Does Spirituality Involve Politics?
The word "spirituality" covers a wide variety of attitudes and ways of acting. It can include angelic and diabolic types ranging from self-sacrificing to selfish practices. At best, "spiritual" is a neutral term when standing alone, for it includes the actions of good and bad spirits. While the mission of this website is one of information, it invites a discussion of authentic spirituality, which is one beneficial to all, thus being genuinely social and universal in nature. Such a spirituality connects the questing soul with others who seek growth in the act of sharing with fellow travelers on our mutual journey of faith.
Authenticity. In the beginning of this discussion of a solid and firmly grounded spirituality one is reminded that a red flag is hoisted in our current culture when some of our acquaintances say they are "spiritual -- but not religious." They are quick to say they go to the woods or hidden places and find God there -- and they blend with a widening audience of fellow naturalists. God does speak in nature and grounds our experience of the goodness of all creation. However, being human we need more than solitary experiences and balance includes seeking fellowship with others on the journey of faith; this means being encouraged by others and supporting others in our movement to eternal life. Being both spiritual and religious helps us be properly directed, for normal life contains many detours; these can cause us to become unfocused at a critical time when our limited efforts ought to be responding to global problems before us. We move with others.
Sensitivity. We travelers never stand rigidly in place; spiritually we either wax or wane. Those taken up in a personal spirituality that is only between "God and me" forget that there is a suffering humanity out there beyond ourselves. When in the prime of activism or even when we have our own ailments we are invited to participate through compassion in the sufferings of others. We don't want to be someone endowed with plenty in a sea of want and only consider singular gratitude sufficient for personal selfish feasting; we must be sensitive to those in need.
Democracy. The growth of consciousness is expressed in the documents of Vatican II, and especially on freedom in the Church. This program demands that we look beyond ourselves at the needs of an ever expanding neighborhood embracing the world's poor. We cannot journey alone and still call ourselves truly spiritual, although the individualism of our culture tempts us to do just that. We may live near or far but modern communications can cement us to a growing neighborhood of suffering world humanity. Individually, we do little as Robin Hoods in a wilderness of competing demands, still in company with like-minded souls we can work together to focus on priority issues. Thus, the most basic spiritual step is to see the global needs around us; we are prompted by the good Spirit to turn our minds and hearts to working with others for the benefit of all needy people. Our democratic citizenship is global.
Activism. The option of displaying a democratically influenced spirituality through prayer and interior works of piety is essential, even if limited by age, physical condition and energy level. Yes, this could be called activism in an informal sense, for, when willingly offered, these collaborative efforts bring us in solidarity within a participating world community of believers. However, many who have energy can do more. A public form of activism is in need of supporters and those who can encourage leaders and change agents. Authentic spirituality urges more on the part of healthy citizens than praying for others.
Citizenship. If an authentic spirituality must be social in nature, sensitive to the needs of the poor, and participative in a developed democratic consciousness, then the forms that activism can take involves active citizenship, for this is a God-given gift that cannot be withheld. The temptation to retreat to an inner spirituality when more can be done could be a temptation from the Evil One; this calls for a discerning of the spirits, an exercise of critical importance for advancement in our spiritual life. On various occasions Pope Francis has mentioned a need for Christians to be political. This affirmation is never more needed than today when climate change effects weigh heavily on the entire planet. All the able-bodied are called to public activism.
Political engagement. What about those associated with non-profit organizations and especially religious organizations? There are limits to accepting funds from individuals when a tax-exempt organization is tempted to act politically. However, while education as to issues has a broad scope among non-profits, still political activity has its limits. Individuals on their own can perform their citizen duties as to supporting candidates and voting. Active and able citizens who seek to be authentically spiritual can show their civic duties through public expressions as individuals, but not as organizations that are tax-exempt. The religiously affiliated are limited in the political agenda from campaigning and holding public office. On the other hand, engagement as private citizens can include petitions, letter writing, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, voter solicitation, letters to editor, and social media comments.
Application. Citizen activities include affirming moral values on issues that touch religious belief such as right to life issues, areas of peace and war, and death penalty abolition. The discussions can be far-ranging and some involve pending court actions. The free exercise of democracy demands that we know the moral issues at stake and educate others about them, even candidates for public office. Certainly, political action must be done through resources available, though some with tax-exemption are limited as to political action on the part of the organization as such. We can certainly express our personal views with a disclaimer that this is not the view of the ones sponsoring our educational and informational website. What more? The political application gambit is certainly a matter for future discussion.
Harbinger of spring,
Erigenia bulbosa. Powell Co., KY.
March 1, 2019 Winter's Hidden Hope
What more to do but stay alive
Holding firm yet steadfast in silvery statuary
Clinging tight to ashen memories of yestersummer.
Birds seek shelter from the howling blast,
Bone‑chilled wildlife venturing out when hungry
from calm brush-cover;
Trees, long shed of greenery,
now stand sentinels of a coming spring.
But it is now a fitful rest,
With sap rising
to bring forth life anew.
We Christians accept our Lenten fasting,
Another late winter of playing dead,
Foreboding of a final winter
making ready for eternal spring.
Will spring ever come this year?
Will the sun be strong enough to erase snow drifts?
Will the season cycles remember to repeat themselves?
Yes, yes, yes, the hesitant but lengthening day proclaims --
Winter is not forever, even if for this moment
it seems to be;
Earth's cyclic death contains the germ of hidden life.
The brief span of ice-crystal mornings
cannot continue indefinitely,
For each day is longer, sunlight stronger;
and the wind's chill itself will leave us soon.
Let our hopes be bathed in sunlight.
Prayer: Lord, teach us patience.
Prairie planting at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
March 2, 2019 Accept Responsibility and Unintended Consequences
A basic principle of any moral treatment of wrongdoing is that the act is more than something purely individual, as though consequences stop only with me or you. Instead, everything we do is social and even cosmic to some degree, -- our good or evil deeds. Thus, even when the wrongdoing is inadvertent, it is still a reality that hurts the total environment in which we live and interact. We seek forgiveness and restitution for personal misdeeds; we, as responsible beings, recall that social consequences also require restitution and reconciliation with God. We may be sorry for exploiting a resource in a polluting manner, but merely expressing sorrow does not end the process; the aftereffects must be remedied and damages repaired.
Such satisfaction for past wrongdoing is part of the "indulgence" battles of past centuries in the Church but, unlike cap-and-trade policy (the permission to pollute). Those suggested or prescribed good works were for wrongdoing already performed (not as a few environmental spokespersons grossly misinterpret to be a so-called medieval "permission to sin"). In fact, by accepting a correct theological stance (restitution for past mistakes) the spokespersons could improve arguments for refraining from polluting, due to overlooked consequences already showing themselves in climate change. A correct theological AND historical interpretation is that there are broader and often hidden effects of the misdeeds that we perform, and we become painfully aware of these with time. We enjoy smoking or driving while drinking and yet lung cancer or wrecks could and often do result -- and their consequences must be reckoned with.
Unintended consequences may even occur when "greenish" folks demand biofuels, and forget that rainforests are being destroyed or orangutan habitat threatened by establishing palm oil plantations. Some strive to solve global warming through seeding oceans with iron filings or emitting massive amounts of vapor into the atmosphere; further research may discover that unintended ill-effects (e.g. reduction in rainfall in a critical area) may result. Our actions can be global in scope.
I was once sought advice about a pressured air device to unplug clogged drains and I told the manufacturer that young children could sit upon it and the blast up their rump could kill them; the device was not marketed. Recall that Thomas Fairchild, a nurseryman and devout Christian, feared God's wrath, because he tinkered with nature by cross-pollinating sweet Williams with carnations and producing the world's first human-produced hybrid. We may chuckle about Fairchild's scrupulosity, but still regard his respect as worth preserving.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be more aware of the consequences of our actions, and be willing to repair the damage done by our mistakes -- and by others of our human family with whom we take partial responsibility.
Winter skies awaiting spring's arrival, as grass turns ever greener. Fayette Co., KY.
March 3, 2019 Acquiescence: A Failure to Speak Out
Can a blind man act as a guide to a blind man? Will they not both fall into the ditch? (Luke 6:39-45)
In this eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time we reflect on the injustice that abounds in our world, especially among those who passively submit to unjust economic conditions. If injustice is against me as a person, the Spirit may direct me to silent acceptance; if against another, we must protest in every way we can. Even Mary, the other women, and John protested by standing beneath the cross; other apostles in all their bravado and posturing ran and hid; the women were the protestors and those apostles became the fearful ones.
Permit me retell a story of once attending a global consciousness-raising game play: ninety percent of the audience were given a simple rice meal and ten percent a steak-and-gravy feast. We ninety percenters were to reflect as though we were the poor. So what did I do? Why the only Christian thing: I organized part of the majority and went over and seized the steak dishes and divided them equally; thus none would have too much and "pig out," and none were to go home somewhat hungry. Some other players (the privileged ones) complained that we spoiled the event. I protested that we made it a success. Why should we tolerate such differences and remain politely silent while others were hurt by overindulging?
Protesting injustice is needed if we are to rid this world of the many obvious injustices: lack of food and essential human needs; overly wasteful affluence; the privileged going undertaxed; and a rampant militarism. Yes, all too often we persist in acting out the part of passive observers of events as though they are inevitable. We are silent with a deafening silence, for if we say something we might be declared out of order. Looking at Sirach's words in today's first reading we ask whether we consume world resources and conceal this from the poor? If we allow such conditions without protest, we are a silence party to injustice.
A misdirected scriptural passage relates to Jesus' saying the poor will always be with us. Taken out of context this is made to justify ongoing poverty. However, our failure to address this persistent poverty means that we will be challenged over and over -- and this means the problem will stay with us a long time. The possibility that all injustice will not be eliminated does not stop us from taking the positive steps needed at a given time. Even with all the work ahead, we must protest injustice with all our limited strength. In and through protest, we affirm the need for improvement in time -- and are willing to work for it, not to be complacent about the status quo. We must work for change.
Prayer: Lord, teach us not to fear standing beneath the cross of injustice, and to show by our public stance that we are with those who suffer with Christ. When we can help remove that cross, give us the energy and courage to do so.
Reflecting upon "riplle effects."
March 4, 2019 Avoid March Madness
Why not write each year on the madness that affects us in this part of America, when basketball teams move from tournament game to virtually inevitable loss, for most in a relatively short time. Is it because we are infected by a disease of late winter before the season opens to outdoor participative sports? I wish that were the complete answer, but some people, who often go to seed for lack of regular exercise, are the most adamant spectator enthusiasts. Why the screams and stress that trigger possible heart attacks?
As an advocate of physical exercise I believe we should all spend at least 30 minutes a day performing some form of exercise whether stretching while sitting in a chair, or jogging, or biking, or using a rowing machine. I applaud those who engage in participative sports both for their own health and in loyalty to their school or civic group; I support spectators who cheer on the participants. But how much exercise occurs through cheering in the stands, or how much participation in sports involves the spectator? An added consideration: is it right for sport participants to become money-making machines in larger academic institutions?
Virtually all agree that there are limits to spectator sports. Rowdy and drunken fans at European football (soccer) matches are not to be allowed or imitated -- though some American events are starting to look the same. What about parents who heckle and threaten umpires? These are hardly youthful role models. In fact, the rage of fans is certainly not good for their health or that of neighbors or opposing fans and referees. Stress is enhanced and not relieved by such high pressure "fun" events. Why not cheer good competitive performance by opposite sides as well as on the part of our favorite teams? Good spectators ought to applaud the athletic achievements of both teams. Maybe instead, we are all touched by the pressure of the indoor gym, the tensions of drums pounding and cheerleaders arousing yells from partisans who travel distances to urge on their team.
My reluctance to reflect on seasonal sporting madness had much to do with entering the thrill of following a favorite team. With older age and less tolerance for seasonal madness, I now can cheer favorite teams for a brief moment and then go on with other issues worth more focus. Too many people engage in modern bread-and- circus events -- and prefer the blood of games to help control their anger and rage. Is it really worth it? Spectators create tense situations through catcalls and boos; let them engage in more personal physical exercise and leave the sports' participants to do their own thing among themselves. Having said this, I confess that our regional teams with high national ranking make me consider watching at least some basketball games on the Internet in March.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to act rationally and not allow even brief periods of sports events to lead us astray. Make all of us see that spectator sports do not substitute for physical exercise, something we all need to improve our physical and mental health.
Emergence of crocus in early March.
March 5, 2019 Shrove Tuesday and Meat Consumption
The concept of "Shrove" Tuesday deprives from the period to confess sin and has old English and Germanic roots. The exercise was and still is a private individual practice that has its benefits as we prepare ourselves for Lent. However, Americans ought to consider annual per capita meat consumption, since even though leveling off at slightly above 200 pound per person the U.S. is the second highest meat consuming nation in the world (after Australia). While our U.S. beef consumption has dropped, still chicken consumption is increasing to about 62 pounds per person and is higher than pork. Climate change is directly related to livestock production; to hold to a goal of only a two-degree centigrade temperature rise in this century we need to start by curbing U.S. excessive meat consumption.
Curb consumption. As farm youth, we butchered our own pork and chicken and beef livestock. Our consumption approximated 300 pounds of meat per non-infant family member -- a sizeable amount even for folks who considered meal and meat to be nearly synonymous. But meat eaters and others can change, and often for the better. I am not a vegetarian but I do not buy meat; I have reduced meat consumption to about one pound a month (from donated sources or shared meals).
Conserve resources. Consuming grain and soybeans directly as food is more efficient than passing equal amounts through animals to produce meat and animal products. Soy milk takes far less input of agricultural resources than does an equal amount of milk product from a dairy. The same holds for the production of farm-livestock meat (not wild game or domestic livestock that would forage off unimproved land). However, running herds of cattle on unimproved land can have detrimental environmental effects.
Practice Solidarity. Changing food types is a major way to combat climate change. To continue our wealthier nation's heavy consumption of meat while expecting other developing ones to curb their more limited use of energy can lead to anger and frustration, especially if climate change actions are based on voluntary compliance. True solidarity means radically sharing resources and finding security through non-military means.
Consider economics. By comparing nutrition unit-for-unit, we discover that meat products strain the limited budgets of lower-income folks. Meat substitutes are good economic alternatives.
Improve health. Reducing meat consumption can be good for the health when we find that balanced vegetarian substitutes for animal products can be healthy and better for the heart.
Prayer: Lord, we confess that we could reduce meat consumption for a number of good reasons, and this becomes the perfect season to reflect on changing patterns of diet, something that all of us ought to consider. Help us reduce our use of animal products.
Bluebird, Sialia sialis, visiting late winter birdbath.
March 6, 2019 Remember That We Are Dust and Ashes
They will throw dust on their heads, and roll in ashes.
(Ezekiel 27:30) (also Jonah 3:7)
On this day, Ash Wednesday, we confront our mortality, our stance before God, and our ongoing relationships with our fellow human beings. On Ash Wednesday the familiar markings of dust on foreheads make us all aware that the Christian season of Lent is starting, a time of extra reflection and mortification. Colorful Mardi Gras celebrations yield quickly to somber purple Lent.
In various ways "dust" is a pollutant, a nuisance, an embarrassment, a challenge demanding attention. Yet at times dust has value: the wind-blown dust (loess or fertile loam) that settles and fertilizes certain landscapes; the dust from graves regarded as first class relics by those who respect the dead; the dust of mortal remains. We are made from and return into dust, and this gives us pause as to how dust enters into our own life cycles. We discover that watered dust can be the springboard of life.
Ashes have value as signs of:
* Penitence -- In both Old Testament and New Testament times, ashes and dust were the signs of repentance and a humble stance before God. In fact, up to midway in the Christian era dying individuals were laid on sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes as a reminder of their condition before the Giver of all life;
* Subservience -- The vanquished was adorned in sackcloth and ashes before the conqueror;
* Mortality -- Ashes remind us how fleeting is our life. We are called to this fact during Lent with the words that accompany the imposition of the ashes on the forehead;
* Cleansing agent -- Homesteaders percolate water through ashes to leach out alkaline (lye) ingredients for making soap. Pure ashes can clean oily fabrics;
* Fertilizer -- Wood ashes are scattered on the garden or other growing location as an organic supplement that adds potassium and trace minerals. The ash is alkaline, and too much would raise the pH beyond the range optimal for most vegetables. Through ashes comes forth new life;
* De-icer -- Ashes are considered better than salt as a substance to put on paths and roadways for traction in icy times. However, sticky ashes can be tracked into buildings;
* Cutting agent -- In seeding an area with very small seeds farmers often mix the seeds with an abundant supply of dry ashes, which affords a more even dispersal on the field or plot; and
* Triumph -- In the sport of cricket the winner holds up a trophy that contains ashes, perhaps originally signifying that the loser has been vanquished.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to remember who we are, made from dust and yet more than dust and ashes. We are made to your image and are people on the dusty road to eternity.
Spicebush, Lindera benzoin.
March 7, 2019 Consider Lenten Diet Changes
Lent is a perfect time to change our ways. Each of us should consider our current eating habits, some of which could be moderated according to the threefold legs of good diet: nutritious, low-cost, and locally-grown foods:
1. Grow your own fresh salad vegetables this year. During this non-growing part of the year I often enjoy homegrown kale, mustard, collards, radish tops, turnips, carrots, garlic and spinach. These veggies replace costly store-purchases, are local and are highly nutritious. Consider growing them throughout the year using seasonal protective covers or greenhouses.
2. Omit soft drinks and go to water, fruit or vegetable juice, herbal drinks or even coffee and tea. Soft drinks are expensive, contain excessive levels of refined sugar, and generally are supplied from distant bottling plants with no responsibility attached for picking up and reusing the containers.
3. If you are not vegetarian, at least monitor intake and reduce meat consumption (see March 5). Locally-obtained venison is highly nutritious and comes at lower price and with far less costly transport and feed than distantly-grown beef or chicken.
4. Use locally-grown herbs for spicing. This is healthy and saves on the purchase of salad dressing and various seasonings;
5. Prepare steamed veggies (cabbage, carrots or turnips). For breakfast using Quick Eggs (fat and cholesterol free and low calorie) along with a sprinkling of oatmeal; local free-ranging chickens are a wonderful source of limited egg supplies.
6. Choose snack foods wisely. These are part of the diet of people who prefer to eat at irregular and frequent times. Fruit, carrots and celery are good snacks along with nuts of various types. Salty and fatty chips are to be avoided. Unsalted popcorn flavored with garlic and chili powder is a special treat.
7. Prepare a different soup each day and use leftovers as part of the creative mix along with various combinations of spices.
8. Eat "belly fillers:" one example is to eat a quarter of a strong onion along with cottage cheese at one of the meals.
9. Limit intake of bread, crackers and other carbos to a reasonable degree -- one or two slices per day. Limit pasta dishes and pancakes to weekly or a few times a month.
10. Rearrange daily food intake. Make breakfast ample and the supper sparing, and eat increasingly smaller meals in between.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be watchful not only in our spiritual reflections, but in the food we eat as well.
Personal Questions for Green New Dealers
A person faces the option either to participate or be a so-called neutral observer in the battles now waging over a radical readjustment of national policy related to a renewable energy economy. This beginning of the Lenten season is a perfect time to ask how our participation will demand personal commitments to lifestyle change. These eight questions are meant for reflection and supporting a growing consensus that it takes more than governmental changes; citizens must also act.
Question 1: What about my heating and cooling demands? In essence, this is the very first question when it comes to energy consumption, because overheated houses in winter (above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and below 70 degrees in summer take heavy demands on home heating and air-conditioning (AC). Ask whether we need air conditioning; however, with each recent summer one of the hottest on record I do not recommend my refusal to have or use AC.
Question 2: Do I watch my ordinary travel use? The average person with an automobile knows that some trips can be combined with others through careful planning. A sub-question is whether they can be done with others. The type of vehicle tells much about non-renewable fuel consumption. Not everyone can afford new electric vehicles (conserves fuel but depends on where electricity for recharging is generated). Conservation also occurs in how the vehicle is driven and also the practice of good maintenance (tires, oil change, etc.). Internet purchases and communication via social media can save trips, but face-to-face visits have value. Use of public transport is generally an energy-saving choice.
Question 3: Do I consider curbing meat consumption? It may or may not mean deciding to go vegan or vegetarian? No doubt, if considered on a massive scale of global food consumption, a movement away from animal products, which take energy and a major portion of arable space to feed and maintain, is one way of sharing the limited world food resources with others. The Wall Street Journal can laugh about our concern about methane-generating farting cows, but in belittling a global effort only shows how insecure the affluent consuming generation is. In the back of the climate change deniers’ comments is the fear that we may be right, for climate change is having a profound effect, and our individual efforts can help make a difference. Profits do not come first.
Question 4: Am I conscious of the origin of my foods? Too often in our society we acquire a taste for exotic produce or those out-of-season fruits that have transportation costs to bring them to our table. Not everyone can grow their own produce, which itself can be substantial energy savings; do choose to patronize local food growers. In addition, refrain from prepared snacks and heavily packaged foods laced with salt or sugar that could be avoided through use of raw materials and home prepared dishes. Eating in-season, unprocessed organic foods is a good beginning.
Question 5: Do I use electronic devices sparingly? Most of us have a growing habit or addiction to use electronic devices excessively. The Internet demands energy to function as do computers, home and office appliances and rechargeable computer hand-held devices. We leave electronic devices on when not needed and we overuse electric devices in home and office. Few consider that the energy required for these is growing by leaps and bounds; this is part of the requirement to continue to use fossil fuels, which we know ought to be phased out ASAP.
Question 6: The expected question is do I recycle? A more basic one may be, do I need excess packaging that comes with so many purchased items. A growing awareness of potential discards makes it a broader question of consumption practices from buying bulk foods to reduced use of paper towels. The fact is that some consider consuming certain items as acceptable provided the discards are recycled. Individualized drinks take enormous amount of packaging material in comparison to use of a water purifying device. Do we sort paper for recycling or take the added steps of not using discardable materials in the first place?
Question 7: What about vacation expenses? We can return in part to travel costs, for the major vacation energy is getting to and from the destination -- especially if we use air travel that is very fuel costly. Try to stay closer to home. The particular energy expenditure depends on distance travelled, number of passengers on board and type of aircraft used for the trip. A single private jet trip can equal the entire annual energy expenses of an African village. Another consideration is who benefits from our air travel. If others do, either because of the trip itself or the quality of our future service, then the dividing to calculate individual expenditure includes numerous others.
Question 8: Do I defend conservation against naysayers?
The final question deals with who we are as citizens in the journey to a Green New Deal. We may do a variety of good conservation practices, but our conscientious lifestyle changes should lead us to greater participation in the legislative process that will bring this about. Recall that the merchants of doubt are hard at work disqualifying us who are proponents of change. They show their own greed or saddling up to profiteers seeking to get the last dollar from outmoded coal, oil and gas industries. To extend the struggle longer is their determination even if this means a disaster to the climate of our threatened world. Our defense of the moral issue calls for our prayerful commitment and public action.
This listing is not exhaustive, for much depends on current or anticipated use of renewable energy sources; it also depends on current use of tobacco, marijuana or alcoholic beverages requiring growing and processing costs. One could add home remedies versus commercial medicines or physical exercise or care for personal health use, or virtual books versus paper copies. And on and on. The main point is that we must encourage legislators to help solve the global climate change problem.
Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming.
March 8, 2019 Advance Food Security Globally
In Lent we observe that in this world many do not have sufficient food for tomorrow. Advancing food security is a goal well worth our attention. Through addressing the food security of the world we are ironically addressing our own long-term national security. By removing the terrorism of hunger in all its forms we are liberating the world from the grips of food insecurity and poverty. Thus by not reacting in a militaristic manner but through sharing resources, we take positive steps to address hunger both on an individual level and socially as citizens of the world.
We act as a democratic people with a sense of responsibility for the resources that we are privileged to have under our own citizen control. We are no longer cowed and intimidated by the rich and privileged; we must control the common gifts given and cannot permit them to be misused. We are most moved by the statement Christ will say to us at judgment: "you fed me when I was hungry." Perhaps this is as much a collective statement as an individual one, and is being addressed to affluent groups today. Nations are called to answer at the judgment seat of justice.
Globally, we need to consider the food security policy as pertaining to each and every one of us, and thus ensure that grains are available in regions that experience food shortages. Our foreign policy must be global in scope: greed and waste of precious resources cannot be tolerated by a free society. If we allow ourselves to be influenced by miserly folks, we lose sensitivity and universal love for our distant hungry brothers and sisters.
Nationally, we need to challenge our elected representatives to abandon policies that turn corn, sugar and other food crops into biofuels. We must promote regional food storage centers for use in famine periods, and assist small farmers in poorer nations to improve their own local food production. Working with others helps us address collectively climate change problems.
Regionally and locally, we must develop programs through which we strengthen our own food sources: farmers' markets, fairs, food exchanges and gardening programs to turn lawns into edible landscaping. Let us make gardening more of a community project and offer incentives to those who are able to introduce the practice to neighbors who have ample lawn space to grow their own food.
Individually, we ought to consider ways to cut back on eating high resource foods (processed foods, heavy meat diets, and promotion of animal products). Lent is a good time to consider radically sharing our food with those who are hungry and thus to reducing food purchases. We ought to promote giving to global, national, regional and local relief agencies.
Prayer: Lord, help us to radically share; inspire us to attract others to do the same; keep us from segregating ourselves from them who are hungry in distant lands.
March snow on Lenten Rose, Helleborus orientalis.
March 9, 2019 Expose Affluence Realistically
The tautology of the affluent --
"We get our money from the gettin' place."
The beggar asks --
"Where is your gettin' place?"
The affluent reply --
"Why that's where we get our money."
The pessimist says: a society that bails out bankers and allows them to use untaxed money to pay bonuses is on the road to bankruptcy. The optimist says that is part of the game of proper finance in this otherwise rotten world. Whichever is the case, a lack of realism fails to grasp and properly address the world in which we live. We must move in the direction of justice so as to keep a responsible democracy, and uncontrolled and undertaxed affluence is certainly a threat to that democracy. The very mentality of a privileged people who cannot see where we are heading is a form of blindness, which means we could be heading for an inevitable economic downfall unless we wake up.
The realist asks whether both these pessimistic or optimistic ways of thinking are counterproductive in an effort to redistribute resources to all. Change is inevitable, so let's be realistic. With our U.S. government spending beyond our means, we simply cannot continue being global policemen and allowing our billionaires to go undertaxed. The pessimist says "What's the use?" The optimist wants to tweak an outdated system. However, the hope of the realist is that, for better or worse, we shall make radical changes now. Many changes need to be implemented, namely universal health access, proper affordable education and meaningful work for all citizens rebuilding a worn infrastructure.
Questions flood the life of the realist: why the unchecked spending for military ventures? Certainly those in harm's ways ought to have proper provisions, but a more serious question is: why are they still in harm's way? Why fight in lands where the people do not want us to be present? Where do vast oil reserves figure into the foreign policy equation? Why are we at the beck-and-call of the Eisenhower-coined military/industrial complex? Are not the arms race and all those military bases throughout the world causing the United States to live beyond our means?
Our country has been regarded as affluent. I have lived long enough to recall neighbors who thought the genteel southern traditions still applied to their households; they were living above their means and simply didn't know it. Had they been realistic, they would have provided for the future and not lived each day as in the past. What applied to such households can apply to nations; our country is no exception. We must live within our means and still provide essentials for the world's needy.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be realistic and to know where we are going and how to justly apportion our limited resources.
Finding plant remnants at abandoned homesite.
March 10, 2019 Confront the Temptation to Refrain from Acting
DON'T! DO! Well which is it? Words can be caution signs that something terrible will happen just around the corner. Generally we make this first Sunday of Lent the time to hear about all the things we could do wrong, and so the "do nots" take precedence (do not steal, bear false witness, fight, etc.) What we are not to do makes us feel after a while that a frozen position is a proper model stance in the world around us. Do nothing! But is that right? If we fail to act by denying the need, or excusing ourselves, or escaping from the responsibilities, we are sinning by refraining from acting where we are called to do something.
We look to Jesus who took responsibility in his public ministry: healing, teaching, and proclaiming the word. He refrains from using material things to achieve success and fame and power. Jesus' security is in the Father's hands and not in material wealth; his power rests on a moral authority coming from a good life; and his fame is to obey the Father in all things even in his shortened ministry, in his suffering, and in his death.
Goods. Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread because he is hungry. Jesus uses the Deuteronomy quote, "Not by bread alone." We also are tempted to find security in material things. We seek such security in insurance policies, in job security, in material conveniences. The more we obtain, the more we seem to need, and soon a sense of poverty in spirit gives way to the insensitivity of possessing an overabundance of material things.
Power. Jesus is tempted to receive all the power and glory of the kingdoms of the world, if he but gives homage to the devil. Temptations come to manifest power over others, especially in a nation that basks in its current superpower status. We can be consumed by the emerging powers that are within us to command and control our own lives and those of others. The temptation is to think that we can bring about good by acting unilaterally. Such power without some checks and balances corrupts us. Instead of some type of visions of grandeur we are to be single-hearted and chaste in our quest for God; before God alone do we fall down and worship; only in God do we trust and find peace of soul.
Fame. Jesus is tempted to throw himself down from the temple parapet, for the angels would come and save him. He is tempted to create a dramatic entrance to his public ministry; this could be one in which others would be overwhelmed by his majesty and treat him as a notable personality. He chooses to be humble. We are tempted to fame and personal glory by outdoing them as number one, shining at others' expense, and being looked upon in admiration. But this is not God's way and we, like Jesus, are to be obedient to God's will on every occasion in our simple journey of faith.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see temptations for what they are, to act even when at risk, and to trust in your mercy when we act so as to be one with You.
An apple treat for hungy late-winter birds.
March 11, 2019 Observe Johnny Appleseed Day
Today we celebrate one of those early pioneers of sustainable homesteading -- John Chapman or Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845), a frontiersman who planted apple trees throughout the Midwest, especially in Ohio. My brother Charlie has a thriving apple orchard near Newark, Ohio, where he grows fruit organically (see our YouTube video) in an area where Johnny plied his trade. Charlie's apples are disease-resistant varieties guaranteed to have no commercial chemical residue. Charlie knows what Johnny knew, namely that apples please all the senses with an exquisite taste, pronounced color, pleasant aroma, and slick feel; even biting into an apple has an appealing sound. You can't do that with a banana.
In some cultures the terms "apple" and "fruit" are interchangeable, and the specific apple, while originating in central Asia, is widely disseminated in all parts of the temperate zones. In America, the apple is king fruit; American apples come from heritage types and occur in various sizes, colors and flavors. Each of us has apple favorites and byproducts from sauce to pies. John Adams liked his apple jack and others like their summer or fall apples crushed, smashed, squeezed, baked, fried, dried, distilled, cooked down, or eaten raw. Our apples are turned into vinegar, cider, applejack, apple brandy and apple juice, for flavoring candy and for being candied, for making stack cakes, apple butter, jelly, apple turnovers, cobblers, cookies, and the favorite "it is as American as apple pie." Picking apples is work for some, and a holiday for others if for a short time. When frost was on the pumpkin and the fodder in the shock, it was apple butter-making time -- second only in popularity to butchering and maple sugaring, but a little less work at a nicer season. Cider-making was almost a religious rite in Puritan New England.
My apple-related memories go back -- climbing my favorite apple tree, going to the cellar for apples in winter, and taking our annual excursion to the Browning Apple Orchard (owned now by Frank Browning, NPR reporter's family). Why so popular? Apples have a long shelf-life, defy rapid spoilage, grow in various climates, ship well, not overly pulpy and can be easily dried. And furthermore, apples are versatile in cooking and baking; contain vitamins and fiber; and, finally, people just never tire of apples.
There are apples and apples. Growers strive to produce a perfect specimen; they use chemicals to ensure that no defects or worms are present and that the appearance is perfect; but here is where environmental problems arise. In contrast to bananas and oranges, apple peels are often eaten -- and a mere rinsing will not remove all agro-chemicals present. Furthermore, purely organic apples are difficult to grow and can be expensive. The low-priced commercial apple is the mainstay fruit of many. We must go beyond appearance and choose apples wisely with organic in mind.
Prayer: Lord, apples have been with us since Eden; help us to choose and use them well and to share them with the "appleless."
A cluster of lichen on fallen "nurse" log.
March 12, 2019 Acknowledge Air as Commons
We continue our monthly reflection on aspects of the commons. The breezes of March remind us that air is truly interesting in its composition; it is plentiful, life-giving, vulnerable, fragile and worthy of our protection, and part of our shared commons. Because air is so essential to our lives, we have a right to the highest quality of air possible; NONE of us has a "right" to contaminate this life-giving substance in any way. Use of air that belongs to all includes the responsibility for cleaning up fouled air.
We know that the atmosphere can be damaged with relative ease. Air-polluting sources include industry, powerplants and motor vehicles. Industrial air pollutants from particulates to nitrogen and sulfur oxides have been major air contaminants. With the advent of coal-fueled, steam-driven pumps and engines and metal smelters emitting sulfur oxides, modern industry has polluted the air in many inhabited places. Coal, natural gas and oil-fueled electric generating plants have only exacerbated the problem. Since we know that clean air is essential, we become aware that people and all breathing creatures suffer from poor quality air. Victims suffering with asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases gasp for breath. Many human victims require breathing tubes leading to oxygen tanks in order to stay alive.
Harmful emissions from the millions of petroleum-fueled motor vehicles have added ozone, carbon monoxide and other major contaminants to the already polluted air. Emission control devices required on current vehicles have reduced this pollution considerably. Acid rain, resulting from air laden with sulfur and nitrogen oxides, corrodes monuments, harms vegetation and causes respiratory damage to humans and animals alike; this acid rain corrodes metal roofs and can contaminate rainwater.
Indoor air pollution is a global problem as well, and involves everything from smoking tobacco and marijuana to use of wood, dung and coal in cooking stoves. These devices are used by about one-quarter to one-third of the world's people; they generate smoke that causes respiratory and eye problems for cooks and other residents, especially the very young and very old. Good ventilation and exhaust systems are often lacking where such cooking stoves are used. The WHO reported that in 2012 some seven million premature deaths or one in eight of all deaths globally resulted from air pollution. A fifth of these were due to deaths resulting from defective cooking devices; these contributed to increased incidence of cataracts, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
We cannot trade off the right to pollute this air. Any person or institution that pollutes has the responsibility to clear up the air, not continue the practice unattended. As citizens, we ought to call for clear air as birthright throughout our world.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to protect our fresh air for all people to breathe deeply and use respectfully for the common good.
Lady beetle navigates granite boulder.
March 13, 2019 Attend to Good Samaritan Day
It is not easy to help the person who is in the proverbial ditch, but some are there. We can at least help those who help the person -- and still there is no easy way to bring quick solutions in so many of the ditched cases. Some are afflicted in more ways than suggested in the biblical parable; here are various instances where we can shine by being Good Samaritans:
Visitation -- Those home-bound, through either illness or old age, can be relieved by a cheerful visit. They can be buoyed by the good news that their offering of suffering for specific needs will go a long way to improving the conditions of our world. Help them see that a cheerful offering of their own condition is a valuable saving deed when united to the Lord's Calvary event.
Resource awareness and invitation -- Depressed and abandoned individuals can be invited to church and to programs that are directed to treatment of an ailment -- AA sessions or drug rehabilitation or smoking cessation programs. Some who have lost a loved one need to be introduced to bereavement programs. Sometimes we have to take the time and go the extra mile to talk with the afflicted person. Good Samaritans take responsibility on themselves -- and this will not be forgotten on Judgment Day.
Continued Contact -- Prisoners really need our support, both for our friendship here and now and our help in preparing for the future. Certain post-prison programs are operative in many parts of the country. Our own encouragement through email and letter-writing allow those who are released to settle and find work.
Being alert -- Some people are particularly skilled at noticing those in the ditch, as the parable says. Their alertness extends to doing charitable things and being known so that others come to them for assistance when they have lost a home through foreclosure or joblessness; the victims may need immediate food assistance but find it hard to beg. Some caregivers are more approachable than others.
Advocacy work -- Today those who hurt are outside of health and other service areas and are passed by. We need to pressure governmental agencies constantly to discover and offer services to those who are voiceless and have little or no political power. The illegal migrant needs protection; so do those who do not qualify for certain forms of health care or who need work even if it is lower-wage infrastructure maintenance or reconstruction.
Homeless and direct charity -- The poor are always with us, and in hard times they seem to be all the more present, if we simply open our eyes and observe. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food agencies need our support and assistance.
Prayer: Lord, allow us to see and recognize the needs of those who fall by the cracks and waysides of our ever more busy world.
Halberd-leaf yellow violet, Viola hastata. Red River Gorge, KY.
March 14, 2019 Create Variation through Herbs and Spices
Over the years I have attempted different soups, salads, oatmeal dishes, peanut butter variations, and apple applications. During 2018 and unto now it seems logical with a flourishing herb garden and the urge to test different spiced dishes to focus once more on variation. Much of this is due to wanting to create new flavor combinations and not to achieve this by using exotic foods coming from distant places at relatively higher costs. One can live by keeping with nutrition, local production and low cost in mind and eat in a rather healthy way with variety -- the spice of life. For me the challenge came from a veteran health care person who said I would have to resort to the regular Appalachian fare of cornbread and beans to economize on food -- but that can become quite routine. However, local ingredients and added flavorings is a poor cook’s way of thinking. Some modifications might be:
* Experiment with Herbs -- Start a variety of culinary herbs and harvest and use these during the growing year. During the past year some thirty herbs were grown in our new herb garden. Some could be used fresh and some harvested and dried for use in the non-growing season. Favorite ones can be brought indoors and used fresh throughout the winter as well.
* Use spice combinations -- Those who want the same dish day-after-day will not enjoy this exercise. Different tastes are more highly valued by some of us and need not come from imported foods. The good part of a dish is that the spice is not the full meal and yet could become the highlighted taste of the culinary event.
* Replace meat dishes. For those of us who restrict purchase or preparing of meat dishes, this comes as an extra challenge; this eliminates the possibility for home-made ham, chicken and turkey dishes all of which have a plentiful supply of possibilities and recipes. Furthermore, winter dishes require fresh foods, often available from distant places through use of expensive climate- changing energy needed to transport them.
* Gardening -- We can grow veggies in a backyard garden for about nine months of the year with special care in early spring planting, summer watering, and autumn frost protection. Consider variety and not just quantity in what is planted this year.
* Wild-gathering -- We have basic wild greens (poke, dandelion, and many others) as well as mushrooms, blackberries, persimmons, black walnuts, and many other foods for the taking.
* Preserving surpluses -- Preservation includes refrigeration, pickling, food drying, canning and preserving in root cellars. These methods allow the extension of the basic ingredients beyond the normal growing period, and they are different and nutritious.
Prayer: Lord, help us to recognize challenges of living ever more simply so that others may simply live.
Addressing Various Anti-Green New Dealers
A storm of protests arose when the "Green New Deal"(GND) was first proposed a few months ago. "Utter ignorance!" they screamed in the direction of the new U.S. House of Representative AOC and others; they were quickly characterized in the fossil fuel influenced media as "unplanned," "radical" (a demeaning term), "lacking in detail," and "not practical;" "it will cost trillions." The last expression made no mention of a time line in years as would any economy and whether the cost is borne by private investors or the taxpayers through government subsidies, loans or tax credits. All the while the merchants of doubt are hard at work prolonging the transition to a renewable energy economy without caring that it will cost the planet its vitality if allowed to go unchecked.
History harks back to the first "New Deal" presented by Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 during the depth of the Great Depression. FDR's opponents were numerous, citing like their 21st century successors a variety of excuses ranging from financial costs to the government's inability to do a good job. In actual fact, many of the New Deal's projects proved enduring and appreciated (roads, bridges, etc.) and they remain a worthwhile testimony to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Citizen Conservation Corps (CCC). A renewable energy economy could be a promising offspring of such programs.
Some GND opposition is innocent and some malicious; any confrontation and refutation must be cognizant of differences in opponents, and especially those who are on the fence -- and treat all with a certain respect and civility. These groups include:
The conservationists. Talking about "trillions" (and apparently at taxpayer expense) can frighten more conservationist-minded Americans -- and rightly so. However, the transition discussion must consider the period of time, for all U.S. national economy are in trillions of dollars over a decade period. Currently, most renewable innovations come through private funding and are regarded as good investments by the multitudes. Many of us would prefer governmental funding using income of the wealthy obtained through fair taxes. Other such public funds could come by transferring current fossil fuel tax breaks and grants to the renewable energy sector. Additional funding could result from curbing military funding to the tune of tens of billions as we cut back from being the "policemen of the world."
The ill-informed. An entire section of the affluent-captured media has bent over backwards to portray GND as a poorly conceived and planned idea. What they are failing to do is tell the public that the basic GND concept has been around for over half a century. This is precisely what we advocated in 1972-4 period through such books as The Contrasumers and 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle, still available to a limited degree through Amazon Books. We were seeking a solar-based renewable energy economy with a "radical” policy that is now rapidly becoming mainstream thinking. Being radical means being at the roots of this issue and presenting some fundamental demands for a sustainable economy, not a harmful and polluting one that is threatening life on our planet.
The ordinary folks. What can one do about the Fox News crowd? We must make an effort to show that similar opposition came from the 1930s' citizens with little knowledge of what could be done reasonably and that in the former case the portents of darkness and gloom did not occur. Social change was coming in the early part of the twentieth century and came; economic change is coming today and ought to be welcomed. Renewable energy applications are not "communistic," or some other sort of foreign "ism" that will rob America of its freedom. Yes, some effort must be undertaken at a national level to achieve results, but democracy can actually be enhanced through a more decentralized power grid that the GND could usher in with distributed energy sources, such as growing numbers of rooftop solar collectors along with wind, hydro, geothermal and tidal applications.
The timid media. A sizeable portion of the press, television, and social media is highly influenced by the generators of advertising revenue -- and that includes the powerful but threatened fossil fuel industry. Opinion writers find fault with the lack of a full GND track record. A host of environmental and social justice non-profit organizations have started to champion the GND even before the fine-tuned details are fully developed. A minority of news media and simple lifestyle supporters can make an immense impact on preparing the public for such a major shift in our economy; given limited public access this is not easy.
The deniers. Can we do anything with the merchants of doubt who think the world must continue on its unsustainable course? Their supporting poll numbers are declining at about one percentage point a month for the past two years, and this is across the political board for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This shrinking group of deniers still includes the President and his core base along with Big Fossil Fuel Oil executives who are threatened and seek to hide their basic insecurities. They tend to belittle essential resource conservation matters and pretend that extreme cold weather proves there is no "global warming" (all climate scientists speak of increased frequency of all extreme conditions). They attack the efforts to eat less meat and animal products to save land for direct human food and other simple lifestyle actions such as less air travel and air conditioning. They omit telling that current wind and solar applications are superior to coal and commercially competitive with natural gas.
Some of those not yet joining GND ranks include centralists and moderates whose opposition is not cast in stone; these are potential and needed allies in seeing that the GND is given adequate support to make it a success. Speak up ASAP and with civic pride and encouragement -- and pray that deniers change their ways and the public heed the GND call.
Jefferson salamander, Ambystoma jeffersonianum, which can live to an age of 30 years.
March 15, 2019 Learn about Tea Parties Past and Present
On the Ides of March we might consider conspiracies good and bad in American history. During the night of December 16, 1773, a group of Boston citizens disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians; they raided ships containing tea on which duties were to be imposed, and they threw 342 containers of tea into Boston harbor. Thus was celebrated the Boston Tea Party.
In the past decade some have objected to too much government and would call themselves descendants of that original Colonial event. Others on the opposite end of the political spectrum seek to take back more government regulations and would call themselves "resistance." It is hard for fiscal conservatives to disagree with modern tea party people. Still we must ask the question: is the modern party-goers' dislike for our federal government due in great part to having been propagandized by the very powers who have placed our nation in such a fix?
Real tea party people ought to be against the imposition of unfair duties on our people, not by distant governments (George the Third), but by distant privileged modern "Georges;" these have absconded with the wealth and secured it in distant tax havens. Rather than equating eighteenth-century oppression with our current government, surely we ought to support our local, regional and even national government, and confront the globalized power elite.
Along with our early American revolutionaries, a good government closer at home is certainly better than no government at all. "Taxation without representation" is still a good cause; "No more taxation" is crass billionaire propaganda. Good democratic government is far superior to a "nobility of wealth" that allows banking interests to give their bonuses to their confreres because they want to retain them -- and some need to be behind bars. Our country is frustrated and yet, despite some feeble efforts at reforming unregulated practices that brought on the near financial collapse of 2008-09, the problems continue to occur before our eyes. Where have our regulators gone? What does it mean to look first to ensure the proper care of bankers who want to impose duties on citizens and pay relatively low amounts themselves? Those of us who are fiscally conservative and yet seek to distance ourselves from the extravagances of capitalism may be an active minority.
May I propose to the tea party imitators that they dress in whatever costumes they desire, but go after the real culprits, the bankers, military/industrial executives and bonus seekers who are so privileged that they can pillage the treasury of our country; these incur little or no accounting in the process. Dump the untaxed salary "contracts" in the harbor and call for reform through proper governmental regulation. Don't be hoodwinked by propaganda. Tax the undertaxed and rebuild our infrastructure.
Prayer: Lord, help us direct our righteous anger at all times in the right direction; help us hasten proper works in our land.
Greening of the land in early March.
March 16, 2019 Green Upcoming St. Patrick's Day
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I am prepared to celebrate. However, as a graduate of St. Patrick's High School but without a drop of Irish blood in my veins, I have a certain ambivalence when it comes to celebrating. I do and do not like to overdo things, even green things. Yes, green beer is nice today, but one meal in New York on this day in 1962 (when the cooks dyed all the food green) was somewhat overdone. Can you really enjoy green steak? All in all, painting the world green takes on a special mission with ecological mandates in vogue. We can eat organically grown foods, plant edible landscaping and make lifestyle changes with a smaller carbon imprint.
Some speak of green-to-gold, those profit-making gimmicks that target the environmentally conscious. Others seek to confront those who still think a "green" movement" is a hoax and that climate change is a plot by God's knows who. However, many of us realize that greening can be serious business. It is good to start a garden but not to use commercial pesticides, or abandon the effort midway through the year, or plant the wrong exotic species. One Santa Clara resident I met changed her entire yard from exotic bluegrass lawn to native plants that grew tall and healthy in the dry climate. Neighbors objected at first but her humor and good will won, and they began "xeriscaping" their lawns as well.
Greening is never perfectly conceived or executed. Garden sites can be better selected, tilled, planted, and harvested. However, each novice gardener must not expect perfection to come in one season. The greening process may be advanced by a little outside assistance. Furthermore, we become excited in March when we start gathering green edibles from the budding landscape. However, some mushrooms are poisonous; some plants are good for spring greens and others are bitter. With proper information growing or gathering greens can become an entertaining exercise.
Greening ourselves is a spring activity also; physical exercise is a necessary component of balance and wellbeing. Too often people are mere sports spectators and couch potatoes. We must do something each day to keep the muscles in tone and to maintain holistic health patterns for everyday life. Greening can be an individual concern but it can extend to social life and include entertaining activities, smiles and laughs, and jokes and serious conversation. Greening can improve mental health, for we need balance in what we do with respect to others. Thus greening goes beyond the individual and can be a social matter through improving landscape, housing, and waste disposal. The locality gains from community greening and this advances our sense of wellbeing. Thus greening involves a host of opportunities: individual improvement, landscape development and neighborliness.
Prayer: Lord, thanks for raising up models like St. Patrick who show us the need to convert our ways for the better, and even in doing so to acquire or retain an Irish sense of humor.
Barn in Lee County, VA.
March 17, 2019 Transfiguration and Healing Our Earth
Master, it is wonderful for us to be here. (Luke 9:33)
The words in this quotation from St. Peter after awakening from a trance at the Transfiguration event are quoted along with the afterthought that he did not know what he was saying. In one sense, the words had deeper implications than the mere utterances of a drowsy person. We can repeat at this time of an emerging threatened world that it is wonderful that God has called us to be here at this time in history, in fact, we are blessed to be privileged to serve the Lord today. Do we know what we are saying?
Signs take on significance -- We have before us the Transfiguration, which signifies that what is shown as a fleeting radiance is the preview of eternal glory. We look ahead in Earthhealing to a new and revised glory when what has been ravaged by pollution and resource depletion can become something renewed. It is the promise of the Lily of the Mohawks when her disfigured face through Smallpox was transformed into beauty at the time of her passing to the Lord in death.
The Privilege of Serving -- We always need to see that with faith and a dose of good mental and possibly physical health we can be of special service to the Lord. Often people lose hope in what they can do; they throw up their hands and fasten onto allurements, some harmful and others frivolous and consumers of precious time. We are called to help address the dispirited and those drugged or cowed into silence or busy work that makes little sense.
The Promise of Prayer Answered -- The Lord says our prayers are always answered. We can hardly expect to pray for miracles, which are in these times of needed action a hidden desire that we stand back and allow God to perform. Through prayer, we realize our own powerlessness when acting alone or being satisfied as spectators. We, like Peter, are moved through impulse to memorialize brief glimpses of glory. We must be more than mere passive spectators at the Transfiguration, though at times we have our consolations that give us that preview of eternal glory. In the post-resurrection period in which this Gospel narration was written the faithful are transformed by faith into participants.
Faith in Power through Resurrection -- While we are powerless on our own, still with faith in the Lord of power we take on a spiritual empowerment that will transform a wounded world into a healed one. We believe firmly that this is possible as part of Easter hope; we discover that God has more wonderfully empowered us to act in ways we never realized before. We can change the world around us, if we believe that God's power can work through us.
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to see that our place on Earth is grace-filled, a moment of opportunity, and a time to focus on what we can do collectively, along with the courage to act here and now and with all people of good will.
Another look at the hellebore, with flowers.
March 18, 2019 Thank God for March
Every month offers many blessings to be thankful for -- and we can never exhaust the possibilities:
Return of the birds. The swallows return to Capistrano and all the many migratory birds start winging back from warmer climates to their summer habitats all to our advantage. Thanks to the Lord, for they are a blessing as true migrants.
Earthworms. In times of spring plowing, the birds would follow the plow and get there when the worms were unearthed in order to feast on the plenty of Earth. These objects of feasting work our soil and compost bins.
Sport Tournaments. The excitement about sporting events is far better outlet of energy than taking up arms or fighting others. This sports competition does have its good points provided that all know that it's only a game.
St. Patrick's Day. If nothing more, the humor of the Irish spices our overly serious world of problems and concerns. Let it be for a little while a passing grace that lingers for the rest of the month.
Early greens. We need to eat nutritious early plants for we lack sufficient greenery in winter time. Things are growing again and those first greening salad ingredients are worth noticing and harvesting.
Daffodils. These gallant yellow sentinels of spring open the way for us to enjoy the coming season and add a complementary color to the carpet of greenery.
Serviceberry. Some of the first blooming trees tell us that winter is ending and we can expect better days ahead as we take notice of the first clear signs of the coming season.
Breezes. The cold blasts of an expiring winter remind us of the power of the wind; this source is key to supplying clean, cheap future energy to make needed electricity and to hasten the demise of a climate-changing fossil fuel economy. The humming sound of a turbine tells us that we are committed to clean, cheap energy that is starting to furnish abundant electricity.
Lent. Thank heavens for a span of time to give more serious reflection to our journey in life. We all need that extra time and the movement of the spirit to make the best of it.
The Lord in our Midst. We need to remember we are not alone in the struggles that we undertake to save our wounded Earth. The Lord is with us.
Spring. We are ever so thankful that warmer weather is coming soon; we have a feeling of relief that we withstood the winters of our lives -- with God's help.
Psychological balance. To have reasonably good mental health is a gift worth special thanks. We can reflect and offer thanks for seeing our past as directional learned experience and the future as a sign of hope. Just to have the capacity to do these things fills our hearts with gratitude.
Prayer: Lord, help us extend a ministry of gratitude to all we meet and serve, and a willingness to accept their service.
Work to nurture plants in a cold frame.
March 19, 2019 Garden for Economic Reasons
Over the past few years these Daily Reflections have offered every conceivable reason for gardening -- from personal reasons (spirituality, physical exercise, psychological health, and food security) to community reasons (role model, education, neighborly relations, ecological management, and resource conservation). We often give short shrift to home economics, namely, the savings in food purchases due to available, organic, fresh local produce.
Selection of what to grow. Those who begin to garden will generally sow and plant what they like best. However, they soon learn that local, traditionally home-grown crops are lower priced at the very time that their own garden crops are ready to harvest. Why use valuable, limited garden space for growing sweet corn when neighbors do a better job on far more land? At the very time, summer greens may be high priced at local stores or farmers' markets. Grow these more costly items that aren't now in season.
Variety of vegetables and herbs is a savings. If we grow only beans, they will come on at one time and we will soon tire of eating them, and so give them away or preserve them in some fashion -- all good uses. However, if we were to plant fewer beans and use the same ground for additional varieties of vegetables and herbs, we would find greater summer variety. Plan ahead to have a thirty-variety garden this year. It does take extra planning but makes the gardening all the more exciting.
Extending the growing season is another planning agenda item. If everyone in a family of four were to eat a daily salad from fresh, home-grown ingredients, savings could amount to at least $1,500 per year. The big "if" includes actually growing veggies and herbs throughout the year either in a cooperating climate, in an available greenhouse, or under temporary seasonal coverings to protect the selected plants. Some autumn crops are highly affected by sharp winter's winds and chill; others, such as collards and many existing root crops, can remain or thrive in moderate winter months. Prepare to protect these summer survivors in autumn.
Preservation of surplus is too obvious to discuss, and yet can be the most neglected planning item. When the neighborhood is full of summer produce this year, it will be difficult to conceive of the end of the production -- and yet thrift calls for drying, pickling, canning, freezing or bringing materials to the root cellar. Going beyond the daily fresh salad includes some main-meal dishes of preserved surplus. Additional food savings will soon accrue.
Ultimate savings may not include labor costs -- but regard gardening as physical exercise and recreation time that improves health. Looked at in this way the gardening becomes a great saving in the long run.
Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to be a frugal people and to regard this as part of our respect for limited God-given resources.
March 20, 2019 List Our Spring Chores at the Vernal Equinox
With springtime one could think of a vast array of things to do, but let us limit ourselves to some, choose to do a few, and encourage readers to create their own lists.
* Till the remaining portions of the spring garden spot. Make 2019 a year for an expanded garden and even seek the assistance of others if that is needed.
* Give a second thought to growing more of the veggies and herbs used this year. My magic number is thirty herbs and a dozen veggies, but why limit oneself even to that?
* If the weather is right, air out the house. While in the airing mood, do the same for clothes kept in the closet and surplus blankets and bedding. Once you have started, the other household fabrics may need to be aired as well.
* Today is the time to prepare for a spring housecleaning of items no longer needed. These are candidates for donation, recycling, or for a yard or garage sale.
* List household needs for warmer weather: light bulbs, mild cleaning agents, soap, utility containers, gardening tools, smoke alarm batteries, camping supplies, and outdoor cooking utensils. Look for these needed items at the neighborhood yard sales.
* Clean the space around the buildings of the accumulation of leaves, branches and materials left from the winter storms. Give the car an added wash to remove the salt and road grime. Make all areas of our homestead candidates for spring cleanup.
* As the weather warms remove the plastic from sensitive windows and doors (if spring has nearly arrived in your region) and wash the window panes and frames.
* It is time for indoor cleaning and that includes vacuuming rugs, removing cobwebs, dusting and polishing the furniture and scrubbing, sweeping or mopping the floors and porch space.
* Review your Lenten resolutions and see how well your prayer life is improving during this rather somber season.
* Pick some greens such as dandelions and make this the start of the spring gathering season.
* Prepare a spring reading list and include those only-partly-completed books.
* Complete with obtaining additional trees to plant.
-- Now sit back and rest; don't overdo it.--
Prayer: Lord, give us the energy to spring into action.
Coming soon! March presents the spring beauty, Claytonia virginica.
March 21, 2019 Value Forests in Many Ways
On this International Day of Forests we reemphasize the immense value of forests beyond that of simply furnishing timber for profit-making operations -- as though gaining monetary profit is what trees are all about. We need to recall that forests mitigate climate, retain moisture, store carbon dioxide in a living storage system, cool the surrounding landscape, and furnish food and cover for wildlife. Also they are a blessed sight to behold.
Non-timber forest products. In our region, forests provide such non-timber products as papaws, mayapples, persimmons, crabapples, wild cherries, wild plums, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, cranberries, elderberries, hickory nuts, walnuts, butternuts, hazelnuts, acorns, mushrooms, lambs- quarters, ramps, wild garlic, watercress, teas (sumac, sassafras, mint), locust pods, wild honey, and maple syrup. Exotics such as kudzu are there for the taking and a challenge to exterminate if that is still possible.
Sights, not just products. Forests as they stand are a treasure trove of beauty for residents, sight-seeing tourists, and for hikers and campers. In fact, sightseeing is the number one tourist "activity." Scenic forest vistas are popular attractions for visitors, and thus cause for employment of lodging and restaurant workers and police and park attendants. The beauty itself makes forests generous healers for troubled souls.
Climate modification. The destruction of forests releases about one-fifth of added carbon dioxide, and thus the reforestation process is utterly important for climate improvement. Plant trees! And there is more. Let the forest be! Both of these mandates have individual and community elements and are worth fostering. But there is more. Those with public or private forestlands need to employ resources for the proper management and preservation of these valuable lands. Judgment calls are different in various regions and with the condition and makeup of forests themselves; some need thinning or replanting or removal of certain exotic species. Proper forest management is an earthhealing exercise.
Public funds for forestlands. The ecological value of a forest for the common good demands that ample taxes be directed to maintenance, policing and reforesting projects. We find it difficult to give forests a quantitative value, but the actual uncalculated worth of preservation and enhancement may mount into billions of dollars. Removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the good of all becomes a global responsibility; we are all encouraged to take extra effort to plant more trees and to ensure that these thrive in our communities. It is necessary that wildfire-devastated lands be reforested and that more long-term care be given to forestlands.
Prayer: God, Creator of the forests, make us see both their beauty and value, and inspire us to respect and protect them.
Need for Distinguishing Spirits
During Lent it is fitting to focus our reflections on our interior life and see how they influence our ordinary daily actions; this includes our social and political life. As democratic people we become convinced that spirituality permeates our manner of seeing the world and our citizen and other activities. Some of these actions undoubtedly come from the good spirit, that is, to act civilly and treat all with kindness whether regarded as friend or foe. However, there are the mixed messages at times, those calling for confrontation and even expressions of anger. Are these motivated by the Good Spirit?
Battlegrounds. We are people called to discern where we stand in the titanic battle between good and evil that sometimes enter into our social and political endeavors. Evil exists, though many would deny this in our secularized world -- or at least it does not exist in their lives -- perhaps in those others who are disliked. These secularists would admit that crimes are performed and that terrorists can cause difficulty, but the blame does not involve persons outside of perpetrators and their immediate accomplices. For many of these anything of "spirit" is so personal that it is outside the pale of critique or judgment by others.
Pastoral experience leads me to the conviction that evil exists in both time and places, and some of this is beyond the limits of residents who inhabit these places. Evil exists in this world in the form of the "evil one," from whom we pray to be delivered in the "Our Father." People have asked me to pray over a house where a suicide has occurred or where they sense evil spirits dwell and where they have experienced great disturbances. Testimony has been given that after such prayers and a blessing the place has been freed.
Global struggles between good and bad actually exist in this world and many of us are aware of it. For some of us, evil exists in a personified form even though the devil tempts people to believe otherwise. That struggle between good and evil takes many forms such as terrorism, racism, human trafficking and religious persecutions in various parts of the world; others see it in substance and other forms of abuse; still others find it in the abortion issue. How evil presents itself is always a burden when it comes to acknowledgment and means available to rid us of evil's power over people and places. Some people are possessed by an evil spirit even many times without their own fault and those selected as exorcists must come and pray over them.
"Spirituality" is not necessarily a good term but that comes as a surprise to those unfamiliar for the need to discern. These unfortunately hold that "spirituality" only refers to their individualistic efforts, which they count as good, and to others for whom they can make no judgment but are presumed as good. In their deeper and more honest moments they realize that evil exists even when they feel powerless to do anything about it or simply to remove it from their undertakings. For them spirituality is something so personal that it is beyond objective oversight or comment and does not allow critique. Thus to say that a person's spirituality may be tainted or captured by the Evil One is beyond their comprehension; such a subject is "spooky" and distasteful.
Choice in discernment is quite important, and this became the major insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola, our Jesuit founder; in his Spiritual Exercises he includes the process of discerning spirits through the help of prayer, reflection and quite often the assistance of other people willing to offer spiritual direction. The end result of such discernment that welcomes the good spirit and frees from evil is the freedom to act for the good service of others. The Good (Holy Spirit) enters the life of the discerning and they are able to find a consoling God to inspire them and walk with them in their journey of faith.
Discerning spirits involves a process to know exactly where we are, the foundational steps needed for authentic service with and for others. Evil must be acknowledged, be recognized as a personal experience, and be confronted in God's good grace. The discerning process is more than a "Jesuit" concern. St. Paul in I Corinthians 12:4-11 speaks of many manifestations of the Spirit and one of these is "discernment of spirits." Early Church writers and authorities spoke of the process. To be "spiritual" does not necessarily mean being something good, for there are certainly evil spirits lurking in a titanic battle for the hearts and minds of people. Even terrorist have their own kind of spirituality that seems evil in intent. But evil intentions cover far more categories and enter into the everyday and business and professional worlds of competition, greed and back stabbing.
Discerning call. Where immorality and destructive actions prevail one cannot simply change the subject and overlook the facts. Good spiritual practice is to face facts no matter how unpleasant. At times, in the threatened world in which we live, we are tempted to believe that the Evil One seems to be winning the struggle. In our more prayerful moments we realize that through faith we believe and in hope we know that God's Kingdom will come and reign eternally. How the immediate struggle in which we are engaged will play out is beyond our horizon and somewhat unpredictable in terms of our short lives. We are to act humbly as players in a cosmic battle, and we call on God to be with us.
Need to, not how to. Successful confrontation of evil is not a secret gimmick that repels "evil" cleanly and forthrightly. Through God's grace we can discover the working of evil but this takes effort. Major matters of lifestyle change or choice may involve a retreat type atmosphere and preferably the assistance of someone versed in the discerning process. This means taking time to pray over the matter and asking professional help. In our threatened times this is often a need that must be recognized and acted upon.
Tender wild greens make tasty fresh
March 22, 2019 Redirect the Contrasumers
While at Stockholm in 1972, during the first United Nations Conference on the Environment, I became convinced that individuals could make a difference and that along with governmental policy and resolutions were necessary to stop environmental degradation. Technical solutions to air and water pollution through public and private agency interplay were needed, but they were not the total answer. Many at the time thought the government was sole answer. However, institutional action must be balanced by personal change; thus The Contrasumers: a Citizen's Guide to Resource Conservation.
We moved from that book to exploring a host of appropriate technology applications. It was a long practical period of three decades in which we explored and fine-tuned techniques for resource conservation such as those we suggested in 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle; they included the techniques in gardening and solar energy that we promoted at our resource center in Kentucky and through Healing Appalachia and Ecotourism in Appalachia. We extended these applications in our "Environmental Resource Assessment Service" by constructing timetables for some 200 non-profit institutions in the United States and Canada.
Time tarnished the impact of "greening individuals," not because it could not be done, but because so few voluntarily do it. We influenced the choir but not Main Street. In fact, those addicted to consumer products are generally not interested in resource conservation measures. They aspire to the comfort of the wealthy. The elements that have a direct bearing on environment, namely, autos, appliances and spacious homes, seem to be moving to global acceptance. However, a glimmer of hope sprang up with a new generation willing to forego meat and excessive animal products.
Thus the need is for a new "Contrasumer," but not one who is willing simply to make rational changes and hope the addicted will follow. Modern contrasumers realize the limitations of voluntary individual or community change. Some will call the enlightenment to act as taking the law into one's own hands; they forget that the wealthy have personal power and influence on lawmakers and have obtained their ill-gotten gains through mischievous behind-the-scenes manipulation of the legislative process. Authentic modern contrasumers must exercise their civic duty to save our planet through a voter groundswell demanding that the privileged pay fair taxes and thus help sustain our threatened infrastructure.
Has the modern economic system existed on the fragile assumption that the unemployed, hungry and marginalized will remain in their place while the privileged persist in their untaxed privileges? The modern contrasumer can make a difference, if the action is non-violent, well-placed and clearly understood. Joint political action by an aroused citizenry combines private activism with meaningful and well monitored governmental action.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be effective witnesses to the Word.
Reflections in a garden pond.
March 23, 2019 Championing the Fundamental Right to Work
The right to work can refer to failure to require union dues when getting union benefits OR a need for meaningful employment.
Workers are available. People generally want to make a living by expending some of their talents in a meaningful manner. Every citizen has a right to make his or her life part of the social fabric. Some find ways on their own, and others need people to assist them in discovering and adjusting to the particular civic tasks to which they are suited. In working, all citizens deserve compensation for themselves and for their dependent family members. Government must guarantee this right to work when it cannot be found elsewhere.
Jobs are available. As spring begins we should realize that this is a period of new life in which our creative and artistic skills emerge. Creativity in work opportunities is desperately needed today both globally because of the millions of additional job-seekers enter the labor force yearly and because robots are replacing traditional occupations. That does not mean there is no work to be performed, only that the compensation for necessary positions is lacking. Examples of such opportunities include the following: ten million American domestic caregivers now going uncompensated; and about five million needed in infra-structure revitalization: water systems, roads, tree planting, airports, river lock and dams, health clinics, parks and recreational facilities, educational institutions, and on and on.
Private capital is unavailable. If meaningful work is sought by willing workers and job possibilities actually exist, the specter of discontent still exists due to non-satisfaction with existing positions. High health insurance costs and the private sector's inability to create meaningful jobs weigh heavily upon us. To make this basic right to work operative requires a radical readjustment of the economic system, a redistribution of wealth. Government is the employer of last resort; Works Progress Administration (WPA) products from Great Depression days endure today; they were certainly well constructed by willing workers.
While underemployment strikes us here at home, a rising surge of the unemployed stretches into Africa and other developing countries. Some estimate Haitian unemployment at three-quarters, though sizeable numbers could now be employed in rebuilding that earthquake-ravaged nation. In Appalachia, higher paid mining and manufacturing jobs have vanished through automation and shifting markets. After World War II, West Virginia had 125,000 coal miners; the state now has about 12,400 as of this writing. When replacement is unavailable many of the displaced move elsewhere and local employment, key to community cohesion, is lost.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see that deep-seated social unrest results when people lack meaningful employment. Inspire us to realize that this is our collective social responsibility.
Sawdust caught on strands of spider web.
March 24, 2019 Learn about the First Missionary
(John 4: 5-42)
Today's story of the Samaritan woman at the well is a story of someone coming to faith -- a story that is deeply connected to the Lenten liturgies. Jesus goes before us and inspires us; he does not hesitate to meet and converse with those regarded as hostile. Jesus does not take his disciples on the traditional detour route around Samaria from Galilee to Jerusalem; rather they take the more direct route. While the disciples are off purchasing provisions for the meal, Jesus engages a Samaritan woman who comes to fetch water at Jacob's well, a watering place for centuries.
Jesus' directness transfers from travel routes to conversation. Jesus is immediately able to connect with the Samaritan woman's search by triggering her to ask questions. He says he has life-giving water, which will last forever. His mission is to the marginalized, and that includes her own Samaritan community. Jesus startles her, for he knows her past life; he does not dwell upon it, but says he is the means to salvation, with a confidence that this person will grow in her faith life.
The woman says she sees he is a prophet and is immediately drawn to the power of Jesus. She leaves this watering hole to become the first evangelist, the one who takes Good News, now received with enthusiasm, back to her home community. She does so with the handicaps of being an imperfect human being, and known as such by her community. However, she is a person who is deeply sincere and willing to extend her faith to others. Her message is so convincing that, even amid her known imperfections, these people follow her back to Jesus. The Samaritans hurry to meet Jesus face to face. They are drawn to Jesus by a magnetic force, the innate sense of living water that thirsty creatures can smell from a distance and taste with delight. The local people invite Jesus to accept their hospitality, for they thirst for living water.
Upon returning, the disciples are the late learners. They are people with the cultural biases of the times and avoided the people Jesus finds so easy to talk to. The disciples are recruits who will become more perfect missionaries after the Resurrection and Pentecost. They are astonished that the physical hunger of Jesus is transcended by a spiritual hunger for an entire world, a field ripe for the harvest. Doing God's will is food enough for Jesus, and he intends to prepare missionaries to spread Good News.
Lent is the traditional period for the "Scrutinies" prior to Baptism and entry into the Church. We are asked to take the more direct route in spreading and receiving the Good News. Like the Samaritan woman who was coming to faith we are asked to grow in faith by spreading the Word to those who are thirsting for truth.
Prayer: Lord, "I thirst" rings out as a desire to share resources with all people. Remind us again of the saving waters of Baptism, with which we have been washed and energized.
Carolina wren (Thryothorus
ludovicianus) and tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
share a nourishing treat.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
March 25, 2019 Incarnation: Let Earth and Heaven Kiss
Send victory like a dew you heavens, and let the clouds rain it down. Let the earth open for salvation to spring up. Let deliverance, too, bud forth which I, Yhwh, shall create. (Isaiah 45:8)
We each become an incarnation of the meeting of God when heaven and Earth meet at this moment of salvation. God enters our world as a fetus and babe thus elevating the dignity of all human beings who ever lived. The saving process comes from two directions, from Earth (on which we live) and from Heaven (our destination). The mystery of this event shows the depth of God's love for us. The entire forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, from beginning to end, tells of the sovereign power of the Creator. However, that is only part of the divine mystery no matter how much we are creation-centered in our spirituality. A double blessing beyond the coming of Christ in our midst is that we are invited to be participants in the unfolding of this mystery.
Our cooperative efforts. We have compassion for our suffering Earth and discover that we can do something, namely, help in saving our threatened Earth. Within the saving grace that the Lord gives us, we discover that we can give hope to those who think their efforts are hopeless and Earth is lost. The Incarnation event came after years of preparation; so we as being prepared through the two thousand years of heritage in the Body of Christ are called into the saving work ahead of us at this moment in history. We have been saved through the Blood of Christ; we are to fill up what is wanting at this time, which is spreading the Good News to all creation. We join other members of the Body of Christ in participating in the divine work of salvation, for redemption is not a past event alone but an ongoing process.
Our degree of respect. Heaven and Earth come together because God walks again with the descendants of Adam and Eve. Distances have been shortened and a transcendent God is experienced as a more imminent one. If we see the creative hand of God here and now, we deepen our respect for what God has done for us; we also enhance our respect for the integrity of all creation -- people, plants and animals and the universe itself. The hand of the Creator is accepted in praise and adoration; the handiwork is respected as fruit of the Creator. But adoration does not exist in a passive manner only; if we are truly respectful, we will not allow anyone to damage that creation because that offends our Creator.
We enter into the saving redemptive act because God became one of us, and as part of the divine family we participate with the risen Lord. We act as the hands of God in the ongoing redemptive process and anticipate a renewed world, a new creation, a hastening of the coming of a New Heaven and New Earth.
Prayer: Lord, help us to see the full impact of the Incarnation event in our lives as healers of our Earth.
Common chickweed, Stellaria media.
March 26, 2019 Explore Our Use of the Word "Development"
During the Cold War nations were divided into "First World" (western countries allied with us against the USSR), "Second World" (the Soviets and their allies) and "Third World" or all the remainder that were poorer countries. Later, after the Berlin Wall fell, divisions were made between "West" and "East," but that grouped Japan among poorer portion where, as the second largest economic power, it did not belong. The "North" and "South" divisions were not mutually exclusive. The term "developed" and "un- or under- developed" was regarded by countries in this second category with sophisticated and ancient cultures as pejorative. Later "developing" referred to such nations as China, India and Brazil, since their emerging economies gave them a special status. "Richer," "emerging" and "poorer" economies make another division.
In these groupings of nations "development" has been regarded as the height towards which nations ought to aspire. Oddly enough, from an ecological consideration, our Earth cannot continue all of this aspiring "development," for it is simply unsustainable to live like we do on tat the so-called summit. The height of this "development” is not something desirable. Authentic development, as Pope Benedict XVI said a decade ago, must be life-giving, and some of the free market economies with concentrated wealth and privilege are blatantly undemocratic and not worthy of imitation.
The word "develop" means to improve upon, to make better, to become more systematized. However, a country that will suppress its subsistence farming, crowd many into urban slums and exhibit rising levels of unemployment and mass out-migration is hardly on the road to development. Some so-called developed countries have quite unsustainable levels of natural resource consumption. These systems are malfunctioning, not developing; they squander resources at the others' expense. If less wealthy or politically powerful nations aspire to such resource use and consumption practices, that does not mean they are on the road to development, but only accelerating the unsustainable practices of materialistic models.
Such terms as "developed" versus "undeveloped" or even "developing economies" ought to be regarded as advocating excessive materialistic standards. In recent years we have a flurry of designations of groups or "clubs" of nations, e.g., G-7, G-8, G-20, G-70 and even G-2. Some lands are militarily powerful; some are wealthier than others, and persons rich and poor are the best designations. The Democratic Republic of Congo is vast but powerless. Somalia is coming to life after a quarter century as a failed state. Placing these and other emerging nations in a single category is misleading. We sometimes make categories, and speak of "rich" and "haves," composed of arrived and arriving, versus "poor" and "have-nots." All of these terms need further reflection.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to designate new ways of describing our national groups so that we indicate the need to redistribute fairly the resources among the family of nations.
Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus).
March 27, 2019 Celebrate Our North American Wildlife
When I consider that the nobler animals have been exterminated here (New England) -- the cougar, panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, deer, the beaver, the turkey, etc., etc. -- I cannot but feel that I live in a tame and, as it were, emasculated country. Henry David Thoreau
Wildlife in all its forms is certainly threatened, as Thoreau noted after the long colonial period of wildlife harvesting for pelts and game. He understood as do we today that we need to protect and celebrate all animal life: fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Wildlife has much variety, but the sheer numbers or varieties have led in the past to callous disregard for conservation. Instead, we must see these creatures as companions and co-inhabitants of our limited but sufficient continent. Wildlife deserves our respect in many ways:
Make room for wildlife. A neighbor of mine has left standing a rickety old barn that is almost falling down. However, even though it is a potential risk to wandering trespassers, he told me that a doe and fawns winter in the somewhat snug shelter, and he wants to protect them. I like his humane spirit and hope that this care for creation extends to other sanctuaries and bird boxes.
Speak kindly of wildlife. Vocabulary may help us appreciate wildlife more. For instance, to "hunt" wildlife sounds somewhat challenging and more harsh than "harvest" for food; to go out and "kill" or worse to "slaughter" wildlife is even repulsive. A "lair" can be a threatening and fearful word, whereas a "nest" or "habitat" has a more comfortable sound. A night "noise" or "shadow" may involve a harmless nocturnal animal out moving about.
Learn from wildlife. All creatures can become our teachers, if we only open our eyes, hearts and minds to what wildlife offer. Their example of frugality, cleverness, diligence, companionship, and loyalty can help us all to grow in love and mercy.
Bless wildlife. Blessing wildlife can be a group or family undertaking, for all benefit from wildlife as a community undertaking. Formal blessings for the survival and progress of our native wildlife have a place as well, for without prayerful care wildlife cannot prosper with the widespread environmental threats from deforestation and global warming/climate change.
Keep a respectful distance from wildlife. Skits, movies, story-telling and songs are worth emphasizing. Zoological gardens have a place, but we prefer parks where animals roam freely. Walks and hikes in the woods in various seasons could be accompanied by observation of birds and those animals that come into our range. It is more important, however, to satisfy ourselves with movies or "virtual proximity" to wildlife that do not like us to trample their territory. Why must we visit polar bear country when we can learn from documentaries how they are threatened by climate change?
Prayer: Oh Creator of all, the process of evolution, which You initiated, has given us a wide variety of animals that can be admired; give us the energy and concern to protect all wildlife.
Sharing space in the canopy. Pine
grove in Red River Gorge, KY.
March 28, 2019 Let's Avoid Information Overload and Fake News
All of us experience information overload if we follow the various media outlets to any degree or just circulate freely. The only two world's fairs I ever attended (and even some state and local ones) produced a sense of information overload. The same thing can happen if we are going on a tour or to a museum, or even reading a highly informative book. We are tempted to dread the possible overload of information. Experts tell us that the average person receives twelve hours of information per day (some double-counting time through multi-tasking) or obtains an estimated hundred thousand words a day through ear and/or eye -- a good-sized book -- via TV, radio, Internet, cell phones, iPods, emails, conversation, books, periodicals and newspapers. Some of this comes to the ears and eyes, but never penetrates any deeper.
Selected ample information is good; overload is bad because selection has broken down. Now fake news is even worse, especially when it leads to part of the overload and our inability to discern one source from another. Certainly, most people want to be connected, but why and with what? Don't each of us need rest time when the ever-operating TV source is shut down and we have the self control to disconnect from Internet's Facebook or Twitter?
* Choose sources well. Certain sources are not worth patronizing. Some of us non-TV users find TV news is simply overloaded with ads; others consider many periodicals as too abbreviated to deliver good information and some informative newspapers expensive. Others prefer in-depth articles and books as best sources though sometimes dated. This raises the question whether we always need instant news or limited amounts of it.
* Cultivate the discipline of limited intake at specific times only. Constantly listening to a radio or contacting others by cell phone is knowing the latest news, but this process can become addictive or ever a waste of precious time.
* Test information gathered over time and discern whether the source has a pronounced bias or omits important matters worth receiving. Some sources become gossip at a local, regional, national, or global level; there's too much crime or terror regarded as news for maintaining a good spiritual balance.
* Allow quiet time to reflect and give space for meditation and prayer, for silence can be golden. My lack of a cell phone baffles people even though I consider the silence to be a prized possession worth guarding. On occasion we may miss something, but turning off the cell phone or land phone while sleeping or praying does have a good effect. I do have a Medical Guardian for genuine emergencies. Let’s take advantage of precious silent moments.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be informed but not overly informed, to connect with some news but to detect the fake and inordinate sources that should be avoided.