to many of us, and especially to those who find computer communication more difficult with older age and illness.  The theft of personal information on the Internet becomes a matter of concern that the dependable (but not perfect) Postal Service can boast of safeguarding to some degree.  The further advantage of a satisfying service occupation for tens of thousands of our citizens must be regarded as a benefit in this age of high unemployment.  Let's hope we continue having the U.S. Postal Service. 

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to see advantages of rapid communication, and to use ways to make our bonding stronger.








Muncho Lake / Canada
The Canadian Rockies.
 (*photo credit)

January 10, 2012       Is Israel America's Spoiled Brat? 

      The title is not the invention of this author but the public statement made last year by the prime minister of Turkey; this was made after Israel's naval forces stopped a Turkish ship attempting to carry relief supplies to people in the cut-off Gaza strip.  However, "brathood" does raise questions that need addressing.  First, the title is offensive and pejorative; it causes offense in Israel and among that nation's supporters in the United States and maybe elsewhere.  However, such dramatic terminology can be a wake-up call to people who are privileged to get what they want through the patronage of a mighty protector like the United States.  There also may be truth to it, if the favoritism is so great that it leads to actions not acceptable by a larger global community. 

      Revealing an unfortunate condescension to a nation that has not stopped an inappropriate action may be acting responsibly.  If that country expropriates land and builds on sites in a densely populated West Bank inhabited by Palestinians powerless before the might of Israel, then something must be said openly -- tough love calls for it.  In this sense, the favoritism of a financially and militarily all-powerful U.S. exceeds the limits of a "special" relationship that protects the vital interests of the protected nation.  Weak children need protection if bullies attack them on the way to or from school; however, children who damage property on the way to or from school may feel privileged but neighbors may call them "brats."  Does Israel deserve such a designation? 

      The title may be more directed at the spoiler than the one spoiled.  Granted, some in Israel believe they have a right to take over the West Bank with little or no provision for the peace and security of the current inhabitants. This more fundamentalistic view of occupation for convoluted reasons may be championed by fundamentalist American Christians.  Spoiling another is never good policy.  Why ought we to appease vocal elements in either Israel or in our country when the nation perpetuates misdeeds to unfortunate neighbors?  Our scarce financial resources need to be conserved.  No one has a "right" to something, even living space, without the responsibility to enjoy a peaceful and just life with the neighbor with whom he lives.  The responsibilities of Israel to its neighbors are as important as its right to security.  The threat of removal of financial ties is a possibility.  No more funds, if you act improperly.  Friendship sometimes makes demands on all parties.


      * A note on a previous reflection: Ideally, I still believe in a "one-state" Holy Land solution but in the practical order one must concede to the two-state solution -- due to current Israel expansion projects that go on with strong Palestinian opposition.


      Prayer: Lord, help us to heal our wounded Earth by talking of rights and responsibilities on the part of all parties.  You made Israel a privileged and chosen people -- and to some degree their mission continues. We are called to help them fulfill that mission in fairness to all neighbors. 









American pastureland.
 (*photo credit)

January 11, 2012  Approaches to Pro-life/Environmental Protection                                    

      The upcoming election could be a very crucial one; the voter is reminded that single issues are not sufficient to base the eligibility of a candidate for elected office.  The following are several types of voters and their approaches that are worth considering at this time: 

      Non-involved Position: This person holds that no issue is of major concern, or that his or her personal concerns such as health or job security are number one and civic participation is of little importance.  The state of responsible citizenship, especially when it comes to candidate choices in the coming election is ignored. 

     Partisan Left-Wing: This person is pro-choice with no time to hear the pro-life issues that are dismissed as socially conservative.  Perhaps the person sees no connection between pro-life and a pro-environmental stance.  In fact, on some pro-life matters there may be agreement such as anti-capital punishment and anti-militarism and Afghanistan War, as well as a favorable stance to addressing poverty in this world and confront the problem of disparity of wealth.  

      Partisan Right-Wing: This person is pro-life with emphasis on the anti-abortion issue and social concerns such as protection of the end of life issues.  However, this person has developed or uncritically accepted a political anti-environment stance and is led to believe that there is no or little human causation for climate change.  This person may or may not extend pro-life to include just treatment of prisoners, war and peace issues, and anti-capital punishment policies.   

      Latent Partisan: This person is silent on either the pro-life issues but vocal on environmental protection, or silent on environmental connections and vocal on specific pro-life issues.  In any case, Abraham Lincoln's remark, about silence when we must speak is equivalent to being a coward, is a propos.  Such persons may not want to be too deeply involved in issues that may result in controversies or domestic political debate and so holds his or her silence in this election year. 

      Seamless Garment Position: This person accepts that environmental protection is a (or the) pro-life issue (see December 15).  This person may begin to side with this stance, if and when it becomes politically feasible or when they are convinced that the position is solid, as many independent pro-environment or pro-life voters would hold.   One caution is the chameleon who says something to one crowd and another thing to another so as to please all parties -- provided the talks are not recorded.

      Prayer: Holy Spirit, inspire each voter to be conscientious on all issues whether social or economic, and to be prayerful in the selection of the best candidate for elected offices in the upcoming election. 







Cave Run Lake
Cave Run Lake, KY.
 (*photo credit)

January 12, 2012     HERE Is Where We Act as Earthhealers 

      In many of these reflections over the years we have spoken of HERE meaning our locality, our place of residence and other aspects: its people, its culture, its social and political structure, its environment with its flora and fauna, and its climate and all good things so related.  My environment differs from that of people in other places, a relativity which makes what I say somewhat different from others.  This "hereness" specifies my emotional life, my outlook on the world around us, and even the way I praise and thank God for the gifts I perceive.  All creation has a special meaning for me that is unique in many ways.   

      Act Locally.  The original concept as described two decades ago in "Down to Earth Spirituality" was that we must appropriate our place; we do not expect outside gurus to define the environment for us.  We discover specificity and thus our environment has a local flavor demanding that we act in this place, and that our local neighborhood show responsibility for the limited resources we have at hand.  Here we find our meaning and discover our shortcomings; here to the best of our power we start the process of healing what has been damaged.  

      Show respect by practicing stewardship.  The basis with good local citizenship is that we learn to share resources, and not use them in a selfish manner, for such is disruptive of the local environment.  Generally, the tyranny of personal greed leads to excessive consumption or a lack of sustainability in such matters.  Our responsible local actions must be those of a wise steward, for these gifts are HERE before our eyes.  We treat these gifts with respect and kindness lest we damage our community through disruptive behavior.  Awareness of our strengths and weaknesses makes us desire to live within our means.   

      Discovering environmental damage is shocking to us.  First, at the local level, and then progressively beyond we see that actions are not perfect.  Many do not act locally and either try to impose outside ways of thinking or take themselves outside and away from the needs of the local scene and become colonist onto other localities.  Being truly local means being good community people, who believe in conservation of resources.  As the primitive people who ask forgiveness and express gratitude to the hunted animal that will furnish them meat and livelihood, so we see our place, and that we always show respect when using resources.  

      Prayer: Lord, give us a first degree of humility that allows us to know and respect all the gifts of creation, to take pride in our local environment, to call it home, and to see how much it has been hurt through misdeeds.  Keep us from becoming paralyzed by damage done, so as to be tempted to deny their existence, excuse ourselves from acting, or seek to escape to other attractions.  Help us see social injustice and to take the first steps to bring salvation to a wounded Earth.  Give us remorse for damage done and a responsibility for needed remedial action.








Misty morning
Winter morning fog.
 (*photo credit)

January 13, 2012    NOW Is the Time to Heal Our Wounded Earth 

      NOW refers to the present moment, an awareness of this day with all its implications, a consciousness of the "signs of our times."  This involves a down-to-earth approach that makes us not live in an idyllic past or in a dreamy future but in a more realistic present situation.  In fact, the present moment is a balance of a past history of personal and community experience that comes to meet a future of hope that is beyond the distant horizon. 

      Think globally.  We soon look out and see that the actions done today affect others in many ways.  Knowing and not forgetting the past makes us aware of benefits done in an economy of time and also the damage done to the gifts of creations through individual and group misdeeds.  In looking out at the world, we become aware of a broader environment that extends beyond my locality and, at the same time, is caught up in an urgency for taking corrective measures by those in change.  Urgency strikes globally NOW; we cannot delay though some may seek to excuse themselves because of the complexity of the tasks before us.  Local action is not sufficient, for environmental air and water pollutants known not national boundaries.  Misdeeds affect a wounded world; so do healing deeds.  

      Become aware of the shortness of life is a second component of stewardship that allows us to be moved by the urgency to act.  This moment becomes the time to "strike while the iron is hot," "to make hay while the sun shines."  As mortal beings, we can only do so much in our limited time, and then we are gone.  We become aware that we must make the best of the present moment.  We have been blessed with time as a gift as much as material things, and so we learn to respect time.  Awareness of shortness of time and corrective measures leads to seeing our individual inadequacy and this causes initial panic.  We start to look beyond for help.

      Confronting social addictions dawns as an insurmountable hurdle in addressing weaknesses of our dysfunctional economic system.  This system encourages consumption through commercial promotion of quantities of material goods.  Consumers seek futile satisfaction that materials cannot give; rather they seek to imitate affluent consumers.  This materialistic process becomes a plague that encompasses the entire world.  Tens of millions want to be "Middle Class" with private vehicles, spacious homes, newer electronic devices, and recourse-intensive foods.  Consumer demands cause more products, disturbances for extracting resources, and increased pollutants and waste materials.  But the imperfect corrective measures we undertake are insufficient to halt the onslaught of consumer appetites and desires.

      Prayer: Lord, give us a second degree of humility that seeks for more perfect ways to overcome the imperfections and addictions that tie us down.  Help us see that in our fumbling corrective measures we are called to enter into the sufferings of Jesus on Calvary, extended in space and time.  









A home for bluebirds.
 (*photo credit)

January 14, 2012   WE Are the Ones Called to Heal  

    WE are all people of good will who are called to enter the process of healing our wounded Earth.  This emerging cooperative group is global in scope and embraces all people, not just those in power or the privileged elite.  Many of the more politically savvy do not want to bite the wealthy hand that feeds their institutions.  Ought we not drive the financial moneychangers from the market temple, for our Earth was meant "for all the People?"  Financial interests perpetrate values that are unsustainable and ultimately anti-environmental.  We must present ways to curb extravagance.   

      Discern how to act globally.  Unless we addicted people acknowledged our inadequacy before God, the rampant materialism will continue, and Earth will be damaged, possibly beyond short-term resuscitation.  However, only by realizing the powerlessness as an addicted people can we see the need to work in solidarity with all people in coming to global solutions.  Our actions begin at home certainly and with urgency; however, these actions go out in concentric circles to ever greater audiences -- a ripple effect.  Certain conditions can upset that effect for it is not our efforts or greater efforts that will bring results.  Acting globally goes beyond technical experts and include people working towards common goals in the public interest.  These people must replace materialistic goals of wealth and power. 

      Working together in solidarity is needed to renew our wounded Earth.  While individual power is limited, groups working together in solidarity can answer the call to action: the hungry and homeless tell what are essentials; farmers and workers manifest the virtue of hard work; shut-ins and prisoners show the power of prayer and patience; the unemployed witness to the need to gain a livelihood and with government as a means of last resort; the ill and those living near toxic waste emitters testify to the urgency of change; the experts work in cooperative groups; and ex-addicts can show us how to address consumer addictions.  

      Included in the components of an authentic WE are: 

      * Respect for all creation, especially our local environmental actions here were we are located; 

      * Acknowledgement of the suffering of which our addictions urgently call us to see yet still aware that all suffering has ultimate meaning; 

     * Reaching out with all others because of our limited abilities to answer and renew our Earth by singular efforts. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to a deepest degree of humility and to be willing to be poor with all poor folks, to do more than see the damage, and seek to work towards perfect ordering of all things.  Help us to be identified with the poor, for it is these who will bring about a profound change needed in our ravaged world.









Ice is nice
Ice is nice.
 (*photo credit)

January 15, 2012   Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening          

      Samuel's response to the call of the Lord (I Samuel 3) at the direction of Eli is meant for us as well.  We are to be always in a listening mode.  In some ways this passage is a favorite during the January days when vocations to priesthood and consecrated life are highlighted.  It is as though the call of the hoot owl or the lone coyote is the call of God coming in the night to Samuel and to all of us.  The youth Samuel was not familiar with God's call, and the ancient Eli had to direct him to be in a listening mode after the first, and the second, and then the third call.  Note the rapid response of Samuel to the calls even though he is unaware of the source.  Experience allows us to discover the Source of all calls.  

      Detecting the source of the call is the first step.  Many times in the confused world in which we live, we do not know the source though a message is perceived.  We get the initial phone call but not the total content of the message.  In this age of Internet, social networking, and constant bombardment of information, we may hear various voices, but still not be able to detect which ones are meaningful.  We are overwhelmed by information.  God speaks to each of us -- we may be willing to listen, but to whom do we attribute the message? 

      Listening to the message is the second step.  All of us are like Samuel, for we hear but do not recognize the source.  We are uniquely called by God, but that can be somewhat frightening if we choose to be left totally unassisted.  We seek companionship and encouragement from others around us.  "Am I so important that God really calls me?"  "Lord, you want me to do this?"   If we are familiar or are willing to become familiar with God, the content will unfold in prayerful conversation over time.  The help of spiritual companions makes the journey of faith easier.    

      Finding the refinement of the message is more ongoing.  We may speak of individual calls becoming more meaningful over time.  If we are tempted to think the basic call keeps changing, then some of us may lose heart. However, refinement of God's call to us is normally a maturation process, and through the experience of living and prayer we tune in and listen more earnestly.  At times in some people's lives pronounced calls for abrupt change of direction occur, but that is not the pattern of everyone.  God's ways are not our ways, though we are comforted in knowing that God is merciful.  

      Letting go is part of the ongoing call.  Refinement of the call means that we must have an open mind, a time of reflection so that we are prepared for what comes beyond the bend in our path of faith.  God calls us to let go of our old self and people and ways so dear to us in the past; an indefinite future stretches before us.  Part of our spiritual maturing process is to be prepared for the unexpected in each age -- and this makes life interesting.

      Prayer: Lord, continue to speak and I will continue to keep my spiritual ears open to listen for your voice. 








Standing on the spot of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
(*photo by Life is Good Pete, Creative Commons)

January 16, 2012   Hidden Racism and Public Racial Pride 

      Martin Luther King, Jr's Birthday is an opportune time for us to review our lives and sweep out the hidden cobwebs of racism that may linger.  Some in a fit of self-righteousness will say they are totally non-racist.  So be it!  Most of us have some streak of racism that we do not readily admit but could occur on special occasions or in a fit of being provoked by some event or person.  Our past still haunts us and sometimes surfaces. 

      A segregated racial experience.  My early Second World War years were spent in a segregated Border South, and we rode a "lily white" (really orange) school bus bypassing little black

friends; these had to wait for a station wagon to take them to a one-room school (the injustice burned me up then).  In those 1940's the word "mister" was only used for white people; when elderly Afro-Americans died in this land of gentility, their obituary stated as title "uncle" or "aunt."  Separation was the tradition and few wanted to challenge it -- though we did break loose and share meals with our Afro-American neighbors.  On looking back, my personal experiences with these were always positive and we learned much from their presence -- though they suffered in that stratified society. 

      Lingering racist traces.  Unfortunately, the bad elements of the past are never totally purged.  We can still hear latent racism: in politics; in speaking of or to other people, even the tone in phone conversations; in jokes and light-hearted remarks; and in a host of other times and places.  I was tempted to repeat one but think it best to uproot it from memory.   

      A revised racial experience.  To celebrate this day we have to do more than self-examination.  It is unrealistic to seek to be racially blind.  I struggle to overcome the vestiges of past privilege, even though being from lower-income farming people my task has not been that challenging.  How about celebrating race in the African- American (or Latino or Native American) pride motif?  How about emphasizing our positive racially diverse heritages?  Let's emphasize positive racial experience that can be shared: 

    * cultural meals from grits to collard greens;

      * songs and music from jazz to blues;

      * prayers of petition and praise in many ways;

      * storytelling according to rich African traditions;

      * lighthearted humor in the manner of greeting;

      * learning to handle grief in departure of loved ones; and

      * faith in a better future even with overhanging clouds. 

      I am going to make a gesture by having collard greens from my winterized garden today; I'll cook them the way Hattie Simpson made them when she helped our family in times of need.    

      Prayer: Lord, refashion our memory in such ways that good racial thoughts predominate and bad ones are purged away.









A home-crafted solar food cooker.
 (*photo credit)

January 17, 2012     Has Solar Manufacturing Moved to China? 

    On September 26, 2011, when this reflection was first conceived, the NPR radio program "On-Point" had a one-hour segment dealing with the rapid movement of the Solar panel industry to China; this occurred in the aftermath of three American solar manufacturers going bankrupt.  The facts detailed how a combination of tax incentives, perks, and low labor costs along with pirating of solar technologies had given Chinese solar manufacturing a boost.  Beyond depressed equipment production one could find accelerated rates of American solar sales and installation.  Some of the experts conceded that production would not return.  However, no mention was made in the program as to whether innovative technologies such as solar roof coating would be affected.  Chinese solar panel manufacturing has resulted in reduced costs in only two or three years (now at $2/watt when we paid $5 three decades ago). 

      Part of the aggressive argument was that solar production includes incremental toxic wastes affecting local communities, inhabitants and especially the workers in factories in China.  In fact, the Chinese manufacturing reduced prices by ignoring environmental safeguards.  Fair enough!  But even current manufacturing technology may soon be outdated and so the vast investment in the 21st century equivalent of horse carriages or typewriters may be prematurely unwise.  Solar technology moves on and applications are in very high demand.   

      Solar energy is just becoming competitive with fossil fuels (natural gas and oil), that are dropping in price due to "fracting" of oil and gas shale-containing formations in a wide portion of our country.  The rapid move to self-sufficiency in these fuels is making the battle of competitive renewable energy sources more difficult, but not impossible.  Yes, carbon dioxide levels continue rising to a worrisome degree, though a combination of gas and solar/wind for electricity production seems to be an emerging viable alternative.  China made a gamble when striving for solar equipment exports, but the field of technologies and energy mixes is changing rapidly.  What will the longer term bring?   

      We must insist that the new and cheaper imported solar equipment (as with all such imports) be done in justice and sound conditions for workers, neighbors to the factories, and the environment itself.  Tariffs on imports may not be wise, but these basic demands are only proper since we expect the same for American wages, hours, and environmental circumstances.  If the ultimate result from just conditions is a lower-cost solar panel that helps reduce fossil fuel emissions, the good of all is at stake -- the worker, the neighbor, and the environment.  Solar is taking off at very high growth rates, and all means to hasten this renewable alternative must be championed in an appropriate manner.  

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to call for justice for all in what we use as consumer products, especially when we intend to use them well and the ultimate result will be improved social conditions.









Snowbirding in the Arizona desert.
(*photo by Tim Milkmit, Creative Commons)

January 18, 2012  When is a Seasonal Move (Snowbirding) Green?

      We may look out the window in a northern residence and wish we could be in Florida to avoid the icy conditions just beyond the glass.  Birds may fly, migrants workers follow the harvesting periods, others simply stay at home with few wishful thoughts of fleeing beyond their means.  But some may give this wintry escape ample thought, for it takes heat to warm a house in winter and cooling to make one comfortable in summer.  Aren't the migrating birds adhering to an environmental or green mentality of avoiding the cold or the excessive heat? 

      Circumstances vary with individuals.  Access to two dwellings (one in the North and one in the South) is simply not affordable for many.  If this option is within one's means, should not the amount of heat demanded by the dweller for comfort in winter be considered?  Should those who need 75 degree Fahrenheit room temperatures during winter simply dress warmer and live more healthy lives?  Do not more die in summer from overheat than in winter from cold?  Don't insulation and warm clothes and bedding make a difference -- and allow winter weather to be tolerated?  Additional points worth a January reflection and questioning are: 

     Visitors for a short time: People who can get away from winter to Florida and have relatives or friends there are fortunate.  That means cutting down Northern domestic heating to a minimum temperature that keeps water pipes from freezing.  Depending on length of visit, the fuel for travel may equal the domestic space fuel savings. Shouldn't we factor benefits of a rejuvenated spirit? 

      Northerners with Florida connections: Amazingly, large numbers have relatives in the south who even want those who suffer from winters to migrate south and live with them during severe winter months.  Where living congenially with extended families is possible, closing down a winter house can be green, especially if one calculates the cost of winter heating bills.

      People with two residences: This is problematic because house maintenance costs are generally greater than heat saved in winter or cool air saved through residing in the North in summer.  Greenness depends on the size of residences.  A summer small cabin when closed in winter requires low maintenance.   

     Floridian escapees in summer: This migration in the other direction (along with the semi-tropical birds coming north) may involve greenness, if the migrants north have access to a small summer cabin that requires little or no extra cooling.  The space savings often exceeds fuel costs of getting from place to place, especially if one travels by train, bus, or even public airlines.  

      Prayer: Lord, give us the stamina to endure winters, and if this proves too hard, allow us the gift of welcoming warmer places   and people with whom to visit and reside. 








Nothing Takes the Taste Out Of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter, celery, and raisins - "ants on a  log" - a treat!
(*photo by Brian Talbot, Creative Commons)

January 19, 2012  Peanuts: Ecologically Green Food

  Goodness how delicious, eating goober peas.  U.S. Southern Song

      Peanut, "groundnut," or "goober peas" have a long food and culinary history originating in South America, spreading out to central America, and then to the world, especially Asia and Africa.  Amazingly, this proves to be a truly green food in many ways:  

      Soil improvement -- The leguminous peanut plant (Arachis hypogaea) bears its fruit underground and not on nut trees.  Peanut production was promoted in our own South after the Civil War because cotton fields were prone to become nitrogen depleted (and thus replenished by peanut crops).  Today, the peanut is regarded as a major U.S. and foreign crop, including in sub-Saharan Africa. 

      High quality food -- The lowly peanut is high in protein as well as calories and in antioxidants and other supplements -- this becomes a major item in prepared quick foods for hungry children. 

      Popularity -- In America, few food items are more popular than the peanut and its derived "peanut butter," which when mixed with jelly becomes a favorite children's treat.  For food- conscious families, peanuts are relatively cheap due to high global production volume (34.5 million metric tons per year).    

      Versatility -- A national policy of peanut use developed in the early twentieth century.  George Washington Carver, a famous black American researcher, is credited to have invented some 300 uses of peanuts -- though not peanut butter.  American stores sell many brands of peanut-containing candy bars and snack foods, peanuts in cakes, cookies, peanut milk, and peanut oil, as well as fried and boiled varieties of peanut specialties.  

      Adaptability -- Peanut and other components of trail mixes are perfect for hiking and exploration because high nutrition calories and protein are packed into quickly edible (no fuel needed for cooking) materials.  Don't forget that bears know a good thing too and backpacks containing peanut materials must be safeguarded. 

      Economy -- Prices of peanuts are rising but still far below the prices of other nut products. I regard the peanut as a major food portion of my diet and include two dozen oatmeal mixes with peanuts as well as a variety of salads containing the nuts.   

      Not Perfect -- While peanuts are popular, still 1-2% of people have some allergic reactions to them, and a small portion of these can suffer life-threatening anaphylactic shock from eating trace amounts and even processed foods made from peanut-contaminated equipment.  Worried parents demand peanut labeling in such items as ice cream; they strive to get peanuts banned from school menus and airline snacks.  Many but not all peanut allergies can be treated.  

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to know good foods and to help promote these in a cost-conscious, hungry, and starving world.       







Public mural, Livingston, KY.
 (*photo credit)

January 20, 2012   Ten Eco-balances for an Earthhealer 

      The admonition for doctors to heal themselves extends to all of us who seek to be healers of this wounded world.  We can only help reestablish eco-balance if we harmonize our own lives: 

      * Action and Reflection -- We work and we pause to reflect, and we need a balance of both so we can live in harmony with our neighbors and with ourselves. 

      * Prayer and Work -- We can hardly expect God to do miracles apart from our efforts, for such is presumptuous.  Godly work includes using our hands and feet and brains and tongues.   

      * Private and Public Prayer --  While praying in private in a room or the great outdoors has its place, so does prayer with others in church, thus showing that our own salvation is a community enterprise of the faithful. 

      * Anger and Mercy -- The interior balance of being merciful to all others and yet being angry about actions that hurt others must be part of a personal but public ecological stance; this is in imitation of Jesus' own public life.

      * Exercise and Rest -- We are busy people and we need to relieve the normal stresses of an active life, but that means we get necessary physical exercise AND necessary sleep and rest. 

      * Personal and Community Care -- We should not isolate ourselves but rather make local interest and activity part of a healthy environment.  We must always reach out to those in need. 

     * Local and Global Action -- Through faith we believe that what we do locally but in solidarity with others in the world makes our actions global in scope (First Law of Eco-dynamics). 

      * Positive Activity and Suffering -- People are united in faith and compassion with all who are willing to work and to suffer together in whatever state they find themselves.  No suffering is lost (Second Law of Eco-dynamics). 

      * Acceptance and Confrontation -- If and when we are looked down upon personally we may have to accept it.  However, the oppressed of the world demand our support and resulting confrontation in solidarity with all people of good will contributing their talents (Third Law of Eco-dynamics). 

      * Mortal and Eternal Life -- Every effort to repair our current world order must be balanced by the need to help with the establishment of a future New Heaven and New Earth -- action by which we help hasten the day of their coming (II Peter).   

      Prayer: Lord, please correct our many imbalances so we can become effective healers of our wounded Earth. 






Seed pods in the snow.
 (*photo credit)

January 21, 2012  Should We Use More Public Transportation? 

      On the whole, once someone must travel, the mode of going from point A to Point B becomes an ecological as well as convenience exercise.  Are resources conserved in the manner of the choice?

This travel question is posed as a "we" instead of an "I" for several reasons: many of us have better access to either private or public travel and so the aggregate is more important than the specific individual practice.   

      If we have access to a private vehicle we stress convenience, independence, and other amenities that are accepted with little reflection.  The private car means so much to busy people.  Generally, the public sector looms as just that -- a public mingling with the crowds (when the solitary aspects of one's personal vehicle runs deep with auto users).  Again, trips involve private vehicles to reach public places of departure or after arrival at the other end.  Thus attention must be paid to the mixed public and private modes, for in some instances time and resources are saved by doing the entire trip by private means.   

      The specific rural travel has difficulties not experienced in urban life with subways or airlines relatively close at hand.  I am seventy-five miles from a regular commercial airport and over one hundred from international airports, with their  considerable surface congestion and parking problems.  Here the mixed public/private considerations take on greater importance along with extended travel time of departure, processing, waiting, arrival, and final destination considerations.  Passenger trains were quick inexpensive travel modes our parents used in early 20th century, but now virtually non-existent in rural America (though hopes spring eternal).  Buses are more abundant but not frequent and walking or biking are prohibitive beyond local areas.

      The question is more than academic: it involves time, energy, talent in some private travel to travel hubs, expense, and physical limits.  Some of us carpool with those going to the same end point.  Some of us can conduct business via phone, email, postal letter, or even teleconferencing.  Much can be done from a distance without the physical travel, but not all.  Personal contact is uniquely valuable when someone needs genuine encouragement, when condolences must be made in person, or when an initial gathering allows the participants to experience another's presence even on singular occasions.  Thus the basic consideration for "necessary" travel is more fundamental than private versus public modes. 

      Longer-term future travel is our focus here.  In America we need public transportation systems now available in Europe and becoming so in Asia.  Building these infrastructures takes public funding and a will to travel more ecologically.  An emphasis on public travel deserves tax-payer support even with limited funds. 

      Prayer: Lord, we are on our journey of faith; help us to think as poor people when we plan and make our travels in life.









A young Eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus.
 (*photo credit)

January 22, 2012  Modern Jonah: A Serious and Light-hearted Story

      Up! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.  (Jonah 3:2) 

      We are called to be modern "Jonah" prophets; Nineveh is the worldwide arena; going out is engaging in the Internet through social networking with those in need; and preaching is our interaction or our unique manner of responding to divine inspiration, the Lord's call to each of us.

      The basic Jonah story is well known.  Jonah is a reluctant prophet; he suffers from being disobedient in his manner of responding to his mission; he is called to go to Nineveh, a vast city, and yet he turns away and goes off to Tarshish -- the other end of the Earth.  This tale is an amusing story that in one sense seems quite farfetched.  Jonah finally listens to the call to convert Nineveh after being the victim of a storm, thrown into the sea as though lost, rescued by a whale, regurgitated onto the land, moves forward to his delayed mission, and after the mission is accomplished complains even amid its success.  God works with imperfect Jonahs and accepts people where they are.  Jonah's work is completed and yet he sits outside the city depressed and awaiting death.  A castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis) grows up quickly and shades him; it dies and he faces the scorching sun and again waits to die.  God finally tells him one last time that social concern of the people of Nineveh is what is important. 

     We are engaged each in our own way in a Jonah Story:

      * We are also called by God each in our own way, for we each have a unique mission;

     * All too often we run from that call in our own way, but God is the "Hound from Heaven" and seeks us out on the fleeing ships of this world's busyness and cares;

     * Misfortune strikes in the storms of life and all seems lost in the manner in which we have forsaken our mission; 

      * Earthly creatures all too often are the messengers who are meant to bring us back to our senses and to regain our mission;

     * God's message is serious even when accentuated through light-heartedness; we must return to our call to save a wandering world, and preach the message of simpler lifestyle;

      * God's love and mercy extends to the brute animals, for these are included in Nineveh's repentance and our wellbeing;

     * The urgency of mission grows as the agent of change becomes involved in the work at hand and demands a change of heart;

      * We are but servants in the service of our God, and that should be its own satisfaction; 

      * At times we face depression and dissatisfaction; and 

      * In humorous ways God blesses us with castor-oil plants. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to see our mission for what it is, to do so seriously and yet to persist in a light-hearted fashion.  









Reading an e-book by the fire.
 (*photo credit)

January 23, 2012     Advantages of Electronic Books

     During 2011, Earth Healing, Inc. essentially moved from paper (3 printed books in 2010) to electronic books (3 electronic books in 2011).  We say "essentially" since we could furnish paper versions of these upon demand, and as of this writing we have one possible paper book being considered by a publisher.  The record of paper publishing dropped from three-quarters of the total two years ago to about one-half in 2011, a national and worldwide phenomenon.  A younger generation of readers is growing up with a variety of electronic reading devices and tends to choose these for many reasons.  It is an older generation that holds back the near complete and dramatic conversion to the benefits of electronics:  

      1. Versatility -- Electronic books are easier to carry and store.  Today one can download hundreds of books or maybe an entire library on an electronic device.  These files can be easily transported from place to place in a highly mobile society and especially when traveling away from home for periods of time. 

      2. Economy -- Electronic books range from being free (our books) to low prices, averaging about ten dollars each, while first runs from the paper press can be three times that price. 

      3. Accessibility -- Word searches and obtaining copies or scarce books are far easier today than a few years back -- but this advantage also applies today to many paper books as well. 

      4. Ease in publication -- Do-it-yourselfers can present their works to wider audiences at far lower cost, publishing time, and promotion than in times past.  Updates or second editions can be made at far lower cost and with greater ease.  Reproduction is only a matter of a small flick of a computer key as opposed to slow and costly second paper editions over periods of time. 

      5. Increasing Ease -- With each passing year new methods are unearthed to make it still easier to electronically publish just about anything.  This could bear the disadvantage of having  copyrighted materials stolen, and thus income removed from legitimate authors and intellectual property holders. 

      Disadvantages do exist.  For one thing photographs are better presented in paper format as many testify who receive copies of our Mountain Moments.  The book lover's "feel" of paper can never be substituted by the electronic version.  The art of browsing in libraries and bookstores loses the familiar touch through lack of paper books.  The ability to flag familiar books and make footnotes is partly lost (but electronic books can be tagged for such purposes).  Last of all, the day of the beautiful book is fast ending as well as the day of the comfortable bookstore, small or large.  A half-of-a-millennia printed book era is ending.

      Prayer: Lord, we are people of the book; help us honor this through spreading the Good News using versatile electronic methods. 








 Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky
Windbreak around buildings of Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY.
 (*photo credit)

January 24, 2012      Selecting Trees for Windbreaks 

      We are experiencing winter's blasts of wind at our residence, office, or gathering place, and imagine or voice the observation, "This place needs a windbreak."  Obviously, we are not miracle workers getting wishes achieved in seconds.  In fact, planning, choosing species, planting, and patiently allowing trees to grow take time.  For a general background and planting technique on windbreaks see December 11, 2008.  So much depends on whether the property is rural or urban, on the windswept plains or in partly protective hills, or whether singly located or among artifacts.

      Like all trees, a number of windbreak specimens have advantages.  Urban developers talk about improvement of property value due to single tree additions (five or more dollars rental per month per grown tree).  Similar calculations of a community of trees in a windbreak may prove just as eye-opening.  Fuel economy and beauty have often been noted as additional economic windbreak features.  Depending on specific location and climate, the Arbor Day Foundation's The Treebook lists other general benefits performed by windbreaks: protecting valuable topsoil, increasing crop yield, protecting livestock, reducing odors, controlling snowdrifts, reducing noise, providing woody crops, adding wildlife habitat, and providing more comfortable outdoor living space. 

       Windbreaks come in many designs and styles.  A helpful and energy-saving idea is to place low-growing evergreens close to the foundation of the building.  However, a windbreak pruned to allow air to flow through it would reduce this insulating effect.  By preventing wind from whipping around the foundation, evergreen shields can create an air pocket close to the base of the structure.  In the winter time, these air pockets can sometimes be as much as ten degrees warmer than the ambient outdoor temperature. 

      Windbreaks can use a wide selection of tree species not all of which have to be native varieties.  Canadian hemlock, Colorado blue spruce, Norway spruce, and white pines are often favorites. The Arbor Day Foundation sells to members the American Arborvitae, Thuja occidentialis (used as a barrier at one of our parish churches).  Our Kentucky wild juniper we commonly call "cedar" is found in all limestone locations -- and really can be a wind barrier especially in its early years of life.  Outside species such as the Austrian pine that can get to be sixty feet tall and the Douglas fir that can reach one hundred feet are commonly recommended for windbreaks.  Many conifers may be chosen according to access and through advice of local agricultural agents.  Choices may be mixed species; interspersing of two or so varieties ensures a good stand.  Also concentric rows of taller and shorter but fuller foliage or flowering varieties may be selected.  Giving advice from a distance is bad advice; so seek local expertise but do consider the advantages of windbreaks in your neighborhood. 

      Prayer: Lord, inspire us to make a better world, to use the wind and yet take our breaks from it to the benefit of all. 









Rosenbaum Usonian House: Frank Lloyd Wright (Florence, AL)
Frank Lloyd Wrights simplified "Usonian" home, the Rosenbaum House. Florence, AL.
 (*photo credit)

January 25, 2012      Nine Reasons to Downsize Lifestyles 

      In an economy-changing world we have constantly stressed the need for those who live affluent or wasteful lives or "high on the hog" (ham and bacon in contrast to pigs feet and snout) to consider living more simply.  Most regard such movement away from materialistic patterns of life and expectations as countercultural and unworthy of perpetuation.  However, a growing cadre of people are turning their backs on upward mobility and are searching for reasons to support their new resolve: 

      1. Physical wellbeing is a major reason.  Reduction in stress from jobs and schedules of a busy lifestyle touches the health of partners and all family members.  Less stress means less high blood pressure, indigestion, and heart problems. 

      2. Religious motivation to live more simply includes a desire to live like Christ and the saints, and to devote attention to the needs of others through increased sensitivity and compassion. 

      3. Less maintenance of expensive vehicles as well as larger space demands in housing allows for more free time and less of the ongoing hassle in maintaining complex lifestyles.  This is a reason older people often choose to downsize their residence size. 

      4. Economics should never be overlooked, for affluent lifestyles require more money; in turn, the downsizing person may discover that lower lifestyles require less demanding jobs. 

      5. Ecological aspects include use of less resources for travel, heating and cooling space, and for producing and maintaining unneeded materials, and thus less impact on Earth's resources and resulting pollution.  

      6. Brighter outlooks on simpler things of life occur; one can better observe nature and changes of the seasons.  More quality time is available for outdoor connections with flora and fauna. 

      7. More time is available for family and interpersonal relations as well as visiting and caring for those in need.  The downsized position allows for broader expansion to hobbies and non-work-related activities such as crafts. 

      8. Social expansion occurs when we live more realistically.  New friends are discovered who are sympathetic to the needs of others, thus opening up an entire new world of relationships. 

      9. Exemplars are needed today to draw others away for upscale living patterns. National wellbeing includes the contribution of individual downsizers to the total health of a local and distant people everywhere, and to start a new spiritual motivation.  

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to see that by living more simply we are participating in the coming of your Kingdom.








Sunlight to melt January snow.
 (*photo credit)

January 26, 2012      Waiting Out the Snowstorm 

      The likelihood is that if you are like me and reside in the northern temperate zone you will experience one or more snowstorms this winter.  The challenge to each of us is to make the best of this situation.  If away from our residence and out in the elements this could be a medium to major problem, as would be necessary home trips for treatments or reaching work places at times of storm. 

      Snow is okay if we are prepared.  Wherever we are located, it is important to have plenty of basic energy-packed foods to last out any unexpected storm.  Snug dwellings are most welcome even though the snow covering acts as an insulation to some degree.  Warm layered clothing and bedding materials are just as important. 

      Observing snowfall is healing.  Spend some time just looking out and watching the snow falling.  Yes, a barren and wounded landscape can become clothed in a protective blanket of snow, and transform into a spectacular sight, especially at night through reflected lights.  Simply going outdoors and experiencing the snowfall itself has its own healing effect.  Harmony prevails.  Landscape deserves its rest and peace -- and snow honors such local vicinities. 

      Snow offers moisture in a more gentle way than driving rain that can flood and erode.  Snow provides a pack that generally thaws over time and gives water for natural flora, crops, and springs.  

      Snow allows for primary reflection time.  Hardly anything is more sacred than the silence that comes with the cushioning of noise as snow is falling (howling winds excepted).  Tranquility becomes exquisite. The time of snowfall is a period when we can let go of life's cares for at least a brief moment.   

      Snow invites contact by us.  Ever so briefly, snow is soft and fluffy.  This is all the more reason we ought to go and greet the incoming snow, allowing it to touch our face and hands.  Snowstorms offer the youthful, whether young or old, a time to romp and play, or just to touch the coming flakes before a chill sets in.  I remember watching two grown men from tropical lands, who had never experienced snow, run outdoors and roll in snow until they discovered after initial exuberance that it was cold and wet.

      Snow is soothing. There is no greater experience of silence than the falling snowflakes in the tranquility of a winter day.  The touching of the leaves gives just enough local noise to emphasize the deeper silence when all the ordinary noises of the countryside are almost totally muffled.  We experience nature in the middle of its activity; we walk in a winter wonderland.  For one brief moment all nature seems to rejoice. 

      Prayer: Lord, did you really create every snowflake with a different design?  Will you give us an eternity of delight?   








Cincinnati row
Colorful scenes along a travel route. New Albany, IN.
 (*photo credit)

January 27, 2012      Googling for Better or Worse 

      Few words are so frequent in my current vocabulary than a recent one of the last decade "to google," or to search for a word or phrase on the Google search engine.  I do this several times in an average workday and yet do not ever recall being influenced by the side-bar advertisements, which keep the company profitable.   

      Word- and phrase-finding, checking and applications.  Certainly time is saved in not having to either hunt for a forgotten author, misspelled word, encyclopedic fact, or quick introduction to an unknown subject.  This comes in quite handy -- far more so than real puzzles that used to face some of us on varied issues.  In some way, without this service my work time would be extended.  The speed of response, provided enough key description is given, makes googling a time-saver of the first order.

      Moderate researching.  In the course of communicating we want to look up a current personage, or song, or city, or hobby, and the first cut could be what is found on the google site.  However, we need to remember always that the politics of placement makes the more popular site not necessarily the most authoritative.  Much is at the mercy of factors that many good researchers have not yet discovered.  Fact-checking by calling up multiple sources to cross reference some issue is a helpful addition as well. 

      Traveling.  Another important googling service is that of Google's map information.  For almost any place near or far of which I do not know the exact route, the Google travel mechanism assists mightily.  What is such a godsend is that smaller detailed maps allow one to run along the routes and find familiar junctions and landmarks that simplify the trip immensely for those of us without automatic map-finding devices.  Google furnishes longer range maps of more extended road trips with recommended routes and mileage so that trip planning is simplified.  In shorter ranging urban trips the actual route on the search map has photostats with prominent landmarks needed for congested driving, though better if used by a navigator.  

      Nothing is perfect in this world, and one can see that googling leads to dumbing-down research to some degree if we are not careful.  It also gives wrong emphasis if cross referencing is not undertaken.  The operation takes less time and the product is not perfect but considered satisfactory by some -- and this could be a mistake.  We need to spend more time that is gained in deeper research and getting back to primary resource materials. Googling can lead us to a superficial shallowness and failure to go more deeply into an issue that needs our thorough attention. 

      Prayer: Lord, our own imperfections stand out in the world of a multitude of information and research.  Help us to be on the alert for what is more accurate so that our intellect will be sharpened in the complex world in which we live. 








Oak at a distance
Two friends admire a graceful, old oak. Franklin Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

January 28, 2012  Quercus Falls: Remembering Departed Human Oaks     

      One ever-lengthening list for aging people is that of fallen friends, those "oaks" who seemed too strong to ever fall and to have a streak of immortality.  They are relatives and friends new and old.  This past year a former Jesuit who led the grounds crew in cutting trees at the Milford Novitiate Farm succumbed after a gallant battle with cancer.  Jim Zeller was a true oak, and so I dug out my 1959 poem on logging (from farm days before and after Jesuit entry) and rededicate it to him and all fallen heroes. 

      Side note: The oak that precipitated this poem was being cut by a handful of us and as it started to fall they shouted "Al, its coming your way!" I didn't have time to look up and step left or right to avoid the possible path, so I streaked straight away from it and heard "faster, faster;" I was actually going in a direct line away from the falling oak.  Its top branches switched my tail.  Some '59 humor and laughs.

                         Quercus Falls 

            Chips like sparks, wood like steel,

            A two-man saw sounding an even squeal;

            A breath of fresh air, one more stroke

            And we'll bring to earth this princely oak.

            Deep in the lore of folk

          One finds the strength, age, and size of oak;

          An out-worn saying sums the three:

          From the tiny acorn, the mighty tree. 

            Few greater sources of aesthetic joys,

          Or Homer's concept of battle noise,

           Than a giant oak falling from a mountain crest

          With a deafening roar when it comes to rest. 

            Die Alte Eiche, a Teutonic tale,

          Of a proud tree's thought that it was hale;

          With an aged laugh at a dancing day-fly,

          And that stormy night both chanced to die. 

            Power the Romans admired at length

          For their robur meant both oak and strength.

      What's a harder pull?  What's a tougher strain

          Than pulling a saw through this log's grain? 

            A flash of lightning, a sound of thunder,

          A trembling oak's a mighty wonder.

          Here's a hundred-year history about to close.

    Watch out boys!  There she goes! 










Sharing kibbles with a friend.
 (*photo credit)

January 29, 2012       When Do We Teach with Authority? 

      And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority. (Mark 1:22)

Jesus enters Capernaum and teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  People have never heard one speak with such authority, and are thus spellbound by his words -- and his healing deeds.  From the interaction with a man with an unclean spirit and the resulting healing comes forth Jesus' reputation throughout the region.       

      Church authority exists today.  The power of the Risen Lord contains an authority that extends in space and time in and through those who are his followers.  Authority stemming from conferred power rests in the Church itself and its structure that endures down through the ages.  That is a spiritual authority of leadership within the Church herself and conferred to Peter and the Apostles and their successors.  In fact, included here is the permission to strive to drive out unclean spirits (exorcism). 

      Today, socially unclean spirits in the form of materialistic addictions abound in our world, and we as baptized members of the Body of Christ must respond.  God bestows on each Christian through our Baptism/Confirmation a prophetic grace to help save our wounded Earth and her people.  We are baptized as priest, prophet, and king; we are empowered with a certain authority when properly perceived and exercised. In every age, Christians must rise to the problems facing a troubled world, and our wounded Earth demands our response.  Healing our Earth is a mandate, the likes of which were never known before by any of our ancestors.  We cannot deny the situation, excuse ourselves, or seek to escape the demands placed upon us.  Like the event that Jesus experiences in the synagogue, we must speak out and, like Jesus, join our words with deed. 

      The challenge for us is to show authority without becoming authoritarian, for that attitude undermines authority itself.  We must address the addictions that beset our consumer culture, but we address these with a godly act of love and mercy, not in a self-righteous or vindictive manner.  If our words show that we understand the stance that we take and are willing and do act accordingly, then greater authority follows.   

      All too often the affluent move to tweak the system in such ways that they would continue to hold to their ill-gained or retained power.  This is not sufficient.  An Easter people must act differently.  Like Jesus we must match our speech with action, lest the words have a hollow sound; the two (word and deed) must be in tandem.  We are not to glory in the authority received in our Baptism; rather this is God's authority shining through us and must be used with respect.  We are empowered through the power of the risen Lord, not through our own efforts. 

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to use the power given to spread the Good News for all to see your authority shining through the combination of our words and deeds. 








Stonework at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, TN, a WPA project.
 (*photo credit)

January 30, 2012    Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jobs, Jobs  

      The legacy of FDR, whose 130th birthday is today, is multifaceted: leadership during the Great Depression and the Second World War, the Works Progress Administration, Social Security, the "four freedoms," aid to Britain, and others.  We will focus on just one of the rights that FDR championed late in his long presidential career, namely the right to employment.  During the Great Depression FDR noticed how many unemployed people were willing to work and regarded this ability as part of human dignity.  That right to life through work is part of the very citizenship of each American, and for that matter people in every land.  It seems so evident and yet is put on the back burner, as though the chance to work is in whom you know and the luck of the draw and talents expressed in interviews.  For those content with the status quo, food stamps for the unemployed is sufficient.  FDR knew otherwise and among the things he hoped to achieve after the war's end was to focus on this and other basic rights of American citizens. 

      If we affirm this right to employment in its entirety (as stated several times elsewhere on this website), we affirm as well the duties of the worker.  Does unemployment exist today?  Certainly!  About 9% of our citizens have no jobs as of this moment, and this does not include those who have quit looking.  Is there possible work for all?  Certainly!  Within a host of areas from repair of infrastructure and health services to home care for the infirm and literacy training for the illiterate.  But who would pay for these?  Here, there is less certainty.  If we expect the illiterate or the infirm to do so, we are sadly mistaken.  However, more than enough funds exist among that proverbial 1% most wealthy to satisfy all the needs for jobs, if this nation has the willingness to tax the billionaires for the funds to put employment programs into action.   

      FDR would have sympathized with today's Wall Street critics.  Who are allowing all to tolerate the unemployed condition of our people other than the excessively wealthy and those they support and hire to do their bidding?  That raises a basic question: is not social justice served best by championing a government of last resort, an agency that furnishes employment for every working person?  Certainly some jobs are to be filled in the private sector as it recovers from the Great Recession.  

      We cannot wait until everyone finds a job, for that puts an impossible burden on the unemployed.  For workers, food stamps and other benefits should be included in the welfare job that all should be able to undertake.  The securing of work opportunities is ultimately a governmental duty that is part of the constitutionally guaranteed life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Do our citizens understand what FDR saw so clearly at his death in 1945?   This must be emphasized with ever increasing vigor today. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to be angered that our people do not see the need to overcome unemployment as an urgent civic matter.  







Rural central Ohio
Scene from rural southeastern Ohio.
 (*photo credit)

January 31, 2012     Encouraging Reclaimers of the Commons 

      Some have suggested that we ought to highlight individuals who are deserving of the title "reclaimers of the commons."  However, tagging such individuals seems wrong.  For instance, we are impressed that Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer, gives grants to beginning financially-strapped entrepreneurs -- even beer crafters who would be competitive with their product.  Certainly a noble practice!  However, my niece, Annette, who works with Jim gave a thumbs up, but the fact he is a multimillionaire in wealthy Boston causes some of us to pause.  Are authentic reclaimers individuals (even talented agents of change) or are they groups working together in achieving the commons as a goal? 

      The fact is that reclaiming the commons has hardly begun as a process; to award individuals or groups at this time seems horribly premature.  No one stood on the sands of Dunkirk in 1940 during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and handed out metals for heroism, even when performed.  We are standing on today's Dunkirk and have much work to do to save this threatened world.  It is not time to give awards to any, for the call is not to single individuals out for heroism but to redouble the efforts to get all involved in work of a non-spectacular nature.  The commons are meant for commoners and not the elite, no matter how brilliant and innovative they are.  The ones who camp out against Wall Street and call for reform of a dysfunctional economic system are more worthy of praise than the ones who reach out above the herd for special mention. 

      The commons are for and through commoners, and they are worthy of praise even if it must be postponed until a later date. Rather, a different approach to encouragement for individual reclaimers is to discover encouraging opportunities and make the best of them: 

      * Keep eyes peeled for those hidden ones who do godly work and yet go unnoticed by the world around them.  Be first to discover and meet with them and say kind words of encouragement; 

      * Listen to reclaiming people and know what they are doing, for, without hearing their stories, one could not tune in and show that the solidarity is present; 

     * Give moral and spiritual support where possible, for no one is able to act totally alone or in small groups without seeing that the broader group is behind them; 

      * Show that each contribution can be (if done in love) of immense value and worthy of wholehearted support;   

      * Spread the word of the success in little ways so the story can be better understood by all. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to seek and find the groups who need our encouragement and then to give it generously. 

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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